Letter from Artur Eisenbach to Yoysef Opatoshu, 1947. From Artur Eisenbach in Łódź to Yoysef Opatoshu in New York, 20 January 1947, asking for his help in identifying certain documents found in the Oyneg Shabes Archive. It is believed that the material was written by the late Zelig Kalmanovitch in Vilna in 1941, when he was still alive and in touch with Emanuel Ringelblum. In the material, there is a reference to a private letter from Opatoshu, in which he castigates Jews for having allowed historical treasures to be lost before World War I. Eisenbach wants Opatoshu to confirm that he sent such a letter to Kalmanovitch. Yiddish. RG 436, Joseph Opatoshu Papers, F9. (YIVO)

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Eisenbach, Artur

(1906–1992), Polish Jewish historian. Artur Eisenbach was one of the last representatives of a distinguished group of scholars who, in the years before World War I and in independent Poland between 1918 and 1939, laid the foundation for an investigation of the Polish Jewish past.

Eisenbach was born in Nowy Sącz in Galicia (Austrian Poland) in 1906. Lack of funds forced him to withdraw from a teachers’ course at the Jewish Educational Seminary in Vilna, but he was eventually accepted into a Warsaw University seminar led by Marceli Handelsman, himself of Jewish origin and the doyen of Polish nineteenth-century historians. Unable to find a job at a university, Eisenbach worked in the offices of the Jewish Society for the Protection of Health (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej w Polsce; TOZ) and continued his historical research. He was influenced primarily by the Marxist school of Jewish historians, in particular by Raphael Mahler and Emanuel Ringelblum (whose sister he married). Eisenbach was an active member of the Yunger Historiker Krayz (Young Historians Circle) founded by Mahler and Ringelblum.

Eisenbach spent World War II in the Soviet Union, but his wife and child were trapped in Buczacz, where they were murdered by the Nazis in 1942. After his return to Poland in May 1946, he worked at the Central Historical Commission of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. When the Jewish Historical Institute was established later that year, he was appointed head of its archives, and subsequently became a researcher. In the decade following the war, Eisenbach devoted himself entirely to studying the Holocaust. Later he gradually returned to the theme that he had devoted himself to before the war—Jewish emancipation in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1966, he became a member of the Committee for the Historical Sciences at the Polish Academy of Sciences and was awarded the title of professor. In the same year, he was appointed director of the Jewish Historical Institute.

In 1968, Eisenbach was forced to resign his latter position, and retained only his title at the Polish Academy of Sciences. He decided not to emigrate and in the following years produced a series of monographs on Polish Jewish problems in the first half of the nineteenth century, research that formed the essential basis for future work on this subject. He also continued to work on Holocaust themes, editing Ringelblum’s diary and essay on Polish–Jewish relations. In his last years, he moved to Israel, where he had a nephew and where, active as ever, he worked on an account of Polish–Jewish relations in the nineteenth century.

Suggested Reading

Artur Eisenbach, “Jewish Historiography in Interwar Poland,” in The Jews of Poland between Two World Wars, by Yisrael Gutman, Ezra Mendelsohn, Jehuda Reinharz, and Chone Shmeruk (Waltham, Mass., 1988), pp. 453–493; Philip Friedman, “Polish-Jewish Historiography between the Two Wars,” Jewish Social Studies 11 (1949): 373–408; Antony Polonsky, “Foreword: Artur Eisenbach and Polish-Jewish History,” in Artur Eisenbach, The Emancipation of the Jews in Poland (Oxford, 1991), xiii–xxvii; Antony Polonsky, “Artur Eisenbach a historia polsko-żydowska,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, no. 164 (1992): 3–18.