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The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish treasures from the Nazis

  • Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies 1140 Amsterdam Avenue New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)

The Book Smugglers is the nearly unbelievable story of ghetto residents who rescued thousands of rare books and manuscripts—first from the Nazis and then from the Soviets—by hiding them on their bodies, burying them in bunkers, and smuggling them across borders. It is a tale of heroism and resistance, of friendship and romance, and of unwavering devotion—including the readiness to risk one’s life—to literature and art. And it is entirely true. Based on Jewish, German, and Soviet documents, including diaries, letters, memoirs, and the author’s interviews with several of the story’s participants, The Book Smugglers chronicles the daring activities of a group of poets turned partisans and scholars turned smugglers in Vilna, “The Jerusalem of Lithuania.”

Hear from David E. Fishman as describes what has been hailed as"Monuments Men for book lovers" and "first rate scholarship that pulses with the beat of a most human heart."

Supported by the generosity of the Kaye Family.

Co-sponsored by Columbia University's Department of History and Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP). This event is part of Carnegie Hall’s Migrations: The Making of America festival.

David E. Fishman is a professor of Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary, teaching courses in modern Jewish history. Dr. Fishman also serves as director of Project Judaica, JTS's program in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), which is based at Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow) and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy University (Kiev). He directs its Jewish Archival Survey, which publishes guides to Jewish archival materials in the FSU.

Dr. Fishman is the author of numerous books and articles on the history and culture of East European Jewry. His most recent book, The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis(ForeEdge, 2017) has been hailed as "Monuments Men for book lovers" and "first rate scholarship that pulses with the beat of a most human heart." Previous monographs include Russia's First Modern Jews (New York University Press, 1996) and The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005). Dr. Fishman is the coeditor (with Burton Visotzky) of From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature (Westview Press, 1999), and edited a volume of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's Yiddish writings, Droshes un ksovim (Ktav, 2009).

For 15 years (1988–2003), Dr. Fishman was editor in chief of YIVO-Bleter, the Yiddish-language scholarly journal of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. He is a member of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and serves on the editorial boards of Jewish Social Studies and Polin.

A native New Yorker, Dr. Fishman has taught at Brandeis University, Bar-Ilan University, Russian State University in Moscow, and Yeshiva University's Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He has been a fellow at the Hebrew University's Institute for Advanced Studies and the University of Pennsylvania's Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.