Lecture to explore book smugglers who saved rare works from Nazis

March 5, 2020

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David E. Fishman will deliver Emory’s annual Tenenbaum Lecture on Thursday, March 19. He will explore “The Book Smugglers of the Vilna Ghetto: A Story of Spiritual Resistance.”

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March 13, 2020 

Editor's note: This event has been canceled in accordance with current university policy on the COVID-19 outbreak. Visit the Coronavirus Updates for the Emory Community website to learn more about how Emory is responding to COVID-19.

 

Guest scholar David E. Fishman of The Jewish Theological Seminary will deliver Emory’s annual Tenenbaum Lecture on Thursday, March 19. His presentation will explore “The Book Smugglers of the Vilna Ghetto: A Story of Spiritual Resistance.”

In Vilna, the city Jews called “The Jerusalem of Lithuania,” a group of ghetto inmates risked their lives to rescue thousands of rare books, documents and works of art from the Nazis. In an operation that lasted 18 months, they smuggled the materials past guards and buried them in bunkers.

Members of the group who survived World War II returned to Vilna after the city’s liberation and dug up the materials. They eventually smuggled the books across Europe until they reached the United States and Israel. What did they rescue, and why did they do it?

Fishman is a professor of Jewish history at The Jewish Theological Seminary. He also serves as director of Project Judaica, which publishes guides to Jewish archival materials in the former Soviet Union. Fishman has authored 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,” received a 2017 National Jewish Book Award.

A native New Yorker, 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. 

The lecture, sponsored by the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies, will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Presentation Room of the Oxford Road Building on Emory’s Atlanta campus, and will be followed by a reception. Copies of “The Book Smugglers” will be available for purchase.

This year marks the 24th anniversary of the Tenenbaum Family Lectureship in Judaic Studies, which salutes the family of the late Meyer W. Tenenbaum of Savannah, Georgia. Tenenbaum, a native of Poland, knew no English when he arrived in the United States at the age of 13; he graduated from the Emory School of Law 11 years later. He went on to head Chatham Steel Corporation, now a major steel service center with headquarters in Savannah. 

The lectureship was established in 1997 by Meyer’s son, Samuel Tenenbaum, and honors the entire Tenenbaum family and its ethos of citizenship and public service, which is expressed through its support of religious, educational, social service and arts institutions across the United States.

For more information, visit the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies.