The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the world's largest center devoted to Yiddish studies, had been seeking the return of an enormous collection of pre-World-War-II material that had been taken when the Nazis occupied Lithuania.
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Lithuania did not want to return the materials, considering them part of its heritage. But now, The New York Times reports, YIVO is recovering the material – digitally.
The center has arranged a $5.25 million project to work with Lithuania's government to digitally copy 250,000 pages of documents and 4,200 books that were saved and then place them in a Web portal, where scholars worldwide can access them, the Times reports.
The YIVO collection in Manhattan — 24 million items covering the immigrant Jewish experience in America as well as the Jewish culture of Eastern Europe — will also be digitally copied as part of the estimated seven-year project, says the Times.
“These materials are Holocaust survivors,” David E. Fishman, a professor of Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, told the paper.
Fishman, who is working on a chronicle of the YIVO collection’s rescue, said, “Like a survivor, these materials were controlled by the Germans. Like a survivor, they were in hiding. The fact that they were saved is miraculous.”