david fishman

They Wanted Us to Find Them: Discovering the Book Smugglers of the Vilna Ghetto

Join the National Jewish Book Award-winning author of The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis, Dr. David Fishman, as he shares insights about the research that founded the exhibit of the same name. In addition to outlining how he dove into the mysteries and marvels of this particular history, Dr. Fishman will also share his thoughts about the significance of cultural preservation and how the work of historians contributes to the maintenance of heritage. Incredible insights, touching anecdotes, and details that can only be discovered well behind the scenes of the exhibit will give depth and meaning to all in attendance.

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.”

DATE: Thursday, March 28, 2024
TIME: 7:00 – 8:15 p.m.
LOCATION: Jewish Museum Milwaukee
COST: Museum Members $10 | Nonmembers $15

Purchase a Nonmember Add-on Ticket for an additional $5/nonmember to experience Jewish Museum Milwaukee galleries between 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. the night of the program. Members are welcome to visit during this time for free!

Thank you to our program sponsors:

Jason Steigman & Dori Frankel Steigman
The Nathan and
 Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center
The Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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 Ukraine, which is based at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy University. He directs its Jewish Archival Survey, which publishes guides to Jewish archival materials in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

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) was winner of the National Jewish Book Award in the Holocaust category. 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 two volumes of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Yiddish writings, Droshes un ksovim (Ktav, 2009 and Orthodox Union, 2021).

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 board of the journal 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.

THE BOOK SMUGGLERS: PARTISANS, POETS, AND THE RACE TO SAVE JEWISH TREASURES FROM THE NAZIS

by David E. Fishman (Author)
2017
Paperback
$24.95

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.

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