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Book Review: The Lost Library: The Legacy of Vilna's Strashun Library in the Aftermath of the Holocaust
  • Ann Lieberman Colgan, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Rabinowitz’s gripping narrative, essentially a biography, about the origin and role of the Strashun Library of Vilna and its fate during and after World War II provides a glimpse of the jewel of a once-treasured, now perished Jewish community. The book’s first three chapters chronicle the community and scholar/philanthropist who developed the diverse, inclusive collection of books, manuscripts, articles, incunabula, and ephemera on all topics of Jewish interest. The library, like its originator, Mattityahu Strashun, retained a traditional Orthodox Jewish focus while spanning areas including folklore, science, Hebrew grammar, and other secular subjects in several languages. Rabinowitz (founder of the "Sephorim Blog") emphasizes the singular nature of the library; it was the only wide-ranging, well-resourced, public Jewish library of its kind. The fourth chapter describes the dizzying back-and-forth possession of Vilna’s resources during World War II by the Soviet Union, Lithuania, and the Nazis; the fifth through eighth, and final, chapters tell of international intrigue regarding the fate of the library. YIVO (now the Institute for Jewish Research) preserved the collection from repatriation to the USSR but misrepresented its connections to the library in order to inflate its own holdings rather than respecting its representation of the best of diverse, Jewish Vilna. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
  • Vilna Jewish community,
  • Holocaust,
  • Jewish history,
  • artifacts
Publication Date
Superb book, worth reading.
Citation Information
Ann Lieberman Colgan. "Book Review: The Lost Library: The Legacy of Vilna's Strashun Library in the Aftermath of the Holocaust" (2019)
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