"Dubnow’s Other Daughter: Lucy S. Dawidowicz and the Beginnings of Khurbn forshung (Holocaust Research) in the United States" with Nancy Sinkoff

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 - 5:30pm
Annenberg School for Communication, Room 111, 3620 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

This talk will explore the contribution of Lucy S. Dawidowicz, a postwar American Jewish public intellectual and historian, to the broad field of Holocaust historiography. Witness to the vital Jewish world of pre-war Vilna and to its destruction, Dawidowicz devoted her life to bringing this world to the attention of the American public. With The Golden Tradition: Jewish Life and Thought in Eastern Europe (1967) and The War Against the Jews: 1933–1945 (1975), a classic of “intentionalist” Holocaust historiography that emphasized the centrality of Hitler’s antisemitic ideology to the Nazis’ “Final Solution,” Dawidowicz garnered a reputation as an authority on East European Jewry, the Holocaust, and antisemitism. She played a principal role in the construction of postwar American Holocaust consciousness. This talk will analyze her relationship to the tradition of Jewish historiography inaugurated by Simon Dubnow (1860-1941) in the late nineteenth century and continued by East European Jews before, during, and in the aftermath of the Nazi period, both in and beyond Eastern Europe. Dawidowicz’s historiographic contribution is best understood as an American link to the Khurbn Forshung (“research on destruction”) inspired by Dubnow. Practitioners of Khurbn Forshung conceived of their work not only to further academic knowledge, but also to cultivate Jewish national identity and to commemorate the dead. This lecture will illuminate the enduring power of Dubnow’s historiographic tradition on American shores.

Nancy Sinkoff is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Currently she is the Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellow in Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study. Her research focuses on Polish Jewry, in both its European heartland and diaspora settlements. Her first book, Out of the Shtetl: Making Jews Modern in the Polish Borderlands (2004), explored the Polish Jewish Enlightenment in the period of the partitions, focusing on the maskil Mendel Lefin of Satanów and his disciple, Joseph Perl. She consulted for Polin: Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and Lefin’s life is now part of the permanent exhibition. Professor Sinkoff is completing From Left to Right: Lucy S. Dawidowicz, the New York Intellectuals, and the Politics of Jewish History, an intellectual biography of Dawidowicz (1915-1990), a postwar American Jewish historian and public intellectual. She recently reissued Lucy S. Dawidowicz, From that Place and Time, 1938-1947: A Memoir, with an introduction, “Yidishkayt and the Making of Lucy S. Dawidowicz,” and published “From the Archives: Lucy S. Dawidowicz and the Restitution of Jewish Cultural Property.”

Sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program and the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures.


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