Guide to the Papers of Genia Silkes (1913-1984)

RG 1187

Processed by Shloyme Krystal and YIVO staff. Additional processing by Sarah Ponichtera

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, NY 10011

Phone: (212) 246-6080

Fax: (212) 292-1892



©2014 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Sarah Ponichtera in May 2014. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Genia Silkes
Title: Papers of Genia Silkes
Abstract: Genia Silkes, a teacher in pre-war Poland, dedicated her postwar career to the history of the Holocaust. The testimonies of Polish Holocaust survivors, of which there are 64 from children and 9 from adults, have great historical value. Also included are her research notes, records of her speaking engagements, and personal letters and photographs.
Languages: The collection is in Yiddish, with a few items in English and Polish.
Quantity: 2.92 linear feet
Identification: RG 1187
Repository: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
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Biographical Note

Genia Silkes was born in Brisk (now known as Brest-Litovsk), a town in eastern Poland, not far from the Russian border, on March 3, 1913. She died in New York on November 17, 1984 after a long illness.

In Brisk she graduated from a Yiddish-Hebrew high school, and later, studied with Abraham Golomb at the Yiddish Teacher’s Seminary in Vilna. She graduated in June 1930. In the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, she worked as a teacher in Warsaw, in the Jewish People’s Schools [folksshuln] where the language of instruction was Yiddish. In 1937, she married and had a child. Her husband and child died in Warsaw. In the Warsaw ghetto, she taught in the underground schools. She recounted how she leapt from a moving train headed toward Treblinka, and hid on the Aryan side until the liberation of Warsaw.

From 1945 to 1949, in liberated Poland, she worked at the Central Jewish Committee in Poland, in the educational institutes and the historical commission. This was when she collected the Holocaust testimonies from child survivors in Poland, which are such an important part of this collection.

She lived in Paris, France, from 1949 to 1958. She taught in the Jewish schools of Patronage and worked as the secretary of YIVO for a short time. In 1958 she came to New York as a delegate to a YIVO conference, and stayed.

Here she specialized in the history of the Holocaust. She wrote articles, gave lectures to the general public and also in Jewish institutions, universities, and spoke at Holocaust memorials. She traveled throughout America and Europe on behalf of the Groysn verterbukh fun der yidisher shprakh.

She died in New York on November 17, 1984 after a long illness.


Zalmen Reyzin. Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, prese, un filologye. 4 vols. Vilna: Vilna Farlag fun B. Kletzkin, 1927-1929.

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Scope and Content Note

The documents held in this collection are arranged in 10 series. The series reflect the life of Genia Silkes during the postwar years, beginning in 1948 until her death in 1984.

Series I: Includes, in chronological order, appearances by Genia Silkes and lectures to societies, memorial evenings, university classes, according to the invitations found in her archive. Among other items, there are advertisements in the press and short write-ups of Silkes as a speaker.

Series II: Consists of a collection of testimonies, stories and drawings by children, collected after the war in Poland and France, from children who had survived the Holocaust. This series is divided into three parts. The first includes the testimonies collected by Silkes or others at the Historical Commission in Poland. This includes 64 children’s memoirs. The second part includes drawings, specifically about the war, which have a particular significance psychologically or pedagogically. The third part contains stories by children on the topic of free time during the war.

Series III: Consists of memoirs of adults, about their wartime experiences. The letters by F. Rubinlikht to her sister are particularly important.

Series IV: Articles by Genia Silkes divided into 6 subseries by topic. The parts are: (1) The Holocaust in Poland.(2) The Warsaw Ghetto uprising.(3) Children and the Holocaust.(4) Pedagogy and Childrearing Practices.(5) Teachers who Perished in the Holocaust.(6) General Topics.

Series V: Consists of correspondence. Subseries 1 contains more personal correspondence, and is arranged by individual correspondent. Subseries 2 contains more official correspondence, primarily in relation to her public appearances, and is arranged chronologically.

Series VI: Includes passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, and other personal documents.

Series VII: Newspaper clippings of articles by or about Genia Silkes, in chronological order from 1948 to 1983.

Series VIII: Bibliographic notes assembled by Silkes in the course of her research.

Series IX: Photographs, mostly unidentified, connected with Silkes’ life after the war.

Series X: Items having to do with others associated with her, specifically her brother, Avraham Silkes, and her lover, the writer A. Kaganovsky.

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The series are arranged by type of material.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

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Other Finding Aid

A Yiddish language finding aid, which contains additional details on the collection can be found here: Papers of Genia Silkes

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Item, date; Papers of Genia Silkes; RG 1187; Box; folder number; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

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Acquisition Information

These records were given to YIVO by Abraham Silkes in 1985.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List


Fliers, Circulars, and Newspaper Write-ups of Lectures, 1950-1983

17 folders
Scope and Content:

This series includes invitations to talks that Silkes gave on a wide variety of topics, including the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Jewish life in America, Jewish traditions in Eastern Europe, and many others. The talks took place throughout the United States, Europe, and Canada, and were sponsored by many different organizations, both religious and secular.

1 1 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorials in France 1950-1955

1 2 Memorials, summer camps, and celebrations of Israel's independence, primarily in America 1956

1 3 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorials held by Cyko, the Jewish Community of Detroit, and a talk on the shtetl in America at the Jewish Public Library of Montreal 1957

1 4 The Union of Yiddish Writers of France, Jewish Pioneer Women of Paris, on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Jewish life in America 1958-1959

1 5 The Temple in Cleveland, on Jewish life in Europe after the Holocaust, the Hebrew Actors' Club on Neo-Nazism, and a talk on Jewish life in Poland in Atlanta 1960-1961

1 6 The Federation of Jewish Woman, the Hillel at UC-Berkeley, Centre des Jeunes in Paris, on different topics 1962-1963

1 7 Various Jewish organizations in Toronto, on Jewish life in Europe after the Holocaust, and the Histradrut in NYC on the Yiddish dictionary project 1964-1965

1 8 Talks in Israel, Seattle, and New York, on the Yiddish dictionary and education in the Warsaw ghetto 1966-1967

1 9 Warsaw ghetto memorials in Massachusetts and New York 1968-1969

1 10 Camp Boiberik and synagogues in New York 1970-1971

1 11 Temple in Great Neck, Workman's Circle in Montreal 1972-1973

1 12 Talks at camps and clubs in the Northeast on the Jewish child during the Holocaust 1974

1 13 Drew university and local temples on Jewish spiritual life in the ghetto 1975

1 14 Temples, schools, and cultural centers on the memory of the Holocaust 1976-1977

1 15 Temples, libraries, universities on the Holocaust 1978-1979

Often in connection with a memorial week or day of rememberance

1 16 Universities and day schools 1980-1983

Regarding publication as well as lectures

1 17 Schools and Temples through the United States, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and California undated

Includes lecture notes and a biography of her as a lecturer as well as advertisements of her talks

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Child Survivor Testimonies, undated, 1931-1983

18 folders
Scope and Content:

This series contains children's written testimonies to their experiences during the Holocaust, as well as a folder of drawings depicting the events of the war. In Subseries 3, a separate group of children's testimonies focus on the topic of play during the war. Testimonies often contain a handwritten or typed original, along with several photocopies, transcriptions, and translations, mostly into English, sometimes Polish as well..

Subseries 1: Eyewitness Testimonies, undated, 1944-1983

Primarily in Yiddish, with most if not all testimonies translated into English, as well as a few items in Polish.
12 folders

Testimonies are arranged by last name of the child, according to the English alphabet. For a list of testimonies by child's last name, according to to the Yiddish alphabet, see the Yiddish finding aid here.

1 18 Child Survivor Testimonies undated

Includes: Belber, Esther, b. 1933; Bernfeld, Zalmen, b. 1935; Braf, Celia, b. 1935; Bram, Mirka, b. 1936

1 19 Child Survivor Testimonies undated

Includes: Centnerschwerer, Naomi, b. 1931; Eizen, Samuel, b. 1932

1 20 Child Survivor Testimonies 1947-1948

Includes: Frajtag, Pearl, b. 1930; Frymet, Dvora, b. 1930, Frumanska, Genia

1 21 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1944-1946

Includes: G., Szmulik, b. 1930; Gertner, Shaya, b. 1937; Gerszt, Regina, b. 1932; Godlowitz, Frania, b. 1929; Goldberg, Lea, b. 1930, Goldstein, Basia, b. 1927, Goldwaser, Ignacy

1 22 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1948

Includes: Himelfeld, Joseph, b. 1929; Hoffman, Halina, b. 1934; Horn, Fajwel, b. 1932; Jacobowitz, Witold and Janusa, b. 1928-1932; Jacobson, Aleksander; Jerzycki, Ludwik

1 23 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1935-1948

Includes: Katz, Esther, Kirzner, Jehudit, Kokotek, Fela, b. 1935; Krauthamer, Andrew, b. 1935; Kulbiner, Jan, b. 1930; Kutnowski, Shlomo, b. 1929

1 24 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1946-1983

Includes: Landsberg, Adam, b. 1930; Lazarowitz, Ania; Leiserson, Irene; Liberman, Solomon, b. 1929

1 25 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1946-1947

Includes: Malczyk, Joseph, b. 1930; Matetzka, Karoline, b. 1935; Metzker, Rosa, b. 1935; Milstein, Wanda, b. 1939; Nobel, Henoch; Ogorek, Basia, b. 1929

2 26 Child Survivor Testimonies undated

Includes: Perese, Henryk, b. 1928; Piechotka, Benick, b. 1932

2 27 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1947

Includes: Reich, Joseph, b. 1935; Rimpel, Ludwik, b. 1935; Rubinowich, Brucha, b. 1933

2 28 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1947

Includes: Shigee, Christine, b. 1935; Shlegel, Rafael, b. 1931; Shporn, Zosia, Steinwurcel, Sz., b. 1933; Stacher, Fela; Stauber, Lutek, b. 1936; Sternhis, Rachel, b. 1932; Stiebel, Abram, b. 1930

2a 29 Child Survivor Testimonies undated

Teichner, Henryk, b. 1934; Weicher, Chava, b. 1933; Weidman, Richard, b. 1935; Weinrib, Zygmunt, b. 1935; Welner, Genia, b. 1934; Wolf, David, b. 1936

2a 30 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1947

Zalkind, Aron, b. 1934; Zayontz, Yankel; Zucker, Hersz, b. 1931; Zwick, Elzbiela, b. 1931

2a 31 Child Survivor Testimonies undated, 1958



Subseries 2: Children's Drawings of the War, undated, 1946

1 folder
2a 32 Children's Drawings about the warundated, 1946


Subseries 3: Silkes' Interviews Regarding Children's Games and Play During the War, undated, 1931-1946

3 folders
2a 33 Children's Accounts undated, 1934

Wartime Experiences

2a 34 Children's Accounts 1931-1934

Wartime Experiences

2a 35 Children's Accounts 1946

Play during the war

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Adult Survivor Testimonies, undated, 1943-1954

In Yiddish, Yiddish, and Polish. It is not clear which one is the original, and which is the translation.
1 folder
2a 36 Adult Survivor Testimonies undated, 1943-1954

Includes: Akerman, Ryfka; Domankewicz, L.; Gaist, Moshe; Maria; Olesia; Rubinlicht, F.; Sapetowa, K.; Segal, S.; Wolkowitz, J.

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Drafts of Articles, undated

In Yiddish, English, and Polish.
8 folders

Subseries are arranged by subject.

Subseries 1: The Holocaust in Poland, undated

1 folder
Scope and Content:

Co-authored by Silkes and F. Novik, these materials particularly emphasize Brisk (Brest-Litovsk).

3 37 The Holocaust in Poland undated

Including the Yiddish articles "Dos lebn un umkum fun yidishn yishuv in brisk d'lite;" "Tsu der yartzheit fun brisk;" "Geshikhtlekhe arbet vegn brisk;" "In mayn geburtshtot brisk" by H. Novik; "Di letste teg fun zaprivke?


Subseries 2: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, undated

1 folder
3 38 Ghetto Life and Resistance undated


Subseries 3: Children in the Holocaust, undated

1 folder
3 39 Children in the Holocaust undated


Subseries 4: Pedagogy and Childrearing Practices, undated

2 folders
3 40 Childrearing undated

3 41 Childrearing undated


Subseries 5: Teachers who Perished in the Holocaust, undated

1 folder
4 42 Teachers who perished in the Holocaust undated


Subseries 6: Various Topics, undated

3 folders
Scope and Content:

These materials were prepared for the Teachers’ Yizkor Book which was made by the Central Jewish School Organization. In this part there are two particularly significant biographies of the teachers Tsimlikh and Berman.

4 43 Assorted Topics - Yiddish undated

4 44 Assorted Topics - Yiddish undated

4 45 Assorted Topics - English undated

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Correspondence,  1946-1983

25 folders

Correspondence with significant individuals is separated out into Subseries 1, and arranged alphabetically (by the Yiddish alphabet). The rest of the corrsepondence is arranged chronologically in Subseries 2

Scope and Content:

Subseries 1: Correspondence by Individual Correspondent, 1946-1965

In Yiddish, English, and Polish.
9 folders
Scope and Content:

Here are found letters by Ephraim Kaganofsky, the famous Yiddish writer with whom Genia Silkes was linked romantically from 1948-1952.

4 46 Goldman, Nachum, of the Yidisher Velt-Conference, of the Claims Conference 1954-1961

4 47 Glatshteyn, Yankev 1958

4 48 Leyvik, H. 1958

4 49 Silkes, Avraham 1949

4 50 Fridman, Dr. F. 1958

4 51 Kaganovski, Ephraim 1947-1948

Originals and Photocopies

4 52 Kaganovski, Ephraim 1949-1952

Originals and Photocopies

4 53 Kaganovski manuscripts undated

4 54 Kalinivna, Dora 1949

Originals and Photocopies

4 55 Ravitch, M. 1965


Subseries 2: Correspondence by Year, undated, 1946-1983

In Yiddish, Polish, and German.
14 folders
Scope and Content:

Primarily letters in connection with her appearances.

5 56 Correspondence 1946-1949

5 57 Correspondence 1950-1959

5 58 Correspondence 1960-1969

5 59 Correspondence 1970-1971

5 60 Correspondence 1972

5 61 Correspondence 1973

5 62 Correspondence 1974

5 63 Correspondence 1975

5 64 Correspondence 1976

5 65 Correspondence 1977

5 66 Correspondence 1978

5 67 Correspondence 1979

5 68 Correspondence 1980-1981

5 69 Correspondence 1982

5 70 Correspondence 1983 and undated

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Biographical Materials,  1946-1958

1 folder
Scope and Content:

Here are found her passport, as well as the papers that she used when passing as a Christian on the Axis side. There are also documents that were gathered after the war about her life and work. There is a picture of her at her graduation from the Vilna teacher’s seminary, taken in 1930. Also included are documents attesting to her association with the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, evaluations of her teaching and expertise, teaching license, attestations as to her lack of a criminal record, a bibliography of her published works, and descriptions of her expertise and availability as a speaker.

5 71 Biographical Materials 1946-1958

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Newspaper Clippings,  1948-1983

15 folders

Clippings are arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content:

These are clippings that Silkes made from newspapers on topics that interested her, including the Holocaust, Jewish education and childrearing, and world events.

5 72 Newspaper clippings 1948

6 73 Newspaper clippings 1948-1951

6 74 Newspaper clippings 1952

6 75 Newspaper clippings 1953

6 76 Newspaper clippings 1954

7 77 Newspaper clippings 1955

7 78 Newspaper clippings 1956

7 79 Newspaper clippings 1957

7 80 Newspaper clippings 1958

7 80-1 Newspaper clippings 1958

7 81 Newspaper clippings 1959

7 82 Newspaper clippings 1960-1967

7 83 Newspaper clippings 1970-1979

7 84 Newspaper clippings 1980-1983

7 85 Newspaper clippings undated

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Research Materials, undated, 1947

In Yiddish, with one item in English.
1 folder
Scope and Content:

This series contains Silkes' research notes.

7 86 Bibliographic Materials undated, 1947

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Photographs, 1945-1977

2 folders
Scope and Content:

Photographs of Silkes in her personal and professional life, as well as of her friends and associates, many with Yiddish captions.

8 87 Photographs 1945-1977

8 88 Unidentified Photographs undated

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Miscellaneous,  1934-1983

7 folders
Scope and Content:

Miscellaneous items, including articles by her brother, Avraham Silkes, reprints or corrected manuscripts of articles by A. Kaganovsky from the Warsaw paper Haynt, letter to Kaganovsky from Yehiel Popper, letter from Kaganovsky to Shimon Zakharish, a communist activist in postwar Poland.

8 89 Research Materials 1948-1980

8 90 Articles by Ephraim Kaganovsky 1934-1936

8 91 Manuscripts undated

Handwritten and typed

8 92 Newspaper clippings 1956-1973

8 93 Newspaper clippings undated

8 94 Letters from Ephraim Kaganovsky 1949

8 95 Sketches and Photographs 1934-1983

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