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The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust

Lisa Moses Leff

Lisa Moses Leff joins us to talk about her recent book, The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust.  The book tells the story of Zosa Szajkowski, a Polish-born Jewish historian who took tens of thousands of Jewish documents from Europe in the 1940s and 50s and moved them, illicitly, to New York, and eventually sold them to Jewish research libraries in the United States and Israel. Was this a heroic act of salvage or simply theft? In exploring this question, Leff raises questions about where the material remnants of the Jewish past are best kept.

Lisa Moses Leff, a historian of 19th and 20th century Europe, whose research focuses on Jews in France, is Professor of History at American University, where she is also affiliated with the Jewish Studies program. She is the author of Sacred Bonds of Solidarity: The Rise of Jewish Internationalism in Nineteenth Century France, Colonialism and the Jews, and The Archive Thief which was awarded the 2016 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish literature and was a finalist for a 2015 National Jewish Book Award. Leff received her BA from Oberlin College and her MA and PhD from the University of Chicago.