The Holocaust and the Exile of Yiddish

When and Where

Monday, February 27, 2023 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
JHB100 and online
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George Street, 1st floor


Barry Trachtenberg


ATCJS requests that all in-person attendees wear a mask to protect our vulnerable community members.

Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies Lecture

Date: Monday, Feb. 27 at 4PM
Location: JHB100/Zoom

Barry Trachtenberg (Wake Forest University)

This event is co-sponsored by the Elizabeth and Tony Comper Holocaust Education Fund.

"The Holocaust and the Exile of Yiddish"

In the early 1930s in Berlin, a group of leading Eastern European Jewish intellectuals embarked upon a project to transform the lives of millions of Yiddish-speaking Jews around the world. Their goal was to publish a popular and comprehensive Yiddish language encyclopedia of general knowledge that would serve as a bridge to the modern world and as a guide to help its readers navigate their way within it. However, soon after the Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General Encyclopedia) was announced, Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 forced its editors to flee to Paris, and World War II forced them to flee again to New York. Historian Barry Trachtenberg’s The Holocaust & the Exile of Yiddish (Rutgers University Press, 2022) untangles the complicated saga of the Algemeyne entsiklopedye, and demonstrates how, as their primary audience of Eastern European Jewish readers faced persecution and genocide from Nazi rule, the editors sought to publish volumes and revise the encyclopedia’s central mission in response to the mounting crisis. This talk will discuss how, over the course of the middle decades of the twentieth century, the project sparked tremendous controversy in Jewish cultural and political circles, which debated what the purpose of a Yiddish encyclopedia should be, as well as what knowledge and perspectives it should contain. This is not only a story about destruction and trauma, but also one of tenacity and continuity, as the encyclopedia’s compilers strove to preserve the heritage of Yiddish culture, to document its near-total extermination in the Holocaust, and to chart a path into the future.

Featuring Yiddish poetry selected and read by Elly Gotz.

Barry Trachtenberg is the Rubin Presidential Chair of Jewish History at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He is the author of three works, The Holocaust & the Exile of Yiddish: A History of the Algemeyne Entsiklopedye (2022); The United States and the Nazi Holocaust: Race, Refuge, and Remembrance (2018); and The Revolutionary Roots of Modern Yiddish, 1903-1917 (2008). He serves on the Board of Scholars of Facing History and Ourselves and is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace. He writes occasional pieces and lectures on the topics of Zionism, antisemitism, and US support for Israel. These have appeared in forums such as the Forward, Tablet, Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Die Tageszeitung (German), A2larm (Czech), and La Razón (Spanish).

Elly Gotz is a Holocaust survivor, retired engineer, businessman, pilot, and author of Flights of Spirit (2018). He shares his story, which focuses on teaching tolerance and an understanding of the conditions that bring about genocide, with around 15,000 students every year. Born in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania in 1928, he has had a lifelong passion for Yiddish poetry.

This lecture will be delivered in-person at JHB100 and virtually via Zoom.

Contact Information

Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies


Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies


170 St. George Street, 1st floor