In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Jewish historian Zosa Szajkowski gathered up tens of thousands of documents from Nazi buildings in Berlin, and later, public archives and private synagogues in France, and moved them all, illicitly, to New York. Dr. Lisa Leff reconstructed Szajkowski’s story in all its ambiguity in her 2015 book The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust.

In this program, Leff and Dr. Eddy Portnoy, Academic Advisor and Exhibitions Curator at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, discuss Szajkowski’s story, the documents he stole, and what it all means for those interested in preserving the past today.

Watch the program below.


This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Ari Goldstein: i'm Ari Goldstein Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust and it's a pleasure to welcome you to today's discussion with Dr Lisa left and Dr eddie portnoy.

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Ari Goldstein: unpacking the story of those as Tchaikovsky, also known as the archive thief.

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Ari Goldstein: Tchaikovsky was a prodigious and complicated French Jewish historian who systematically pillaged libraries and archives in Europe in order to save the documents they contained and then shipped his plunder to new libraries and archives, including EVO right here in New York.

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Ari Goldstein: Chicago tchaikovsky's fascinating story was the subject of Lisa left 2015 book The archive thief the man who salvaged French Jewish history in the wake of the Holocaust, which we strongly recommend if you haven't read it.

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Ari Goldstein: Some of you may have, and that could be what brought you here today.

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Ari Goldstein: we're revisiting the story now, both because it's one of timeless interest and importance.

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Ari Goldstein: And also because it's particularly relevant today with so many questions in our public consciousness about who gets to own and tell historical narratives and how they should do so.

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Ari Goldstein: In addition to being the author of the archive thief Dr Lisa left is the director of the jack Joseph and morton Mandela Center for advanced Holocaust studies at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

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Ari Goldstein: she's also a professor of history at American university and past president of the society for French historical studies.

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Ari Goldstein: lisa's in conversation today with Dr eddie portnoy who serves as academic advisor and exhibitions curator at EVO.

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Ari Goldstein: His articles on Jewish history and pop culture have appeared in the drama review, Poland and studies and contemporary jewelry among other publications.

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Ari Goldstein: eddie is also the author of bad rabbi and other strange but true stories from the Jewish press published by Stanford university press in 2017.

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Ari Goldstein: we're grateful to SNCF America for generously supporting today's program and all of our work at the Museum of Jewish heritage to preserve the history and lessons of the Holocaust.

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Ari Goldstein: As Lisa and eddie discuss tchaikovsky's story today, please feel free to share your audience questions in the zoom Q amp a box and we'll get to as many as we can, towards the end of the hour, without further ado, welcome to you both eddie feel free to get us started.

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Eddy Portnoy: Thanks so much sorry, and thanks Lisa for being here.

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Eddy Portnoy: As always told us in his brief but cogent introduction.

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Eddy Portnoy: will be talking about lisa's book The archive Steve which focuses on a member xhosa Tchaikovsky whose name may not be familiar to many of you, but if you're like me and you work at EVO you may be very familiar with his name, because his fingerprints are all over the archives here.

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Eddy Portnoy: Now he's an incredibly fascinating character.

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Eddy Portnoy: And I happen to find the introduction to an article.

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Eddy Portnoy: Written for a new.

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Eddy Portnoy: photographic exhibition at the International Center for photography that uses xhosa Tchaikovsky as a hook, and I just wanted to read it, because I thought it was a good way to introduce him, or at least peak people's interest about him as written by William Meyer.

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Eddy Portnoy: He writes when my wife began research 35 years ago for her book on the history of Yiddish theater she spent long days at EVO the Institute for Jewish research.

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Eddy Portnoy: Zero so Tchaikovsky was an entrenched presence there a gnome like man with a talent for instantly alienating almost everyone he came into contact with, but this diminutive bundle of spite had landed of adventurous life.

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Eddy Portnoy: So I think that to a certain degree, in a certain way encapsulate social Tchaikovsky so I just want to like ask Lisa if you'll if you'll give us an introduction to this man, and you know explain who who we're dealing with here.

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Lisa Leff: Thanks eddie and i'm thrilled to be in conversation with you, in particular as author of bad rap I feel like we're drawn to the same types of stories.

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Lisa Leff: i'm Tchaikovsky was a historian and an archivist who worked in times, where where someone who wanted to work on.

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Lisa Leff: Jews couldn't probably not make a career in the academy and that's a lot of why he also, in addition to his work as a historian became an archive thief who stole.

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Lisa Leff: 10s of thousands of documents from archives in libraries and France and move them to New York, where he was based after the war and sold them, bit by bit to Jewish research libraries across America, where you can now find them, so he specialized in history of Jews in France.

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Lisa Leff: In both in terms of his scholarship and in terms of most of what he stole he stole from France and sold around the United States.

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Lisa Leff: So this has left us with quite a legacy right he's both one of the most prolific scholars we've ever had doing academic work on Jews in France, he was like the author of.

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Lisa Leff: Something like 200 works of scholarship and that all used primary sources, mostly things that no one had ever used before.

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Lisa Leff: But he's also responsible for so much stuff that should be in France in the archives about the history of Jews, being in New York Cincinnati Boston and Israel.

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Lisa Leff: He created a global what I call it diaspora documents and that we have to now consult if we want to study the history of Jews and modern France.

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Eddy Portnoy: Right, I think diaspora of documents is a very really apt apt description of what he created and it resonates well with his own experience.

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Eddy Portnoy: I just took you know, can you give us some you know, a beep brief biographical sketch of you know where he came from and how we made it to where he was or where he ended up.

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Lisa Leff: yeah i'm, by the way, I love that you found that article um I think I ran across it myself, and I was doing my research I love the expression bundle of spite and.

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Lisa Leff: I I myself started working on this project like.

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Lisa Leff: Around I don't know 2006 or something, and most of the people I met who knew Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky died in 1978 most of the people I met who knew him.

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Lisa Leff: met him in the 1970s, and that includes Meyer, who wrote that article and his wife on, and it also includes many of my mentors because i'm.

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Lisa Leff: professors who work on Jews today, who are the most senior the people who would have been my teachers in the 1990s, they were doing their dissertations in the 70s.

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Lisa Leff: And many of them were working at EVO and that's where szatkowski worked so they all remember him, just like that article does as a bundle of spite a known like man sitting in the corner, making fun of people.

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Lisa Leff: And if someone walked into the room seeming like an outsider as meyers wife did, and he would be friend them just to annoy all those.

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Lisa Leff: More serious you dishes who also frequented EVO so with very I have this picture of him as this very difficult man very much on the outside.

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Lisa Leff: and angry and a kind of a misfit they'll always recognized as highly accomplished, and what I was surprised to find out was that was not always the case when I encountered what he was like as a younger man.

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Lisa Leff: his whole demeanor was very different and he was born in Poland in 1911 and and you know short World War one tore apart the village that he was from.

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Lisa Leff: And he, as a young man as a teenager made his way to Warsaw and then not that long after to Paris when he arrived in Paris, he somehow.

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Lisa Leff: found his way into the world of Jewish historians and it was there that he kind of got the passion for Jewish history in the 1930s and maybe i'll stop there.

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Eddy Portnoy: Okay um I just want to point out to people if you have questions, please put them in the Q amp a section, not in the chat.

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Eddy Portnoy: And we'll get to your will we should have time at the end to get to your questions, so you just stopped in Paris, where he.

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Eddy Portnoy: You know, somehow got involved with historians.

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Eddy Portnoy: You according to your book he became a journalist in the press, now, this is, you know.

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Eddy Portnoy: To a certain degree it's it's it's astounding because here's.

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Eddy Portnoy: A really a kid he's a teenager when it gets to Paris and he has come from you know, an impoverished town, you know, an impoverished shtetl in Poland and.

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Eddy Portnoy: He winds up in this big cosmopolitan European city where you know as a teenager becomes a journalist and he has no schooling outside of Haider and you know, maybe a bit of you know you Shiva.

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Eddy Portnoy: Or maybe I think he did go to a Yiddish like I get a secular school he didn't.

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Lisa Leff: hold us.

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Eddy Portnoy: A Polish school Okay, so he had very limited education, yet he's he throws himself into this world first of journalism.

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Eddy Portnoy: And you know, then into the world of historians, which to me seems absolutely amazing and and you know really reflects on a character, who you know must certainly be brilliant.

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Lisa Leff: yeah and dedicated on, but I also think eddie it says a lot about how different the world was then than it is now yeah I mean I don't think at that time.

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Lisa Leff: um anyone from that for or now anyone from that poor background could would but become an academic.

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Lisa Leff: But she wasn't trying to become an academic he was trying to become part of a Jewish intelligentsia that wasn't in a moment of broadening.

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Lisa Leff: yeah it was like there was a because of all of the circumstances of the interwar period.

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Lisa Leff: Somehow and especially because of left wing political movements, there was this kind of space opening for people who traditionally would never have been able to be intellectuals, to become writers or journalists.

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Lisa Leff: And it was a very brief opening but we we we see it, for sure in Poland and and we see it in Paris, where mean the reason he could become a journalist was because he was in this political world of anarchists and Communists.

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Lisa Leff: And it was valued in that world to have a workers voice so when he starts writing for the greatest press, it is for a Communist daily newspaper and he's reporting on you know the shoemakers union and.

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Lisa Leff: The watchmakers and he's kind of going around the city reporting on what workers lives were like, and for that being an authentic worker himself.

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Lisa Leff: right was a plus so obviously he needed to be very literate and that for that, in a way it's surprising that someone who quit school at age 15 was able to pull it off.

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Lisa Leff: But he was writing at a very basic level because he was writing for readers who were also.

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Lisa Leff: only minimally educated and that's really where he gets a start, one of the sad things that my research that I found in my research that I had to keep in mind.

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Lisa Leff: Is that, in some ways, there was more room for people from his background to be intellectuals in that period than there was in America, after the war.

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Eddy Portnoy: Oh yeah absolutely I mean you know if you look at you know the material and eva's archives and the people that are represents it's a whole generation in fact it's a maybe a few generations.

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Eddy Portnoy: of people very similar to this who's you know who don't really have formal education but wind up as.

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Eddy Portnoy: You know, writers, journalists.

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Eddy Portnoy: doing all kinds of you know sort of literary work, you know, for which they seemingly have no experience you know even you know the.

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Eddy Portnoy: You know the occupation Yiddish journalist didn't really exist until the 1890s you know it's it's a new phenomenon, and so you know people.

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Eddy Portnoy: You know, obviously the the explosion of the British press is all part of this, it allows them to find jobs and work in these environments.

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Eddy Portnoy: And it also allows them at the same time, to create a secular Jewish culture that hadn't really existed previously, so you can understand.

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Eddy Portnoy: You know people like Tchaikovsky has an interest in in you know because he's also part of this movement to create a secular Jewish culture, you know that he's he's.

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Eddy Portnoy: very much involved with EVO and their attempt to you know, create this kind of user speaking intelligentsia that he strives to be part of.

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Eddy Portnoy: yeah so that's that's really fascinating.

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Lisa Leff: And he kind of comes at it in Paris through, as I said, like the organized you know Communist Jewish Communists are different from the like non Jewish communist and they're organized separately.

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Lisa Leff: But he does encounter yivo in Paris and that's actually makes a huge difference in his life.

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Lisa Leff: Because i'm you know i'm sure you know, but maybe not everyone listening does that back you've was founded in 1925 and jonah, but it was never fully centralized and velma they had offices in many different cities, including New York.

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Eddy Portnoy: Right right they had made office in Warsaw Berlin a New York and their you know their headquarters weren't Villa but you know the historical section was in Berlin there's also a historic section in Warsaw and and you know New York also did a lot as well.

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Lisa Leff: Exactly and in 1933 the Berlin office, which was headed by Riva and Elias to recover moved to Paris.

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Lisa Leff: And shakeups the kind of him his being a journalist man about town knowing everyone encountered that historical section of EVO and was totally captivated.

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Lisa Leff: You know, by the time he met the Chair covers he was getting pretty disillusioned with Jewish Communism really with the party which had.

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Lisa Leff: Support supported a Jewish section for a long time, and let Jews organized separately and in their own language and by the late 1930s was not was much more ambivalent about that, and with the.

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Lisa Leff: contract with the Jews contribution to the fighting fascism in Spain Tchaikovsky just got disgusted with the party he thought.

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Lisa Leff: The party was going to eat its own and was never going to really address anti semitism so she left the party and encountered this world of EVO parents.

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Lisa Leff: Who were mostly historians and sociologists studying the Jewish world on and he thought those people are the ones that really are going to help us face our future, and he actually got a scholarship so EVO had kind of a Grad Program.

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Eddy Portnoy: Like the Oscars.

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Lisa Leff: The Oscars Oscar entrepreneur Graham.

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Lisa Leff: And he was granted a scholarship he was going to write basically the equivalent of a PhD thesis in Paris and he was supposed to start on September first 1939.

00:17:37.710 --> 00:17:38.040

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Eddy Portnoy: that's amazing.

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Eddy Portnoy: So obviously you know September 1 1939 beginning of World War Two and this clearly changes everything for him, and so what what happens to him during the war, this is also you know very incredible part of the story.

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Lisa Leff: Yes, so Tchaikovsky is.

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Lisa Leff: Like anyone in his position, which was stateless on a stateless Polish Jus living in Paris in in wartime because on Sep tember Second, the French to declare war on Germany.

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Lisa Leff: on behalf of Poland in solidarity with Poland, so he, like everyone else, goes and signs up for the French Foreign Legion.

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Lisa Leff: And hit all of his EVO friends who have better connections, like the Chair covers are able to get out and go to New York, but he stays and fights for the French and is wounded.

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Lisa Leff: And after he is wounded, the Chair covers that in New York wind up being able to get him a visa through marcee and he gets to New York, which looks for you, though, just that ask her on her program for one year.

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Eddy Portnoy: i'm sorry doesn't work first one got but a concentration camp.

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Lisa Leff: Yes, on the way his boat is intercepted right his boat as intercepted and he's in a Vichy a French concentration camp in Morocco.

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Lisa Leff: He gets out somehow the Chair covers pull strings for him, he has a dramatic you know trip to New York very last minute, he arrives in New York in the fall of 1941.

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Lisa Leff: Well before the Americans enter right before it would have been too late to get out.

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Lisa Leff: Right and then at that point when the Americans enter the war he really doesn't waste time signs up for the American army and returns to Europe i'm after basic training in Fort richie yeah one of the few French richie boys if you've heard of the richie boys.

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Eddy Portnoy: Right i've heard that 60 minutes just had an episode of the ritchie boys.

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Lisa Leff: yeah exactly it's these you know Jewish i'm not entirely George but, most of them were Jewish refugees, most of them, German and.

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Lisa Leff: who went back to do, intelligence and translating to help the Allied troops schakowsky was one of them, as he was one of the French richie boys.

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Lisa Leff: But he also spoke Polish and yesh and that really made them very useful and when he went back with the Americans, he did all of that stuff but that's really where I trace him becoming an archive thief because all of that time that he spent there every spare moment he hunted for documents.

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Eddy Portnoy: Right and there were a lot of documents to be had in in post World War Two Europe, you know, obviously I mean they've got it probably isn't familiar with the egos collection.

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Eddy Portnoy: During World War Two much of much of it was sent to Germany to be to become part of an institute for research on the Jewish question a Nazi Institute.

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Lisa Leff: Film that material.

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Eddy Portnoy: Located villain that they were they were.

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Eddy Portnoy: plundered by the Nazis sent too much of it was much of it was sent to Germany, another portion of it was buried in the film the ghetto by people who were sneaking it out of EVO.

00:21:06.870 --> 00:21:07.500
Eddy Portnoy: and

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Eddy Portnoy: A lot of these materials that were sent to Germany wound up in an enormous warehouse outside of an orphan box, which is in Frankfurt and.

00:21:19.290 --> 00:21:32.790
Eddy Portnoy: You know you part szatkowski story isn't really part of that but it's it's, but this is part of EVO story and how they recovered a portion of their pre war archives, which was never really expected.

00:21:34.110 --> 00:21:37.230
Eddy Portnoy: But you know throughout Europe, I think.

00:21:39.060 --> 00:21:45.780
Eddy Portnoy: You know, first of all that the Nazis plundered, you know everything from art to.

00:21:47.010 --> 00:21:55.800
Eddy Portnoy: money to gold to archives, you know it's it's really astonishing how much they they took in fact the photographs of the offenbach.

00:21:56.220 --> 00:22:05.280
Eddy Portnoy: warehouse look like the indiana Jones warehouse it's just absolutely enormous and just filled with with crates of material.

00:22:06.000 --> 00:22:22.590
Eddy Portnoy: And it was you know there were there was the monuments men, the art, you know artifacts fine art Fine Arts artifacts and archives department of the US army, whose job it was to find these materials and repatriate them to their countries of origin.

00:22:24.360 --> 00:22:39.660
Eddy Portnoy: In the meantime, you had people working for them, you had sort of random others finding materials and just doing whatever they wanted with it and Tchaikovsky fits into that category of.

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Eddy Portnoy: faculty you know, and it is a person, as you know, a person who.

00:22:44.250 --> 00:22:52.350
Eddy Portnoy: You know, had been working with archives before at least historical material before he had some familiar familiarity of what was a value.

00:22:54.060 --> 00:23:04.050
Eddy Portnoy: And so you know just give a sense of what kinds of things, he was taking in Germany and and sort of in the years after the war.

00:23:04.470 --> 00:23:16.110
Lisa Leff: yeah so you know when he was in the US army, he was concerned with two kinds of things in the time he spent in France, he was mostly interested in anything.

00:23:17.040 --> 00:23:26.820
Lisa Leff: That would tell what happened to Jews and it's For this reason, actually and, by the way, when he took things in that period um.

00:23:27.510 --> 00:23:40.830
Lisa Leff: He wasn't really stealing because most of what everything he took in France was not in an institution right but mostly what he was taking were like underground periodicals of the resistance or.

00:23:42.000 --> 00:23:53.550
Lisa Leff: Jewish organizational papers that have been given to him and he sent all of that stuff to ufo in New York and institution that remained his home, you know, for the rest of his life.

00:23:53.580 --> 00:23:55.800
Lisa Leff: From the time he first encountered them in Paris in the late.

00:23:55.800 --> 00:24:02.940
Lisa Leff: 30s until he died in 1978 in Germany those what you asked about there is a very different kind of thing.

00:24:03.570 --> 00:24:11.700
Lisa Leff: There he was based in Berlin, after the German surrender so in as part of the allied occupation, he was a translator.

00:24:12.330 --> 00:24:23.130
Lisa Leff: And he spent every spare moment going through the bombed out remains of Nazi buildings looking for papers that would explain.

00:24:23.550 --> 00:24:44.010
Lisa Leff: The perpetrators and all that stuff he also sent tivo, so this is why EVO has tremendous collections of stuff of Nazi stuff was he thought that Jews, of the future, who would want us would want to study this to understand why Jews have been persecuted and to documented right.

00:24:44.040 --> 00:24:49.710
Eddy Portnoy: Right absolutely and so you know you have similar situations in Poland.

00:24:50.850 --> 00:24:53.040
Eddy Portnoy: and elsewhere, so I you know I mentioned that.

00:24:54.360 --> 00:25:05.460
Eddy Portnoy: You know people notice the paper brigade buried materials from the EVO and other related materials in the Villa ghetto and dug it up after the war.

00:25:06.240 --> 00:25:13.740
Eddy Portnoy: So in there you have all kinds of Nazi you know within this collection, you also have Nazi documents you have the documents have reviewed and rot.

00:25:14.910 --> 00:25:17.520
Eddy Portnoy: And this was collected, because they wanted to document.

00:25:18.660 --> 00:25:29.400
Eddy Portnoy: What it happened to the Jews in you know, in order, not just for historical purposes, but hopefully in order to prosecute Nazis after the war, and in fact some of this material was used.

00:25:31.260 --> 00:25:33.990
Eddy Portnoy: For the prosecutions of Nazis in nurenberg.

00:25:35.340 --> 00:25:48.510
Eddy Portnoy: You know, Evo and I don't want to get bogged down in EVO but I, you know, there are also things like the lodge ghetto archive which also contains Nazi documents and documents, the US and rotten all kinds of.

00:25:50.220 --> 00:26:01.650
Eddy Portnoy: You know artifacts and documents from lunch ghetto, and they were collected by a man whose name is Norman zona bend, who was a postman in the lodge ghetto, and he knew where everything was and when.

00:26:03.210 --> 00:26:12.990
Eddy Portnoy: He survived the ghetto liquidation and after that he began to feel suitcases full of material that he would find and threw them in a dry well.

00:26:13.620 --> 00:26:18.630
Eddy Portnoy: And when the war ended he you know went and got them and then brought them to Eva.

00:26:19.170 --> 00:26:33.840
Eddy Portnoy: Because EVO What if you know, at the end of the world, Evo is the only place that that survivors knew about because they had known about it from from Poland, but you know this type of thing is happening all over Europe and I mentioned it's not it's also happening with.

00:26:34.860 --> 00:26:37.680
Eddy Portnoy: You know other national archival material.

00:26:38.730 --> 00:26:39.690
Eddy Portnoy: Know it's.

00:26:40.200 --> 00:26:47.460
Lisa Leff: like this, I mean, and I think it is you know, going back to what you were saying earlier about the efforts in Jewish culture.

00:26:47.880 --> 00:26:58.830
Lisa Leff: Coming out of Eastern Europe in the earlier part of the 20th century that imbued even ordinary Jews even non intellectuals, with a sense of the.

00:26:59.310 --> 00:27:12.690
Lisa Leff: meaning and power and importance of documents and that they should collect and preserve you know, to borrow that famous formulation and then you've got you know was founded out of that.

00:27:12.750 --> 00:27:21.030
Eddy Portnoy: Yes, absolutely that was you know they had you know groups of people who are called Zam lawyers collectors and these were these were not intellectuals.

00:27:21.540 --> 00:27:39.390
Eddy Portnoy: You know even put ads in newspapers saying you know preserve Yiddish culture, you know send us, you know and they you know they even did nominal training of these people they sent them, you know pamphlets on how to what to collect how to collect how to treat it they sent them, you know.

00:27:41.520 --> 00:27:47.040
Eddy Portnoy: questionnaires that they could ask people, yes, this was a whole Jewish movement.

00:27:47.310 --> 00:27:58.290
Eddy Portnoy: yeah that that you know, understandably in the in the wake of World War Two I think when you know people thought that Jewish life would no longer exist in Europe.

00:27:59.340 --> 00:28:02.850
Eddy Portnoy: that this was a way to salvage these materials.

00:28:04.410 --> 00:28:05.760
Lisa Leff: And I can I go back to this.

00:28:05.760 --> 00:28:06.240
Eddy Portnoy: yeah sure.

00:28:06.270 --> 00:28:20.580
Lisa Leff: thing bundle of spite I mean one of the things that I really saw in Chicago so Tchaikovsky wrote letters to the to leave a chair over during the war so that's how I know what he was up to and.

00:28:21.540 --> 00:28:31.380
Lisa Leff: And what he thought about it and the amount of spite he feel he felt at that time for the Germans, understandably, for what they did his whole family.

00:28:32.130 --> 00:28:42.570
Lisa Leff: Almost everyone was murdered um but also the you know he really cared about the Jewish people and he was living among the Germans.

00:28:43.110 --> 00:28:51.180
Lisa Leff: And this collecting the mania I mean he was sending two to three packages per day in the six months, he spent in Berlin to you, oh.

00:28:51.720 --> 00:28:56.580
Lisa Leff: wow um with the fear of the way he wrote about it, and these letters this like.

00:28:57.150 --> 00:29:06.360
Lisa Leff: With rage, you know, like i'm like and and also spite not just towards the Germans, but, to a lesser degree, towards the allies.

00:29:06.750 --> 00:29:14.520
Lisa Leff: Who he felt confident, I mean when he was there, this was before the Nuremberg trials, this is when they're just gathering gathering evidence and he's speculating.

00:29:14.850 --> 00:29:22.440
Lisa Leff: But he thinks from everything he knows about the Americans, there will not be justice for the crimes committed against us.

00:29:22.920 --> 00:29:36.420
Lisa Leff: And he looked around him and he saw American soldiers converting with German women and he thought, these are not people who are going to hold these Germans responsible so i'm going to take it into my own hands, and even if what i'm doing is illegal, which it was.

00:29:37.590 --> 00:29:46.590
Lisa Leff: We have to do this, we have to take everything we can, so that we will have an archive from which to study and hold accountable these crimes against the Jews.

00:29:46.980 --> 00:29:47.310

00:29:48.600 --> 00:29:54.780
Eddy Portnoy: So we have this picture of this of this mad xhosa Tchaikovsky who's doing all this.

00:29:56.550 --> 00:29:59.130
Eddy Portnoy: let's look at some actual pictures of him.

00:30:00.240 --> 00:30:02.400
Eddy Portnoy: So we can you know give people a sense of.

00:30:04.080 --> 00:30:05.910
Eddy Portnoy: Of what he looked like.

00:30:07.170 --> 00:30:08.520
Eddy Portnoy: And who he was.

00:30:11.490 --> 00:30:12.510
Eddy Portnoy: So what do we have here.

00:30:12.660 --> 00:30:16.380
Lisa Leff: So this is really early, this is a Paris picture and I.

00:30:17.580 --> 00:30:25.110
Lisa Leff: I think it's from the late 20s I think he's a teenager in this picture um you know full of promise, this is parents.

00:30:26.910 --> 00:30:37.770
Eddy Portnoy: yeah yeah he you know looks happy and what's funny one of the funny one of the nice things about this photo is from this time period, there are a huge number of photographs of people smiling.

00:30:39.000 --> 00:30:45.450
Eddy Portnoy: There was always this there's always that you know it's this sort of portraiture tradition, where people you know, make a very stern Facebook and take a photograph.

00:30:46.080 --> 00:30:55.950
Eddy Portnoy: You know you had some you know earlier on, you were to sit there for a long time, so people didn't smile, but this is nice he looks you know he looks like a you know happy happy guy yeah.

00:30:58.530 --> 00:31:00.600
Eddy Portnoy: Okay what's going on here.

00:31:01.050 --> 00:31:14.580
Lisa Leff: So remember how, I said that the world of Jewish Communism Jewish anarchism in Paris in the 20s and 30s opened up new ways of life, new ways of looking at the world.

00:31:15.540 --> 00:31:28.320
Lisa Leff: This is taken at a nudist colony that Tchaikovsky and his brothers and lots of their friends frequented in that period, I think it tells you a lot, you know.

00:31:29.880 --> 00:31:45.180
Lisa Leff: It Jewish communism in France was really different than in the Soviet Union in the same period in the Soviet Union gender roles weren't being questioned sexuality was not opening up you know, was not like the 1960s.

00:31:46.200 --> 00:32:05.670
Lisa Leff: In France, something different i'm in France there's a lot more of this opening and this like nudist colony, and that you know it's it's one example of how social roles were also being question that's the freedom that allowed this guy from very poor background to become a journalist.

00:32:06.270 --> 00:32:13.290
Eddy Portnoy: Right, and you know you mentioned you're his association with anarchists you know with anarchist you know generals are always question.

00:32:14.220 --> 00:32:17.310
Eddy Portnoy: You know this is this had been going on, you know for 30 years already.

00:32:18.420 --> 00:32:20.550
Eddy Portnoy: It was it was really it was really part of the culture.

00:32:20.820 --> 00:32:36.360
Eddy Portnoy: And you know you can find you know articles by Emma Goldman in 1997 1908 about free love and it was very you know very common theme, so you know, I have to ask you know where there are a lot of Jewish nudist colonies or was this actually a Jewish nudist colony.

00:32:36.540 --> 00:32:50.190
Lisa Leff: It wasn't just Jewish so you know, one of the things I found out so tchaikovsky's one of his older brothers who was in Paris had actually spent a lot of time, speaking of Emma Goldman has been a bunch of time in Chicago before coming to.

00:32:51.390 --> 00:32:58.290
Lisa Leff: Paris and was from that kind of anarchist scene and they were the ones who brought Tchaikovsky to this nudist camp.

00:32:58.710 --> 00:33:15.060
Lisa Leff: And it wasn't just Jews there, because I know that during the war, one of the reasons that the that some of these family members survives, they were hidden in the area around this nudist camp with gentiles who they had befriended through this through these networks.

00:33:15.990 --> 00:33:20.340
Eddy Portnoy: But one imagines that you know he he speaking English in this place.

00:33:20.490 --> 00:33:30.510
Lisa Leff: Absolutely right there were so many Polish Jews in Paris, who spoke, yes, she was it was a really thriving subculture much like what we had in New York.

00:33:31.050 --> 00:33:32.910
Eddy Portnoy: Right right all right.

00:33:34.950 --> 00:33:42.990
Lisa Leff: This is why we're if you're in the French Foreign Legion this is his official photo that he sent to his friends in New York i've signed up for the war.

00:33:44.610 --> 00:33:46.470
Eddy Portnoy: Okay, it looks well fed.

00:33:47.490 --> 00:33:49.770
Lisa Leff: yeah That must be the beginning before the word.

00:33:50.010 --> 00:33:50.640

00:33:54.300 --> 00:33:56.250
Lisa Leff: Okay, I don't know how good your German is eddie.

00:33:57.510 --> 00:33:58.170
Eddy Portnoy: um.

00:34:01.140 --> 00:34:12.480
Lisa Leff: So this says that the experiences of history tell us that hitler's come and go, but the German people and the German nation remain.

00:34:13.350 --> 00:34:14.580
Eddy Portnoy: And there's a quote from Stalin.

00:34:14.880 --> 00:34:17.280
Lisa Leff: it's a quote from Stalin and.

00:34:17.490 --> 00:34:18.120
Eddy Portnoy: What ironic.

00:34:18.540 --> 00:34:38.250
Lisa Leff: Tchaikovsky standing with a gun in front of this in front of the sinus the occupying army I just wonder what he thought of the Soviet occupation, the American occupation of Germany and knowing that his concern was the question of whether there would be justice, whether this would.

00:34:39.600 --> 00:34:50.310
Lisa Leff: be really any different for the Jews, you know he didn't know yet about Auschwitz, but he knew that it was that many, many Jews have been killed.

00:34:51.060 --> 00:35:07.740
Lisa Leff: And you know, the German people and the German nation live on, even without Hitler I you know, like many Jews in the spirit to me this helps explain why he didn't trust the allies and wanted to take things for himself and for the Jewish people.

00:35:08.610 --> 00:35:14.310
Eddy Portnoy: Right yeah that may that makes that really makes quite a lot of sense, you know, especially regards to the Soviets.

00:35:15.390 --> 00:35:16.110
Eddy Portnoy: Who.

00:35:17.880 --> 00:35:27.630
Eddy Portnoy: You know, in regard to yivo I mentioned earlier that the paper brigade had hidden this material in the under the under the Vilna ghetto and.

00:35:28.170 --> 00:35:40.020
Eddy Portnoy: It was zoomed after the war and a small Jewish museum was started by are from six cover and market catcher catcher against ski or two poets, who were part of this paper brigade and.

00:35:40.530 --> 00:35:54.420
Eddy Portnoy: Very shortly thereafter they realized that the Soviets were not interested in the existence of a Jewish museum, so they began to smuggle these materials out the began to give materials to friends who are emigrating to the West and they eventually smuggle out as much as they could.

00:35:56.280 --> 00:36:05.250
Eddy Portnoy: and brought it to EVO in New York, because that's where you brought these things until next dish another segment of eva's pre were archives that.

00:36:06.810 --> 00:36:09.870
Eddy Portnoy: That wound up in New York, but it also speaks to the fact that.

00:36:11.130 --> 00:36:21.690
Eddy Portnoy: You know, at some point the Jews realized they couldn't trust the Soviets they couldn't trust you know the the the rest of the allies to properly prosecute.

00:36:22.560 --> 00:36:37.980
Eddy Portnoy: The Germans and Jewish culture have been decimated So yes, he's doing what you see you begin to see why he's doing whatever he can to you know to to salvage these these archives and documents.

00:36:38.880 --> 00:36:50.460
Lisa Leff: Absolutely, and so here's another sophos picture picture from Berlin and if you're going to this is on the cover of my book, if you're going to ask me what is that head.

00:36:51.420 --> 00:37:02.790
Lisa Leff: And is that a writing crop I just always show this picture because i'm hoping that someday someone in the Q amp a is going to be able to identify what exactly that is.

00:37:02.850 --> 00:37:04.320
Eddy Portnoy: I think, to the fishing pole.

00:37:05.340 --> 00:37:07.110
Lisa Leff: You don't think that's a.

00:37:09.090 --> 00:37:10.530
Lisa Leff: kind of military.

00:37:12.180 --> 00:37:31.140
Lisa Leff: Things in his letters that he salvaged and sent to people at EVO it's amazing it's not just his parachute from the army, but also like antlers that he took from gorings hunting lodge and a pistol that he found from some you know big high up Nazi.

00:37:31.260 --> 00:37:32.550
Eddy Portnoy: Actually i've held that pistol.

00:37:33.270 --> 00:37:35.610
Eddy Portnoy: No yeah it's in the archives.

00:37:37.860 --> 00:37:50.100
Lisa Leff: Oh yeah so you know So these are also things that Tchaikovsky salvaged and one wonders exactly what they are, I think of trophies you know back to those Soviet there are lots of Jews among the Soviet.

00:37:51.180 --> 00:38:02.010
Lisa Leff: army occupying Berlin and Tchaikovsky hung out with them, he did all sorts of looting really we have looting as painful way um.

00:38:02.580 --> 00:38:11.220
Lisa Leff: And I imagine that that was part of what was motivating him as well, but it's all, as you say, in the context of when he would send things back home.

00:38:11.580 --> 00:38:31.410
Lisa Leff: He wasn't treated like a thief he was treated like a hero yeah and it's really only after the war that when he keeps stealing in the 1950s i'm on his trips back to Europe that's when he really departs from the norm during the war it's something that it was was really respected.

00:38:32.550 --> 00:38:34.350
Eddy Portnoy: Right yeah that it stands to reason.

00:38:35.880 --> 00:38:43.290
Eddy Portnoy: And what's interesting about this photograph is it's very resonant of a photograph that we have EVO of them so let's give her a.

00:38:43.980 --> 00:38:56.880
Eddy Portnoy: With a big cart of materials that he's bringing from the bunkers that they were buried in in the ghetto to this new Jewish museum and sitting in this CRATE is a big bust.

00:38:59.220 --> 00:39:00.360
Eddy Portnoy: And so it's it's just.

00:39:00.900 --> 00:39:04.860
Eddy Portnoy: Right it's very resident of like saving these similar materials.

00:39:06.390 --> 00:39:15.540
Lisa Leff: And and just to be really you know very specific to Tchaikovsky in 1945 he knows he has to go home and he does not have a job.

00:39:16.080 --> 00:39:27.990
Lisa Leff: And he does not have a family and he is doing everything he can to impress people at EVO in the hopes that, after the war, he would have a position there and it worked yeah.

00:39:28.080 --> 00:39:30.630
Eddy Portnoy: Nobody did it, it was a good plan.

00:39:33.750 --> 00:39:46.200
Lisa Leff: Well, this is Berlin, this is the kind of thing that not only did he salvage materials from buildings like this, but he took pictures of himself doing it.

00:39:46.680 --> 00:40:00.600
Lisa Leff: and sent them home right, so this is not a thief trying to cover up what he did just like I was saying, he was proud of it, so not only did he send the documents he sent a he documented himself as an archive salvage.

00:40:05.430 --> 00:40:08.490
Lisa Leff: Okay, but now, this is a photo from after the war.

00:40:09.930 --> 00:40:17.820
Lisa Leff: This is actually tchaikovsky's wedding and he his wedding maybe not the wedding itself, but the reception.

00:40:18.480 --> 00:40:26.610
Lisa Leff: And when he actually in the early 1950s, when he was picking himself up he had decided to settle in New York.

00:40:27.060 --> 00:40:41.610
Lisa Leff: made a return trip to Paris and France to do some research, because he wanted to be a historian and re establish himself and I love this picture because there's something so hopeful and future looking about it.

00:40:42.450 --> 00:40:51.180
Lisa Leff: His wife was also a refugee write her name is Hannah determine she was the daughter of Isaac determine who was.

00:40:53.490 --> 00:41:05.670
Lisa Leff: The gtc representative in the Warsaw ghetto, he was a historian, he was also affiliated with the EVO and he was actually related to the sheer son dynasty oh.

00:41:06.390 --> 00:41:25.080
Lisa Leff: And she's a cousin of monopoly mendelssohn your son she's also a cousin of gets auctioneer son, who founded the CD JC the Holocaust Museum and archives in Paris and that he is a rabbi and he married them.

00:41:25.530 --> 00:41:26.430
Eddy Portnoy: Right, and I think that's.

00:41:27.960 --> 00:41:31.260
Eddy Portnoy: what's happening, this is something different sorry I thought it was a photo but.

00:41:31.770 --> 00:41:36.900
Lisa Leff: yeah so I mean all of this is from the same time and period where.

00:41:37.440 --> 00:41:48.240
Lisa Leff: what was going on in his life when these pictures were being taken was he was hoping to establish himself as a historian, this was going to be the fruition of all of his efforts.

00:41:48.990 --> 00:41:58.470
Lisa Leff: During the war to impress EVO because he's a rescuer he's going to work on these materials and write books he's going to be the intellectual he always dreamed of.

00:41:59.010 --> 00:42:12.150
Lisa Leff: And unfortunately in the United States in the post war Jewish we're all done general world there wasn't a lot of room for a Jewish historian who left high school at the age of 15.

00:42:12.870 --> 00:42:21.390
Lisa Leff: Who really could only work in jaenisch or was trying to transition over and wanted to work on Jews, there were practically no Jewish studies positions anywhere.

00:42:21.510 --> 00:42:23.340
Lisa Leff: Even if he had gotten a PhD.

00:42:23.760 --> 00:42:25.800
Eddy Portnoy: Right, it was really not much of a field at that time.

00:42:26.490 --> 00:42:39.630
Lisa Leff: No, and he is faced with a dilemma right you're not paying huge wages it's not going to be a great path he's a frustrated intellectual.

00:42:40.380 --> 00:42:51.510
Lisa Leff: And instead of giving up he instead decides to make it work by stealing from the archives selling what he is taken.

00:42:51.930 --> 00:43:04.890
Lisa Leff: And he knows that these people who work in various Jewish research collections in America who were willing to buy from him and that's what he does in the 50s he selling in the 60s and he's even selling into the 70s.

00:43:05.370 --> 00:43:16.770
Eddy Portnoy: Right, but in addition to that he's producing scholarship which is amazing, and you know it's it's you know, on the one hand, you have this.

00:43:18.120 --> 00:43:30.000
Eddy Portnoy: You know he's got this incredible stuff backstory you know he's had this sort of incredibly difficult life and he's know sort of managed to figure out ways to escape from from dangerous situations.

00:43:31.260 --> 00:43:34.170
Eddy Portnoy: And he returned to United States.

00:43:35.610 --> 00:43:37.350
Eddy Portnoy: And he begins this.

00:43:38.490 --> 00:43:47.760
Eddy Portnoy: You know, career, not just going to either, but as an independent scholar, and I correct me if i'm wrong, but an independent scholar, who is respected.

00:43:48.780 --> 00:43:55.200
Eddy Portnoy: Who does you know quality work i'm using the materials that he's stolen.

00:43:56.970 --> 00:43:58.380
Eddy Portnoy: Which is also amazing to me.

00:43:59.430 --> 00:44:02.190
Eddy Portnoy: You know I think today you couldn't get away with that.

00:44:03.690 --> 00:44:20.430
Eddy Portnoy: But you know, like you said, your this earlier period provides an opening for certain people to do certain things and and you know this allowed him to to engage with with scholarship you know, on sort of really on his own terms.

00:44:22.680 --> 00:44:24.600
Lisa Leff: Absolutely, and also.

00:44:25.650 --> 00:44:26.940
Lisa Leff: In terms of you know.

00:44:28.050 --> 00:44:36.630
Lisa Leff: Obviously what's worse back when Jewish studies wasn't considered worthy of being part of most universities are only a few positions.

00:44:36.990 --> 00:44:48.480
Lisa Leff: And he was not in a he was not you know wouldn't would never have gotten one of those positions as a modern Jewish historian who you know didn't know Robin X or anything like that.

00:44:48.990 --> 00:45:01.290
Lisa Leff: um so obviously we don't want to go back to those days, but it did leave open space for people at different coming at this from different points of view to be valued, you know.

00:45:01.800 --> 00:45:07.320
Lisa Leff: Solid barone who at that time held the chair in Jewish history at Columbia, one of the few positions.

00:45:07.950 --> 00:45:16.080
Lisa Leff: For RON was famous for never citing other scholars in his work, and you know people would like desperate to be cited by barone.

00:45:16.830 --> 00:45:28.950
Lisa Leff: tchaikovsky's one of the few people who was cited in burns work for RON really value Tchaikovsky because Tchaikovsky was one of the few doing social and economic history was very hard.

00:45:29.670 --> 00:45:39.960
Lisa Leff: To do anything but studies have like great texts were no rabbinical responses stuff like that, because those were the sources that existed in America.

00:45:40.650 --> 00:45:52.230
Lisa Leff: Tchaikovsky had because of his willingness to break the line go to France and steal things access to sources that gave a window into the lives of more ordinary Jews.

00:45:53.160 --> 00:46:01.530
Lisa Leff: and social and economic history and people were so thirsty for that and that's what Burton wanted to do so, I think that's part of why the archives bought from him.

00:46:01.980 --> 00:46:16.020
Lisa Leff: And it's part of why he was he was you know, he was elected a Member of the American Academy for Jewish research, the most at that time very elite very esteemed group of scholars, the only person in the group without a PhD.

00:46:18.090 --> 00:46:18.570
Lisa Leff: yeah.

00:46:19.020 --> 00:46:36.480
Eddy Portnoy: that's amazing, but it also you know it doesn't just speak to his brilliance but also speaks to his to where he came from where you know he grew up you know learning Hebrew from traditional sources speaking Yiddish knowing French you know I assumed he also knew German.

00:46:37.920 --> 00:46:39.120
Eddy Portnoy: You know, probably knew Russian.

00:46:39.120 --> 00:46:43.320
Eddy Portnoy: Russian yeah I mean you know that was sort of standard fare.

00:46:44.430 --> 00:46:50.880
Eddy Portnoy: For you know intellectuals, or, as they call them in Russian half intellectuals, you know people without PhDs.

00:46:52.110 --> 00:47:05.010
Eddy Portnoy: But you know people who could do scholarly work in most you know in multiple languages, you know they were clearly very highly regarded and in America really at that point somewhat of a rarity.

00:47:06.570 --> 00:47:10.290
Eddy Portnoy: You know you just didn't have you know in for them, you know someone.

00:47:12.000 --> 00:47:17.190
Eddy Portnoy: Someone from Poland was told me that in America you in order to know a second language, you have to have a PhD.

00:47:19.440 --> 00:47:20.280
Lisa Leff: Exactly.

00:47:20.310 --> 00:47:23.370
Eddy Portnoy: isn't exactly true, but it but it's great.

00:47:23.880 --> 00:47:37.170
Lisa Leff: You know, but back to where we started, which was that quote of Tchaikovsky being a bundle of spite in the 1970s, imagining this guy with this background, and these aspirations and all of these disappointments yeah and.

00:47:37.680 --> 00:47:52.860
Lisa Leff: we're very serious ethical you know bad ethical choices turn to a life of crime sitting in EVO and here comes in all these youngsters getting PhDs at universities.

00:47:53.580 --> 00:48:03.210
Lisa Leff: Who don't even know Jewish languages well or if they do it's because they were so they were privileged and.

00:48:04.080 --> 00:48:19.110
Lisa Leff: You know what is he to make of them, you know, on the one hand it's great the Jewish studies was coming of age and there was going to be their PhDs at universities and positions on the other hand, what to these people now right of the Jews, what did they know.

00:48:19.230 --> 00:48:21.780
Eddy Portnoy: But what could they possibly you know they couldn't know what he lived.

00:48:22.200 --> 00:48:24.870
Eddy Portnoy: yeah I think that that's sort of the main thing.

00:48:26.580 --> 00:48:30.150
Eddy Portnoy: So what what what happens to szatkowski.

00:48:31.080 --> 00:48:32.220
Lisa Leff: Even the end yeah.

00:48:32.880 --> 00:48:37.080
Eddy Portnoy: you're sort of lead us into you know what what would eventually occurs.

00:48:37.290 --> 00:49:01.920
Lisa Leff: yeah so he became an archive thief and in and he sold to all of the Jewish research institutions that would buy and in 1978 in September, he got caught stealing in a organized policing because they suspected, he was doing it at the New York public library in their judaica division.

00:49:03.150 --> 00:49:16.170
Lisa Leff: And and a few days later, when it was clear that he was going to be prosecuted, that they had airtight evidence and that he would therefore lose everything.

00:49:17.430 --> 00:49:19.260
Lisa Leff: And he committed suicide.

00:49:21.540 --> 00:49:23.190
Eddy Portnoy: yeah it's it's tragic and.

00:49:23.730 --> 00:49:24.840
Lisa Leff: it's a tragic end.

00:49:26.280 --> 00:49:31.650
Eddy Portnoy: But it's I mean it's it's the story itself is just so incredibly fascinating.

00:49:33.510 --> 00:49:35.310
Eddy Portnoy: I wanted to ask you know I.

00:49:37.500 --> 00:49:44.760
Eddy Portnoy: saw I looked at your bibliography of years of your own work and up and up until after Romney.

00:49:46.080 --> 00:49:52.980
Eddy Portnoy: And up until you wrote this book all of your work, it seems, is on 19th century French viewers.

00:49:54.720 --> 00:50:06.000
Eddy Portnoy: So I wanted to ask how I mean, I assume that you somehow stumbled onto Tchaikovsky during your travels in 19th century French year.

00:50:07.530 --> 00:50:07.980
Eddy Portnoy: So.

00:50:09.000 --> 00:50:13.980
Eddy Portnoy: You know, tell me how this came to be, because I think it's also you know part of this.

00:50:14.340 --> 00:50:31.200
Lisa Leff: yeah absolutely so I still consider I mean this is a book about obviously the time period that Tchaikovsky lived in but it's also a 19th century history book it's a, how do we understand 19th century Jews in France.

00:50:32.340 --> 00:50:43.560
Lisa Leff: Which is really what I you know live and breathe the most and at a certain point I realized everything that I know and study and say about that period.

00:50:43.950 --> 00:50:56.460
Lisa Leff: Is from what is essentially tchaikovsky's filing cabinet, because all the sources that I use the most were touched by him there are things that he stole and sold.

00:50:57.510 --> 00:51:02.010
Lisa Leff: And there's also his the many subjects that he wrote about 200 articles and books.

00:51:03.120 --> 00:51:13.470
Lisa Leff: That have so shaped the field that I got interested in that lens what shape that lens because the questions at the heart of that Jews, a 19th century France are.

00:51:14.220 --> 00:51:21.000
Lisa Leff: You know what Jacob cats called the contract with maternity did we give up too much when we became citizens.

00:51:21.390 --> 00:51:28.620
Lisa Leff: What did that mean for Jews of different social statuses What did it mean for elite choose what did it mean for poor Jews was it different.

00:51:29.460 --> 00:51:37.740
Lisa Leff: And and tchaikovsky's preoccupation with those questions came from his lived experience of the crisis of that.

00:51:38.190 --> 00:51:47.910
Lisa Leff: And I think all of his scholarship and his work as an archive thief is an attempt to answer those questions in a more complicated way so it's like.

00:51:48.690 --> 00:52:06.150
Lisa Leff: I mean it's so Meta that he had so like, but I was interested in this book, how does the 20th century shape what we can even say about the 19th century, and how did those preoccupations you know, enable us to ask certain questions but also maybe close off other ones, you know.

00:52:09.600 --> 00:52:15.540
Eddy Portnoy: You know you obviously had almost had no choice but to write about like the story of Tchaikovsky.

00:52:16.560 --> 00:52:16.920
Lisa Leff: yeah.

00:52:17.340 --> 00:52:21.750
Eddy Portnoy: it's it's it's great it's great it's you know what and obviously I you know I think I don't know if.

00:52:22.440 --> 00:52:40.890
Eddy Portnoy: The people in the audience, have you know how many of them have worked in an archive or have done, you know some level of academic research but one, at least for me, one of the joys of doing this kind of research is accidentally stumbling into something else.

00:52:41.910 --> 00:53:02.280
Eddy Portnoy: and finding it thrilling and following it up, you might have to finish a dissertation for a book before then, but you know you sort of put it aside and say wow, this is an amazing story, I have to you know, I have to work on this and that's that it appears that that's what happened yeah.

00:53:03.330 --> 00:53:12.030
Eddy Portnoy: Great it's fantastic alright, so I want to take some questions from the audience and i'm hoping let's see i'm hoping that.

00:53:13.410 --> 00:53:23.640
Eddy Portnoy: are a curated these to keep data, so this one of the first questions is from is why haven't the documents been returned to the original libraries.

00:53:24.180 --> 00:53:27.630
Lisa Leff: Great question important question and.

00:53:28.800 --> 00:53:30.450
Lisa Leff: When I started this project.

00:53:31.620 --> 00:53:45.180
Lisa Leff: My friends, who work in archives in France that were looted definitely would have liked for me to make a list of everything that Tchaikovsky store with proof, so that they could go to the.

00:53:46.020 --> 00:54:02.790
Lisa Leff: To you know, the French authorities and demand it back that was not possible, there are not archives, it turns out, do not keep records that could serve as that kind of conclusive proof of what came from shakopee.

00:54:04.080 --> 00:54:16.470
Lisa Leff: So I choose other methods that work for the historian and that, from which I could generalize but I didn't produce documentary proof of the kind that could be to those kinds of proceedings, but second.

00:54:17.670 --> 00:54:27.780
Lisa Leff: The world of Jewish archives is small and let's just say it's not over resourced right every one of these collections that either had stuff stolen.

00:54:28.320 --> 00:54:41.820
Lisa Leff: or acquired materials that really came from somewhere else i'm not talking about the wartime materials, but other things that were property of some other institution.

00:54:42.750 --> 00:54:59.730
Lisa Leff: None of them have so much in the way of resources that it really makes sense to fight over the originals and what instead these institutions have turned their efforts to doing is to making copies for each other.

00:55:00.480 --> 00:55:10.560
Lisa Leff: And even now digitizing collections, so that we can see them together, and I think that's the best use of our resources, not to try to undo.

00:55:12.090 --> 00:55:18.240
Lisa Leff: What has been done, but rather to try to reunite them digitally so that we can study them from everywhere right.

00:55:18.300 --> 00:55:21.180
Eddy Portnoy: Right and evil has an enormous project.

00:55:22.230 --> 00:55:24.360
Eddy Portnoy: Developed collections project that.

00:55:25.380 --> 00:55:33.570
Eddy Portnoy: I mentioned, all of this material I got buried in the Villa ghetto during during World War Two I it was zoomed and then much for was sent.

00:55:33.930 --> 00:55:40.110
Eddy Portnoy: to New York by Cisco foreign country against ski but then a huge portion of it remained they couldn't and they had to escape from the Soviet Union.

00:55:40.590 --> 00:55:52.080
Eddy Portnoy: And so huge portion of it remained, it was found by Lithuanian librarian who wasn't Jewish and he hit it in the basement of a church that became the Lithuanian book chamber.

00:55:53.130 --> 00:55:56.310
Eddy Portnoy: And it was not revealed.

00:55:57.630 --> 00:56:14.670
Eddy Portnoy: That yivo was archives and books were in this church until I think 1989 until the Soviet Union started to collapse, and you know they called yivo and said we found you know, a huge cash of your materials.

00:56:16.170 --> 00:56:27.630
Eddy Portnoy: You know, can you send someone to figure out what it is so delegation from uva went and you know they were just astonished, it was evil materials in their original folders and their original boxes.

00:56:28.920 --> 00:56:39.960
Eddy Portnoy: There were letters written to your New York, where the the The response was like you know the original letter was in New York and the response was in Vilna and it really put together.

00:56:40.380 --> 00:56:46.020
Eddy Portnoy: You know just collection and now it's all being reunited online, and you know that's generally what's happening.

00:56:46.530 --> 00:56:59.640
Eddy Portnoy: With these other materials is that this digitization technology has made it possible to you know reunite all of this material and make it easier for scholars to to mine it for you know, for her historical research.

00:57:00.780 --> 00:57:04.080
Eddy Portnoy: it's really you know it's amazing all right.

00:57:06.600 --> 00:57:20.490
Eddy Portnoy: there's a question here, who are the historians, with whom Tchaikovsky came into contact with in France in the 1930s, obviously, the Chair covers but i'm sure there are others will see any way related to be a knowledge school.

00:57:20.970 --> 00:57:34.740
Lisa Leff: Oh great great question um it really was the historians that he came into contact with in the 30s in Paris we're not I spent far too much time trying to see if you ever like attended the Sorbonne no.

00:57:35.850 --> 00:57:45.720
Lisa Leff: It was the it was the Yiddish speaking world around the Chair covers that wasn't just historians, there were also.

00:57:46.650 --> 00:58:00.000
Lisa Leff: sociologists and other you know they had like basically a salon out of their apartment and that's where schakowsky was based, and there were the studies that people were doing were like um.

00:58:00.840 --> 00:58:11.310
Lisa Leff: You know who attends Jewish summer camps in Paris in the 20s and 30s schakowsky was doing a project on Jewish immigrants from Poland to France in the 19th century.

00:58:11.910 --> 00:58:24.720
Lisa Leff: They were interested in their own subculture and its history and so it's and they were publishing in gish in eva's publications out of Vilna it was a kind of international scene.

00:58:25.080 --> 00:58:33.870
Lisa Leff: Was he connected to the announced school in the 1950s that's a great question so those are the economic and social historians, in France, and remember I said earlier.

00:58:34.350 --> 00:58:44.370
Lisa Leff: That he was respected among Jewish Australians in America that he was able to do that kind of work he definitely encountered those people in the archives in France.

00:58:45.360 --> 00:58:52.410
Lisa Leff: And what he saw made him so envious he could barely stand it and even wrote into his footnotes I wish I.

00:58:52.770 --> 00:59:02.340
Lisa Leff: Had those resources they were going around in giant teams breaking apart their projects so that they could do that detailed work that social and economic historians need to do.

00:59:02.820 --> 00:59:19.110
Lisa Leff: And he said i'm only a man of one i'm a team of one I can never do that large scale work, so I can only do piecemeal and that also speaks to the financial situation, he was in right, then all school was state funded, he was just a guy who didn't even have a job right.

00:59:19.620 --> 00:59:23.550
Eddy Portnoy: I think we will take one last question I think we're going to overtime to.

00:59:24.960 --> 00:59:28.020
Eddy Portnoy: Someone else if you can give examples of some of the documents that were taken.

00:59:29.640 --> 00:59:30.600
Eddy Portnoy: And I think you have a few.

00:59:30.810 --> 00:59:34.200
Lisa Leff: yeah I was gonna say that's a great opportunity to show you.

00:59:35.370 --> 00:59:36.540
Lisa Leff: Even though we're over time.

00:59:38.550 --> 00:59:39.420

00:59:42.270 --> 00:59:46.650
Lisa Leff: This is a document that is in Cincinnati reunion college.

00:59:47.730 --> 00:59:56.160
Lisa Leff: it's an 18th century inventory from Alsace, and I know that he took this that question of how do we know.

00:59:57.480 --> 01:00:06.210
Lisa Leff: I know that he took this because his get a stamp is on the top of the left hand the page that's on the left hand side of your screen Zion szatkowski.

01:00:08.160 --> 01:00:26.730
Lisa Leff: here's another example of a document that's that GTS in New York, and you can see there's a square cut in the top right again indicating that maybe it's of questionable origin, what is this, this is also from Alsace, it is a bilingual.

01:00:27.750 --> 01:00:31.890
Lisa Leff: document from 1790 that time of the French Revolution.

01:00:33.030 --> 01:00:39.810
Lisa Leff: And a document from you know about about what was happening to Jews and the revolution.

01:00:41.010 --> 01:00:54.120
Lisa Leff: um So those are some and maybe i'll just show you this is from the the, this is a draft letter from the consistory the Senate, the main synagogue in Paris.

01:00:55.260 --> 01:01:06.120
Lisa Leff: So that's the kind of stuff he was taking it wasn't you know medieval illuminated manuscripts it wasn't things that are valuable in themselves like works of art.

01:01:06.960 --> 01:01:19.530
Lisa Leff: And it was documents that historians use when they do modern history of the revolutionary period 18th century and 19th century that tell us about ordinary Jews lives.

01:01:19.920 --> 01:01:39.660
Lisa Leff: These pieces were not you know you're selling them for $5 each and when i've been able to find receipts $5 a document really small potatoes yeah but they tell us you know, this is what we use the split what's in the back of a synagogue um basically that's that's the bulk of it.

01:01:40.740 --> 01:01:42.450
Lisa Leff: we're very documents from Jewish life.

01:01:43.290 --> 01:01:50.220
Eddy Portnoy: really interesting alright so unfortunately we're out of time, so thank you so much, this is really a great conversation.

01:01:51.900 --> 01:02:09.750
Eddy Portnoy: Thanks to the Museum of Jewish heritage for hosting and I suggest the audience that you go out and buy the book it's not just riveting story of a really fascinating character in Jewish life, but it is an amazing work of historical research and sleuthing.

01:02:10.950 --> 01:02:15.000
Eddy Portnoy: You know I think Lisa left isn't just a professor she's a detective.

01:02:16.020 --> 01:02:18.690
Eddy Portnoy: So thanks so much, I think.

01:02:21.240 --> 01:02:24.600
Ari Goldstein: I thank you both so much on behalf of the museum, for being here and.

01:02:25.560 --> 01:02:36.030
Ari Goldstein: it's terrific to listen to your fascinating discussion, I agree with you at that I can be audience should buy the book and addition to think about Tchaikovsky story, I think this is also a I mean.

01:02:36.750 --> 01:02:42.330
Ari Goldstein: We should each when we read history think a little bit more deeply, but how that history is written and.

01:02:42.600 --> 01:02:53.220
Ari Goldstein: where it comes from, and when any of us had the opportunity to interact with archives, think about how how the documents are seen ended up on those archives there's so much in a story to take with us so we really appreciate it.

01:02:53.850 --> 01:03:01.020
Ari Goldstein: we're also grateful to SNCF America for the generous support of our programming museum and we're grateful to all of you, the audience for joining us today.

01:03:01.380 --> 01:03:09.870
Ari Goldstein: I will mention as a brief aside, because the Richard boys came up on both the UK and the US had these special military units, made up of.

01:03:10.080 --> 01:03:24.300
Ari Goldstein: Jewish refugees with flat Nazi ISM and tomorrow we are hosting Dr Leo Garrett for a program about the British military unit, made up of Jewish refugees that's called X troop she has a new book coming out tomorrow called X troop and so.

01:03:24.930 --> 01:03:33.930
Ari Goldstein: We hope you'll join us for that program if you if it sounds interesting to you, we also hope, those of you who can will support our work at the museum, which is all made possible through the generous support.

01:03:34.620 --> 01:03:41.940
Ari Goldstein: So big thanks to you eddie you Lisa and we wish everyone a great afternoon take care.


This program is made possible through the generosity of SNCF America, Inc.