Concept

Lucy Dawidowicz

Summary
Lucy Dawidowicz ( Schildkret; June 16, 1915 – December 5, 1990) was an American historian and writer. She wrote books about modern Jewish history, in particular, about the Holocaust. Dawidowicz was born in New York City as Lucy Schildkret. Her parents, Max and Dora (née Ofnaem) Schildkret, Jewish immigrants from Poland, were secular-minded with little interest in religion. Dawidowicz did not attend a service at a synagogue until 1938. Dawidowicz's first interests were poetry and literature. She attended Hunter College from 1932 to 1936 and obtained a B.A. in English. She went on to study for a M.A. at Columbia University, but abandoned her studies because of concerns over events in Europe. At the encouragement of her mentor, the historian Jacob Shatzky, Dawidowicz decided to focus on history, especially Jewish history. Dawidowicz made the decision to learn Yiddish, and at Shatzky's urging, she relocated to Wilno, Poland (present-day Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1938 to work at the Yiddish Scientific Institute (known by its Yiddish acronym as the YIVO). With the help of Shatzky she became a research fellow there. Dawidowicz lived in Wilno until August 1939 when she returned to the United States just weeks before the war broke out. During her time at the YIVO, she became close to three of the leading scholars there, namely Zelig Kalmanovich, Max Weinreich and Zalmen Reisen. Weinreich escaped the Holocaust because he went to New York to establish a branch of the YIVO there before World War II, but Kalmanovich and Reisen perished. Dawidowicz had been close to Kalmanovich and his family, whom she reportedly described as being her real parents. From 1940 until 1946, Dawidowicz worked as an assistant to a research director at the New York City office of the YIVO. During the war, like most Americans, she was aware of the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people in Europe, although it was not until after the war that she became aware of the full extent of the Holocaust.
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