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Dina Abramowicz

(1909 - 2000)

ABRAMOWICZ, DINA (1909–2000), librarian and specialist on Yiddish studies and on Jewish history and culture in Eastern Europe. Born in Vilna, she was raised in a Russian-speaking home with strong family ties to the Haskalah, the Yiddish-speaking intelligentsia, and the Bund. Abramowicz was educated in Yiddish and Polish schools, including a Polish gymnasium, and she received an M.A. in philosophy and Polish literature from Stefan Batory University in Vilna (1936). From 1939 to 1941 she was assistant to the head librarian of the Jewish Central Children's Library of Vilna, and during the Nazi occupation she worked in the Vilna Ghetto Library. Most of the library's books had previously belonged to the Hevrah Mefitse Haskalah, in whose former building it was housed. Abramowicz escaped the ghetto before its liquidation and from 1943 until liberation in 1944 she served in a Jewish partisan unit. Abramowicz immigrated to the United States in 1946, where she was reunited with her father, who had been there since 1939. Her mother perished in Treblinka in 1943, and her younger sister survived the war in France. In America, Abramowicz resumed her career as a librarian at the *YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, where she served as assistant librarian (1947–62), head librarian (1962–87), and senior reference librarian (1987–2000). Under Abramowicz's leadership the YIVO Library grew into one of the largest and most important repositories of printed Judaica, especially in her areas of specialization: Yiddish language and literature (including children's literature), Jewish history and culture in Eastern Europe, and the Holocaust. Abramowicz was assiduous in her efforts to acquire new and unusual publications for the library. She supervised the absorption of much of the prewar Vilna YIVO library after it was recovered in Europe and brought to New York. In addition, she published book reviews, topical articles, annual lists of new Yiddish books, and bibliographies of translations from Yiddish into English, and she co-edited a collection of essays on 19th- and early 20th-century Lithuanian Jewry, Profiles of a Lost World: Memoirs of East European Jewish Life before World War II (1999) with her father Hirsz Abramowicz. Abramowicz's contributions as reference librarian and cultural gatekeeper were particularly noteworthy, and she received awards from several national library associations and Jewish organizations. Over the years she provided in-depth consultations to thousands of researchers, including novelists, scholars, filmmakers, journalists, and genealogists. Through her personal experiences, professional training, intellectual engagement, and longevity, Abramowicz came to personify the legacy of Eastern European Jewish civilization. She died in New York City.


D. Abramowicz, "The World of My Parents: Reminiscences," in: YIVO Annual, 23 (1996), 105–57; idem, Guardians of a Tragic Heritage: Reminiscences and Observations of an Eyewitness (1998); J. Sharlet, "Keeper of a Civilization," in: The Book Peddler / Der Pakn-treger, 21 (1996), 9–21.

[Zachary M. Baker (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.