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Khaykl Lunski

Title: Khaykl Lunski
Inclusive Dates: 1855-1941
ID: RG 58
expand icon Arrangement

The materials in the collection were originally arranged by Ezekiel Lifschutz (ca. 1950), who also created a pertinent finding aid in Yiddish. In 2007-2008 the finding aid was translated into English by Chava Lapin and edited by Rivka Schiller.    

The collection is comprised of three 5” archival boxes. The majority of the materials are in Yiddish and Hebrew, although several other languages including Russian, Lithuanian, Polish, and French are also represented in the collection.

The collection was formerly part of Record Group 3, from which it was extracted to form a separate record group (RG 58). In this new arrangement, folder numbers remain unchanged, because this Record Group, like other record groups from the YIVO Archives in Vilna, was a segment of a larger block of materials, which were originally arranged as one continuous collection. Thus, the folders in the newly formed collection, Record Group 58, are numbered from 2311 to 2350A.

expand icon Abstract

Khaykl Lunski was born in 1881(?) in Slonim, Belarus, into a family with rabbinic roots. He attended kheyder and several yeshivas. He settled in Vilna in 1892 and remained there until his death. Lunski perished in the Vilna ghetto, possibly in 1942. Lunski is best remembered today for his role as the librarian and supervisor of the Strashun Library, the Jewish library that was run by the Vilna kehilla (community). He served in this post until the demise of the Library under the Nazis in 1941.

Following the liquidation of the Strashun Library and the YIVO Library, Lunski and other members of Vilna’s Jewish intelligentsia were forced to select and crate thousands of Jewish books and archives for shipment to Germany. Lunski’s papers were presumably mixed with other looted collections.  The papers, together with the volumes from the Strashun Library, were recovered after the war and brought to YIVO in New York in 1947.  

The Khaykl Lunsky Papers are comprised of his manuscripts, correspondence, as well as documents from the administrative files of the Strashun Library and the S. Ansky Historical Ethnographic Society in Vilna. The majority of the papers are in Yiddish and Hebrew.

expand icon Administrative/Biographical History

Khaykl Lunski was born on June 29, 1881(?) in Slonim, Belarus to a father who was a melamed (religious schoolteacher). He descended from a rabbinical family from Koenigsberg (Krolewiec) and received a traditional Jewish education. From a young age, he attended kheyder and the yeshivas of Slonim and Lida. In 1892 he came to Vilna.

In 1895 he began working for the Strashun Library, for which he collected books, rare manuscripts, and historical documents.  He remained there as a librarian until the liquidation of the library in 1941. In 1918, he assisted S. Ansky in establishing the Jewish Historic-Ethnographic Society in Vilna and collected thousands of documents, books, pictures, pinkasim (record books of Jewish communities), and folklore material for the society and for its its publications. In 1919, he became secretary of the Society. Lunski was also an active member of the Bibliographic Center of the YIVO in Vilna.

Lunski’s literary career began with some Zionist poetry, which he published in Luah Eretz-Yisrael (Calendar of Israel) in 1905. In later years he published essays, articles, and books on the history of Vilna Jews during the first World War, biographies of rabbis and religious scholars, a memoir of S. Ansky, and others. Just prior to the Second World War, Lunski was in the process of writing a history of the Jewish community of Slonim. In all probability, this work was lost during the war.

During the Nazi occupation of Vilna, Lunski was conscripted with other Jews from the ghetto to work for the Einsatzstab Rosenberg, a Nazi unit involved in looting Jewish cultural treasures. He was made to sort, pack, and ship materials from the Strashun Library mainly to the Frankfurt-based NSDAP Institut zur Erfoschung die Judenfrage. The information concerning Lunski’s death is contradictory; Shmerke Kaczerginski claimed that he was deported to Treblinka together with his daughter Chana, while other accounts say that he was beaten to death in September 1942.

expand icon Administrative Information
Access Notes: YIVO Archives collections are open to researchers only by appointment with an archivist. To inquire about papers and records, write to Chief Archivist, archives@yivo.cjh.org. To inquire about photographs and films, write to Photo and Film Archivist at Photofilm@yivo.cjh.org. To inquire about sound recordings, write to Sound Archivist, lsklamberg@yivo.cjh.org. For art works and artifacts, write to Chief Archivist at archives@yivo.cjh.org.
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Collection Material Type: Personal Papers
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