Rokhl Auerbach

Warsaw Testament, translated by Samuel Kassow (White Goat Press, July 2, 2024) unmatched portrait of the last days of Warsaw’s Yiddish literary and cultural community—and of Auerbach’s own struggle to survive.
Ezra Glinter

Born in Lanowitz, a small village in rural Podolia, Rokhl Auerbach was a journalist, literary critic, memoirist, and a member of the Warsaw Yiddish literary community before the Holocaust. Upon the German invasion and occupation of Poland in 1939, she was tasked by historian and social activist Emanuel Ringelblum to run a soup kitchen for the starving inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto and later to join his top-secret ghetto archive, the Oyneg Shabes. One of only three surviving members of the archive project, Auerbach’s wartime and postwar writings became a crucial source of information for historians of both prewar Jewish Warsaw and the Warsaw Ghetto. After immigrating to Israel in 1950, she founded the witness testimony division at Yad Vashem and played a key role in the development of Holocaust remembrance. Her memoir Warsaw Testament, based on her wartime writings, paints a vivid portrait of the city’s prewar Yiddish literary and artistic community and of its destruction at the hands of the Nazis.

About the Author

Rokhl Auerbach (1899–1976) was born in a small Podolian village in the Habsburg Empire and received her higher education in Lwow, where she studied psychology. A fervent supporter of Yiddish culture, Auerbach wrote for the Yiddish- and Polish-language Jewish press in both Lwow and, after 1932, in Warsaw. In the Warsaw Ghetto she ran a soup kitchen and began to write for Emanuel Ringelblum's secret archive. After she left the ghetto in 1943 she survived using forged Polish papers, becoming a courier for the Jewish underground and writing the first installment of her memoirs. One of only three survivors of the Ringelblum archive collective, Auerbach worked as a Holocaust researcher and journalist in postwar Poland until her emigration to Israel in 1950. Auerbach founded the witness testimony department at Yad Vashem and played an important role in the preparation of the Eichmann trial. She died in 1976.

About the Translator

Samuel Kassow is the Northam Professor of History at Trinity College and holds a Ph.D from Princeton University. He has been a visiting professor at many institutions and was on the team of scholars that planned the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Among his various publications is Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia (University of California Press, 1989) and Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive (Indiana, 2007), which was translated into eight languages. Along with David Roskies he edited volume 9 of the Posen Anthology of Jewish Culture. Kassow was on the team of scholars chosen by Yad Vashem to write a one-volume history of the Holocaust in Poland. A child of Holocaust survivors, Professor Kassow spent his earliest years in a displaced-persons camp in Germany.