Bilha Shilo

The restoration of the YIVO in Vilna and the restitution of its ownership from Offenbach to YIVO New York after the Second World War.

My master thesis, under the guidance of Professor Yfaat Weiss, explores the process of the restoration of the YIVO in Vilna and the restitution of its ownership from Offenbach to YIVO New York after the Second World War. Tracing the efforts to rescue the largest Jewish research institute in Eastern Europe – YIVO – during the Holocaust and its aftermath, reveals an important yet neglected chapter in the history of the institute, sheds light on the power struggle that emerged between the Jewish organizations and institutes, and exposes the tension that prevailed between the two biggest Jewish centers after the Holocaust. The significant demographic changes that the Jewish people underwent during the first half of the 20th century, and the consequent trauma, caused the Jewish institutions to struggle over the Jewish cultural assets that the Germans had robbed and that survived the war. This struggle had not only legal and economic aspects, but also political, cultural, social and national ones. My interest is in the particular history of independent organizations and institutions that acted autonomously in order to retrieve their assets. I examine the process of restitution and its impact from the specific point of view of the institutions, as well as the dynamics that developed between the different players and their historical importance. YIVO constitutes a test case of an organization that acted independently, was recognized as the heir, and, in a certain sense, foreshadowed the developments that would occur in the future.

I serve as teaching and research assistant at the Department of the History of the Jewish People and Contemporary Jewry in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In addition, I work at the International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, conducting online courses for teachers, writing articles for the journal “Zika” and guiding in the Historical Museum.

Selected Publications

  • “We carry the glory, the pain and the name” – The Voice of the Holocaust survivor Paul Celan.


  • “צופרידן ווי גאָט אין פֿראַנקרייַך” / “Happy as God in France”– From Vitebsk to Paris, Bielinky and Chagall are Creative Interwar Period.


  • “Books Do Not Grow on Trees” – The Saving of the YIVO Institute in Vilna.


  • “The Zionism Gave the People Intelligence, the Bundism Gave the Intelligentsia the People” – Yiddish in the Bund: From a Practical Language to a Language which Represents an Autonomic National Culture.


  • “To Save Us from Forgetting” – The History of the Jewish Resistance in Kraków.


Book Review:

  • “I Am Interested in the Life of the Old Homeland, Not Only in Its Death” – The Lost, A Story of the Living or a Story of the Dead?