Skip to navigation

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Support YIVO
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research » Library & Archives » Archives » Film Collections

Search YIVO

Collection Overview

Search online catalog



Research Tools

People of a Thousand Towns Online Photo Catalog

The Miriam Weiner Genealogy Collection

Digital Exhibitions

YIVO's Preservation Program

YIVO on Facebook
YIVO on Twitter

Newsletter Sign-up

Film Collections



Market day in a shtetl in southeastern Poland. Still from "A Pictorial Review of Kolbuszowa",
a silent film commissioned by a landsmanshaft in 1929.

A high proportion of the films in YIVO's small Film Archive are unique or rare items. The mostly 16mm and 8mm films in the collection tend to fall into two genres: amateur (home movies) and industrial (community relations films made by Jewish aid organizations). The Film Archives also contains videotapes, most of which are viewing copies of its films.

The most frequently consulted materials in the Film Archives are the approximately 75 home movies made by American Jews during trips to Eastern Europe in the 1920s-30s. The films depict over 25 shtetlekh and smaller towns (mostly in Poland and Lithuania), as well as major Jewish population centers such as Warsaw, Lodz, Cracow, and Vilna. These amateur films constitute rare motion picture records of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. In 2011, Yeshiva University Museum featured these films in an exhibition, 16mm Postcards.

The Film Archive also includes two professionally shot films of prewar Jewish Poland that were commissioned by landsmanshaftn (immigrant mutual aid societies): "A Pictorial Review of Kolbuszowa" (1929) and an untitled film about Szediszow (1935).

The other large body of material in the YIVO Film Archives is the movies made in the 1940s-1960s by Jewish social welfare agencies such as HIAS, the United Service for New Americans, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Most of these films document the situation of Jewish refugees in Europe, the United States, and Palestine/Israel, as well as the organizational work carried out on their behalf.

Unique films in the collection include:

  • 8mm footage of the Warsaw and Cracow ghettos during World War II, including a fragment of footage shot during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943.
  • Two short amateur films about Jewish refugees in Shanghai, China in the late 1940s.
  • A Yiddish-language newsreel of a memorial ceremony for Holocaust victims held in Skierniewice, Poland in 1947.
  • "A Scientific Expedition to Birobidzhan", a 1929 silent film made by a delegation from Brigham Young University in Utah.
  • Amateur films made in the 1920s-30s by Abraham Twersky of the Sholem Aleichem Houses in the Bronx, which include images of several notable Yiddish cultural figures.
  • An amateur film compilation by Moisey Ghitzis of short, silent clips of a number of Yiddish writers and cultural figures in the United States in the 1940s-50s.

For reference questions, to request an appointment to use the Photo and Film Archives, or to order reproductions, contact:

Appointments must be requested at least 1 week in advance. Due to a high volume of inquiries it may take up to a week to receive a response.

Read more about Reproductions & Permissions.
View and/or download the YIVO Reproductions Price List/Access Form.

YIVO does not rent out or distribute Yiddish movies or any other films. Two excellent sources for Jewish video and film are Ergo Media (Teaneck, NJ) and the National Center for Jewish Film (Brandeis University, Waltham, MA).

How to Receive Permission to Reproduce Materials from the Film Archive

YIVO permits the reproduction of materials from its collections on a case-by-case basis, depending on the condition and legal status of the items. Except in certain instances, YIVO does not own copyright to the material in its collections. The user assumes all responsibility for questions of copyright that may arise in the use of copies of YIVO materials.

Film and videotape duplication orders, as well as requests for permission to reproduce materials for broadcast or publication should be made in written form to:

Film Archives YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011-6301
USA Fax: (212) 292-1892

Links to Other Archives with Jewish Films

Archive Films
A division of Getty Images, Inc, New York, NY

National Archives
Motion Pictures, Films, and Sound and Video Recordings, Washington, DC

Library of Congress
Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Washington, DC

National Center for Jewish Film
Waltham, MA

Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archives
Jerusalem, Israel
Online film research search engine.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum