While most people think of the Harry Ransom Center for its remarkable collection of American artists’ papers, the Gutenberg Bible, and extensive photography holdings, the Center’s depository of Judaica should not be overlooked. Perhaps most importantly, the HRC holds one of the rarest collections of Jewish knowledge in the world in its South African Judaica Collection. Collected from European refugees, the South African Collection contains many books once thought permanently extinguished by the Holocaust. In addition, the HRC is the home of the Gottesman Collection of Hebraica & Judaica, a ten thousand volume book collection that spans the entire gamut of Jewish history, including thousands of rare Yiddish texts. And though the HRC’s Judaica collection tends heavily toward Western European and American Jewish scholars and artists, East European Jewry is also represented in its collection, most notably in the Isaac Bashevis Singer papers, which include many of the storyteller’s unpublished works and letters from his early life in his native Poland. Other notable East European Jewish figures whose materials are located in the HRC are Ida Kar, Soviet era photographer from Russia, Fania Kruger (1893-1977), poet and short-story writer who immigrated to Texas from Russia, and Bernard Malamud, the famous writer whose parents were Russian Jews.
This rich collection documents the life and death of the Jewish community of Radin, Poland. Prior to World War II, Radin was a farming village with a sizeable population of Yiddish-speaking Jews. The town was widely known for its Yeshiva, founded in 1869 by Rabbi Israel Meir ha-Kohen, the Chofetz Chaim. In 1941, the Nazis occupied the town and established a Jewish ghetto. A slaughter of the Jewish community took place in 1942. The Jewish community of Radin was not reconstituted after the war.
In the 1970’s, Dr. Frank Kasman obtained a set of glass lantern slides taken prior to 1933, documenting daily life in pre-World War II Radin. Dr. Kasman conducted extensive research on the village, located survivors and immigrants from Radin, and collected oral history interviews.
The collection includes photographic prints, slides documenting daily life in pre-World War II Radin. This collection constitutes perhaps the largest set of photographs of any one village in pre-war Europe. Additionally the collection contains an assortment of audio cassette tapes, research files, correspondence, news clippings, periodicals and collected publications in Yiddish and English documenting the Jewish community in Radin prior to World War II and during the Nazi occupation and decimation of the town.