Letter from Filip Friedman, 1937. From Filip Friedman in Łódź, Poland, to (?) in New York, 12 December 1937. Friedman thanks the recipient for a donation to YIVO in Łódź from the New York Aid Committee for Łódź. He notes that the donation will help fund the first volume of the YIVO publication, Lodzher shriftn, a multivolume work. Yiddish. (YIVO, RG 107) (YIVO)

Friedman, Filip

(1901–1960), Polish Jewish historian. Filip Friedman was born in Lwów and studied at the University of Vienna under the direction of Alfred Pribram, and at the Jewish Paedagogium under Salo Baron. Friedman earned his doctorate in 1925 with his dissertation titled Die galizischen Juden im Kampfe um ihre Gleichberechtigung (1848–1868) (The Jews of Galicia and Their Struggle for Legal Equality [1848–1868]), which was published in Frankfurt in 1929.


Friedman returned to Poland and taught at a leading Hebrew secondary school in Łódź, as well as at the People’s University of that city, at YIVO in Vilna (1935), and at the Taḥkemoni of Warsaw (1938–1939). He also continued historical research, producing, most notably, his monograph Dzieje Żydów w Łodzi (The History of the Jews in Łódź; 1935); and a number of specialized studies. In addition, he attempted to foster academic cooperation among Jewish historians, and after the International Congress of Historians was held in Warsaw in 1933, he endeavored to create a worldwide association of scholars in this field. When World War II began, he was engaged in writing a comprehensive history of the Jews of Poland from the earliest beginnings through the twentieth century.


Friedman survived the Holocaust by hiding in Poland, but he lost his wife and a daughter. After 1944, he was appointed director of the Central Jewish Historical Commission (created by the Central Committee of Jews in Poland), whose mission was to gather data on Nazi war crimes. In this capacity he not only collected testimonies and documentation but also supervised the publication of a number of pioneering studies, including his own on the concentration camp at Auschwitz. This work, To jest Oświęcim, was published in Warsaw in 1945 and appeared in an abridged English version as This Is Oswięcim (1946).


After testifying at the Nuremberg trials, Friedman and his new wife decided not to return to Poland. For two years he directed the educational department of the Joint Distribution Committee in Germany, and then moved to the United States in 1948 at the invitation of Salo Baron. There he first held the post of research fellow and then, from 1951 until his death, that of lecturer at Columbia University. From 1949, he also headed the Jewish Teachers Seminary and taught courses at the Herzliya Teachers Seminary in Israel.


Friedman’s subsequent research focused on the Holocaust. He produced two popular books, the first an account of the Warsaw ghetto uprising titled Martyrs and Fighters: The Epic of the Warsaw Ghetto (1954), the second a volume describing Christian rescue, Their Brothers’ Keepers (1957). A volume of his essays devoted to Holocaust topics, Pathways to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust (1980), was edited posthumously by his wife. He also remained committed to his earlier scholarly interests, and published articles such as “Polish Jewish Historiography between the Two Wars” and “The First Millennium of Jewish Settlement in the Ukraine and in the Adjacent Areas.”

Suggested Reading

Salo Wittmayer Baron, “Obituary for Philip Friedman,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 29 (1960): 1–7; Benjamin Orenstein, Dos lebn un shafn fur doctor Filip Friedman: kurtser bio-biografisher iberblik (Montreal, 1962).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1258, Philip Friedman, Papers, 1930s-1959.

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