Hidden Libraries as Landscapes of Resistance and Survival

Richard Ovenden, Dr. Lara Lempert, Laimonas Briedis, Jean-Marc Dreyfus
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A conversation about the history of libraries, lives and narratives in European cityscapes of the Holocaust.

This event takes place at the British Library.

Book printing and library collections are at the core of Jewish spiritual and cultural traditions. During the German occupation of Lithuania, the semi-clandestine Vilna Ghetto Library solaced readers with a shibboleth: ‘The book remained true to you; you, on your part, should be true to the book.’ 

The attention to books and manuscripts came from a need to rescue memory from annihilation. In the ghetto, a librarian was a diarist – a witness but also healer. And a poet became a fighter, who took up duties of a guardian of the memory of the murdered community. Rescuing books, and then hiding them in secret locations all over the city was part of the resistance; empowering book lovers with the responsibilities of ‘gravediggers and saviours.’

Richard Ovenden has been Bodley’s Librarian since 2014. In February 2022 he was also made Head of Gardens, Libraries and Museums at the University of Oxford. He sits on the Board of the Consortium of European Research Libraries and is currently resident of the Digital Preservation Coalition. He is the author of Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack (John Murray, 2020)

Dr. Lara Lempert is the head of the Judaica Research Center at the Documentary Heritage Department in the National Library of Lithuania and the curator of its Judaica collection. Her field of expertise is the cultural history of European and Lithuanian Jewry.

Laimonas Briedis is a scholar of Lithuanian history, literature and geographical imagination. His research and literary investigation explores the deepest cultural strands of Lithuania in relation to different parts of the world. Among his non-fiction books is the bestselling Vilnius: City of Strangers.

Jean-Marc Dreyfus is a Professor at the University of Manchester and associate researcher at the Centre of History, Sciences-Po Paris. He is currently writing a monograph on the French mission in search of deportees’ corpses in Germany from 1946 to 1960.

This event, supported by programme Vilnius700, is organised by the Lithuanian Cultural Institute and the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, partnering with the British Library. It is part of BOOKS FOR THOUGHT, a series organised by EUNIC London and the Institut français du Royaume-Uni. This project is the recipient of a EUNIC Cluster Fund grant with special funding in the framework of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. EUNIC — European Union National Institutes for Culture — is Europe’s network of national cultural institutes and organisations, with 36 members from all EU member states and associated countries.

This event will not be live-streamed.

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Name: Hidden Libraries as Landscapes of Resistance and Survival
Where: Foyle Visitor and Learning Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Full Price: £6.00
Member: £6.00
Student: £3.00
Registered Unemployed: £3.00
Disabled: £3.00
Senior (60+): £5.00
Young Person (18-25): £3.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
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