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Jacob Robinson papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2013.506.1

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    Jacob Robinson papers

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    The Jacob Robinson papers include personal and professional papers created and collected by Dr. Jacob Robinson, mainly as part of his work at the Institute for Jewish Affairs in New York City during and after World War II. The collection largely relates to legal and academic discussions about the Holocaust, war crimes trials, and reparations.

    The personal photographs are largely pre-war photographs of the Robinson family in Lithuania during the 1920s and 1930s, with a few wartime and post-war snapshots and professional portraits.

    The personal papers consist of some educational documents and employment papers—as well as passports and identity papers for the Robinson family and for Luba Stone, Jacob Robinson’s secretary who immigrated with the family—but mainly condolence letters from prominent figures and personal friends after the deaths of Vita Robinson (1955) and Nehemiah Robinson (1964).

    The professional papers largely relate to Jacob Robinson’s academic work generated for distribution and publication, rather than a large amount of correspondence. The papers include collected clippings, reports, bibliographies, and publication drafts on a wide array of topics related to the Holocaust and to Judaism.
    inclusive:  1915-1977
    bulk:  1939-1977
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Karin Sibrava-Cherches
    Collection Creator
    Jacob Robinson
    Jacob Robinson was a lawyer, politician, diplomat, and Holocaust researcher. Jacob (Ya‘akov ben David) Robinson was born in Seirijai (Serej), one of seven brothers. Although Orthodox, Robinson’s father, David, was an early Zionist. Robinson received his traditional Jewish education in Wistyten (Vishtinets) and Suvalki. Between 1910 and 1914, Robinson studied law at Warsaw University, graduating with the equivalent of a doctorate. Between 1914 and 1915, he served in the Russian army. Taken prisoner in 1915, Robinson spent three years in German POW camps before settling in Virbalis (independent Lithuania), where he founded a Hebrew secondary school in 1919 and directed it until 1922. Having learned Lithuanian, Robinson moved to Kaunas, practiced as a lawyer, and was elected to the Second Lithuanian Parliament in 1923, and was also the coeditor of the Kaunas Yiddish newspaper Di idishe shtime.

    Robinson represented Jewish minorities at the European Nationalities Congress (1925–1933), counseled the Committee of Jewish Delegations, took part in attempts to establish a World Jewish Congress (1927–1936), and came up with the idea of the Bernheim Petition (1933). At the same time, his publications on Lithuanian and international law established his reputation as a scholar and jurist. He represented Lithuania on the German–Lithuanian Permanent Conciliation Committee (1931) and in the Memel case before the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague (1932).

    Robinson left Lithuania in May 1940 and reached the United States with his family in December of that year. In February 1941, he founded the Institute of Jewish Affairs (IJA), the research arm of the American and World Jewish Congress, which he directed until 1947. The IJA’s main topics of research were the fate of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe; the question of reparation and indemnification; the legal basis for prosecuting Nazi criminals; and the promotion of the concept of human rights as a means for defending the rights of Jews. In 1945, Robinson advised U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson in Nuremberg and codrafted the “Jewish case” presented to the International Military Tribunal. In 1946, he counseled chief prosecutor Telford Taylor on the Flick Case in Nuremberg.

    That same year, Robinson worked for the United Nations as an expert consultant to the team creating and establishing the Commission of Human Rights. In 1947 Robinson became legal adviser to the Jewish Agency at the UN and from 1948 to 1957 he was legal counsel to Israel’s delegation. Thanks to his previous experience, Robinson was instrumental in developing the Israeli diplomatic service. In 1952, he drafted the reparations agreement between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). His brother Nehemiah (1898–1964) was also a brilliant lawyer. He was Jacob’s close partner and successor as director of the IJA, and drafted the agreements between the FRG and the Claims Conference as well as the FRG’s Indemnification Law.

    In 1957, Robinson became the legal adviser for the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany, helped establish the research branch of Yad Vashem, and coordinated Holocaust research between several research Institutes (among them YIVO, Yad Vashem, Leo Baeck Institute, Wiener Library, and the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine). Robinson also coordinated the collaboration of these and other Jewish institutions with the prosecution in trials against Nazi criminals. He was also the legal mind behind the prosecution at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem (1960–1961), serving as special assistant to the attorney general. Robinson edited the Holocaust section for the Encyclopedia Judaica (1971) and several volumes of documentary sources of the Holocaust. He also published several important bibliographic works on international law. Dr. Robinson passed away in 1977. (Source: Omry Kaplan-Feuereisen, Yivo Encyclopedia article on Jacob Robinson)

    Physical Details

    11 boxes
    1 oversize box
    System of Arrangement
    The collection is arranged in three series: Series 1: Personal photographs, 1915-1977; Series 2: Personal papers, 1911-1977; Series 3: Professional papers, 1925-1977.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Karin Sibrava-Cherches donated this collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-24 13:42:23
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