On Wednesday, April 13, Associate Professor of History at American University and writer of “The Archive Thief,” Lisa Moses Leff visited Kalamazoo College’s Olmsted Room to present the main subject of her book.
The audience was mainly comprised of professors, students from the Jewish Studies and History departments, and other community members interested in the topic.
The event began with Dr. Jeffrey Haus, the Religion Department Chair, introducing Leff and her book. In his introduction, he mentioned Leff’s recent winning of the 2016 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, a program of the Jewish Book Council, for “The Archive Thief.”
Following Haus, Leff took the podium and talked about the main subject of her book, Zosa Szajkowski. He was a French Jew who stole Jewish documents, used them for his own research, and then sold them to others, usually American Jewish Organizations and libraries.
Leff informed the audience that in the field of Jewish Studies, Szajkowski is a name most historians know due to the fact that he published over 200 papers over three decades, in five languages.
Szajkowski is also an important name because he stole many documents, causing more of a locational spread of documents and allowing more historians to have access to them.
After Leff presented her prepared presentation, she took questions from the audience. The questions’ subjects varied from what was included in the book and what wasn’t to whether Leff thought Szajkowski was right in his actions. She remained ambiguous on judgement of Szajkowski and also emphasized that while there were many rumors about Szajkowski, her book stuck to objective, proven facts.
Jeff Palmer, Associate Director of Communication at Kalamazoo College, felt that “the event was really timely, especially with that award that she won recently… She did a really good job of making the presentation enjoyable and interesting, but making me still want to read the book.”