Yaffa Eliach, Polish-born American Holocaust historian, Died at 79

Yaffa Eliach (Sonenson) was born on May 31, 1937, and died on November 8, 2016.

She was a Polish-born historian, author, and scholar of Judaic Studies and the Holocaust.

Yaffa was probably best known for creating the “Tower of Faces” made up by 1,500 photographs for permanent display at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

She grew up in a Jewish family in Eishyshok near Vilna, now Eišiškės, Lithuania, a small town inhabited roughly in equal numbers by Jews and Poles until the Holocaust, where she lived until she was four years old.

After the town was occupied by the Germans in June 1941 and most of the Jewish population was murdered by the Germans and Lithuanians, she and her family hid and survived in hiding places in the Eishyshok vicinity.

When she had returned to Eishyshok after the arrival of the soviet forces in 1944, her mother and a brother were killed when the village, now occupied by the Soviet army and security services (NKVD) was attacked by the Polish Home Army (AK) attempting to liberate Polish soldiers arrested by the Soviet occupying forces.

From 1969, she has been professor of history and literature in the Department of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College, and founded and served as director of the Center for Holocaust Studies in Brooklyn.

Yaffa was a member of President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on the Holocaust in 1978-79 and accompanied his fact-finding mission to Eastern Europe in 1979.

Eliach has been a frequent lecturer at numerous conferences and educational venues and has appeared on television several times in documentaries and interviews.

Eliach has written several books and has contributed to Encyclopaedia Judaica, The Women’s Studies Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Hasidism.

During 1953, she married David Eliach, now principal emeritus of the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School.

Jaffa has a daughter, Smadar Rosensweig, Professor of History at Touro College (NYC), and a son, Yotav Eliach, the principal of Rambam Mesivta High School.

Yaffa Eliach has 14 grandchildren, including Itamar Rosensweig.

Yaffa Eliach passed away at 79 years old.