About this Collection
When Violinist Roman Totenberg immigrated to the United States in 1938, antisemitism in Europe was not restricted solely to Nazi Germany, but had spread across the continent and was pervasive in his native Poland. Even before September 1939, Totenberg began efforts to secure family members’ safety in the face of seemingly inevitable cataclysm. His mother, Stanislawa, joined him in Paris in 1935 and remained in Europe until, with the help of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa, she escaped to the United States as the Nazis took possession of France in June 1940. Despite Roman’s efforts, his sister, Janina Ferster (later, Kruk), and her family were not so fortunate. Trapped in Warsaw at the war’s outbreak, she endured the loss of her husband, but miraculously managed to survive with her young daughter until the Allied victory.
Janina’s daughter, Elizabeth Wilk, made a gift of her family’s papers to the Library of Congress to be included in the Totenberg Collection, and it is these that form the foundation of vital material presented here. These documents, letters, telegrams, drawings and photo albums bear testament to the Totenberg family in Poland before and during the Holocaust and to Roman Totenberg’s unwavering efforts to rescue those left behind.