restricted access In Memoriam: Yaffa Eliach
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In Memoriam:
Yaffa Eliach

Professor Yaffa Sonenson Eliach, Holocaust survivor and creator of the Tower of the Faces (or Tower of Life) at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, died at her home on November 8, 2016 at the age of 81. Born in Eishyshok, Lithuania, Eliach and her family survived Nazi occupation by hiding first in a carriage house attic and then in a pit beneath a pigsty.

After the war, Eliach moved to British-Mandate Palestine, where she was reunited with her father and brother. In 1954 she immigrated to the United States. She earned her doctorate at the City University of New York and later became a professor at Brooklyn College. Eliach was instrumental in the creation of Holocaust studies in American universities across the country. She served on President Jimmy Carter's Commission on the Holocaust in 1978–1979.

Eliach was best known for her efforts to humanize and restore the dignity of Holocaust victims through the collection and exhibition of photographs, letters, and diaries. She wanted to remember the victims as they once were in life, not as they died. Her search for photos and artifacts spanned fifteen years and took her through all fifty states and many countries around the world.

In her 818-page book There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok (1998) Eliach chronicled the lives of the Jews massacred in Eishyshok. Her work was a finalist in non-fiction for the National Book Award. Eliach also wrote Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust (1982), which contained the stories of Holocaust victims. [End Page 187]