JDC Archives Vir­tu­al Book Talk: The Coun­ter­feit Countess

Thursday, May 9, 2024


Com­mem­o­rate Yom HaShoah with us to hear about the enthralling sto­ry of a Pol­ish Jew­ish math­e­mat­ics schol­ar turned false aris­to­crat who nego­ti­at­ed with top Nazis in Lublin, Ger­man-occu­pied Poland, to help eth­nic Pol­ish pris­on­ers at Maj­danek con­cen­tra­tion camp. The Coun­ter­feit Count­ess: The Jew­ish Woman Who Res­cued Thou­sands of Poles dur­ing the Holo­caust (pub­lished by Simon and Schus­ter in Jan­u­ary 2024) is based on Josephine Jan­i­na Mehlberg’s mem­oir and research in 9 coun­tries on 4 con­ti­nents to uncov­er a sto­ry unknown until now. In their book talk, co-authors Eliz­a­beth (Bar­ry) White and Joan­na Sli­wa will explain how Mehlberg man­aged to pull off the hoax and save thou­sands of lives. Doc­u­ments dis­cov­ered in the JDC Archives led the co-authors to a trea­sure trove of infor­ma­tion that cor­rob­o­rat­ed Mehlberg’s iden­ti­ty. After the Holo­caust, Jan­i­na and her hus­band Hen­ry pinned their hopes of emi­gra­tion on the JDC. This talk will shed light on the impor­tance of the JDC Archives today in uncov­er­ing sto­ries such as that of the Mehlbergs.

Dr. Eliz­a­beth Bar­ry” White recent­ly retired from the Unit­ed States Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Muse­um, where she served as his­to­ri­an and Research Direc­tor for the USHMM’s Cen­ter for the Pre­ven­tion of Geno­cide. Pri­or to work­ing for the USH­MM, Bar­ry spent a career at the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice work­ing on inves­ti­ga­tions and pros­e­cu­tions of Nazi crim­i­nals and oth­er human rights vio­la­tors. She served as deputy direc­tor and chief his­to­ri­an of the Office of Spe­cial Inves­ti­ga­tions and as deputy chief and chief his­to­ri­an of the Human Rights and Spe­cial Pros­e­cu­tions Section.

Dr. Joan­na Sli­wa is a his­to­ri­an at the Con­fer­ence on Jew­ish Mate­r­i­al Claims Against Ger­many (Claims Con­fer­ence) in New York, where she also admin­is­ters aca­d­e­m­ic pro­grams. She pre­vi­ous­ly worked at the JDC Archives and at the Muse­um of Jew­ish Her­itage — A Liv­ing Memo­r­i­al to the Holo­caust. She has taught Holo­caust and Jew­ish his­to­ry at Kean Uni­ver­si­ty and at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty. Her first book, Jew­ish Child­hood in Kraków: A Micro­his­to­ry of the Holo­caust, won the 2020 Ernst Fraenkel Prize award­ed by the Wiener Holo­caust Library.