The Duker collection reflects Prof. Duker’s particular interests in Polish-Jewish relations and in American Jewish history and sociology. It is also a rich inter-disciplinary, multi-lingual collection in Jewish religion, history, philosophy, biography, sociology, political science, education, and comparative literature. It includes a large component on the Holocaust, Zionism, Leftism, including pinkasim (community registers), yizkor bikher (Memorial volumes) and approximately 100 Festschriften. Whereas previously Jewish periodical holdings at the University of Cape Town had been limited to journals such as Judaism, Commentary, the Jewish Journal of Sociology, the university now acquired a wealth of Jewish periodicals in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, German, Polish, and Russian.
The literature on the Jews in Poland includes an abundance of pre- and post-War Yiddish publications from the Polish presses of Progres, Schreberk, Klatzkin, Tushiyah, and Zentral; and from the Russian and Soviet presses of Kultur-Lige, Moriah, Stybel, and Meluche Farlag Der Emes. Some of these materials, especially amongst the pamphlets, were published on the eve of the Holocaust or issued by short-lived organizations. Unfortunately much of this material is in very poor condition. The Duker collection also contains some early works of the Wissenschaft des Judentums (Science of Judaism) and Hebrew Haskalah literature.
The Jewish Studies library has a collection of approximately 160 books looted by the Nazis during World War II, which was rescued by the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction Committee after the war, and distributed to Jewish communities worldwide. The earliest Hebrew book in this collection is a volume of the Hebrew periodical Bikkure ha-Ittim, published in Vienna in 1821, whilst a Hebrew Bible published in Fuerth in Germany in 1851, has the stamp of the Forschungsabteilung Judenfrage des Reichsinstituts fur Geschichte des neyen Deutschland, the Nazi Institute for the Research into the Jewish Question.
Twentieth Century Yiddish Literature
The core of the library collection of twentieth century Yiddish literature was contained in the Duker collection. This was supplemented by donations from deceased estates, reflecting the roots of the South African Jewish community in Lithuania, White Russia, and Latvia.
South African Yiddish and Hebrew Publications
The Jewish Studies library has the most comprehensive collection of SA Yiddish and Hebrew books in South Africa. Its collection of Yiddish and Hebrew periodicals is not as comprehensive. It does however have virtually complete holdings of the major Yiddish and Hebrew periodicals, the Dorem Afrike (1947-1991) and the Barkai (1930-1972).
A collection of seforim – prayer books, Talmudic tractates, and Codes of law – that were brought over by the early immigrants to South Africa, reflecting their countries of origin in Eastern and Central Europe. This collection which was donated by the Jewish Museum, includes a large number of books published by the Romm Press in Vilna in Lithuania.
This collection, which was donated to U.C.T. Libraries in 1962, was only incorporated in the Jewish Studies Library in December 1999.
The Kaplan Centre has collected the archival records of Jewish institutions in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape. These are housed in the Jewish Studies Library and administered by the adjacent Manuscripts and Archives Department. In 1984 the Centre acquired the very valuable archival papers of Sammy Marks, a Lithuanian born Jew, who came to South Africa from England in 1868, amassed a fortune from diamond, coal and gold mining and from liquor distilling, and became a trusted friend and advisor of President Kruger of the Transvaal.