Citation for Honorary Doctorate
Honourary Degree Citation for
Dr. Chava Rosenfarb
Chava Rosenfarb was born in Lodz, Poland in 1923. When she was a child, her father encouraged her to write about her experiences and to think about being a writer. In 1939, when she was 16, the Nazis invaded Poland – and her life was changed forever.
She and her family were incarcerated, along with the rest of the Jewish population of Lodz in the Lodz ghetto. In the ghetto she wrote poems during those days of constant terror. She wrote about the ongoing struggle to endure—writings she lost and later recreated from memory.
In 1944 when the Lodz ghetto was liquidated, Chava and her family were transported to Auschwitz and later to Bergen Belsen, before being liberated by British forces in 1945. After spending several years homeless and stateless in Europe, she came to Canada in 1950 and settled in Montreal.
Chava Rosenfarb has an impressive body of published poems, stories, and novels. All her writings reflect her experiences during and after the Holocaust. Her book of stories called, Survivors: Seven Short Stories chronicles the postwar lives of Holocaust survivors in Canada as they try to come to terms with the terrible events of the past.
Her great work is the three-part novel The Tree of Life: A Trilogy of Life in the Lodz Ghetto, which is currently being published by the University of Wisconsin Press. This work won her the Manger Prize, Israelπs highest award for Yiddish literature. Of this work, the jury declared that it ≥rises to the heights of the great creations of world literature.≤
Chava is also the author of two novels set in pre-war Poland called Bociany and Of Lodz and Love.
Writing mainly in Yiddish, the traditional language of East European Jews, Chava is one of the most acclaimed writers in that language. Her works are now available in English.
Chava has received great recognition and numerous literary awards. In addition to the Manger Prize that I just mentioned, she has won the Award of the American Association of Professors of Yiddish, the Prize of the Congress for Jewish Culture; the Sholem Aleichem Prize; and the Segal Prize. She has also received the John Glassco Award of the Literary Translators of Canada for the translation of her own novels, Bociany and Of Lodz and Love into English
At the University of Lethbridgeπs Genocide Generation conference in 2005, Chava gave a powerful presentation about being a Holocaust survivor. Her eloquent and moving retelling of her experiences reminds us of how the human spirit can survive and thrive under the very worst of circumstances. Her great gift is that, with rich words and imagery, she makes it possible for others to gain some measure of understanding of the reality surrounding the atrocities of the Holocaust.
For her significant and enduring contributions to Yiddish culture and to humanity in general, and for her ability to find and share the beauty and humour in life, when she has witnessed the worst of human cruelty, the University of Lethbridge is proud to confer upon Chava Rosenfarb the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
University of Lethbridge, May 31, 2007.