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"Justus Rosenberg: A Life in Translation" independent oral history project

Identifier: NS-07-01-03


Scott Ritner, a graduate student of The New School for Social Research, conducted this series of oral history interviews with New School faculty member Justus Rosenberg in 2012. Rosenberg (born 1921 in Danzig) took part in the French Resistance during World War II, immigrated to the United States, and taught at The New School for over fifty years. The collection consists of a transcript and an event flier as electronic files.


  • 2012
  • Modified: 2016



.001 Gigabytes (2 files)

Language of Materials


Scope and Content of Collection

New School for Social Research graduate student Scott Ritner conducted a series of four oral history interviews with New School Bachelor's Program for Adult and Transfer Students (BPATS) division faculty member Justus Rosenberg in early 2012 as part of an independent project titled, “Justus Rosenberg: A Life in Translation.” The Posen Foundation funded this project through a grant to The New School's Jewish Cultural Studies program.

Ritner and Rosenberg presented parts of the interviews at a Jewish Cultural Studies Faculty Seminar held in The New School's Orozco Room on May 10, 2012, at the close of academic year and the culmination of the Posen Foundation grant. This event honored Rosenberg's fifty years of teaching at the university and his participation in the French Resistance movement, which aided numerous endangered scholars, artists, and intellectuals in their escape from fascist persecution.

A 192-page transcript of Ritner's interviews with Rosenberg, which transpired in New York City and in the town of Rheinbeck, NY, near Bard College, constitutes the bulk of the collection. The original recording was not preserved by Ritner and, despite attempts to locate and retrieve it, the sound files did not survive to be transferred to The New School Archives.

The interviews were transcribed by Averbach Transcription in April 2012. According to Ritner, the four interviews totaled about nine hours of recordings (e-mail in accession file).

In the first interview, Rosenberg speaks about his early life in Danzig, being born to Polish immigrants, and his Jewish heritage and how that affected his adolescence. He discusses moving to France in his mid-teens for his studies.

In the second interview, beginning on page thirty-six of the transcript document, Rosenberg speaks about his involvement in World War II. With the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Rosenberg became a part of a refugee organization headed by American journalist Varian Fry, and speaks about how many teachers in his position ended up at The New School.

In the third interview, beginning on page eighty-three, Rosenberg continues the conversation about World War II, joining the French Resistance, and using the name Jean-Paul Guiton. He relates his experiences immigrating to the United States, working at the University of Dayton's French department in the late 1940s, and studying Russian.

In the fourth and final interview, beginning on page 128, Rosenberg speaks more in depth about his academic career. He describes traveling to Haifa, Israel after becoming an American citizen and discovering that his parents and younger sister survived the war and were living in Israel. Rosenberg also describes trips to the Soviet Union and Cuba in the 1950s, and the circumstances leading up to his hiring by New School Dean Clara Mayer, who is not identified by name in the transcript.

The collection also includes a flier for the May 10, 2012 event.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

The entire collection is also available online through The New School Archives Digital Collections database.

Conditions Governing Use

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical note

Justus Rosenberg

Justus Rosenberg (1921-) was born in the Free City of Danzig (present day Gdańsk, Poland) to Polish-Jewish immigrants. In 1937, he moved to Paris for studies. After the Nazi invasion of France during World War II, Rosenberg joined the French Resistance and assumed the name Jean-Paul Guiton. Rosenberg immigrated to the United States and began working in the University of Dayton's French department in the late 1940s. Interested in linguistics from an early age, Rosenberg used this opportunity to study Russian at the university.

He received his doctorate in comparative language and linguistics from the University of Cincinnati in 1950. Rosenberg became an American citizen in 1952, and taught French and German literature at Swarthmore College from 1956-1962. In 1962, he began teaching at Bard College in upstate New York.

His decades long career teaching various courses at The New School began in 1960 with a class titled, Russia: Past and Present, which was advertised in course catalogs through 1980. The majority of his courses up through 1991 covered Russian/Soviet politics and literature, although he also developed courses examining China under Communist rule. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Rosenberg devoted more of his classes to literature. Rosenberg's courses in the 2000s were eclectic and reflect a range of interests and concerns, such as Conflict and Reconciliation in Modern Africa: A Historical Perspective (2003), Lost Jewish Cultures: Lives of the Shtetl (2012), and his reported personal favorite, Ten Plays that Shook the World, taught from 2008 until his retirement in 2012. Rosenberg taught in a number of departments, reflecting an interdisciplinary outlook. His courses were listed under Cultural Studies, History, Humanities, Social Sciences, and East European, Russian and Chinese Area Studies, a department that existed in the 1960s at The New School. All of these departments would, in 2021, be under the umbrella of The New School's Schools of Public Engagement.

In 2020, Rosenberg published a memoir, The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground (William Morrow). As of 2021, he is professor emeritus of language and literature at Bard College.


The bulk of the biographical information is this note is taken from oral hisory interviews comprising the collection and New School course catalogs.

"Justus Rosenberg faculty profile." Bard College website. Accessed April 9, 20201 at

Scott B. Ritner

Scott B. Ritner was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received his bachelor's degree in government and international relations from Clark University in 2005, a master's degree in Russian studies from European University at Saint Petersburg in 2006, two additional master's degrees from the New School for Social Research (NSSR) in politics in 2011 and 2016, and a doctorate in politics from NSSR in 2018. That year, he joined the faculty of Temple University and, as of 2021, is assistant professor of political science. His dissertation focused on Simone Weil, and he has written and presented extensively on Weil's writings.


Scott B. Ritner faculty biography. Temple University College of Liberal Arts website. Accessed April 1, 2021 at

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transcript emailed to New School Archives Director Wendy Scheir by New School faculty member Terri Gordon, 2015. Dr. Gordon served as director of the Jewish Cultural Studies program, situated within the university's Schools of Public Engagement. Transcript formally donated to The New School Archives by Scott Ritner, 2020. Laura Auricchio, Chair of Humanities, The New School for Public Engagement, emailed the flier in the collection to Wendy Scheir on May 1, 2012, and Scheir subsequently downloaded it and added the file to the collection.

Processing Information

Because Scott Ritner undertook this project independently from The New School Archives and used a different transcription service, the transcript does not follow the New School Archives's internal transcription conventions. The transcript has been left unedited and in the same form Professor Terri Gordon emailed it to Wendy Scheir, although The New School Archives staff converted it from a Microsoft Word document to a PDF for researcher access through the New School Archives Digital Collections database.

Guide to the "Justus Rosenberg: A Life in Translation" independent oral history project
Jessica Key and New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
May 13, 2021
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