Lucy Schildkret was born to a Polish-Jewish immigrant family in New York City. Despite their financial difficulties, her parents were committed to giving their daughter a strong education in both Jewish and secular subjects. Lucy studied at the Sholem Aleichem Mitlshul, a secular, Yiddishist supplementary school, and graduated from Hunter College in 1936. In 1937, after a hiatus, she re-entered Columbia to pursue her master’s degree. After completing her course work, Lucy went to Vilna, Poland, nicknamed the "Jerusalem of Lithuania," to conduct research on Jewish history. During the year she spent there, she worked with major Jewish scholars and writers. The period culminated in her flight from Vilna only days before the Germans and Russians invaded. Lucy spent the rest of her life commemorating the destroyed world she had so briefly known. In 1940, she joined the staff at YIVO, the Institute for Jewish
Research, in New York and for the next six years devoted herself to helping expand the organization and following the course of World War II. In 1948, she married Szymon Dawidowicz, a political refugee from Poland. When the war ended, Lucy Dawidowicz left her job and the Jewish history program at Columbia University, which she never completed, to enlist in the Joint Distribution Committee. She spent 18 months in Germany, serving among Jewish survivors and helping to catalog the thousands of books confiscated by the Nazis. Back in the USA, she was hired by the American Jewish Committee as a research analyst and eventually promoted to director of research. In 1969, she left the AJC to serve as an associate professor at Yeshiva University. By 1974, she was a full professor and held first the Lewis Chair in Holocaust Studies and subsequently the Zborowski Chair in Interdisciplinary Holocaust Studies. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Lucy Dawidowicz wrote critically-acclaimed books and articles and received numerous awards. Her most famous and controversial book was The War Against the Jews, 1933–1945 (1975).