Break a leg – or get shot: the Jewish actors who braved Stalin’s terror

[From The Guardian]

Not precisely about the Holocaust, but Yiddish-related news

The Moscow State Yiddish Theatre had to please Stalin and his henchmen or face dreadful consequences. How did it manage to thrive for so long?

I first came across Solomon Mikhoels and the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre in the 1980s, as I researched a PhD in Yiddish. (I say “researched” as I didn’t quite finish it and that way it sounds as if I might have done.) Yiddish, the language of east European Jewry, was spoken by 11 million people before the second world war. Though the Holocaust and assimilation threatened it with extinction, its future is now safe in the hands of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. You’ll often find me subtly eavesdropping on orthodox Jews in Clissold Park in London, trying to glean what words like the Yiddish for email might be (blitspost, in case you were wondering).

As a lover of Yiddish, I found myself constantly fighting stereotypes such as the charge that Yiddish is just a bastardised German. It isn’t. Or if it is, then so is English which, like Yiddish, is a fusion language or (to use a Yiddish term) a mish-mash of Germanic and Norman. I’d find myself kvetching (another Yiddish word) against those nebbishes (ditto) who have the chutzpah (ditto again) to say Yiddish is little more than a repository of admittedly brilliant curses, like my favourite: “May all your teeth fall out except for one, and from that may you have eternal toothache!”

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