Monthly Archives: September 2015

Comprehensive Yiddish-English dictionary (highly recommended)

by Solon Beinfeld and Harry Bochner

9780253009838_medThis new dictionary (published just two years ago) is by the far the best resource for Yiddish-English translation and is a wonderful investment. The hard copy costs around £30 or you can access the online version for the same price here:

A real must if you want to invest in just one book for this module!

There is a review of the dictionary here.

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Filed under Yiddish materials 2: language and grammar, Yiddish materials 3: dictionaries, Yiddish materials 4: primary sources

Black Earth by Timothy Snyder review – a new lesson to be learned from the Holocaust

[from The Guardian]

The Nazi genocide serves as a warning we should heed in facing today’s crises, Snyder claims. But was Hitler’s targeting of Jews really an act of ‘ecological panic’?

We have got the Holocaust all wrong, says Timothy Snyder in his new book, and so we have failed to learn the lessons we should have drawn from it. When people talk of learning from the Nazi genocide of some six million European Jews during the second world war, they normally mean that we should mobilise to stop similar genocides happening in future. But Snyder means something quite different, and in order to lay out his case, he provides an engrossing and often thought-provoking analysis of Hitler’s antisemitic ideology and an intelligently argued country-by-country survey of its implementation between 1939 and 1945.

Hitler, Snyder correctly observes, was a believer in race as the fundamental feature of life on Earth. History was a perpetual struggle for the survival of the fittest race, in which religion, morality and secular ethics all stood in the way of the drive for supremacy. His political beliefs reduced humankind to a state of nature, sweeping aside the claims of modern science to improve the natural world. Interfering in nature, for example by improving crop yields in order to overcome the food supply deficit in Germany that had led to the deaths of half a million people during the allied blockade in the first world war, was wrong: the way to achieve this aim was to conquer the vast arable lands of eastern Europe in a parallel action to the American colonisation of the west. Both in his view were populated by inferior subhumans who should be eliminated.

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Filed under Holocaust in the news, Literature

Toni Morrison on Primo Levi’s defiant humanism

[From The Guardian]

Primo-Levi-in-Turin-1985-009The Complete Works of Primo Levi is far more than a welcome opportunity to re-evaluate and re-examine historical and contemporary plagues of systematic necrology; it becomes a brilliant deconstruction of malign forces. The triumph of human identity and worth over the pathology of human destruction glows virtually everywhere in Levi’s writing. For a number of reasons, his works are singular amid the wealth of Holocaust literature.

First is his language – infused as it is with references to and intimate knowledge of ancient and modern sources of philosophypoetry and the figurative uses of scientific knowledge. VirgilHomerEliotDanteand Rilke play useful roles in his efforts to understand the life he lived in the concentration camp, as does his deep knowledge of science. Everything Levi knows he puts to use. Ungraspable as the necrotic impulse is, the necessity to “tell”, to describe the “monotonous horror of the mud”, is vital as he speaks for and of the millions who died. Language is the gold he mines to counter the hopelessness of meaningful communication between prisoners and guards. An example of this is the exchange, recounted in If This Is a Man, between himself and a guard when he breaks off an icicle to soothe his thirst. The guard snatches it from his hand. When Levi asks why, the guard answers: “There is no why here.” While the oppressors rely on sarcasm laced with cruelty, the prisoners employ looks and glances to gain clarity and meaning. Although photographs of troughs of corpses stun viewers, it is language that seals and reclaims the singularity of human existence.

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Filed under Holocaust in the news, Knowledge entries, Literature