Category Archives: Knowledge entries

No mention of Jews in White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day tribute

[From The Guardian]

The White House raised eyebrows on Friday when it issued a statement to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, that did not mention Jews, Judaism or antisemitism.

The statement read:

It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.

Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.

The Holocaust was the systematic genocide of European Jewry by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. More than six million Jews were murdered, along with Gypsies, gay people, political dissidents and others that the Nazi regime found undesirable.

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Denial (movie) review – overwhelmingly relevant assertion of truth

[From The Guardian]

5620In 1996, the historian Deborah Lipstadt was pursued in the UK courts by the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, for calling him a falsifier of history in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. This movie version of those events, written for the screen by David Hare and directed by Mick Jackson, stars Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and Timothy Spall as Irving; it has been coolly received by some on the festival circuit, its drama dismissed as stagey and flat. I disagree. For me, it has clarity, urgency and overwhelming relevance. Because denial is fashionable again. Irving himself is gloating at the way “alt–right” fascists are threatening to make him and his poisonous flat-earthery acceptable once more. The US president himself believes in “alternative facts”. So for me this film, telling its story with punchy commitment and force, was a breath of fresh air.

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Go Watch This Documentary About A Holocaust Survivor’s Violin

[From Forwards]

“Joe’s Violin” (2016), opens with a shot of the titular Joseph Feingold, tuning his violin. He hasn’t played in “8-10 years,” and his fingers look unsteady as he holds the instrument’s neck. After tinkering for a bit, Joseph puts down the violin and asks “how long can you live with memories?”

Joseph, one of the two subjects of the documentary, is a nonagenarian Polish Holocaust survivor living in New York. In 1939, just after the Nazi invasion of Poland, Joseph and his father fled Warsaw for the Soviet controlled eastern portion of the country. Upon arriving in Eastern Poland, the two were arrested by the Soviet police and taken by train to a Siberian labor camp (aside from the destination, Joseph’s account of his deportation sounds almost indistinguishable from the stories of Nazi round-ups). When Joseph and his father fled to eastern Poland, they left behind Joseph’s mother and two brothers – only one of Joseph’s brothers, who was sent to Auschwitz, survived the war.

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German Panel Rules That a Rare Violin Was Looted by Nazis

[From The New York Times]

In its first ruling on a matter involving a musical instrument, a German panel established to mediate disputes over cultural objects looted during the Third Reich has decided that a Nuremberg foundation should compensate the heirs of a man whose prized 18th-century violin is thought to have been confiscated by the Nazis or lost following a forced sale.

In its decision Wednesday, the Limbach Commission said the violin, created in 1706 reportedly by Cremonese violin-maker Giuseppe Guarneri (who is known as ‘filius Andreae’), found that the heirs of Felix Hildesheimer were entitled to a remedy.

Mr. Hildesheimer, a German Jew who had run a music business in Speyer, Germany, purchased the Guarneri from Stuttgart violin dealer Fridolin Hamma in 1938. Unable to escape from Nazi Germany, Mr. Hildesheimer committed suicide in 1939 and his family’s property was confiscated.

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הערט „אוצרות פֿונעם רות רובין אַרכיוו‟ | Hear Treasures from the Ruth Rubin Archive

יאָרצענדליקער לאַנג האָט די אָנגעזעענע ייִדישע ענטנאָמוזיקאָלאָגין רות רובין (1906־2000) אינטערוויוירט ממש טויזנטער ייִדן וואָס זענען אויפֿגעוואַקסן אין דער אַלטער היים, כּדי צו זאַמלען בײַ זיי פֿאָלקסלידער

במשך פֿון לאַנגע יאָרן האָט זי רעקאָרדירט די דאָזיקע אינטערוויוען, אין וועלכע מע זינגט די לידער אויף אַ קול. די רעקאָרדירונגען האָט מען געמאַכט אויף טאַשמעס, וואָס זענען געלעגן אין די „ייִוואָ‟־אַרכיוון אין ניו־יאָרק; אין דער „נאַציאָנאַלער ביבליאָטעק פֿון מדינת־ישׂראל‟, און אַפֿילו אין אָטאַוואַ, קאַנאַדע

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War memorials have failed – we have forgotten the chaos of fascism

[From The Guardian]

“ I believe my Holocaust memorial in Berlin could no longer be built today,” the architect Peter Eisenman has told Die Zeit. Eisenman says that Europe is now “afraid of strangers”, and he fears that the rise of xenophobia and antisemitism in Europe would make it impossible to build monuments like the vast field of grey sepulchres that he designed as Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, inaugurated in 2005 close to the site of Adolf Hitler’s bunker.

He may well be right – yet surely this is the wrong end of the book to start at. The real question is why Holocaust memorials have done so little to prevent the return of Europe’s far-right demons.

In Vienna, as in Berlin, the victims of the Holocaust are remembered by public art. Rachel Whiteread’s Judenplatz Holocaust memorial is a sealed library of closed books, each book suggesting a whole life we cannot recover.

Since its unveiling in 2000, it has become, like Eisenman’s Berlin memorial, a sombre tourist attraction and civic symbol. Yet Austria has just come perilously close to electing a president whose extreme-right Freedom party has Nazi roots and espouses xenophobia. Norbert Hofer was defeated – good – but how can anyone at all be drawn to far-right politics in a Europe that remembers its history? If memorials like those created by Whiteread and Eisenman have any value, it should surely be to make race hate an utterly marginal force, and far-right extremism the smallest of minorities. Instead, in its new guise of “populism”, the anti-liberal right is running rampant.

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חורבן־געשיכטעס אויף ייִדיש קריגן אַ ברייטערן עולם |Holocaust Histories in Yiddish Get Wider Audience

[from פֿאָרװערטס | forverts ]

געוויינטלעך, ווען אַ גראַדויִר־סטודענט פֿאַרענדיקט זײַן דיסערטאַציע, ווייסן ווייניק מענטשן וועגן דעם תּוכן, אַחוץ די פּראָפֿעסאָרן פֿון זײַן אָפּטייל.

מאַרק סמיטס דאָקטאָראַט טראָגט אָבער אַ ספּעציעלן באַטײַט, בפֿרט פֿאַר דער ייִדיש־וועלט: ער שרײַבט וועגן די חורבן־געשיכטעס וואָס פֿינף היסטאָריקער האָבן אָנגעשריבן אויף ייִדיש, און זענען במילא די אַלע יאָרן איגנאָרירט געוואָרן פֿון דער אַקאַדעמישער וועלט צוליב אַ פּשוטער סיבה: ווייניק היסטאָריקער קענען די ייִדישע שפּראַך.

סמיטס 536־זײַטיקע אַרבעט, „די ייִדיש־שרײַבנדיקע היסטאָריקער און דער קאַמף פֿאַר אַ חורבן־געשיכטע פֿון ייִדישן קוקווינקל‟ אַנאַליזירט די ייִדישע חורבן־געשיכטעס אָנגעשריבן פֿון פֿינף היסטאָריקער: מאַרק דוואָרזעצקי, ישיעה טרונק, פֿיליפּ פֿרידמאַן, יוסף קערמיש און נחמן בלומענטאַל.

די דיסערטאַציע נעמט אויך אַרײַן סמיטס איבערזעצונג פֿון דוואָרעצקיס עסיי, „פֿאַרשידן זענען געווען די וועגן‟, אָנגשריבן אין 1946.

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מרדכי געבירטיגס לידער | Mordechai Gebirtig’s songs

דעם שבת פֿאַלט אויס דער 74סטער יאָרצײַט, לויטן סעקולערן קאַלענדאַר, פֿונעם גרויסן ייִדישן פּאָעט מרדכי געבירטיג ז׳׳ל, וועלכער איז אומגעקומען אין דער קראָקאָווער געטאָ, אין 1942.

אַ לעגענדאַרע פּערזענלעכקייט אין דער וועלט פֿון ייִדישער מוזיק בעת זײַן לעבן, איז ער אין דער זעלביקער צײַט געווען צום־מערסטנס אַנאָנים: אַ פּשוטער סטאָליער, וואָס האָט אין זײַן פֿרײַער צײַט געשריבן לידער וועגן די אָרעמע ייִדן פֿון קראָקע, וווּ ער האָט געוווינט זײַן גאַנץ לעבן.

ס׳איז שווער אויף איין פֿוס איבערצוגעבן די וויכטיקייט און השפּעה פֿון געבירטיגס לידער. אויף דעם וואָלט מען געדאַרפֿט אַ גאַנצן אַרטיקל, צי אַ דאָקומענטאַר־פֿילם. ס׳איז כּדאַי פּשוט צו דערמאָנען, אַז פֿון אַרום 100 לידער זײַנע וואָס זענען אונדז פֿאַרבליבן, הערט מען אָפֿט כאָטש אַ טוץ פֿון זיי און זיי בלײַבן צווישן די סאַמע באַקאַנסטע ייִדישע לידער איבער דער גאָרער וועלט.

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Embracing Ambiguity: Reflections on Translating Yiddish by Anita Norich

[From In geveb]

thumbnail.imgTranslation theorists and many keners of Yiddish are remarkably alike in their mystification or obfuscation of what it means to translate. How often do we hear indignant exclamations of “S’hot nisht keyn yidishn tam,” or “you just can’t translate that” followed by such proofs as hak mir nisht keyn tshaynik or nisht geshtoygn, nisht gefloygn? And how often have we been stymied by illustrious theorists (Walter Benjamin’s opaque and pivotal “The Task of the Translator” chief among them) announcing versions of the following: “We only ever speak one language. We never speak only one language.” (Jacques Derrida). “Nothing is translatable… . Everything is translatable.” (Emily Apter). “Benjamin defines translation as untranslatable.” (Carol Jacobs).We would do better to simply acknowledge that “don’t knock on my teakettle,” or “didn’t rise, didn’t fly” really are inadequate literal translations of rich idioms. Or that Benjamin gives us the best and most difficult advice when he writes that “the task of the translator is to find in the translator’s language that latent structure which can awake an echo of the original.”

Fundamental to discussions of translation have been questions about fidelity and transgression. “Traduttore, traditore” (translator, traitor) goes the familiar Italian adage. Or, to cite a line perhaps closer to home, we read in the Talmud Rabbi Yehuda’s verdict that “one who translates a verse literally is a liar; one who adds to it is a blasphemer and a libeller.” Add to this the history of Yiddish and Yiddish-speaking people in the twentieth century and translators are, indeed, faced with a daunting task. The fear is not only that we may lose culturally specific nuances (always a concern in translation from any language) but the history and culture of pre-Holocaust Askenazic Jewry.

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Online DP camps collection is poster child of post-war Jewish rebirth

[from the Times of Israel]

Online DP camps collection is poster child of post-war Jewish rebirth.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 17.39.17In the years directly following World War II, more than 250,000 displaced Jewish people began to rebuild their lives. In the process of moving ahead after the horrors of the Holocaust, they renewed former religious, social, political and cultural interests while waiting in Central European displaced persons (DP) camps for permission to immigrate to other parts of the world.

For decades historiography tended to jump from the end of the Holocaust directly to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. However, in recent years, more attention has been paid to the experience of Jews who resided in the DP camps in Germany, Austria and Italy until 1952.

Currently, a digitization project by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is publishing an online collection of 1,178 posters and some 6,500 photographs attesting to the rebirth of Jewish communal life in the DP camps immediately following the war.

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The Bitter Taste of Victory by Lara Feigel review – writers and artists respond to the camps and Nuremberg

[from The Guardian]

3508When Germany surrendered to the allies in May 1945 a debate was already under way as to how the country should be coaxed back to civilisation. For some it had gone so far down the road to infamy that there seemed no prospect of its being rescued. Others took a more compassionate view, and urged that a huge re-education programme be undertaken to expose German minds to ideas of peace and tolerance. One means of effecting this transformation was culture. Artists and writers would put shoulders to the wheel to help rehabilitate the country and its people – to cleanse its poisoned soul.

That was the theory. Lara Feigel’s absorbing book relives the era in all its uncertainty, and delves into the irreconcilable differences and contradictions that would come to thwart the project. One roadblock to the argument for renewal was the dubious efficacy of culture itself. After all, Germany had created, pre-1933, the most advanced and enduring culture in Europe. If the country of Goethe and Beethoven had failed to halt Hitler, what difference could British and American arts possibly make? The question was an especially raw one for those who had seen the concentration camps first-hand. In April 1945 Richard Dimbleby, reporting from Belsen for the BBC, struck a piteous note of horror: the starved inmates “looked so utterly unreal and inhuman that I could have imagined that they had never lived at all”. This central, unfathomable crime of the Nazis haunts those whose experiences Feigel has corralled here; some in fact regarded the entire German nation as complicitous in the crime. Repugnance took on physical symptoms. The photographer Lee Miller, recalling her visit to Dachau, found herself “grinding her teeth and snarling, filled with hate and despair”. Martha Gellhorn, also at Dachau, wrote that she had walked in there “and suffered a lifelong concussion, without recognising it”.

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Imre Kertész obituary

[From The Guardian]

2667‘To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric,” wrote the German critic Theodor Adorno soon after the second world war. He later modified his statement by saying: “The main question is: can we go on living after Auschwitz?” This was the problem with which the Nobel prize-winning Hungarian Jewish writer Imre Kertész, a survivor of the Holocaust, grappled throughout his life and literary work, until his death at the age of 86.

Kertész’s first and most influential novel, Sorstalanság (Fatelessness, 1975), is the story of a 14-year-old boy, Gyuri Köves, who survives deportation to Auschwitz and captivity in Buchenwald, and, on his return to Hungary, finds it impossible to relate his experiences to his surviving family. The book was at first hardly noticed by Hungarian critics and only became a success many years later once it had been translated into German and then, in 2005, made into a film by the Hungarian cinematographer Lajos Koltai. While lacking the biting irony of Tadeusz Borowski’s Auschwitz stories, Sorstalanság differs from most accounts of Nazi concentration camps in its relentless objectivity, and as such is a unique achievement of its kind.

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UK subjected survivors of Nazis to oppressive questioning, files show

[From The Guardian]

Whitehall officials subjected British victims of Nazi persecution to months and sometimes years of oppressive questioning as they applied for German-funded compensation – questioning their harrowing accounts of their experiences in concentration camps, newly released documents reveal.

In one case, officials spent years investigating the family background of the renowned secret agent Violette Szabó – the Special Operations Executive agent who was dropped by parachute into France, captured, tortured, and executed in Ravensbruck concentration camp – to determine whether her daughter was entitled to compensation.

Records of hundreds of claimants incarcerated by the Nazis, many of whom were unsuccessful, were released on Thursday at the National Archives, more than 50 years after the German government agreed to contribute a total of £1m to UK nationals or their dependants. The money was eventually shared among 1,015 individuals.

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Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949 by David Cesarani – review

[from The Guardian]

3008Jan Karski, a courier for the Polish underground, was among the first to reach London and Washington after observing the mass killing of Polish Jews. In an interview for Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 film Shoah, Karski, still astonished after so many years, gets to his feet as he recalls the reaction of Felix Frankfurter, Franklin Roosevelt’s confidant. “I don’t believe you,” he recalls Frankfurter saying. “I know you are not a liar, but I don’t believe you.”

Similar sentiments will occur to the half-attentive reader throughout almost every page of David Cesarani’s account of the Final Solution. How many Jews were killed? How were they killed? Did the Hitler project really imply the extermination of every single Jew in Europe? And what sort of person could be relied on to kill one human being after another – women and children, the old, the young – day after blood-drenched day?

Cesarani’s justification for another book about the Holocaust is that a generation of new research has failed to find its way into public consciousness. “The nomenclature itself is increasingly self-defeating,” he begins. Terms such as “the Holocaust” or “Shoah”, even “genocide”, in the legitimate course of memorialising Jewish sufferings, have walled off mass killings from the events surrounding them. To that end Cesarani treats the subject in a stripped-down factual idiom, avoiding any pervasive explanation of motives. What we get in this context are facts, and these facts consist largely of killings.

This is a book as hard to read as a set of Human Rights Watch reports. But it’s difficult not to be first moved and then overwhelmed by the mere listing of what happened, and in this respect Cesarani, who died in October, has fulfilled his ambition of reclaiming the killings of Jews for another generation.

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Why Adolf Eichmann’s final message remains so profoundly unsettling

[from the Guardian]

Had it not been for an unguarded conversation between Adolf Eichmann’s son and the Argentinian girl he was dating, the chances are that the shabby “Ricardo Klement” would have lived out his days in obscurity a few miles north of Buenos Aires. Unlike Josef Mengele, the sadistic camp doctor at Auschwitz, who was feted in the more glamorous circles of Argentinian society, Klement was a failure in his adopted country. He ran a laundry business for a while but it went bankrupt. He lurched from job to job. And when he was captured by Mossad agents on 11 May 1960, shuffling home from the bus stop, they couldn’t quite believe that this was the high-ranking Nazi officer who was responsible for the deportation of millions of Jews to the death camps.

Since his trial in Jerusalem in 1961, Eichmann has become the subject of continued controversy – much of it not so much about the man himself, but often more about the very nature of evil. Yesterday’s release of a hand-written letterfrom Eichmann to the then Israeli president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, requesting clemency, will only continue the debate. “There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders,” Eichmann’s letter pleaded. “I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.”

In other words: not my fault, I was only obeying orders. His self-delusion was unassailable, even at the end. Eichmann’s request was denied and two days later he was hanged in Ramla prison.

In her famous account of the trial, the philosopher Hannah Arendt described Eichmann as a small-minded functionary, more concerned with the managerial hows of his job than the moral or existential whys. According to Arendt, Eichmann wasn’t a man for asking difficult questions, he just got on with the job of managing timetables and calculating travel costs – thus her famous phrase “the banality of evil”.

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Do we need to rethink how we teach the Holocaust?

[from the Guardian]

Many peo2480ple argue that it is crucially important for young people to learn about the Holocaust to prevent racism and prejudice in the present day. But in a focus group interview exploring secondary school students’ attitudes to the Holocaust, Ella, a year 12 student from Peterborough turned that idea on its head.

“I didn’t stop being racist because of learning about the Holocaust … I’ve always not been racist,” she said.

Ella is one of more than 9,500 students consulted by University College London (UCL) researchers as part of a three year-long national study looking at secondary school students’ knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust. This study (launched by the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education) drew primarily on survey responses from almost 8,000 young people and interviews of nearly 250 students. It aimed to find out what young people should know about the Holocaust and why.

The Holocaust has been part of the national curriculum since the early 1990s, but many teachers are uncertain about what the educational aims of teaching this subject should be and what content to include or to prioritise, especially when faced with limited time and a packed curriculum. The centre’s earlier study, Teaching About the Holocaust in English Secondary Schools, found that in a variety of subjects teachers’ intentions were most likely to enable students to understand the ramifications of racism, transform society and learn the lesson of the Holocaust to ensure it never happens again. However, as the study went to argue, such universal, trans-disciplinary aims are difficult both to assess and to translate into pedagogical practice.

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The Guardian view on Mein Kampf: a good new edition of a very bad old book Editorial

[From The Guardian]

4805When a group of German historians started work, six years ago, on an annotated version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf with the aim of republishing the text after it was due to enter the public domain on 1 January 2016, little did they know this would coincide with a time when Germany would find itself facing a rising tide of populism in the context of the refugee crisis. But even under quieter circumstances the initiative would have caused controversy.

Seventy years ago it fell to US occupying forces in Germany to decide what to do with the book, and they passed the copyright to the state government of Bavaria. Seeing as the recently deceased author had done nothing but damage to the region’s reputation, Bavaria might well have been determined to sit on its rights and see off any thoughts of republication even if there had been no fears of rekindling a Nazi ideology that had only recently been comprehensively routed. But republishing Mein Kampf at any time was bound to raise sensitive questions. Would it not lend prominence to a hate-filled 1,000-page tome that acted as a founding document for the crimes of Nazism? Might it not risk fuelling, even today, the twisted logic of Holocaust deniers or of anyone prone to be more fascinated than repelled by Hitler? Such qualms might have been justified had the text been reprinted in its blunt form, without any effort put into debunking its sick ramblings.

Yet that is not the case. Care, wisdom and admirable scholarship have all played a part in the creation of the two-volume Hitler, Mein Kampf: A Critical Edition, launched on 8 January by the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History. It sets out to provide not just knowledge of what Hitler wrote, but a systematic dismantling of his manipulative theories and lies. And not just that: the book, now on sale in general bookshops in Germany for the first time since the war, details how Hitler’s prose of the 1920s (he wrote Mein Kampf while in prison) translated into concrete policy once he rose to power in 1933. This new publication is thus useful: it goes one step further towards demystifying the roots of the evil that unfolded. Exposure, not hiding, is the best way to neutralise the conspiratorial thinking and sinister fascination that can be aroused by a forbidden object.

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Two talks on Memories of the allied bombings of Nuremberg (Neil Gregor and Beate Müller)

Prof. Neil Gregor, University of Southampton

Title: “Remembering the Event, Remembering the Place: Narratives of Bombing in Post-War Nuremberg”

 

This paper reflects upon how historians have conventionally considered the memory of wartime bombing as a set of narratives about historical events that gained cultural power in the post war era. Revisiting critically my own previous work on the city of Nuremberg I seek to explore in this paper how this memory of the bombing as event has obscured other memories present in the city after 1945 – most obviously memories of the city itself.  I argue, therefore, that historians should think not only about the memory of the event, but also the memory of place, literally, in the sense of its physical and material substance, and more metaphorically, in the sense of a series of different life-worlds that were now the object of nostalgic affect.

 

——-

Dr Beate Müller, Newcastle University

Title: “‘I thought I was going to die’: Allied Air Raids on Nuremberg as Remembered by Local School Children in 1946”

Abstract:
In 1946, Nuremberg’s schools inspector Otto Barthel had local school children write essays on their wartime experiences. They were also asked to fill in questionnaires which specifically addressed political attitudes of the young. About 3,000 pupils submitted their work. The texts tell a complex story about the thoughts and feelings of German adolescents in the early postwar period, demonstrating the ideological influence of National Socialism, trauma suffered during the war, as well as the shock, frustration, and desorientation after the collapse of the Third Reich. The pupils’ submissions are comparable in terms of their dominant themes such as the evacuation scheme KLV, the fate of male relatives,  Allied bombings, the end of the war and the city’s occupation, or problems and hardships characterizing postwar life. Of these topics, the descriptions of experienced air raids are the most visceral; they also clearly dominate the essays penned on ‘An unforgettable experience’. This talk will argue that whilst the stories of the young differ considerably in terms of content, evaluations of events and narrative coping strategies, there is much less diversity when it comes to memories of the bombings, which indicates that these memories united the otherwise quite diverse young postwar generation.

Both talks can be accessed via recap here

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British Jews give wary approval to the return of Hitler’s Mein Kampf

[From The Guardian]

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Senior figures in Britain’s Jewish community have cautiously welcomed the republication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf for the first time since the second world war.

The most notorious antisemitic text of the 20th century, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), was originally published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, and was the first systematic exposition of Hitler’s thinking on race and the “Jewish peril” he believed was threatening Germany.

Since 1946, the copyright has been in the hands of the Bavarian state, which refused to consider a new edition. However, the copyright protection expires at the end of the year and on 8 January a new academic, or “critical”, edition will be launched by the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, complete with comprehensive annotations.

German Jews have already expressed divided opinions on the republication. Levi Salomon, spokesman for the Berlin-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Antisemitism, told American media that he was “absolutely against” the publication, regardless of its annotations. “Can you annotate the Devil?” he asked. “Can you annotate a person like Hitler?”

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London Film Festival: My Nazi Legacy

my-nazi-legacy-stillThe subject of the holocaust is a difficult one to discuss on film, not least because so much has been done on it before. Human rights lawyer Philippe Sands’s latest feature, My Nazi Legacy, alternatively titled A Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did, begins as a fairly standard effort, with archive footage, moody music and a slightly monotonous voiceover. The subjects are two men in their 70s, an Austrian and a German, who are the sons respectively of Nazi war criminals Otto Wächter and Hans Frank. Both were key architects of Hitler’s policies throughout the eastern part of Germany, collectively responsible for thousands of deaths. Horst von Wächter and Niklas Frank are interviewed over a series of months about their fathers, families and lives during and after the war.

The film gains a real hold, however, when it becomes apparent that a rift is growing between the two men. Niklas becomes increasingly uncomfortable with Horst’s determinedly rose-tinted view of his father, who was known by some as “the butcher of Poland”. Niklas condemns his own father for his crimes and for his lack of paternal affection, while Horst firmly believes that von Wächter was good inside and had little idea over the atrocities being committed under his command. He pities Niklas, saying that he is an egomaniac whose “life is practically annihilated by his father”. The fascinating difference between two men with such similar backgrounds becomes the documentary’s most interesting element, with Sands’s increasingly difficult relationship with von Wächter adding an unusual tension not seen in the average history documentary.

[My Nazi Legacy is released in select cinemas on 20th November 2015.]

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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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All Languages Are Hybrids|אַלע שפּראַכן זענען מישלינגען

[From The Yiddish Forverts]

איך פֿאַרנעם זיך מיט שפּראַך כּמעט מײַן גאַנץ לעבן, דער עיקר, מיט לשון ייִדיש. און וויפֿל איך זאָל זיך נישט אַרײַנלאָזן אין ענגליש, טראַכט איך, אַז אויף ייִדיש קלינגט עס בעסער. אַלע שפּראַכן זײַנען מישלינגען און דאָס מוז מען גלײַך עטאַבלירן בײַם סאַמע אָנהייב פֿון לערנען אַ שפּראַך. דאָס גלייבן, אַז עס זײַנען פֿאַראַן שפּראַכן וואָס זײַנען מער געהויבן, וויכטיקער, מער פּרעסטיזשפֿולw איז נישט מער ווי אַן אויסגעבלאָזן איי, נישט באַזירט אויף קיין שום אַבסאָלוטע לינגוויסטיש־עמפּירישע פֿאַקטאָרן.

מען קען אַמאָל אָפּשאַצן אַ שפּראַך לויט איר עלטער, אָדער לאָגיק, לויט איר מוזיקאַלישקייט אָדער ראָמאַנטישער גענייגטקייט; מ’קען זי באַקרוינען ווי די שפּראַך פֿון געטער, אָדער אַ שפּראַך, וואָס לייגט זיך גרינג אויף דער צונג; אַ שפּראַך, וואָס איז מעכטיק אָדער אָנמעכטיק, אָבער קיין איין שפּראַך פֿאַרדינט זיך נישט מען זאָל זי גרינגשעצן, מאַכן צו קליין־געלט, אָדער אויסשטעלן זי אויף לײַטיש געלעכטער, ווי עס טוען עס די אַמעריקאַנער קאָמעדיאַנטן, ווען עס קומט צו ייִדיש.

די מענטשן וואָס רעדן אַראַביש, זײַנען אונטערן אײַנדרוק, אַז זייער קלאַסישע שפּראַך איז די שענסטע און די לאָגישסטע פֿון אַלע, מיט אומפֿאַרגלײַכלעכער גראַמאַטישער סימעטריע און לעקסישער רײַכקייט. דאָס קלאַסישע אַראַביש איז געקניפּט און געבונדן מיטן קאָראַן, און במילא מיט זייער גלויבן. דורך זייער שפּראַך דערוואַרטן זיי צו דערגיין דורך ניסים־ונפֿלאות צום סאַמען תּוך־אמת פֿון איסלאַם.

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Ironic Inversions: Rare Soviet Yiddish Songs of WWII

[From In Geveb]

At the international symposium “Global Yiddish Culture: 1938-1949,” held at the University of Toronto this spring, singer-songwriter Psoy Korolenko of Moscow and U of T Professor Anna Shternshis brought to life lost Yiddish songs of the Holocaust in an all-new concert and lecture program.

During and immediately after World War II, the Kiev Cabinet for Jewish Culture, led by philologist Elye Spivak and folklorist Moshe Beregovski, began collecting and transcribing original songs composed by Soviet Jewish Holocaust refugees and survivors. But in 1949, before the Cabinet could publish their collection, these rare Yiddish artifacts were confiscated by the Soviet government and hidden from the public. Until recently, that is, when Shternshis found the collection while doing research at the Manuscript Department of the Ukrainian National Library. Shternshis then teamed up with Korolenko to reinterpret and present these songs to new audiences. The Toronto conference was their first time performing this old-new repertoire. Shternshis opened the program by unfolding the dramatic story of this major postwar Soviet collection project, as unfamiliar to many academics in the house as to the rows of community members. As Shternshis told the story of the Cabinet and the Soviet Jews whose songs they recorded, Korolenko interpreted select archival lyrics on vocals and keyboard.

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Viktor Frankl’s book on the psychology of the Holocaust to be made into a film

[From The Guardian]

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl’s account of his attempts to rationalise the Holocaust, has been optioned for a film adaptation, according to Deadline.

Frankl, a contemporary of Freud, lost his whole family during the Nazi’s attempted extermination of the Jews. He developed his theory of “healing through meaning”, known as logotherapy, while a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Kaufering concentration camps. He counselled his fellow prisoners, many of whom were suicidal, with a philosophy that argued that striving for meaning, not pleasure nor power, is what keeps us alive.

His book detailed the psychological reactions that an inmate progressed through during their time in the camps and how their behaviour changed if they survived and were liberated. He argued that men were “decent” or “indecent” regardless of their station. So a Nazi guard who showed kindness could be a decent man, while an inmate who exploited his fellow prisoners for personal gain, could be indecent.

 

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Film Review: ‘Night Will Fall’

Interesting film review, including useful contextualisation of the Allies’ knowledge of concentration camps in 1944-45. Well worth a close read.

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SHATTERED PASSAGE: The challenge of presenting the Holocaust onstage

[from The New Yorker]

The idea that the Holocaust defeats attempts at artistic dramatization—that it constitutes, in Andreas Huyssen’s words, “unimaginable, unspeakable, and unrepresentable horror”—has a particular force in the world of music. While there are any number of symphonic and choral meditations on the Holocaust, operas on the subject are rather rare, not least because the larger-than-life gestures native to the genre can seem inapt. Furthermore, because of associations between Wagner and the Nazi regime, the very vocabulary of post-Wagnerian opera may appear to be implicated in the genocide.

Mieczysław Weinberg’s 1968 opera “The Passenger,” which the Lincoln Center Festival is set to present at the Park Avenue Armory, is not a flawless work, but it comes closer than any other extant opera to overcoming the challenge of placing the Holocaust onstage. For one thing, Weinberg, who came from a Polish-Jewish family, knew whereof he wrote; he fled from Poland to the Soviet Union in 1939, and his father, mother, and sister were all murdered by the Nazis. When the orchestra in “The Passenger,” heavily influenced by Shostakovich, presents an ironclad, destructive edge, one senses that Weinberg is working from firsthand impressions. At the same time, the libretto, which Alexander Medvedev adapted from a story by Zofia Posmysz, is not so much a direct dramatization of the Holocaust as a study in trauma and memory: on an ocean liner, a former Auschwitz overseer thinks she sees a survivor from the camp, and experiences a series of flashbacks. Finally, the question of music’s own role in the catastrophe is incorporated into the action. A wrenching scene toward the end, depicting a concert at the camp, pits Bach’s Chaconne in D Minor, for solo violin, against an overpowering orchestral mass. The lonely, lamenting notes of the Bach are snuffed out one by one.

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‘The Queen’ Of Yiddish Song

[From The Jewish Week]

Remembering YIVO archivist Chana Mlotek, one of the major figures in the revival of klezmer.

When she was interviewed by The Jewish Week in June 2012, the outstanding Yiddishist Chana Mlotek confided that at age 90 she had lost a bit of her ferocious productivity.

“My legs don’t go as fast as they did,” she joked. “But I can still work three times a week at YIVO, I still write a column for the Forverts, and the work is always interesting.”

A unique and generous resource for Yiddish scholars and Jewish musicians, Mlotek died at her home in the Bronx Monday, Nov. 4, at the age of 91. Her death was announced by her sons Mark and Zalmen.

Working with her husband Joseph until his death in 2000, and on her own afterwards, Mlotek was the ITAL source of information on thousands of Yiddish songs and co-editor with Joseph of three major compilations, “MirTrogn a Gezang” (“We Are Carrying a Song”), “Pearls of Yiddish Song,” and “Songs of Generations.”

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Imre Kertész: Music, Silence, Automation

[From The Quietus website]

Coinciding with the release of his first (and apparently only) memoir, Dossier K, earlier this year, Daniel Fraser considers the writing and the life of Hungarian Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertész.

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Holocaust-themed opera to be staged in Mexico

[From the Global Post website]

Mexico City, Aug 13 (EFE).- The opera The Emperor of Atlantis, composed in a Nazi concentration camp by Austria’s Viktor Ullmann, brought its satirical indictment of Nazism to Mexico for the first time, singer Jose Adan Perez said Tuesday.

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‘Holocaust’ music: Art or history?

[from the Washington Post]

The Third Reich wanted to stamp out Judaism in music. The problem, writes the scholar Michael Haas in his new book “Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis,” was figuring out what that meant. Was Jewish music old, reactionary, tradition-bound, unable to be creative? Or was it new, offensive to the senses, avant-garde? The Nazis thought of themselves as forward-looking, but their artistic tastes were anything but progressive. They ended up sanctioning a lot of safe and since-forgotten music by party members, and tarring most of the rest with the brush of “degeneracy.”

Years have passed since the nightmare, but labeling music is still a thorny and controversial topic. Today, there are many and various ongoing efforts to return so-called “degenerate” music to the canon. What’s controversial is how to define this music. The term “Holocaust music” signals the general theme to people who might not know what “degenerate music” is. But in working to revive or remember art under such a sensational and clumsy rubric risks diminishing composers’ artistic achievement in favor of their historical importance: privileging artifact over art.

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Why the New ‘Holocaust Music’ Is an Insult to Music—and to Victims of the Shoah

[from the Tablet]

A recent wave of performances turns Jewish composers into shadow images defined only by their status as Hitler’s victims.

In the never-ending search for ways to remember the Holocaust, the newest media contrivance to appear is “Holocaust Music.” National Public Radio recently profiled an Italian conductor who has embarked on a quixotic campaign to record every note of music composed inside a Nazi concentration camp. Two months ago, New York’s Lincoln Center played host to the Defiant Requiem, a traveling revue that presents a dramatic reenactment of a performance of Verdi’s Requiem that took place in the Terezin concentration camp during World War II. The concert tour has crisscrossed the globe, with headquarters in a summer institute in the Czech Republic. A related documentary film has aired on PBS. On the face of it, these artistic efforts certainly sound legitimate. Aren’t they merely the musical analogue to the literature depicting the horrors of the Holocaust?

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Defiance in music: honoring a Holocaust-era pledge

[from the Denver Post website]

PRAGUE—In a concentration camp designed by the Nazis to eradicate Jewish cultural life, among 120,000 of its inmates who would ultimately be murdered, a rising young musician named Rafael Schachter managed one of the miracles of the Holocaust.

Assembling hundreds of sick and hungry singers, he led them in 16 performances learned by rote from a single smuggled score of one of the most monumental and moving works of religious music—Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem Mass.

“These crazy Jews are singing their own requiem,” Adolf Eichmann, a principal architect of the genocide, was heard to remark after attending one of the performances at the unique and surreal camp of Terezin, in what was then German-occupied Czechoslovakia.

But for Schachter and his fellow prisoners, this Mass for the dead became not an act of meek submission to their fate, but rather one of defiance of their captors, as well as a therapy against the enveloping terror.

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Jewish community mark 75th anniversary of Kindertransport

[from The Guardian website]

At 10 years old Ruth Jacobs took her brother by the hand and, without her parents, boarded a train in Vienna to come to England just before the outbreak of the second world war. “We had to say goodbye out of sight, they didn’t want parents there on the platform,” she recalled. “My parents said we would see them in a few weeks, that they would follow us. They didn’t want us to worry.”

Jacobs, now 84, was one of hundreds of Jewish pensioners who gathered on Sunday to honour those who helped them escape Nazi persecution, on the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Kindertransport – the rescue mission that saved their lives.

In the final months before the war, the British parliament took the extraordinary step of accepting 10,000 children from across Europe, who traversed the continent by train and arrived by boat in British ports.

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Giovanni Palatucci, ‘Italian Schindler’ Hailed As Holocaust Hero, Accused Of Being Nazi Collaborator

[from the Huffington Post]

In a controversy that has embroiled many of the leading Holocaust remembrance organizations, a man once hailed as the “Italian Schindler” may have actually been a Nazi collaborator who did little to save the lives of imperiled Jews.

For decades, Giovanni Palatucci has been heralded as a hero who died fighting against Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy, and who used his status as a police chief to save thousands of Jews in his hometown.

But according to research conducted by historians at the Centro Primo Levi at the Center for Jewish History, very little of this legacy is based in reality. According to the researchers, Palatucci was a relatively low-level officer who worked with the Nazis to help identify Jews who would eventually be shipped to death camps.

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Sounds Jewish podcast: the Jewish revival in Poland

[from the Guardian website]

Writer Denise Grollmus goes on a personal journey of Jewish discovery in Poland, the country where 3 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the second world war.

Denise Grollmus grew up in the US, and was especially close to her grandmother, a Polish Catholic from Warsaw. Or at least, that’s who she said she was.  On her 28th birthday, Denise discovered that her grandmother had been keeping a secret – that she was, in fact, a Jew who had changed her identity during the war and then continued to keep her Jewishness hidden for almost 70 years. That discovery instantly made Denise Jewish, too.

Denise has spent the last year living in Poland, on a quest to understand what exactly it means to be Jewish in a country regarded by many as a byword for deeply rooted antisemitism and still feared by many Jews as little more than an enormous graveyard.

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Muslim leaders’ Auschwitz visit boosts Holocaust knowledge

[from BBC new website]

Muslim leaders from around the world have taken part in an unprecedented trip to Germany and Poland to see and hear for themselves about the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust.

The 11 imams, sheiks and religious teachers from nine countries met a Holocaust survivor and Poles whose families risked execution to save Jews from the Nazis, in the Polish capital’s Nozyk Synagogue as part of the tour.

They have been around museums, including the recently opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews on the site of the former Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw. And they also visited the Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps.

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Child Holocaust survivors to be compensated

[from The Jerusalem Post]

Germany recognizes and will provide compensation to Holocaust survivors who were children during the war, for their “lost childhood,” the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel announced this week.

The move was the result of negotiations recently held in Jerusalem between representatives of the Claims Conference as well as heads of NGOs dedicated to survivors and a senior delegation from the German Finance Ministry.

The survivors concerned include those born between January 1928 and May 1945, for whom the first period of their lives would have been under the Nazis or allies of the Nazi regime.

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Nazi-themed Wagner opera cancelled

[from BBC new website]

A controversial production of a Wagner opera at one of the major German opera houses has been cancelled because of harrowing scenes involving Nazis.

The Rheinoper, based in Dusseldorf, said some of the audience had to seek medical help following early performances of Tannhauser.

But the producer “refused” to tone down the staging, set in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

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Holocaust survivor keeps her promise

[from the Guardian website]

By Robin Pepper

Iby Knill vowed she would tell the world what she had seen at Auschwitz. And now her story will forever be told at museums across Europe thanks to a young filmmaker from Teesside University.

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Poland honours Jews who fought Nazis in Warsaw Ghetto

[BBC News website: April 19th] A major ceremony is under way in the Polish capital Warsaw to honour Jews who fought overwhelming Nazi German forces 70 years ago in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Sirens wailed and church bells tolled in the city, where several hundred Jews battled the Nazis in World War II.

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  • See also this article about life in the ghetto by Monica Whitlock of the BBC World Service
  • And this about Poland’s Jews by the BBC’s  Adam Easton
  • Click here to listen to the BBC documentary about the Oyneg Shabes [עונג שבת] archive, presented by Monica Whitlock produced by Mark Burman and Monica Whitlock

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Personal accounts of persecution and genocide by the Nazi regime (BBC archive)

These BBC programmes and documents chart the reactions and personal testimonies of some of those who witnessed the Nazis’ “Final Solution”.

Interviews, journals and documentaries starkly convey the realities of the camps. Survivors recount their experiences of the genocide and its continuing legacy.

This collection also illustrates the shock felt by the liberators and how the atrocities were revealed by UK broadcasters.

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Yizker-bikher (YIVO)

The Yiddish term yizker-bikher (sg., yizker-bukh) has come to refer primarily to a vast body of memorial books commemorating Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust, primarily from prewar Poland though also throughout Eastern Europe (similar works have been created for other parts of Europe and the Mediterranean region). Survivors and émigrés from various communities that have organized landsmanshaftn(associations of Jews from the same hometowns abroad) in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere have produced many hundreds of such books, generally in Yiddish and/or Hebrew.

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Useful Archives Worldwide

American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio
Bagnówka: galleries of nearly 60,000 images (and select videos) from Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine
Bibliothèque Medem, Paris, France
The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusaelm, Israel
The Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, Israel
Centropa: Jewish Witness to a European Century
Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive, Dartmouth University
Early Hebrew Newspapers, a digitization project of the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, Israel
Florida Atlantic University Judaica Sound Archive
Ghetto Fighters’ House: Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum, Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, Israel
Hebrejská knihovna kabalistikých textu (Hebrew Kabbalistic Books)
HebrewBooks.org
Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religions Libraries, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York, Jerusalem
Index to Yiddish Periodicals
The Israel Genealogical Society
JewishGen
The Jewish Museum, New York
Jewish Music Resources on the Internet
Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, Israel
Jewish Public Library of Montreal, Montreal, Canada
Jewish Theological Seminary Library, New York
Jewish Women’s Archive, Brookline, Mass.
Judah L. Magnes Museum Library and Archives, Berkeley, California
Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry
Mendele: Forum for Yiddish Literature and Yiddish Language
Michael Davidson Early Hebrew Printing Homepage
The Museum of Family History, The Yiddish World
Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, Poland
National Yiddish Book Center, Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library
New York Public Library–Dorot Jewish Division, New York
Penn Libraries Judaica Collections
“People of a Thousand Towns”: The Online Catalog of Photographs of Jewish Life in Prewar Eastern Europe
RAMBI, The Jewish National and University Library’s Online Index of Articles on Jewish Studies
Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive
Simon Wiesenthal Center Library and Archives, Los Angeles, California
Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.
Yad Vashem
Yeshiva University Libraries, New York
Yiddish Poetry, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University
Yiddish Sources
YIVOLibraryBooks.org, full digital texts of hundreds of religious and other rare books from YIVO’s collections

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Maps (Yivo)

The Yivo Encyclopedia of Jew in Eastern Europe (ייִװאָ-ענציקלאָפּעדיאַ פֿון ייִדן אין מיזרח-אײראָפּע) conmtains many useful historical maps, including histories of the Pale of Dettlement, Holocaust maps, maps of shtelekh, towns and cities with Jewish populations before the Holocaust. 

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Traditional Musics of Eastern European Jewry (YIVO)

By the later sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries in Bohemia and then in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Jewish musicians began to form their own guilds. The formation of guilds raised the social status of Jewish musicians, and led to the abandonment of the older termleyts (scoffer, clown), applied in Central Europe to singers, instrumentalists, clowns, and dancers, in favor of the new, more respectable term klezmer (from kele zemer, musical instruments or vessels of song; pl., klezmorim), designating exclusively an instrumentalist. The term klezmer made its way to Germany only in the eighteenth century, with the influx of Jewish musicians from Bohemia and Poland. Klezmerwas a more favorable term for a Jewish musician, in contrast to the derogatory muzikant. This distinction persisted until the later nineteenth century, when Jews gained admission to conservatories in Russia and Austria-Hungary in significant numbers.

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Archives (YIVO)

Hundreds of state and local archives throughout Eastern Europe hold millions of documents that reflect the experience of Jews over many centuries. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and other East European Communist regimes, government archives became more accessible. Although it is true that numerous documents were lost during World War II, the documents that still exist are enormously rich and valuable. Particularly with the case of the former Soviet Union, the data remain largely unexplored by researchers interested in Jewish history.

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Holocaust Diaries (YIVO)

The experiences of countless East European Jews are documented in the body of several hundred extant diaries kept by Jewish men, women, and youth throughout the years of the Holocaust. The writings now exist in archives—mostly in Israel, Europe, and the United States—and in private hands. Their numbers attest to the likelihood that thousands of Jews set about recording their personal experiences and the experiences of their communities under German occupation, although it is impossible to determine the total number of journals with precision.

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The Holocaust (YIVO)

The term Holocaust is a designation for the catastrophic losses suffered by the Jews of Europe (and, to a far lesser extent, in North Africa) as a result of actions taken by the government of Germany or its allies between 1933 and 1945. The word came into common usage in the United States during the 1960s in the wake of the trial of Adolf Eichmann. It has since become current in most European languages (although in Russian, until recently, the term katastrofa was more common and remains widespread). Since the 1980s, the scope of the word as used in the United States has been expanded to encompass the losses suffered by any identifiable civilian group as a result of German government actions during the period in question, including Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), Poles, male homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, persons with mental retardation, and others. This wider usage, incorporated in the mission statement of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, has generally not caught on in other countries. Nor has it become common, as it has in the United States, to use the word more broadly as a synonym for genocide, or even as a designation for virtually any instance of catastrophic mass death. In Hebrew, the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews was called ha-sho’ah (the catastrophe) even before German forces began systematic mass killings in 1941. In Yiddish, the encounter is usually called khurbn (destruction).

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Yiddish (YIVO)

Yiddish is the historic language of Ashkenazic (Central and East European) Jewry, and is the third principal literary language in Jewish history, after classical Hebrew and (Jewish) Aramaic. The language is characterized by a synthesis of Germanic (the majority component, derived from medieval German city dialects, themselves recombined) with Hebrew and Aramaic. The word for the sun (zun) comes from Germanic, the word for the moon (levóne) from Hebrew, and the word for “probably” is from Aramaic (mistáme). The most basic fusion formula entails the insertion of a Semitic root into Germanic grammatical machinery, evident in such verbs as khásmen(en) (to sign) and táynen (to claim, express the view).

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Pale of Settlement (YIVO)

The territories of the Russian Empire in which Jews were permitted permanent settlement. Although large in size (approximately 472,590 square miles or 1,224,008 sq km), and containing areas of dynamic economic growth, the Pale (known in Russian as cherta postoiannogo zhitel’stva evreev;the English word pale was borrowed from the term applied to the area of English settlement in Northern Ireland, where the lands of the “wild Irish” were considered “beyond the pale”) was considered the greatest legal restriction imposed on the Jews of the empire.

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