Category Archives: Other resources

אינטערעסאַנטסטע באַגעגענישן אין מײַן לעבן: אַבֿרהם סוצקעווער, איליאַ ערענבורג און אַנדערע | Interetsing encounters in my life: Avrom Sutzkever, Ilya Ehrenburg and others

Lecture in Yiddish by Maria Pol’nikaite

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Lecture 3, semester 1

In this two lectures, you were introduced to an overview of the ghetto system, and a brief overview of music making in the ghettos.

For useful follow up, here are some of the recordings I mentioned in the lecture:

    • David Boder recording of ‘Dort in dem lager’ sung in Yiddish by Shmuel Edelshtayn (Holocaust survivor) 1946 at a Displaced Persons Camp near Tradate, Italy
    • Ben Stonehill [shtaynberg] recorded songs of immigrants to New York: ‘der nomen yid’  unattributed singer/informant in Yiddish Hotel Marseilles, New York, summer 1948
    • Numerous unattributed recordings from Displaced Persons camps: ‘Baym geto toyerl’ in Yiddish sung by an unknown singer/informant, Bavarian Displaced Persons Camp, ca. 1946
    • Some non-Jewish informants also: for example, Frieda Bursztyn Radasky, recorded in Turkheim, Germany, 1946, sings a ghetto song she learnt in Prague, ‘Treblinka dort’

Some useful resources worth following up as well:

 

 

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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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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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National Holocaust memorial design competition launched

[From The Architects’ Journal]

The government has launched an international design competition for a national Holocaust memorial next to the Palace of Westminster in London

The competition, organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants, invites designers, architects and artists to submit proposals for a ‘striking’ memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens (pictured) commemorating the Holocaust.

Schemes should include a below-ground learning centre, contextualising the monument and featuring audio recordings of British Holocaust survivors and camp liberators.

The monument and learning centre will together provide a space for quiet reflection and national commemorations while also signposting visitors to other Holocaust educational resources across the UK.

Announcing the contest during Prime Minister’s Questions today (14 September), Theresa May said: ‘We need to ensure that we never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons that must be learnt from it.

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David Hare on writing nothing but the truth about a Holocaust denier

This looks set to offer a fascinating insight into the Holocaust denial mindset: a dramatisation of the famous libel trial brought against Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt by right-wing historian David Irving

[From The Guardian]

3275In 2010 I was first approached by the BBC and by Participant Media to adapt Deborah Lipstadt’s book History on Trial for the screen. My first reaction was one of extreme reluctance. I have no taste for Holocaust movies. It seems both offensive and clumsy to add an extra layer of fiction to suffering which demands no gratuitous intervention. It jars. Faced with the immensity of what happened, sober reportage and direct testimony have nearly always been the most powerful approach. In the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, I had noticed that all the photography, however marginal and inevitably however incomplete, had a shock and impact lacking in the rather contrived and uninteresting art.

It was a considerable relief on reading the book to find that although the Holocaust was its governing subject, there was no need for it to be visually recreated. In 2000 the British historian David Irving, whose writing had frequently offered a sympathetic account of the second world war from the Nazi point of view, had sued Lipstadt in the high court in London, claiming that her description of him as a denier in her previous book Denying the Holocaust had done damage to his reputation. In English courts at the time, the burden of proof in any libel case lay not with the accuser but with the defendant. In the United States it was the litigant’s job to prove the untruth of the alleged libel. But in the United Kingdom it was up to the defendant to prove its truth. It was in that context that London was Irving’s chosen venue. He no doubt thought it would make his legal action easier. All at once, an Atlanta academic was to find herself with the unenviable task of marshalling conclusive scientific proof for the attempted extermination of the European Jews over 50 years earlier.

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When Watching Unbearable Tragedy Is Far Too Bearable — Especially When Ute Lemper Sings

[From Forward]

‘I’m a mother of four children,” Ute Lemper was saying, fingers toying with the handle of her coffee cup, “and singing these songs, telling these terrible destinies and tales of death, is almost impossible.”

Lemper sat across from me at Nice Matin, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The lunchtime conversations surrounding us hummed with an energy that felt unique to this day, one of the first that felt like spring; visible through the windows, trees weighed down with white blossoms lent a delirious beauty to 79th Street. It was, altogether, a somewhat jarring environment in which to be discussing Lemper’s current project: a concert of songs written by Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Unlike many who claim the title “chanteuse,” Lemper, strawberry blonde and dressed with a chic simplicity, lives up to its silky appeal. She’s won acclaim for playing Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and spent her career, which has taken her through Berlin, Paris, London and New York, in worship of Kurt Weill. In person she comes across as direct and unpredictable, moving with a pantherlike deliberateness. Beyond the glamour, though, she is a professional who wants to do a good job. As she sipped her second cappuccino, she grew eager to ensure that my phone, which I was using to record our interview, captured our conversation over the buzz. She joked, with genuine concern, that if she spoke louder she might hurt her voice.

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New opera ‘Out of Darkness’ questions essence of survival

[From Jweekly.com website]

Aremembrance-another-sunrise_normal_sizeJake Heggie’s new opera, based on the writings of an Auschwitz survivor, forced the San Francisco composer to deal with the definition of survival and the tremendous pressure on those who survive when others don’t.

“Out of Darkness” is based on the writings and memories of two Holocaust survivors. The first act, “Krystyna,” is the story of Krystyna Zywulska, a Polish dissident who wrote poems of defiance and set them to popular tunes so concentration camp guards would not recognize their cryptic messages. The second act, “Gad,” examines forbidden love between two men in dark times.

The work, subtitled “An Opera of Survival,” has its Bay Area debut May 25 and 26 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music after making its world premiere a few days earlier in Seattle. It examines what it takes to survive under unbearable circumstances, and how music and poetry can transmit the unspeakable across generational barriers.

“Memory is a very tricky thing,” Heggie said in an interview. “Trying to define dramatic, emotional moments in our life with words is very difficult, which is why songs and opera are the best way to explore, because they give it emotional context.”

Keeping such messages alive is why Mina Miller, the daughter of Holocaust refugees who lost all their family members, in 1998 founded the Seattle-based Music of Remembrance, which commissioned the opera.

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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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Still lives, distant voices: haunting recreations of 1930s Poland – in pictures

[From The Guardian]

1024In homage to Rembrandt and Vermeer, Richard Tuschman makes dioramas of Jewish homes in Kraków between the wars, full of wistful, troubled families.

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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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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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David Cesarani obituary

[From The Guardian]

David Cesarani, who has died aged 58 following surgery to remove a tumour on his spine, was the leading British-based historian of his generation of the modern experience of the Jews. He was also a notable commentator and broadcaster on the Jewish past and present, and took a prominent role in Holocaust education in Britain and abroad.

In the mid-1980s he led research by the All-Party Parliamentary War Crimes Group into Nazi criminals and collaborators who had come to live in Britain after the second world war. The result of this was an official report that evoked considerable public concern when published in 1987 and ultimately led to the creation of the 1991 War Crimes Act, which controversially extended British legal jurisdiction to cover war crimes committed elsewhere.

Lecturing on the history of the Holocaust to groups within and without the Anglo-Jewish community, which was a feature of his work in the 80s, led to his involvement in the British government delegation to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education and to work with the Home Office unit responsible for establishing Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain, which was first observed in 2001.

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די נאַצי־געשיכטע פֿון מינכן אינעם נײַעם מוזיי

[From the Yiddish Daily Forward]

וואָס וואָלט אַדאָלף הילטער געזאָגט, ווען ער קוקו הײַנט אַרײַן אינעם דאָקומענט־צענטער פֿון נאַציאָנאַל־סאָציאַליזם, וועלכער האָט זיך נישט לאַנג צוריק געעפֿנט אין מינכן? אַזאַ קשיא האָב איך געפֿרעגט בײַם דײַטשישן שרײַבער טימור פֿערמעס, ווען מיר האָבן באַזוכט דעם נײַעם מוזיי. פֿערמעס איז דער מחבר פֿונעם שטאַרק אויסגענומענעם בוך „קוקט, ווער ס‘איז צוריקגעקומען‟, וווּ דער מחבר שטעלט זיך פֿאָר, אַז דער נאַצי־פֿירער שטייט אויף בײַ תּחית־המתים, באַווײַזט זיך אינעם הײַנטיקן בערלין און ווערט דאָרטן אַ פּאָפּולערער טעלעוויזיע־מענטש.

דער סאַטירישער ראָמאַן איז איבערגעזעצט געוואָרן אויף 42 שפּראַכן. אין דײַטשלאַנד זענען שוין פֿאַרקויפֿט געוואָרן 2 מיליאָן עקזעמפּלאַרן פֿון פֿערמעסעס ווערק. דאָס איז אַ טייל פֿון דער אַלגעמיינער טענדענץ צווישן די הײַנטיקע דײַטשן, וואָס דערלויבן זיך צו באַטראַכטן הילטער נישט בלויז ווי אַ סימבאָל פֿון שוידערלעכער רציחה, נאָר אויך ווי אַן אָביעקט פֿון סאַטירע און חוזק.

די דאָזיקע טענדענץ איז פֿאַרבונדן מיט דער וואַקסנדיקער מאָדע אויף נאַצי־סימבאָלן אַרום דער וועלט. אויפֿן יוטוב פֿאַרשפּרייטן זיך אומצאָליקע פּאַראָדיעס אויף די היציקע רעדעס פֿונעם נאַצי־דיקטאַטאָר, און אין אינדיע האָט זיך באַוויזן אַ סאָרט אײַזקרעם מיטן צווייפֿלהאַפֿטיקן נאָמען „היטלער‟. הילטערס בלוטיקע ירושה ווערט הײַנט אויסגענוצט פֿאַר פֿאַרשיידענע קאָמערציעלע און הומאָריסטישע פּראָיעקטן.

דער נײַער מינכענער מוזיי פֿירט אײַן אַ וויכטיקע און אַקטועלע קאָרעקטיוו צו דער דאָזיקער סיטואַציע. דער צענטער שטייט אויפֿן שטח, וווּ עס האָט זיך אַמאָל געפֿונען דער ערשטער הויפּט־שטאַב פֿון דער נאַצי־פּאַרטיי, דאָס טרויעריק־באַרימטע „ברוינע הויז‟, לעבן דעם מאָנומענטאַלן „פֿירער־בנין‟. דאָרט, אינעם יאָר 1938, האָט מען געחתמעט דעם „מינכענער אָפּמאַך‟. דער צענטער דערמאָנט אונדז, אַז די גאַנצע שטאָט איז טיף היסטאָריש פֿאַרבונדן מיט דער געשיכטע פֿון דער נאַציסטישער באַוועגונג.

אויף עטלעכע שטאָקן פֿונעם מוזיי ווערן אויסגעשטעלט גאַלעריעס פֿון פֿאַרשיידענע אַרטעפֿאַקטן, וואָס ווײַזן, ווי אַזוי די יונגע תּושבֿים פֿון דער שטאָט האָבן ענטוזיאַסטיש אונטערגעהאַלטן היטלערן אין די 1920ער יאָרן; ווי אַזוי נאָך 1935 איז מינכן געוואָרן דער נאַציאָנאַלער צענטער פֿון דער נאַציאָנאַל־סאָציאַליסטישער פּאַרטיי; און ווי אַזוי אינעם יאָר 1939, ווען עס האָט זיך אָנגעהויבן די צווייטע וועלט־מלחמה, האָט מינכן געשפּילט אַ פֿינצטערע ראָלע אין דער נאַצי־רציחה.

במשך פֿון צענדליקער יאָרן נאָך דער מלחמה, איז איז מינכן אָנגענומען געוואָרן דער אימאַזש פֿון אַ גליקלעך, קאָסמאָפּאָליטיש און האַרציק אָרט. ס׳רובֿ תּושבֿים האָבן געשטרעבט צו פֿאַרגעסן, אַז זייער שטאָט איז אויך טרויעריק באַרימט ווי דאָס וויגעלע פֿון נאַציזם. אָנהייבנדיק פֿון 1945, האָט מען אין מינכן איבערגעבויט אַ סך בנינים, כּמעט אינגאַנצן אויסמעקנדיק די מלחמה־אַסאָציאַציעס. אויף די אָרטיקע הזכּרה־דענקמעלער, ווערן די ייִדן זענען דערמאָנט צווישן די קרבנות פֿון נאַציזם.

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Into That Darkness review – Gitta Sereny’s study of evil is chilling on stage

[From The Guardian]

In 1970, after being convicted of the murder of 900,000 people, Franz Stanglagreed to a series of interviews by Gitta Sereny. The writer wanted to know how an ordinary Roman Catholic police officer drawn into the Nazi war machine could rationalise a crime of such magnitude. In this gripping adaptation of her book, the answer turns out to be distressingly mundane.

Played by Cliff Burnett, hair slicked back, buttons fastened neurotically to the top, the commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp spends a dense and demanding two acts trying to explain his complicity. An eminently reasonable man, he admits to having felt various degrees of distress as his career brought him ever closer to the dark heart of Nazi policy. The best answer he can give, under the measured cross-questioning of Blythe Duff’s interviewer, is that by focusing on doing a good job, he could blank out the horrendous moral implications of what that job was for.

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Holocaust Grafted to Beethoven

[from the New York Times]

by Corinna da Fonseca Wollheim

FIDELIO-master675Santa Fe Opera Sets ‘Fidelio’ in a Concentration Camp

No audience members staggered out of the Santa Fe Opera House in search of assistance on Thursday evening after Stephen Wadsworth’s production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” inspired by Bergen-Belsen. This wasn’t Burkhard C. Kosminski’s staging of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser,” which last year upset audience members in Düsseldorf, Germany, so much with its graphic depiction of gassings and shootings that some required medical attention. Mr. Wadsworth’s concentration-camp spin on the tale of a political prisoner who is liberated by his wife after she has disguised herself as a man and apprenticed with the prison warden was perfectly tasteful.

As such, I found it especially offensive.

To be sure, Mr. Wadsworth is only the latest director to set Beethoven’s liberation opera in a recent political context. This summer, a former East German prison in Cottbus, which had once housed political dissidents, became the backdrop to a production of “Fidelio” that included former inmates in the chorus. There was a site-specific “Fidelio” at the former Soviet prison camp PERM-36 in 2010. Guantánamo has been a point of reference in “Fidelio” productions by opera houses in Seattle; London; and Melbourne, Australia.

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Wagner’s Anti-Semitism Still Matters

[from The New Republic]

Review of Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis by Michael Haas (Yale)

In 1909, in a best-selling book called Contemporary German Music, the respected Munich critic Rudolf Louis diagnosed Gustav Mahler’s problem: “What I find so fundamentally repellent about Mahler’s music is its axiomatic Jewish nature. If Mahler’s music spoke Jewish, I perhaps wouldn’t understand it, but what is disgusting is that it speaks German with the Jewish accentthe all too Jewish accent that comes to us from the East.” Still worse, Louis added, was the composer’s masquerade: “Mahler has no idea how grotesque he appears wearing the mask of the German Master, which highlights the inner contradictions that make his music fundamentally dishonest.” Anticipating critics, Louis calmly dismissed the charge of anti-Semitism as exaggerated hysteriabut his ideas and his rhetoric were directly descended from, if not a close paraphrase of, Richard Wagner’s infamous anti-Semitic tract Jewishness in Music, written sixty years earlier. Far from an isolated rant, Louis’s writing represented a thread of Wagnerian myth running through the very fabric of modern musical thought.

What are we to do with Wagner’s anti-Semitism? The recent Wagner anniversary has brought a predictable amount of equivocation and hand-wringing about the German master’s role in the history of hate. We know by now not to read history backward. A nineteenth-century composer who died in 1883 cannot logically be accused of personal complicity in a twentieth-century genocide. Yet that does not mean that the broader question of his responsibility for the spread of modern anti-Semitism can be simply ignored. The issue cannot be brushed aside merely by reference to the fact that, as Daniel Barenboim and other commentators relish pointing out, Wagner loved a handful of Jews (albeit conditionally) and that many Jews (even Zionists) loved Wagner. The fact that there were and are Jewish Wagnerians is not a coherent answer to the question of Wagner’s prejudice against the Jews. Irony is no disclaimer. Nor, conversely, does the musicological obsession over whether Wagner secretly encoded anti-Jewish tropes into his compositions matter much beyond the precincts of academia. The real legacy of Wagner, one with which we are still living today, is nothing less than the sweeping imprint of racial ideology across the length and breadth of modern classical music.

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Lincoln Center Presents an Opera Without Jews, Set in Auschwitz

[from Tablet Magazine]

‘The Passenger’ is a moving Polish Jewish-Catholic Soviet hybrid with a glaring omission. But is it a ‘Holocaust opera’?

The Lincoln Center Festival’s publicity for an opera titled The Passenger, aimed at New Yorkers eager for an unusual musical experience, is magnetic: a “forgotten Holocaust opera,” as the copy calls it, adding that Dmitri Shostakovich hailed it “a perfect masterpiece.” Completed by the Polish-Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg in 1968, much of the opera is set in Auschwitz. But beyond a few lines given to a Jewish character, there’s no explicit Jewish presence in this concentration camp. Seeing the work, it’s hard to believe: An opera set in the killing factory known for subtracting Jews from the world, and it subtracts Jews.

The main characters of The Passenger are two Polish gentiles and a German camp officer, surrounded by an international array of women packed into a barracks. They come from Warsaw, Zagreb, and other cities—and then there’s one Greek Jew. Her name is Hannah and she has so little to sing—“This star they pinned on me, this star I have to wear is the fatal mark of my death,” is most of it—that she’s easy to miss.

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This Day in Jewish History / Birthday of legendary Yiddish performer Molly Picon

[from Haaretz]

New York-born actress appeared in some 200 productions written by husband Jacob Kalich in the 1920s, later starring opposite Topol in ‘Fiddler on the Roof.

June 1, 1898, is one of two birthdays that were claimed by Molly Picon, the beloved performer best known for her work in Yiddish theater, whose career spanned more than eight decades. (One version says that her actual date of birth was February 28, and that her grandmother invented June 1 so that Molly could celebrate her birthday twice each year.)

Margaret Pyekoon was the daughter of Clara Ostrovsky and Louis Pyekoon, both immigrants to New York’s Lower East Side from what is today Ukraine. Clara was a wardrobe seamstress in the theater, and the little-present Louis a shirtmaker who had neglected to divorce his first wife before leaving for America. Molly later described her father as being “just ‘anti’: anticapitalist, antireligion, antilabor, and antigirls,” until he finally “faded out of our lives.”

At the age of 5, Molly competed in and won a talent show at a theater in Philadelphia, where the family had moved after her father’s departure. As a teenager, she gave up her studies at William Penn High School so she could perform with a Yiddish repertory troupe and help support the family – Clara and her mother, and Molly’s sister, Helen. The company switched between Yiddish and English, depending on the composition of their audience.

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Review: ‘A Replacement Life’ by Boris Fishman

Fishman’s comic debut novel offers a glimpse of Soviet Brooklyn


This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.


The star of the show is Slava Gelman, a “junior employee of a midtown magazine,” who does daily battle with his psyche to protect his assimilationist, Upper East Side life from the tidal pull of his first-generation South Brooklyn relatives. “If Slava wanted to become an American, to strip from his writing the pollution that repossessed it every time he returned to the swamp broth of Soviet Brooklyn, … he would have to get away. Dialyze himself, like Grandmother’s kidneys.”

Shortly after we meet Slava, his grandmother dies, triggering his reluctant hero’s journey, via subway, to “the swamp broth.” “Here was a foreign city, if you were coming from Manhattan. … This was still a world in the making. … These American toddlers were only beginning to crawl. Some, however, had already found the big thumb of American largesse.”

Slava is surprised to find his grandparents’ door unlocked. “(I)n this part of Brooklyn, eyes still roamed with Soviet heights of desire.” In the entryway, he suffers the suffocating embrace of an obese home attendant. “Like a Soviet high-rise, each floor of Berta was stuffed beyond capacity.”

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New Yiddish-language site for learners of Yiddish

Leyenzal is an online educational resource for readers and students of Yiddish. Every two weeks, users are able to download an excerpt of a novel, a story, or a selection of poems along with an original Yiddish-language lecture about the text. The site’s goal is to encourage active readership by making this incredible body of literature more accessible.  Lecturers include some of the most sought-after educators, researchers, and activists in the world of Yiddish today. The site’s readers include individuals, khavruses (learning partners), and reading groups who engage with the materials all around the world.

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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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New opera links Jewish, German legacies of Holocaust

[The Baltimore Sun]

Baltimore poet wrote libretto to ‘Lost Childhood;’ Wagner’s great-grandson was an inspiration.

On the night of Nov. 9, 1938, a well-orchestrated anti-Jewish pogrom erupted throughout Germany and Austria. Synagogues, businesses and homes were attacked, lives were lost. The vicious destruction continued into a second night.

The amount of broken glass afterward led to an infamous name for the incident — Kristallnacht. Through the shards could be detected the seeds of the Holocaust.

This Saturday, 75 years after Kristallnacht began, an opera about the legacy of the Nazi era will be performed in concert form at the Music Center at Strathmore.
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Classical Review: Israel Sinfonietta – first non-Jewish German music director of the Sinfonietta, or of any Israeli orchestra since the Holocaust.

[From the Jerusalem Post]

Justus Franz is the first non-Jewish German music director of the Sinfonietta, or of any Israeli orchestra since the Holocaust.

Justus Franz – pianist, conductor, Schleswig-Holstein Festival founder, organizer, educator and new music director of Israel Sinfonietta – opened the Negev orchestra’s 2013-2014 season with a program of two 19th century German masterpieces.

He led both with authority, presence and engaging musicianship: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (commemorating the orchestra’s fifth decade); and Mendelssohn’s infrequently heard Symphony No.2, “Hymn of Praise” (1840), based on biblical verses (mostly from Psalms).

Notably, Justus Franz is the first non-Jewish German music director of the Sinfonietta, or in fact, of any Israeli orchestra since the Holocaust.

Mendelssohn’s magnificent hour-long Opus 52 (in the shadow of Beethoven’s “Choral” Ninth Symphony) was composed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first book ever printed on movable type – Gutenberg’s Bible. It strives to echo biblical ethos, giving testimony to its manifold aspects of faith.

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Germany may charge 30 Auschwitz Nazi guards

[From the BBC news website]

German justice officials have said 30 former Auschwitz death camp guards should face prosecution.

The Baden-Wuerttemberg state justice ministry, heading the investigation, said 49 guards had been investigated, of whom 30 should be prosecuted.

The 30 are spread across Germany, and another seven are living abroad. They are said to be aged up to 97.

Auschwitz was the biggest Nazi death camp. More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered there.

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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.

Click here to read more and to listen to the podcast

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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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Anne Frank’s Diary in US schools censorship battle

[from The Guardian website]

'Pornographic' writing? … Anne Frank.Free speech advocates in America have slammed a call to ban The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank from schools in Michigan because it contains “pornographic” passages.

A mother of a seventh grader in the Northville school district in Michigan said late last month that Frank’s depiction of growing up in hiding as a Jewish teenager during the Holocaust, which has sold millions of copies worldwide, contains “inappropriate material”. She pointed in particular to a passage from the “definitive” version of Frank’s diary – which includes around 30% of extra material left out of the original 1947 edition by Anne’s father Otto – in which the young girl discusses her anatomy.

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Australia gives Holocaust hero Wallenberg citizenship

[from BBC new website]

Australia has made a Swedish diplomat who helped save tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust its first honorary citizen. Raoul Wallenberg was a diplomat in Nazi-occupied Hungary, and provided Jews with protective passports and shelter in diplomatic buildings. Many of the people whose lives he saved later went on to live in Australia. The fate of Mr Wallenberg, who was detained by Soviet troops in January 1945, is unclear.

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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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Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke returns to Mauthausen birthplace

[from BBC news website]

A woman who was born at Mauthausen concentration camp is returning to the site on the 68th anniversary of its liberation. Eva Clarke, 68, grew up in Wales after her widowed mother remarried and the family moved to the UK in 1948. She has contributed her Austrian-issued Mauthausen birth certificate to a time capsule for the camp’s museum.

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Anti-Jewish Demonstrations in Budapest

[from BBC news website]

Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party has staged a rally in central Budapest in protest at the capital’s hosting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Sunday. Several hundred supporters took part, despite attempts by the government to prevent it going ahead. Jobbik said the rally was a protest against what it said was a Jewish attempt to buy up Hungary. The party, which says it aims to protect Hungarian values and interests, is the third largest in parliament.

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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.

Click here to read more.

  • 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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USHMM Bibliography

The following bibliographies were compiled to guide readers to materials on various Holocaust-related topics. They list only materials that are in the collection of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) or available via the World Wide Web. They are not meant to be exhaustive. In most cases, annotations are provided to help the user determine each item’s focus.

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Extensive Bibliography in Holocaust Studies

Lisiak, Agata Anna; Vasvári, Louise O.; and Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven. “Bibliography for Work in Holocaust Studies.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 11.1 (2009): http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/clcweb/vol11/iss1/11

This is an extremely extensive bibliography for Holocaust Studies.

Click here to access the full bibliography document (links to pdf file)

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Aheym briderlekh!

This site is well worth a look if you’re interested in Yiddish folklore.

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The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive

The 400 films, selected for the virtual cinema, reflect the vast scope of documentary material collected in the Spielberg Archive. The films range from 1911 to the present and include home movies, short films and full length features. The Holocaust is extensively represented in the Archives film collection. Many of the films deal with the fate of survivors in the post-war period. An important exception, which provides testimony from the war years, is the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

Click here to access the archive,

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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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Florida Atlantic University Jewish Sound Archive

“The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries is dedicated to bringing the recorded music from the Golden Age of Jewish Music to a new home where its past will be respected and its future assured. In addition to its primary focus of rescuing and preserving 78 rpm records from the first half of the 20th century, the project has expanded its scope to include LPs, tapes, 45s and sheet music.”

http://faujsa.fau.edu/jsa/home.php

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Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive

The Archive was established in 2002 to provide scholars with: 1.. streamed web-based access to Jewish recordings that are not commercially available. 2.. related, searchable information that can aid in the study of Jewish music and culture, Jewish society, and the history of Jewish recordings. Bona fide researchers may apply for access privileges.

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~djsa/

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