The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to MENDELE)
______________________________________________________
Contents of Vol. 07.007 [Sequential No. 133]
22 July 2003

1) About this issue of TMR (ed.)
2) Copyright Problems With Yiddish Literature (Joseph Sherman)
3) 1882 Letter from Dessau in Hebrew script (Elisheva Schonfeld and
Leonard Prager)
3a) Transcription. 3b) German translation. 3c) English translation. 3d)
Commentary.
4)  Letter to the Editor: About My Family Name, Szul (Roman Szul)

1)--------------------------------------------
Date: 22 July 2003
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: About this issue of TMR

a. Dr Joseph Sherman, Corob Fellow in Yiddish Studies at the Oxford
Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in Oxford discusses the
difficulties of copyrighting Yiddish materials.  Dr.  Sherman (who is no
stranger to TMR readers) joins the TMR at this time as an associate
editor.  We wish him great success and much pleasure at his new post!

b. 1882 Letter in Hebrew script:  Shown a letter in Hebrew script but
virtually all New High German, non-specialists are nonplussed.  This
issue of the TMR places its readers in this situation.  My thanks to
Elisheva Schonfeld for assistance in transcribing this hard-to-read
autograph letter (see
http://shakti.trincoll.edu/~mendele/tmr/letter1822x.jpg) and for the
German translation.

c. The family name Szul:  As promised in the last issue of TMR, Roman
Szul talks about his seemingly Jewish family name.

d. Coming issue of TMR:  Dr.  Yaakov Ariel  (Department of Religion, University of North Carolina), "When Missionaries Wrote in Yiddish: The Rise and Fall of Missionary Yiddish in America."

2)--------------------------------------------
From: "Joseph Sherman" 
Subject: Copyright Problems With Yiddish Literature
Date: 22 July 2003

           Copyright Problems With Yiddish Literature

                    by  Joseph Sherman

Given the current interest in publishing new translations of a wide
range of Yiddish literary works, the question of how to obtain legal
permissions for those works still in copyright has become ever more
pressing.  Publishers, whether of books or journals , rightly insist
upon translators obtaining proper copyright permissions before they will
consent to accept responsibility for disseminating such translations for
gain to the general public.

In this respect, as in so many others, Yiddish literature presents a
unique set of problems.  It is therefore timely to outline some of them,
and to invite comments and suggestions from other TMR readers --
particularly those with some knowledge of the law or with some
experience of dealing with these problems -- about how to establish a
proper method of procedure.  The outline I give here is drawn from my
own experience in this field, so it can obviously offer no blanket
solution to a large and vexatious matter.  However, some of the points
I raise may find parallels in the trials of others, helping to define a
general approach to the issue.

As I understand it, copyright automatically exists in any work that
appears in print.  Authors retain the rights to any work they publish,
whether or not they sign a contract to that effect.  In the first
instance, these rights remain in force for 75 years after an author's
death, so that any use made of an authorís work, such as republication
or translation, requires written permission and, in most cases, the
payment of a fee or of royalties.  Unless the author or his/her legal
heirs take steps to extend this original copyright, it expires after
the prescribed 75 years, and only then does such work pass into what is
called "the public domain", where it is free from all copyright
restriction.

The problem for those wishing to republish an author's work, whether in
the original or in translation, arises not directly in regard to the
copyright itself, but in the attempt to obtain the copyright holder's
permission for such republication.  Normally, such permission is sought
directly from the author, his/her agent, his/her publisher and/or
estate.  If permission is granted, a fee is negotiated and paid, a
contract with or without conditions is entered into by both parties, and
the work can proceed with all legal requirements having been met to the
satisfaction of both parties.  For the greater bulk of literature
published in Yiddish, however -- particularly work published before
World War 2 -- the position is nowhere near as simple; on the contrary,
it is immensely complicated.

To begin with the case of Yiddish books produced and published in
Eastern Europe, most of the authors of such work are dead, and it is
very difficult if not impossible to trace their legal heirs,
particularly when the Shoah and Stalinist repression destro yed so many
writers together with their entire families and a large bulk of their
publications.  Furthermore, no alternative approach can be made to the
publishers of such work, for either the great Yiddish publishing houses
of Eastern Europe -- Boris Kletskin in Vilna, for instance -- were
similarly destroyed, or the books were published by short-lived small
printing presses, and were generally paid for by individual subscription
or by funds raised by special interest groups such as "Jubilee
Committees" or "Friends of the Author".  In the case of work that
appeared only in journals, the difficulty of tracing the current
copyright holders is, if anything, increased.  Virtually all these
journals have vanished completely, from the smallest and most esoteric
to the largest and most famous, so it becomes impossible to know where
to turn.  Who would one approach today for copyright permission to
republish work that appeared during the 1920s or 1930s in Warsaw's
_Literarishe bleter_, for instance?  And where does one begin to track
down the legal heirs of any of the parties involved, from the author to
the editor to the publisher?

In all-too rare instances, especially where the author concerned has an
established international reputation, legal restraints are in force.
The family of Sholem Aleichem retains control of his estate, so here an
address exists where a publisher and a scholar can together go in order
to seek permission, but what is the position with others, equally famous
-- with the work of Y.-L.  Perets, let us say?  I understand that Dvir
in Tel-Aviv (at least until quite recently) paid royalties to the
Belgian Christian descendants of Mendele Moykher-Sforim.  If the
position is muddled with regard to the most famous of our Yiddish
writers, what can be expected with writers of lesser reputation whose
work is known and valued only by cognoscenti?

As far as I can make out, the position is only marginally better in
regard to work published in the United States, where there is
theoretically greater sensitivity to copyright law.  True, very often
the publishing houses have ceased to exist -- Morris Sklarsky in New
York, for instance -- but it is generally easier, though laborious, to
track down, through extensive advertising or personal contact, those
surviving members of an authorís family who could lay legitimate claim
to the copyright of a father, a g randfather or even a
great-grandfather's work:  here one thinks of David Mazower,
great-grandson of Sholem Asch, who protects the Asch estate.  In the
case of newspapers and journals, also, some (like _Forverts_) still
exist, or (like _Tsukunft_) have ceased publication within living
memory, so approaches for permission can be made to the current
editorship or editorial control boards.  The whole position, however,
still remains muddied.  How do those approached establish their legal
bona fides to a contemporary publisher fearful of possible litigation
for improper usage?  If such bona fides can be established, are
royalties payable to those who grant permission?  If so, on what basis
are the precise sums of these royalties to be calculated?

Further and even deeper complications arise in the case of Yiddish books
that are the products of collaboration, for instance between an author
and an illustrator-artist.  When the artist concerned has achieved
international fame, the problem multiplies.  As is well known, in his
early years, Marc Chagall illustrated a number of Yiddish works
published in book form before leaving Russia; El Lissitzky did the same.
To whom does one turn to obtain permission for reproducing material from
these books, or inde ed republishing facsimiles of the works as a whole?
Such publications are intrinsically of the utmost value, and extremely
rare into the bargain.  The facsimile packet of eleven short works by
Soviet authors and artists issued by the Hebrew University for the
thirtieth anniversary of that infamous day, 12 August 1952, was limited
to five hundred numbered copies.(1) Its compilation and publication was
an act of homage and piety for which the necessary permissions had
doubtless been sought and willingly granted.  The left inside cover of
each volume tells us:  "der hebreisher universitet in yerusholaim / der
institut far yidishe visnshaftn / di yidish-opteylung / der tsenter far
der forshung / tsuzamen mit der natsyonaler / un universitet biblyotek
in yerusholaim / gibn aroys di dozike bibliofilishe oysgabe / in finf
hundert numerirte ekzemplaren / tsum draysikstn yortsayt fun der
ekzekutsye / fun di yidishe shraybers in ratn-farband / di oysgabe iz
dermeglekht gevorn a dank di hilf / fun dem tel-oviver fond far kultur
un kunst un / dem tsunzer-fond baym institut far yidishe visnshaftn / in
hebreishn universitet."

It would be a publishing achievement of the highest order for a
contemporary commercial publisher to reproduce more of such facsimiles,
in which Ė as originally designed -- the Yiddish typography is
formalistically intertwined with the illustrative material. Yet what
publisher would risk publishing a book containing Chagall illustrations
without the permission of the Chagall estate?  Such permission was
presumably granted in the case of the numbered (but not full-colored)
facsimile edition noted above.  Work from the gifted pen of El
Lissitzky, which in original form commands very high prices on the
current open art market, presents the same copyright challenge.  And in
the case of such a joint work, the publisher would need to obtain and
pay for permission from the estates of both author and illustrator.
Where does the publisher turn first?

Such instances raise a further extremely vexed problem, that of
copyright law in relation to the former USSR.  As is well known, the
Soviet Union was never a signatory to the Berne Convention that
regulates international copyright law, with the result that for many
decades American and European literary works approved by the Communist
Party apparatus were freely translated into Russian, published and
widely disseminated without any royalties being paid to the authors or
their estates.  Stalin himself read the work of Steinbeck and
Hemingway, as annotated copies of their books in his library confirm.
Works published in Yiddish in the Soviet Union are therefore,
theoretically at least, out of international copyright in terms of the
Berne Convention itself, even when the required 75 years have not
elapsed since the ascertainable death date of the authors concerned.
The difficult problem of what to do about copyright in respect of Soviet
Yiddish writing is then compounded by the tragedy of Stalin's vicious
anti -Jewish purges of the late 1940s, when the cream of Soviet Yiddish
writers and intellectuals were murdered, and their work banned together
with all Jewish cultural activity from the time of Stalin's death in
1953 until the beginning of Khrushchev's "thaw" in the early 1960s.
Whom does one approach for permission to publish, either in the original
or in translation, Soviet Yiddish works that appeared at any time
between 1924 and 1991 and are therefore still in copyright, at least in
terms of both morality and international law?

My personal experience with the work of Dovid Bergelson does not solve
the problem for all the writers concerned.  When I was preparing my
recent translation of Bergelson's _Opgang_ for the Modern Language
Association, I was happily successful in tracing Bergelson's son and
granddaughter, both professors in universities.  Both these members of
Bergelson's immediate family were exceptionally generous and
accommodating, and freely granted permission for his work to be
translated and published.  They expressed appreciation for the fact that
Bergelson's brilliant work would now be made available to a wider
readership through the medium of translation into English.  But where is
one to trace the family of other fine Soviet writers?

I am aware that much of the Yiddish poetry of the Soviet period has been
republished, both in Yiddish original and in English translation, but I
am not clear about what arrangements, if any, were made to obtain the
necessary legal permissions.  If none were made, and the work was
republished without legal permission having been obtained, one may
applaud the enterprise and dedication of the scholars, translators and
publishers who ensured the appearance and distribution of this valuable
work, and be grateful indeed that it has been made widely available,
but the question of permissions is not solved, and continues to trouble.
Publishers prepared to risk putting out a few poems and covering
themselves by making the standard statement on the obverse imprint page
that "the publishers will be happy to make arrangements with the
copyright holders on application", would certainly not feel as easy
about doing the same with major novels, any one of which might perhaps
become a best-seller.  What then?

Less successful, and far more complicated, were my efforts to trace the
legal heirs of estates of a number of South African Yiddish writers
whose work I wished to include in my anthology of South African Yiddish
stories in English translation, entitled _From A Land Far Off_ (Cape
Town, 1987).  While the Yiddish publishing house that had issued a
number of books by the authors I chose still existed at the time, and
though I was personally well acquainted with the owner of that press, he
was rightly unwilling to give permission for the translation of the work
of others.  He was most helpful in assisting me to contact the members
of several families who still lived in South Africa, but as for children
and grandchildren who had emigrated, the task was hopeless.  Several
other stories that I wished to include, written by authors since
deceased, had appeared not in book form but in short-lived South African
Yiddish journals, and where immediate family members of such writers
could not be contacted, there was nowhere else to turn.  Intense
negotiation with my publishers settled on the inevitable compromise --
in the copyright acknowledgements that appeared in the normal place in
the finished book, they offered to come to terms with the families when
these could be located.  This was in fact all that could be done, unless
one were to omit several important writers whose work would then have
languished in even greater obscurity than is now the case.

What is to be done?  On one hand, every person professionally concerned
with Yiddish literature is anxious for its best and most representative
work to be made available to a wider readership, which nowadays means
the vast majority of interested readers who know no Yiddish.  The
current attention to, and enthusiasm for, translating many more Yiddish
novels, histories and essays is greatly to be welcomed, and the crest of
the present wave of publishing and reader interest should and must be
ridden as exhaustively as possible.  From the point of view of those
who love Yiddish literature, therefore, the driving imperative is to get
the work out in print and exposed to fresh generations of readers as
quickly and as skilfully as possible.  But this priority is not shared
by publishers, who understandably need assured legal authority for
publishing, since the threat of litigation is real and menacing.

By and large, as I understand it, the situation in regard to Yiddish
authors who lived and worked in the USA is somewhat easier, as I have
suggested above.  Extensive (though costly) advertising will certainly
bring to light families and heirs who can lay claim to the estates
concerned and can grant the necessary permissions.  But this does not
solve the problem of authors who worked and published elsewhere, least
of all in the Eastern Bloc.

For want of better suggestions of what to do, I offer the following
illustrations from my own recent experience.  I consulted a publisher
friend over these questions, and his advice -- not necessarily shared by
other publishers with less enthusiasm for making Yiddish literature
available -- was to give the usual copyright assurances on the obverse
imprint page of the published book, and then to set aside a fixed sum,
between 5 and 7 per cent of the gross takings, as a royalty payment in
the event of a legal claimant coming forward.  In other words, he urged
publication first, with concomitant provision made for acknowledging and
paying for permission in the future.  This seems both an honourable and
practical way of going forward, but I know it is not one that will be
acceptable to all publishers.  Publishers of academic books and
journals, for instance, are wholly resistant to this idea.

I recently wrote a book for which the publishers wished to use, as an
illustrative frontispiece, the title page of the original 1874 edition
of one of Ayzik-Meyer Dik's tales.  I had used a photocopy of this text
for my work on the tale, so it became necessary to ask permission of
the library that held the original text, and to acknowledge that
library's consent for the use of the image.  Costs were involved, of
course, in paying the library for the reproduction.  This arrangement
worked to the satisfaction of all concerned, and seems to me the
obvious method to follow with work that is manifestly out of copyright.
The library that holds an original edition then becomes the source of
permission for the reproduction of its images.

But what is to be done with the artwork of El Lissitzky or Chagall, or
any other illustrators less eminent but equally co-workers?  Some of the
very earliest editions of these collaborative publications are very rare
indeed, and it may happen that an individual collector possesses his
own rare copy, from which he wishes to reproduce text and images.  Who
is to give the copyright permission?  Scholars in the field may well
recognize the justice of such an individual's claim to possess a unique
single copy, since they are best placed to appreciate the rarity and
value of the edition; in their professional enthusiasm for the subject,
they may even concede the right of the scholar concerned to use the
material as he wishes, and may be grateful to him/her for doing so.
But this attitude will cut no ice with the publishers of journals and
books, who will unwaveringly demand legally recognised permission, and
will, in the last resort resolutely decline to publish work that has not
obtained it.

My own advice in such a case would be for the scholar concerned to spare
no effort -- however tedious and time-consuming such work will
inevitably be -- to pursue, through the efficiency of the Internet and
the e-mail, enquiries at every one of the major libraries of the world
to discover another copy, and then to obtain permission from the library
concerned.  It is extremely unlikely, even given the depredations of
both Hitler and Stalin, that an uncommon publication owned by one
scholar is the only copy ex tant in the whole world.  In an
exceptionally rare case, this may perhaps be so, but then the exercise
to establish that no other copy exists elsewhere in any library in the
whole world becomes even more important, for the value of so rare a
unicum would be immense.  Once its singular existence was proved beyond
doubt, then the copyright and permissions question would be partly
solved, though obviously a single copy of work by an internationally
famous and esteemed artist would still not be free of the claims upon
it made by the legal heirs of an estate, with the result that a
publisher would still hesitate to use material from it.

I have offered only ad hoc suggestions about an increasingly complex
matter.  Perhaps these few comments will provoke further suggestions and
encourage legal advice from other readers.  I sincerely hope so, for
three major considerations remain of the utmost concern to those of us
determined to promote Yiddish and its literature.  The first is that
translations of as wide a variety of Yiddish texts into English is a
most valuable enterprise, one strongly favored by the present climate,
and full advantage mus t be taken of it.  The second is that for reasons
of justice, honesty and law, it is vitally necessary to establish a
uniform procedure for setting about either obtaining, or announcing
intention to obtain, permissions to publish all Yiddish work that still
legally exists in copyright.  The third is the pressing need to alert
libraries and librarians to the necessity of acting as
copyright/permission holders not only for a great many rare and valuable
books, but also for books whose authors and their estates are no longer
contactable.  The opinions of major international repositories of
Yiddish books -- YIVO, the National Library at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, the
Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and
others -- would be of the greatest assistance.  I hope that the
questions raised here elicit positive responses to help us shape a just,
legal and efficient future course.

--------

1) This memorial portfolio was issued in 1983 and is a binder for the
following individual short works:  Dovid Bergelson, _Mayse-bikhl_,
Berlin 1929, litografyes un holtsshnitn fun Lazar Segal; Yekheskl
Dobrushin, _Farnakhtn_ , Kiev 1917; Shmuel Halkin, _Lider_, Kiev 1922;
Dovid Hofshteyn, _Troyer_, Kiev 1922, hile un tseykhenungen fun Mark
Shagal; Perets Markish, _Di kupe_, Varshe 1921, hiles fun Henrik Berlevi
un Yoysef Tshaykov; Der Nister, _Mayselekh_, Petrograd 1917,
tseykhenungen fun Mark Shagal; Shmuel Persov, _Sherblakh_, Moskve 1922;
Itsik Fefer, _Shpener_, Kiev 1922; Leyb Kvitko, _Foyglen_ Berlin 1922,
tseykhenungen fun Yisokher Ribak; Arn Kushnirov, _Vent_, Kiev 1921;
Yitskhok Kipnis, _Oksn_, Kiev 1923.

3)--------------------------------------------
Date:  22 July 2003
From: Leonard Prager  & Elisheva Schonfeld
Subject: 1882 Letter from Dessau in Hebrew script
(http://shakti.trincoll.edu/~mendele/tmr/letter1822x.jpg)

3a.Transcription

             An 1882 Letter from Dessau in Hebrew script

* = in Latin script
-------
An die Herrn Vorsteher
des Israel[itischen] Gemeinde zu Zerbst*

                                                Deszau  20 February 1822*


                                       shalom vekol tuv. sela !

1.  es izt uns dizer tagen mehadukas yrh ayn shutzgezuch des dortigen

2.  Louis Hirsch* tsu berichtershtattung tsugeshikt vorden. er gibt fur

3. er seit der tsvayterzohn des fershtarbenem Jacob Hirsch* s. A.

4. ferlobt mit der tochter des dortigen Moses Lazarus Victor*

5. velcher ihm sein in der seite gelegnes hoyz als mitgabe iber

6. lest. und ihn als kopfanding in seine handlung nimmt.

7. wir bitten sie also uns hieriber mit nechstem einen oysfirlichen

8. bericht in daytsher shprache mitsutheilen iber dessen karakter

9. sowohl, als oykh dessen fermegen un ob er nokh keinen

10. bruder in hiesigen landen oyf den shitsen wohnen hat.

11. in velcher ervartung wir mit ergebenheit untershriften

12 parnasav umanhigav ?d'kehila ?kedosha deso ['elders and leaders of
the holy congregation of Dessau]

13  avraham bar-yaakov   *  yaakov ben-?feivl   *   chaim ben ??
-----------------
yrh = yarum hodo 'his excellency'
s.A. = z[ichrono]"l[vrokho]

3b)--------------------------------------------------------------

German Translation

              An 1882 Letter from Dessau in Hebrew script

An die Herren Vorsteher der Israelit. Gemeinde zu Zerbst

                                               Dessau d. 20ten Febr. 1882

Frieden und alles Gute sela ['schalom vecol tuv']!

Es ist uns dieser Tage von seiner Exzellenz dem Herzog ( jrh) ein
Schutzgesuch des dortigen Louis Hirsch zu Berichterstattung eingeschickt
worden.  Er gibt vor, er sei der zweite Sohn des verstorbenen Jacob
Hirsch s.A., verlobt mit der Tochter des dortigen Moses Lazarus Victor,
welcher ihm sein in der Seite gelegenes Haus als Mitgabe ueberlaesst und
ihn auch als Hauptangestellter (Kopfanding) in seine Handlung nimmt.
Wir bitten Sie also, uns hierueber mit naechstem einen ausfuehrlichen
Bericht in deutscher Sprache mitzutheilen ueber dessen Charakter sowohl
als auch dessen Vermoegen und ob er noch keinen Bruder in hiesigen
Landen auf den Schutzen (?) wohnen hat.  In welcher Erwartung mit
Ergebenheit unterzeichnen.  Parnasav uManhigav ?d'kehila ?kedosha Deso
['Vorsteher der Gemeinde Dessau'].

[Unterschriften]

Avraham bar-Yaakov      Yaakov ben-?Feivel       Khayim ben-    ??
-----------
jrh = jarum hodo 'seiner Exzellenz'
3c)----------------------------------------------------------------------
English Translation

To the Leaders
of the Jewish Community of Zerbst

                                                     20 February 1822


                   Peace and Prosperity -- Selah

We recently received from His Excellency the Duke the application of
Louis Hirsch, resident in your community, for Protection Rights; a
report on him is requested.  He claims to be the second son of the late
Jacob Hirsch of blessed memory and he is engaged to the daughter of
Moses Lazarus Victor of your community.  The latter has allotted him his
house situated on a byway as a dowry and is also hiring him as the head
assistant in his business.  We therefore request that you fully inform
us regarding his character as well as his financial situation, and we
would also like to know if he has a brother in this duchy who enjoys
Protection Rights.  We faithfully await a prompt reply.

Elders and Leaders of the ?Holy ?Congregation of Dessau

Avraham bar-Yaakov   Yaakov ben ?Feivel    Khayim ben ..... ??


3d)-------------------------------------------------
Commentary

Is this letter "German-in-Hebrew Letters" with a smattering of Hebrew
words, principally at the beginning and end, or can we call it "Western
Yiddish"?  The authors of the letter regarded the Hebrew-letter medium
in which they are writing as substantially different from German or they
would not have specifically asked that their correspondent reply in
"daytsher Sprache" -- the Duke (or his officers) must be able to read
the requested letter.  Do they see themselves as writing in
"Juedischdeutsch"?  Werner Weinberg in his _Die Reste des
Juedischdeutschen_ (1969) claimed that "Jeder, der Juedischdeutschen
kannte, sprach auch regelrechtes Deutsch."  ['Everyone who spoke
Juedischdeutsch also spoke proper German.'] (p. 15) The copy of the
letter is somewhat hard to decipher in places, but it seems that the
authors have written _tagen_ for _Tage_; otherwise the German appears to
be grammatical.  But the letter was written by Jews to Jews and employs
Hebrew words.  These fall into the categories of a. salutations (s halom
vekol tuv, selah), b. formulas (yarum hodo), c. names of individuals and
terms of authorities (dukus, parnesim, manhigim, ?kehila).  The letter
employs a German equivalent of the formulaic z[ichrono]"l[vrokho] ('of
blessed memory'), which emphasizes its "Germanness."  On the other hand,
the use of the term _mihadukus_ 'from the duke' is not only Hebrew, it
may very well be Yiddish -- on the model of other Hebrew-origin Yiddish
terms with the preposition _mi_ (e.g.  _mikolshkn_ 'all the more so').
The letter provides no clues as to how the words were pronounced by its
authors and audience, and phonology is here immeasurably more important
than orthography.  Is it not conceivable that a Western Yiddish text can
_look like_ a German-in-Hebrew Letters one ?  (ed.)

Here is what two Yiddish linguists have to say about this:

Hugh Denman:

I don't think there is anything very unusual about finding NHG texts in
Hebrew script at this period.  I do, however, question the transcription
"Kopfanding".  Such a word is unknown to me and both the original
Hebrew-letter text and the context suggest rather "Kompanong", i.e. the
French word commonly used in German "compagnon" or business-partner.

Meyer Wolf:

In regard to the Dessau letter, I would recommend a paper by Florence
Guggenheim-Gruenberg for which I unfortunately do not have the details.
It deals with the Yiddish-to-German language shift in the pinkasim of
one or more Swiss communities.  The language of the letter looks to me
like the "Kanzlereisprache" of 19th century German pinkasim.

4)------------------------------------------------
                        Letter to the Editor

Date: 22 July 2003
From: Roman Szul 
Subject: About My Family Name

Dear Leonard,

I have no clear idea of the origin of my family name, which is Szul.
The problem is that I know very little about my father, from whom I
received the name.  He died when I was 30.  In theory I had a lot of
time to ask him questions, but in fact I never ask ed him about his life
and he never told us (me and my sister) about himself.  He was
uncommunicative.  Those few things I know about his life and origin I
owe to my mother.

He was born in a village some 30 km away from ours.  His father was a
tailor there and my father was his assistant until the outbreak of World
War II.  At the beginning of the German occupation my father went to
Germany (to be exact, to Austria) to work as a farm worker.  He must
have experienced hard times there, even hunger.  (I remember that his
pockets were always full of dry bread.  He never ate bread to the end
but put pieces in his pockets.  My mother explained to me that my father
was always afraid of h unger, so he instinctively saved pieces of bread
for "worse times").  After the war he must have spent time in an English
or American camp for displaced persons.  (So I guess because of the
knowledge he had of a smattering of English words.)

He returned home in 1946 or 1947.  Nobody in his family had survived the
war, except his brother who was an airman in Britain.  (I remember his
photo sent to my father from Germany under British occupation -- a man
in military uniform.  I don't know what happened to him later, as the
contact didn't continue).  At that time my mother was also alone.  A man
from my father's village who was living in our village introduced them
to one another and they married.  (By the way, that man saved a Jewish
girl.  She lived through the whole war in his home and after the war
converted to Christianity and married a boy from a nearby village.  I
learned this not from my mother, but from another person from my
village.  So, that man who brought my parents together probably had go
od relations with Jews in his native village before the war).  My father
was Christian -- at least I so remember him as being.

That his name, Szul, sounds Jewish I realised only when I started to
learn Yiddish.  I have two explanations for the name:  a German and a
Jewish one.  I know that my father's native village was established in
the 15th century by German settlers who were lat er completely
Polonized.  So, his name could be a corrupted version of a German name.
This explanation seems to me the most probable.  I can not exclude,
however, Jewish origins of his name.  Some elements in my father's
biography (son of a landless village tailor, disappearance of the whole
family during the Nazi occupation) resemble Jewish biographies in
Poland.

There is, of course, a way to clear up the mystery.  I would simply have
to go to my father's native village and investigate.  I confess I have
never been there.  My emotional ties to my father -- unlike those to my
mother, were never strong.  I will event ually visit my father's native
village and make inquiries.

Yours,
Roman
__________________________
End of The Mendele Review 07.007
Editor, Leonard Prager
Associate Editor, Joseph Sherman

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