The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
(A Companion to MENDELE)

Contents of Vol. 12.007 [Sequential No. 198]
Date: 16 March 2008

1) This issue of TMR (ed).
2) Yelena Shmulenson on vizgen
3) Holocaust, Shoah, Khurbm
4) Jewish Heroism in the Khurbm Period
5) More on “Zog nisht …”
6) More on Yiddish Partisan Songs (Hershl Hartman)
7) Regina Prager (Sholem Secunda [Sekunde])
8) "Regina Prager, di rebitsn oyf der bine" (Yoysef Rumshinski)
9) Regina Prager Sings “Von die Zweigen die Fidelach”

Date: 16 March 2008
From: ed.
This issue of TMR

In this issue we learn the meaning of vizgen, a "hard word" encountered in the second part of the long partisan story in TMR 12.006. Musing on the terms Holocaust, Shoah, Khurbm, we briefly address the tangled and difficult problem of how to name the greatest tragedy in Jewish history. Hershl Hartman discovers an English translation of "The Blowing Up of the Soldier's Home" (Yiddish original in TMR 12.005-12.006) in Yuri Sahl's 1967 They Fought Back: The Story of the Jewish Resistance in Nazi Europe (pp. 260-267). He also argues that secular Jewish circles on the left were aware of and memorialized the partisan chapter of Jewish resistance, principally the Warsaw Ghetto revolt, from the mid-forties to this very day. He is of course completely right on this point. I wanted to stress that the continued myth of total passivity has only slowly been challenged. I wanted, too, to point to the long and slow gestation of Holocaust / Khurbm awareness throughout the world. Hershl Hartman resumes the TMR discussion on Hersh Glik and we give one of the earliest essays about him, a Yidishe kultur essay by the then editor of that journal, Nakhmen Mayzil. It appeared in Yidishe kultur (December 1948), 1-7.  In the last three items we return to the famed Yiddish theater figure Regina Prager, a center of interest in TMR 12.003.  Note: Today we are more careful in spelling and write keyn mol – two words – rather than the older keynmol.

Date: 16 March 2008
From: Yelena Shmulenson
Subject: vizgen

Yelena Shmuelson writes: "The word vizgen is not a typo for voyen. Vizgen means 'to yelp' (from Russian vizzhat (verb) or vizg (noun). The sound is coming from the Ukrainian girls that the German officers are probably pinching or grabbing. Voyen really means 'howl or keen' and would not work in this context. 'Di hint voyen' – 'dogs are howling' is a habitual action when it comes to dogs, but when applied to people voyen has a negative connotation - grief, rage, pain."

Date: 16 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Holocaust, Shoa, Khurbm

Professor Cecile Kuznitz writes to the editor:  “I would like to know why you choose to use the Hebrew term shoah to refer to the Holocaust. Considering the forum, the Yiddish term khurbm, which has a much longer history and reflects the perspective of the survivors themselves, would be far more appropriate. I always find the term shoah grating when it is used in English, and I feel it is often a symptom of ignorance of Yiddish.”

My answer to Professor Kuznitz: “You are quite right. Living in Israel and speaking Hebrew the first word that comes to mind is usually shoa (also spelled shoah and often capitalized in English). I prefer shoa to Holocaust, but should certainly use khurbm in Yiddish contexts.” Professor Kuznitz is as aware as most of us are of the unsatisfactoriness of all proposed terms for the annihation of a third of the Jewish people in the twentieth century.  Anna Vera Sullam Calimani summarizes her essential essay on the problem as follows:
Abstract:  Over the past fifty years, among the most common names given to the extermination of the Jews during the Second World War are 'hurban', 'shoah', 'holocaust', 'genocide', 'final solution', and, by synechdoche, "Auschwitz." This article illustrates how the search for a name is emblematic of the difficulties encountered in trying to interpret this event and to free the question of its emotional implications. It explains why a term with religious connotations, such as 'holocaust', has come to be so widely accepted in the English-speaking world, and suggests alternative names that might be preferable to this mystifying term.  [ See: A Name for Extermination by Anna-Vera Sullam Calimani.   The Modern Language Review, Vol. 94, No. 4. (Oct., 1999), pp. 978-999.].   

Yad VaShem's Shoah Resource Center defines Holocaust in this article accessible from their lexicon.  Merriam-Webster gives both holocaust and The Holocaust, its definition of Holocaust denying sole reference to the Jewish tragedy.  There is much to be said in favor of Yiddish-speakers and Yiddish-lovers using – especially in Yiddish contexts – the term khurbm, although (like Shoa and Holocaust) it is problematic.

Date: 16 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Jewish Heroism in the Khurbm Period

Hershl Hartman writes to the editor: “In reading the Diadya Misha excerpts, I was moved by the need to translate them and struck by the feeling that I'd read them before. Indeed, they were translated by Yuri Suhl in his landmark book, They Fought Back: The Story of the Jewish Resistance in Nazi Europe, first published in 1967. Suhl includes "The Blowing Up of the Soldier's Home,"(pp. 260-267), "The Attack," (pp. 268-270), and "David of Yarevitch" (pp. 271-274). You write in the issue's introduction that resistance was "...a chapter of Jewish life whose heroism went unacknowledged for many years..." Actually, the broadly defined Secular Jewish Left honored and celebrated the Jewish resistance starting in 1945 with annual observances of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Those observances continue to this day and should not be confused with Yom HaShoah

Hershl Hartman has responded helpfully on several issues raised in TMR 12.006. He informs us of Yuri Suhl's 1967 They Fought Back: The Story of the Jewish Resistance in Nazi Europe, where Diadya Misha's "The Blowing Up of the Soldier's Home" and other of his stories are translated. My concern was principally with the Yiddish original, both text and actual pamphlet that served as its vehicle. Bibliophilically disposed as I am, I wanted to show that the very artifacts of the khurbm ('shoa / holocaust') experience are all too easily lost. We are grateful to Hershl Hartman for telling us of an English translation of the story.

I asserted that awareness of Jewish resistance to the Nazis – as opposed to the image of abject passivity – has much increased. Hershl Hartman reminds us of the Warsaw ghetto memorials observed by secular Jewish groups for over sixty years. Those who attended these meetings certainly knew of the partisans and their struggle. These meetings, however, attracted progressively fewer and fewer participants through the years – if only because of the slow attrition of a large Yiddish-speaking public. On the other hand, holocaust consciousness has perceptibly grown as witnessed by establishment of a Holocaust Day in a number of countries, the large volume of publications connected with this theme, the museums that have cropped up the world over, the educational programs in schools, colleges and internet. The grandchildren of Holocaust victims have been trying to get through to their grandparents, many of whom remained silent about their history for half a century. Hershl Hartman is of course right in pointing to early awareness of Jewish heroism in the Holocaust years. Memorial days for the revolt in the Warsaw ghetto, the publications and exhibitions of Kibbutz Lochamey HaGetaot, annual events in Warsaw, publications of memoirs and other signs made many thousands aware of heroic Jewish resistance in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, but the general view of the mass exterminations carried out by the Nazis emphasized Jewish victimhood. Recognition of diasporan bravery was slow to arrive in Israel. In more recent years there has also been a deeper understanding of the concept of resistance.

Date: 16 March 2008
From: Hershl Hartman
Subject: More on Yiddish Partisan Songs

Hershl Hartman writes: “Mayzil actually takes up the matter of ‘vaytn’ vs. ‘vaysn’, discussed by Leybl Botwinik, noting that it was the former version that appeared in the song's first publication in the Tel Aviv daily Mishmar, reprinted by Mayzil in Yidishe Kultur, May, 1945. Mayzil writes "We still consider that the version 'biz vaytn land fun shney' is far better." (Hirsh Glik un zayn lid Zog nisht keynmol, Ykuf farlag, 1949, p. 25.)  One may assume that Mayzil considered the originally-published text more accurate because "fun grinem palmen-land biz vaytn land fun shney" would describe Jews surviving from Palestine to Siberia, i.e., worldwide. Too, Glik had become a komsomol (young communist) after a period in the left socialist Zionist Hashomer Hatsair, and might have been combining his previous and then-current loyalties.  In regard to item 4, Yiddish Partisan Songs: While I salute the unnamed translator of "shtil di nakht" for maintaining Glik's rhymes, I offer the following, which was written to be singable in English while hewing closely to the Yiddish original. (Abba Kovner assured Mayzil in correspondence that the song was dedicated to Vitke Kempner, who had blown up a Nazi munitions train outside Vilna. Kempner later married Kovner and was a fiery member of the Israeli Knesset.)”

Partisan Love Song by Hirsh Glik (1942)

[English: Hershl Hartman (©1998)]

Still, the night is bright with stardust;
bitter cold makes harsh demands.
D'you remember the many nights they taught us
to hold a pistol in our hands?

A girl, in sheepskin, and a beret,
holds a pistol in her hand;
a maid with a face as smooth as velvet
surveys the Nazi caravan.

She aimed, she fired, and hit the target:
a lorrie, filled with dynamite!
Her pistol with but a single bullet
illuminated that dark night.

At dawn, she crept out of the forest,
with snowflake garlands in her hair:
inspired by the victory she brought us,
and brought to Freedom everywhere!

Date: 16 March 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject: "Hirsh Glik un zayn lid 'Zog nit keynmol…'”

Mayzil’s paper appeared in Yidishe kultur (December 1948), pp 1-7.  Note: file is nearly 8MB and downloading might take a few minutes.

Date: 16 March 2008
From: Joseph Landis
Subject: On Regina Prager (Sholem Secunda [Sekunde])

Sholem Secunda remembers Regina Prager.   Note: file is nearly 3MB and downloading might take a few minutes.

[from The Melody Remains: The Memoirs of Sholem Secunda (as told to Miriam Kressyn), pp. 111-113]. Note: The original Yiddish, as well as the English translation from which these selections are excerpted, ran serially in the Jewish Daily Forward from May 1969 to December 1970. The copyright to this material belongs to Professor Joseph Landis, whom we thank for permission to publish these pages.

Date: 16 March 2008
From: Yoysef Rumshinski
Subject: "Regina Prager, di rebitsn oyf der bine"

Rumshinski’s paper about Regina Prager.  Note: file is nearly 6MB and downloading might take a few minutes.

[from Klangen fun mayn lebn, New York: Farlag A. I. Biderman (aroysgegebn durkh der Sosayeti fun yidishe kompositorn)], pp. 429-433.

Date: 16 March 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject: Regina Prager sings "Von die Zweigen die Fidelach", 78rpm , 1909 (mistakenly listed as sung with Kalmen Juvelier).

(click on phonograph image to hear Regina Prager; from Judaica Song Archive)   

End of The Mendele Review  Issue 12.007
Editor, Leonard Prager
Editorial Associate, Robert Goldenberg

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