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The lost literary languages of Poland


johnny reb 24 | 4,293
25 Jul 2015 #31
Probably not. There are only about 4000 people who claim to speak Yiddish, and 3000 of them live in Hackney.

I have a very close friend that just published a book on the Yiddish language.
He studied it for years and is a master of it.
I will get the name of the book and post it the next time I talk with him.
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
26 Jul 2015 #32
Most Jewish writers originally from Poland, notably the late Isaac Bashevis Singer, wrote EXLUSIVELY in Yiddish! It was his primary language of literary expression. Although he doubtless knew Polish, along probably with German and some Russian, he never wrote in any other language (even English, I believe) even after years living abroad, i.e. in the States:-)
jon357 63 | 15,068
27 Jul 2015 #33
the late Isaac Bashevis Singer, wrote EXLUSIVELY in Yiddish!

Ironically, probably Poland's greatest writer. Very sad that Yiddish as a literary language is now almost dead.
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
27 Jul 2015 #34
Poland's GREATEST writer, jon??! Hmm, some might argue in favor of Mickiewicz, Tuwim, Słowiacki, or Iwaszkiewicz:-)
I presume you meant "Poland's most renowned YIDDISH-speaking author", no?
jon357 63 | 15,068
27 Jul 2015 #35
Nope. Comparing him to the ones you've mentioned isn't comparing like for like - two are actually poets. As a novelist, he's absolutely in the first rank and the literary language he chooses, one that was in his lifetime spoken by a third of the inhabitants of Warsaw, is very poignant given the sad events of history.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,770
27 Jul 2015 #36
Bashevis Singer was an excellent writer, one of the 'greats' IMHO
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
27 Jul 2015 #37
Like so, so many older Polish-born Jews I've known in my life, most prefered not to speak Polish at all. In my mother's own family, our bubba and zayde selig never EVER even uttered a Polish word in all the years I'd known them! Yiddish was the lingua franca in their household, and so it remained!
InPolska 11 | 1,821
28 Jul 2015 #38
@Lyszko: same for me!
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
28 Jul 2015 #39
Hmmm, interesting. A nice bond, thanks InPolska:-)
Malopolanin 3 | 133
28 Jul 2015 #40
I heard that after WW1 around 85% of Jews in Poland didn't speak Polish.
jon357 63 | 15,068
28 Jul 2015 #41
Remember that before WWI they weren't in Poland, they were in one of three empires and Polis was not the official language. Poland has a rich literary tradition among most of its various communities and Yiddish is a particularly rich literary language - there is Yiddish theatre in Warsaw even now, and hopefully this will increase rather than decrease.
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
28 Jul 2015 #42
Polish Jews had a markedly different status from either e.g. French, German or Italian Jews. Polish Jews were usually so segregated that they weren't even citizens until post-Piłsudki Poland! Small wonder that the majority felt themselves almost completely marginalized from mainstream Polish life. The highly assimilated minority of Polish Jews and/or half-Jews, such as Bolesław Leśmian, Julian Tuwim, Jan Brzechwa, Jan Keipura, Tadeusz Kantor, etc. are another story entirely. The latter were doubtless entirely NON-Yiddish speaking Polish Jews.
OP delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
28 Jul 2015 #43
Polish Jews were usually so segregated that they weren't even citizens until post-Piłsudki Poland!

Lzyko, I'm sorry, but stop speaking nonsense. They were recognised as Polish citizens just like every other person in the II RP.

Small wonder that the majority felt themselves almost completely marginalized from mainstream Polish life.

Utter bollocks. If you take one look at shop names from the 1920's and 1930's, you can see a huge amount of Jewish-owned businesses. Polish Jews (although suffering some discrimination at different points) were very much involved with commerce and public life in Poland.

If you take a trip to the Old Synagogue in Kraków, you can see election posters from those times. The names are very much Jewish in many cases.

Please don't spread such nonsense - the II RP wasn't perfect, but nor was it a country in which they were marginalised and persecuted en masse.

As for language, please remember that Polish was the language of the administration. Maybe not all Jews were bilingual, but most of them would have least understood Polish and spoken it to a certain extent.
jon357 63 | 15,068
28 Jul 2015 #44
Worth mentioning Janusz Korczak who was a great writer among other things. He chose to write above all in Polish, and although he was fluent in several languages (and I think had written in French) and certainly would have heard and used Yiddish as a doctor working some of the time among the Jewish community did not write or broadcast in that language.

His style of Polish, especially on the radio, was noted for its simplicity. A contrast to the verbosity of so many writers and broadcasters. In fact, his simple and reassuring language won the Stary Doktor many admirers.
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
28 Jul 2015 #45
Delphi,

The mere fact remains that they were held with much greater contempt by the peasant classes than by the aristocracy:-)
In addition, Polish-Jewish assimilation took place later than during Enlightenment Germany, for example. It's a known fact that in many countries today (although Poland is not among them), Jews are offered a different level of citizenship than non-Jews. Such was the case in the former Soviet Union, where, as in Nazi Germany, Russian-speaking Jews had a "Z" stamped in their passports as well as their identity papers!
Malopolanin 3 | 133
28 Jul 2015 #46
The mere fact remains that they were held with much greater contempt by the peasant classes than by the aristocracy:-)

Elaborate, please.
brunensis
28 Jul 2015 #47
"Poland's GREATEST writer, jon??! Hmm, some might argue in favor of Mickiewicz, Tuwim, Słowiacki, or Iwaszkiewicz:-)
I presume you meant "Poland's most renowned YIDDISH-speaking author", no?"

No , sadly the best known Polish writers are Joseph Conrad and Singer .They are widely known where the ones you mention hardly exist outside of Poland .
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
29 Jul 2015 #48
Conrad though, became an English subject, writing exclusively in English, not Polish:-) Therefore, he's listed among the greatest modern English stylists along with Dickens, Hardy and a few others.

@Malopolanin,

Poland's peasantry, as with those in most other Catholic countries in Europe, except perhaps for Italy where the Jewish-gentile symbiosis was more complete, was fiercely anti-Semitic, had been for centuries! The Catholic Church erroneously blamed the Jews, rather than the Romans, for the death of Christ. The rest is history.
OP delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
29 Jul 2015 #49
Such was the case in the former Soviet Union, where, as in Nazi Germany, Russian-speaking Jews had a "Z" stamped in their passports as well as their identity papers!

Lyzko, I don't know how much is just ignorance, but in the case of the Soviet Union, it didn't reflect what you think it reflects. It rather reflected the nationality of the passport holder, and Jewish people were recognised as forming a distinct nationality under Soviet law. Under Soviet law, everyone was obliged to state their "pyataya grafa" - which made sense given that the Soviet Union by name alone was a union of many, many different and diverse peoples. Yugoslavia had a very similar concept - in their case, sovereignty lay with the Yugoslav republics AND the constituent peoples.

Jewish people did not have a "different class of citizenship" in the USSR. They were citizens of the USSR and of their nationality.
Malopolanin 3 | 133
29 Jul 2015 #50
Poland's peasantry, as with those in most other Catholic countries in Europe, except perhaps for Italy where the Jewish-gentile symbiosis was more complete, was fiercely anti-Semitic, had been for centuries! The Catholic Church erroneously blamed the Jews, rather than the Romans, for the death of Christ. The rest is history.

And it was one way street and had nothing to do with Arenda System and other forms of exploitation of peasants? Do you claim also Jews were held in stronger contempt than peasants(among others by Jews)? Do you think Jews were more discriminated and treated worse than peasants?
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
29 Jul 2015 #51
As the peasants were Christians and the Jews weren't, the answer's an unequivocal "yes"!

Delphi,

Jews had the stamp "Jew"/"ZHYD" inside their passports in order to separate them from the rest of the (mostly, vastly) non-Jewish Soviet population. Ignorance? To whose ignorance are you referring, pray? You mean they were "equal" as citizens merely so long as they remained separate from the rest of the Russian nation??? What kind of freedom's that? Answer: the Communist kind:-)
OP delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
29 Jul 2015 #52
Lyzko, stop! You are referring to nothing more than the nationality marker that ALL nationalities had within their internal passports. It wasn't anything peculiar to Jewish people except the fact that they were recognised as a nationality (narod) in their own right. Even within Soviet Russia, there was an astonishing amount of nationalities - and one was not only a citizen of the USSR, but also a citizen belonging to their own nationality too. Theoretically, a Jewish person would have belonged to the Jewish Autonomous Oblast if you wanted to identify them with a particular territory within the hugely ethnically diverse USSR.

Yes, there was some persecution of Jews in the USSR, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the nationality marker in their passport. They were simply considered to be one of the constituent peoples of the USSR, on an equal basis to Estonians, Chechens, Ossetians, Georgians and all the many others.

The nationality marker in the internal passport really had nothing to do with Nazi Germany's policies.
Lyzko 25 | 7,009
29 Jul 2015 #53
Sounds to me like rationalizing, pure and simple! Granted, under the "wonderful" Soviet Model, ALL citizens of the Soviet Union were equal under the law of the land. Problem was, certain groups, i.e. the Jews, suffered terribly under Stalin's regime, rich or poor. Only if Jews in the Politburo for instance curried favor with the Kremlin, might they reap the benefits of any other non-Jewish aparatschiki.

No soap, Delphi! Your argument all but confirms my own deeply held suspicions of any Soviet leader, especially the modern-day semi-Czar/dictator Tovarich Putin:-)

We should talking about languages on this thread
yehudi 1 | 432
30 Jul 2015 #54
Harry, Are you serious? Warsaw the Yiddish capital of the world? It once was, but we know what happened since then. Today you can hear Yiddish spoken even by children in many neighborhoods of Jerusalem and in some neighborhoods of Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak (a suburb of Tel Aviv). You can also hear it in parts of Brooklyn, where it's mixed a bit with English and has a Hungarian accent. Also among the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Antwerp. Basically it's still a common language among Hasidic Jews and is not dying out at all. But there's very little cultural activity in this language. The artistic Jews don't speak it anymore (except for old people) and the Hassidic Jews don't bother much with the arts. Yiddish theater is mostly a nostalgic thing. I don't think anything new is being written. On the other hand there's plenty of Jewish cultural activity in Hebrew in Israel and in English in the US.


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