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Survivors and Exiles

Yiddish Culture After the Holocaust

Jan Schwarz

Award Winner

Jewish Studies, Literary Criticism and Theory, Language and Literature, Yiddish Studies, Holocaust

Published: September 2021
ISBN: 9780814348833
Pages: 360 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 31 b&w illus.
Published: May 2015
ISBN: 9780814339053
Pages: 360 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 31 b&w illus.
Published: May 2015
ISBN: 9780814339060

After the Holocaust’s near complete destruction of European Yiddish cultural centers, the Yiddish language was largely viewed as a remnant of the past, tragically eradicated in its prime. In Survivors and Exiles: Yiddish Culture after the Holocaust, Jan Schwarz reveals that, on the contrary, Yiddish culture in the two and a half decades after the Holocaust was in dynamic flux. Yiddish writers and cultural organizations maintained a staggering level of activity in fostering publications and performances, collecting archival and historical materials, and launching young literary talents.

Schwarz traces the transition from the Old World to the New through the works of seven major Yiddish writers—including well-known figures (Isaac Bashevis Singer, Avrom Sutzkever, Yankev Glatshteyn, and Chaim Grade) and some who are less well known (Leib Rochman, Aaron Zeitlin, and Chava Rosenfarb). The first section, Ground Zero, presents writings forged by the crucible of ghettos and concentration camps in Vilna, Lodz, and Minsk-Mazowiecki. Subsequent sections, Transnational Ashkenaz and Yiddish Letters in New York, examine Yiddish culture behind the Iron Curtain, in Israel and the Americas. Two appendixes list Yiddish publications in the book series Dos poylishe yidntum (published in Buenos Aires, 1946–66) and offer transliterations of Yiddish quotes.

Survivors and Exiles charts a transnational post-Holocaust network in which the conflicting trends of fragmentation and globalization provided a context for Yiddish literature and artworks of great originality. Schwarz includes a wealth of examples and illustrations from the works under discussion, as well as photographs of creators, making this volume not only a critical commentary on Yiddish culture but also an anthology of sorts. Readers interested in Yiddish studies, Holocaust studies, and modern Jewish studies will find Survivors and Exiles a compelling contribution to these fields.

Jan Schwarz is associate professor of Yiddish studies at Lund University, Sweden. He began this position in 2011 after having taught Yiddish language and literature at University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Northwestern University, and University of Chicago. He is the author of Imagining Lives: Autobiographical Fiction of Yiddish Writers, numerous critical articles about Jewish life-writing, Holocaust literature, modern Yiddish culture, and Jewish American literature, and he is the translator of Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman and Abraham Sutzkever’s Green Aquarium: Stories from the Jerusalem of Lithuania into Danish.

What came after the destruction of Ashkenaz, a Yiddish-speaking civilization that once embraced the European continent, east and west? There came new cities of refuge, some reimagined (Vilna, Lodz, and Minsk-Mazowiecki), some real (Paris, Buenos Aires, and New York); new performance venues (like the 92nd Street Y); and a new poetics of remembrance. Richly illustrated and in loving detail, Schwarz brings us the story of how great writers, poets, and memoirists created a new Yiddish cultural geography far away from home.

– David G. Roskies, author of Yiddishlands: A Memoir (Wayne State University Press, 2008)

Meticulously researched and forcefully argued, this comprehensive study restores historical justice by introducing the neglected corpus of Yiddish Holocaust literature to the English readership. It reveals the drama of the transnational effort to tell the story of the destruction of the East European Yiddishland by the survivors who found themselves scattered around the globe.

– Mikhail Krutikov, professor of Judaic studies at the University of Michigan

Survivors and Exiles fills significant gaps in Jewish literary history during the important years following the Holocaust. Bringing into the mix writers whose work has been little known or examined, reframing the works of better known writers and poets, and reconstructing Yiddish literary culture, Schwarz’s book makes an original and important contribution to literary studies, Yiddish cultural studies, American literature, and other fields.

– Sara Horowitz, Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University

  • Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies - Result: Honorable Mention