Dovid Katz, 30 July 2016:
VISITING YIDDISHISTS IN VILNIUS: Thanks to all who have reached out and been in touch. Sincere apologies for not being able to answer all. So I’ll try to sum up the thoughts shared with those I’ve met over these last few weeks. Wonderful that you are studying and teaching Yiddish, and please continue, please become fluent, speak, read and write so that we together keep islands of the real language (and bona fide Yiddish academic research) alive as best we can! As for the photographs taken with some colleagues, and the request to share them on Facebook only after the program ends, I have to say I’m not into secret meetings… On a much bigger issue:
How sad it is that “Yiddish” can be made such into a hapless tool of a state commission determined to revise Holocaust history. For those who can squander vast sums of taxpayers’ money on campaigns to “fix” the East European Holocaust in the European Parliament and far beyond, it is kind of easy to manipulate Yiddish studies, invest in campaigns of personal and professional destruction, and seduce comfortable American professors to undermine their own teachers’ and even doctoral supervisors’ life’s work. It’s even easier, in small and fragile subjects, to falsify the history of the field at Vilnius or even at Oxford.
Please remember that there are Yiddish values too. Yiddish cannot be separated from loyalty to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust (the last in-situ prewar Yiddish speakers—the civilization whose language it was in Eastern Europe), replacing it with some fetish of lexical, grammatical or musical highs as object of adulation, while the language and culture are triumphantly abused to enable far right revisionism of history that incorporates: glorification of perpetrators; accusations against victims who resisted; a denial of the history of the first few weeks (from June 22nd 1941) when killing of Jewish neighbors by “nationalist rebels” (who are still honored by the state) got underway before the first German troops arrived. These and other revisionist attempts are nowadays often components of the “Double Genocide” theory codified by the Prague Declaration in 2008, supported by the state-sponsored commission on Holocaust history that even provides directors of Yiddish institutes.
Some thoughts in Yiddish follow in the comment below. There is not the slightest doubt that history will make crystal clear the simple truth of this curious chapter in the cultural and political history of the field of Yiddish studies. For background please see www.DefendingHistory.com, and on these issues —
Also, some pages on the subject in the final chapter of my 2015 book, “Yiddish and Power” (Palgrave Macmillan).