Photographs of Eastern European Jewish communities, taken between 1935-1938, by Roman Vishniac.
notes on the images:
photo two and three: Jewish labourers in Verkhneye Vodyanoye, Ukraine, Zakarpats’ka (then Vysni Apsa, Czechoslovakia, Carpathian Ruthenia).
photo eight: Portrait of the wife of Nat Gutman, a porter, Warsaw.
photo nine: Malnourished child eating a crust of bread in the TOZ (Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population) summer camp in Otwock, near Warsaw. The Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population (TOZ) was established in Warsaw in 1921 to unite the Polish branches of the Saint Petersburg–based Society for the Protection of Jewish Health (OZE). TOZ promoted preventive measures against infectious disease, such as smallpox vaccines, and also addressed the socioeconomic roots of disease, including pervasive poverty, malnutrition, and unsanitary living conditions. Vishniac photographed TOZ’s headquarters in Warsaw and summer camps in Slonim and Otwock to assist with their fundraising efforts and to promote the activities of the camp to Jewish donors abroad. With the support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC), TOZ continued to operate after the German invasion of Poland, and attempted to continue its activities in the Nazi ghettos in Poland until 1942. Vishniac’s reflection, holding his Rolleiflex camera, can be seen in the young girl’s eyes.
photo ten: A Jewish boy with cattle, Carpathian Ruthenia.
"Sometimes children were forced to perform antireligious actions in school that were organized in the form of a game. Many respondents reported that the idea of Passover was connected with various unconventional activities. Samuil G., who took part in these events in a shtetl in the Ukraine, remembers:
[W]e had many interesting activities taking place in [Yiddish] school. First, older children, the komyugistn [Komsomol members] would come to conduct some activities for us. They explained how religion oppressed the masses in other countries. We played many interesting games together. For example, on the first day of Passover, they would gather us together and give each of us ten pieces of bread. We were given the task of going to Jewish houses and throwing a piece into the window of ten different houses. The one who was the fastest would receive a prize. We enjoyed the game very much, especially when the old, angry women came out of their houses and ran after us screaming ‘Apikorsim!’ [‘Heretics!’]. We felt like heroes of the revolution and were very proud. But in the evening we would all go home and celebrate the traditional seder with all the necessary rituals.”
— Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (2006), p. 41.
1: Jewish colonists, residents of a collective farm in Stalindorf, a Jewish autonomous subdistrict of the Kherson region (now in Ukraine) reading Der emes, 1937. (YIVO)
2: Der apikoyres, special fall edition, Kiev, 1923. The text reads: “The Torah is the best merchandise.” (via joanerges)
"[A]nti-Judaist diatribes were found throughout all types of Soviet Yiddish publications, from newspapers to scholarly discourses. At least seventy-four titles of specifically antireligious Yiddish literature were issued between 1917 and 1941. The Yiddish Communist newspaper, Der emes (The truth), became a leading forum for antireligous writing. The most intensive period of publishing antireligious literature was from 1927 to 1935. A special Yiddish-language periodical, Der apikoyres (The godless) was published from 1931 to 1935 by the League of the Militant Godless.”
— Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (2006), p. 4.
The municipality of Lviv, Ukraine, recently announced its decision to stop using Jewish headstones as paving materials.
The announcement follows a protest by members of the town’s Jewish community, who claim that hundreds of the old tombstones are still used as materials for construction projects.
In the years following World War II, the Soviet Red Army used the tombstones to build the town’s roads, sidewalks and the central Krakivsky Market, as well as for rebuilding structures that had been destroyed in the fighting.
The market was built on the site of a Jewish cemetery that had been devastated during the German occupation.
Authorities in Lviv have promised Jewish community leaders that the gravestones will be transferred to the only local cemetery that was not destroyed during the war, the town’s two main synagogues having been destroyed in the Nazi bombardment.
Some fragments of Jewish headstones were also found in villages outside of Lviv, and local residents said that they were waiting for the municipality or the Jewish community to return them to their original locations. Lviv authorities said that they will collect the headstones from around the city, if they can find the necessary financing.
No Place on Earthbrings to light an extraordinary true tale of survival that remained untold for decades. In 1993, Chris Nicola, an American cave enthusiast, was exploring the Ukraine’s “gypsum giants,” some of the longest horizontal caves in the world. Within this labyrinth, he came across signs of former human habitation: buttons, an old house key, a woman’s dress shoe. Locals told him that during World War II, there were rumours of Jewish families hiding from the Nazis in the caves. No one knew what happened to them; over ninety-five per cent of the Jews in this region of Ukraine perished in the Holocaust. It took Nicola nine years to uncover the secret that the cave survivors had kept to themselves after emigrating to Canada and the United States — now, they were ready to tell their story. Built upon interviews with five former cave inhabitants, No Place on Earth is a testament to ingenuity, willpower and endurance against all odds. In total, thirty-eight people of all ages wound up living in the caves for nearly eighteen months, until the region was liberated by Soviet Army — the longest underground survival in recorded human history. The survivors recount their harrowing experiences in this harsh environment as they learned to find food, water and supplies and built secret escape routes to evade capture or being buried alive. Director Janet Tobias brings their memories to life with artful re-enactments that vividly recreate this unimaginable existence beneath the earth.
Screening in Toronto at 3pm tomorrow (March 3, 2013) at TIFF Bell Lightbox, presented by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival with Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Buy tickets. [via]
Jewish organizations around the world are furious with the Ukrainian government … after a Ukrainian politician used an Anti-Semitic slur in a Facebook rant about Mila Kunis.
The man who set off the controversy is lawmaker Igor Miroshnichenko — who had written that Mila (a Jew who was born in the Ukraine) is not a true Ukrainian because she’s a “zhydovka” … a word that has been used as a slur against Jewish people since the Holocaust.
After protests by Ukrainian Jews, the Ukrainian government announced the word was OK to use because it appears in the Ukrainian dictionary as a term for a Jew that isn’t necessarily a slur.
Now, the famous Simon Wiesenthal Center in L.A. is getting involved — firing off a letter to the Prime Minister of the Ukraine to “express our outrage and indignation against the slanders of the Svoboda Party directed against the Jewish community in the Ukraine.”
In the letter, Rabbi Marvin Hier explains … the term “zhydovka” translates to “dirty Jewess” … and was used as an “insidious slur invoked by the Nazis and their collaborators as they rounded up the Jews to murder them at Babi Yar and in the death camps.”
The org. has called on the Prime Minister to “publically condemn this attack and to take measures to defeat the xenophobic forces that threaten your democracy.”