Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation

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Orion, Aug 25, 2011 - History - 368 pages
5 Reviews

In the 13th century Yiddish language and culture began to spread from the Rhineland and Bavaria slowly east into Austria, Bohemia and Moravia, then to Poland and Lithuania and finally to western Russia and the Ukraine, becoming steadily less German and more Slav in the process. In its late-medieval heyday the culturally vibrant, economically successful, intellectually adventurous and largely self-ruling Yiddish society stretched from Riga on the Baltic down to Odessa on the Black Sea.

In the 1650s the Chmielnicki Massacres in the Ukraine by the Cossacks killed 100,000 Jews, forcing those that were left to spread out into the small towns (shtetls) and villages. The break-up of Poland-Lithuania - a safe haven for Jews in previous centuries - in the late 18th century further disrupted Yiddish society, as did the Russian anti-Jewish pogroms from the 1880s onwards, at the very time when Yiddish was producing a rich stream of plays, poems and novels.

Paul Kriwaczek describes the development, over the centuries, of Yiddish language, religion, occupations and social life, art, music and literature. The book ends by describing how the Yiddish way of life became one of the foundation stones of modern American, and therefore of world, culture.

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Review: Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation

User Review  - Jeffrey - Goodreads

I cannot say what a truly scholarly work on Yiddish civilization looks like, but I very much enjoyed this overview. Kriwaczek writes well and tells the story of this religious nation, now submerged ... Read full review

Review: Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation

User Review  - Justin - Goodreads

I found this book fascinating as it dealt with a subject that I know little about. My historical knowledge is limited to British history and the Classical period and I know little of the Jewish ... Read full review

About the author (2011)

Paul Kriwaczek, an Austrian Jew, was born in 1937 in Vienna. He grew up in north-west London, where the Yiddish language and culture were still strong among his friends' parents. After a career with the BBC External Services and as a successful programme-maker for BBC television, he retired in the mid 1990s and lives in north London.

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