Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16

BookPolin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16

Focusing on Jewish Popular Culture and Its Afterlife

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, 16


November 27th, 2003



Other Formats



'This massive volume is a pioneering step in the study of popular Jewish culture in Poland ... a fascinating collection.' Shulamith Z. Berger, AJL Newsletter 'Without a doubt, an important contribution to the study of the folk and popular culture of Polish Jewry ... Such an important collection of articles ... must be read from cover to cover.' Itzik Gottesman, Forverts

Scholarship on the civilization of Polish Jews has tended to focus on elite culture and canonical literature; even modern Yiddish culture has generally been approached from the perspective of ‘great works’. This volume of Polin focuses on the less explored but historically vital theme of Jewish popular culture and shows how, confronted by the challenges and opportunities of modernity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it blossomed into a complex expression of Jewish life. In addition to a range of articles on the period before the Second World War there are studies of the traces of this culture in the contemporary world. The volume as a whole aims to develop a fresh understanding of Polish Jewish civilization in all its richness and variety.

Subjects discussed in depth include klezmorim and Jewish recorded music; the development of Jewish theatre in Poland, theatrical parody, and the popular poet and performer Mordechai Gebirtig; Jewish postcards in Poland and Germany; the early Yiddish popular press in Galicia and cartoons in the Yiddish press; working-class libraries in inter-war Poland; the impact of the photographs of Roman Vishniac; contemporary Polish wooden figures of Jews; and the Kraków Jewish culture festival. In addition, a Polish Jewish popular song is traced to Sachsenhausen, the badkhn (wedding jester) is rediscovered in present-day Jerusalem, and Yiddish cabaret turns up in blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and reggae garb.

There are also translations from the work of two writers previously unavailable in English: excerpts from the ethnographer A. Litvin’s pioneering five-volume work Yidishe neshomes (Jewish Souls) and several chapters from the autobiography, notorious in inter-war Poland, of the writer and thief Urke Nachalnik.

As in earlier volumes of Polin substantial space is also given to new research into a variety of topics in Polish Jewish studies. These include the origins of antisemitism in Poland; what is known about the presence of German forces in the vicinity of Jedwabne in the summer of 1941; and the vexed question of Jews in the communist security apparatus in Poland after 1944.

The review section includes an important discussion of what should be done about the paintings in Sandomierz cathedral which represent an alleged ritual murder in the seventeenth century, and an examination of the ‘anti-Zionist’ campaign of 1968.


Author Information

Michael C. Steinlauf is Associate Professor of History at Gratz College, Pennsylvania. Antony Polonsky is Emeritus Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University, and Chief Historian of the Global Educational Outreach Project at the Museum of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Editors and Advisers7
Note on Place Names17
Note on Transliteration18
Part I: Jewish Popular Culture in Poland and its Afterlife20
In Pre-War Poland: The Badkhn: From Wedding Stage to Writing Desk26
Remembrance of Things Past: Klezmer Musicians of Galicia, 1870‒194048
Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland78
Jewish Theatre in Poland90
A Tuml in the Shtetl: Khayim Betsalel Grinberg’s Di khevre-kedishe sude112
Mordechai Gebirtig: The Folk Song and the Cabaret Song126
Simkhe Plakhte: From ‘Folklore’ to Literary Artefact138
Between Poland and Germany: Jewish Religious Practices in Illustrated Postcards of the Early Twentieth Century156
Papers for the Folk: Jewish Nationalism and the Birth of the Yiddish Press in Galicia186
Shund and the Tabloids: Jewish Popular Reading in Inter-War Poland208
Dos yidishe bukh alarmirt! Towards the History of Yiddish Reading in Inter-War Poland232
Exploiting Tradition: Religious Iconography in Cartoons of the Polish Yiddish Press262
Afterlife From ‘Madagaskar’ to Sachsenhausen: Singing about ‘Race’ in a Nazi Camp288
The Badkhn in Contemporary Hasidic Society: Social, Historical, and Musical Observations298
Transmigrations: Wolf Krakowski’s Yiddish Worldbeat in its Socio-Musical Context316
‘The Time of Vishniac’: Photographs of Pre-War East European Jewry in Post-War Contexts332
Repopulating Jewish Poland—in Wood354
The Kraków Jewish Culture Festival376
Part II: Documents388
A. Litvin: Chronicler of Jewish Souls390
Excerpts from Yidishe neshomes392
Urke Nachalnik: A Voice from the Underworld400
Excerpts from Zyciorys wlasny przestepcy408
Part III: New Views432
Making a Space for Antisemitism: The Catholic Hierarchy and the Jews in the Early Twentieth Century434
Polish ‘Neighbours’ and German Invaders: Anti-Jewish Violence in the Bialystok District during the Opening Weeks of Operation Barbarossa450
Jews in the Polish Security Apparatus: An Attempt to Test the Stereotype472
Part IV: Review484
Review Essays: Some Remarks on Leszek Hondo’s Study of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Kraków486
The Last Controversy over Ritual Murder? The Debate over the Paintings in Sandomierz Cathedral502
The Anti-Zionist Campaign in Poland of 1967‒1968: Documents510
Book Reviews: Hillel J. Kieval, Languages of Community: The Jewish Experience in the Czech Lands524
Jacob Goldberg, Hahevrah hayehudit bemamlekhet polin-lita526
Kristi Groberg and Avraham Greenbaum (eds.), A Missionary for History: Essays in Honor of Simon Dubnow531
Israel Kleiner, From Nationalism to Universalism: Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the Ukrainian Question532
Konrad Zielinski, Zydzi Lubelszczyzny 1914‒1918534
Jerzy Malinowski, Malarstwo i rzezba Zydów polskich w XIX i XX wieku537
Kadya Molodowsky, Paper Bridges: Selected Poems of Kadya Molodowsky, ed. and trans. Kathryn Hellerstein541
Julian Tuwim, Utwory nieznane. Ze zbiorów Tomasza Niewodniczanskiego w Bitburgu: Wiersze, Kabaret, Artykuly, Listy, ed. Tadeusz Januszewski543
Stanislaw Wielanek, Szlagiery starej Warszawy: Spiewnik andrusowski545
Stanislaw Wielanek, Party na Nalewkach547
Jan Tomasz Gross, Sasiedzi: Historia zaglady zydowskiego miasteczka548
Burning Questions: A Film by Mishael Porembski562
Martin Dean, Collaboration during the Holocaust: Crimes of the Local Police in Belorussia and Ukraine, 1941‒44565
Jerzy Tomaszewski (ed.), Studia z dziejów i kultury Zydów w Polsce po 1945 roku567
Dagmar C. G. Lorenz (ed.), Contemporary Jewish Writing in Austria: An Anthology569
Romuald Jakub Weksler-Waszkinel, Blogoslawiony Bóg Izraela573
Correspodence: Exchange between Józef Lewandowski and Joanna Rostropowicz Clark580
Exchange between Dina Porat and Roni Stauber, and Alina Cala582
Obituaries Wladyslaw Szpilman (1911‒2000)586
Stanislaus A. Blejwas (1941‒2001)589
Notes on the Contributors596