In Har­ness: Yid­dish Writ­ers’ Romance With Communism

Gen­nady Estraikh
  • Review
By – August 14, 2012
Gen­nady Estraikh is a for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Sovetish Heym­land who now teach­es at New York Uni­ver­si­ty. His con­cise book out­lines the devel­op­ment of intense Yid­dish lit­er­ary life in Com­mu­nist cir­cles dur­ing the 1920s and 1930s. Many Jew­ish intel­lec­tu­als saw in the dynam­ic new Sovi­et soci­ety a home where a sec­u­lar Yid­dish-speak­ing nation could take root and devel­op, both through Jew­ish agri­cul­tur­al colonies and state-sup­port­ed Yid­dish aca­d­e­m­ic and cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions. In the first decades of the Sovi­et Union, many intel­lec­tu­als opti­misti­cal­ly looked on as the des­ic­cat­ed pat­terns of tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish life were replaced by the Social­ist real­i­ty. The naïve hopes of a remark­able gen­er­a­tion were wiped out by the twin cat­a­stro­phes of Sovi­et repres­sion and the Nazi Holo­caust. This book will be of val­ue to both gen­er­al and spe­cial­ist read­ers inter­est­ed in Yid­dish lit­er­a­ture and in Sovi­et his­to­ry. Index, bib­li­og­ra­phy, photographs.
Robert Moses Shapiro teach­es mod­ern Jew­ish his­to­ry, Holo­caust stud­ies, and Yid­dish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Brook­lyn Col­lege of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. His most recent book is The War­saw Ghet­to Oyneg Shabes-Ringel­blum Archive: Cat­a­log and Guide (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press in asso­ci­a­tion with the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Library and the Jew­ish His­tor­i­cal Insti­tute in War­saw, 2009). He is cur­rent­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing Pol­ish and Yid­dish diaries from the Łódź ghet­to and the Yid­dish Son­derkom­man­do doc­u­ments found buried in the ash pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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