So what have they done to our very Yid­dish so?

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - GER­ALD JA­COBS

be­cause he claimed that a group of 16 Poles, led by him­self, had fought for one day along­side the ZZW at Mu­ra­nowska; his son had died in the fight. Thus, Yad Vashem early on recog­nised the ZZW as such. The prob­lem was that, as it was later proved, Iwan­ski, a cheat and a liar, never had a son (only an il­le­git­i­mate daugh­ter), never set foot in the ghetto, and had in­vented the whole story, prob­a­bly at the be­hest of the post­war Com­mu­nist regime in Poland in or­der to set one group of Jews against the other. Two ex­cel­lent his­to­ri­ans, Dar­iusz Libionka of Poland and Laurence Wein­baum of Is­rael, col­lab­o­rated in writ­ing the his­tory of the ZZW, the trans­la­tion of its Pol­ish ti­tle be­ing He­roes, Huck­sters, and Sto­ry­tellers (War­saw, 2011); hope­fully a He­brew and an English trans­la­tion will ap­pear be­fore long. They iden­ti­fied the ZZW com­man­der as a young man (prob­a­bly 21 or 22 years old) who went by the name of Pawel Frenkel, whether that was a pseu­do­nym or not. The weapons the ZZW ob­tained came from a shady group of Pol­ish wheel­ers and deal­ers, called the “Se­cu­rity Corps” (Kor­pus Bezpeczienstwa, or KB), who may have main­tained some con­tact with the Ger­mans, and in any case were treated with great sus­pi­cion by the main­stream Pol­ish Un­der­ground, the “Home Army” (Ar­mja Kra­jowa or AK). KB were out to get money, and the ZZW paid for the arms by forc­ing Jewish smug­glers to cough up money (the ZOB did the same, with the bless­ing of the trea­surer of the Joint Dis­tri­bu­tion Com­mit­tee in the ghetto, David Guzik). One light ma­chine gun, and small arms in some quan­ti­ties, were ob­tained. The ZOB was ini­tially re­fused all help by the AK com­mand, and then given a num­ber of Im­ages from the Up­ris­ing: Fire breaks out (main pic­ture); two Jewish re­sis­tance fight­ers ar­rested by Ger­man troops (top right), Nazi sol­diers ques­tion Jews hand­guns, and in­struc­tion how to make hand grenades and elec­tri­cally ac­ti­vated mines.

The ZZW fought valiantly at Mu­ra­nowska, for three days; ac­cord­ing to Ger­man sources, one Ger­man was killed, as were quite a num­ber of ZZW fight­ers. After three days, the ZZW re­treated through a tun­nel to the Aryan side, but they were there betrayed by a Pol­ish col­lab­o­ra­tor, pos­si­bly by some­one of the KB, and many were killed by the Ger­mans. The sur­vivors then re­treated to an area out­side of War­saw, but were soon found and killed by the Ger­mans. No one sur­vived, which is the ba­sic reason for the si­lence about them. There were two other, smaller, groups of ZZW in other ar­eas of the ghetto. The num­ber of ZZW fight­ers is es­ti­mated to have been about 80 at Mu­ra­nowska, and a few dozen in the other places, to­gether prob­a­bly some 120-130 at most.

ZOB com­prised, not as we had thought (and I for one had writ­ten), 400 to 500 fight­ers, but prob­a­bly 250 to 300. We wrote that it com­prised 22 or 23 groups, or­gan­ised by po­lit­i­cal of move­ment af­fil­i­a­tion, and that the struc­ture was a top­down mil­i­tary one. We now know that the num­ber of the groups was in flux, the fig­ure of 22-23 be­ing an in­ven­tion, and that while Anielewicz, aged 23/24, was cer­tainly the charis­matic leader, he (just as, prob­a­bly, Frenkel of the ZZW) was the head of a com­mit­tee that made the de­ci­sions. Within the ZOB, the most in­flu­en­tial per­son, next to Anielewicz, was Zivia Lu­betkin. She was the wife of Yitzhak “An­tek” Zuck­er­man who was on the Aryan side try­ing, un­suc­cess­fully, to get weapons to the ZOB from the Pol­ish AK. Even that struc­ture slowly be­came ir­rel­e­vant, as ZOB groups, after the first few days, be­came in­creas­ingly iso­lated from the com­mand post (at Mila Street 18), and had to act on their own, at night. Party and Move­ment mem­ber­ship be­came to­tally ir­rel­e­vant, and the ZOB and the rem­nant of the ZZW merged as time went on.

The source for the orig­i­nal story of the ZOB were, as we now know, doc­u­ments and pleas di­rected first and fore­most at the AK com­mand which, con­trary to its claims, had enough weapons to sup­ply the Jews with con­sid­er­ably more than it did. In or­der to im­press the Poles and get more arms, ZOB de­scribed it­self as a typ­i­cally mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion, with a com­mand and or­gan­ised units. It was not, and could not be. Both Jewish groups were un­der­ground move­ments run by com­mit­tees at whose cen­tre stood charis­matic per­son­al­i­ties, first among equals. It was pre­cisely this loose, yet at the same time ef­fec­tive struc­ture, that made it pos­si­ble to with­stand the tremen­dous Ger­man on­slaught. ZZW, in ef­fect, par­tic­i­pated in it for three or four days, whereas ZOB units held out for months.

The over­all pic­ture has not changed. A hope­less fight, fought not for vic­tory but, as a fighter in Cra­cow aligned with the ZOB said, for “three lines in his­tory”. There are many more than three lines. It was not a le­gend, but a real event, done by very young and very real peo­ple who de­cided that rad­i­cal evil must be met with re­sis­tance, armed if there is no other choice. That, ba­si­cally, is the story. Kazik is still there to re­mind us.

Ye­huda Bauer is pro­fes­sor of Holo­caust Stud­ies at the He­brew Univer­sity of Jerusalem

MORE THAN four decades ago, the Amer­i­can singer known sim­ply as Melanie (sur­name Safka, rhyming with “Dafka” — which is kind of rel­e­vant to this col­umn) cre­ated and widely per­formed a great song called, Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma.

My theme here echoes Melanie’s sen­ti­ments, with the slight al­ter­ation of “My” to “Our” and “Song” to “So”. What I am say­ing is: Look What They’ve Done To Our So, Ma. For, as the word “so” is turn­ing day by day into a mean­ing­less ut­ter­ance, its wealth of real and po­ten­tial mean­ings is be­ing lost, in­clud­ing those that flow from what could justly be called “the Jewish so”.

For about a hun­dred years now, “so” has been threaded through Anglo-Jewish dis­course as an an­gli­cised ver­sion of the Yid­dish “nu” and is reg­u­larly in­ter­linked with it — So? Nu?

It has en­livened spo­ken English by giv­ing it an expressive ver­bal shrug: What’s hap­pen­ing? And a means of urg­ing some­body on: Are you just go­ing to stand there, or what? Or a sar­cas­tic re­join­der: You think I care? So many are the nu­anced (or nu-an­ced) mean­ings im­plicit in that one lit­tle word.

But now, “so” is no longer a ques­tion but an an­swer. Not a proper, re­veal­ing an­swer but a mere pref­ace to an an­swer. The in­ter­rog­a­tive Jewish in­fu­sion that has added flavour to a sim­ple English word, is be­ing drained away. Or, as Melanie sang about her song’s fate, “they’ve put it in a plas­tic bag and turned it up­side down.”

Not that long ago, on ra­dio and tele­vi­sion news pro­grammes, when the pre­sen­ter in the stu­dio cut to the re­porter in the field to ask for an up­date — “What are those Is­raelis up to now, Jeremy?” Or, per­haps, “Lyse, can you tell us the lat­est about the ru­mours that Ken Liv­ing­stone is go­ing to live on a kib­butz?” — the re­porter would re­spond by say­ing: “Well…” which is a con­sid­ered, re­flec­tive term in­di­cat­ing that the re­porter is weigh­ing up the mat­ter care­fully and thought­fully be­fore an­swer­ing.

Now, by con­trast, re­porters re­spond: “So!” Which is cal­cu­lated to leave a very dif­fer­ent im­pres­sion. The re­porter is in­di­cat­ing that things are mov­ing rapidly along and that he or she is on the case, mov­ing along with them. We live in a world in which re­flec­tion and con­tem­pla­tion are no longer val­ued as highly as they once were. Now, our news is con­stant, quick, dis­pos­able; our con­ver­sa­tion lack­ing imag­i­na­tion and lean­ing to­wards in­fan­tile con­formism. Tem­pora mu­tan­tur, as the Yid­dish say­ing has it.

Rather like the use of the phrase, “I’m good,” in re­ply to po­lite en­quiries about one’s health, which I must con­fess makes my spine tin­gle (not in a good way) when ut­tered by some­body over 50, the mod­ern over-use of “so” ap­pears to be un­stop­pable.

It has eclipsed the re­cent, rather en­dear­ing, us­age for ex­ag­ger­ated em­pha­sis, as in “I sooooh do not want to go to that wed­ding”, “this chicken soup is sooooh de­li­cious”. Or, in a lower key: “You are soooh Money­su­per­mar­ket” — in­ci­den­tally the most com­plained about TV ad for the past two years run­ning.

The new and re­lent­less re­liance on “so” as a con­ver­sa­tional prop is some­thing akin to the ver­bal tics of yes­ter­year’s inar­tic­u­lates, as in those painful in­ter­views with foot­ballers who would say “y’know” ev­ery other sen­tence.

But “so” has spread far be­yond such ex­changes. Just lis­ten to how many peo­ple struc­ture their con­ver­sa­tions as an agenda or menu of small points, each in­tro­duced by “So…”

Un­like “Omigod”, or the ubiq­ui­tous “like”, which is scat­tered at ran­dom through all kinds of speech, the newly spread­ing “so” is not con­fined to young peo­ple. Nor to any par­tic­u­lar class or level of ed­u­ca­tion. You can even hear aca­demics on Melvyn Bragg’s high­brow In Our Time dis­cus­sions on Ra­dio 4 us­ing it — re­peat­edly, even — to in­tro­duce their eru­dite points.

The de­cline of the “Jewish so”, with its in­to­na­tion bor­rowed from “nu”, is hap­pen­ing more or less in sync with the rise of the au­to­matic “so,” what Lenny Bruce would surely cat­e­gorise as the “Goy­ish so”. Just like the trans­mis­sion of ac­tual words, like shlep or chutz­pah, Yid­dish in­flec­tion and ges­ture has en­riched English.

And I’m sure that there are peo­ple who have grown up be­liev­ing that “so”, like “ag­gra­va­tion” and “al­ready”, is ac­tu­ally a Yid­dish word.

And that’s what makes it so sad. Bad enough that “so” as mean­ing­less re­flex has reached epi­demic pro­por­tions, but it has done this at the ex­pense of a piece of Jewish lin­guis­tic fer­til­ity — oy gevalt!

Yes, Ma, look what they’ve done to our “so”. Even LXÝW\ on Ra­dio Four use the new ‘so’


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.