The Holocaust Survivor Who Made the Nazis’ Language of Murder Decipherable

A polyglot and linguist who evaded Hitler by fleeing Poland for the Soviet Union, Nachman Blumental (1905-1983) returned in 1944 and joined a group of Jewish intellectuals working to document the slaughter of European Jewry. Gal Beckerman writes of the task Blumental took upon himself:

Along with an assortment of historians, ethnographers, and linguists, [Blumental] established the Central Jewish Historical Commission. They transcribed 3,000 survivor testimonies between 1944 and 1947, scavenged for Nazi paperwork in abandoned Gestapo offices, and meticulously preserved fragments of day-to-day ghetto life—a child’s school notebook or a food-ration ticket. And Blumental, from the beginning, gathered words.

In every Nazi document he came across, he circled and underlined innocuous terms like Abgang (exit) or Evakuierung (evacuation). He knew what these words actually meant when they appeared in memos and bureaucratic forms: they were euphemisms for death. A mission of his own took shape: to reveal the ways the Nazis had used the German language to obscure the mechanics of mass murder and make genocide more palatable to themselves.

His dictionary of Nazi words was, at one level, a desperate undertaking: if he could reverse-engineer the language, he might be able to figure out how everything he had known and loved had been destroyed. But the project had other, more practical functions as well. He hoped that such a lexicon would be useful for prosecutors during the many postwar trials of the late 1940s — three of which Blumental attended as an expert witness, including the trial of Rudolf Höss, the Auschwitz camp commandant. And he was aiming, too, at the future, for a time when the documentary evidence of the genocide might be indecipherable without some kind of linguistic key.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Holocaust, Jewish history, Language, Polish Jewry

The Palestinian Authority Deliberately Provoked Sunday’s Jerusalem Riots

Aug. 16 2019

On Sunday, Tisha b’Av—the traditional day of mourning for the destruction of the two Jerusalem Temples—coincided with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. While the Israeli government had initially banned Jews from the Temple Mount on that day, it later reversed its decision and allowed a few dozen to visit. Muslim worshippers greeted them by throwing chairs and stones, and police had to quell the riot by force. Just yesterday, an Israeli policeman was stabbed nearby. Maurice Hirsch and Itamar Marcus place the blame for Sunday’s violence squarely on the shoulders of the Palestinian Authority:

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Read more at Palestinian Media Watch

More about: Palestinian Authority, Temple Mount, Tisha b'Av