Friday, September 10, 2010

Creating a Dictionary during the Holocaust

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum sent me a calendar for 2011. It has quotes from diaries written during the Holocaust and is very moving. The quote for December 2011 caught my eye because it is from a Dutch Jew, Selma Wijnberg, who fell in love with a Polish Jew, Chaim Engel, and together they created a dictionary so that they could communicate with one another. In other words, during World War Two, as they were in a concentration camp, they were still living and loving and thinking about language.

The quote from her diary, written on 21 June in 1944, says: “This little book is for me…about the time that my man and I are hidden in a hayloft somewhere in Poland. I have the hope that I will live free again.”

The information about Ms. Wijnberg (happily, later Mrs. Engel) says: “Selma Engel, a Jewish woman born in the Netherlands, met her future husband, Chaim, a Polish Jew, when they were imprisoned in the Sobibór killing center. Young and in love, they made a daring escape with other prisoners during the camp uprising and found refuge with a farmer until liberation. In her diary Selma writes about Sobibór and her deepening relationship with Chaim, with whom she created a translation dictionary so the two could communicate with each other.”


Anonymous said...

Touching story. I would have thought that they would have been able to communicate in Yiddish, because I think almost all Polish Jews knew it at the time. But perhaps that was not the case with Dutch Jews.

Translation quotes said...

It’s a shame that you don’t have the ability to start any sort of discussion. If only we had some sort of system with which you could create a Fan-based discussion. Possibly one of two separate systems, a short “shot” version if all you want to do is spit a name out, or a longer, “post” system if you have an argument to make…

B.J. Epstein said...

I am not sure if Dutch Jews did in fact speak Yiddish. I don't think it was as wide-spread as it was in other parts of Europe.
Translation quotes, I am not quite sure what you mean.

Best wishes,