Tuesday, October 15, 2013

R. Nahman of Bratslav and Aggressive Polish Nationalism

We have a copy of Jonah Spiwak's Yiddish play about R. Nahman of Bratslav. Published in 1932, this work predates Arthur Green's better known Tormented Master. According to the copyright page, this book was printed in Poland in the city of Vilna (Wilno). This struck me as odd as, despite the ever changing nature of Eastern European political, I have always associated Vilna with Lithuania. (How can have Litvaks without Vilna and how can you be a Litvak and not be in Lithuania?) It turns out that Vilna's status in the inter-war years was quite complicated with both Poland and Lithuania, both newly independent of Russia, laying claim to the city. Of course once World War II broke out, Vilna quickly came under Soviet control before falling to the Nazis. Alternatively, one can see this book as evidence of aggressive Polish nationalism. World War II was started by Poland which refused to give Danzig to Germany, Vilna to either Lithuania or the Soviet Union along with the rest of the country.   

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