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Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  128 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Paul Kriwaczek begins this illuminating and immensely pleasurable chronicle of Yiddish civilization during the Roman empire, when Jewish culture first spread to Europe. We see the burgeoning exile population disperse, as its notable diplomats, artists and thinkers make their mark in far-flung cities and found a self-governing Yiddish world. By its late-medieval heyday, thi ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Sheynere ligt man in drerd." They bury better-looking. Isn't that a very London thing to say? As a German- and English-speaker, I can read it, with a little thought. As a Londoner (well, estuary at least) I can imagine hearing someone say it on the streets of my home city. Or of New York. Or of Berlin. If you come from any of these places, you can only with difficulty remain unaware that Jews, and Yiddish-speaking Jews in particular, are one of the foundational communities that lend the city is ...more
Matthew Griffiths
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging discussion of the development of a fundamental and unique civilisation in Europe which as the title of this book aptly hints at is quite forgotten by most. The author does an excellent job of tracking the movements across the continent of the Jewish peoples, starting from the fall of Rome and how these communities eventually met back up in Central Europe. This book also charts in some detail the role that the Jewish people played in medieval Europe and particularly in Eastern Europe. ...more
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book while traveling in Cracow and visiting their Galicia Jewish Museum. As expected there dozens and dozens of books about WW2, but I wanted something that spoke to the thousand years before that tragedy. There is much we don't know about the interplay of cultures in Eastern Europe, about the periods when people got along just fine, and about periods when demonization was the norm. This book filled that void beautifully, coasting across the centuries both with the broad brush o ...more
Mar 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great start and a poignant finish but the central thesis makes too many generalized assumptions but it is loaded with fasinating facts. A little more about the late flowering in the 19th century would have helped but nevertheless I thought it all well worth the effort.
John Newcomb
A very entertaining synopsis of the Yiddish nation, its influence on world culture which skirts over several thousand years of oppression in a very positive light. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot say what a truly scholarly work on Yiddish civilization looks like, but I very much enjoyed this overview. Kriwaczek writes well and tells the story of this religious nation, now submerged under a rush of smaltzy nostalgia (aka Fiddler on the Roof) and tragedy.
There are a lot of fun facts here. The Yiddish language seems to have come from Regensburg in Bavaria, and I'm still not certain how to square this thought will my general impressions of Munich when I was there. And aside from Ger
Andy Oram
Feb 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Every page of this book taught me something interesting and usually
surprising--not just about Jewish history, but about Europe and
surrounding parts of the world. Kriwaczek has organized an enormous
amount of information into a beautifully written and well-flowing
narrative, and amply proves his thesis that the work and actions of the Jews were essential to the
development of Europe from the age of the Roman Empire onward. I'm a
little less convinced that their intellectual contributions--as
Mar 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book fascinating as it dealt with a subject that I know little about. My historical knowledge is limited to British history and the Classical period and I know little of the Jewish experience in central and eastern Europe. Unfortunately, I finished the book having retained very little of the information in it. The writer jumps between time periods, locations and historical figures in such a way that I occasionally felt my head spinning. This is a shame because his writing is good, s ...more
Apr 22, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kriwaczek again comes to numerous fascinating (unfootnoted, perhaps historically tenuous) conclusions, this time about Yiddish culture. I gobbled up his book on Zoroastrianism, but this one wasn't as sharp, writing-wise. It sits on my unfinished shelf, but the parts I read about pre-Yiddish European Jewish culture and about the German, Greek, Roman, Sephardic, Scythian, and Slavic roots of Yiddish civilization were very, very cool.
Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book about Jewish history is different in a refreshing way. With a focus on the positive instead of on the numerous pogroms and expulsions suffered by European Jews, Kriwaczek provides a vibrant and engaging look at European Jewish culture. If you have Holocaust fatigue when it comes to Jewish history, you should read this book.
Michael Steuer
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes hard to get through, but not in a bad way. A tremendously thorough and interesting profile of the history of the Jewish people in Europe, basically from around or before 0 AD, through today. If you're a history buff (jewish or not), this is a must read.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish-interest
This is a wonderful book filled with all kinds of things that I didn't know. It is also incredibly detailed and not an easy read. I'm so pleased that this book exists and will have to get back to it.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what would have been a more enticing title however I kept telling people this book was a better read than the title would imply. I learned an immense amount not just about Jewish history but European history and along the way realised how little I actually knew of the latter.
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Would give the author 5 stars for choosing a new lens for looking at history but would give 2 stars for how he goes about describing what he has seen through that lens.
Jul 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
That was a bit messy, but it was interesting.
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved reading it! Amazing book about Jewish history in Central Europe.
Michael Trup
Interesting and full of facts but a bit of a slog
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Lizy Meir
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PAUL KRIWACZEK was born in Vienna. He travelled extensively in Asia and Africa before developing a career in broadcasting and journalist. In 1970, he joined the BBC full-time and wrote, produced, and directed for twenty-five years. He also served as head of Central Asian Affairs at the BBC World Service. He is the author of Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation, which was s ...more
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