The linguist Dovid Katz was mentioned a few years ago in this thread (“The best non-scholarly book on Yiddish is Dovid Katz’s Words On Fire“); now a correspondent has sent me a link to his home page, with links to an amazing variety of materials, including sample maps from Litvish: An Atlas of Northeastern Yiddish that are so beautifully laid out, so readable and informative (he even includes accents to tell you where the stress falls on Yiddish city names, and I learned that Mogilev is Mólev in Yiddish), that they make me want to drop everything and study Yiddish. (The e-mail also included a link to this depressing story about Katz’s being fired from Vilnius University for speaking out against “the trend of Holocaust Obfuscation which has gripped Lithuania and several other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.”) Thanks, Yoram!


  1. Even a Chernobyl Yiddish! Does that mean some southern speakers creating an island ’round Chernobyl?

  2. I heard a BBC World Service programme about Holocaust obfuscation a few weeks ago, which, if I remember correctly, included an interview with Mr Katz. Did you know that Lithuania’s “Museum of Genocide” makes no mention of the Holocaust at all?

  3. Wow. How depressing.

  4. Genocide in that context refers to Lithuanians suffering under the Russian Empire, then under the Soviet Union (armed resistance continued well into 1950s and early in 1991 tanks were sent in to crush demonstrations).
    It’s a huge and contentious issue, at times turning ugly, with no South Africa-type resolution on the horizon. The late Polish president Lech Kaczyński had the clout and the courage to move on it, his tragic death left a gaping hole there. If you are not familiar with the background have a look at this short article in the Economist.

  5. The temple in Kedainiai has been restored beautifully, yet unconsecrated, just being a museum was very sad to see, as I walked through. Growing up in a lith. family, many relatives would say that the jews were communist, etc, it was either side with the nazis or Stalin, and so on. My father told me a story of two SS guests for the night, sleeping on the sofas, as a little boy gazing at their hand grenades lined-up on the coffee table. Then, another day, he spoke of the friendly jewish tailor, and their commradery together. The double standard is legion this way; Loving an individual, but having contempt for the people. How many people privately think Obama is improved because he had a white mother? The demons of racism don’t go away with just wishful thinking.

  6. I’m very glad to see Dovid make an appearance here. I’ve had the good fortune to correspond with him a couple times (about matters linguistic, not political) and he is the rare figure who stands at the very top of his field in terms of knowledge, but still will entertain any question that a distant student might email him.
    For those of you who enjoy that sort of dialect map, you should check out The website is frustratingly laid-out, but it’s a repository of hundreds of interviews with Yiddish speakers from across Europe, all about the specific dialectical features from their home. For instance, the Yiddish of Kovne Lite (Kaunas to you), my ancestral home, apparently favors the word ‘dan’ over the more widespread ‘demolt’. And much more. Is a list of all the interviews, and coincidentally also provides a vast wealth of the sort of Yiddish placenames that hat was describing earlier.

  7. I found the article LH linked to rather sloppy. Everyone should actually read Snyder’s “Bloodlands”, it’s a very important book.

  8. Great links. My grandmother whose first language is Yiddish would mention when I was little about the “funny” accents the litvaks spoke in and give some example words but all I recall is about “humentashn” (we lived in Kiev).

  9. Dovid worked so hard for a new start in Lithuanian/Jewish relations only to end up banging his head against the wall of obstinant Lithuanian Holocaust denial. His webpage now has a section on the Lithuanian “Newspeak” of Holocaust obfuscation.
    (Incidentally I know of three synagogues in Kedayn; one has been restored very well but is of course usually empty of people…)

  10. For readers of Yiddish, here is a recent article about Katz:

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