The Collected Stories of Pinchas Goldhar A Pioneer Yiddish Writer in Australia, with an introduction by Pam MacLean. 2016. Stories first published between 1931 and 1947 in Yiddish
I was delighted today to stumble upon a collection of short stories by a Yiddish language writer who moved from Poland to Australia, Pinchas Goldhar.
1901- Born in Łódź, Poland
1926 - Moves, along with his widowed father and three siblings to Melbourne, Australia. The father was rightly concerned about the rise of antisemitism in Poland. In her introduction to the collection Pam MacLean that in this period Australia was allowing all white immigrants to settle in the country.
1931 - The first Yiddish language newspaper is started in Australia with Pinchas Goldhar as editor. The Jewish population in Australia was culturally dominated by Jews from England but there were enough Yiddish readers to support publications and books, Goldhar translated a number of Australian writers into Yiddish. He also worked at his father’s dye factory.
1934 Marries and will have three children, his son contributed an afterword to the collection.
1947- passes away in Melbourne
Unlike Yiddish immigrants to New York City, immigrants to Australia did not have a vast community to support them. You had to learn English. Some immigrants found jobs in the city, others started ranches and farms in the outback. Goldhar has several stories showing just how isolated these settlers were. Just like immigrants in New York City, Australian Jews became aware of the horrors of the Holocaust. This was something no Yiddish writer could ignore. The first two stories in the collection have a Holocaust setting.
“Cain” is structured as a final letter to his family, from a well known physician:
“DOCTOR HERMANN LOWENSTEIN took his own life by hanging himself in a concentration camp near Dresden. He had been famous throughout the medical world for his scientific experiments and discoveries, and his death was met with a profound sense of regret amongst his contemporaries. He wrote a farewell letter to his family that the Nazis mistakenly overlooked. For a long time this letter travelled a difficult, hazardous and secret road and, when it finally reached Mrs Lowenstein, it was so torn and wrinkled that it was almost impossible to decipher –evidence of how difficult its path had been.
“This is what Dr Lowenstein wrote in his letter: My loved ones, my dear Klara and children! This letter is not being written to you by a person who has killed himself but by a murderer, someone who has spilt his brother’s blood. I don’t want this letter to arouse your sympathy or be used in defence of my actions. I have sentenced myself to death but I still feel that it is an insufficient punishment for my crime. I am writing to let you know the terrible truth. I don’t want you to grieve over my death, I don’t want you to carry loving feelings for me.”
First published in 1933 in Yiddish, translated by Tania Bruce
I don’t want to reveal why he sentenced himself to death other than to say it was from shame at what the Germans caused him to become. The ending of this story, a story as sad as sad can be, is beautiful and redemptive of the human spirit.
I downloaded the sample Kindle Edition. It contains a preface, a very informative introduction and two complete stories including “Cain”.
This collection is a major edition to my understanding of the huge scope of Yiddish literature. It is fairly priced.