Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, April 29, 2021

I’m going to have to pick up a copy of Michael Chabon’s “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”, just on the strength of this synopsis:

For the book, Mr. Chabon dug into New York’s underworld slang, filling in at spots with his own linguistic creations. A latke is a beat cop and a sholem is a gun — a bit of wordplay, as “sholem” in Yiddish means peace, and “piece” is slang for gun in English. The powerful local mafia is made up of Hasidic Jews with payess, long curling sidelocks. Along with the rest of Alaska’s Jews, they are part of what Jews living in the rest of America call “the Frozen Chosen.”

“The Frozen Chosen” might have come about had the King-Havenner Bill, a 1940 piece of Congressional legislation proposing an Alaskan homeland for Europe’s persecuted Jewry, come into law. Chabon’s book runs wild with this alternate history exercise, presenting a scenario in which 3 million refugees poured into Alaska Territory. In addition to transforming isolated towns like Sitka (chosen as the novel’s setting because Chabon thought its name “sounded Yiddish”), this counterfactual apparently took the Holocaust out of the equation during the Second World War; consequently, the establishment of Israel was never deemed necessary.

The option of being presented with an Arctic wasteland as refuge — a restricted, temporary one, at that — might seem like a backhanded form of salvation. But it wasn’t the only one floated before and during the war years. Madagascar, then a French colony, was also proposed as a dumping ground for Europe’s Jews, mainly for its isolation and distance from the Continent. The oddest one I heard about: In the 1930s, the Nazis actually considered working with Zionists to engineer a forced exodus of German Jews to Palestine, not only to uproot them, but also to establish a guaranteed export market for Germany in the face of European economic boycotts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/29/2007 06:47:39 PM
Category: History, Publishing
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