Part II: Bukovina and Czernowitz/ Cernauti/ Czernowtsy/ Chernivtsi 
6. Outlook 

The strength of German-language Kultur and the depth of its roots among the Jews of Bukovina can be seen in the period of the collapse of the Monarchy and the annexation of Bukovina by Romania. A new hegemonial, Romanian alignment was imparted to all key institutions of education, culture and official language. The school system was rumänisiert as was, in 1920, the University of Czernowitz; the German Municipal Theater became a Romanian one. 

The allegiance to the Hapsburg Monarchy displayed by the Jews of Bukovina was associated with their recognition of the fact that they enjoyed a much better social position in comparison to the adjacent areas of Russia and Romania. Life on the border of countries whose governments were notoriously hostile to Jews engendered, as its mental consequence, an attitude of rejection of their cultures. On numerous occasions in speeches before the Austrian Parliament, Benno Straucher addressed the persecution of Jews in these countries, as well as intervening on behalf of the persecuted Jews and Armenians in Turkey. 

No wonder that the new rulers were greeted with cool distance on the part of the Jews. The poet Alfred Gong, born in Czernowitz in 1920, described this in a poem about his father. 

My father couldn't stomach the new masters, 
"Zigeuner"82 he reviled them and dreamed 
of the coming Reich of Otto von Habsburg. 
He piously preserved his Imperial & Royal belt 
and beat me with it, then ordered me to kiss the leather.
(From the poem Mein Vater by Alfred Gong)83
 
Despite the policy of Rumänisierung, the Germanness of the Bukovina Jews was not so quickly expunged. "The language which could still be heard downtown was German, so to speak, 'Viennese,'" Lily Glanz, who was born in Czernowitz in 1913, wrote in her reminiscences84. Pearl Fichman, born in 1920 in Czernowitz, confirms this: "In our house and all around me people spoke German, read German books and the daily local German newspapers."85 As long as the German performances continued to be presented in Czernowitz by famous Austrian and German theatres that came yearly on starring-tour, the illusion remained intact: "... I remember it as an Austrian way of life."86 

German linguistic culture experienced one final and long-lasting creative impulse in Czernowitz. One of the most creative lyricists of the German language was the Czernowitz native Paul Celan; he enrolled in the city's Romanian State High School in 1930, later transferring to the Ukrainian counterpart. He coined one of the most frequently-cited expressions referring to Bukovina: "... it was a place in which the human beings and the books were alive."87 German Kultur, above all literature and language, continued to be one could almost say, venerated by a segment of the Jews in Czernowitz and Bukovina. The link to the geographical region in which German is spoken was finally severed by borders: "Amidst all the losses, only this remained accessible, near and not lost: the language."88


© 1996 Lichtblau & John, Jewries in Galicia and Bukovina, in Lemberg and Czernowitz
 
Back to
Back to Shtetl
Feedback, questions: send e-mail to Iosif_Vaisman@unc.edu