The Dialogical Dimension in the Diary of Chaim Kaplan: 1935–1942

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies

Abstract

Chaim Kaplan (1880–1942), principal and owner of a private elementary Hebrew school in Warsaw, wrote a personal diary from 1933 to 1942. So far, only the WWII years have drawn scholarly attention. However, the interpretation of the diary also requires reading his available unpublished entries. An internal dialogical structure dominates his diary where he engages “the other” that interacts with his own inner voice. His pre-war identity is constructed of different and contradicting facets of Zionist ideology, traditional Jewish value system and way of life, and Polish citizenship. When the war broke out, the diary’s range of voices decreased with Kaplan’s position. His rhetoric displays a clear split between “we” and “them” following the ‘dichotomy’ of congregation and segregation. He expresses a greater empathy toward the Jewish “other” as a fellow sufferer, yet his concern with representing truth remains. To maintain this duality, Kaplan developed a literary ‘alter ego.’