Translation of an allied anti-Nazi leaflet: Judeo-Arabic language leaflet-booklet


Updated June 2008:
I'm always in search for air-dropped or shelled propaganda leaflets of the Second World War.

Cover of booklet

In 2004 a miniature booklet with anti-Nazi cartoons and text in Hebrew characters was found. The booklet seems to come from an old collection of ww2 airdropped propaganda. From the same anonymous source came a lot of very rare (but 100% original) airdropped propaganda leaflets and booklets. Many of these look as if they were uncirculated. They might have come from an allied archive.

A first intensive research on the internet did learn that the booklet was unknown in circles of propaganda researchers and collectors. Because of the connection with the other original leaflets and because of the size of the booklet (in comparison to known British airdropped propaganda booklets for Germany and the occupied European countries), it seems very plausible that it is indeed British airdropped propaganda material.

Keeping this in mind, the next leads are the cartoons. These could well be by the hand of Kimon Evan Marengo (Kem). Kem was an Egyptian-born British cartoonist who, during WW2, also worked for the Political Warfare Executive preparing propaganda for North Africa and the Middle East. More information on him can be found at Wikipedia. Read their description on Kem.

Kem's position was clarified in an internal British memo on January 9th, 1942:

"Kem is to be regarded as an 'official cartoonist' in the sense that he is the only producer of cartoons directly on our books, and that his special knowledge and experience makes it desirable that he should be brought into consultation by the regional specialists for Latin America and the Middle East on matters touching his particular province."

Cartoon from booklet

In 'History Today, March 2002' Valerie Holman did write an interesting article on Kem during ww2. If you can acquire a copy of this magazine or article, it is for sure worth reading. Another possibilty to read the article is at highbeam.
Holman writes:

"Of the eight books he wrote and illustrated for the Ministry of Information, several appeared not only in European languages but in three forms of Arabic (classical, Moghrabi and Ladino, the Hebrew script for Moroccan Jews), and Farsi."

In the light of the booklets text it is important to note that Kem was an Arabic speaker.

However strong these indications are, further research on Kem did not yet lead to irrefutable proof on his involvement. So this is still open for discussion!

The next step, was to find somebody able to translate the text. Placing requests on this webpage and in the Usenet newsgroups sci.lang and soc.culture.jewish.moderated did not lead to a translation. Most reviewers could not tell what language it was written in. However, they did make a lot of suggestions ranging from:
Yiddish, Ladino (a language spoken in Spain by the Sephardic Jewish community), Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian-Turkish and other dialects spoken by the Mountain Jews of the Caucasus or the Bukharans, Judeo-Kurdish (which is an Aramaic based dialect), Judeo-Maghrebi dialect.
This wide range of possibilities tells something about how unknown this old language is nowadays.

Example textpage from booklet

At least two reviewers suggested it could come from North Africa e.g. Morocco.
Later, Professor Shaul Shaked (Asian and African Studies, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem) , Dr. Joshua Sabih (Copenhagen University) and Ofra Tirosh-Becker expressed their definite opinion that it was Judaeo-Arabic used in North Africa.

Judith Rosenhouse (Dept. of Humanities and Arts, Technion I.I.T., Haifa) found the story and the linguistics of such interest that she made a full translation of the text. She also prepares a lecture on it for the 14th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem (august 3, 2005). Please read the program of the Congress.
Judith Rosenhouse and fellow scientists did extensive earlier research on the Judeo-Arabic languages in general.

From a set of 24 scans of the booklet (containing all pages including the cartoons) there are only three shown here. In August, together with the publication of the translation and review, more scans will be provided.

Following is the:

Abstract for the
14th World Congress of Jewish Studies

14th World Congress of Jewish Studies

הקונגרס העולמי הארבעה עשר למדעי היהדות, תשס"ה

תקציר לכנס                                                                                 Abstract for the Congress


ניתוח סיפור בערבית יהודית ממרוקו מתקופת מלחמת העולם השנייה

יהודית רוזנהויז* והנס מונן**

* הטכניון מ.ט.ל., חיפה            ** עורך אתר האינטרנט "תעמולה מוצנחת במלחמת העולם השנייה," האלן, הולנד

הסיפור "היטלר החזיר" הגיע לידינו עקב פעילותו של המחבר השני באתר האינטרנט "תעמולה מוצנחת במלחמת העולם השנייה". הסיפור כתוב בלהג של פאס, בערבית יהודית מרוקאית. מטרת הסיפור היא להשמיץ את היטלר וסגנו גבלס על-ידי סיפור ששייך לסוגת הבדיחה מבחינת חקר הפולקלור. תבניתו היא של "סיפור בתוך סיפור." הטקסט כתוב באותיות דפוס של ערבית-יהודית ומלווים אותו מספר איורים המדגימים את תוכנו. הדמויות בציורים מתאימות לאופנה בקולנוע בתקופת שנות ה- 40. הסיפור מדגיש את היחס העוין של הגרמנים ליהודים ויש בו סממנים תיאוריים מקומיים. נכלל בו מתח מיני המתייחס לתיאור מעשיהם והתנהגותם של היטלר ושל גבלס. ניתוח לשוני של הטקסט מעורר את ההשערה שנכתב בידי מי שידע את הלהג היטב אבל לא היה דובר ילידי, והושפע ככל הנראה מהשפה האנגלית. בהרצאה יידון הסיפור מבחינת הרקע של יהודי מרוקו במלחמת העולם השנייה והספרות שנכתבה במרוקו בתקופה זו.


Analysis of a story in Moroccan Judeo-Arabic from the period of World War II

*Judith Rosenhouse,
Technion – I.I.T., Haifa, Israel

**Hans Moonen,
Webmaster of World War 2 airdropped and shelled propaganda leaflets
Haelen, The Netherlands

The story “Hitler the pig” came to us following the second author’s activity in the Internet site "World War 2 airdropped and shelled Propaganda Leaflets"
The story is written in the Fes dialect of Moroccan Judeo-Arabic. The goal of the story is to defame Hitler and his deputy Goebbels by a story, which belongs to the “joke” genre in folklore studies. Its framework is a “story within a story.” The text is written in printed letters of Judeo-Arabic and is illustrated by a few drawings that describe its content.
The style of the drawings matches the cinema fashion from the 1940’s. The story stresses the hostility of the Germans to the Jews and it has features of local color. Sexual tension is included, referring to the behavior and actions of Hitler and Goebbels. A linguistic analysis of the text raises the assumption that the writer of the story was a person who knew the dialect well, but not a native speaker, and was possibly influenced by English.
In our talk the story will be discussed in the context of the background of Jews in Morocco during World War II and the literature written there in that period.

More to follow early August 2008. Be sure to visit again. Also see More scans of the Hebrew language leaflet

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