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Book Notes: The Jewish Family Album: Yesterday's World in Old Pictures, Franz Hubmann, ed. Miriam and Lionel Kochan

Aubrey Newman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">PICTORIAL HISTORY The Jewish Family Album: Yesterday's World in Old Pictures, by Franz Hubmann, (edited by Miriam and Lionel Kochan), Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul, London, 1975, 318 pp., ?11.75. The family photograph album, like the family Bible, is traditionally one of the more evocative of family treasures. Long-dead uncles and aunts, infants long since married and grandparents in 254</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes 255 their turn, faraway places once popular and now little more than folk memory, all these find their resting places within its pages. Franz Hubmann has for long been a master of this genre of nostalgia, and in earlier volumes has recreated photographically the life of Imperial Austria and Germany. Now he has turned his attention to produce Das J?dische Familienalbum: Die Welt von Gestern, published in this country by Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul and provided with an introduction by Miriam and Lionel Kochan. It is a different sort of book from Hubmann's earlier ones, because it is much more of a family album than the others, which were essentially period pieces. As the Kochans rightly observe, 'the gnarled Russian peasant is every Jew's grandfather', and many people will find affini? ties to many of those portrayed in a book whose photographs have been gathered from a wide variety of sources. Many of them have come, not surprisingly, from Austrian sources, while others have come from collections in the New World, but a highly significant number were found in the private collections of individuals, illustrating not only the care which the author has taken to search them out but also the wealth of such materials that are available. This, inci? dentally, is an obvious object for search and preservation by some appropriate body in this country, such as the J.H.S. itself. Also evident from the book is the care taken by the English editors to produce a text worthy of the photo? graphs; if sometimes one might have liked some more explanation and discussion one must not really cavil, bearing in mind the limits necess? arily imposed on letterpress as against the photographs that are after all essential to this production. The book is divided into sections?GHETTO AND SHTETL, EMANCIPATION, THE NEW WORLD, and THE PROMISED LAND?and the second of these sections is it? self further subdivided?without any specific commentary; it is perhaps in connection with one or two of these portions that a reviewer might be permitted to raise various objections. There is a section on The Rothschilds, be? wildering perhaps in the juxtaposition of various members of the family and giving no indication either of the various generations or of the family relationships of any of them. Nor is it made clear that various other portraits of the Rothschilds are to be found dotted around elsewhere in the book; there is no index to assist. Again, there is a section on English Jews, labelled 'London.' Here it might be objected that within the con? fines of so small a section?eighteen pages and twenty-seven photographs?it was a little un? necessary to include pictures of the Houses of Parliament in 1892 or the Stock Exchange, also in 1892, or to include two pictures of Rufus Daniel Isaacs at the expense of perhaps some illustrations of the East End of London in the crucial years before the First World War. More seriously, it is unforgivable to include in this section pictures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert without a single word of explanation. If it was intended to allude to the now long discarded canard concerning the alleged an? cestry of Prince Albert, it would still be necess? ary to give some additional commentary; as it stands, the inclusion of this without any expla? nation reflects most strongly on Mr Hubmann and those who advised him. One further point might perhaps be mentioned: yet again does the myth of the Belmont/Schoenberg family name-change appear despite the very full dismissal of the myth's origins as recently as 1967 in English, 1971 in German publications. Yet these are but blemishes on the surface. The book is a pleasure and a treasure to read and to hold. It has been beautifully produced, and it contains very many items which can truly evoke nostalgia and reminiscence. In every way it is well worthy to be regarded as a family album, deserving an unchallenged place on the shelves of a ny Jewish library. Aubrey Newman</page></plain_text>