'Mały Przegląd': A Little Review with a Big Impact
#language & literature
small, 'Mały Przegląd':
A Little Review
with a Big Impact, An excerpt from the jubilee edition of ‘Mały Przegląd’ (The Little Review) from 1st January 1937, Winieta jubileuszowego numeru "Małego Przeglądu" z 1 stycznia 1937 roku
A newspaper written and edited by children, for children (with a little help from grown-ups!) may seem like a utopian idea. Thanks to Janusz Korczak, however, ‘Mały Przegląd’ (The Little Review) was distributed weekly, with a run of 50,000 copies, for 13 years – giving many children a voice in the tumultuous, early 20th-century world of adult strife and political unease.
Mały Przegląd was a Friday supplement to Nasz Przegląd (Our Review), the most widely circulated Polish-language Jewish daily newspaper published in Warsaw before World War II. The first issue of the weekly came out on 9th October 1926. A week prior to its release, Janusz Korczak, the originator of the whole idea and its first editor-in-chief, introduced the concept:
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There are many adults who write only because they feel no shame, and there are children who have many great ideas, remarks, and observations, but don't write, because they lack courage or just don’t feel like it. Our newspaper will encourage them to write. Encourage and embolden them.
Korczak was convinced that children should write for children without the mediation of adults, an attitude that was revolutionary at the time – and still, to a great extent, unparalleled. Furthermore, he saw writing as a mode of engagement in the world, and Mały Przegląd was to play a crucial role in helping children speak for themselves. Through writing, children learned to address their problems and express their feelings.
The children could either send their letters by mail, telephone, or simply come to the Mały Przegląd editorial office and say what was on their minds in person. The room and the adjacent corridor at 7 Nowolipki Street in Warsaw were always crowded, full of the bustle typical of a newspaper editorial office. Here, helped by Korczak and deputy editor Jerachmiel Wajngarten, a group of young editors – including Chaskiel Bajn, Madzia Markuze, Edwin Markuze and Emanuel Sztokman – did all the work necessary for the newspaper to appear in print.
Mały Przegląd continually featured authentic material produced by young readers, correspondents, and reporters. The general idea was that every issue of the weekly was to be composed of letters, or excerpts of them, sent by readers to the review’s office – sometimes arranged in elaborate ways. This premise remained unchanged over the years.
Korczak encouraged children to write about their everyday problems and worries, address them and eventually overcome shame and isolation:
Sometimes one doesn't want to tell everything your friends and family, and yet one needs to complain about something or talk about one’s life, thoughts and needs.
He saw to it that the children wrote using their own words – their natural language, untainted by the linguistic rules endorsed by adults. Korczak was also adamant about the genres used in the paper: no poems, no novels – no writing marred by the pedagogical interference of adults. The stuff of the Little Review was to be quintessentially personal. Effectively, the publication could be called an early instance of authentic non-fiction literature by children.
This was the case with the reportage published in the first year of the weekly run. An article about a barbed wire set up around the playground in the Krasińskich Garden spawned a series of follow-up articles, and several months later, the fence was effectively torn down. In another letter sent by a certain Natuś, the boy complained about having to wear an apron to school. Supposedly, in consequence of an intervention on the part of a Little Review reporter, the boy’s mother stopped making him wear it. In retrospect, Mały Przegląd may seem reminiscent of a sort of community platform avant la lettre, connnecting children from different backgrounds who shared similar problems.
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One can’t help but wonder about the amazing interactive character of the flow of communication between the editorial staff and its readers. The paper constantly addressed its readers, asking them about their feelings and relying on their feedback. This may also be reminiscent of contemporary 2.0 culture, in which the traditional roles of active and passive engagement (author and consumer) intermingle. The Little Review endorsed communication tactics in which readers also became writers and vice versa.
The publication can also be compared to an internet forum, on which children could openly speak their minds and connect with each other. In spite of the fact that the paper was focused mainly on Jewish children, it appears also to have been a place of dialogue between Polish children in general. The letters of Polish Catholic children helped to articulate difficult issues and overcome harmful stereotypes, bridging the gap between these cultures.
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Especially in the earlier period of the paper’s existence, children could always count on Korczak to answer their letters personally: He would share his thoughts, give advice, or respond with constructive criticism. If the analogy linking Mały Przegląd with today’s online forums is to work, one has to make one important provision – namely, that this platform was a completely safe environment moderated by Korczak, an exceptional figure who was sensitive to the needs of all children.
In the 1930s, after Igor Newerly took over the editorial role, Mały Przegląd took on a more political profile. With its readers getting older and the political situation in Europe getting tenser, the weekly drifted towards more socialist stance, relating to the spectres of surging fascism and anti-Semitism – as well as the growing menace of the impending world war.
Throughout the 1930s, the anti-war strain manifested most clearly in May, when the paper celebrated the international Day of Good Will, publishing letters from children from all over the world calling for peace and solidarity among people. At that time, Mały Przegląd also became involved in promoting Esperanto, the artificial language devised by Polish-Jewish scientist Ludwik Zamenhof as the new language of communication and mutual understanding for all mankind. Those two aspirations were shattered by World War II.
Mały Przegląd was also a complex administrative project engaging elaborate marketing techniques. Korczak understood the importance of creating a community of readers and correspondents around the paper. He developed ways of gaining the loyalty of these readers. One of those attachment-building techniques was a motivational system for all who started writing for the journal.
This started with the first letters sent to the weekly. The names of those authors were printed in the paper – it was indeed a rare opportunity to see one’s name in print. Those who kept writing were given pen names. The motivational system included some more straightforward incentives, such trips to a ham-and-sausage shop in winter and to ice cream parlours in summer. The authors of the most interesting letters received books, chess sets and special postcards, which often also served as tickets to the cinema.
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The last issue of Mały Przegląd came out on 1st September 1939. Tragically, most of the young correspondents and editors of the publication perished in the Holocaust: renowned reporters like Harry Kaliszer, Kuba Hersztajn, and Lejzor from Gęsia (Lejzor Czarnobroda). They were lost with thousands of anonymous correspondents, known to us only by their pen-names.
world war ii
kaytek the wizard
Written by Mikołaj Gliński, Aug 2012