Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or simply Ashkenazim (, Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation: , singular: , Modern Hebrew: ; also , lit. “The Jews of Germany”), are a Jewish ethnic division that coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the 1st millennium. The traditional language of Ashkenazi Jews consisted of various dialects of Yiddish. They established communities throughout Central and Eastern Europe, which had been their primary region of concentration and residence until recent times, evolving their own distinctive characteristics and diasporic identities. Once emancipated, weaving Jewish creativity into the texture of European life (Hannah Arendt), the Ashkenazi made a ‘quite disproportionate and remarkable contribution to humanity’ (Eric Hobsbawm), and to European culture in all fields of endeavour: philosophy, scholarship, literature, art, music and science. The genocidal impact of the Holocaust, the mass murder of approximately 6 million Jews during World War II devastated the Ashkenazi and their Yiddish culture, affecting almost every Jewish family. It is estimated that in the 11th century Ashkenazi Jews composed only three percent of the world’s Jewish population, while at their peak in 1931 they accounted for 92 percent of the world’s Jews. Immediately prior to the Holocaust, the number of Jews in the world stood at approximately 16.7 million. Statistical figures vary for the contemporary demography of Ashkenazi Jews, oscillating between 10 million and 11.2 million. Sergio DellaPergola in a rough calculation of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, implies that Ashkenazi make up less than 74% of Jews worldwide. Other estimates place Ashkenazi Jews as making up about 75% of Jews worldwide. Genetic studies on Ashkenazim have been conducted to determine how much of their ancestry comes from Europe, and how much derives from the Middle East. These studies—researching both their paternal and maternal lineages—point to at least some ancient Levantine origins. But they have arrived at diverging conclusions regarding both the degree and the sources of their European ancestry. These diverging conclusions focus particularly in respect to the extent of the predominant European genetic origin observed in Ashkenazi maternal lineages.