Page 207 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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Yitzhak Katzenelson
and His ‘Vittel Diary’
On the Centenary of His Birth
i t z h a k
y e c h i e l
k a t z e n e l s o n
was born in 1886 in Korelichi,
near Novogrudok, in Russia. He perished at the hands o f the
Germans at Auschwitz in May 1944. He was the eldest son o f Ja­
cob Benjamin Katzenelson, the Hebrew writer and educator who
was an active Zionist and Hebraist. Yitzhak Katzenelson took
pride in the fact that on both his parents’ sides he was the scion o f
generations o f rabbis and noted personalities, going back to the
Tosafot Yom-Tov,
to the author o f
Seder Ha-Dorot,
and the
In 1899 the family moved to Zgierz, near Lodz, where the father
opened a modern Hebrew school. Here Yitzhak was a classmate
o f the Hebrew poet Yaakov Cahan, and both at school and at
home he studied Hebrew and the Bible. At his father’sbehest, the
study o f Talmud was postponed until his bar-mitzvah year.
However, economic reasons and the need to help support the
family interrupted his education.
From 1896 to 1939 Katzenelson resided in Lodz. He began to
write poetry at an early age. He studied and read on his own and
his love o f the theatre led him frequently to attend the German
performances in Lodz o f plays by Goethe, Shakespeare, Schiller,
Kleist and others. He also was in regular attendance at Yiddish
Katzenelson developed as a bilingual writer from the very out­
set. He wrote Hebrew poems and lyric prose and at the same time
authored Yiddish comedies which were successfully performed
and which he translated into Hebrew (
, 1908;
D i Moderne,
In his Hebrew lyrical writing Katzenelson depicted the whole­
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