Page 211 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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SZEINTUCH / YITZHAK KATZENELSON
203
About Shlomo Zelichowsky” and “The Poem on the Rabbi o f
Radzin.” He extolled Jewish valor (as distinguished from military
heroism), which he saw manifested in the belief in God and the
power o f faith.
H IS D IARY
Among the important works which Katzenelson wrote in the
Vittel camp, after leaving burning Warsaw on the morrow after
the great uprising, the
Pinkas Vittel.
(The Vittel Diary, in Hebrew)
and
Dos Lid fun Oysgehargetn Yidishn Folk
(The Song o f the Mur­
dered Jewish People, in Yiddish)0 constitute a single literary
outpouring, an historic record and a testament toJewish spiritual
fortitude. Here Jewish existence per se and its implications are
examined in the light o f a devastating critique o f the non-Zionist
Jewish leadership, together with a sharp condemnation o f the en­
tire Christian world, and an effort to examine faith in God in the
wake o f the Holocaust.
During the Nazi rule Katzenelson completed some 60 works —
poems, plays, Hebrew and Yiddish public addresses, Yiddish
translations from the Prophets and his own pre-War writings,
chronicles, poems, children’s plays, Yiddish essays and a Hebrew
diary,
Pinkas Vittel,
in which he spoke for the totality o f Israel:
[. . .] We who are to go to our death, did not believe [. . .] lucky for
us that we did not believe . . . Because o f the image o f God im­
planted in us, we did not believe . . . This abomination — can be
neither described nor imagined, except by one whose heart is
contaminated by this abomination.”7
Katzenelson himself was among the few who understood and
intuitively foresaw the future. Already in 1937, following the Pol­
ish programs, he penned a poem entitled “Yadati” (I Know), in
which he foretold what was to occur five years later. By virtue o f
his writings o f the second half o f the thirties Katzenelson joined
the distinguished group o f writers who had a premonition o f the
Holocaust during the period between the two World Wars. These
include Uri Zvi Greenberg, in his Yiddish poem “ In Malkhus fun
6 An English edition o f the
Vittel Diary,
tr. by Myer Cohen, was published by the
Ghetto Fighters’ House and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, Tel-Aviv, 1972. Under
the same auspices, an English edition o f
The Song o f the Murdered People
, tr. by
Noah H. Rosenbloom, appeared in 1980.
7
Ketavim Aharonim 5740-5744,
Tel-Aviv, 1969, p. 158.