Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

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wanderings we, Jews, perceived the frightening Medusa face of
the world. This is an era without illusions, a time of grey sobriety
in a world emerging from its second blood bath. To us as Jews it
appears even more grey, more somber, more orphaned. We feel
lost in the world as does a child in a forest. The harboring of
such emotions and moods is hardly conducive to the writing or
publishing of books.
On the other hand, it is evident tha t only one who reads Yid-
dish literature truly maintains contact with Jewish life, its horrors
and griefs, for those books reflect the spirit of contemporary Jew-
ish tragedy most directly. Those who have become par tly estranged
should, out of reverence for the millions of martyrs, turn to this
literature. I t is the tragic privilege of Yiddish literature to be the
one to reflect the glare of the flames of Treblinka and the horrors
of the Ghetto, the agony of the extermination camps and the
pain and courage of our contemporary martyrology.
s u t z k e v e r
p o e m s
The duty not to forget, the mission of engraving tombstones
for the millions of unburied dead, was first assumed by Yiddish
poetry. A. Sutzkever, who belonged to the “Young Wilno” group,
suffered for years in the Wilno Ghetto and gave birth to his poems
during most frightful moments tha t man can experience. He
“wrote” his poems in moments preceding death, from which he
escaped at the very last second. He crawled back from a mass
grave after already having been placed in a coffin. He “wrote”
his poems when the lips of his first-born child had been smeared
with poison, when all those closest to him, his mother, his wife,
his friends had been murdered. He demonstrated the rarest cour-
age: he preserved light as “ the language of his hea r t” ; he did not
shame his sorrow with mournful song. The rare experience of
sensing the eternally human is vouchsafed to him who reads Sutz-
kever’s poems in the collections
(Fortress) and
(Songs of the Ghetto).
Itzhak Katznelson, who in normal years so successfully wrote
light, musical verse, became the mourner of his people and the
accuser of the cruel world and its God. He perished. His poems
which appeared in
, the most important monthly journal
in Yiddish, make an unforgettable, impression. Z. Segalovitch,
who found refuge in Palestine, laments the vanished Jewry of
Poland. “No more” is the recurring refrain of his work. His
(There) were published in New York, and the poem
A Boirn in Poiln
(A Tree in Poland) which first appeared in
was published in Buenos Aires.