Page 70 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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e l e c h
a v i t c h
IKE the prince of the fairy tale who slept one hundred years
and upon awakening gazed at the world with his young eyes
but with century-old concepts, so Yiddish literature was reborn
one hundred years ago. Its leading lights were then of the opinion
that five hundred years would have to pass until their struggling
new literature could be comparable to the average European
literatures. But before five decades had gone by, Yiddish litera-
ture could more than hold its own with any of the contemporary
literatures, and, in a brief period, it became a world-literature.
Yiddish literature, in all of its manifestations, from the sonnet
to the scholarly treatise, has become to Yiddish-speaking Jews
throughout the world the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud for
all the great movements in Jewish life. Yiddish literature assisted
at the birth of Zionism and Socialism in Eastern Europe and in
America. I t has also been the flame that kindled the enthusiasm
of the ghetto-fighters in 1943, and inspired the deeds of the heroes
in Jerusalem in 1948.
Anyone familiar with the present quantity and quality of Yid-
dish literature, its authors, and with the spirit that inspires them,
does not doubt that Yiddish is bound to fulfill the tasks placed
before it by our history. I t is destined to fill the gaps that are still
to be found in its immortalization of the wonderful past of Jewish
life and thought during the half millenium of Eastern European
Jewry. Many of the recent Yiddish books, and we shall not deal
with all of them, bear witness that this is being done.
Isaac Katzenelson’s
Dos L id fun Oisgehargetn Yidishn Folk
(The Song of the Murdered Jewish Nation — New York, YKUF)
contains fifteen poems written by the martyred Hebrew-Yiddish
poet in a concentration camp in France between the time when
one half of his family had already perished and the time when the
other half, including himself, was sentenced to annihilation. These
are the most sorrowful poems that have ever been produced in
Yiddish. When a national day of mourning for the martyred six
*Translated and adapted by Moshe Starkman.