Night of the Murdered Poets

On August 12, 1952 Yiddish literary culture received a fatal blow when novelist Dovid Bergelson and poet Peretz Markish were among 13 Soviet Jews murdered in Moscow’s Lubyanka Prison. The execution became known as the Night of the Murdered Poets, with three other poets also shot that night.

The outcome of Stalin’s paranoid antisemitism was all the more perverse in that the victims were loyal communists who had participated in the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee during the war. Markish had even been awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946.

Over the past five years a number of books by Dovid (or David) Bergelson have come out in English translation, including a story collection from his years of exile Shadows of Berlin as well his second novel Descent.  Bergelson’s execution took place on his 68th birthday.

Two recent historical publications also provide perspective on this era of Jewish culture. Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust by David Shneer shows the work of Soviet Jewish photographers that documented the concentration camps three years before the Americans arrived and includes some never before seen photos. Shneer also co-edited A Captive of the Dawn The Life and Work of Peretz Markish (1895-1952).

Top photo – Peretz Markish with fellow Yiddish poet/writers Alter Kacyzne and Moshe Broderson in more hopeful times.

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Categories: Literary History, Writers

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