Sunday, October 8, 2017

Abraham Sutzkever on Poetry and Partisan Life (1959)


Abraham Sutzkever [1913–2010] recalls some of his experiences in the Vilna Ghetto, in the Narach Forest and as a Jewish partisan during the Second World War, both of which influenced his poems. This lecture, recorded on May 24, 1959, was given during a public program at the Jewish Public Library of Montreal. This wonderful library had many such lectures for the public. I plan to write more about this famous Yiddish poet in a future post. Here is an interesting fact: Abraham Sutzkever, one of the great poets of the 20th century and  Moshe Koussevitzky, one of the greatest hazzanim (cantors) of the 20th century, were both born in Smorgon, Belarus, or what used to be called White Russia. This was a town of no more than 40,000. And as Wikipedia writes: “In 1939 there were 375,000 Jews in Belarus, or 13.6% of the total population.” After the war, that number dropped by two-thirds, since the Nazis and their local collaborators murdered 66% of the nation’s Jews, or some 246,000 Jews. In this lecture, Sutzkever speaks about the particularities of the Vilna Ghetto, infamous for the massacre at Ponary; he says many things that are true, including what it is to be a poet, and notably a poet who is a witness to tragedy and loss.
Via: Youtube and Yiddish Book Center

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