Skip to main content

Symposium on the 70th Anniversary of the Night of Murdered Poets

Part of the Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Literature

The 12 August 2022 marks the 70th anni­versary of the Night of Murdered Poets, the climax of the Stalinist persec­ution of Jewish intel­lectuals. The murder of Dovid Bergel­son, Peretz Markish, Itsik Fefer, Dovid Hof­shteyn, Leyb Kvitko and others marked the death of the most impor­tant Soviet Yiddish literary figures. Most of them came from the area of modern-day Ukraine and they formed the Kyiv Group. In the 1920s, many of them were tempo­rarily in exile in Berlin. At the insti­gation of the Soviet govern­ment, they founded the Jewish Anti-Fascist Com­mittee during the Second World War. When this was dis­solved by Stalin in 1948, its mem­bers were perse­cuted, arrested and in some cases mur­dered after show trials.

Past event

Map with all buildings that belong to the Jewish Museum Berlin. The W. M. Blumenthal Academy is marked in green

Where

W. M. Blumenthal Academy,
Klaus Mangold Auditorium
Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin (Opposite the Museum)

This one-day sym­posium of the Summer Pro­gram for Yiddish Language and Litera­ture and the Jewish Museum Berlin is dedi­cated to these poets and the Yiddish culture they built up and represented both inside and out­side the Soviet Union. Two panels of renowned scho­lars of Soviet-Jewish cultural history will draw on the latest re­search to present the events of 12 August 1952 and their conse­quences, and discuss the literary legacy of the murdered poets.

The daylong com­memorative event will end with a reading titled Read the Signs. An Eve­ning to Mark the 70th Anni­versary of the Night of Murdered Poets in the JMB's Glass Court­yard. Lena Gorelik, Olga Grjasnowa, Lana Lux and Sasha Marianna Salz­mann will read from texts by the mur­dered poets in German trans­lation. Tal Hever-Chybowski will read from the Yiddish originals.

Program

This symposium will revisit the Night of the Murdered Poets and test new ways of understanding it beyond Cold War dogmatism for a broad Berlin audience in two consecutive panels.

red writing on white background, logo of the Summer University for Yiddish
Panel 1, 14-16:30, The Night of the Murdered Poets – History and Legacies (in English)

The first panel will include newest scholarship on the immediate postwar period in the Soviet Union and the Stalinist anti-Jewish purges themselves, leading scholars of Soviet Yiddish culture and the Jewish Cold War (Gennady Estraikh (NYU) and Miriam Schulz (University of Toronto) will also trace exactly the ways in which this event was imbued with meaning in the course of the Jewish Cold War, within the Western Soviet Jewry Movement, and the remnant of post-Stalinist Soviet Yiddish culture in the milieu of the journal Sovetish Heymland (Soviet Homeland).

  • Keynote: Gennady Estraikh (NYU, professor of Soviet Yiddish culture and history, director of the Shivdler Project A Comprehensive History of the Jews of the Soviet Union) will speak about the work of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and the Stalinist anti-Jewish purges 1948-1952/3.
  • Miriam Schulz (Ray D. Wolfe Postdoctoral Fellow 2021-23, Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies | Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies, University of Toronto, was Research Assistant for the Shivdler project A Comprehensive History of the Jews of the Soviet Union) will speak about the memorialization of the trial during the Cold War and the creation of the Night of the Murdered Poets.
  • Followed by a conversation between Estraikh and Schulz about the meanings and legacies in East and West until today.
  • Q&A
Panel 2, 16:30-18:00, The interdisciplinary cooperation project The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature and the Night of the Murdered Poets (in German)

During the second panel, we will hear from newest scholarship into Soviet Yiddish culture and the Jewish Antifascist Committee conducted within the joint interdisciplinary project The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature that is being conducted in cooperation between the Leibniz Institut für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur – Simon Dubnow, Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin and the Professorship for Slavic Jewish Studies at the University of Regensburg. This cooperative project takes the Night of the Murdered Poets as the point of departure and researches Yiddish literature in the Soviet Union between 1917 and the 1970s. During our symposium, affiliated scholars will present and discuss the ways in which the trial and assassination of 1952 continues to hold a sway over their research into Soviet Yiddish culture explored against the backdrop of revolution, civil war, and emigration, as well as the experience of Stalinism and the Holocaust and the new insights that are being gained in defiance of well-established narratives. Panelists will present one aspect of the cooperation project and discuss to what extent the 12. August 1952 plays a role in the respective subprojects, how the events are (probably newly) read.

  • Sabine Koller (Professor of Slavic-Jewish Studies, University of Regensburg, researcher in charge of the interdisciplinary cooperation project The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature) presents on the life and work of Dovid Bergelson and a new project of translation of his work into German.
  • Alexandra Polyan (University of Regensburg, postdoc of the interdisciplinary cooperation project The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature) presents on the life and work of Peretz Markish
  • Jakob Stürmann (Dubnow-Institut, postdoc of the project The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature) presents on the Jewish Antifascist Committee.
  • Followed by a panel discussion with Miriam Schulz and Gennady Estraikh, mainly about 12. August 1952 and a problematization of the periodization of the project The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature.
  • Q&A

In co­operation with Maison de la culture yiddish – Bibliothèque Medem. Sponsored by the EAJS, European Association of Jewish Studies.

Summer Pro­gram for Yiddish Lan­guage and Literature

From 8–26 August 2022, the Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Literature, run by the Parisian Maison de la culture yiddish – Bibliothèque Medem, will take place for the third time at the Freie Uni­versität Berlin's Insti­tute for East Euro­pean Studies. This year, for the first time, the event is being held in partner­ship with the Jewish Museum Berlin and will focus on Yiddish culture in the Soviet Union. Stu­dents from all over the world will partici­pate in an extensive, hybrid program of language courses ranging from beginner to ad­vanced. This is accom­panied by cul­tural activities for the wider Berlin public, such as work­shops on Yiddish music, theater, conver­sation and cooking, sight­seeing tours of Yiddish Berlin, and a Yiddish film festival.

Where, when, what?

  • When Sun 14 Aug 2022, 2 pm
  • Where W. M. Blumenthal Academy,
    Klaus Mangold Auditorium

    Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin
    (Opposite the Museum)

    See location on map

Share, Newsletter, Feedback