The Night of the Murdered Poets
I weep for you with all the letters of the alphabet
that made your hopeful songs.
— from Chaim Grade’s “Elegy for the Soviet Yiddish Writers”
60 years ago on August 12, 1952, Stalin ordered the execution of 13 Soviet Jews, many of them Yiddish writers, poets, critics, and thinkers, on false charges of treason and espionage. The event is referred to as the Night of the Murdered Poets and regarded by some as the successful destruction of post-war Yiddish literature and culture in the Soviet Union.
- Peretz Markish (1895–1952), Yiddish poet, co-founder the School of Writers, a Yiddish literary school in Soviet Russia
- David Hofstein (1889–1952), Yiddish poet
- Itzik Fefer (1900–1952), Yiddish poet, informer for the Ministry of Internal Affairs
- Leib Kvitko (1890–1952), Yiddish poet and children’s writer
- David Bergelson (1884–1952), distinguished novelist
- Solomon Lozovsky (1878–1952), Director of Soviet Information Bureau, Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs, vigorously denounced accusations against himself and others
- Boris Shimeliovich (1892–1952), Medical Director of the Botkin Clinical Hospital, Moscow
- Benjamin Zuskin (1899–1952), assistant to and successor of Solomon Mikhoels as director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater
- Joseph Yuzefovich (1890–1952), researcher at the Institute of History, Soviet Academy of Sciences, trade union leader
- Leon Talmy (1893–1952), translator, journalist, former member of the Communist Party USA
- Ilya Vatenberg (1887–1952), translator and editor of Eynikeyt, newspaper of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee; Labor Zionist leader in Austria and U.S. before returning to the USSR in 1933
- Chaika Vatenburg-Ostrovskaya (1901–1952), wife of Ilya Vatenburg, translator at JAC.
- Emilia Teumin (1905–1952), deputy editor of the Diplomatic Dictionary; editor, International Division, Soviet Information Bureau
- Solomon Bregman (1895–1953), Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs. Fell into a coma after denouncing the trial and died in prison five months after the executions.
- Lina Stern (or Shtern) (1875–1968), the first female academician in the USSR and is best known for her pioneering work on blood–brain barrier. She was the only survivor out of the fifteen defendants.
Some who were either directly or indirectly connected to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee at the time were also arrested in the years surrounding the trial. Although Solomon Mikhoels was not arrested, his death was ordered by Stalin in 1948. Der Nister, another Yiddish writer, was arrested in 1949, and died in a labor camp in 1950. Literary critic Yitzhak Nusinov died in prison and journalists Shmuel Persov and Miriam Zheleznova were shot – all in 1950.
This weekend’s posts will commemorate the atrocities with history, photographs, poetry, audio recordings, and more.