Symposium on the 70th Anniversary of the Night of Murdered Poets
August 12th, 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.
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 Jewish Museum Berlin’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.
In cooperation with the Maison de la culture yiddish – Bibliothèque Medem. Sponsored by the European Association of Jewish Studies (EAJS).
Panel 1, 14–16.30
The Night of the Murdered Poets – History and Legacies (in English)
Gennady Estraikh (NYU) and Miriam Schulz (University of Toronto), two leading scholars of Soviet Yiddish culture and the Jewish Cold War, will discuss newest scholarship on the immediate postwar period in the Soviet Union and the Stalinist anti-Jewish purges themselves. The panel will also trace exactly the ways in whichthe “Night of the Murdered Poets” 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, former 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 of the “Night of the Murdered Poets” in East and West until today.
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 The Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow (DI), the ZfL, 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. Each panelist will present one aspect of the cooperation project and discuss to what extent August 12th, 1952 plays a role in the respective subprojects and how the events are (probably newly) read.
- Sabine Koller (Professor of Slavic-Jewish Studies, University of Regensburg, scholarly responsible for the interdisciplinary cooperation project “The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature”) presents on the life and work of Dovid Bergelson and a new project aimed at translating his work into German.
- Alexandra Polyan (University of Regensburg, postdoc in the interdisciplinary cooperation project “The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature”) presents on the life and work of Peretz Markish.
- Jakob Stürmann (DI, postdoc in 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 on August 12th, 1952 and the problematization of the periodization of the project “The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature.”