Annual conference of the “The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature”
27 Jun 2022 – 29 Jun 2022

“What is on Trial Here is the Yiddish Language”: The Making and Unmaking of Soviet Yiddish Literature

Venue: Leibniz-Institut für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur – Simon Dubnow, Goldschmidtstraße 28, 04103 Leipzig
Organized by Jan Gerber (DI), Irina Kissin (ZfL), Sabine Koller (UR), Alexandra Polyan (UR), Matthias Schwartz (ZfL), Jakob Stürmann (DI), Yfaat Weiss (DI), Brett Winestock (DI)
Contact: Matthias Schwartz (, Brett Winestock (

2022 marks 70 years since the 1952 trial and execution of members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the Soviet Union in what has come to be known as the “Night of the Murdered Poets.” Those poets, and other figures who were executed, had enjoyed state support in the 1920s and survived the Stalinist terror of the 1930s, but the changes in nationalities policy in a Soviet Union which was becoming increasingly Russocentric resulted in a number of anti-Jewish purges after the war. Many of the trumped-up charges at the trial included “promoting nationalism” by simply looking out for Jewish interests in the Soviet Union, or merely by continuing to write in Yiddish—to the point where one of the defendants, Solomon Lozovsky, ultimately concluded that “what is on trial here is the Yiddish language.”

It is not surprising that the most famous defendants were writers, as literature had played an outsized role in the forming of Soviet Yiddish culture and society. Taking the events of 1952 as a starting point, the Dubnow Institute will host a conference in Leipzig, Germany from the 27th to the 29th of June 2022 to probe some of the tensions which characterized Soviet Yiddish literature, including questions of belonging and the relationship between universalism and particularism. The conference is based on the work of The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature research group, an interdisciplinary partnership between scholars of the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow (DI), the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ZfL), and the Professorship for Slavic Jewish Studies at the University of Regensburg (UR), which is funded for a period of three years by the Leibniz Collaborative Excellence program of the Leibniz Competition 2020.

The projects of the research group focus on poets, writers, and cultural figures who were engaged both personally and artistically in the tensions between tradition and modernity, between Jewish affiliation and the affirmation of the creation of a “new” Soviet human. Their life stories and works are explored against the backdrop of revolution, civil war, and emigration, as well as the experience of Stalinism, World War II, and the Holocaust. The presentations will touch directly on the events and protagonists of the trial itself, along with those which deal with the prior emergence and construction of Soviet Yiddish literature and culture since the October Revolution, as well as with its “afterlife”—the survival and continuation of Soviet Yiddish literature in the years after 1952.


Monday, 27 Jun 2022


  • Yfaat Weiss (DI), Sabine Koller (University of Regensburg), Matthias Schwartz (ZfL), Jan Gerber (DI): Welcome Remarks/Introduction

Panel 1
Chair: Elisabeth Gallas (DI)

  • Daria Vakhrushova (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf): Revolutionary Times: Temporality in the Poetry by Perets Markish
  • Tetyana Yakovleva (Yiddish Arts and Academics Association of North America): Utopia in the Making of New Yiddish Literature: Kalmen Zingman’s City of Future

Keynote Address
Chair: Brett Winestock (DI)

  • Harriet Murav (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign): Writing in “the Old Style” and Writing in a Late Style: Dovid Hofshteyn‘s Wartime Poetry


Tuesday, 28 Jun 2022

Panel 2
Chair: Efrat Gal-Ed (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)

  • Sasha Senderovich (University of Washington): Haunted by Pogroms: Dovid Bergelson’s Mides-hadin and the Gothic Mode
  • Brett Winestock (DI): Across Borders, Genres, and Ideologies: How Dovid Bergelson‘s The Red Army Soldier Became by the Telephone


Chair: Carolin Piorun (DI)

  • Sabine Koller (University of Regensburg): Kiev 1948: Dovid Hofshteyn’s Last Poem

Panel 3
Chair: Matthias Schwartz (ZfL)

  • Anna Shternshis (University of Toronto): (Forgotten) Women Yiddish Authors of The Black Book: Rakhil Kovnator and Mira Zheleznova
  • Gennady Estraikh (New York University): The Jewish Star of Itsik Kipnis: A Story of Surveillance, Incarceration, and Rehabilitation

Panel 4
Chair: Olaf Terpitz (University of Graz)

  • Jakob Stürmann (DI): Jewish Unity against National Socialism: Different Perceptions of a Soviet Plea during World War II
  • Amelia Glaser (UC San Diego): Biography of an American Reader: Alexander Pomerantz and Soviet Yiddish Literature

Jiddisch-deutsche Lesung
Chair: Jan Gerber (DI)

  • Caroline Emig, Sabine Koller, Alexandra Polyan (all University of Regensburg): Zug des Lebens – die jiddische Literatur in der Sowjetunion


Wednesday, 29 Jun 2022

Panel 5
Chair: Daniel Weidner (Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg)

  • Ber Kotlerman (Bar-Ilan University): Reshaping the Fate of Polish Jewry during the Holocaust: The Case of Der Nister
  • Alexandra Polyan (University of Regensburg): Peretz Markish‘s Poetry about the Holocaust at the Beginning of World War II and After It

Chair: Tom Navon (DI)

  • Mikhail Krutikov (University of Michigan): Murdered Utopia of Soviet Yiddish Culture

Panel 6
Chair: Jan Gerber (DI)

  • Valery Dymshits (St. Petersburg University): The Teacher and the Disciple: Dovid Bergelson’s Influence on Emmanuel Kazakevich’s Prose
  • Irina Kissin (ZfL): The Sephardic Narrative in Nathan Zabara’s Historical Novel The Revolving Wheel

Final Reflections: Efrat Gal-Ed (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf), Olaf Terpitz (University of Graz)
Moderated by Matthias Schwartz (ZfL)