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Avram Sutzkever z“l

Lawrence Bush
February 3, 2010

As a quarterly magazine, Jewish Currents sadly can’t always keep up with the deaths of Jewish heroes and heroines of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations in a timely way. Radical historian Howard Zinn, Yiddish theater star Mina Bern, leftwing sportswriter Lester Rodney, and cultural pioneer Art D’Lugoff all passed within the past few weeks and will be honored in future editions of our “In Memoriam” column (written by Bennett Muraskin). But Avram Sutzkever, who died January 20, should not be made to wait.
Sutskever testifying Sutzkever was an anti-Nazi resistance fighter in the Vilna Ghetto, a witness at the Nuremberg trials (the artwork at left shows him testifying), an activist in YIVO in its Vilna days, a leading light of Yiddish poetry, and a unique defender of the Yiddish language in Israel, especially through his indefatigable editorship of his literary journal, Di Goldene Keyt (“The Golden Chain”).
In the Spring issue of Jewish Currents, in our Mameloshn column, there’ll be a new translation by Hershl Hartman of Sutzkever’s fabulous poem, “Yiddish” (as well as the original and a transliteration).
Meanwhile, Our friend Martin Horwitz offers the following links to articles about Sutzkever:
From Cafe Babel
Very good biographical info
“When Yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever died last week at the age of 96, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner released an official death notice on behalf of the French government. The Lithuanian parliament conducted a special session and stood up for a moment of silence. The Lithuanian ambassador to Israel gave a eulogy at his funeral, and long articles were written about him in Le Monde and The New York Times.
“But the Israeli government sent no representative to his funeral, even though it was held here; local Holocaust-related museums didn’t send any official representatives either, even though Sutzkever wrote extensively about the Holocaust...”
The Yiddish Book Center has Sutzkever’s “Di Festung” (The Fortress) viewable in downloadable form and for purchase at
And there’s a fine appreciation by Ruth Wisse and a collection of photos at
Finally, at you can find the marvelous Folkways recording of Sutzkever in his own voice with liner notes by Ruth Wisse, available to download or on CD.
Thanks, Martin!

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.