The Grave of a Great Yiddish Poet Has Been Found in Siberia

In the aftermath of World War II, Joseph Stalin began to adopt policies of official anti-Semitism, which included the arrest and eventual execution of many leading figures of Yiddish theater and literature. Among them was Pinḥas Kahanovitsh, known by the pen name Der Nister (“the Hidden One”), whose poetry, short stories, and novels are considered exemplars of Jewish modernism. Two researchers recently discovered his grave in the coal-mining village of Vorkuta above the Arctic Circle. The Jewish Telegraph Agency reports:

Ber Kotlerman, a professor of Yiddish language and literature at Bar-Ilan University, . . . along with a Russian colleague, Moscow State University’s Alexander Polyan, pinpointed the Kahanovitsh’s burial place, . . . using testimonies and blueprints of the gulag that existed there. . . .

Kahanovich was a member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, [assembled by Stalin during World War II for propaganda purposes]. Most of the committee’s members were rearrested in the 1950s, convicted on trumped-up espionage charges, and killed.

Most of the bodies of the victims were dumped in mass graves, but Kahanovich was buried separately because he fell gravely ill while serving a ten-year sentence in the gulag and was transferred for health reasons to a camp for disabled prisoners. He perished in the village of Abez, near Vorkuta, on June 4, 1950.

Many of Der Nister’s colleagues from the Anti-Fascist Committee were killed in August 1952 in what is known as the Night of the Murdered Poets, including Itzik Feffer, Peretz Markish, David Hofshteyn, Leyb Kvitko, and David Bergelson.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, Joseph Stalin, Soviet Jewry, Yiddish literature

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey