Elie Wiesel’s Lost Essay about a Great Work of Holocaust Poetry

Although he is best known today for his writings in English and French, Elie Wiesel also wrote extensively in Yiddish, and was, in Allan Nadler’s words, one of the language’s “great stylists” of the postwar era. Nadler was thus delighted to discover a forgotten 1969 essay by Wiesel on the poetry of Avrom Sutzkever—who, to the Yiddish-reading world of the time, was the undisputed master of Holocaust-survivor literature, and arguably remains the greatest Yiddish poet of all time. Nadler presents a translation of Wiesel’s essay, a review of Sutzkever’s anthology Lider fun yam ha-moves (“Poems from the Sea of Death”):

So long as the Jewish poet remains alive, he will to his dying breath, indeed with this very last breath, spin ancient and new dreams, chanting their songs, that they might pass to future generations. This, one might say, is the moral lesson of Sutzkever’s Poems from the Sea of Death, recently published by the World Union of Survivors of Bergen-Belsen (1968).

Jewish poets sang not only before the Khurbn, [the traditional Yiddish term for the Shoah], but also from the very heart of the inferno. The malekh-hamoves (Angel of Death) had no dominion over their verse. Sutzkever created transformative works within the Ghetto walls, from deep inside the boneyard; they will certainly endure as an eternal testament about that epoch when Jewish life and Jewish blood had been robbed of all value, when humanity betrayed the Jew and, by doing so, renounced their own humanity.

I have often wondered whether or not poetry is the sole form capable of eternalizing the memory of the Khurbn. Neither dry prose nor pure philosophical speculation have the capacity to capture its mystery. Only poetry is capable of this. And more: Sutzkever’s work is also essential as a documentary. It portrays that Sea of Death as it was in fact experienced. One who reads Sutzkever’s verse assumes anew the burden of the Khurbn, “seeking the shofar of the messiah in its bloodied blades of grass and incinerated cities.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Avraham Sutzkever, Elie Wiesel, Holocaust, Poetry, Yiddish literature

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy