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

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority