Avraham Sutzkever’s Astonishing Escape from the Vilna Ghetto

“You could take [his] life from beginning to end and it would be the most astonishing guide to the most dramatic moments in Jewish history of the 20th century,” the Yiddish scholar Ruth Wisse says in a new documentary about Avraham Sutzkever, the great Yiddish poet. Sutzkever has long been known both for his poetry and for his testimony at the Nuremberg trials in Germany after the war. Less known is his and his wife Freydke’s escape from the Vilna Ghetto in 1943. Cnaan Liphshiz narrates it.

During the escape, a German sentry spotted Sutzkever after curfew, the poet recalled. Instead of running or begging for his life, he walked up to the German and told him, “I’m glad I met you. Do you know where I can go, where there are no Germans?” The sentry allowed him to escape, and a non-Jewish woman hid him in her potato cellar until he joined the partisans, Sutzkever said.

From the partisans, his poems and some rescued documents reached Moscow, providing early and chilling evidence of what was happening to the Jews of Lithuania. The texts reached key individuals in Moscow’s wartime literary scene, including the Jewish writer Ilya Ehrenburg, who was one of the few intellectuals that Stalin trusted.

In 1944, a Red Army plane was sent to retrieve the Sutzkevers from near the partisan camp, where Freydke acted as a nurse. But it was downed by German anti-aircraft fire. A second plane was sent two weeks later. The Sutzkevers had to traverse a minefield to reach it.

“Part of the time, I walked in anapests, some of the time I walked in amphibrachs,” Sutzkever told his friend and translator Dory Manor, referring to lines of poetic meter. With Freydke walking in his footprints, “I immersed myself within a rhythm of melody and to that rhythm we walked a kilometer through a minefield and came out on the other side,” Sutzkever later wrote.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avraham Sutzkever, History & Ideas, Holocaust, World War II, Yiddish literature

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security