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DER YIDDISH-VINKL September 19, 2003

On August 12, 1952, the most famous Jewish writers in the Soviet Union were “liquidated” by order of Stalin. There was no reason other than the fact that they were Jewish and enjoyed fame. To memorialize these “martyrs,” the Forverts devoted its page on “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry” to excerpts of their works. What follows are transliterations of their work by Goldie Gold and English versions by Gus Tyler.

Un Oyb (Dovid Hofshteyn)

Un oyb a mol vet oyf mayn keyver zayn a shteyn

(Zol beser yo zayn, eyder neyn)

Iz zol dos zayn a shteyn an ekhter,

Fun traye hent geteset,

Un zol in oyfshrift zayn farflokhtn a vort an alts,

Oyf ekhtn shteyn fun traye hent geteset

A vort vos klingt far fil shoyn fremd: khesed.

And If

And if sometime upon my grave is placed a stone

To let the world know once upon my labors fame had shone

Be sure the stone is real and not some crumbling sands

And let the work be done by honest, faithful hands

Carve out one word that round the world is clearly heard

And please make certain “mercy” is the only word.

* * *|

Far Vos (Itsik Fefer)

Ver hot derloybt mir moykhl zayn

Dem shtrik vos hot mayn bruders hant fartsoygn?

Ver hot derloybt mir moykhl zayn

Der hant, vos hot dem shtrik gehaltn,

Dos oyg, dos oysgeloshene un kalte,

Vos hot zikh nisht farmakht?

Nisht tog, nisht nakht

Un hot gekukt a ruiks oyf der hant,

Vos hot dem shtrik fartsoygn.

Gebentsht zol zayn di shayn,

Vos brit mir mayne oygn

Un rudert oyf mayn zayn

Ver hot derloybt mir ruik zayn…

Un opnemen di ru bay di vos lign in di kvorim

S’iz zeyer ru. S’iz zeyer shlof. S’iz undzer payn.

Es kukt der tsar tsu mir un meynt, az ikh bin orem,

Nor raykh bin ikh mit ayn nisht moykhl zayn

Why

Now who would let me to forgive:

The rope that choked my brother’s hand?

Now who would let me to forgive

The one who held the rope in hand?

Perhaps the eye as cold as ice

That thought the scene was very nice?

Blessed be the lights that shine

And stir this human heart of mine

Why should my soul be now at peace

To share the rest of those deceased?

“Poor guy,” some say, “ain’t fit to live,”

But — I’m rich with all I won’t forgive.

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