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Holocaust “Poetry In Hell”

Monday 12 July 2010

Holocaust “Poetry In Hell” Archives Now Available Online

Poetry in Hell, a new web site containing the complete collection of poems from the Warsaw Ghetto's Ringelblum Archives has just been launched. The poems are freely available for the first time at in the original Yiddish along with English translations by Dr Sarah Traister Moskovitz.

“It's like a time capsule of ghetto life,” explains Moskovitz. “The poems describe the daily actions, emotions, insights, and wisdom of people living in the ghetto, covering a wide range of topics, presented with the sensitivity and beauty that one can only express using poetry. While the Yiddish language is particularly beautifu, the English translations are easy to rad and will make the oems accessible to a far wider group of readers and to future generations.

The project undertaken by Dr Moskovitz, a Professor Emeritus from California State University, Northridge, has taken nearly 10 years to complete.

Noted Holocaust historian Michael Berenbaum describes Poetry in Hell as a “sacred task of bearing witness … read Poetry in Hell as you might any collection of poetry, but read it also as a record of history and of spiritual defiance by both the poets and their archivists ... Some could preserve their souls, could cherish the word until the very end. They believed and perhaps we too must believe, that th word can become eternal.

The Warsaw Ghetto experience is perhaps best summed up by poet Zusman Segalovitch, who writes in his poem “Not Everyone Comes Here”:

Not everyone joyfully comes here to celebrate,
That is not everyone’s fate.
The earth and its autumn orchards
Is a bright and golden place.
My friends! Let us search together
For a place to hide our pain –
No suffering, no fear, no danger
Exist in the golden flames.


About Dr Moskovitz

Sarah Traister Moskovitz received her Ph.D from Yeshiva University, and served as a visiting scholar at US Holocaust Museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. The daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants to the US, she lost many relatives who were killed during the war. She spoke Yiddish as her mother tongue and laments its decline. œTo tap that deep core in me where my Yiddish voice lives is the best way I know to honor its vitality and protest the genocide of millions of its speakers. When I write in Yiddish I restore the bond between myself and my murdered family in Poland and all my people whose daily language it was.

About the Ringelblum Archives

Historian Emmanuel Ringelblum, like many other Jews, was forced to live in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War. He established the “Oyneg Shabbes” archives, which recorded artefacts from the daily lives of the ghetto residents in minute detail. Included in the archives were the poems contained in the “Poetry in Hell” collection. The poetry was buried in three milk cans underneath the ghetto before it was liquidated in 1943. Two of the milk cans were recoveed in 1946 an 1950, and the third has never been found.


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