The Birobidzhan Affair: A Yiddish Writer...

The Birobidzhan Affair is the autobiography, “a chronicle of heart-rending events” recounting Emiot's eight years at hard labor in various work camps in Siberia. Poignant, remarkably understated in tone, it provides evidence of his travails as a Jewish victim of the bitter bureaucracy that was Stalinist Russia.

x Introduction dish writers congregated there, including his old friend Peretz Markish, who had left Poland for the Soviet Union in 1926 and in 1939 was awarded the Order of Lenin. It seems that Emiot came increasingly closer to the political views of Mark-ish and his friends. Despite the Ribbentrop- Molotov Pact and the well- known purges of Yiddish writers in the preceding years, the Soviet Union still was seen by a large number of Yiddish writers as the only hope for freedom and the last hope for Yiddish. In 1940, when Soviet newspapers continued to publish photographs of Molotov standing next to Hitler and reports of Soviet grain and oil shipments to Germany, a vol-ume of Emiot’s poems was published in Moscow by the gov-ernment press Der Emes ( The Truth). “ Meeting My First Red Army Officer” was a typical poem in this collection. Here, Emiot wrote: The world, newly created, stands before you, Thirty years of life till now— untrue; Your spirit is sewn with strings, Each one taut, waiting for a bow. 4 These verses permitted the editor of the volume to declare: On the other side of the Soviet border, in formerly feudal Poland where Emiot was born and raised . . . his poetry sang with only half a voice, in a quiet, solemn tone, instead of “ singing out loud, as one should,” as he writes now, singing the praises of the “ great and grow-ing accomplishments he sees in this land.” The poems in which he writes of his encounters with the new So-viet man prove that the new Soviet concepts are be-ginning to take root in his poetic consciousness. . . . In these verses, Emiot strides forth into a new poetic mode, that of an important Soviet poet. 5 In the summer of 1941, after the German invasion of Russia, Emiot was evacuated to Alma- Ata, Kazakhstan, where 4. Emiot, Lider ( Moscow, 1940). 5. Ibid., pp. 3– 4.   C h a p t e r Home

The Birobidzhan Affair: A Yiddish Writer in Siberia


About Book The Birobidzhan Affair: A Yiddish Writer in Siberia

Front matterCopyright PageAuthor's prefaceIntroductionI go to BirobidzhanThe short-lived revivalIn jailFirst interrogationMy first inquisitorOzirsky of the NKVDMy first cellmateOne Yiddish poet, three Japanese generals, and a Russian thiefThe miracleAwaiting trialMy sentenceOn the road to penal servitudeBarbershop attendantBen SlutskyPenal servitudeProfessor S.How to handle a Jew-baiterI become one of the gangMoishe BrodersonWhen Pinke played Kol NidreiThe investigating commissionAvraham Khayim and the Sephardic JewsThe Jewish daughter from RigaWith the Chinese prisonersRepercussions of the Jewish Doctors' Plot300 women prisoners from MongoliaStalin is deadWe are moved to another campThe secret agent and the banditCelebrating the October RevolutionShot while attempting to escapeA Russian heart with a Jewish sighA Latvian of Jewish originTikhiRebellionMay it get no worseMoishe Broderson and Sholom AleichemOn the eve of liberationFarewell to Moishe BrodersonIn the village of StepanovkaBack to BirobidzhanAmong Jews in BirobidzhanMoscow–Warsaw–New York
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