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Labor Action, 8 August 1949


Daniel Davidson

Jewish Pen Club Queries Russian
Embassy on Purged Writers’ Fate


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 32, 8 August 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The fate of the outstanding Yiddish writers of Russia who were reported to have been arrested and exiled several months ago has aroused concern among Jewish cultural leaders throughout the world. Overcoming its diffidence, the Yiddish Pen Club of New York, organization of Yiddish writers affiliated with the International PEN, sent a letter to the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Ivan Panyushkin, inquiring about the fate of the Yiddish writers in Stalinist Russia.

The letter reads as follows:

July 14, 1949

Your Excellency:

... We want to call your attention to reports which have been received that the outstanding Yiddish writers in the USSR, among whom are included Izik Pfeffer, Der Nistor, Markish, Bergelson and Broderzon, have been arrested and exiled. Since these reports have reached us, the works of these writers have not appeared. We waited until now hoping that some information concerning their fate would be forthcoming. However, no information whatsoever has been received. In addition we wish to point to the fact that at the Paris Peace Congress held in May, at which the literatures of the various minorities were represented, Yiddish Soviet literature had no such representation. We appeal to you to be kind enough to give us the information for which we have until now waited in vain. The N.Y. Yiddish Pen Club, which is a branch of the International PEN, considers it a duty to bring this matter before the public.


The letter is signed by Ephraim Auerbach, president of the Yiddish Pen Club. (My emphasis – D.D.)

To date no answer has appeared.

Meanwhile the Stalinist hacks of the Freiheit have taken this representative Yiddish writers’ organization to task for its effrontery and “gall” in sending and publicizing the letter. The classical Stalinist “epithet apologetics” is employed and the Pen Club is denounced as a reactionary band serving the interests of the “cold war” of the Anglo-Saxon imperialists.

Sholem Asch Breaks

It is also interesting to note that these hacks are not too successful in their efforts to hold their fellow travelers in line. Sholem Asch, famous Yiddish author of The Nazarene and East River, who during the recent war was a contributor to the Stalinist publications, Freiheit and Einikeit, severed his connections with the Stalinists in the U.S. and issued a statement protesting their silence “on the pogrom committed against Jewish culture in the USSR.” (My emphasis – D.D.)

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