Broken Heart / Broken Wholeness: The Post-Holocaust Plea for Jewish Reconstruction of the Soviet Yiddish Writer Der Nister

Broken Heart / Broken Wholeness: The Post-Holocaust Plea for Jewish Reconstruction of the Soviet Yiddish Writer Der Nister

69.00

Ber Kotlerman
with a foreword by Zvi Gitelman

Series: Jews of Russia & Eastern Europe and Their Legacy
ISBN: 9781618115300 (hardcover)
Pages: approx. 210 pp.
Publication Date: December 2016

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In the summer of 1947, three years before his death in a labor camp hospital, one of the most significant Soviet Yiddish writers Der Nister (Pinkhas Kahanovitsh, 1884–1950) made a trip from Moscow to Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Region in the Russian Far East. He traveled there on a special migrant train, together with a thousand Holocaust survivors. The present study examines this journey as an original protest against the conformism of the majority of Soviet Jewish activists. In his travel notes, Der Nister described the train as the “modern Noah’s ark,” heading “to put an end to the historical silliness.” This rhetoric paraphrasing Nietzsche’s “historical sickness,” challenged the Jewish history in the Diaspora, which “broke” the people's mythical “wholeness.” Der Nister formulated his vision of a post-Holocaust Jewish reconstruction more clearly in his previously unknown manifesto. Without their own territory, he wrote, the Jews were like “a soul without a body or a body without a soul, and in either case, always a cripple.” Records of the fabricated investigation case against the “anti-Soviet nationalist grouping in Birobidzhan” reveal details about Der Nister’s thoughts and real acts. Both the records and the manifesto are being published here for the first time.


Ber Kotlerman is Associate Professor at the Department of Literature of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, where in 2011–14 he served as Academic Director of the Rena Costa Center for Yiddish Studies. His fields of interest include Jewish history in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Far East, Yiddish and Hebrew literature, Jewish theater and cinema. He is the author of Disenchanted Tailor in “Illusion”: Sholem Aleichem behind the Scenes of Early Jewish Cinema (Bloomington, IN, 2014), The Cultural World of Soviet Jewry (Raanana, 2014), In Search of Milk and Honey: The Theater of “Soviet Jewish Statehood” (Bloomington, IN, 2009), and Bauhaus in Birobidzhan (Tel Aviv, 2008); the editor of Mizrekh: Jewish Studies in the Far East, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main, 2009 and 2011), Yiddish Theater: Literature, Culture, and Nationalism (Ramat Gan, 2009); and the co-editor of Around the Point: Studies in Jewish Literature and Culture in Multiple Languages (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2014)


Table of Contents

Foreword by Zvi Gitelman
Note on the Translation and Transliteration
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Preface

Part One: Der Nister’s Journey from Moscow to Birobidzhan

A Wedding on a Migrant Train
Der Nister’s Images and Impressions
      “With the Second Echelon”
      “With the New Settlers to Birobidzhan”
A Man Dieth in a Tent
Russian-Jewish “Hybridization”
Comfort Ye My People
Real Action

Part Two: Investigation Case No. 68

Der Nister Affair
Accused in the Case
Detention Order: buzi miller, June 6, 1949, Birobidzhan
Interrogation Records
      Defendant heshl rabinkov, July 23, 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant buzi miller, August 5, 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant buzi miller, August 29, 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant buzi miller, September 17, 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant itsik fefer, June 30, 1949, Moscow
      Defendant buzi miller, October 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant buzi miller and Defendant heshl rabinkov, October 28, 1949, Khabarovsk (Confrontation)
      Defendant luba vasserman, July 12, 1949, Khabarovsk
      Arrestee grigori frid, April 4, 1938, Minsk (Testimony)
      Defendant luba vasserman, August 17, 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant shimen siniavski-sindelevich, October 25, 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant faivish arones, November 21, 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant faivish arones, November [22–29?], 1949, Khabarovsk
      Defendant faivish arones and Witness aleksandr drisin, November 29, 1949, Khabarovsk (Confrontation)
Resubmission of the Indictment: Defendant buzi miller, December 15, 1949, Khabarovsk
Bill of Indictment: buzi miller, heshl rabinkov, isroel emiot, ber slutski, luba vasserman, shimen siniavski-sindelevich, and faivish arones, April 6, 1950, Khabarovsk (Excerpts)
The Sentence: buzi miller, May 31, 1950, Moscow (Excerpt)
Resolution to Reduce the Prison Term and Release buzi miller from Custody, December 27, 1955, Moscow (Excerpt)

Appendix: Der Nister’s “Birobidzhan Manifesto” (Yiddish)
Bibliography
Index of Names and Places