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Hershele Danielovitch: Holocaust Poetry with English Translations

Hershele Danielovitch (June 30, 1882-September 1941) was a Jewish Holocaust poet. Hershele, as he was known by the people of Warsaw, was encouraged to write as a youth by Y. L. Peretz. He was one of the founders of the Lodz Yiddish Literary Group. He wrote children’s songs, humorous poems, and translations from Polish and Russian to Yiddish. His songs were so popular they were thought to be folk songs. He died of hunger with his wife and two children in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941. Katsenelson, writing under the pen name of Khayim Goldberg in his poem Di Khronik fun Hershele’s Toit (“The Chronicle of Hershele’s Death”), reports that Hershele left a thousand poems.

My Wife and Children Are Starving

My poor wife and children are starving
neighbors look askance and gasp
when one wants to lighten my life—
I must shun him out of shame…

Naked as Adam and barefoot
ragged and torn—
I drag myself over the ruins
not to think, not to know…

Worn out by worry,
without strength, sick and broken—
I wander, wiped out without a home.
Long lost is my hope…

Chewed up by fate,
dejected by burdens—
I go about a forgotten one
who cannot bear these troubles…

Someone knows of joy and light,
of peace and hope,
but for me only black emptiness remains
for me only the grave is open…

Who Can Know What I Lack

Who can know what I lack,
what torments me, what delights?

What tortures me, Woe!
in the depths of me.

Something I feel touching me
how it frosts and freezes

how I fever cold and hot
soaked in damp of sweat.

How my body to its core
is an open deep-felt sore

and it presses, burns and scalds
as I die step by step...

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