The Poet as Witness: Abraham Sutzkever in Vilna and at Nuremberg




Abraham Sutzkever, Yiddish poetry, Vilna Ghetto, Lithuanian Holocaust, Nuremberg Trials, testimony, crimes against humanity, genocide


This article juxtaposes Abraham Sutzkever’s Yiddish poems written in the Vilna Ghetto between 1941–1943 with the testimony he gave at the Nuremberg Trials on 27 February 1946. A witness, participant, and survivor of the annihilation, Sutzkever became an appropriate representative and unique spokesperson for the murdered Jewish victims. As evidence of a personal and collective tragedy, providing a double record of the destruction of a once-vibrant community through his poetry and his witness statement, Sutzkever imparts the reality of the Holocaust on the first occasion that leaders of a country were indicted before an international court for crimes against humanity. Hence, this article contributes to the understanding of the emotional trauma and fate of Jewish victims during the Holocaust. Emphasising how artistic expression may assist human beings to endure unimaginable hardship, it highlights the continuing importance of personal testimony to endorse memory and warn against recurrence.


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How to Cite

Frankel, Hazel. 2021. “The Poet As Witness: Abraham Sutzkever in Vilna and at Nuremberg”. Journal for Semitics 30 (1):17 pages.
Received 2021-03-01
Accepted 2021-05-26
Published 2021-06-23