Jewish Studies Abraham Sutzkever
Sunny S. Yudkoff
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 December 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0214


Abraham Sutzkever (Yiddish: Avrom Sutskever; Hebrew: Avraham Sutskever) (b. 1913–d. 2010) was a titan of Yiddish literature. Over the course of six decades, he published more than thirty volumes of poetry and prose. He also edited the most important postwar Yiddish journal of arts and letters, Di goldene keyt, from 1949 to 1995. From his youth in Vilna and Siberia to his later years in Tel Aviv, Sutzkever insistently posited the power of poetry to sustain life and culture. His wartime experiences further marked the writer as both poet and hero. During his incarceration in the Vilna Ghetto, he served as a member of the “Paper Brigade,” rescuing the cultural heritage of the Jewish community of the “Jerusalem of Lithuania.” He also took up arms as a partisan fighter in the forests surrounding the city. After the war, he testified in graphic detail at the Nuremberg Tribunals at the request of the Soviet Union. A writer of wide-ranging interests—from the frozen tundra of Omsk to the cafés of Paris, from the cellars of the Vilna Ghetto to the shores of the Red Sea—Sutzkever continually exercised his neologistic skills, poeticizing his present life in conversation with the memories of his past and his cultural ambitions for the future. Some of his most prominent volumes include his first collection, Lider (Poems), published in Warsaw in 1937; his epic poem Sibir (Siberia), illustrated by Marc Chagall and published in Jerusalem in 1953; the series of experimental prose poems of memorialization, Griner akvaryum (Green Aquarium), published in Jerusalem in 1975; and one of his later volumes, Lider fun togbukh (Poems from a Diary), published in Tel Aviv in 1977.

Reference Works

Cammy 2007, a biobibliographic entry, is a strong starting place for scholars looking for a brief and informative introduction to Sutzkever’s life and literary output. Wisse 2017 is a much-briefer overview geared to both a scholarly and general audience. Birnboym 1965 includes reference to Yiddish reviews of Sutzkever’s work from the Yiddish press.

  • Birnboym, Yankev. “A. Sutskever.” In Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur. Vol. 6. Edited by Samuel (Niger) Charney and Jacob Shatzky, 355–367. New York: Alveltlekhn Yidishn Kultur-Kongres, 1965.

    This basic entry reviews Sutzkever’s biography and literary output. It also includes a helpful bibliography of Yiddish articles and critical resources about Sutzkever’s work from the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Cammy, Justin. “Abraham Sutzkever.” In Writers in Yiddish. Edited by Joseph Sherman, 303–313. Dictionary of Literary Biography 333. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007.

    This extended overview examines the main historical events and poetic concerns that defined Sutzkever’s biography and literary subjects. This source is especially useful for literary scholars, since the main poetic styles and themes of each of Sutzkever’s published volumes are explored. This entry also includes a bibliography of Sutzkever’s published collections, as well as major critical studies of his work.

  • Wisse, Ruth R. “Sutzkever, Avrom.” In YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 2017.

    This succinct encyclopedia entry identifies the main historical events of Sutzkever’s biography as well as points readers to consider the importance Sutzkever invested in poetry as the product and progenitor of Yiddish culture.

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