Anthology of Yiddish Poetry
of Poland between the two
World Wars (1918 - 1939)

אַנטאָלאָגיע פון דער ײִדישער פּאָעזיע
אין פּוילן צווישן ביידע וועלט מלחמות
(1918 - 1939)

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  Debora (Dvoyre) Fogel      

   Photo credit:
File:Debora vogel.jpg

Who was Dvoyre Fogel?

by Maia Bull, Editor for Dvoyre Fogel


Dvoyre Fogel is best known as the correspondent of the acclaimed twentieth-century Polish writer, Bruno Schulz. It was in the margins of Schulz’s letters to Fogel that he wrote his first novel, Cinnamon Shops. Schulz’s biographer, Jerzy Ficowski, consigns Fogel’s work as less important than the productive effect she had on Schulz. Some critics have suggested that Schulz “borrowed” from Fogel; others that Fogel “plagiarized” from Schulz. Neither characterization captures the complex relationship between the writers, or their works. In contrast to Schulz’s extravagant prose, Fogel fashioned her own experimental poetic aesthetic with the aim of establishing Yiddish as a language of serious contemporary literature.


Dvoyre Fogel was born in 1900 in Bursztyn, a small farming village in the now Ukrainian part of Galicia,[1] a former province in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire that stretched from Poland to western Ukraine. She grew up in an assimilated Jewish family that spoke Polish at home. Her mother was a headmistress and her father taught Hebrew at the local Baron Hirsch School. Fogel’s only sibling, a sister, died as an infant. Fogel knew German and attended high school in Vienna, where her family fled during World War One. Her father, Anshel Fogel, taught her Hebrew but disdained Yiddish as a folk language. Her mother also rejected Yiddish, but for different reasons.  Religious observance in her mother’s family had been displaced over the course of two generations by Zionism, which looked upon Yiddish as a language that legitimized the Diaspora. Fogel learned Yiddish in her twenties, her sixth and last language, and the one she chose for writing her poetry.


In 1919 Fogel enrolled at the Jan Kazimierz University of Lwów. Five years into her studies she transferred to Jagiellonian University in Kraków where she received her PhD in 1926 in Polish literature and philosophy. After defending her thesis, “The Cognitive Meaning of Art in Hegel and its Interpretation by Józef Kremer,” she traveled to Stockholm, the home of her uncle Marcus Ehrenpreis, Chief Rabbi of Sweden and Zionist activist and writer. She visited Berlin and then Paris where she met Marc Chagall, whose figurative style of painting would inspire her poetry. Then she returned to teach in Lwów.


In 1928 Fogel encountered Rokhl Auerbach, who taught in the philosophy department at the Jan Kazimierz University and would become the right hand woman of sociologist Emanuel Ringelblum in the Warsaw Ghetto (Auerbach survived the War and later became a Founding Director of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.) They met in a seminar on philosophy, and since they were neighbors, their commutes to school from Szwientego Boulevard and Zborowska Street joined at the Zholkyver Station. In the early period of her friendship with Auerbach, Fogel wrote her first poems in Yiddish for the daily Morgn. With Auerbach she helped found a young group of writers and activists who sought to build a contemporary reputation for Galician Yiddish literature. Self-named the Tsushtayer Literary Group, these idealists wrote self-consciously secular, avant-garde stories and poems in a language associated with backwardness, at a moment in time when the Jewish heritage was being crushed under the pressures of assimilation, poverty, immigration, and competing nationalisms that had no place for Jews. Fogel edited some of the finest Polish prose stylists of the period, and published two books of poetry in Yiddish, Day-Figures (1930), and Mannequins (1934), and a book of prose poetry in Yiddish and Polish, Acacias Bloom (1935).


In 1931 Fogel met the penniless schoolteacher and aspiring writer Bruno Schulz. Their friendship, beginning with long Sunday walks, led to a correspondence that lasted years. Few letters remain. A year before Schulz’s biographer, Jerzy Ficowski, looked for Fogel’s letters in her apartment in Lwów, the old caretaker in the process of tidying up “an entire basement of papers” burnt “the scraps and rubbish.”[2] A close reading of Fogel’s book of poetry, Mannequins, and Schulz’s novel Cinnamon Shops, published the same year, may disclose parts of their lost conversations and Fogel’s own thoughts about writing and her life.


My readings of both lead me to believe that each writer at once absorbed the other’s ideas, and rewrote them. I imagine Schulz’s narrative gradually forming, like one of Fogel’s montages, into a “sticky and drawn-out life mass” in which one can discern Fogel “as one dissects into single branches and leaves the clumps of greenery in the month of June or July.”[3] In Schulz’s view as well as Fogel’s,“one can interrupt life and take it up anew like the chronicle of a year, interrupted in the month of November, the month that is, as coppery tin, tragic and fantastic just as life.”[4] At certain moments one can interrupt Fogel’s or Schulz’s work and find the other’s taken up anew. At times, we hear Fogel better in Schulz’s writing than in her own. Their letters flowered, in Schulz’s words, from “the fermentation of too rich an atmosphere which provoked that precocious blossoming, luxuriation, and wilting of the fantastic oleanders” that filled the space between them “with a rare, lazy snowstorm of large pink clusters of flowers.”[5]


Schulz proposed to Fogel in 1931, but her mother opposed the marriage. Soon after, Fogel married Szulim Barenbluth, a civil engineer. They settled in Lwów. In 1935 she reached out to a New York-based avant-garde group of Yiddish writers, who produced the monthly journal Inzikh. She sent poems with her letters, and an essay titled “The Literary Genre of Montage,” which was published in the New York quarterly Bodn. In 1936, she gave birth to a son.


By 1938 Fogel had apparently stopped writing. The same year, Auerbach visited her in Lwów for the last time. Fogel’s son was three years old when Germany invaded Poland from the west, followed in a matter of weeks by the Soviet invasion from the east. In 1941 after Germany broke its treaty with the Soviet Union and resumed its war of territorial conquest, special killing units called Einsatzgruppen sent to murder Jews by shooting entered the Lwów region. In 1941, Fogel and her family, including Fogel's now elderly mother, were forced to leave their home and move into the Lwów ghetto. Her husband worked as a member of the Judenrat, the Nazi appointed Jewish council, which provided some support and a modicum of safety. But not for long. Along with her husband and son, Fogel was shot to death in 1942.


Auerbach was the first to learn, and write, about Fogel’s death. She attributes her information to Henryk Shtreng, a friend who had illustrated some of Fogel’s montages in the 1930s. Employed to remove the corpses in the cleaned-out ghetto he discovered the bodies of Dvoyre Fogel and her family on Bernsztejn Street. They had been hiding next to the Yad Harutsim house, where Auerbach and Fogel used to attend lectures, when the Nazis found them.


Suggested Reading[6]


Chaver, Yael. “Dvoyre Fogel.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 Mar. 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive.


Freedman-Cohen, Carrie. “The Tsushtayer (‘Contribution’) Group in Galicia: 1929–1932.” Khulyot: Journal of Yiddish Research, No. 10 (Winter 2007).*


Kaszuba-Debska, Anna. “Debora Vogel.” Project Stilettos. Trans. Scotia Gilroy.


Szymaniak, Karolina. Być agentem wiecznej idei: Przemiany progladów estetycnych Debory Vogel  [Agent of an eternal idea: Evolution of the aesthetic views of Debora Vogel]. Krákow: 2006. See esp. English summary and first ever-published bibliography of Fogel’s work.*


              [1] Rokhl Auerbach, “Unspun Threads,” Di Goldene Keyt 50 (1964), 131–43; Yael Chaver, “Dvoyre Fogel,” Jewish


 Women’s Archive: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, 1 Mar. 2009,; Anna Kaszuba-Debska, “Debora Vogel,” trans Scotia Gilroy, Project Stilettos,


[2] Karolina Szymaniak, Być agentem wiecznej idei: Przemiany progladów estetycnych Debory Vogel (Krákow: 2006), 2.


[3] Dvoyre Fogel, Acacias Bloom (Warsaw-Lemberg: 1935), 73–74.


[4] Ibid.


[5]Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles, trans. Celina Wieniewska (New York: 1963), 38-39.

[6] Sources marked with an asterisk have only been published in their original language. Typescripts of the English translations are available from the author.




Dvoyre Fogel


1900–1942 Poland



3 or 4 January – Born in Bursztyn, Galicia, to Anshel Fogel and Lea Ehrenpreis.





Attends Jewish gymnasium (Junior High School) at 17 Dwernickiego Street in Lwów. Mother headmistress of Jewish vocational school.




c. 1914

Family moves to Vienna.



August – World War I begins.




February – Russian Revolution deposes the czar.


12 July – Graduates high school in Vienna.





11 November – World War I ends with catastrophic German defeat. Right-wing political parties blame Jews for what Hitler calls a “stab in the back.” Surges of nationalism, Jews pressed to identify with Zionism or Polish culture.



Family returns to Lwów. Father becomes director of Jewish orphanage on Zborowska Street. Family live in house next door. Fogel enrolls at Jan Kazimierz University in Lwów. Involved in Ha-szomar Ha-cair Socialist Zionist Youth organization.




Intense nationalism gives rise to Republic of Western Ukraine.





Poland extends sovereignty over Lwów.



Transfers to graduate school at Jagellonian University in Kraków.





Defends thesis “The Cognitive Meaning of Art in Hegel and its Interpretation by Józef Kremer.” Receives excellent mark on Polish language exam.

July 7 – Granted doctorate.



c. 1927

Visits Berlin, Paris, and Stockholm, home of uncle rabbi Marcus Ehrenpreis, early advocate of Jewish nationalism and Zionism.





Teaches in Philosophy Department at Jan Kazhimit University in Lwów. Meets Rokhl Auerbach. Joins Jewish Folk University, Society of Jewish Students of Philosophy, and Polish Artists’ Union.




September – Tshushtayer Literary Group releases first issue of periodical Tsushtayer, including Fogel's essay “Theme and Form in the Art of Chagall.” Involved in Artes, Lwów based artistic group experimenting with Surrealism and Cubism. Lectures on Polish literature and psychology at Jakob Rotman Hebrew Seminary in Zakopane.





Second issue of Tsushtayer. Publishes first book of poetry Day-Figures. Meets Bruno Schulz in Zakopane while visiting Stanislaw Witkiewicz who paints her portrait. Visits uncle Markus Ehrenpreis.






Third issue of Tsushtayer.

11 October – Marries Szulim Barenbluth. Family, including Fogel’s mother, moves to new house on Lecznow Street.







January – Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

July – Nazi Party declared only legal party in Germany.



Publishes book of poems Mannequins. Schulz publishes Cinnamon Shops with key chapter “Tailors’ Dummies.”





Publishes book of prose poetry Acacias Bloom in Polish and Yiddish. Reaches out to New York-based group of Yiddish avant-garde writers.




September – Nuremberg laws deprive German Jews of citizenship.



Gives birth to son Asher-Anshelm Barenbluth.

Prose and essays appear in New York Yiddish monthly Inzikh




Prose and poetry appear in quarterly Bodn.





Auerbach visits Fogel in Lwów. Wladislaw Streminksi, founder of approach to art called Unism, exhibits lithograph in journal ?ód? called “Debora Vogel.”



Nazis arrest 17,000 Polish Jews living in Germany and expel them to Poland. Poland refuses to allow them over the border, stranding them in “No-Man’s Land” for months.

9 November – Kristallnacht, progrom against Jews in Germany. Hundreds of synagogues and Jewish businesses burned. Jewish men arrested, sent to concentration camps.



September – Helps Jewish refugees arriving from German occupied Poland.




29 September – Nazis and Soviets divide Poland. Over two million Jews live on German side, 1.3 on Soviet. Lwów on Soviet side.  

27 September – Warsaw surrenders.

22 September – Soviets occupy Lwów.

21 September – Heydrich orders Jews in Poland into ghettos near railroads for final stage of dealing with the “Jewish Question.”

17 September – Soviets invade eastern Poland.

4 September – Germans cut off Warsaw.

1 September – Nazis invade Poland. SS activity begins. Jewish pop. 3.35 million out of a total pop. 30 million.

Spring – Poland mobilizes army and civil administration. Some Jews begin fleeing east.



December – Forced to move with family into Lwów ghetto. Husband employed by Judenrat.




December – First killings of Jews by gassing at Chelmno death camp in eastern Poland.

June – Germany invades Soviet Union, occupies eastern Poland. Special killing units (Einsatzgruppen) start mass murder of Jews by shooting.



August – Murdered with husband, elderly mother, and six-year-old son in Lwów ghetto on Bernsztejn Street.



Summer – Einsatzgruppen active in Lwów region.

22 July – Deportations from Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka begin.

19 July – Himmler orders mass deportation of Jews in Poland to extermination camps under code name Operation Reinhard.



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