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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  Simkhe Don (? Pułtusk,?1904 - ?Warsaw,1942)      


The 1958 Leksikon (Biographical Dictionary of Yiddish Literature) noted a lack of biographical data for Simkhe Don. Some information has come to light in the Yad vaShem database, supplied by two acquaintances (Khayim Titel and Khaya Treger). Whilst there are some inconsistencies between their accounts, it appears that Don was born in Pułtusk in 1904 or 1906; married; worked as a journalist; and died in Warsaw or in Majdanek in 1942, together with his wife Genia (Gitl) , aged 35, and their four year old daughter Fania.

Our first translated poem A Briv fun Shtetl was published in Literarishe Bleter in May 1934, with a note that it would appear in Don's collection  Khaotishe Teg later that year. We noticed it however in Dos Lid iz Geblibn, the anthology of murdered Yiddish poets edited  by Binem Heller, published in Poland in 1951. There he was erroneously called Simkhe Dan and we have now (2013) corrected the surname on this website.

Simkhe Don's poetry expresses the bitterness of hunger and poverty in the face of luxurious wealth. His verse has been called representative of the work of many provincial Polish Jews who sought through their writings to establish a significant identity for themselves in the city. (Leksikon, 1958). The Leksikon claims that Don was one of those poets who foresaw the coming khurbn.

From his publications in Literarishe Bleter we know that in 1932 he was living in Pułtusk, 70km north of Warsaw (Yid.: Poltosk); and that by 1934 he was in Warsaw. The Warsaw daily newspaper Der Moment published reportage of his from time to time, from 1929 until 1938 ˗ when for example he had a piece "The tragedy of Austria's Jews".

No trace has been found of his two booklets of poems published in Warsaw: Trit in der Nakht (Steps in the Night) (1933) and Khaotishe Teg (Chaotic Days) (1934).

The Index to Yiddish Periodicals lists 22 items by Don. Most are poems, but included are a story published in Unzer Hofenung in December 1926, and a 1931 article attacking shund, in the Vokhnshrift .

Don's poems were published irregularly, beginning in March 1926, in Itche Mayer Wajsenberg's publications, Unzer Hofenung and Vokhnshrift fun Literatur, Kunst un Kultur. (The former appeared from 1926 to 1932, the latter from 1931 to 1935).

Unzer Hofenung: his first poem published, so far as is known, was In shtot nor halber nakht, 15.3.26. Next came (1.4.26) Du and Libe, followed by Mayn Lid and Az mir tut vey on 1.10.26.

These poems are shown here. We have transcribed them in the Warsaw dialect just as they appeared in Wajsenberg's publication.

The Folkstsaytung (daily newspaper of the Bund) of 14.10.27 published his poem A nakht in kazarme.

Oyfgang, a Warsaw zamlbukh of 1931 included 3 poems: ikh, noyt, di mame iz shuldik.

Vokhnshrift fun Literatur, Kunst un Kultur:
In Raykhe Pensionatn           (4.12.31)
Dos lid fun a ban-konduktor (20.5.32)
Iz a kranke di shtot...           (18.11.32)
3 lider:  Dos geveyn fun a dinst-meydl
              Leon der frizirer
             On verter                (17.2.33)
Fartsvayflte Brider            (31.3.33)

Literarishe Bleter first published two Don poems in  April 1932, when he was noted as of Pułtusk. They published him again in August 1932 and then in May 1933; and one last time (our first translated poem) in May 1934. (He was headlined then as "Simkhe Don/Warsaw".) The poems  from L.B.  are:

Dos Lid fun a Ba'amtn  and   S'veynt mayn Shabes  
April 29 1932: pp 282 - 3.
Undzere Teg
August 12 1932 p522
Tsu Leyvikn
May 26 1933 p.339; in reading this poem it helps to know that a note made clear that at the time, H Leyvick (1888 - 1962), hero of the Bund and honoured poet,  was staying in a  Colorado TB Sanatorium which had emblazoned over the entrance the initials JCRS - and it was thought his death was imminent.

Andrew Firestone
Melbourne, 2013.



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