Charles Adès Fishman Adds Voice, on Yom Hashoah, to Sutzkever Prize Fracas


by Charles Adès Fishman


Dear Ed,

I could hardly believe it when I was told that you were participating in the Sutzkever Translation Prize competition as a judge. The Ed Hirsch whose work I’ve read and admired for years—the Ed Hirsch I’ve admired for years—wouldn’t allow himself to be used in a way that will help the Neo-Nazi forces in Lithuania remove the stain of antisemitism from its persecution of individuals who served as Jewish partisans during the Holocaust years.

That isn’t the Ed Hirsch I corresponded with while editing both the 1991 Texas Tech edition of Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust and the revised 2007 Time Being Books edition.

Not the poet who so identified with the Shoah survivor and great poet Paul Celan that he felt it necessary and inescapable that he speak for Celan in his poem “Paul Celan: A Grave and Mysterious Question,” in which he had that beloved poet ask

  • “What did we know then about the smoke
  • That was already beginning to pulse from trains . . .
  • What did we know about a single gray strand
  • Of barbed wire knotted slowly and tightly
  • Around their necks?”

and then had this poet state:

  • “We didn’t know anything then.”

So true, Ed! But, now? Now we know about the local killing sites, the trains, the smoke, the gas chambers and the gruesomely contorted bodies, the crematoria and death marches, the cruelty and brutality and Jew-hatred that leapt all previously known bounds.

And you know all this, Ed.

You know that Lithuania is using you to legitimize its sickening mutilation of the memory of our partisans’ deeds, its sickening attempt to murder our memory of those Jewish brothers and sisters who would not go down easily, who would not go down without fighting.

And this is why I ask you now, Ed, to rise up against the expectations of the Lithuanian regime that hopes to use you to batter the past into submission, to throw still-warm ash over the heads of our partisan heroes, to transform Avrom Sutzkever—a true hero of our people, a hero of history, a poet we can both be proud of—into a cover boy for revisionism, an iconic mask for the most vicious lies.

With great hope that you will resign your post as a Sutzkever Translation Prize judge,


Dr. Charles Adès Fishman is co-editor,Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Opppression of Women; editor of Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (2007); author of In the Path of Lightning: Selected Poems (2012). and

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