Pedagogy

Elie Wiesel at the Forverts: A Bibliography

Amanda Miryem-Khaye Seigel

INTRODUCTION

From 1956 – 1967, Eli Wiesel wrote for the Forverts, pub­lish­ing more than 1,000 arti­cles under his giv­en name, Eliez­er Wiesel, and about two dozen install­ments of a lit­er­ary col­umn under a pseu­do­nym, Elisha Karmeli. Aman­da Miryem-Khaye Seigel has com­piled a list of these articles.

*Note from the Edi­tors: We wel­come your sub­mis­sions that enable us to become a repos­i­to­ry of ref­er­ence resources (like this one) for Yid­dish stud­ies schol­ars and teach­ers. Please send such sub­mis­sions to pedagogy@​ingeveb.​org.


About the project

Some years ago, I undertook a substantial survey of the writing of Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) in the Forverts. I’m thankful to In geveb for helping me finally share this list with a broader audience. Wiesel had contacted the Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library in the late aughts for help documenting his writing in the Forverts between 1956-1967. The Forverts was not yet digitized at the time of the initial survey, and I was responsible for combing through approximately 130 microfilm reels of the daily newspaper, ultimately compiling a list of more than 1,000 articles. The resulting list can be found at this link.

About the data

The list has been checked for accuracy, compared to the online version of the Forverts, and updated where necessary. Special thanks go to my colleague Nora Dolliver for her generous help with this substantial task. The microfilmed and online versions of the Forverts are not identical, and the updated list reflects those variations wherever possible. I also wish to thank Eyal Miller of the Historical Jewish Press for his help in understanding and navigating the online Forverts, which is based on a combination of microfilm and print sources, and occasionally includes regional editions outside New York City. The transliterated text in the list is rendered in Library of Congress romanization for Yiddish and also reflects the popular (nonstandard) spelling of the time.

Wiesel as a Yiddish writer

It’s no surprise that despite extensive bio-bibliographic information on Elie Wiesel’s writing in other languages (mainly English and French), and despite his prominence, no detailed bibliography exists for his Yiddish work. Menachem Butler, in exploring Wiesel’s Yiddish journalism, writes that “while there have been several bibliographies and collections of Wiesel’s articles published over the years, one scholar was honest enough to state that ‘no attempt was made to list the [Forverts] articles written while Mr. Wiesel was a correspondent.’ Nearly all of the scholars who have studied the work of Elie Wiesel over the past half-century have ignored his Yiddish newspaper articles.” 1 1 Menachem Butler, “Elie Wiesel Visits Disneyland,” Tablet Magazine (Nextbook, June 27, 2016), https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/elie-wiesel-visits-disneyland.

This lacuna is typical of bibliographic sources on Yiddish writers; for example, the Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur generally doesn’t provide detailed bibliographies with specific citation information for work (especially articles) published in the Yiddish press. Furthermore, there are few bibliographies of Yiddish writers published as monographs; the works of Yefim Yeshurin and the Isaac Bashevis Singer bibliographies by David Neal Miller and my late colleague Roberta Saltzman are notable exceptions.

Finding works like Wiesel’s in the Yiddish press has become vastly easier with the advent of digitization, though much remains to be done. The continually expanding Historical Jewish Press project provides access to dozens of newspapers, although the OCR search function is not completely reliable due to the newspapers’ complex layout. For example, when I searched for Wiesel by name on the site, I only got 425 results, despite knowing that his name actually appears in the Forverts at least 1,000 times. The Index to Yiddish Periodicals is also a tremendous source of information, though not exhaustive, especially where newspapers are concerned. There remain hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Yiddish periodicals that are only available in print and/or on microfilm. To see what is already digitized, consult the Union List of Digitized Jewish Historic Newspapers, Periodicals and e-Journals

Many In geveb readers know that conducting research in the Yiddish press is not always easy, as described by my colleague Nora Dolliver. Few Yiddish newspapers are indexed, either by humans or by OCR, necessitating the sifting through analog material that may be in poor condition and/or difficult to read and peruse. This research can be onerous, especially without knowing the specific date when a particular piece was published. Yet poring over a physical source, rather than going directly to an article via a search engine, allows for the emergence of a rich historical context, and also for the serendipitous discovery of other items that researchers would otherwise miss.

Wiesel’s Yiddish oeuvre

Wiesel spent more than 20 years writing for the Yiddish press, beginning in Paris. He wrote the short story A bagegenish, published in the journal Tsiyen un kamf in 1948 2 2 Wiesel, Elie. “A bagegenish”. Tsien un kamf (Pariz), no. 36: 6/8/1948, p. 6; reprinted in Afn shvel, no. 374-375, Winter-Spring 2017, pp. 57-59. , and wrote for the Parisian-Yiddish periodicals Unzer vort, Der veg, and Teater-shpigl,; he also wrote for the French-Jewish periodical L’Arche. Wiesel came to the United States in 1955 as a correspondent for the Hebrew newspaper Yediot Ahronot. 3 3 Shira Shoenberg, “Elie Wiesel,” Jewish Virtual Library (American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise), accessed December 15, 2022, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Wiesel.html. He wrote for the New York Yiddish newspapers Forverts, Morgen-zhurnal, and Der Amerikaner, and wrote and served on the advisory board for the Algemeiner Journal.

Wiesel’s writing in the American Yiddish press consisted mainly of journalistic articles, as well as at least two serialized novels, beginning with Shtile heldn in 1956 in Der Amerikaner. His first novel published in book form, Un di velt hot geshvign (1956) 4 4 Elie Wiesel, Un Di Velt Hot Geshvign (Buenos Aires: Tsentral-Farband fun Poylishe Yidn in Argentine, 1956). , formed the basis for La Nuit (1958) 5 5 Elie Weisel, preface by Francois Mauriac, La Nuit (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1958). , or Night (1961) 6 6 Elie Weisel, foreword by Francois Mauriac, Night, trans. from French by Stella Rodway (New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1961). , eventually becoming one of the best-known books about the Holocaust. The original Yiddish version was substantially changed and reduced before translation, and there are lively discussions among literary scholars about the Yiddish version and its translation. 7 7 Seidman, Naomi. “Jews of Rage”. Tablet Magazine, January 10, 2023. Accessed March 16, 2023. https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/history/articles/jewish-rage-elie-wiesel; see also Seidman, Naomi; commentary by Erin Leib Smokler. “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage”. The New Jewish Canon. ed. edited by Yehuda Kurtzer and Claire E. Sufrin, 2020, pp. 195-198; and the original article. Seidman, Naomi. “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage”. Jewish Social Studies, New Series, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 1-19. The Forverts also published Un di velt hot geshvign in serialized form from April 16-July 6, 1965.

Wiesel’s essays and stories also appeared in the Tel-Aviv-based Yiddish literary journal Di goldene keyt, and he wrote a one-act Yiddish play, Di shvartse khupe, which was produced for the stage and published in English translation. 8 8 Elie Wiesel, “Black Canopy a Black Sky,” in Against Silence: the Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel, ed. Irving Abrahamson, vol. 3 (New York, NY: Holocaust Library, 1985), pp. 19-28. He wrote the foreword to Mir zaynen do: lider fun di getos un lagern, 9 9 Elie Wiesel, Mir Zaynen Do: Lider Fun Di Getos Un Lagern, trans. Roslyn Bresnick-Perry (New York, NY: Workmen’s Circle, 1983). and the afterword for Aaron Zeitlin’s Literarishe un filosofishe eseyen. 10 10 Aaron Zeitlin, “Mit a Forvort Fun Yitshak Bashevis-Zinger Un a Nokhvort Fun Eli Vizel. Tsunoyfgeshtelt Fun Y. Lifshits,” in Literarishe Un Filosofishe Eseyen (New York, NY: Alveltlekher Yidisher ḳulṭur-ḳongres, 1980). More information on his Yiddish (and other) literary output and correspondence can be found in his archives at Boston University.

Wiesel’s writing in his native language has a certain immediacy; he was raised in a Gerer Hasidic environment and survived the Holocaust as a teenager. Certainly these experiences influenced his articles on everything from major world events to encounters with important literary, cultural, and political figures to world travels. From his formative years as a Yiddish-speaking immigrant writer, he became a renowned literary and moral figure known for his work in other languages, mainly French and English, as well as in translation.

Research Scope

My research project covered Wiesel’s time at the Forverts from 1956-1967. These dates are not exhaustive and don’t represent all of his work; they are the dates that Wiesel provided when he contacted the New York Public Library’s Dorot Jewish Division with the request to undertake this specific project. From 1956-1967, he published more than 1,000 articles under his given name, Eliezer Wiesel, and about two dozen installments of a literary column under a pseudonym, Elisha Karmeli. Under the leadership of editors Hillel Rogoff (from 1951-1962) and Lazar Fogelman (from 1962-1968), Wiesel was one of about thirty regular Forverts staff writers.

Chronology of Elie Wiesel’s writing in the Forverts

Wiesel began writing for the Forverts in 1956, but did not publish any articles between October 12, 1956 and February 19, 1957. This was likely due to his injuries from a car accident in 1956. 11 11 “Elie Wiesel Timeline and World Events from 1952”. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed March 16, 2023. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/elie-wiesel-timeline-and-world-events-from-1952 He later chronicled his experiences in a series of articles in the Forverts (April 1-12, 1957), titled “Ikh bin shver farvundet gevoren in a kar eksident”. He also wrote a semi-autobiographical novel in French called Le Jour, 12 12 Elie Wiesel, Le Jour (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1961). published in English in 1962 as The Accident. 13 13 Elie Weisel, The Accident, trans. from French Le Jour by Anne Borchardt (New York, NY: Hill & Wang, 1962). The novel is about a young Holocaust survivor who is hit by a car, realizes that the accident was actually a suicide attempt, and struggles to reconcile his belief in God with his experiences in the Holocaust.

Wiesel’s Forverts articles from the late 1950s and early 1960s include travelogues from the western United States, such as a 1957 trip to Disneyland that was the focus of Menachem Butler's article on Wiesel's Yiddish journalism. Wiesel also wrote profiles of literary and political figures from Europe, Israel and the U.S.; literary criticism; and news coverage, particularly of the United Nations, and on world Jewry. He also covered news stories in Israel, including the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.

In 1960, he began a regular (roughly monthly) literary column under the pseudonym Elisha Karmeli entitled Shtiklekh un breklekh fun literarishn tish, which appeared in the Forverts’ Sunday literary section and featured short news items from the literary world. By 1961, he was also publishing more articles in the Forverts generally, upwards of 100 per year. Wiesel’s articles also began to appear more frequently on the newspaper’s front page.

His writings exude a deep and urgent concern for world Jewry. He traveled widely for his work, including to the Soviet Union. Wiesel’s book The Jews of Silence : A Personal Report on Soviet Jewry (1966) 14 14 Eric Wiesel, The Jews of Silence: A Personal Report on Soviet Jewry. (New York: Hold, Rinehart & Winston, 1966). reflects his passionate advocacy for the community. He also wrote a striking series (beginning January 8, 1965) about his first trip back to his hometown of Sighet, twenty years after being deported to Auschwitz.

By 1966, Wiesel was receiving more recognition for his literary work. He had already published seven books and received four literary prizes. News coverage of his literary achievements also appeared in the Forverts during this time, in the form of articles by other writers, and his own articles shifted from news to an editorial focus.

His 1995 memoir 15 15 Elie Wiesel, All Rivers Run to the Sea : Memoir, 1st American ed. (New York, NY: Knopf, 1995). does not give a specific date for when he stopped being a regular news reporter at the Forverts, but he apparently ceased most of his intensive journalistic activities sometime in the late 1960s or very early 1970s in order to devote himself more fully to his other writing. Certainly, Wiesel’s Yiddish publication activities continued well beyond the scope of this project.

I hope the data I’ve collected for this period will illuminate this part of his career and inspire other researchers to further explore Wiesel’s Yiddish work. There is certainly much more to be discovered, and I look forward to hearing about your future projects.

For a full bibliography for this blog post, click here.

Click here to access the spreadsheet with the bibliographic data.

MLA STYLE
Seigel, Amanda Miryem-Khaye. “Elie Wiesel at the Forverts: A Bibliography.” In geveb, March 2023: https://ingeveb.org/pedagogy/elie-wiesel-at-the-forverts-a-bibliography.
CHICAGO STYLE
Seigel, Amanda Miryem-Khaye. “Elie Wiesel at the Forverts: A Bibliography.” In geveb (March 2023): Accessed Feb 24, 2024.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amanda Miryem-Khaye Seigel

Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel, is a Yiddish singer, songwriter, actor, recording artist and scholar in Yiddish music and culture.