Now, when my vision turns in on itself,
My shocked eyes open, all their members see
My heart has fallen like a mirror on
A stone and shatters, ringing, into splinters.
Piece by piece I'll try to gather them
To make them whole with stabbed and bleeding fingers.
And yet, however skillfully they're glued,
My crippled, broken image will be seen.
I took that text from this, one of the few accounts of The Murdered Poets I was able to find online. It has some other translations of other poems and more detail about the poets and the events that led to their murder. Here's now it ends, note there is a poem by Lieb Kvitko in the text. That is what led me to find it online, looking for what they got killed for saying.
Stalin's systematic postwar murder of Jews effectively took up where Hitler had left off. His ferocious assault was mounted against the whole Jewish people, and all of them suffered. In consequence, the Yiddish language and its culture in the Soviet Union sustained its most grievous blow. The trial of 1952 did more than wipe out some of the best Yiddish literary talents of the century; it completed the destruction of Yiddish in Europe. Always vulnerable to a variety of life-threatening enemies, Yiddish in the Soviet Union could not survive the betrayal of the hope the Revolution had awakened for it. Perhaps nothing is more devastatingly broken than an idealistic heart, nothing more cruelly cut off than the unfulfilled promise of youth. With terrible irony, the acrid words in which Leyb Kvitko had years before grieved over the pogroms of the Civil War years now provided an epitaph for both the poets and their language:
A Russian death
Is death of all deaths.
Pain of all pains.
Does the world's wound ooze pus?
How does its heart do now?
Ask any child,
Ask any Jewish child.
If, as Stalin had decreed, it was a crime to mourn the martyrs of the Holocaust, a crime to value one's Jewish heritage, a crime to treasure the language of the Torah, a crime to be a proud and identifying Jew, to care deeply about continued Jewish identity and survival in a bloodthirsty world, then those writers condemned were all, without question, guilty. To lesser or greater degrees, their creativity, even when exercised under the severest constraints, was indelibly stamped with the stigmata of their Jewishness. Whatever disavowals may have been forced from them during the long agony of their imprisonment and trial, the work they left behind belies them. The Yiddish language in which they shaped their utterance became the small voice of a betrayed and beaten Jewishness. Its memory deserves honor; its shapers, our respect.
Geesh, you'd think this is something that would have gotten some attention from American movie makers. Though, if the truth matters, that's probably not without its good points.