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Written in Vilna Ghetto (1941–1943)

16. Stormtroopers — The poet was taken to an SS outfit where teenage Germans specialized in abusing and torturing Jews. [BACK]

17. This cycle includes parts of a long poem, unfinished and partly lost. We have decided to keep the sub-cycles as they were published. The sub-cycle, "My Mother," was published in the book The Fortress (New York, 1945) and in the collected works. The sub-cycle, "From the Poem Three Roses," was published from old manuscripts only in 1979. In the larger framework, the poet also planned to include the poems "A Wagon of Shoes," "My Every Breath Is a Curse," and "Black Thorns.'' [BACK]

18. Mogen Dovid — the Star of David, the Jewish symbol used by the Nazis as a mark of humiliation, to be worn by every Jew. The poem refers to Jews identifying other Jews in the service of the Nazis. [BACK]

19. Siddur — prayer book. [BACK]

20. Challah — braided egg bread, especially for the sabbath. [BACK]

21. Khupa — wedding canopy. [BACK]

22. Amsterdam, Worms, Livorno — places famous for Jewish books that were written or published there. Madrid — symbol for the Jewish cultural center in Medieval Spain. YIVO — Jewish Scientific Institute, founded in Vilna in 1925. Under the Nazis, Sutzkever worked at the YIVO, which was turned into a Nazi research center for Judaic studies under the direction of the Rosenberg Staff. He was instrumental in stealing important manuscripts from the collection and hiding them in ghetto cellars. [BACK]

23. Teacher Mira — Mira Bernstein, well-known teacher in Vilna, organized the school in the ghetto. [BACK]

24. Sholem Aleichem — (1859-1916) classical Yiddish fiction writer, famous for his humor and popular style. [BACK]

25. Hirsh Lekert — (1879-1902) a shoemaker and Bund activist in Vilna who organized an armed attack to liberate political prisoners. He assassinated the Russian governor of Vilna for flogging Socialists after a May Day demonstration and was hanged. Lekert became a hero of the Jewish labor movement and self-defense. [BACK]

26. Gershteyn — well-known music teacher and leader of the "Gershteyn Choir," organized a choir in the ghetto as well. [BACK]

27. Peretz, Y. L. — (1851-1915) classical Yiddish writer. The poem refers to Peretz's story, "Three Gifts," celebrating Jewish martyrdom. [BACK]

28. Snatchers — Lithuanians employed by the Nazis to catch given numbers of Jews for forced labor. [BACK]

29. Levi Yitzhok's melody — Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev (1740-1810), famous Hassidic Rebbe, or dynastic leader, argued with God in Yiddish and composed the one-syllable tune: du-du-du-du ... ("Thou — thou — thou ..."). [BACK]

30. Siberia — The poet spent his childhood in Siberia where his father died (see the poem. "Siberia"). [BACK]

31. Rom Printers — publishing house and printing press famous for its classical editions of the Babylonian Talmud, distributed all over the Jewish Diaspora. [BACK]

32. Yerushalayim — Jerusalem. [BACK]

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