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Zusman Segalowitch

SEGALOWITCH, ZUSMAN (1884–1949), Yiddish poet, novelist, and journalist. Born in Bialystok, Segalowitch was educated privately, worked in a factory, organized labor strikes, and was frequently arrested. In 1903 Segalowitch published his first poem in Russian, but a year later turned to Yiddish as his language of expression. In his first collection of lyrics, Shtile Troymen ("Quiet Dreams," 1909), his strong romantic penchant is clearly revealed, but it was "In Kazmerzh" (1912), a poem in which he describes a village where young men dreamed of freedom in a stifling traditional environment, that brought him early fame. The first poetic product of Segalowitch's Warsaw period was a cycle of love poems, Tsaytike Troybn ("Ripe Grapes," 1920); these were followed by popular ballads and sentimental poems. In the poetic drama Di Vant ("The Wall," 1915), Segalowitch combined militancy with sentimentalism and advocated Jewish resistance to wrongs inflicted upon them. His novels Di Vilde Tsilke ("Wild Tsilke," 1922); Romantishe Yorn ("Romantic Years," 1923), an autobiographical trilogy, and Di Brider Nemzar ("The Nemzar Brothers," 1929), were very popular and were translated into Polish. In Warsaw Segalowitch wrote lyrics that were put to music and sentimental stories for the dailies Haynt and Moment. He also presided over the Association of Yiddish Writers and Journalists. In his memoirs, Tlomatske 13 (1946), he gave a moving though somewhat idealized account of the association, which served as a center of Yiddish culture between the world wars. The Holocaust and its aftermath radically altered every aspect of Segalowitch's writing. During the Nazi invasion of 1939 he escaped from Poland one step ahead of the Nazis, the terror and horror of which he vividly described in Gebrente Trit ("Burnt Steps," 1947). Dortn ("There," 1946), is a heartrending elegy which he dedicated to Samuel *Zygelbojm, the Bundist leader who committed suicide in London in 1943 to awaken the world's conscience to Jewish suffering. He wrote it upon his arrival in Tel Aviv, where visions of the less fortunate Jews trapped in Europe pursued him relentlessly. The poetic style of his works during this period became one of bitter accusation. In this final period of creativity, Segalowitch eulogized the devastated Polish-Jewish culture and his own destroyed generation.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 667–73; LNYL, 6 (1965), 481–9; Segalovitsh-Bukh (1933); M. Ravitch, Mayn Leksikon (1945), 150–2; J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen, 1 (1947), 9–17; 2 (1956), 128–35; L. Finkelstein, Loshn Yidish un Yidisher Kiyem (1954), 255–66; H. Leivick, Eseyen un Redes (1963), 254–7; S. Liptzin, Maturing of Yiddish Literature (1970), 175–80.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.