Fefer, Itzik

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FEFER, ITZIK (1900–1952), Soviet Yiddish poet. Fefer was born in the Ukrainian shtetl of Shpola. He first joined the Jewish Labor Bund but, in 1919, became a member of the Communist Party. Soon after his debut as a Yiddish poet (1920), he became prominent in Soviet-Yiddish literature. In 1922 he formulated his literary credo of proste reyd ("simple speech"). By nature lyrical and even sentimental, his Yiddish was rich and idiomatic and his verses rhythmic and musical. He harnessed himself to the party line, and played a central role in the Soviet-Yiddish literary hierarchy. His works, which appeared in Soviet-Yiddish magazines, were often collected and published. Though he wrote the well-known poem "Stalin," he also wrote "Ikh bin a Yid" ("I Am a Jew") during World War ii when the party permitted such poems. His poems Shotens fun Varshever Geto ("Shadows of the Warsaw Ghetto") are a valuable contribution to the literature of the Holocaust. He also wrote poems about Birobidzhan, the Jewish autonomous region in the Russian Far East, as well as nature poetry and poems for children.

In 1943 Fefer visited the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the U.K. with Shloyme *Mikhoels, as a representative of the Jewish *Anti-Fascist Committee. Arrested in the Stalinist anti-Jewish purges in 1948, he was killed on August 12, 1952. In the 1990s, the publication of archival materials revealed his role as an informer for the Soviet secret police.


S. Niger, Yidishe Shrayber in Sovet-Rusland (1958); J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen (1960); I. Yonasovitch, Mit Yidishe Shrayber in Rusland (1949); S. Bickel, Shrayber fun Mayn Dor (1964); Y.Y. Cohen (ed.), Pirsumim Yehudiyyim bi-Verit ha-Mo'aẓot (19171960) (1961); M. Basok, Mivḥar Shirat Yidish (1963); S. Meltzer (ed. and tr.), Al Naharot (1956); J. Leftwich, The Golden Peacock (1939, 1961); B.Z. Goldberg, The Jewish Problem in the Soviet Union (1961), index. add. bibliography: I. Howe et al. (eds.), The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse (1988); J. Rubenstein and V.P. Naumov (eds.), Stalin's Secret Pogrom: The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (2001); G. Estraikh, in: Shofar, 3 (2002), 14–31.

[Melech Ravitch /

Gennady Estraikh (2nd ed.)]