Hofstein, David

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HOFSTEIN, DAVID (1889–1952), Yiddish poet. Born in the Ukraine, he had a traditional Jewish education and began to write in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and Ukrainian. However, after the 1917 Revolution he wrote only in Yiddish, contributing to various publications. He was coeditor of the Moscow journal Shtrom, the last organ of free Jewish expression in Russia. The Communist Revolution of 1917 aroused Hofstein's enthusiasm. The poems in which he acclaimed the achievements of the Revolution established his popularity as one of the Kiev triumvirate of Yiddish poets, along with Leib *Kvitko and Perez *Markish. His elegies for Jewish communities devastated by counterrevolutionary pogromists appeared in 1922, with illustrations by Marc Chagall. Exercising his newfound freedom, in 1924 he protested the banning of Hebrew and the persecution of Hebrew writers, but discovered that his protest made him suspect. He therefore left Russia, immigrating first to Germany and from there in 1925 to Palestine. In Palestine he wrote both in Hebrew and Yiddish. In 1924–25 he published in Yiddish the dramatic poem "Sha'ul – Der Letster Meylekh fun Yisroel" ("Shaul – the Last King of Israel") and an expressionistic drama Meshiekhs Tsaytn ("Messianic Times"). He returned to Kiev in 1926, where he soon found himself compelled to follow the Communist Party line faithfully, to praise Soviet achievements, and to describe Birobidzhan as the Promised Land where Jewish genius would flourish. His works there evidence the conflict between his sorrow over the disintegration of Jewish society and his pride in the salvation offered by the Soviet regime. When, in 1948, Israel came into existence with the support of the U.S.S.R., Hofstein hailed the new state with genuine enthusiasm; but, with the change in the Soviet attitude toward Israel, he was arrested and transported to Moscow, where the secret police fabricated the "conspiracy of the Jewish *Anti-Fascist Committee." He was shot on August 12, 1952, together with other leaders of the committee, including his fellow writers Dovid *Bergelson, Perez *Markish, Leib *Kvitko, and Itsik *Fefer. After the death of Stalin, Hofstein was rehabilitated as a victim of Stalinist repression. His selected works, which had appeared shortly before his arrest in 1948, reappeared in a Russian translation in 1958.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 1 (1926), 778–82; lnyl, 3 (1960), 59–62; S. Niger, Yidishe Shrayber in Sovyet Rusland (1958), 49–55; E.H. Jeshurin, Dovid Hofsteyn, Izi Kharik, Itsik Fefer: Bibliografye (1962). add. bibliography: D. Hofstein, Lider un Poemes (1977); Ch. Shmeruk (ed.), A Shpigl oyf a Shteyn (1987), 221-75, 741-4; G. Estraikh, In Harness (2005), index.

[Sol Liptzin /

Gennady Estraikh (2nd ed.)]