Emil Dorian with his wife Paula (nee Fränkel) and their daughters towards the end of the 1920s
In the framework of the routine catalog activity of the National Library, a special item was recently unearthed from the Collection of Jewish Romanian Intellectuals’ Private Papers. This item sheds new light on the literary activity of one of Romania’s Jewish poets and writers. The 1920’s notebook was used for drafting the first book of poems by the poet and novelist Emil Lustig, who published his works under the pseudonym “Dorian,” which became later his official family name. This archival material contains most of the poems that were published in Dorian’s first book.
Often it catches me a moment of miss
As I still was floating in soft dreams
And you stretched your wing just
To get down in tranquility to us.
I’d like to feel the thrill then
Of those cruel hopes
To be crushed by sorrow again
And to struggle in remorse.
And picking up an armful of stars
To love you more than bold,
Entering into my songs
As into a cradle of gold.
(Translated from Romanian by Shaul Greenstein)
Ades mă prinde un dor de clipă
Când mai pluteam în visuri moi
Şi tu de-abea’ntindeai aripa
Ca să cobori senin la noi.
Aş vrea să simt atunci fiorul
Acelei crunte aşteptări
Să mă zdrobească iarăşi dorul
Şi să mă zbat în remuşcări.
Şi culegând un braţ de stele
Ca să te’ndrăgostesc mai viu,
Să intri’n cântecele mele
Ca într’un legăn auriu.
(The three stanzas of the poem “Longings” by Emil Dorian)
The poet Dorian, a doctor by profession, expressed his longing for the birth of his eldest daughter, Lilia, whom he called Lelioara through the medium of poetry. Dorian devoted the entire collection to his daughter and published it as his first book under the name “Poems to Lelioara,” in 1923.
Along with corrections, deletions and additional poems that have not yet been published, this manuscript of poems contains illustrations and poems dedicated to the poet’s wife, Paula. Dorian bridged his tendency to artistic writing and his delivery as a physician and also wrote books in a popular vulgar style on medicine and sexuality.
Young Dorian was drafted into the Romanian army during the First World War, but it was during World War II, at the time of the fascist reign of Marshal Antonescu, that his works were marked as Jewish works and were banned.
As a poet, Dorian was once again launched to fame two and a half decades after his death in 1973 when two of his diaries were published. These diaries brought to light the Romanian Jewry’s confrontation with rising anti-Semitism from the late 1930s until Dorian’s death in 1956.
“Burn them, as my world and everything I loved burned in Auschwitz’s crematorium”
Yehiel De-Nur felt that "Yehiel Feiner" was destroyed in the Holocaust, and so he wished to destroy the book he published before the Holocaust
Author Yehiel Feiner, born in 1909, is known as one of the greatest authors to write about the Holocaust and its aftermath. Feiner renamed himself Yehiel De-nur and later chose a pen name imbued with meaning: Ka-Tsetnik 135633, taken from KZ – the short form the Nazis used for “Konzentrationslager,” German for concentration camp. The name therefore literally meant – “Concentration camp prisoner number 135633”
Before the Holocaust, in 1931, Yehiel Feiner published a book of Yiddish poetry titled “Twenty-Two” (צווייאונצוואנציק in Yiddish). After the war, any time he heard there was a copy of the book available at the National Library of Israel, Ka-Tsetnik would come to the Library, borrow out the book, and destroy it. Ka-Tsetnik did this three times between 1953 and 1993.
In 1953 and 1964 he burned the available copies of his book. In 1993, he wrote a letter to Shlomo Goldberg, the manager of the library stacks at the time, about the third and last time he destroyed the book. He shredded the publication and sent the remains of the book together with the letter in an envelope to Goldberg.
“I have another request: I placed here the remains of the ‘book.’ Please, burn them as my world and everything I loved burned in Auschwitz’s crematorium.”
It seems that Yehiel De-Nur felt that Yehiel Feiner had been destroyed in the Holocaust, along with everything dear to him. Moreover, De-Nur viewed everything Feiner created before the Holocaust as meaningless. As far as he was concerned, the Holocaust had utterly destroyed the world that existed before. Ka-Tsetnik, writing after the Holocaust, had nothing to do with Feiner and the work he created and published.
During Eichmann’s trial where De-Nur was a witness, Ka-Tsetnik called Auschwitz “another planet”. For Ka-Tsetnik there were three distinct worlds, before the Holocaust, during the Holocaust, and after the Holocaust and everything that he had created before the Holocaust could not be tolerated.
Yehiel De-Nur passed away on July 17, 2001. The Library still holds an intact copy of the book De-Nur tried so hard to destroy.
Hannah Senesh’s Final Letter
The letter addressed to her brother George was written in English to ensure it would pass through the British military censors.
I send to you again a short letter to make you know, that we are quite ‘O-K,’ and that’s all. I guess all my acquaintances and relations are cross with me, that I never wrote and are perhaps even angry with me. Please try to explain the situation, if possible, if not they will forgive me later.
To mother I do not write now either and your letters must replace the mine. For this reason, I give you the right even to forge my signature, hoping you will not use it for “high financial obligations.”
No use writing that I would like to see you, to talk to you and at least to write more detailed letters. I hope you know that very well, and I get your letters with great delay but sooner or later they reach me, and I am always ever so glad to hear about you. Thousand kisses to you and warm greetings to your friends from home.
On May 20th, 1944, the Jewish paratrooper Hannah Senesh found herself in Croatia, not far from the Hungarian border. Two months earlier she had been parachuted into the region by the British Royal Air Force, in a desperate attempt to save Jews of neighboring Hungary from the Nazi death camps. On this day, Hannah Senesh sat down to write what would become the last letter she ever sent to her beloved brother George. At the time of writing, she had joined up with a group of local partisan resistance fighters.
In just a few short weeks, they would be be captured and tortured by Hungarian forces loyal to the Nazi regime. Six months later, Hannah would be executed by firing squad.
Hannah Senesh’s last letter was written in English. This was because all letters were required to go through the British army censor before they were sent on to their intended recipients. Senesh wanted to be sure the letter would be approved without any issues so that it would make it to her brother.
Anti-Semitic cartoon published when David Salomons ran for public office. From "Life of Sir David Salomons from Newspaper Cuttings 1831-1869", the National Library of Israel collections
For the Jews of England in the mid-19th century, the idea of holding public office was not only outlandish, it was practically impossible due to the religious restrictions, known as religious disabilities, imposed on the Jewish community that excluded them from participation in the political, municipal and civil life of the country.
For David Salomons, the emancipation of the Jews of England became his life’s mission. Born in London in 1797 to Levi Salomons, a prominent stockbroker, David joined the family business and under the tutelage of his father, he became a successful member of the stock exchange.
David felt that a person’s religious beliefs were meant to be private and should be of no public concern – assuming the principles were moral and in line with the views of the state – and that his beliefs and his religion should in no way limit his personal rights or ability to serve the public.
Eager to remove the religious restrictions imposed on the Jewish community, David decided it was time to break down barriers and boldly announced his candidacy for the Office of the High Sheriff. While his candidacy initially faced opposition, on June 24, 1835, David Salomons became the first Jew to ever be successfully elected to the sheriff’s office. Little did he know that this was just the beginning of the difficult fight he would face throughout his political career.
In order to officially take up his position as sheriff, David was required to take the oath of office – an oath including the phrase, “I make this declaration upon the true faith of a Christian.” This was an oath that no professing Jew could take. Thankfully, just as it seemed David would need to forfeit his seat, the government stepped in and the Sherriff’s Declaration Act was quickly passed, allowing David to take on the role without making the declaration. This declaration was hailed as a triumph over prejudice and a furtherance of civil rights and privileges.
Unfortunately, the law did not take David’s side when he was elected Alderman of the City of London in December of 1835. When David would not take the oath, his election was declared null and void and a new election was held.
David, with the help of other prominent Jews, petitioned the court to make changes to the law, to no avail. David took a chance and again ran for the position of Alderman – this time for the Portsoken Ward. This political race brought with it a new wave of anti-Semitic rhetoric that reared its ugly head in the articles and cartoons in the local papers. Though he was successfully elected, he was once again barred from holding office after refusing to take the oath.
Finally, after years of petitioning and legal action, in 1845, the Jewish Disabilities Removal Bill was successfully passed and a different declaration was composed for Jews elected to public office. Instead of professing to the Christian religion, Jews would vow not to act in a way that would undermine the power of the church.
“I, being a person professing the Jewish religion, having conscientious scruples against subscribing the declaration contained in an act… do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare that I will not exercise any power or authority or influence which I may possess… to injure or weaken the Protestant Church as it is by law established in England.
The next time David ran for Alderman in 1847, he was granted his seat and was permitted to take office after reciting the new oath. That did not stop the anti-Semites from continuing their tirades against him in the press with journalists referring to Salomons as “only half an adlerman.”
Years later, having served now as sheriff and alderman, and with no religious hindrances in his way, David was elected to the high office of Lord Mayor of London. On November 9, 1855, Mayor-Elect Alderman David Salomon was officially sworn in as Lord Mayor, taking a vow that did not deny his own faith.
The Lord Mayor’s Show, a lavish procession and banquet celebration in honor of the new mayor, took place in accordance with tradition. The newly minted Jewish mayor was paraded through the streets with flag bearers, soldiers, drummers and trumpeters walking ahead of his carriage on the way to a bountiful banquet featuring over 1,000 bottles of wine and a decadent dinner. The cost of the celebrations totaled 2,813 pounds, approximately 100,000 dollars today.
For the Jews of London, the celebration was about more than the appointment of a new mayor; it was a celebration of new rights and new opportunity.
Despite facing tremendous opposition and shocking anti-Semitic rhetoric, David Salomons never lost sight of his ultimate ambition: to bring equality and respect to the Jewish community of England.
His persistence and passion drove him to serve in the British parliament, a position that required even more changes in the law to allow for Jews to serve in the government on a national level. His dedication and determination to change the discriminatory laws helped pave the way for future Jewish British leaders and politicians to leave their marks on history.
This post was written as part of Gesher L’Europa, the NLI’s initiative to connect with Europe and make our collections available to diverse audiences in Europe and beyond.