ITSHE SLUTSKI (April 12, 1912-winter 1944)
He was born in the town of Lakhve (Lyakhivtsi), Polesia, into a poor religious family. He studied in religious elementary schools and the Mir Yeshiva, before taking up a secular education and music. He served in the Polish army (1933-1934) and later lived in Warsaw. In 1936 he was living in Danzig. In 1938 he immigrated to the United States but was not allowed to enter the country, although his father had already years before been living in New York. He stayed for a time at Ellis Island, from whence he was shipped back to Europe. From April 1942 he belonged to a secret group in the Lakhve ghetto. When the Germans in September 1942 wanted to lead the ghetto population to their deaths, the Jews set fire to all the houses in the ghetto and launched an uprising which secret ghetto groups in which Slutski was actively involved had planned earlier. After the uprising Slutski and hundreds of rescued people hid out in the marshes and forests of Polesia. He later joined a Soviet partisan division. He also led a partisan group in the Minsk region. Moscow’s Eynikeyt (Unity) of May 1943 published his piece, “A briv tsum foter in amerike” (A little to Father in America), which was republished in various Yiddish newspapers—as well as in Israel’s Mishmar (Gueard) in Tel Aviv (December 29, 1943), Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom) in New York (March 30, 1944), and the remembrance volume Rishonim lamered lakhva (Lakhva, the first to revolt) (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv, 1957), pp. 485-88. He died in the marshes of Lyuban, Byelorussia. In book form: Inmitn, lider (In the midst, poetry) (Warsaw, 1939), 108 pp. The first printing of his book was almost entirely destroyed by fire in Warsaw. A series of poems from the book was dedicated to the composers: Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Verdi, Chopin, Berlioz, Schubert, and Beethoven. He also had in manuscript a volume of translated poems, “Oys der hebreisher lirik” (From the Hebrew lyric). (His father, LIPE SLUTSKI, died in Brooklyn, New York, on February 25, 1964.)
“Inmitn is a volume of poems,” wrote Yankev Glatshteyn, “that literally implores us to tremble and shiver. In every poem one finds a fleeting line or a surprising word, a poetic affectation, or an original image…. Of course, the poet sings of his loneliness, but he sings with forceful lines and his own visual images.”
Sources: Y. Likhtenberg, “Partizaner in kamf” (Partisans in battle), in Rishonim lamered lakhva (Lakhva, the first to revolt) (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv, 1957), p. 460; H. A. Mikhaeli, in Rishonim lamered lakhva; Mikhaeli, in A heym (a [D. P.] camp newspaper in Germany) 21 (September 1946); B. Elis, in Forverts (New York) (March 6, 1964); Yankev Glatshteyn, “A tragish-farzeener poet” (A tragic, neglected poet), Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 22, 1964).