presents its



The Translations of Leo Dashefsky



You can read English translation of poems written by some of the more popular and well-known Yiddish writers within this exhibition, courtesy of the late Leo Dashefsky z"l who produced each one of the translations that are being made available to you here.

The poems listed are but a small number of the total of poems translated by Leo Dashefsky; perhaps more will be made available for your perusal in the future.

Currently, you may read a short biography of each of the poets, as well as one or more of their translations. The original Yiddish is not included here, though if anyone possesses a copy of a particular poem in Yiddish, it may be  sent to the Museum via e-mail so that it may be added alongside the English translation.  If you have the original Yiddish-language version, please contact the Museum at

Please read the lovely dedication of Leo's daughter Batya which is being presented to you as  a PowerPoint presentation.



(Tsu die himlen)

by Itzhak Katzenelson

This is how it began, at the outset...

Heavens, say why? For what reason?

Why do we deserve such a disgrace on this big earth?

The earth deaf and dumb as if it had shut its eyes...

But you heavens, you have seen it.

You have observed it from on high, from above,

and you haven't turned over!

Be gone! I dare not look at you, I dare not see you,

I don't want to know you anymore!

Oh, treacherous heavens, deceptive, low heavens up above,

oh, how I resent it --

I once had faith in you, confided my joy, my loneliness,

my smile and my tears,

You are not better than the ugly earth, the big heap of trash!

I had faith in you, sang about you, in my poems or in my songs --

I loved you as you love a woman.

She had gone, dissolved like foam.

The sun in you, from my earliest youth, the sun in flames at sunset

I compared to my hopes: "That's how my hopes are waning,

That's how my dreams are passing me."

Heavens, you have observed it from above

How they led the children of my people

Over waters, on trains and on foot,

On bright days and dark nights to death.

Millions of children at the execution

Raised their hands to you -- it did not save you.

Millions of noble mothers and fathers --

Your blue skin had not even trembled.

You have no God within you! Open the gates.

You heavens, open them wide.

And let the children of my slaughtered,  tortured people enter.

Open the vast celestial fort,

An entire people severely crucified in anguish

Has to enter -- every one of my children killed,

could be their God!




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