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Kenigsberg, Dovid

(1891–1942?), poet. Dovid Kenigsberg was born in the provincial town of Busk, in the Tarnopol district of eastern Galicia. He received a general education in secondary schools in Brody and Czernowitz, and learned ancient Greek and Latin. In 1911, he worked as a bookkeeper in Lwów. Scholars claim that he first wrote poetry (in German and Polish) when he was 15, but his first piece was printed in the collection Yugnt (Youth; 1909), edited by Yankev Zrubovl.

Kenigsberg published his first poetry collection, Lider (Songs), in Lwów in 1912. A year later, he issued a second book, Sonetn (Sonnets) in the same city. At the outbreak of World War I, he was recruited into the Imperial Austrian Army, where he served as an artilleryman and was injured while on frontline duty. Between 1918 and 1923, he contributed to several literary publications in Vienna and Warsaw. His work included romantic poems and pieces that described the scenery of Galicia. The lyrical genre closest to his heart and in which he excelled was the sonnet. His only substantial collection of poems, Hundert sonetn (One Hundred Sonnets) was published in Vienna in 1921, a collection that demonstrates his mature sense of aesthetics and unique lyrical talent. However, the critic Mendl Naygreshl rejected the praise, calling Kenigsberg a mere popular poet who failed, both linguistically and stylistically, to rise to the standards required of sonnet writers.

A family tragedy—the death of Kenigsberg’s daughter—was subsequently reflected in his writing (“Kinds toytnlider” [Child’s Death Songs]; published in the collection Varshever almanakh [1923], pp. 1–15) and led to an extended break in his creativity. For years, Kenigsberg lived in a village where he farmed and translated masterpieces into Yiddish. His translation of Homer’s Iliad was never published, but his version of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Torquato Tasso came out in Warsaw in 1923; these were followed in 1939 by his rendition of Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz and Heinrich Heine’s Buch der Lieder. Uncharacteristic of him for those years, he was willing to contribute to and edit Tsushtayer, the literary periodical of Yiddish authors in Galicia, published in Lwów between 1929 and 1931.

When World War II broke out, Kenigsberg was in Lwów. As a prominent person who had affiliated with the Soviet regime, he was elected to head the Jewish division of the local authors’ union. In this capacity, he provided material support to refugee authors who had come to that city, but at the same time he did not spare them the whip of Soviet rebuke for past political “sins.” Information about Kenigsberg’s final days is sketchy. According to one version, he was executed by the Soviets. Another account maintains that he died with other Jews of Lwów in 1942.

Suggested Reading

Tania Fuks, A vanderung iber okupirte gebitn (Buenos Aires, 1947); “Kenigsberg, Dovid,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 8, cols. 232–233 (New York, 1981); Mendl Neugröschel (Naygreshl), “Di moderne yidishe literatur in Galitsye,” in Fun noentn over: Monografyes un memuarn, vol. 1, pp. 305–312 (New York, 1955); Melech Ravitch (Melekh Ravitsh), “Dovid Kenigsberg,” in Mayn leksikon, vol. 1, pp. 236–238 (Montreal, 1945); Yoysef Volf, Kritishe minyaturn (Warsaw and Kraków, 1940), pp. 26–28.



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann