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Vogel, Dvora

(1900–1942), writer, art critic, and philosopher. Dvora Vogel was born in Burshtyn in Galicia into an intellectual family. During World War I, the family fled to Vienna. Upon their return, Vogel attended high school in Lwów and then studied philosophy and psychology at the universities of Lwów and Kraków. Her first literary efforts were in German, but subsequently Vogel switched to Yiddish, allegedly under the influence of her friend and fellow student Rokhl Oyerbakh (Rachel Auerbach).

After completing a dissertation on Hegel’s aesthetics at the Jagiellonian University of Kraków in 1926, Vogel went abroad to Stockholm, Berlin, and Paris. Thereafter, she taught psychology at the Hebrew Teachers’ Seminary in Lwów and published her first Yiddish-language poems. In 1932 she married the Lwów engineer Szulim Barenblüth, with whom she had a son, Anzelm (Antshel). Between 1929 and 1931, she copublished the Lwów literary journal Tsushteyer (Cusztajer), in which she primarily championed the publication of pictures and drawings. Her article “Teme un forem in der kunst fun Shagal” (Themes and Forms in the Art of [Marc] Chagall; 1930) appeared in that journal. She also published a large number of essays on contemporary art and art theory in various journals, some of which have yet to be collected. Vogel was murdered, together with her husband, mother, and small son, in the Lwów ghetto in 1942, during the so-called Great Action.

Vogel maintained close contacts with avant-garde artistic and literary circles, and was considered the “matron” of the Légerist group, which included the Galician painters Emil Kunke (1896–1943) and Otto Hahn (1904–1942). The writer Stanisław Witkiewicz (1885–1939) refers to conversations with her in his novel Narkotyki (Narcotics; 1932); Aleksander Wat (1900–1967) expressed his gratitude to her in his memoir Mój wiek (My Century; 1977); and the young Khone Shmeruk (1921–1997) eagerly attended lectures she gave in 1939 on Yiddish literature, in which Vogel placed her subject in the context of European literature.

For many years, Vogel’s name has been connected with that of the writer Bruno Schulz (1892–1942), because his Sklepy cynamonowe (Cinnamon Shops; 1933) developed out of their correspondence. During her lifetime, her own body of work received little attention, as she attempted to write the aesthetic program of the avant-garde into Yiddish literature, a project that found little favor among readers or critics. What united her with Schulz was such stylistic techniques as an orientation toward pictorial language, the motif of the mannequin, an ironic approach to advertisements, and language informed by symbolism.

In 1930, Vogel’s first volume of poems, Tog-figurn. Lider (Figures of the Day: Poems; 1930), appeared, with illustrations by her friend Henryk Streng. It is a collection of free-meter poems on everyday subjects, urban scenes, and reference to materials (tin, milk, etc.), animals (seagulls, cockroaches, etc.), and abstract themes (e.g., white squares). The evocation of forms and colors and an almost serial, minimal variation of similar images and words is suggestive, and refers to the monotony of modern cityscapes.

In 1934 Vogel published Manekinen. Lider (Mannequins: Poems), announcing in the preface her allegiance to the principles of constructivism. Manekinen combines a reflection on the dichotomy between body and machine, on life, monotony, color, rubbish, and sadness, with a subtle and ironic criticism of the world of goods and advertising. In 1935, her prose work Akatsies blien. Montazhn (The Acacias are Blooming: Montages) appeared. The Polish edition, Akacje kwitną. Montaże, which she translated herself, was published in 1936 and again included pictures by Streng. In these three philosophical prose poems, she weaves precise observations of events, actions, colors, and forms of the living world together with abstract, conceptual reflections.

Suggested Reading

Rachel Auerbach [Rokhl Oyerbakh], “Nisht-oysgeshpunene fedem,” Di goldene keyt 50 (1964): 131–143; Jerzy Ficowski, Regions of the Great Heresy: Bruno Schulz, a Biographical Portrait, trans. and ed. Theodosia Robertson (New York, 2003), pp. 57–69; Laura Rescio, “Le acacie fioriscono a Leopoli: La breve vita di Debora Vogel, morta nel ghetto di Leopoli,” Rassegna mensile di Israel 64.3 (1998): 53–76.



Translated from German by Deborah Cohen