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Wygodzki, Stanisław

(1907–1992), writer, poet, and translator. Abandoning his youthful involvement in the Zionism embraced by his father, Yitsḥak, Stanisław (Szaja) Wygodzki became active in the Communist movement and suffered political repression in Poland. As a member of the Polish section of the International Office of Revolutionary Literature in Moscow, he contributed to its Polish paper, Kultura Mas, and other left-wing periodicals.

Wygodzki spent World War II in the Będzin ghetto and in concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau. Returning to Poland in 1947, he joined the Communist Party. He published in Polish literary periodicals such as Kuźnica and Odrodzenie and translated Yiddish literature (works by Sholem Asch, Dovid Bergelson, Froyim Kaganovski, and Sholem Aleichem). After the antisemitic campaign of 1968, Wygodzki moved to Israel, where he wrote for the Israeli press in Polish and Hebrew as well as for Polish émigré publications.

Before the war, Wygodzki published several volumes of poetry, including Apel (Roll Call; 1933) and Żywioł liścia (A Leaf’s Element; 1936). These were followed after 1945 by Pamiętnik miłości (Memoir of Love; 1948) and Nad Engelsem (Studying Engels; 1950); the novels Jelonek i syn (Jelonek and Son; 1951) and Powrót do domu (Homecoming; 1954); and the story collections Pusty plac (Empty Square; 1955), Upalny dzień (A Hot Day; 1960), and Nauczyciel tańca (Dance Teacher; 1963).

In Israel, Wygodzki continued to publish poetry. Titles include Drzewo ciemności (Tree of Darkness; 1971), Podróż zimowa (Winter Journey; 1975), and Pożegnanie (Farewell; 1979). His novels from that period are Zatrzymany do wyjaśnienia (Detained for Questioning; 1968) and Pieskin został pisarzem (Pieskin Became a Writer; 1973).

Wygodzki’s early poetry was political. Although he resumed this political activism after World War II, the Holocaust replaced ideology as his main literary theme. One of his most dramatic depictions of that period is found in the autobiographical work Pamiętnik miłości, commemorating his loved ones. Particularly moving are his recollections of his daughter killed in Auschwitz: “Nad fotografią córki” (My Daughter’s Photograph), “Dziewczynka z lalką” (Girl with a Doll), and “Lokomotywa” (Locomotive). The latter contrasts two types of trains: those transporting Jewish children to their death, and the train featured in the masterpiece of Polish children’s literature, Julian Tuwim’s humorous poem “Lokomotywa.”

Wygodzki also wrote about children in his Holocaust stories. He dealt with the topic from several perspectives: Jewish, Polish (in “Błogosławione niech będą ręce . . .” [Blessed Be the Hands . . .]; 1961); and German (“Przeklęci” [The Damned]). His depictions of Jewish–Polish relations during World War II portray Jews as victims of blackmail (in “Broń” [Weapon]; 1961), murder, and robbery (in “Futro” [Fur Coat]; 1963), but also as beneficiaries of Polish heroism (“Śnieg” [Snow]; 1961). The story “Błogosławione niech będą ręce . . .” probes the moral responsibility of individuals who formally committed no crime but consented to and thereby justified the Holocaust. Many of Wygodzki’s protagonists are traumatized survivors; several of his narratives are situated in Będzin, his hometown, and in nearby Sosnowiec.

The political dimension of Wygodzki’s writing manifests itself in the stories about the fate of Jewish Communists, typically portrayed against the background of the Holocaust. Other political themes include Stalinism (“Zatrzymany do wyjaśnienia”) and the antisemitic campaign of 1968 (“Pieskin został pisarzem”).

Suggested Reading

Krystyna Bernard, ed., Wygodzki: Zeszyt pamięci o Stanisławie Wygodzkim (Tel Aviv, 1992); Franzisca Bruder, Stanisław Wygodzki: Pole, Jude, Kommunist; Schriftsteller (Hamburg and Münster, 2003); Adam Zych, comp. and ed., The Auschwitz Poems (Oświęcim, Pol., 1999), pp. 301–309.



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti; revised by Magda Opalski