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Sandauer, Artur

(1913–1989), Polish writer, literary historian, and critic. A classical philologist educated in Lwów, Artur Sandauer taught at the Hebrew high school in Kraków between 1937 and 1939. He published in both Polish and Polish Jewish literary journals. After escaping from the Sambor ghetto, he spent the remainder of World War II on the Aryan side of the city. After the war, he served as editor of Odrodzenie (1948–1949) and spent several years in Paris. Awarded a doctorate in 1948, Sandauer became a lecturer (1963) and subsequently a professor (1974) at the University of Warsaw.

Sandauer published several volumes of literary criticism, including Poeci trzech pokoleń (Poets of Three Generations; 1955), Moje odchylenia (My Deviations; 1956), O jedności treści i formy (On the Unity of Content and Form; 1957), Dla każdego coś przykrego (Something Unpleasant for Everyone; 1966), Samobójstwo Mitrydatesa (Mithrydates’ Suicide; 1968), and O sytuacji pisarza polskiego pochodzenia żydowskiego w XX wieku (On the Situation of the Polish Writer of Jewish Descent in the Twentieth Century; 1982). He also wrote a collection of wartime stories, Śmierć liberała (Death of a Liberal; 1947), an Israeli diary, W 2000 lat później (2000 Years Later; 1956), a fictionalized autobiography, Zapiski z martwego miasta (Notes from a Dead City; 1962), and an autobiography, Byłem . . . (I Was . . . ; 1991). He translated the Book of Genesis (1977) and literary texts from Greek, Russian, French, and German.

As a critic, Sandauer was a determined popularizer of modern Polish literature, promoting authors such as Bolesław Leśmian, Bruno Schulz, and Witold Gombrowicz. Like many members of Polish avant-garde, he believed that artistic innovation and social progress went hand in hand. He nevertheless criticized the vulgar determinism of Marxist literary doctrine and the practice of socialist realism, aiming to replace the latter with a concept of realism broad enough to include fantasy and grotesque. His critical method consisted in analyzing literary form together with conditioning nonliterary factors. Artistic success amounted to harmonization of form and content.

Sandauer’s “Jewish” works focus heavily on assimilation. Śmierć liberała depicts members of the secular liberal Jewish elite whose humanistic and democratic ideas are brutally tested by the Holocaust. Existentialism, and specifically Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Reflections on the Jewish Question,” inspired “Urywki z pamiętnika Mieczysława Rosenzweiga” (Excerpts from the Diary of Mieczysław Rosenzweig, a chapter in Zapiski z martwego miasta), a fictionalized biography exposing the nonauthenticity of assimilation. Both autobiographical comments and critical portrayals of Jewish writers (e.g., Julian Tuwim), explore the tensions inherent in assimilation. Torn between cultures and values, the Jews who have assimilated experience feelings of acute alienation, aggravated by antisemitism.

O sytuacji pisarza . . . examines the Jewish contribution to Polish belles lettres and outlines a program for Polish Jewish literature. According to Sandauer, “assimilation has failed, but poetry has not—the poetry was born out of unsuccessful assimilation and ill-fated love for Poland.” Polish Jewish artists should examine their own artistic and existential situation: “While assimilation has turned out to be impossible, it is possible to analyze this impossibility.”

Sandauer’s own attitude toward assimilation changed over time: while in the 1950s he rejected radical assimilationism (W 2000 lat później), in the 1980s (Byłem . . .) he saw his fate as the “gradual transformation of a Jew into a Pole,” and Poland as his “real homeland.”

Suggested Reading

Józef Baran, ed., “Śnił mi się Artur Sandauer”: Rozmowy i wspomnienia (Kraków, 1992); Jan Błoński, “Autoportret żydowski, czyli o żydowskiej szkole w literaturze polskiej,” in Biedni Polacy patrzą na getto, pp. 58–117 (Kraków, 1994); Jerzy Madejski, “Problemy polskiego Żyda na przykładzie twórczości literackiej i krytycznej Artura Sandauera,” in Literackie portrety Żydów, ed. Eugenia Łoch, pp. 89–101 (Lublin, Pol., 1996); Artur Sandauer, On the Situation of the Polish Writer of Jewish Descent in the Twentieth Century, trans. Abe Shenitzer and Sarah Shenitzer (Jerusalem, 2005).



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti; revised by Magda Opalski