The Mandelstam and "Der Nister" Files: An Introduction to Stalin-Era Prison and Labor Camp Records

The Mandelstam and "Der Nister" Files: An Introduction to Stalin-Era Prison and Labor Camp Records

The Mandelstam and "Der Nister" Files: An Introduction to Stalin-Era Prison and Labor Camp Records

The Mandelstam and "Der Nister" Files: An Introduction to Stalin-Era Prison and Labor Camp Records

Synopsis

Reproducing actual Soviet documents, this work examines what prison and labour camp files reveal of the fate of the poet Osip Mandelstam and the history of the Yiddish writer Pinhas Kahanovich (Der Nister). It also provides a guide to the analysis of Stalin-era prison and labour camp files.

Excerpt

"Who is likely to search through these grisly archives justfor the sake of Mandelstam. . . ?" --Nadezhda Mandelstam

This book tells three stories. the first is what prison and laborcamp files reveal of the history of the great poet Osip Mandelstam from the time a warrant was issued for his arrest in April 1938 until the time his relatives were notified of his death in 1940. the second is what the files reveal of the history of the major Yiddish writer Der Nister (pseudonym of Pinchas Kahanovitch) from the time of his arrest in February 1949 until his burial in July 1950. the third is a guided tour through Stalinera prison and labor-camp records, designed to expose more fully the horrors of the system and to help researchers find their way through the records of other victims of Soviet socialist "justice."

This book is based on two files from the ussr Ministry of Internal Affairs archives. the consistency of the documents with one another and with external evidence suggests that they are genuine, in the sense that they were made at the time at which they are dated by those whose signatures appear on them. However, these documents certainly do not tell the truth, let alone the whole truth. They do not tell the truth, because they are based on what George Orwell called the "BIG LIE" -- that Mandelstam and Der Nister were guilty of serious crimes. They do not tell the whole truth -- they give no hint as to the real reason why the two writers were sent to labor camps. They supply neither confirma-

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