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‘i Was a Completely Innocent Man’ Abraham Zak Recounts His Five Years in a Soviet Forced-labor Camp

A meeting of the World Jewish Congress and the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists heard Abraham Zak, the noted Yiddish poet now resident in Buenos Aires, recall his five years in a Soviet forced-labor camp. The Polish-born poet, now 70, told the monthly gathering: “Even those of us who were not Communists had once upon a time hopes that a just and equitable society would be built in the Soviet Union, and then I found myself a victim of horrible persecution by what we hoped to be a free society.”

Zak related that “I was a completely innocent man, at odds with nobody, a poet writing poetry, and suddenly I was declared ‘an anti-social element’ and thrown into prison, and afterwards sent to a forced-labor camp where I spent five years in the most appalling conditions, where the temperature in winter was 60 degrees centigrade below zero.” The commandant explained to him, he said: “This is not a capitalist camp for you. This is a Soviet Communist camp.”

Zak, who has lived in Argentina since 1952, is the author of numerous volumes of Yiddish poetry, prose, memoirs and translations. His only son, Alexander, fell in the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.