"A THOUSAND YEARS HAVE GONE BY AND I REMEMBER YOU—AND YOUR YIDDISH WRITING STYLE": EXCEPTIONAL AUTOGRAPH SIGNED YIDDISH LETTER ENTIRELY IN MARC CHAGALL'S HAND TO FAMOUS YIDDISH WRITER S.L. SHNEIDERMAN
CHAGALL, Marc. Autograph letter signed. Zurich, September 9, 1970. Single sheet of Dolder Grand Hotel airmail-weight stationery, measuring 6 by 8-1/4 inches; pp. 2, with original matching hand-addressed envelope. $2200.
Extraordinary 1970 autograph signed letter written entirely in Yiddish from Marc Chagall to acclaimed Yiddish writer and Jewish activist S.L. Shneiderman thanking him for sending a book on Ilya Ehrenburg; expressing his hopes that they will see each other in the near future; and explaining that he is in Zurich for an event related to having made the stained glass windows for the Fraumunster Church.
The letter, written on a sheet of Dolder Grand Hotel airmail stationary entirely in Chagall's hand and dated "9/Sept 1970" and accompanied by a hand-addressed matching envelope, reads in full (translated): "Dear friend Schneiderman, A thousand years have gone by and I remember you—and your Yiddish writing style—but we seldom see each other. Thank you for your book about poor Ehrenburg and also the attached article about me, not a public/published one. I will read your book. You can imagine that since that terrible epoch for us Jews, we can never forget. I hope that someday I will see you. I send regards to you and to all the good Jews in America. With love, Marc Chagall. P.S. I am here for the opening/conference since I made Biblical vitrages [stained glass windows] for the Fraumunster [Church] in Zurich." This letter was written just before friction began to emerge between Shneiderman and Chagall. While Chagall had grown into an acclaimed artist in Europe, much of that fame was dependent on working with non-Jewish entities such as churches and even on drawing depictions of events in the New Testament. Increasingly the Christian world began to embrace Chagall and to interpret his work as having ecumenical (or even Messianic) undertones. Chagall continued in his artistic endeavors and failed to respond to some of the religious-based commentary. Shneiderman felt that this was intolerable, publicly criticizing Chagall's failure to meet with Jewish representatives in the community he worked in and his new alignment with Christian and secular authorities. While their relationship did not completely sour and they continued to correspond, their relationship grew strained. At the time this letter was penned, Shneiderman had just completely a book on Ilya Ehrenburg, a famous Soviet-Jewish writer and cultural figure. Highly regarded as a translator, journalist, poet, novelist, and travel writer, Ehrenburg is probably best known for his Black Book, a powerful work detailing the genocide of Soviet Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust. His book, The Thaw, on liberalization after Stalin also had a powerful influence and gave a name to an era. Sadly, Ehrenburg's reputation was quickly destroyed by antisemites and conspiracy theorists after the war who seized upon an article he wrote called "Kill!"—published while the Soviets were losing the war and the Germans were deep inside Soviet territory—in which Ehrenburg entreated soldiers to kill at least one German a day. Postwar, he has often been blamed for the sacking of Germany by Russian troops, though he condemned their actions. He died horribly of prostate and bladder cancer, still a committed communist. The recipient of this letter was the famous Yiddish writer and journalist, Samuel "S.L." Shneiderman. Continuing his distinguished early career as a war journalist, Shneiderman is best known today for raising awareness about the plight of the Warsaw Ghetto after his arrival in the United States in 1940 and for his dedication to preserving the history of the Jews in Poland throughout his life. His works on the Holocaust and the terrible fate of the Jews remain the best known of his works. Shneiderman and his wife, Eileen, were also avid collectors of Yiddish-language books and their collection is now housed at the University of Maryland.
Slight soiling to envelope, letter fine.