Poland Returns Yiddish Writer's Works Confiscated by Communists to Daughters

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WARSAW, Poland - The daughters of a Yiddish writer persecuted under communism reclaimed copies of his works on Tuesday, following a prolonged legal fight to establish their ownership.

The letters, newspaper articles and poems by Naftali Herts Kon, whose real name was Jakub Serf, were deposited with the City of Warsaw Archives by communist authorities after he was sentenced to prison on fabricated charges, in 1963. After 15 months in confinement, Kon left for Israel where he died in 1971.

On Tuesday, Kon's daughters received the papers - in 15 cream-colored file folders - from archive director Janina Gregorowicz.

"It is a bittersweet moment, a fantastic feeling," Ina Lancman said. "I can imagine my father is smiling now."

In a room at the archives, Lancman, her sister Vita Serf and their lawyer, Tomasz Koncewicz, laboriously went through all the papers, handwritten in Yiddish, to make sure everything was there.

In October a Warsaw court ruled that the writings lawfully belonged to Kon's family and should be returned. It took Lancman and Serf more than two years of legal battles to obtain that ruling.

Born in what is now Ukraine, Kon served in Soviet labor camps for criticizing communism in his writings. In 1959 he came to Poland with his wife Lisa and daughters and worked as a journalist, reporting also from Romania about the persecution of political opponents and Jews there.

He was arrested in December 1960 on fabricated charges of spying for Israel. They were downgraded to hostile propaganda. All his works were confiscated in a home search, but a court had never authorized their seizure.

Lancman, a retired chemist and her sister, a retired textile industry engineer, want to have Kon's writings translated into English and published, to make their father's work better known.

Ina Lancman holding of one her father’s Yiddish manuscripts in Warsaw, March 5, 2013.Credit: AP

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