Paul Celan

Paul Celan (/ˈsɛlæn/;[1] German: [ˈtseːlaːn]; 23 November 1920 – c. 20 April 1970) was a Romanian-born German language poet and translator. He was born as Paul Antschel to a Jewish family in Chernivtsi/Cernăuți (German: Czernowitz), in the then Kingdom of Romania (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine), and adopted the pseudonym "Paul Celan". He became one of the major German-language poets of the post–World War II era.

Paul Celan
BornPaul Antschel
(1920-11-23)23 November 1920
Cernăuți, Kingdom of Romania
(now Chernivtsi, Ukraine)
Died20 April 1970(1970-04-20) (aged 49)
Paris, France
NationalityRomanian, French
GenrePoetry, translation
SpouseGisèle Lestrange


Early life

Celan was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Chernivtsi/Cernăuți, Bukovina, a region then part of Romania and earlier part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (when his birthplace was known as Czernowitz, now Chernivtsi, Ukraine). His first home was in the Wassilkogasse in Chernivtsi/Cernăuți. His father, Leo Antschel, was a Zionist who advocated his son's education in Hebrew at the Jewish school Safah Ivriah (meaning The Hebrew language).

Celan's mother, Fritzi, was an avid reader of German literature who insisted German be the language of the house. In his teens Celan became active in Jewish Socialist organizations and fostered support for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. His earliest known poem is titled Mother's Day 1938.

Paul attended the Liceul Ortodox de Băieți No. 1 (Boys' Orthodox Secondary School No. 1) from 1930 until 1935, Liceul de Băieți No. 2 în Chernivtsi/Cernăuți (Boys' Secondary School No. 2 in Chernivtsi/Cernăuți) from 1935 to 1936,[2] followed by the Liceul Marele Voievod Mihai (Great Prince Mihai Preparatory School, now Chernivtsi School No. 5), where he studied from 1936 until graduating in 1938. At this time Celan secretly began to write poetry.[3]

In 1938 Celan traveled to Tours, France, to study medicine. The Anschluss precluded his study in Vienna, and Romanian schools were harder to get into due to the newly imposed Jewish quota. His journey to France took him through Berlin as the events of Kristallnacht unfolded, and also introduced him to his uncle, Bruno Schrager, who was later among the French detainees who died at Birkenau. Celan returned to Chernivtsi/Cernăuți in 1939 to study literature and Romance languages.

Life during World War II

Following the Soviet occupation of Bukovina in June 1940, deportations to Siberia started. A year later following the reconquest of Romania, Nazi Germany and the then fascist Romanian regime brought ghettos, internment, and forced labour (see Romania during World War II).

On arrival in Chernivtsi in July 1941, the German SS Einsatzkommando and their Romanian allies set the city's Great Synagogue on fire. In October, the Romanians deported a large number of Jews after forcing them into a ghetto, where Celan translated Shakespeare's Sonnets and continued to write his own poetry. Before the ghetto was dissolved in the fall of that year, Celan was pressed into labor, first clearing the debris of a demolished post office, and then gathering and destroying Russian books.

The local mayor strove to mitigate the harsh circumstances, until the governor of Bukovina had the Jews rounded up and deported, starting on a Saturday night in June 1942. Celan hoped to convince his parents to leave the country s