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Abba Kovner (1918–1987)

Author of Sloan-Kettering: Poems

Includes the names: Abba Kovner

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Abba Kovner was born to a Jewish family in a town in Lithuania (present-day Belarus) and grew up in Vilnius (Vilna), then part of Poland, where he joined the Zionist youth movement Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair. After Nazi Germany invaded in World War II, Kovner and his friends formed the United Partisan Organization or FPO (Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye), one of the first armed underground organizations in the Jewish ghettos. He fought the Germans in the Vilnius Ghetto before escaping when it was destroyed. With his lieutenants Vitka Kempner and Ruzka Korczak, he commanded a partisan group in the forests near Vilnius called The Avengers, and engaged in sabotage and guerrilla attacks against the Germans and their local collaborators. When the Soviet Red Army attacked Vilnius in 1944, the surviving Avengers joined the fight and helped liberate the city. After the war, Kovner and Vitka Kempner helped smuggle Jews into British-occupied Palestine. He and Kempner married in 1946 and had two children. They also emigrated to Palestine, where Kovner joined the Haganah and fought for Israeli independence. He became a renowned poet, writing in Yiddish and Hebrew, and won the Israel Prize in literature for his work in 1970.
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