The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
             (A Companion to MENDELE)
Contents of Vol. 08.004 [Sequential No. 143]
31 March 2004

1) About this issue of TMR (Joseph Sherman)
   a. Yisker-bikher
   b. Checklist of  Soviet Authors
   c. Khulyot 8
2) The Translation of Holocaust Memorial Books into English
   (Jacob Solomon Berger)
3) Eliezer Podriatchik's Checklist of  Soviet Writers
   (Avraham A. Greenbaum and Leonard Prager)

Date:  31 March 2004
From: Joseph Sherman 
Subject: About this issue of TMR

a. Yisker-bikher

This issue of TMR focuses on the ongoing need to continue the work of
documenting our losses from the destruction wrought by Hitler and Stalin.

(a) In making an appeal for the organized and systematic translation of
Holocaust memorial books, Jacob S. Berger points out the extent of the
rich mine of historical and sociological ore that lies buried in these
yisker-bikher, and makes a strong, cogent case for the need to put the
translation of these invaluable source materials on a professional
basis.  Without denigrating the valuable work in this regard undertaken
by such voluntary organizations as JewishGen, Dr Berger makes it clear
that the efforts of amateurs, however well-meaning, are often
handicapped by less than perfect command of Yiddish, which leads to
inaccuracy and sometimes distortion in the translation of these
materials.  The plan he outlines is an ideal which seems at present to
be far from realization -- the costs involved are enormous, and it is
not clear where the central organizing authority for such a project is
to be found, still less the funding for it.  Many projects of great
importance have seemed impossible at first, yet they have in time become
realities.  All that may well be needed is to plant the seeds of a big
idea, and wait for it to grow.  Dr Berger has unquestionably planted
these seeds with conviction and persuasiveness.

(b}. Checklist of  Soviet Authors

The difficult, painstaking work of recovering from obllivion the names
of those Soviet Yiddish writers obliterated by Stalin continues.  Much
bio-bibliographic work remains to be done; many of these authors need to
be rediscovered and reevaluated in the light of our fuller knowledge of
the conditions under which they labored.  With the erratic but
nevertheless steady opening of the KGB archives, the valuable work thus
far done will in time surely become easier.

c. Khulyot 8

Volume 8 of _Khulyot_ (Chulyot)/ Ringen has appeared and is available
from the Department of Hebrew Literature, University of Haifa, Haifa,
Israel.  The price 50 shekels in Israel; 15 dollars from abroad (postage
included).  Abstracts of the contents of volumes 1-8 may be found on The
World of Yiddish website:  http:/  In the near
future a significant portion of all the volumes will be accessible via
this site as full-text items.

Date:  31 March 2004
From: Jacob Solomon Berger 
Subject: The Translation of Holocaust Memorial Books into English

The Translation of Holocaust Memorial Books into English

by Jacob Solomon Berger (1)

--- Background

In the aftermath of the devastation of the Eastern European Jewish
community during the Second World War, survivors and those who left the
old country in prior years saw a need to document memories of their
origins in order to leave a permanent testament to communities that had
been eradicated.

In the ensuing quarter century, nearly 1300 books were written and
published; that came to be known as Yizkor Books [Yiddish:
yisker-bikher], or Holocaust Memorial Books.  Most of these books relate
the history of the destroyed Jewish community, often reaching back to
the early medieval history of the town.  They tell stories about
prominent and ordinary people, anecdotes about daily life and
relationships, discuss political and economic matters, and describe the
diverse ways in which Judaism was lived and practiced as a way of life.
Most books also contain eye-witness accounts of the devastation wrought
by the Nazis during their occupation, and the implementation of their
Final Solution.  There will usually also be a necrology, which lists the
people murdered during the Holocaust, to the best of the memory of those
participating in the preparation of the book.

The accounting of the Yad Vashem archive shows the following breakdown
of the languages in which these books were prepared.(2)

-- Language Distribution of Yizkor Books

Among primarily monolingual works we find 432 Yiddish, 229 Hebrew, 376
German, 49 English and an additional 187 in Hungarian, French, Polish &
Russian.  Works containing some Hebrew number 350, some German number 6,
some English 148.  The total number of Yizkor books translated is 1,273.

Yiddish        432                                                                                          432
Hebrew         229                                    350                                                 579
German         376                                    6                                                 382
English         49                                    148                                                 197
Other          187 (3)                                                                                        187
Total        1,273

A few contain small English summaries, and occasionally a Table of
Contents that has been translated into English.  Many of the books in
German were not written by Jews, but by the local people in the 1980s
and onward to memorialize the Jews who used to live among them.

--- The Issue At Hand

While the Hebrew texts remain accessible to Israelis in general, and
others trained in Hebrew, linguistic facility with Yiddish is rapidly
fading.  Despite well-meaning efforts, by a variety of institutions, the
prognosis for revitalizing Yiddish as a living language remains very
bleak.  The excision of the Eastern European Jewish community has
cauterized the taproot, from which the vitality of Yiddish, as a living
language, would have drawn its sustenance.

The one third Yiddish portion of this archive, represented by the
collection of Holocaust Memorial Books, becomes increasingly
inaccessible, as the current generation begins to pass from the scene.
At best, we can expect this portion of the archive to remain accessible
to a diminished cadre of scholar/specialists, who will make knowledge of
Yiddish part of their life's work.  The vast majority of the Jewish
population, including Israelis, will become orphaned from their own
history, cut off from the rich tapestry of folklore, which will lie
entombed behind a linguistic communications barrier.

Such an outcome would seriously impoverish the historical record for
future generations of Jewish progeny, and other interested parties, who
will come to seek some meaningful connection to this dimension of the

--- What Has Been Done

This issue has not gone unnoticed.  The advent of word-processing
software and the Internet, has put tools into the hands of motivated
people, that begin to make possible a systematic attempt to translate
this archive into English.

The principal vehicle, by which this type of work has been carried out
to date, is through the online community called `JewishGen' (see the
website,  JewishGen provides a framework through
which translation projects can be managed, and eventually published

The U.S.  Holocaust Museum in Washington, has a single person, dedicated
to translating only the Table of Contents of such books, as her time

There are serious limitations to these ongoing efforts:

The JewishGen initiative is a framework only.  It expects that
interested parties will provide their own funding and translation
resources, but will assist them in finding help, and in negotiating the
process that eventually gets the work product published online.

To date, between 300-400 of these books have been `touched.' However,
with rare exceptions, few of these constitute a `complete' end-to-end
translation.  In most cases there are only partial translations of those
sections of the book that interested the prime mover.  Often this is
restricted to the necrology lists, while the narrative text is

This effort comes from the `bottom up,' driven by random people, who
have developed an interest - usually in a single book - to understand
the history of their immediate ancestors.  Consequently, coverage of the
geography, of what was the Pale of Settlement, which has been captured
in the Yiddish portion of the archive, is uneven.

The translation of the Table of Contents is helpful, but falls far short
of satisfying the underlying need for real understanding of the history
embodied in these books.

--- What Needs to Be Done

A managed effort is required to bring this entire archive across the
language barrier from Yiddish into English.  The choice of English is
not parochial:  the English language, for better or for worse, is
emerging as the global lingua franca.  For the foreseeable future, any
literate citizen of the world, who chooses to participate in the global
economy, will need to acquire a command of English.  Consequently, it is
the logical target language for such an effort.

Such a managed effort comes only with a `tops-down' approach by a
focused organization, that has been properly funded with financial
resources, enabling it to acquire the necessary skills to get this type
of a task done.

This is not a small undertaking.  If we assume that it takes 0.4 - 0.75
man-years (4) to translate a book (most are quite substantive in
length), we are talking about 135 - 300 man-years of raw translation

The core work does not stop with raw translation.  Careful editing and
integration of the raw product is needed to assure correctness,
consistency, and placing the material in context.  These three
objectives imply the following:

Correctness -- To ensure that original text has not been misread, and
therefore improperly translated or transcribed.  An interesting example
is the newly deployed Ellis Island Data Base, where simple transcription
of handwritten ships' manifests (in English) is shot through with rather
obvious mistakes, due largely to a lack of familiarity of names and
places to the transcribers.

Consistency -- A plague, associated with the translation from one
alphabet to another, is the lack of consistency in rendering the
orthography of names and places consistently.  A meaningful set of
standards needs to be adopted for the sake of consistency (rather than

Context -- It will be important to footnote this text in an informative
way, so that the lay reader, unfamiliar with either, language, culture,
or the history of the times, can be given an appreciation for some of
the subtleties of the text.

This component of editorial work will add approximately 25% to the raw
translation labor, bringing the effort to 170 - 375 man-years.

An administrative infrastructure will be require to manage what will
doubtless be a highly distributed network of contributors.  This will
add approximately another 10% to the base for translation and editing,
bringing the effort to a level of 190 - 400 man-years.

The skills involved are not cheap.  It is not unreasonable to expect
that an average man-year in this mix will run as high as $50,000.  The
cost of this undertaking therefore would be $9.5 million - $20.0
million.  This implies a unit cost of the final product to be between
$22,000 - $47,000 per book for the Yiddish portion of the archive.

--- Why It Should Be Done

The substantial commitment of money and time suggested above demands
justification.  It is as much an obligation to Jewish posterity as it is
to the memory of a Jewish past that was so cruelly eradicated for no
reason.  In this sense, it parallels the sentiments of the Shoah
Foundation, set up by Steven Spielberg, whose mission is focused on the
taping of the recollections of living Holocaust survivors, and the
integration of such materials into Jewish educational processes.

By doing so, it strengthens the capacity of all civilization to never
forget the unfortunate human capacity to descend into an abyss of


1. Dr.  Jacob Solomon Berger is fluent in Yiddish, Hebrew and English
and has translated a number of Holocaust Memorial Books.  He recognizes
that no single individual can address the entire Yiddish portion of the
archive of Holocaust Memorial Books.  His address is:  Dr.  Jacob
Solomon Berger / 12 Janice Court / Mahwah, NJ 07430-1515 / USA.  Tel:
(201)-529-3391 / Fax:  (201)-529-4381 / E-Mail:

2. These statistics were supplied during May 2003 through the kindness
of Dr.  Robert Rozett of Yad Vashem.  These numbers should be viewed as
indicative rather than precise.  There is ambiguity regarding which
books should be included in this category, and an indication of the use
of multiple languages is not a measure of the actual volume of writing.

3. Hungarian, French, Polish & Russian.

4. The elapsed time might be as much as 1.5 - 2 years.

Date:  31 March 2004
From: Avraham A. Greenbaum  and
Leonard Prager 
Subject: Eliezer Podriatchik's Checklist of Soviet Writers

        Eliezer Podriatchik's Checklist of  Soviet Writers

by Avraham A. Greenbaum and Leonard Prager

Eliezer Podriatchik [Yiddish:  Leyzer Podriyatshik] (1914-2000) compiled
a "Lexicon of Afflictions" which flashes to our minds the reach and
scope of oppression -- from within and without -- of Jewish literary
creativity in both Hebrew and Yiddish in the former Soviet Union.  The
cataclysmic August 12, 1952 was simply a culmination point in this
soul-numbing history.  Someone like Podriatchik with firsthand knowledge
of Soviet Yiddish culture over a period of decades could compile a list
of this kind, one with numerous names not represented in any of the
standard Yiddish biographical handbooks.  Yet even Podriatchik could not
supply accurate dates for the many writers who disappeared in Stalin's
prison camps long before the final Soviet push against Yiddish that
began in 1948 with the "accident" that killed the great Mikhoels.  One
would have liked Podriatshik's list to serve as an authoritative
biographical handbook.  However, there are many discrepancies between
Podriatshik's birth and death dates and those given in Berl Kagan's
_Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers_ (New York 1986) and the earlier
_Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur_ , 8 vols.  (New York
1956-1981).  Thus the particulars that Podriatshik assigns to Yankev
Kantor [Jacob Cantor] appear to belong to another person than those
attributed in careful detail to a Yankev Kantor by A.A.  Greenbaum in
the _Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur_ (vol. 8, cols. 72-73).
We were led to check through all the names in Podriatshik's list and in
several instances indicate figures whose birth and/or death dates differ
from those given in NL or Kagan.  The list presented here makes no claim
to being definitive; we invite additions and corrections.

We must add a note about Podriatchik himself, a sad man drawn to sombre
themes.  The opening sentence in his _In heykhl fun vort_ (Tel Aviv:
Y.L.  Perets, 1991, p. 9) reads:  "Mayn tate hot keyn mol nisht
gelakht."  ("My father never laughed.")  Podriatchik found intellectual
and spiritual sustenance in literature.  On his tombstone are engraved
the words from Dovid Hofshteyn's "Friling":  "O, shprakh, mayn
kinigraykh, / O, shprakh, mayn layb, mayn lebn!"  ('Oh, language, my
kingdom, / Oh, language, my body, my life!').


Eliezer Podriatchik, _Hatsatsa mizavit yeshara_ ('Glancing from a Right
Angle').  Tel-Aviv:  "Yisroel-Bukh," 1991.

Ne'lamim veNe'elamim ['Hidden and Silenced'] tsiyunim bibliografiim
['bibliographic notes'], pp. 151-177.

Podriatshik writes:  "_Ne'lamim veNe'elamim_ -- as this title indicates
-- is a special kind of lexicon.  It includes Jewish writers who
perished in the Soviet Union, who were incarcerated there at some time,
or whose fate is not known."  (p. 151)

This "Leksikon yisurim" as its compiler calls it ['Lexicon of
Afflictions'] is divided into two parts, Hebrew writers and Yiddish
writers.  Names are given in the Hebrew order.

[Some of the Hebrew writers also wrote Yiddish -- AAG & LP]

-Avronin (Ben-Or);
-Alin, Avraham;
-Alsarif, Y.;
-Anos, G.;
-Borovitsh, Yitskhak [author of Yiddish technical
handbooks in his field:  _Koyft a gutn ferd_ (Kharkov,
1928) and _Viazoy oyskhoven a gut gezunt yungfi_ (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932)];
-Borokhin, Yaakov;
-Bakhut , A. [pseud.] [see Gen 35:8];
-Grinberg, Yisrael;
-Habone (Trebukov), Shimon;
-Vays, Shlomo;
-Zborovski, Yosef;
-Khyog, Moshe [pseud., based on character in Scandinavian
literature, real name M.Z. Plotkin];
-Kohen, Yitskhak [briefly managed Jewish State Theatre at Simfropol];
-Lotesh, Shmuel;
-Lenski, Khayim;
-Mardkhiuf, Y. [pseud.];
-Novak, Mili (Shmuel);
-Pir, Adani (Peysekh Reyski);
-Fradkin, Ben-Tsion;
-Frid, Gershon;
-Preygerzon, Tsvi;
-Friman, Avraham;
-Tsfasman, Yosef-Leyb;
-Ravrebe, Yekhiel;
-Rudin, Elisha [initially a Yiddish writer, the "last Mohican" -- term
used by A.A.G. in article in _Jewish Social Studies_ July 1968] of
Hebrew creativity in the USSR, author of the elegiac poem "LaBen" ('To
My Son') composed in memory of his son, a soldier in the Red Army killed
fighting the Nazis];
-Roznshteyn, Khayim-David;
-Shvarts, Nakhum.


Some of the Yiddish writers also wrote Hebrew, e.g.  Shmuel Halkin,
Dovid Hofshteyn, Der Nister, Moyshe Kulbak.  We give the names of those
executed on August 12, 1952 in capital letters.-AAG & LP

--Abtshuk, Avrom (1887-arrested 1936,d. in camp)[d. date should be 1939]
--Avrohom, Leyb (1896-arrested 1948, d. in camp)
--Aguleski, Menakhem (1891-1932)
--Agurski, Shmuel (1884-1947)
--Averbukh, Volf ( ?  - 1936)
--Osherovitsh, Elye (1879-3)
--Altshuler, Yehoyshue (?  - 193 )
--Aleksandrov, Hilel (1890-1972)
--Ester [M.  Frumkin] (1880-1936)
--Akselrod, Zelik (1904-1941)
--Erik, Maks (1898-?1936)
--Bilov, Shloyme (1888-?1948)
--Beregovski, Moyshe (1892-1961)
--BERGELSON, DOVID (1884-1952)
--Bronshteyn, Yashe (1897-?1938)
--Bril, Hershl (1902-?1937)
--Gutyanski, Binyomin (1906-?1948)
--Gildin, Khayem (1885-1944)
--Gilishanski, Hersh (1881-?194?)
--Grubyan, Motl (1909-1972)
--Grinberg, Zerekh (1887-?1948)
--Dobrushin, Yekheskl (1883-?1948)
--Dunyets, Khaskl (18??-?1935)
--Diamant, Maks (?-?194?)
--Dimentshteyn, Shimen (1888-?1937)
--Damesk, Avrom-Ayzik (1893-?1936)
--Huberman, Ayzik (1907-1966)
--Holdes, Oyzer (1900-1966)
--HOFSHTEYN, DOVID (1889-1952)
--Halkin, Shmuel (1897-1960)
--Vaynhoyz, Note (1912-1944)
--Vaynshteyn, Yisroel [Idl Melamed]  (1891-194?)
--Vladnitski, Avrom (1899-1959)
--Vendrof, Zalmen (1876-1971)
--ZUSKIN, BINYOMIN (1899-1952)
--Zhits, G. (?-?1948)
--Kharik, Izi (1898-193?)
--Khashin, Aleksander [Tsvi Avurbukh] (1886-?1939)
--Tayf, Moyshe (1904-1966)
--Yavits, Khayem (1906-?1937)
--Yu, Mikhoel [Meyer Yofe] (?-1960)
--Yudlson, Arn (1907-?)
--Yankelevitsh, Yankev (1904-?1938)
--Koyen, Naftoli-Herts (1910-1971)
--Katvan, Benedikt [active Hebraist]
--Katvan, Markus (?-?)
--Leyb, Ziskind (1896-193?)
--Levin, Nokhem (1904-?)  [K:  (1908-1952)
--Loytsker, Khayem (1898-1970)
--Levyoson, Mikhl (1882-1938)
--Liberberg, Yoysef (1899-1937)
--Litvakov, Moyshe (1875-?193?)
--MARKISH, PERETS (1895-1952)
--Mokhshovits, Herts (1892-1958)
--Mizhritski, Moyshe (1892-1951)
--Mikhoels, Shloyme (1890-1948)
--Merez hin, Avrom (1880-193?)
--Nusinov, Yitskhok (?-1950)
--Nister [Der Nister, Pini Kahanovitsh] (1884-1950)
--Sudarski, I. (?-?1948)
--Stelmakh, Ana (1900-1950)
--Strongin, Leyb (?-1967)
--Strelits, Osker (1892-?1937)
--Slutski, Dov-Ber (1887-1951)
--Spivak, Elye (18 90-?1948)
--Furmanovits, Yoysef [Galekh] (?-?193?)
--Pintshevski, Moyshe (1894-1955)
--Platner, Ayzik (1895-1961)
--Feldman, Dovid (?-?193?)
--FEFER, ITSIK (1900-1952)
--Fridland, Tsvi (1897-193?)
--Prizman, Yekhiel (1909-?)
--Persov, Shmuel (1890-1952)
--Tsinberg, Yisroel (1873-1939)
--Tsalman, Tsvi (1913-?)
--Tshemeriski, Aleksander (1880-?193?)
--Tshernikhov, Yoysef [Donieli] (1882-1941)
--Kahan, Avrom  (1901-1965)
--Kahan, Elye (?-?194?)
--KVITKO, LEYB (1890-1952)
--Kulbak, Moyshe (1896-193?)
--Kushnirov, Arn (1890-1949)
--Kiper, Motl (1896-193?)
--Kirzhnits, Avrom (1888-193?)
--Kirzhner, Gershn (1905-194?)
--Klitnik, Shmuel (1904-1940)
--Kamenshteyn, Moyshe (?-?)
--Kantor, Yankev (1866-1964:  "arrested in the 1930s and
died in the camp") [NL: (1886-1964) [AAG: never arrested]
--Rafes, Moyshe (1885-193?) [NL:1883-1937[
--Rivkin, Herts (1908-1951)
--Reyzn, Zalmen (1887-1940)
--Rafalski, Moyshe-Arn (1889-193?)
--Shternberg, Yankev (1890-1973).
End of The Mendele Review Vol. 08.004
Editor, Leonard Prager
Associate Editor, Joseph Sherman

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