HERSHELE (HERSZELE) (January 30, 1882-September 1941)
The adopted name of Hersh Danilevitsh, he was born in Lipne (Lipno), Plotsk district, to a father who was in charge of registering the felling of trees in the forest. He studied in religious elementary school; later, on his own he pursued secular learning and foreign languages. Due to the decree that forbid Jews from residing in villages, he had to leave the place of his birth and with his father move to Warsaw. He became a laborer in his youth and joined the revolutionary movement. He subsequently lived in Lodz, where he worked in plush weaving. He became active there in the socialist territorialist party and later among the Zionist socialists. He was arrested on several occasions and had to leave Lodz in a hurry. Over the years 1908-1910, he lived in Geneva, Switzerland, and later he returned to Poland, but due to an old court case in which a Tsarist court had sentenced him for publishing a poem in an illegal publication, he was administratively exiled to Kalisz and he worked in a lace factory. With the outbreak of WWI in August 1914, he was among a group that was lined up to be shot by the Germans during the massacre at Kalisz, from he was able to escape and run off to Warsaw. During the German occupation he was a cofounder of the Lodz Jewish writers’ union and of literary periodicals.
He began writing in his early youth and was encouraged to continue his writing by Y. L. Perets. He debuted in print in the illegal publications of the Zionist socialist Funken (Sparks) in Lodz (1904), and followed up in: Unzer veg (Our way) in Vilna (1907); later contributing to Dr. Vortsman’s Di yudishe tsukunft (The Jewish future) in Lodz-Warsaw; Nokhum Sokolov’s Der telegraf (The telegraph); Perets’s Yudishe vokhnshrift (Jewish weekly writings); Yudish (Yiddish) 1 and 2; Teater-velt (Theater world); Romantsaytung (Fiction newspaper); Shvalbn (Swallows); Goldene funken (Golden sparks); Peysekh-blat (Passover sheet); Frayhayt (Freedom); and other periodicals out of Warsaw. From 1910 he was contributing to: Der fraynd (The friend) in St. Petersburg-Warsaw; Haynt (Today), Moment (Moment), Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper), Unzer ekspres (Our express), Dos folk (The people), Eyropeishe literatur (European literature), and Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves)—all in Warsaw; Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper), Folksblat (People’s newspaper), Nayer lodzer morgnblat (New Lodz morning newspaper), Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper), Yugend (Youth), Literatur (Literature), Di itstige tsayt (The present time), Yung-idish (Young Yiddish), Gezangen (Song) 1 and 2, Shveln (Thresholds), Di fayl (The arrow), and Idisher zhurnalist (Jewish journalist)—and others in Lodz; and Di prese (The press) and Penemer un penemlekh (Appearances, big and small) in Buenos Aires. Aside from poetry he published popular stories, feature pieces, children’s verse, humorous sketches, and translations from Russian, Polish, and German, among them a series of poems and ballads by Semyon Nadson, Vladislav Sirokomlya, Juliusz Slowacki, Friedrich Schiller, and Goethe. Among his books: Hersheles lider (Hershele’s poetry) (Lodz, 1907), 86 pp.; Zun-feygelekh, a zamlung, lidelekh far yidishe kinder (Sun birds, a collection of songs for Jewish children), children’s verse (Lodz, 1918), 48 pp. (the songs here were used in the first secular Jewish schools in Poland); Shabes afn trakt (Sabbath on the highway), popular songs and ballads (Warsaw, 1929), 77 pp. He translated from the German: Kálmán’s popular operetta, Di royz fun stambul (The rose of Stambul); and Schiller’s Wilhelm tel (William Tell) (Warsaw, 1929). He adapted (with Kolye Teper) Lernbukh far yidishe shuln (Textbook for Jewish schools) (Lodz, 1921). He co-edited: (with Khayim Leyb Fuks) the collections of the young poets’ group in Lodz, Gezangen 1 and 2 (Lodz, 1919-1920); (with Kh. Solnik) Di itstige tsayt (Lodz, 1915-1917); and (with Y. M. Poznanski) Literatur 6 (Lodz, 1916-1918). Throughout his life, Hershele collected folksongs, folktales, aphorisms, and proverbs. Some of them were published: in Noyekh Prilucki’s anthologies; in the collection Bay unz yidn (With us Jews) (Warsaw, 1923), edited by Pinkhes Grobard; in Shmuel Lehman’s collections Arbet un frayhayt (Labor and freedom) (Warsaw, 1921); Shmuel lehmans bukh (Shmuel Lehman’s book) (Warsaw, 1927); and elsewhere. A great number of his songs were sung as anonymous folk creations—such as “Rashke iz a moyd a voyle” (Rashke is such a nice girl) and “Gey af boydems, krikh in kelers” (Go up into attics and climb down into cellars), among others. He also published under such pen names as: A. Sholtik, Gern-groys, Shretele, Lodzer Shretele, and Knapzorger, among others.
From 1922 until WWII, he lived in the town of Henrikov (Henryków), outside Warsaw, and supported his family by means of his wife’s food shop, occasional publishing works (during the summer) in the Yiddish daily newspapers, and proofreading. When the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, he moved with his wife and two daughters to Warsaw, and ignoring hunger and suffering he continued with his writing. Some of these were published in the illegal publications—Dror (Freedom), Yedies (Information), and Payn un gvure (Pain and might)—published in the Warsaw Ghetto and were later republished in: Di yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings) in Lodz; Goldene keyt (Golden chain) in Tel Aviv; Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal; and elsewhere. He prepared for publication in 1939 a volume of collected songs, among them the one-hundred-verse poem Kalish (Kalisz), with a foreword by Yitskhok Katsenelenson. Hershele died of hunger in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilber tsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; Yisroel Shtern, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (May 10, 1929); M. Mozes, Der poylisher yid (The Polish Jew), yearbook (New York, 1944); M. Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945), pp. 77-79; M. B. Shteyn, in Taf shin hey (1944/1945) (Tel Aviv, 1945); Rokhl Oyerbakh, in Yidishe shriftn (Lodz) 7-8 (1947); Sefer milḥamot hagetaot (The fighting ghettos) (Tel Aviv, 1954), p. 720; B. Heler, “Dos lid iz geblibn” (That song remains), in Antologye fun umgekumene dikhter (Anthology of murdered poets) (Warsaw, 1951); N. Mayzil, in Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955); Kh. Finkelshteyn, Yidishe prese in varshe (The Yiddish press in Warsaw) (New York, 1956), p. 208; M. Glakser, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 379; Khayim Leyn Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), pp. 191, 198, 217, 220, 221, 225, 226, 227, 233, 268; Y. Papyernikov, Heymishe un noente (Familiar and close) (Tel Aviv, 1958), pp. 217-21.
Khayim Leyb Fuks