Friday, 10 June 2016


YERAKHMIEL VINIK (1895-summer 1942)
            He was born in Riga, graduated from the state senior high school (language of instruction: Russian), spent a certain period of time thereafter studying medicine at a university in Dorpat (Tartu), Estonia, and in 1918 (in an independent Latvia) studied at the law faculty of Riga University.  He soon left there, however, due to his political activity.  In his high school years, he had joined the Young Zionist (Tseire Tsiyon) party, mastered Yiddish which was alien to him until then—people spoke German in his home growing up and his school language was Russian—and conducted political propaganda in speech and writing: in Yiddish.  He quickly made his way in among the Yiddish writers in Riga, and his name from that point was tied to numerous Yiddish publications in Latvia.  In July 1919 he was one of the founders and the editor of the daily newspaper Idishe folksshtime (Jewish voice of the people)—it ceased publication in October of that year.  In May 1920 he became a member of the editorial board (with Dr. Y. Helman and M. Movshovitsh-Gerts) of the daily newspaper Dos folk (The people), from which he departed at the end of 1921 over political differences.  From September 1922 until February 1924, he co-edited (with Professor M. Lazarson and Dr. Y. Helman) the daily Der veg (The way) and later (from April 1923) Unzer veg (Our way).  In 1927 he served as editor of the bilingual party publication Der ruf (The call)—only eleven issues appeared—and in 1932 (March-October) he was editor of the daily afternoon paper Ovnt-post (Evening mail)—all in Riga.  In the early 1930s he also placed pieces with the Riga Yiddish daily Frimorgn (Morning).  Vinik was also the representative member of his party to the Riga city council.  During the semi-fascist coup of Kārlis Ulmanis in 1934, Vinik was arrested and sent to a hastily constructed concentration camp in Libave (Liepāja).  He was freed a year later and remained in Riga.  In June 1941, when the Soviet authorities (which had occupied Latvia a year previous) carried out the arrest of socialists and blatant anti-Communists in Riga, he was also arrested and exiled to the distant North—a concentration camp in Solikamsk—where he was allotted hard labor in the camp’s division “Chertozh.”  In December 1941 he was one of those brought before the camp prosecutor and sentenced to five years in prison and hard labor in Krasnoyarsk.  When he failed to return after a lengthy period of time from the inquest in Solikamsk, rumors spread that he had died.  He did, however, return in the spring of 1942 to Chertozh, where he died in the summer of 1942, a physically broken and ill man.  He also published under the pen names: Y. Rokhvin and Y. Berson.

Sources: M. Gerts, 25 yor yidishe prese in letland (25 years of the Yiddish press in Latvia) (Riga: Alef, 1933), pp. 33, 37-39, 42, 47-49, 58-59, 61; Yahadut latviya (Judaism in Latvia) (Tel Aviv, 1953), see index.

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