HERSH-LEYB ZHITNITSKI (July 15, 1891-Summer 1942)
He was born in Sheradz (Sieradz), Kalish (Kalisz) district, Poland. He studied with his father, a Hebrew teacher in a religious public school, and in a Russian public school; he later graduated from a commercial school in Pabyanits (Pabianice) and after that lived in Brin, Austria, where he studied the craft of weaving. In 1913 he was working as a weaving master in a Lodz factory, later moving to the town of Lask (Łask) where he became a private Hebrew tutor and secretary for the local Jewish community. In 1916 he returned to Lodz and from 1920 was living in Warsaw. His literary activities began with a story in Nayer lodzer morgnblat (New Lodz morning newspaper), edited by Y. Gotlib, in 1913; from that point, he published stories, novellas, features, reportage pieces, and articles in the Yiddish press in Poland and other countries. He was an internal contributor to Lazar Kahan’s Lodzer folksblat (Lodz people’s newspaper) (1915-1919) and Haynt (Today) in Warsaw (1922-1939). For many years he was also the night editor of the newspaper. He placed work as well in: Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper), Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper), Heftn (Notebooks), Di yetstige tsayt (Contemporary times), Literatur (Literature), Yugend (Youth), and Der yudisher zhurnal (The Jewish journal), among others—in Lodz; Dos folk (The people), Haynt, Moment (Moment), Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people), Ringen (Links), Almanakh fun moment (Almanac of Moment), Varshever shriftn (Warsaw writings), Varshever almanakh (Warsaw almanac), Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Hatsfira (The siren), Baderekh (On the way), among others—in Warsaw; Forverts (Forward) and Haivri (The Jew) in New York; Davar (Word) and Haarets (The land) in Tel Aviv; Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires; and others. In 1931 he won first prize for his story “Dem rovs yungel” (The rabbi’s boy) in a Forverts competition. He edited together with Yitskhok Katsenelson the collection Heftn (Lodz) 1-4 (1917-1918). His books include: Noveln fun toyt (Stories of death) (Warsaw, 1920), 122 pp.; and Dem zeydns hayzl (Grandfather’s little house) (Warsaw, 1927), 125 pp. His war novel, In thom fun shmugl (In the abyss of smuggling) was published serially in Lodzer folksblat (1917-1918). In 1939 he prepared for publication a collection of stories, in which was included his long story “Der goyrl fun a hoyz” (The fate of a house), earlier published in Haynt. When the Germans occupied Warsaw in 1939, Zhitnitski left for Lemberg, later being confined in the Lemberg ghetto, and from there he was deported to a German death camp where he was murdered. “Zhitnitski was a thoroughly original writer,” Y. Y. Trunk in Poyln (Poland) 6 (1949), p. 91, “and the first of the young writers’ pleiad in Poland, who began to write about the Jewish town as a romantic vision of the past.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1924); Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (October 25, 1929); Ab. Cahan, in Forverts (New York) (May 24, 1931); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Tsukunft (January 1943); M. Mozes, in Der poylisher yid (New York), yearbook (1944); M. Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945), pp. 97-98; Y. Y. Trunk, in Poyln 6 (1949), pp. 89, 91, 93; B. Mark, Umgekumene shrayber fun di getos un lagern (Murdered writers from the ghettos and camps) (Warsaw, 1954), pp. 72, 205; B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955), see index; Kh. Finkelshteyn, in Fun noentn over (New York) 2 (1956), pp. 112, 135, 208; D. Davidovitsh, in Seyfer pabyanits (Pabianice volume) (Tel Aviv, 1956); Kh. L. Fuks, in Fun noentn over 3 (1957).
Khayim Leyb Fuks