YANKL ZHELEZNIKOV (1887-1939)
He was born in Pinsk, Byelorussia. His father was a forest worker. Yankl studied in religious primary school and in Talmud-Torah. As a youth he became a worker and was active in the “Kleyner Bund” (Little Bund), later becoming one of the most active revolutionary leaders in the Bund in Russia. He was arrested several times and spent time in Tsarist prisons. In 1910 he was sentenced to six years of hard labor. Upon being freed after the Russian Revolution of 1917, he came to Ukraine, lived in Berdichev and Kiev, held a leading position in the Bund, and worked in the “Kultur-lige” (Culture league) in Kiev. In 1921 he left Bolshevik Russia for Poland, spent a short time in Warsaw, and then settled in Vilna where he was a member of the Vilna committee of the Bund, a leader in the Union of Business Employees, and a Bundist representative on the Vilna Jewish community council. He wrote proclamations for the “Kleyner Bund” in Pinsk, later published (also under the pseudonyms Y. Ayzerner and Khayimke) articles on political and trade union matters in Unzer gedank (Our idea), organ of social-democratic Bund in Vilna (1923) and Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper) in Warsaw, among other serials. He published interesting memoirs in the Bundist press in Poland, a portion of which—entitled “In yene teg” (In those days)—were republished in Historisher zamlbukh, materyaln un dokumentn tsushtayer tsu der geshikhte fun algemeynem yidishn arbeter-bund (Historical collection, material and documentary contribution to the history of the General Jewish Labor Bund) (Warsaw, 1948), pp. 54-59. In September-October 1939, just after the Bolsheviks had occupied Vilna, Zheleznikov was, together with other local leading Bundists and other Jewish community leaders, arrested and exiled deep into Soviet Russia. According to certain testimony, he was tortured in a Bolshevik prison. His wife and daughter were murdered by the Nazis in Vilna in September 1943. His son Avrom Zheleznikov was last living in the United States.
Sources: Toyznt yor pinsk (New York, 1941), pp. 128 passim; Yivo-bleter (New York) 26 (1945); Y. Hart, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (July-August 1951); Y. Sh. Herts, Doyres bundistn (Generations of Bundists), vol. 1 (New York, 1956), with a bibliography.
Khayim Leyb Fuks