ELYE TSHERIKOVER (ELIAS TCHERIKOWER) (July 31, 1881-August 8, 1943)
He was born in Poltava, Ukraine. His father, Khayim Tsherikover, was a devout Jew and a well-to-do businessman; he was also a worldly man, a prominent community leader, and one of the first “Lovers of Zion” in Poltava. His son Elye studied Jewish and secular subject matter in private. In 1898 he left for Odessa, attended the local painting school, and as an external student took the high school course of study before receiving in 1903 his baccalaureate certificate. In 1904 he also graduated from painting school. In Odessa he joined the Zionist socialist circles which had emerged around 1902. After the Russian Revolution of 1905, he moved to St. Petersburg and entered university there, but was soon arrested at an illegal conference of Russian social democrats (Mensheviks) and was only set free after almost a year behind bars in St. Petersburg and Poltava. He began writing in Russian. He published his first work in 1905 in the monthly journal Evreiskaia zhizn’ (Jewish life): a Marxist literary critical treatment of Mendele Moykher-Sforim. He later wrote, using the pseudonyms A. Mikhaelovsky and A. Chuzhoy, for the press in St. Petersburg. He was one of the closest collaborators (from the fourth issue on) of the Russian-language Evreiskaia entsiklopediya (Jewish encyclopedia), published by Brockhaus and Efron in St. Petersburg, in which placed a series of long articles on libraries, the Bund, Galicia, conversion to Christianity, the Cantonists, the Haydamaks (bands of Ukrainians who carried out pogroms), and YIKO (Jewish Cultural Organization), among others, in addition to shorter entries left unsigned. For the Russian Jewish historical anthology Perezhitoie (One’s past), vol. 2 , pp. 160-85, he translated Morris Vintshevsky’s memoirs of [the early Yiddish newspaper] Der poylishe idl (The little Polish Jew), Sh. Rozenfeld’s work on Menashe Ilyer, and the section on documents. He also contributed to the Russian Jewish weekly Evreiskii mir (Jewish world). Over the years 1910-1914, he was editorial secretary for the pedagogical journal Vestnik ope (OPE herald)—“Courier of the Society for the promotion of enlightenment” [among the Jews of Russia])—published by the “Mefitse haskala” ([Society for the] promotion of enlightenment), and for the fiftieth anniversary of the organization he wrote (in Russian) a long work on the history of the society to spread education among the Jews of Russian (vol. 1, edited and with a preface by Shoyel Ginzburg), which appeared in St. Petersburg in 1914; because of the war, vol. 2 was not published. WWI broke out while Tsherikover was traveling abroad. Because of the war he remained in Israel and Egypt. In the summer of 1915 he visited New York and there—under the influence of his fellow townsman and friend from youth, Ber Borochov—he began to write in Yiddish and became a regular contributor to Tog (Day), 1915-1917, in which he published articles on historical and contemporary topics. He also contributed to: the monthly magazine Tsukunft (Future); the weekly Der idisher kongres (The Jewish congress), 1915-1916; Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter); and together with Ber Borochov, the pamphlet In kampf far idishe rekht, a blik in der idisher rekhtlozigkeyt (In the struggle for Jewish rights, a glimpse into the lack of Jewish rights) (New York, 1917), 96 pp. At the same time, he was a correspondent for Evreiskaia nedelya (Jewish weekly) in St. Petersburg, in which among other things he wrote about the new directions in American Judaism. In the summer of 1917, after the February Revolution, he returned to Russia, wrote correspondence pieces for Tog in New York, and contributed to Petrograder togblat (Petrograd daily newspaper), to the Moscow Russian-Jewish anthologies Safrut (Scribe) (edited by Leyb Yofe), and to the historical collections Haavar (The past).
In late 1918 when independent Ukraine recognized the principle of Jewish national autonomy, Tsherikover moved to Kiev, where he became an active leader in the Jewish National Secretariat. He was one of the most important contributors to and one of the editors of the collective work: Di yidishe oytonomye un der natsyonaler sekretaryat in ukraine (Jewish autonomy and the national secretariat in Ukraine), a collection of documents (Kiev, 1920), over 400 pp. He also contributed to the editorial board of the “Yidisher folks-farlag” (Jewish people’s publisher) in Kiev. During the wave of pogroms against Jews led by Petliura, Denikin, and others, which ran rampant at the time throughout the cities and towns of Ukraine, from the first moment he took upon himself the mission of collecting materials and documentation concerning the pogroms: a work truly tied to self-sacrifice. He assembled a colossal archive which in late 1920 with great difficult he transported to Moscow and from there (early 1921) through Kovno to Berlin where subsequent work on the documentation of pogrom materials was officially registered as the “Ostjüdisches Historisches Archiv” (Historical archive of Eastern European Jewry). Together with his co-editors—Bal-Makhshoves, Ben-Adir, Shimen Dubnov, and V. Latski—he planned a seven-volume publication of pogrom-related materials in Yiddish and Russian under the title “Di geshikhte fun der pogrom-bavegung in ukraine, 1917-1921” (The history of the pogrom movement in Ukraine, 1917-1921). Of this series, the first volume appeared at the time (in both Yiddish and Russian), written by Tsherikover, bearing the title Antisemitizm un pogromen in ukraine, 1917-1918 (Anti-Semitism and pogroms in Ukraine, 1917-1918), with a preface by Sh. Dubnov (Berlin: Yidisher literatur farlag, 1923), 331 pp. Years later another volume was published (in Russian) on pogroms committed by the volunteer army under Denikin, written by Joseph Schechtman, edited and with a preface by Tsherikover (Berlin: Historical archive of Eastern Jewry, 1932), 385 pp. In 1924 there appeared in Berlin (edited and with the collaboration of Tsherikover) volume one of In der tkufe fun revolutsye, memuarn, materyaln, dokumentn (In the era of revolution: memoirs, materials, documents) (Berlin: Historical archive of Eastern Jewry, 1924), 402 pp. He was also one of the cofounders and builders of the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) in Vilna. Over the years 1925-1943, he was the secretary for scholarship of the historical section and editor of the three-volume Historishe shriftn fun yivo (Historical writings from YIVO)—1. (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1929), 828 columns; 2. in honor of the seventy-fifth birthday of Shimen Dubnov (Vilna, 1937), 700-plus pp.; 3. on the Jewish socialist movement through the Bund (Vilna-Paris, 1939), 835 pp.—the co-editors of the third volume were A. Menes, F. Kurski, and A. Rozin (Ben-Adir). He was also among the cofounders of the Dubnov Fund in Berlin, which later, in Paris, began publishing Di algemeyne entsiklopedye (The general encyclopedia) in Yiddish. At the trial of Sholom Schwartzbard (Paris, 1926-1927 [for the assassination of Symon Petliura]), Tsherikover was one of the most important witnesses, and he assembled for him the pogrom archive, partially in Paris, which played a significant role in Schwartzbard’s defense. In April 1933 Tsherikover moved to Paris. During the Berne Trial surrounding the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (1934-1935), he was lured by the Jewish community in Berne to work for the defense; his assigned task was to collect evidence and provide the defense with necessary documentation. He was also active in the defense of David Frankfurter (trial held in Davos, Swtitzerland, late 1936 [for the assassination of Wilhelm Gustloff]). On the eve of WWII (April-August 1939), two anthologies—edited by himself and Y. Efroykin—were published in Paris, entitled Afn sheydveg (At the crossroads) which was planned as a periodical: a “non-partisan organ of serious journalism, Jewish cultural-political and cultural-philosophical issues, and problems in Jewish literature and art.” In September 1940 he moved to New York and continued his work as secretary of the historical section at YIVO. Under his editorship was published: Geshikhte fun der yidisher arbeter-bavegung in di fareynikte shtatn (The history of the Jewish labor movement in the United States), vol. 1 (New York: YIVO, 1943), 414 pp.; vol. 2, 518 pp., which he only had time to prepare for publication, appeared in 1945. In both volumes he also participated as an author of important work. There also appeared under his editorship the work entitled Yidn in frankraykh (Jews in France), in which he was represented with a series of entries (New York: YIVO, 1942), 308 pp. and 338pp, respectively. In New York, he continued his entries to the Algemeyne entsiklopedye. In his literary bequest are an assortment of unpublished works, among them a manuscript (364 pp.) of “Di pogromen in 1919 (di tkufe fun petlyure un grigoryevs oyfstand)” (The pogroms of 1919, the era of Petliura and Grigoriev’s uprising) and the second volume of the planned publication on the pogrom movement in Ukraine. His untimely death transpired in Palenville, New York, where he was on a summer rest and at the same time working on the second volume of Geshikhte fun der yidisher arbeter-bavegung in di fareynikte shtatn. In 1957 a volume of writings by Tsherikover, edited and introduced by Professor Ben-Zion Dinur, was published in Hebrew translation, entitled Yehudim beitot mahepekha (Jews in times of revolution) (Tel Aviv: Am oved, 1957), 559 pp.
Sources: On the fifth anniversary of Tsherikover’s death (1948), YIVO (in New York) published Biblyografye fun elye tsherikover (Bibliography of Elye Tsherikover), with an introduction by Max Weinreich; in 1951 Miluim tsu der biblyografye fun elye tsheriover (Supplement to the bibliography of Elye Tsherikover). The bibliography includes over 470 items which are divided under the rubrics: books and articles (also in Russian, German, and others languages); manuscripts and unpublished writings; edited volumes; and articles about Elye Tsherikover. From the subsequent articles about him, we should note: H. Abramovitsh, in Unzer shtime (Paris) (December 6, 1953); R. Abramovitsh, in Forverts (New York) (December 21, 1955); Y. Leshtsinski, in Forverts (April 20, 1958); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, in Tog (New York) (November 1, 1958); Shatski-bukh (Shatski volume) (Buenos Aires, 1958), pp. 216-19 (a letter to Tsherikover)