BERL ERKES (1902-December 1, 1933)
He was born in Chernobyl, Kiev district, Ukraine. During the Civil War in Soviet Russia, he served in the Red Army and participated in the fighting. He fell into the hands of a band of Petliura’s followers, who tortured him severely and crushed his lungs. In the first half of the 1920s, he served in the security organs of state, the Cheka and later in the G.P.U. [both agencies of the Soviet secret police]. For a time he was secretary for the Kharkov daily newspaper Der shtern (The star) (from 1925 he wrote feature pieces and stories for it). He also published in the Kharkov serial, Shlakhtn (Battles). His books include: Faynt (Hate), stories (Kharkov: State Publ., 1930), 236 pp.; Der 15ter partey-tsuzamenfor un di ratn-boyung (The fifteenth Party congress and Soviet construction) (Moscow-Kharkov-Minsk, 1930), 14 pp.; Fun hinter dem paroykhes, di kontr-revolyutsyonere tetikayt fun di yidishe klerikaln (From behind the curtains, the counter-revolutionary activities of the Jewish clerics) (Moscow, 1930), 46 pp.; Shedikers (Destroyers), stories (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932), 56 pp.; In shpinvebs (In cobweb), stories (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932), 46 pp.; Ven dos dorf shloft, dertseylung (When the village sleeps, a story) (Minsk, 1932), 26 pp.; Frontn, roman (Fronts, a novel) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932), 224 pp.; Der partsef fun klasn-soyne (The face of a class enemy) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932), 51 pp.; Banakht af der grenets (At the border at night) (Moscow: Emes, 1933), 172 pp.; Dertseylungen (Stories) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1934), 141 pp.; Yugnt in kamf (Young people in the struggle), stories for children (Kharkov-Kiev, 1934), 88 pp.; Kamf (Fight), stories (Kharkov, 1934), 129 pp.; Der kamf doyert (The fight goes on), a novel (Moscow: Emes, 1937), 310 pp. From Russian he also translated works of Lenin and others. He wrote under such pen names as B. Lifshes. He suffered for many years during his short life from tuberculosis and died of the disease in Yalta in the Crimea where he was trying to recuperate.
Sources: Arn Makagon, in Prolit (August-September 1930); obituary, in Der shtern (Kharkov) (December 14, 1933); A. Hindes, in Der shtern (December 15, 1933); Sh. Klitenik, Verk un shrayber (Works and writers) (Moscow, 1935); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 421; and Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), p. 275.]