Sunday 18 October 2015


HIRSH DOBIN (April 10, 1905-2001)

            He was prose author, born in the city of Zhlobin, Byelorussia, into a poor family.  He grew up in and was educated under the influence of the Bolshevik regime, studying in an evening school and becoming a cobbler. In late 1926 he moved to Kharkov and worked in a cobbler’s workshop, later in a shoe factory. He moved to Birobidzhan in 1932, and there he joined the editorial board of the newspaper Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan star) and the radio committee. He was purged in 1937, but after two years in prison he was freed. In 1940 he returned to Minsk and worked there on the editorial board of the newspaper Oktyabr (October). It was there that WWII caught up with him, and he was trapped in the Minsk ghetto where he served as a member of the underground anti-fascist organization. He escaped from the ghetto to the partisans and became a fighter in a partisan brigade. After the war he lived in Moscow, and from 1992 he lived in Rishon Leziyyon in Israel.

            Dobin began writing stories and poems in his early youth. He debuted in print with a story, “Khanke” (Little Hannah) in the Kharkov Yiddish newspaper Der shtern (The star) in 1928. In 1931 his collection of stories, Arum a mil (Around a mill) appeared in print in Kharkov. These early works embodied the essential motifs of the reconstruction process, social struggles, and various war conflicts. Already he demonstrated his inclination for psychological prose, and the literary critics made special notice of this. Dobin’s artistic talent was revealed further in his work from the Birobidzhan years—the books Baym amur (Along the Amur [River]) and Tsvishn binshtokn (Among the beehives)—which depicted new images, phenomena, and events and his penetration with romantic, poetic, exotic hues. The principal themes of his postwar work were those of partisan life which he had himself experienced. This appears clearly in his novel Der koyekh fun lebn (The power of life) in which Dobin described full-blooded images of the background of the tragic and dramatic events in the heroic struggle against the fascists. In this he demonstrated himself a master of realistic, psychological prose, a veteran creator of epic descriptions.

Among his books: Arum a mil, stories (Kharkov, 1931); Baym amur, a story (Moscow: Emes, 1935), 36 pp.; Tsvishn binshtokn, dertseylungen un noveln (Among the beehives, stories and novellas) (Moscow: Emes, 1941), 127 pp.; Af vaysrusisher erd, dertseylungen un noveln (On White Russian terrain, stories and novellas) (Moscow: Emes, 1947), 285 pp.; Der koyekh fun lebn (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1969), 499 pp.; Erdishe vegn (Ways on the land) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1983), 300 pp. His work was also included in: Shlakhtn (Battles) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932); and Birebidzhan (Birobidzhan) (Moscow, 1936).

Sources: Forpost (Birobidzhan) 2 (1936); A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); N. Mayzil, Birobidzhan in der yidisher literatur (Birobidzhan in Yiddish literature) (Buenos Aires, May 1946); R. Rubin, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (June 3, 1947); Keneder odler (Montreal) (March 3, 1953).

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 184; 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), pp. 94-95.]

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