BER HALPERN (1902-early October 1984)
He was a prose author, storyteller, current events writer, and a certified construction engineer, born in the town of Darsūniškis, Lithuania, into the family of a teacher. While he was a student in a construction institute in Kovno, he become involved in the Communist movement, and, after the fascist coup in Lithuania, he had to leave the country. He settled in Paris, was active in his community, and continued his higher education. He debuted in print there in 1927, writing on current events and placing articles in the revolutionary newspaper Arbeter-shtime (Worker’s voice). He completed his apprenticeship and received a diploma from a construction institute, and in 1929 he left Paris and made his way to Uruguay where his family was living. In 1934 he founded the newspaper Undzer fraynt (Our friend) in Montevideo, which he financed through the Soviet embassy. In 1936 he cut short his stay in Uruguay over his diplomatic ties to the Soviet Union, and he was compelled leave the country. He traveled to Russia, but there he was persecuted by Communists who had come there from abroad, resulting in his arrest and banishment to Siberia for sixteen years. He was saved by the trade he had acquired in Paris: Stalin’s “Gulag” was in need of highly qualified builders. Rehabilitated in 1956, he settled in Vilna, where he continued working as a construction engineer. He began then placing his stories in the Moscow journal Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland), in Warsaw’s Folks-shtime (Voice of the people), and in Paris’s Naye prese (New press). History and a popular flavor were the basic features of his work. Aside from stories, longer and shorter, which were included in his books, Mayn yikhes (My pedigree) and Khezhbn hanefesh (Introspection), Halpern published a series of artistic jottings, five of which were included in the anthology Alts blaybt iber dem mentshn (Everything remains for men) which appeared in print after his death.
Among his books: Mayn yikhes, dertseylungen un noveln (My pedigree, stories and novellas) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1978), 278 pp.; Khezhbn hanefesh, dertseylungen (Introspection, stories) (Moscow, 1984), 371 pp.; Alts blaybt iber dem mentshn (Moscow: Sovetish heymland, 1985), 62 pp. He died in Vilna.
Source: N. Albert, in Algemeyne zhurnal (New York) (1985).
Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 207-8; 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. 109-10.
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