BER HOROVITS (July 17, 1895-October 2, 1942)
He was born in the forest village of Majdan, in the Carpathians of eastern Galicia, into a family of village Jews who were quite proud of their pedigree as such. His father traveled a great deal in Horovits’s youth. He lived in Romania, Turkey, and Persia, spoke many languages, demonstrated a talent for drawing, and was one of the first Jews in the oil industry. Horovits studied Jewish subject matter with a tutor at home, while simultaneously attending a Ukrainian public school, and in 1914 graduated from a Polish high school in Stanislawów (Stanislav, Stanisle), in eastern Galicia. When WWI erupted and the Russian army entered Galicia, Horovits was living in his home village. Later, when the Austrian military retook Galicia, he was mobilized into the Austrian army. He took part in numerous battles and moved with his regiment over the entire area of the monarchy, and then for a long time he was sent on a mission to Vienna where he studied medicine in the university and worked as a doctor in a camp for Italian prisoners, learned Italian, and worked in a military hospital in Vienna. After the war he traveled a great deal through various countries of central and western Europe, became involved in teaching, and the entire time wrote poetry, stories, and tales, and produced translations from other languages into Yiddish. He debuted in print in 1918 in Shmuel-Yankev Imber’s Nayland (New land) in Vienna, the journal in which such figures as A.-M. Fuks and M. Ravitsh, among others, also published. He was also close to the journal Kritik (Critic) in Vienna, published in Togblat (Daily Newspaper) in Lemberg, Haynt (Today) and Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw), and Vilner tog (Vilna day), as well as elsewhere. Along with Moyshe Zilburg, Mani Leyb, Meylekh Ravitsh, and others, he contributed as well to the anthology Toyt-tsiklus (Death cycle) (Vienna: Der kval, 1920), 15 pp. In book form, he published: Fun mayn heym in di berg (From my home in the mountains) (Vienna: Der kval, 1919), 60 pp.—this first work by Horovitz was enthusiastically received by Yiddish critics; Vunderlekhe mayses (Wonderful tales), legends and stories (Warsaw: Vandere, 1923), 92 pp., illustrated by the author (these two books were later published together by the publishing house of B. Kletskin [Vilna, 1929], 155 pp.); Reyekh fun erd (Scent of the earth), poetry (Vilna, 1930), 151 pp.; Fun itsik vatnmakher biz itsik gutkind, yidishe motivn in der poylisher poezye (From Itsik Vatnmakher to Itsik Gutkind, Jewish motifs in Polish poetry) (Vienna: Tserata, 1938), 67 pp. He translated for the Yiddish theater Stefan Zweig’s dramatization of Johnson’s Volpone, Ukrainian folksongs, as well as poetry by Shevchenko and Stefanyk. He also published articles on Jewish art and painting.
He was one of the most capable poets in Yiddish literature. He enriched Yiddish poetry with his mountain motifs and with his innovative satirical and military-related poems. Although he belonged to the group of young Galician poets, he initially joined the group when their best representatives were already in Vienna. Both through the familiar Galician language and through the familiar Galician landscape—more associated with the village than the town—his poems were Galician through and through. “A sanguine man by nature,” wrote M. Ravitsh, “Horovitz bothered little to become a full-fledged, professional writer. He used to read his poems out loud at first, once even reciting [a poem] among friends and only later writing it down. The first person to note Horovits’s poetic talent was Shmuel-Yankev Imber—actually, even before Horovits wrote his first poem down. Knowledgeable as he was about the art of painting, he also wrote poems about the artists of the Italian Renaissance.” A gifted drawer, he acquired a reputation for his caricatures of Yiddish writers, and they adorned the walls of the Warsaw writers’ union. Just prior to WWII, Horovits was living in Stanislawów. He lived there under the Soviet occupation, 1939-1940, and was active in the literary scene. He was murdered by the Nazis at the age of forty-seven. According to the oral testimony of three Jewish survivors, he died on Hoshana Rabbah, 1942, with 9,000 Jews in Stanislawów. According to another source, he was murdered by local peasants in his birthplace of Majdan.
Horovits is third from right
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with bibliography); Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; P. Markish, in Shtern (Minsk) (March 1927); A. Mark, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (May 30, 1930); G. Bader, Medina veḥakhameha (The state and its sages) (New York, 1934), pp. 76-77; Z. Segalovitsh, Tlomatske 13, fun farbrentn nekhtn (13 Tłomackie St., of scorched yesterdays) (Buenos Aires, 1946); M. Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1947); R. Oyerbakh, in Eynikeyt (New York) (June 1946); Yidishe shriftn, memorial anthology (Lodz, 1946); M. Naygreshl, Gedank un lebn (Thought and life), collection (New York, January-February 1948); Dr. Sh. Bikl, in Zamlbikher 7 (New York) (1948); B. Heler, Antologye fun umgekumene dikhter (Anthology of dead poets) (Warsaw, 1951); Dr. Y. Tenenboym, Galitsye mayn alte heym (Galicia, my old home) (Buenos Aires, 1952), p. 172; Umgekumene shrayber fun di getos un lagern (Murdered writers from the ghettos and camps) (Warsaw, 1954); Z. Vaynper, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (December 1954); B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955), see index; Sh. Meltser, in Al naharot (Jerusalem) (1955-1956), p. 431; Y. Sandel, Umgekumene yidishe kinstler (Murdered Jewish artists) (Warsaw, 1957), pp. 122-26; Kh. L. Fuks, in Fun noentn over 3 (New York) (1957), p. 233; Yoysef-Hilel Leyvi, Gezamlte shriftn (Collected writings), vol. 2 (London, 1958); Y. Papernikov, Heymishe un noente (Familiar and close) (Tel Aviv, 1958), pp. 225-26.