Thursday 24 March 2016


BINEM HELER (HELLER) (January 25, 1908-May 12, 1998)
            He was born in Warsaw, Poland, into a poor Hassidic family.  He studied in religious elementary school and yeshiva.  At age fourteen he became a glove-maker, and later he joined the Communist cause and thus had to leave Poland.  From 1937 to May 1939, he lived in Belgium and Paris, later returning to Warsaw.  In September 1939 with the German seizure of Poland, he escaped to Bialystok and lived there until June 1941, later living in Alma-Ata and Moscow.  In the summer of 1947 he returned to Poland and became an active leader in the literary and artistic divisions of the Central Cultural Union of Jews in Poland, as well as an active player in the Jewish Writers’ Union.  He left Poland for the state of Israel in 1956.  He lived in Paris and Brussels, where he wrote his poem of regret, “Akh, hot men mir mayn lebn tsebrokhn” (Oh, how they’ve destroyed my life), which aroused a heated discussion about Communist penitents.  From February 1957 he had settled in Israel.  He debuted in print in Literarishe tribune (Literary tribune) in Lodz (1930), where he and M. Shulshteyn allied with the leaders of the Jewish proletarian writers group in Poland.  He contributed thereafter to both legal and illegal Yiddish Communist periodicals.  His writings appeared in: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Foroys (Onward), Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper), and Der fraynd (The friend), among others—all in Warsaw; Di naye prese (The new press), Parizer tsaytshrift (Parisian periodical), Arbeter-vort (Word of laborers), and Unzer vort (Our word)—in Paris; Byalistoker shtern (Bialystok star); Oktyaber (October) and Der shtern (The star) in Minsk; Eynikeyt (Unity), Heymland (Homeland), Sovetish (Soviet), and Tsum zig (To the goal)—in Moscow; Dos naye lebn (The new life), Folksshtime (People’s voice), and Yidishe shriftn (Jewish writings)—in postwar Warsaw; Frayhayt (Freedom), Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), Naye veg (New way), and Eynikeyt (Unity)—in New York; Letste nayes (Latest news), Al hamishmar (On guard), Lemerḥav (Into the open), Nayvelt (New world), Yisroel-shtime (Voice of Israel), Folk un tsien (People and Zion), and Heymish (Familiar), among others—in Israel.  He also published in a variety of newspapers and periodicals in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and other countries.  Aside from poetry, he published articles and translations.  His published books include: Durkh krates (Through bars), poetry (Warsaw, 1930), 64 pp., which was confiscated at the time by the Polish authorities; In umru fun teg (In apprehension of days), revolutionary poetry (Warsaw, 1932), 31 pp.; Afn vint, poeme (Into the wind, a poem), lyrical poetry about workers’ love (Warsaw, 1936), 42 pp.; Lider (Poems) (Minsk, 1940), 114 pp.; Di erd hot getsitert, lider (The earth shook, poetry), poems about the war (Moscow, 1947), 112 pp.; Der veg af varshe (The way to Warsaw), a poem about Jewish refugees during WWII (Moscow, 1948), 122 pp., second edition (Warsaw, 1955); Durkh shotn un shayn (Through shadows and light), also including his poem “Varshe 1939” (Warsaw 1939) (Warsaw, 1948), 224 pp.; Friling in poyln, lider (Springtime in Poland, poems) (Warsaw, 1950), 92 pp.; Heymerd, lider (Motherland, poems) (Warsaw, 1951), 166 pp.; In unzer tsayt, lider (In our time, poems) (Warsaw, 1954), 148 pp.; Dos ershte lid (The first poem), a collection of poems written over the years 1932-1939, with an introduction by Dovid Sfard entitled “Di fraye lider fun binem heler” (The early poetry of Binem Heler) (Warsaw, 1956), 97 pp.; Klorkeyt (Clarity) (Warsaw, 1957), 178 pp.; Naye lider (New poems) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1964), 157 pp.; Dor un doyer (Generation and duration) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1967), 171 pp.; A boym in ovnt (A tree in the evening) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1971), 155 pp.; In varshever geto in khoydesh nisn (In the Warsaw Ghetto in the month of Nissan) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1973), 157 pp.; Bikhides (In private) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1975), 94 pp.; Dos tsugezogte vort (The promised word) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1980), 109 pp.; Zey veln oyfshteyn, lider (They will rise up, poetry) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1984), 152 pp.  His book of poems, Baym rand (By the edge) (Jerusalem: Kriyat sefer, 1957), 180 pp., includes poetry from after he left Poland in 1956, as well as a cycle of poems on themes involving Israel.  He was co-editor of illegal literary publications between the world wars in Poland, editor of the literary section of Byalistoker shtern (Bialystok star, 1939-1941), editor of the magazine Der shtern in Minsk in 1940-1941 (following the arrest of its previous editors, Akselrod and Kogan), co-editor of Dos naye lebn and Yidish shriftn in postwar Poland, and editor of the anthology Dos lid iz geblibn, lider fun yidishe dikhter in poyln, umgekumene beys der hitlerisher okupatsye, antologye (The poem remains, poems by Jewish poets in Poland, murdered during the Hitler occupation, anthology) (Warsaw, 1951), 264 pp., which include poems by thirty-six Polish Yiddish poets, who were killed during the German occupation.  He also authored the drama A shtub in geto (A home in the ghetto), staged by the Yiddish theater of Poland, 1952-1953.  His work also appeared in Lebn un kamf (Life and struggle) (Minsk, 1936) and Tsum zig (To victory) (Moscow, 1944).  [He was the Yiddish translator of The Black Book of Soviet Jewry: Dos shvartse bukh (Jersualem: Yad vashem, 1984), 816 pp.].

Sources: M. R. (Ravitsh), in Vokhnshrift far literatur (Warsaw) (December 2, 1932); Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (August 15, 1949); Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 3 (Montreal, 1958), pp. 165-68; Sh. Zaromb, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (January 1, 1933); A. Damesek, in Der shtern (Minsk) (December 1934); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York) (1937); D. Sfard, Shrayber un bikher (Writers and books) (Lodz, 1949), pp. 65-75; Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (June 6 and June 22, 1953); M. Mirski, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) 75-77 (1953); Y. Pat and E. Shulman, in Der veker (New York) (April 1, 1957); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idishee kemfer (New York) (May 3, 1957); L. Domenkevitsh, in Unzer vort (Paris) (June 8, 1957; February 9, 1958); N. Mayzil, Noente un eygene, fun yankev dinezon biz hirsh glik (Near and one’s own, from Yankev Dinezon to Hirsch Glick) (New York, 1957), p. 349; Kh. L. Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 254; Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (December 3-4, 1957); M. Kh. Biltski, in Al hamishmar (Tel Aviv) (December 27, 1957); M. Flint, in Yisroel-shtime (Tel Aviv) (January 23, 1958); M. Ḥalamish, in Al hamishmar (January 31, 1958).
Khayim Leyb Fuks

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 222.]


  1. Hi

    Thanks for this post. I've just come across a reference to Binem Heler as the translator of the Yiddish version of the Russian 'Black Book of Soviet Jewry' (by Vasilii Grossman and Ilya Ehrenburg), published in Israel in 1984 ('dos shvartse bukh', Tarbut Publishers, Jerusalem).

    Heler's name is on the front matter as translator. Perhaps this is something you could add to your list, as it was such an important project.

    It's interesting for me to see that the translation was entrusted to a poet!

    Peter Davies