Tuesday 17 May 2016


HERSHL VAYNROYKH (GRIGORI VINOKUR) (January 5, 1903-May 21, 1983)

            Hershl Vaynroykh was the adopted name of Grigori Vinokur, born in the town of Okhrimove (Okhrimovo), Kiev district, Ukraine.  That same year, his father, Ben-Tsien Vinokur, divorced his mother and emigrated to the United States, where he was a teacher in the yeshiva of Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1906 Hershl, his mother, and her second husband, Gershon Dulman, a furrier, moved to Odessa.  He studied there in religious elementary school, later in a Talmud-Torah (of which, incidentally, Mendele Moykher-Sforim was the manager), but at a very young age he was forced to break off his studies and go to work, because his stepfather died and his mother was left a widow with four young children.  At age fifteen he volunteered to serve in the Red Army and fought with it during the civil war of 1920-1921.  He then returned to Odessa and worked, 1922-1926, in the Odessa clothing factory of Shveyprom (Shveinaia promyshlennostꞌ, Tailoring Department).  At the same time, he returned to his studies and in 1932 graduated from the Yiddish division of the literature faculty of the Odessa Pedagogical Institute.  He began writing in Russian, but under the influence of the “Yiddish Section” in the Communist Party, he soon switched to Yiddish.  His first story, “Itke fun shveyprom” (Itke from the Shveyprom) was published in Emes (Truth) in Moscow (March 8, 1926).  He published fictional work in: Emes; Shtern (Star) in Kharkov; Oktyabr (October), Yunger arbeter (Young laborer), and Shtern in Minsk; Forpost (Outpost) in Birobidzhan; Di royte velt (The red world) in Kharkov-Kiev; Provesen in Odessa (in Russian); and in Vos geven un vos gevorn, zamlbukh (What was and what has become, anthology) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1937).  He spent the years 1932-1938 in Birobidzhan, and he worked there as assistant editor of Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan star). He was co-editor, 1940-1941, in Białystok of Byalistoker shtern (Białystok star). When the German army invaded the Soviet Union, he made his way to Minsk and was confined into the ghetto there in 1941. He succeeded in organizing a partisan group and joined up with the Red Army. He then spent 1942-1945 again serving in the Red Army, became a lieutenant, was wounded in battle, received a military commendation, and was demobilized as a war invalid. In 1946 he left for Romania, stayed there for a time, before making his way to Munich where he remained in a displaced persons’ camp in 1947. There he published in the newspaper Unzer veg (Our way) and became the first president of the local Jewish Writers’ and Journalists’ Union among the survivors. From Munich he departed for Israel in July 1948, before settling thereafter in Brooklyn, where he continued his literary activities. He published works in: Davar hashavua (Word of the week) in Tel Aviv; Forverts (Forward), Tog (Day), and Tsukunft (Future) in New York; and elsewhere.

Among his books, as “Hershl [or Grigori] Vinokur”: In oyfkum, dertseylungen (Arising) (Moscow, 1932), 223 pp.; Tayge-berg (Taiga mountains) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1935), 109 pp.; A brik iber der bire (A bridge over the Biru [River]) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1935), 85 pp.; Der ershter yeger (The first hunter) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1939), 83 pp.; Dos yingl fun okhrimove (The boy from Okhrimovo), a novel (Minsk, 1942).  Under the name “Hershl Vaynroykh”: Goles bayern, noveln un skitsn (Diaspora in Bavaria, stories and sketches) (Munich: Hanoar hatsiyoni, 1947), 59 pp.; Blut af der zun, yidn in sovet-farband (Blood on the sun, Jews in the Soviet Union) (Brooklyn: Mentsh un yid, 1950), 207 pp.; Durkh zibn fayern, roman (Through seven fires, a novel) (New York: Br. Rozen, 1951), 363 pp.; Adamizm, der mitl-punkt fun filozofye, ideologye, politik un religye far haynt un morgn (Adamism, the mid-point among philosophy, ideology, politics, and religion for today and tomorrow) (New York: n.p., 1954), 64 pp.; Komisarn, roman (Commissars, a novel) (Buenos Aires: Union of Polish Jews, 1962), 2 volumes; Ven di zun fargeyt un di muze vaynt (When the sun sets and the muse cries) (New York: self-publ., 1982), 156 pp.[1]  He died in New York.

Sources: Y. Kvitni and Y. Mitlman, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (January 9, 1933); Sh. Klitenik, in Forpost (Birobidzhan) 2 (1936); Y. Horn, in Yidish tsaytung (Buenos Aires) April 16, 1950); Kh. Liberman, in Forverts (New York) (May 10, 1950); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 11, 1950; February 17, 1952); Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (October 15, 1950); A. Almi, in Fraye arbeter shtime (New York) (July 1, 1955); Y. Gar, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), pp. 171, 174; Who Is Who in World Jewry (New York, 1955).

Zaynvl Diamant 

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 240; 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. 134-35.]

[1] Several of his books have appeared in English translation: Adamism (Tucson, 1954); The Commissar (New York, 1965); A Grain of Salt (New York, 1981); A Ballad about Jerusalem (New York, 1982)—JAF.

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