PINKHES VELNER (PINCHES WELNER) (July 1, 1893-February 16, 1965)
He was born in Balut, the poor section of Lodz, Poland, into a family of weavers. He studied in religious elementary school until age six, thereafter with a tutor. He began working very early, until age eleven as a baker’s assistant and later as a weaver. In 1904 he joined the Bund. He was arrested on one occasion and was administratively deported to Zdunske-Volye (Zduńska Wola), and from there he escaped and lived illegally in Lodz for one year. He left for Argentina for the first time in 1912, but unable to make a go of it there, he returned to Europe and settled in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he worked in a weaving factory and later became a tailor, while simultaneously developing community and cultural activities among the Eastern European Jews there. Until 1918 he chaired the local Bund, later joining the general Zionist movement. He was founder and chairman of Iḥud (Unity) and was a member of the delegates conference (local community) of Danish Jewry. He founded a Yiddish school that was later embraced by the general school of the Jewish community. He made his way to Argentina the second time in 1929, and there for the first time published articles on Jews in Denmark in Di prese (The press) in Buenos Aires, before returned to Denmark. When the Nazis in 1943 began to persecute local Jewry, Velner fled to Sweden, and from there he returned one year later.
In 1944 Velner published his first novel, which he translated from Yiddish himself, in the literary supplement of the Danish daily newspaper Social-Demokraten (Social democrat). In 1949 he published a volume of stories on the theme of the Jewish Holocaust, in Danish (written in Yiddish and self-translated): I hine dage (In those days); a Yiddish version, entitled In yene teg (In those days), was published in 1958 (Buenos Aires: Association of Polish Jews), 233 pp. This work received the Henri Nathansen Prize for the Danish edition and the Zvi Kessel Prize for 1958 in Mexico City for the Yiddish edition. From 1952 he published stories in: Kiem (Existence) and Unzer vort (Our word) in Paris; Tsukunft (Future) in New York; and Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) in Tel Aviv—in 1954 he published in this serial the story “In yene teg” for which he was awarded the Bimko Prize from the World Jewish Culture Congress in New York. In the work Dos eyropeishe yidntum 10 yor nokh der milkhome (European Jewry ten years after the war), vol. 2 (New York, 1956), he published “Di yidn in Denmark” (Jews in Denmark) which was also published in Danish, English, French, and Spanish. His book Bay di bregn fun oyresund (By the shores of the Öresund)—first published in Danish in 1953 as Ved Øresunds bredder—was published in Yiddish by the World Culture Congress in 1957 (227 pp.); it was considered by Yiddish critics to be among the best artistic descriptions of the Holocaust. In 1957 he visited Israel, and during his stay he published in Davar (Word) and Yidishe nayes (Jewish news) in Tel Aviv. Velner was a regular contributor to the Danish newspapers: Politiken (Policy) and Social-Demokraten, among others. His other books include: Holger un henekh (Holder and Henekh), a novella, and Balut, a novel, both written in Yiddish and published in his own Danish translation in Copenhagen. He died in Copenhagen.
Sources: Y. Zilberberg, in Tog (New York) (August 6, 1950; August 11, 1958); Zilberberg, in Tsukunft (New York) (November 1950); Shmuel Niger, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (New York) (June 6, 1954); Niger, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (August 15, 1957); Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 246; D. Naymark, in Forverts (New York) (March 23, 1958); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (June 13, 1958); Y. Okrutni, in Di idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (November 11, 1958).
Khayim Leyb Fuks