Tuesday 16 August 2016


KHAYIM ZILBERMAN (August 6, 1907-1974)

            He was a prose author, born in Odessa, Ukraine, into a poor working family. He graduated from a teachers’ institute, and in the 1930s he published stories and jottings abut Jewish life in the central and regional press. He belonged to a younger generation of Soviet Yiddish writers. He was with the Red Army at the front against the Germans during WWII and worked for the front press, serving on the editorial board of Russian frontlines newspaper. In 1948, during the arrest of Yiddish writers in Russia, he was arrested and only in 1955 was he set free. He debuted in print with novellas on Jewish and general life in Shtern (Star) in Kharkov (1932), later contributing work to: Emes (Truth) in Moscow; and Oktyabr (October) and Shtern—in Minsk; as well as in the Russian and Ukrainian press. Over the years 1939-1945, he published a series of war stories in: Eynikeyt (Unity) in Moscow; Dos naye lebn (The new life) in Lodz; Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings) and Folks-shtime (Voice of the people)—in Warsaw; and Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture) and Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom)—in New York. His first book of stories was published in Kharkov: Broyt gezaltsns, dertseylung (Salty bread, a story) (Literatur un kunst, 1932), 93 pp. In 1948 the Moscow publisher “Der emes” (The truth) brought out his Vi lang iz es geven, dertseylungen un noveln (How long was it, stories and novellas), 205 pp., a selection of his published novellas and stories on war motifs, among them “Far unzer yidisher shprakh” (For our Yiddish language) about an episode at the front when Yiddish proved useful for the military commandant for undercover aims; it was reprinted in a variety of Yiddish newspapers throughout the world. In the late 1940s, during the arrests of Jewish cultural activists in the Soviet Union, he was purged. In 1955 he returned home from a camp in the North. His last major work was the novel Di komete (The comet) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1976), 230 pp., a work distinguished by its historical, psychological, and concrete material concerning the formation and tragic fate of a Yiddish theater in Odessa in the years of the civil war. It was first published in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) in 1976, shortly after his death. He also published, in Russian, Vosstanie v podzemelʹe (The resistance underground) (Moscow: Sovetski pisaltel, 1962), 292 pp.

Source: N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (March 30, 1953).

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 262-63; 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. 151-52.]

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