YONAS TURKOV (JONAS TURKOW) (February 15, 1898-February 4, 1988)
He was born in Warsaw, Poland, the brother of Zigmunt, Mark, and Yitskhok Turkov. He studied in religious elementary school, senior high school, and a commercial school in Warsaw. He subsequently graduated from senior high school in Uherský Brod, Moravia, where he also took drama classes. During WWI he was a member of Dos artistishe vinkele (The artistic corner) in Warsaw. He was engaged by Esther-Rokhl Kaminska’s theatrical troupe in 1917 and traveled the circuit with them through Ukraine and Russia. In 1920 he performed with the theater in Vilna, and he played in Kharkov in Russian. From 1923 he played in VIKT (Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater), and from 1926 he was director of the Cracow Jewish Community Theater. He also participated in film-making: Tkies-kaf (The vow, 1924), Der lamedvovnik (One of the 36 good men, 1925), Młody Las (Young forest, 1934), and Huragan (Hurricane, 1928). He directed the film Di poylishe velder (The Polish woods, 1929), according to Y. Opatoshu, and the Polish performance of Y. Gordin’s Mirele efros (Mirele Efros) at the Lublin State Theater. He directed the new Yiddish theater, the drama school, and the Hebrew Theater Studio in Vilna—1932-1933. In 1936 he founded the Jewish Kameral Theater in Warsaw. In 1938 he was director of the Cultural Theater Association in Danzig. He was confined in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1939-1943, and was a member of the underground movement in Poland during WWII. He lived in Lublin, Lodz, Warsaw, and Lower Silesia, 1944-1945. He chaired the Jewish writers’ and artists’ association in Poland. He was also cofounder of the Jewish Press Agency (YIPO), founder and leader of the first Yiddish radio programs in Poland, a member of the presidium of the central committee of Polish Jews, and cofounder and editorial board member of the newspaper Dos naye lebn (The new life) in Lodz. He left Poland in 1945, spent 1946-1947 (on behalf of UNRUH) with his wife, the actress Diana Blumenfeld, performing Yiddish theater in the displaced persons camps of survivors in Germany, Austria, and Italy, as well as Hungary, Belgium, and France. In late 1947 he traveled to the United States. There, as well as in Canada, he directed plays by Yitskhok Bashevis, Kadya Molodovski, and others. He also performed Yiddish theater in South America, Israel, Europe, and South Africa.
He began writing with articles on Yiddish theater in Yidishe bine (Yiddish stage) (Warsaw, 1924), of which he was also co-editor, and from that point he published articles, essays, and travel narratives in: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper), Di yidishe bine, and Radyo (Radio)—in Warsaw; Di bime (The stage) in Vilna; and Teater un kino (Theater and film) and Lodzer-folksblat (Lodz people’s newspaper) in Lodz. From 1945 he published articles and memoirs about the Holocaust years in: Dos naye lebn in Lodz; Forverts (Forward), Tog (Day), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), Tog-morgn-zhurnal (Day-morning journal), Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), Folk un velt (People and world), and Nyu-yorker vokhnblat (New York weekly newspaper), among others—in New York; Di idishe tsaytung (The Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires; Dorem-afrike (South Africa) in Johannesburg; In gang (In progress) in Rome; Teater-shpigl (Theater mirror) in London; Unzer veg (Our way) in Munich; and other serials. He was co-editor of the volume Hunger-krankayt (Hunger illness), a clinical research work concerned with hunger, carried out in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 (Warsaw, 1946)—which also appeared in Polish under the title Choroba Głodowa (Illness of hunger) and in French in Malade de famine (Illness of starvation)—265 pp. His books include: Vegvayzer far dramatishe krayzn (Guide for dramatic circles) (Warsaw, 1924), 24 pp.; Azoy iz es geven, hurbn varshe (That’s how it was, the destruction of Warsaw), with drawings by Teofila Rak (Buenos Aires, 1948), 543 pp.; In kamf farn lebn (In a struggle for life) (Buenos Aires, 1949), 431 pp.; Farloshene shtern (Extinguished stars), a book about the deaths of Yiddish actors and theater people in Poland (Buenos Aires, 1953), vol. 1, 324 pp., vol. 2, 290 pp., the two books received the Tzvi Kessel Prize (Mexico City, 1954); Dzhou poul, der mentsh mit a groys, varem harts (Joe Paul, the man with a great, warm heart) (Buenos Aires, 1959), 252 pp.; Nokh der bafrayung, zikhroynes (After liberation, memoirs) (Buenos Aires, 1959), 328 pp.; Haya haita varsha yehudit (Warsaw was once Jewish) (Tel Aviv: Tarbut veḥinukh, 1969), 381 pp., translated by Y. Zemora; Ala golomb-grinberg, di kranknshvester in varshever geto (Ala Golomb-Grinberg, the nurse in the Warsaw Ghetto) (Tel Aviv, 1970), 85 pp.; Der sof fun iluzyes, fun pakt in minkhen biz tsu di gazkamern in oyshvits (The end of illusions, from the Munich Pact until the gas chambers at Auschwitz) (Tel Aviv: Hamenora, 1972), 298 pp., which appeared in Hebrew under the title Sofanshel ashlayot, meheskem minkhen ad tae-gazim oshvits (Tel Aviv: Hamenora, 1973), translated by Shlomo Shenhod; Yalde hageto, gibure hatehila, 1939-1945 (Ghetto days, praise for the heroes, 1939-1945) (Tel Aviv: Eked, 1982), 142 pp., translated from a manuscript by Yeshayahu Ostridan. He was awarded the Manger Prize. He also edited (with A. Manger and M. Perenson): Yidish teater in eyrope tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (Yiddish theater in Europe between the two world wars) (New York: Kultur kongres, 1968), 515 pp. He published a piece on the Yiddish theater in Cracow in Sefer kroke (Cracow volume) (Jerusalem, 1959). He was the director of the documentation center for theater at YIVO in New York. He contributed to Almanakh yidish (The almanac of Yiddish), published by the World Jewish Culture Congress (New York, 1961). He made aliya to Israel in 1966. He died in Tel Aviv.
Turkov on left
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol.1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 2 (Montreal, 1947), p. 230; Dr. Hillel Zaydman, Togbukh fun varshever geto (Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto) (Buenos Aires, 1947), pp. 139, 187; Sh. L. Shnayderman, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (December 11, 1947); H. Ehrenraykh, in Forverts (New York) (December 15, 1947); A. L. Shusheym, in Idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (April 6, 1948); M. Shtrigler, in Unzer vort (Paris) (April 29, 1948); Kh. Vaser, in Bleter far geshikhte (Warsaw) (April-June 1948); M. Grosman, in Kiem (Paris) (June 1, 1948); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (June 6, 1948); Mukdoni, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (October 1954); A. Leyeles, in Der tog (New York) (July 31, 1948); Y. Mestel, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (August 1948; December 1954); A. Tsaytlin, in Morgn-zhurnal (September 24, 1948; August 26, 1950); Y. Berliner, in Der veg (Mexico City) (July 23, 1949; April 15, 1950; August 12, 1950; October 9, 1954); Sh. Rozhanski, in Idishe tsaytung (January 26, 1949); B. Shefner, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (March 1950); N. Mayzil, Geven amol a lebn (Once was a life) (Buenos Aires, 1951), p. 342; Z. Turkov, Fragmentn fun mayn lebn (Fragments from my life) (Buenos Aires, 1951), see index; Y. Grudberg-Turkov, Yidishe teater in poyln (Yiddish theater in Poland) (Warsaw, 1951), see index; E. Ringelblum, Kapitlekh geshikhte fun amolikn yidishn lebn in poyln (Chapters from the history of past Jewish life in Poland) (Buenos Aires, 1953), pp. xxxix-xlvii, 553; Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (February 4, 1954); Dr. A. Sverdlin, in Tsukunft (New York) (October 1954); B. Mark, Der oyfshtand in varshever geto (The uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto) (Warsaw, 1955), see index; M. Kaganovitsh, Di milkhome fun yidishe partizaner in mizrekh-eyrope (The war of Jewish partisans in Eastern Europe) (Buenos Aires, 1956), vol. 1, p. 398, vol. 2, p. 72; Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (New York) (April 10, 1960); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Tog-morgn-zhurna (New York) (September 11, 1960); A. Lis, Heym un doyer (Home and duration) (Tel Aviv, 1960), pp. 248-52; Dr. Philip Friedman, Martyrs and Fighters: The Epic of the Warsaw Ghetto (New York, 1954), see index; Friedman, Their Brothers’ Keepers (New York, 1957), see index; Dr. Y. Tenenboym, Underground (New York, 1955), pp. 517, 573; Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Folk un velt (New York) (August 1961); Fuks, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (September 4, 1961); L. Shpizman, Khaloymes in poyln (Dreams in Poland), vol. 2 (New York, 1961).
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 280-81.]