ALEKSANDER KHASHIN (August 25, 1886-March 31, 1939)
The pen name of Tsvi Averbakh, he was a literary critic and current events author, born in Berezina, Minsk district, Byelorussia, into an affluent rabbinic family (from the Zeldovitshes of Minsk). He studied in religious primary school and yeshiva, and later was an external student. From his youth he acquired a reputation for being “a man with a sharp head on his shoulders.” He wrote not only in both Hebrew and Yiddish, but in Russian and a number of other European languages. He contributed to all the initial publications of the Labor Zionists in Europe, placing work as well in Der fraynd (The friend) in Warsaw (1911-1913), in Yosef Ḥayim Brener’s Revivim (Rain showers), and elsewhere, both under his party name of Borekhzon as well as under the pseudonyms of Aleksandr, Valdman, Brukhzon, and A. Vald, among others. He distinguished himself as a tough polemicist. His public opposition to Frishman’s critique of Bialik and other Hebrew writers had a particularly strong impact. In 1912 he edited the Hebrew-language Labor Zionist organ Haaḥdut (Unity) in Jerusalem. After the outbreak of WWI, he moved to the United States. In 1916 he edited for a time Idisher kempfer (Jewish fighter) in New York and (together with David Ben-Gurion, later the first premier of the state of Israel) the anthology Yizker (Remembrance) in memory of the fallen sentries and laborers in Israel: first edition (New York: Labor Zionists, Palestine Committee, 1916), second edition (1917), 190 pp. In New York he contributed as well to: Varhayt (Truth), Der idisher kongres (The Jewish congress), and Hatoran (The duty officer). He was one of the founders of the Labor Zionist party, and he contributed to all of the party’s publications in Europe. After the outbreak of WWI, he made his way to New York in 1916, but with the February Revolution of 1917, he returned to Russia. When the Labor Zionist party split in 1918, Khashin stood with the right wing and edited in Odessa the party newspaper Dos naye lebn (The new life), the anthology Tsaygn (Branches), and other works. Later he evolved toward the left wing and (July 1919) found himself at the head of the “Jewish Communist Labor Party, Labor Zionists.” When Denikin’s army seized Ukraine in 1920, Khashin took refuge in Berlin and Vienna, devoted himself largely to his writing activities, published articles on literature and current social issues in: Kritik (Critic) in Vienna; Bikher-velt (Book world) in Warsaw, where he lived for a time; and Bergelson’s In shpan (In line) in Berlin; among others. At that time he also published: Problemen funem yidishn ekonomishn lebn in der ibergangs-tsayt (Issues in Jewish economic life in the transition period), with his brother Z. Averbakh (Vienna: Avangard, 1921), 72 pp. In late 1924 he returned to the Soviet Union, became one of the editors of Moscow’s Der emes (The truth), and at the same time published literary critical work in Soviet Yiddish journals in Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, and Minsk. Should a literary researcher set as a goal to assemble what Khashin had published as a literary critic over the course of a half century of his life, s/he would have not only to browse through dozens of publications in which Khashin placed work, but also figure out the pen names under which Khashin would publish his articles, essays, reviews, and research pieces. Particularly valuable were his writings for the complete works of Sholem-Aleichem which “Der emes” was publishing in the mid-1930s. Volume 11 with Khashin introduction was dated August 2, 1937 for publication, and this apparently was to be his final work.
The Stalinist wave of arrests was inundating, and Khashin did not escape the flood. In the terror years before WWII, he was arrested at the same time as Maks Erik, Moyshe Kulbak, and others in early 1937. His family was informed that he had been sentenced to “ten years [in prison] without the right of communication.” They were later informed that he had died of illness ca. 1943—without any further details about the circumstances surrounding his end. No one in Moscow Jewish circles at the time had the least doubt that Khashin had been shot together with all the other arrested Yiddish writers. Post-Soviet searches in the KGB archives revealed that he was actually convicted on September 17, 1938 and executed that same day.
His writings would include: Unzer platform (Our platform), writings assembled by the editorial board of Khashin and Avrom Revutski (Odessa: Dos naye lebn, 1918), 112 pp.; Erts-yisroel in fargangenheyt un gegnvart, geografye, bafelkerung, landvirtshaft, handl un industrye (The land of Israel past and present, geography, population, agriculture, business, and industry), introduction by David Ben-Gurion (Odessa, 1919), 477 pp.; Problemen funem yidishn ekonomishn lebn in der ibergangs-tsayt; Dos organizatsyonele problem in der yidisher arbeter-bavegung (The organizational problem in the Jewish labor movement) (Berlin: Funken, 1923), 72 pp.; “Menakhem-mendl,” foreword to volume 7 of the works of Sholem-Aleichem in 12 volumes (Moscow, 1935).
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Y. Zerubavel, Arbeter-pinkes (Labor records) (Warsaw, 1923), see index; Z. Segalovitsh, Tlomatske 13, fun farbrentn nekhtn (13 Tłomackie St., of scorched yesterdays) (Buenos Aires, 1946); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (August 19, 1949); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 2 (Montreal, 1953), see index; Ben-Tsien Kats, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (July 10, 1955); A. Kritshmer-Izraeli, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (March 26, 1956); N. Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher arbeter in sovetn-farband (Jewish creation and the Jewish worker in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; D. Perski, in Hadoar (New York) (Shevat 3 [January 20], 1961); M. Vaykhert, Varshe (Warsaw) (Tel Aviv, 1961), see index; Kh. Kanaan, in Haarets (Tel Aviv) (September 13, 1961); L. Shpizman, in Geshikhte fun der tsienistisher arbeter-bavegung fun tsofn-amerike (History of the Zionist labor movement in North America), vols. 1 and 2 (New York, 1955), see index.
[Additional information from: 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. 187-88.]
He was arrested at the beginning of 1938. Family (his 2 daughters, 17 and 12 year old) was told that he got"10 years without the right of communications" and later they got an official paper that he died from illness around 1943. In reality (KGB archives accessed during Perestroika) he was convicted at September 17, 1938, and executed the same day.ReplyDelete
Thanks for this input; will adjust entry accordingly.ReplyDelete