Sunday 9 July 2017


SHMUEL MATIS (February 12, 1914-late June 1941)
            He was born in Alite (Alytus), Kovno district, Lithuania, the son of Ruvn Matis.  He studied in the Shavel (Šiauliai) Hebrew high school, later graduating from the Telz Yiddish-Hebrew teachers’ seminary.  From 1935 he was working as a teacher in the Yiddish-Hebrew schools of various Lithuanian cities.  He debuted in print with a poem entitled “Vinter” (Winter) in Letste nayes (Latest news) in Kovno (1933), and from 1934 he was a regular contributor to Kovno’s Idishe shtime (Jewish voice), in which, aside from poems and stories, he also published essays on literature.  He also placed work in: Toyern (Gates) (1937) and Bleter (Leaves) (1938) in Kovno; Kinder-zhurnal (Children’s magazine) and Tsukunft (Future) in New York; Der shpigl (The mirror) in Buenos Aires; and Di afrikaner idishe tsaytung (The African Jewish newspaper) in Johannesburg; among others.  In 1934 he was awarded second prize for a work in the youth competition in YIVO.  His book of short stories Bloye berezes (Blue birch trees), was ready for publication in 1940, and his book Kinder-lider (Children’s poetry), with illustrations from his late brother Khanekh Matis, which was set in type in June 1941, were not published throughout the war years.  When the Germans were approaching Kovno, on June 23, 1941 he fled to the east on foot, but en route he was murdered by the Germans not far from Sventsyan (Svencionys).

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen archive, Zalmen Reyzen archive, YIVO (New York); Yudel Mark, in Zamlbukh lekoved dem tsveyhundert un fuftsikstn yoyvl fun der yidisher prese, 1686-1936 (Anthology in honor of the 250th jubilee of the Yiddish press, 1686-1936), ed. Dr. Y. Shatski (New York, 1937); N. Y. Gotlib, in Lite (Lithuania), anthology, vol. 1 (New York, 1951), p. 1106; information from his father, Ruvn Matis, in Cape Town, South Africa.
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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