Friday 20 April 2018


KHAYIM SLOVES (HENRI SLOVÈS) (June 19, 1905-1988)
            He was born in Bialystok, Russian Poland, to a father who was a leather worker and who later took up business.  He studied in a “cheder metukan” (improved religious elementary school), in a Russian and a German school, and later in a secular Jewish public school; he also attended pedagogical courses in Bialystok.  He was in addition a student in the Warsaw “Free High School.”  From his earliest childhood years, he had an interest in theater, would organize pageants with groups of children in the courtyard of their residence, and would put together theatrical evenings with pupils from the Jewish public school, for which he served as director and lead actor, and the repertoire consisted largely of plays that he put together on his own.  His first works for the stage were a dramatized chapter from Mendele’s Fishke der krumer (Fishke the lame), later his own drama in one and one-half acts and a four-act play in blank verse—A shvere operatsye (A difficult operation), which was directed by Dovid Herman.  He was a cofounder of a theater society, “Association of Young Lovers of the Arts” in Bialystok.  In 1920 he marched on foot with the retreating Red Army from Poland to Russia, was in Minsk, Smolensk, and Moscow, later returned to Poland, was active in the underground revolutionary work of the left, spent time in Polish prisons, and endured hunger strikes.  He subsequently continued his studies in the Jewish pedagogical courses and was later a teacher in Jewish public schools.  In 1926 he immigrated to France, settled in Paris, studied (1927-1929) at the Lyceum “Charlemagne” there, and went on to study (1929-1934) at the Sorbonne where he received his doctor of law degree.  Over the years 1935-1938, he published three books in French concerning international law and modern history.  In 1936 he was secretary of the organizing committee of the first World Jewish Culture Congress in Paris, and as the secretary of the then founded IKUF (Jewish Cultural Association), he visited the Baltic states (autumn 1938) and Belgium, Holland, and England (spring 1939).  Under Nazi rule in France (1940-1944), he lived for a time in Vichy, later near Lyons, where he was active in the French-Jewish resistance movement and wrote articles for illegal Yiddish and French publications.  After the liberation of France, he returned to Paris, was a contributor to French periodicals, and published plays and articles concerned with various Jewish cultural issues in: Naye prese (New press), Oyfsnay (Afresh), and Unzer eynikeyt (Our unity), among others, in Paris; Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom), and Zamlungen (Collections)—in New York; and Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings) and Folks-shtime (Voice of the people) in Warsaw.  He also contributed to Yiddish publications in Latin America and in the state of Israel.  Among his drama and folk plays, Homens mapole (Hamen’s downfall), Di yoynes un der valfish (The Jonahs and the whale), Di tsayt fun gezang (The time of song), Nekome-nemer (Avengers), and Borekh fun amsterdam (Baruch from Amsterdam) were staged in Yiddish theaters in France, Sweden, Poland, Romania, Israel, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and New York.  His one-act play Der ksav fun rekht af links (Writing from right to left) was performed in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.  In 1958 he and the Parisian writers M. Vilner and A. Yudin visited Moscow with the mission there of “investigating the state of Jewish culture,” and their report, “Vegn der yidisher kultur in sovetn-farband” (On Jewish culture in the Soviet Union)—published in 1959 in Yidishe kultur in New York and Unzer eynikeyt in Paris and republished by the World Jewish Congress in Paris—elicited a discussion in Unzer eynikeyt (August-September 1959), as well as various polemical commentaries in the Yiddish and Hebrew press.  Together with Sh. Dobzhinski, he also published and edited (1958) a quarterly journal in French entitled Domaine yidich (The field of Yiddish) with the goal of acquainted the assimilated Jewish youth in France with writings in Yiddish, Yiddish literature, and Yiddish culture.  In book form: Nekome-nemer, a tragedy in three acts and nine scenes (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1947), 94 pp. (winner of a prize from the Moshe Kasner Fund in Buenos Aires); Homens mapole, a folk play in four acts (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1949), 103 pp.; Di yoynes un di valfish, a folk play in three acts (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1952), 117 pp. (also winner of a prize from the Moshe Kasner Fund); Borekh fun Amsterdam, a drama in four acts and nine scenes (New York: IKUF, 1956), 112 pp., second edition with text in Yiddish and Polish, in three acts (Warsaw: Yiddish State Theater, 1961); Der ksav fun rekht af links, in Yidish kultur (New York) 3 (1954); Di milkhome fun got (The war of God), a drama in three acts (New York: IKUF, 1963), 107 pp.; Tsen brider zaynen mir gevezn, drame in dray aktn (We were ten brothers, a drama in three acts) (Paris: Oyfsnay, 1965), 133 pp., earlier published in Yidishe kultur; Sovetishe yidishe melukhishkeyt (Soviet Yiddish nationalism) (Paris, 1979), 265 pp., Hebrew translation as Mamlakhtiyut yehudit beverit hamoatsot (Tel Aviv: Am oved, 1981), 223 pp.; A shlikhes keyn moskve (Messenger to Moscow) (New York, 1985), 302 pp.  His work also appeared in: Itshe Goldberg, ed., Undzer dramaturgye, leyenbukh in der yidisher drame (Our playwriting, textbook in Yiddish drama) (New York: IKUF, 1961), pp. 501-512.  In 1960 he received the Shatsov Prize from IKUF and in 1963 the Zhitlovsky Prize—both in New York.  He visited the United States in 1962 and appeared at various IKUF undertakings.  He died in Paris.

Sources: Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 4 (New York, 1963), with a bibliography; D. Klementinovski, in Byalistoker shtime (New York) (March-April 1946); Y. Mestel, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (April 1948; October 1956); Sh. Lastik, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) (October 1949); B. Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (October 1954); D. Sfard, Shtudyes un skitsn (Studies and sketches) (Warsaw, 1955), pp. 169-75; Z. Vaynper, in Yidishe kultur (December 1956); M. Litvin, in Parizer tsaytshrift (Paris) 15-16 (1956); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (November 3, 1957); L. Domenkevitsh, in Unzer vort (Paris) 88 (3059); Lili Berger, in Yidishe shriftn (February 1958); Berger, Eseyen un skitsn (Essays and skits) (Warsaw, 1962), pp. 182-90; Avrom Shulman, in Der veker (New York) (June 1, 1958); Shulman, in Forverts (New York) (April 6, 1959); Kh. Liberman, in Forverts (June 6, 1958); L. Bernard, B. Shlevin, M. Melman, Kh. Shoten, in Unzer eynikeyt (Paris) (August-September 1959); Ḥ. Knaan, in Haarets (Tel Aviv) (August 28, 1959); Sh. L. Shnayderman, in Forverts (December 2, 1959); I. Goldberg, ed., Undzer dramaturgye, leyenbukh in der yidisher drame (Our playwriting, textbook in Yiddish drama) (New York: IKUF, 1961), pp. 499-512; Kh. Sloves, “Vegn zikh un vegn mayn shafn” (On me and my work), Yidishe kultur (November 1961); Sh. Belis, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (January 6, 1962); R. Yuklson, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (May 16, 1962); N. Mayzil, Tsurikblikn un perspektivn (Retrospectives and perspectives) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1962), see index; Biblyografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un gvure (Bibliography of Yiddish books concerning the Holocaust and heroism) (New York, 1962), see index; “Pyese fun kh. sloves af der frantseyzisher bine” (Plays by Kh. Sloves on the French stage), Unzer kiem (Paris) (June 1964); M. Lerman, in Arbeter-vort (Paris) (May 8, 1964).
Benyomen Elis

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 406.]

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