Thursday 24 May 2018


            He began writing before WWII, contributing to Ekspres (Express) in Warsaw and other serials.  In 1936 he published a volume of stories entitled Vayse hent, palestine dertseylungen (White hands, Palestine stories) (Warsaw: Azil), 156 pp.  In 1937 he published in the Warsaw monthly Shriftn (Writings) a novella entitled “Griln” (Crickets).  In 1938 he published Tsaytn baytn zikh, dertseylungen (Times change, stories) (Warsaw: Literarishe bleter), 165 pp.  Under the Nazis he was confined in the Warsaw Ghetto.  He was a contributor to the underground Ringelblum archive, at whose request he wrote up a series of reportage pieces on life in the ghetto at the time.  Using the name H. Gril, he composed a social novel, Der haknkrayts, di hak on krayts (The swastika, the hatchet without a cross), 146 pp. of literary works from the ghettos and camps, collected, compiled, and with an introduction by B. Mark (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1944)—a fragment from this work appeared in Varshever shriftn (Warsaw writings) (April 1954).  In the underground archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, he left a number of items: “A shpatsir iber di punktn” (A walk through the sites), “In keynems land” (In no one’s land), “Arbet fun a sakh” (Work of many), and reportage pieces about life in the places for homeless people.  People thought of him as a vigorous talent, a man of courage, and a writer with his own mind.  He demonstrated extraordinary perseverance throughout all the Aktions.  He was seized by the Nazis from a brush shop in 1942.  “Z. Skalov, the only author of an authentic ghetto novel—Haknkrayts, to be sure—…was a sickly man,” wrote Meylekh Ravitsh, “who spent a number of years as a pioneer in the land of Israel and another period in Paris.  According to B. Mark, he had an inclination toward the leftist movement.  On the whole his subject matter was social.  The novel itself quickly leaves the impression of fragmentary notes to a novel.  Figures come and go, stage scenes, and disappear.  There is no narrative chord.  The protagonist is the times, the protagonist is the ghetto of Warsaw, which holds up in form.  The novel begins with the outbreak of the war early in the fall of 1939 and ends in the first days of June 1941, before the great Aktions.  It is not clear each time if the modest reporting is factual or literary images built on the basis of facts.  You are always in doubt: are these documents in which every word is important and sacred; or is it a literary creation which should be gauged with the ruthless criteria of aesthetics; indulgence of the documents or the full severity of the law of art.”

Sources: Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York) (1937); B. Mark, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (July 15, 1938); B. Mark, Umgekumene shrayber fun di getos un lagern (Murdered writers from the ghettos and camps) (Warsaw, 1954), pp. 67, 75, 76, 77; Di arbeter tsaytung (Warsaw) (March 3, 1939); Di tsukunft (New York) (July 1940); Y. H., in Unzer tsayt (New York) (August 1943); Rokhl Oyerbakh, in Eynikeyt (New York) (June 1946); Yanos Turkov, Azoy iz es geven (That’s how it was) (Buenos Aires, 1948), see index; Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) (April 1954); Sh. Shtern, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (November 1954); Di tsukunft (November 1955); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (April 4, 1955); Sh. Slutski, Avrom reyzen-biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen’s bibliography) (New York, 1956); M. Flakser, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 379; Ikuf-almanakh (New York) (1961).
Yankev Kahan

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