Tuesday 26 June 2018


BERL ERKES (1902-December 1, 1933)

            He was a prose author, born in Chernobyl, Kiev district, Ukraine. During the Civil War in Soviet Russia, he served in the Red Army and participated in the fighting. He fell into the hands of a band of Petliura’s followers, who tortured him severely and crushed his lungs. Over the course of his short life, he suffered for many years from tuberculosis. In the first half of the 1920s, he served in the first security organs of state, the Cheka and later in the G.P.U. [both agencies of the Soviet secret police]. He then moved into journalistic work. For a short time, he was secretary for the Kharkov daily newspaper Der shtern (The star), and from 1925 he wrote feature pieces and stories for it. The main topic of his stories and journalistic work was the fight against bandits during the civil war, as well as Soviet construction and anti-religious subject matter. He also published in the Kharkov serial, Shlakhtn (Battles). He died of tuberculosis in Yalta in the Crimea where he had gone to recuperate.

His books include: Faynt (Hate), stories (Kharkov: State Publ., 1930), 236 pp.; Der 16ter partey-tsuzamenfor un di ratn-boyung (The sixteenth Party congress and Soviet construction) (Moscow-Kharkov-Minsk: Central Publishers, 1930), 14 pp.; Fun hinter dem paroykhes, di kontr-revolyutsyonere tetikayt fun di yidishe klerikaln (From behind the curtains, the counter-revolutionary activities of the Jewish clerics) (Moscow: Central Publishers, 1930), 46 pp.; Shedikers (Destroyers), stories (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 56 pp.; In shpinvebs (In cobweb), stories (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 46 pp.; Ven dos dorf shloft, dertseylung (When the village sleeps, a story) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1932), 26 pp.; Frontn, roman (Fronts, a novel) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 224 pp.; Der partsef fun klasn-soyne (The face of a class enemy) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 51 pp.; Banakht af der grenets (At the border at night) (Moscow: Emes, 1933), 172 pp.; Dertseylungen (Stories) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934), 141 pp.; Yugnt in kamf (Young people in the struggle), stories for children (Kharkov-Kiev, 1934), 88 pp.; Kamf (Fight), stories (Kharkov: Literatur un kunst, 1934), 129 pp.; Der kamf doyert (The fight goes on), a novel (Moscow: Emes, 1937), 310 pp. From Russian he also translated works of Lenin and others. He wrote under such pen names as B. Lifshes.

Sources: Arn Makagon, in Prolit (August-September 1930); obituary, in Der shtern (Kharkov) (December 14, 1933); A. Hindes, in Der shtern (December 15, 1933); Sh. Klitenik, Verk un shrayber (Works and writers) (Moscow, 1935); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.

Benyomen Elis

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 421; and 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), p. 275.]

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