YANKEV PREGER (January 3, 1887-August 19, 1942)
He was born in Kobrin, Grodno district. At age two he was orphaned on his father’s side and until ten years of age was raised by a grandmother in Drohotshin (Drahichyn). He later lived for several years in Warsaw, and from age fourteen he was an office employee. He debuted in print with poems and prose in Romantsaytung (Fiction newspaper) 5 (1908). He later published in A. Vevyorke’s journal Dos bukh (The book) 1 (1912), as well as in Ilustrirte velt (Illustrated world) under the pseudonym B. Karlinus. Until and during WWII, he lived first in Warsaw and later in Otvosk (Otwock), and there he continued his work for the stage. He was murdered by the Germans in Otwock itself. Preger’s works were popular on the Yiddish stage in Europe and in the United States. He was a Jewish storyteller in dramatic form. The action in his plays is transformed into poetry and the poetry into drama. His Der nisoyen (The temptation) was staged by the Vilna Troupe in Lemberg (1927) and in Tel Aviv’s Hebrew “Ohel Theater” (1931), and the director Dovid Herman adapted it for the Polish stage as well. His Simkhe plakhte (Simkhe Plakhte) was staged by M. Vaykhert in the Yung Theater in Warsaw (1935). The same play, under the title Der vasertreger (The water carrier), was staged by Maurice Schwartz in New York and several other cities in the United States in 1936. Meylekh freylekh (Happy king)—earlier called Kopele tsu-lehakhes (Kopele the spiteful)—a folk play in three acts was staged in Warsaw and elsewhere in Poland in 1938. “Preger was the only one,” noted Y. Rapoport, “who was completely unmoved by all the theoretical and actual revolutions which our literature underwent…. He remained faithful to the form of the pious elementary school tales, the only source of our literary romanticism.” In book form: Af di vegn (On the roads), a poem (Kiev, 1914), 38 pp.; Afn veg, poeme (On the road, a poem) (Warsaw, 1919), 91 pp.; Der nisoyen, dramatish maysele in dray aktn (The temptation, a dramatic tale in three acts) (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1925), 289 pp.; Tsuersht (First of all), a dramatic reworking of the poem Afn veg; Shloyme hameylekh, dramatishe poeme in dray aktn, tsen bilder (King Solomon, a dramatic poem in three acts, ten scenes) (Warsaw, 1932), 143 pp.—a fragment in Hebrew translation by Elḥanan Indelman was published in Baderekh (On the road) (Warsaw, 1934).
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 3 (New York, 1959); Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Lodzher veker (Lodz) (May 19, 1927); Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 192; Avrom Reyzen, in Tsukunft (New York) (August 1930); Y. Rapoport, in Vokhnshriftn far literatur (Warsaw) (August 12, 1932); A. Tsaytlin, Globus (Warsaw) 12 (1933); N. Mayzil, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (January 3, 1936); Kh. Sh. Kazdan, in Foroys (Warsaw) (December 23, 1938); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945); M. Oley, in Yidishe shriftn (Lodz) 1 (1946); Yonas Turkov, Azoy iz es geven (That’s how it was) (Buenos Aires, 1948), pp. 25, 346, 350; B. Mark, Umgekumene shrayber fun di getos un lagern (Murdered writers from the ghettos and camps) (Warsaw, 1954); Basye Shusterman-Stup, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (August 18, 1960); M. Vaykhert, Varshe (Warsaw) (Tel Aviv, 1961), see index.