Sunday 10 February 2019


NAFTOLE-HERTS KON (1910-June 13, 1971)

            He was a poet, born in Storozhinets (Storozhynets), Bukovina. Early on he joined the revolutionary movement and was targeted by organs of the state. He began writing which still in religious elementary school, debuting in print with poems in 1929 in Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz pages). He wrote systematically but not successfully. For his revolutionary activities, he fled from Bukovina to Poland, where he was arrested in 1929, and in 1932 he was exchanged for a Polish political prisoner in the Soviet Union. In Moscow and Kharkov, his poetry and essays were published, and he was accepted into the writers union, and the state publishing house brought out his first book in Minsk. Then in 1937 he was arrested in the USSR, the land which he considered his homeland, and exiled to a camp. After being freed in 1941, he returned to Moscow and continued his literary work, publishing in the newspaper Eynikeyt (Unity) and preparing a new anthology for the press. He was arrested yet again in 1948 and sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labor in the Gulag. He was rehabilitated in 1956 and in 1959 came to Poland, and once again was thrown in jail for several years by the socialist government there. When he was freed, he came in 1965 to Israel, a sick man exhausted by all foregoing persecution, which had foreshortened his years. He had just enough time to compile his last collection of writings, published in Tel Aviv in 1966. He died in Jerusalem.

            He wrote for: Folks-shtime (Voice of the people) and Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings) in Warsaw; Almanakh, fun yidishe sovetishe shrayber tsum alfarbandishn shrayber-tsuzamenfor (Almanac, from Soviet Jewish writers to the all-Soviet conference of writers) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934); and elsewhere. His other writings include: Trot nokh trot (Step after step), poems (Warsaw: Farlag Tshernovits, 1932), 62 pp., confiscated and in 1935 published in a larger edition (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ.), 122 pp.; Farshribn in zikorn (Recorded in memory), poetry (Tel Aviv: Aliya, 1966), 380 pp.

Sources: Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945); Y. Grudberg, in Folksblat (People’s newspaper) (Tel Aviv) (May 11, 1961); Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun may dor (Writers of my generation), vol. 3 (Tel Aviv, 1970), pp. 91-92; Lili Berger, In gang fun tsayt (In step with the times) (Paris, 1976), pp. 187-91.

Ruvn Goldberg

[Additional information from: 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), pp. 317-18.]

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