YISROEL KAPLAN (April 2, 1902-October 4, 2003)
The son of Shiye Kaplan, he was a rabbi and author, born in Volozhin, Byelorussia. He attended religious elementary schools and yeshivas. From 1919 he was living in Kovno. In 1921 he graduated from the teachers’ training course and received his degree from Kovno University as a historian. From 1921 he was a teacher in various Hebrew schools. He survived the Slabodka and Riga ghettos as well as the Kaiserwald (near Riga) and Dachau concentration camps. After being liberated, he helped found in Munich the Central Historical Commission of survivors to research Holocaust-Europe. From 1949 he was living in Tel Aviv. He debuted in print in 1926 with a feature piece in Kovner tog (Kovno day). He went on to publish stories, features, and articles in: the Kovno dailies Idishe shtime (Jewish voice) and Dos vort (The word), as well as all the local anthologies of the years 1930-1940: Mir aleyn (We alone), Toyern (Gates), and Ringen (Links), among others; Frimorgn (Morning) in Riga; the survivors’ press in Germany; Unzer veg (Our way), Dos vort, and Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper), among others; Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) and Letste nayes (Latest news) in Tel Aviv; Afrikaner idishe tsaytung (African Jewish newspaper) and Dorem-afrike (South Africa) in Johannesburg; among others. In Munich he began his research work into the Holocaust, edited the collections Fun letstn khurbn (Of the recent destruction) (1946-1948, ten issues in all), and continued to amass materials on the mass killings in Jewish Lithuania. His notes on the Kovno ghetto have not been found. He co-edited several volumes of Yahadut lita (Jews of Lithuania) (Tel Aviv). His work has appeared as well in: Vortslen (Roots) (Tel Aviv, 1966), M. Ḥalamish’s Mikan umikarov, antologya shel sipure yidish beerets yisrael (From near and from far away, anthology of stories in Yiddish in Israel) (Merḥavya, 1966), and Anthology of Holocaust Literature (Philadelphia, 1969). He also wrote in Hebrew and published Hebrew school books. Among his pen names: Kol-Boynik, Valozh, and Yulin. His books include: In der tog-teglekher historisher arbet (In the daily historical work) (Munich: Central Historical Commission, 1947), 24 pp.; Dos folks-moyl in natsi-klem (The people’s mouthpiece in Nazi predicament) (Munich, 1949), 62 pp. And, stories: Shlyakh un umveg (Dirt road and detour) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1964), 319 pp.; Geshlayder (Tel Aviv: Elat, 1970), 282 pp.; Tsaytshnit, dertseylungen (Time-cut, stories) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1976), 256 pp. In Hebrew: Gur yerushalmi, veod sipurim (Jerusalem puppy and other stories) (Tel Aviv: Reshafim, 1980), 219 pp. Kaplan’s themes are colorful: from Kovno University to the pious Jews in Jerusalem. He is “a first-class connoisseur and depicter,” noted Arn Tsaytling, “of destroyed Jewish Lithuania.” His writings, in the words of Kh. N. Shapiro, “excel in their artistic observations, juicy folkishness, and warm, good-hearted humor.” He died in Jerusalem.
Sources: Kh. N. Shapiro, in Dos vort (Kovno) (February 23, 1938); H. Leivick, Mit der sheyres-hapleyte (With the survivors) (New York: Leivick Jubilee Fund through Tsiko, 1947), pp. 199-201; Eliezer Shteynman, Habeḥira beerets habeḥira (The choice of the chosen land) (Tel Aviv, 1956), p. 92; Arn Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (August 6, 1965); A. Lis, In skhus fun vort (By reason of word) (Tel Aviv, 1969), pp. 48-53; Y. Yanasovitsh, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (September 12, 1970); Y. Mark, in Dorem-afrike (Johannesburg) 4 (1978).