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[Page 267]

Writers and Artists from Sosnowiec

by Dr. Szmul Berkowicz

Translated by Bill Leibner

Dr. Szmul Berkowicz graduated from the high school in Sosnowiec. He later continued his medical studies abroad. These studies were interrupted during WWI. He became a teacher in the Polish-Jewish high school in Sosnowiec. Somewhat later, he left teaching and traveled to Vienna to study political science. His teachers were the famous socialist leaders, Max Adler and Grinberg. In order to receive his degree, he wrote a dissertation entitled “The crisis following World War”. The thesis was accepted and he was granted the title of Ph. D.

Szmul Berkowicz was always an active Bundist, and together with the legendary labor leader Jicchak Pejsachson, established the first cell of the “Bund” in the Zaglembie area. In 1917, he attended the Bund conference in Lublin as the delegate from Sosnowiec. With the creation of an independent Poland, we find him a member of the labor committee in Sosnowiec and a member of the Bund committee in Warsaw. He was also very active as a teacher at the Jewish high school of Wilno. He headed the Yiddish school named Bajnisz Michalewicz, and would soon be in charge of all the schools that espoused the “Bund” ideology.

He devoted a great deal of time to cultural matters, and was a member of the executive committee of the “Cultural League”. He lectured frequently at the people's university on political, economic and social matters and their interactions. His lectures were very popular and influential. He did a great deal of research in the area of Jewish labor and wrote extensively about the conditions of the Jewish working masses. Many of his articles were published in the publication “The economic life”. He also popularized culture amongst the Jewish masses. Dr. Berkowicz also published several works dealing with socialist theories.

Sos267a.jpg [5 KB] - Dr. J. Majtlis
Sos267b.jpg [5 KB] - I. Lisze
Sos267c.jpg [5 KB] - P. Goldwajn
Sos267d.jpg [5 KB] - Dr. S. Berkowicz
Dr. J. Majtlis I. Lisze P. Goldwajn Dr. S. Berkowicz

Paul Goldwajn (Goldfajn)

At an early age he began to play violin with the teachers Waserman and Szpilman. Later he traveled to Vienna where he studied 10 years with the famous music professor Kaplan. He then continued his studies in Berlin with professor Hess for another three years. Lately, he has studied music with the world-renowned professor Hubai in Budapest.

He first appeared with the Warsaw Philharmonic in 1920. The critics gave him nice reviews.

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He later traveled to Berlin where he formed his own orchestra. With the ascent of Hitler to power, he left Germany and settled in Belgium where he assembled a new orchestra that he conducts to the present. Goldwajn owned a Stradivarius [violin] that was worth $ 20,000.

Dawid Zitman (1898-1923)

He was born in Czeladz to a well to do family. He started the “heder” at a young age and was soon known as a good student. His father died rather young and left him an orphan. At the age of 13 he started to work to support himself. In 1913 we find him in Lodz where he was an employee, a Hebrew teacher, and even dealt in commerce.

His first poems were printed in a Lodz Yiddish newspaper. Later he participated with other young writers in the publication of “Zamel-Heften” (Notebook Collections) that included the following artistic creations. “Young Yiddish”, “Gezangen” (songs), “Wegen” (ways) and “S'feld” (the field). These items were published in Lodzer Yiddish newspapers. Zitman also contributed poems to the collection entitled “Shriften VII” (written creations VII). He also published a book of poems entitled “Oif weitikeit kreiznde fal ich” that was illustrated by Ida Broiner. The publisher was Achrid, and it was published in 1921 in Lodz.

He suffered a great deal and became very ill in 1922. He went from hospital to hospital, and finally died in Breslau, Germany.

Jicchak Lisze

He began drawing lessons with the famous painter, Stefan Bender, who lived prior to WWI in Sosnowiec. Later he was admitted to the Academy of Arts of Krakow where he graduated with honors. He then went to Vienna, where he studied the masters for four years. He left Vienna and settled in Paris in 1925 where he resides and continues his artwork. He paints primarily landscapes in the impressionist style. He has an excellent technique.

Dr. Jakob Majtlis

He began his journalistic career in 1921 with a big article entitled “The First Revolution” in the “Jewish Rundschau” publication in Berlin. He then wrote several articles in Yiddish in the “Mizrah Yid” [the Jew in Eastern Europe] in Berlin.

He became a steady contributor to the “Jewish Rundschau”, where he published literary essays, book reviews, historical evaluations, and religious-historical and folkloric contributions. He also wrote for many other dailies or weeklies in Germany, including the “Israelitische Familienblatt” [Israelite family paper], “Z. P. Zeitung”, “Die Selbstwehr” [self-defense] (Prague), “Die Presse-Zentrale” (Zurich), “Ost-Yiddishe Zeitung” (Czernowitz), “Der Morgen” [morning] (Darmstadt and Berlin), and the world renown “Orientalische Literaturzeitung” [Middle Eastern literature newspaper] (Berlin).

Sos268a.jpg [5 KB] - A. N. Sztencel
Sos268b.jpg [5 KB] - M. Erik
Sos268c.jpg [5 KB] - M. Stawski
A. N. Sztencel M. Erik M. Stawski

Majtlis also published articles in the “Lodzer Folksblatt”, “Nasz Przeglond” [our review], “The Morgen-Journal” in New York, the “Canadian Odler” [Canadian Eagle], and various publications in Lithuania, Latvia, Argentina, Mexico and so on.

He published several lengthy articles regarding old Yiddish manuscripts for the Yivo Newsletter. He was a regular contributor to the London “Zeit” (time), “Dos Yiddishe Folk” in New York under the editorship of Abram Goldberg, and to the “Jewish Chronicle” in London.

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He specialized in research of old Yiddish texts and folklore and published a serious work in 1932 under the sponsorship of the “Zunz-Stiftung” (Zunz foundation) of Berlin. The book entitled “The Story Book – its History and Origin”, written in German, made a great impression on the scholarly world, as well as on the literary reader for the excellent basic research that the author did in an area devoid of such research. He delved extensively into the origin of Jewish folklore and presented it to the reader.

A more serious work in the area is being prepared for publication under the auspices of the Yivo of Wilno.

Lately, Dr. Majtlis has started to participate in Jewish social activities. In London he headed the English section of the Yivo organization. When a group of English Jewish scholars, amongst whom we found Prof. Z. Brodecki, Dr. Cecil Roth, Dr. Sh. Sztajnberg, Dr. Sh. Rabidowicz, the chief Rabbi of England, Dr. I. Hertz and other famous personalities, decided to undertake a large historical research project, we found Dr. Majtlis amongst them. The project consisted of researching the historical growth and development of the Jewish community of Britain during the last 70 years. Dr. Majtlis was one of the sponsors of the project and helped to finalize it. He was the scientific secretary of the editorial board of the project.

Mosze Stawski

Mosze Stawski lived in Sosnowiec between 1906-1908. He had an original style of writing that portrayed characters as animals. This was a first in Yiddish literature. His works were translated into several European languages, notably Polish.

Some of his best materials were written while he resided in Sosnowiec. One of his best works entitled “Di Tritt” [The Steps], was published in a literary magazine in Warsaw and made a great impression.

At the same time, he also wrote a poem about the old fort of Bedzin. He lived in Sosnowiec on Nikolajewski Street (presently Kolontaja Street) number 7 that belonged to his brother Gerszon Stawski. The place attracted many literary people interested in Jewish literature, and the result was the creation of several cultural institutions in the city.

Max Erik

Max Erik was the pen name for Zalman Merkin. He studied in the heder with a Jewish teacher from Lithuania to the age of 12. He was then accepted in a Russian high school. When the war started and the Germans occupied Sosnowiec, he transferred to a Polish high school and graduated in 1918.

While a student, he was attracted to the Jewish labor movement and began to show great interest in the movement. He also became interested in Jewish literature and the Yiddish language. He made his debut as a writer with an article regarding Hugo Cukerman in “Yiddish Zamelbicher 1918” [Yiddish Book Collection 1918] under the editorship of I. M. Wajsenberg. The latter encouraged him to write critical essays. After that he wrote critical essays and reviews for the Poali Tzion organization and was an active member of the party for a long time. He also participated in the publication of the “Zamel Heften” [notebook collections], “Ringen” [circles], “Bicher Welt” [book world], and “Literarishe Bletter” [literary pages].

He served in the Polish Army from 1919-1921. He attended officer school, and was retired with the rank of reserve officer. He studied law at the Krakow University. Between 1922-1923 and 1925-1926 he was a teacher of literature and Polish studies at the Wilno Jewish intermediate school. Here he developed the great interest in old Yiddish literature. Together with Zalman Reiznen, he established a schematic plan of old Yiddish literature. Erik devoted himself to the study of old Yiddish texts that were located at the municipal library of Danzig.

The studies led him to visit France and England in 1926, where he examined old Yiddish scripts at the British Museum, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, and so forth. He participated actively in the Yivo organization and was a member of the local committee of the Wilno branch.

His published the following works: “Construction Studies” (publisher: “Arbeiter Heim”, Warsaw 1924); “Wegen Alte Yiddishen Roman und Novellen – 14th-16th Johrhundert” [About old Yiddish Novels and Short stories of the 14-16 th centuries]; (“Der Weg zum Wissen” fun Majer Rajz [the road to knowledge by Majer Rajz], Warsaw-Kowel, 1926); The History of Jewish Literature from the earliest period to the Jewish Enlightenment, 1929; The first Jewish Comedy (Philological studies, volume 3, 1929, Yivo, Wilno); a serious discussion of Stendhal printed in Kiew. It is worth to mention some of the works that have not been published, notably, the critical review of Dawid Bergelson, Mosze Kolbak, Hans Ewers, and Jack London, about their influences on literature.

In 1929, he was invited as professor of Jewish literature to Minsk and later to the Kiew Institute of Jewish Culture. He also lectured at the University of Kiew.

Max Erik has achieved an honorable position amongst the leaders of Yiddish literature in the world. His serious works have received a great deal of recognition in the literary world.

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Abram Nachum Sztencel

He was born in Czeladz and published his first work entitled “Poems and Poetic writing” in Leipzig by the Menes Publishing house. Later he published larger poem collections notably “Un du bist Gott” [And you are God], that was published in Leipzig by the Shemesh publisher. He also published a book of poems entitled “Zuch ich dir” [I am searching or looking for you]. He also recorded a cycle of 40 village songs under the title of “Shtil Leben” [quiet life]. Some of them were published in “Der Yiddisher Welt” [the Jewish world] 8, 1928. He also published a drama about the life of the pioneers in Palestine.

In 1931, the German association of lyric writers and the writers union published Sztencel's translated work “The Fishing Village”. The German translation of his book “The Ring of Saturn” was published in 1932 in Germany.

The following works of his were published in Yiddish in Berlin: “Fisherdorf” [Fishing Village]; “Funderweitns” [At a Distance]; “Dos Medl Heft” [The Girl's Notebook]; “Mazal Taleh” [the zodiac sign “Aries”];, “Tzu mein Fisherdorf” [To my Fishing Village]; “Oifen Rog” [At the Corner]; the lyrical writing “Zwishen Himmel und Erd” [Between the Skies and the Earth]; “Funderheim” [From Home], in a simple natural style of writing.

In London appeared his work entitled “London Sonnets” [50 sonnets about London], “Letzte Nacht” [Last Night], “A book with poetic writings about Whitechapel”, “Sof Zommer Versen” [end of summer verses], a ballad about life in Poland, “Eppel” [Apples], “Hakenkreitz” [Swastika], a caricature of Nazi Germany, a book about Gothic culture and Impressionism, and “Dos Kaleichdike Johr” [The Round Year), city description 1939.

A book is being prepared for publication entitled “Fon Germanie Pogromen” [About German Pogroms].

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