Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Ber Horowitz


Born on 17 July 1895 in Vald-Dorf Meydan, Eastern Galician Carpathia, into a family of village Jews. In his youth his father had many wanderings across Romania, Turkey, Persia, spoke many languages, had a talent for drawing, and was one of the first Jews in the petroleum industry in his area.

H. learned Yiddish studies with a teacher at home, while at the same time attending a Ukrainian folk shul. In 1914 he completed the Polish gymnasium in Stanislaw, Galicia. During the First World War H. became mobilized in the Austrian army, where articipated in battles, and for a long time was commanded to Vienna, where he studied medicine in the university, and as a doctor worked in a camp for Italian prisoners, then in a military hospital in Vienna.

During the First World War H. traveled a lot across various countries of Central and Western Europe, engaged in teaching, and the entire time wrote songs, poems, stories, legends, and also translated from various languages.

H. translated for the Yiddish theatre Stefan Zweig's dramatization of Janson's "Volfone" ("Der dants arum gelt"), which Jonas Turkow staged in February 1927 in the Krakow Yiddish Social Theatre, where H. was a member. The play in 1929 was staged in Warsaw in "VINT", and later in other cities.

About the last mention, Zygmunt Turkow:

"Here (in Krakow) Ber Horowitz used to be a second-rate engineer,

the impulsive, temperamental Eastern Galician poet and designer, the settler of the Ukrainian village and its peasants -- the same who, in the Nazi years, bestially cut off his young life." Heart for the Second World War, H., who had much love for Yiddish theatre and maintained a close contact with Yiddish actors, settled in Stanislaw. In the years of 1939-40 he lived there under the Soviet Occupation, and there he was literarily active. According to testimony of three saved Jews, he died (2 October) Hoshanah Rabah 1942 together with nine-thousand Jews in Stanislaw. According to another version, he was killed by the local peasants in the town of his birth Meydan.

Melech Ravitch characterized him in "My Lexicon" (1938):

"Ber Horowitz is one of the powerful Jewish poets. He sings loudly. His poetry is noisy, even the quiet tenor of his lyrics is noisy. Horowitz's first song book was named, "Fun mayn heym in di berg (From My Home in the Country)." He had never reviewed this booklet. He never let go of their general tone, and he was never caught again. He also wrote stories about the renowned. Alone they He thought of them and illustrated them, and somewhere he lost us in the mountains ... He uses a language that is semi-gentile, Judeo-Slavic pidgin Yiddish. He is a splendid representative and this alone has a bit of a stir for him: What am I? Although this is not new that poets should believe their painters -- and vice versa.

... Horowitz was an only son, early on he lost his father, had a complex family life, and he is rarely seen anywhere, seldom writing. This made him a little offhand from the course of literature. He has always been like a striker who falls from the height, makes a stir and rises again.

Ber Horowitz the painter is a chapter in itself. On good walls there hung his caricatures of Yiddish writers in Warsaw's literary unions. In the songs he gets frosty and is often raw -- in the drawings he is fine and refined and very witty. He brings out the deepest expression of the characters he paints. He knows the paintings of the world, writes a cycle of songs about a world-famous painter, but he does not fill himself in the field. He takes on the world, jumping on benches, tinsters ,and open books as he did in his early youth in Hebrew school. So he is. He can't go anywhere else."

Yitzkhok Turkow-Grudberg writes:

"He was literally a glutton of beauty, a lifeblood. Outside he was a Slavic type, in temperament -- Sooner a gypsy, in ideas -- A mixture of Christian light with a renowned Shabbes Chasid; in national form -- A Jewish Jew;  in poetry -- by his all- smashing fantasy and original portrayal -- a storyteller; in the prose -- a lyricist; in drawing - a poet ... This was in the year 1939. And then he was still dazzled with splendor, like his pockets with papers. Various artistic projects, besides painting and writing -- a film scene creator, a cycle of plays. He hated small business. If plays are a cycle, than did not intend to complete a larger story, already told about poetry? [awk.] -- This is nothing. If a plays are cyclical, ay, he didn't have the patience to finish a bigger story, not to mention a poem. Most important was purpose, momentum and surely -- the fantasy that her wings were floating over him like a feather hovering above his one hundred kilo body. That perhaps is the most damaged, among the so-called psychologically damaged Yiddish writer and artist was assuredly he -- being by nature artistic and a member of the family of Yiddish writers of World War II Poland."

  • "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," New York, 1931, Vol. 1, p. 586.

  • "Lexicon of the New Yiddish Literature," New York, 1960, Vol. 3, pp. 65-67.

  • Melech Ravitch -- "Mayn leksikon," Montreal, 1945, pp. 62-64.

  • Jonas Turkow -- "Extinguished Stars," Buenos Aires, 1961, p. 107.

  • Yitskhok Turkow-Grudberg -- "Oyf may veg," Buenos Aires, 1964, pp. 70-73.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 4497.

You can read Ber's original biography in the first volume of the "Lexicon."

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