Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Jakub Zonszajn

Born on 10 January 1914 in Lukow, Siedlce region, Poland. He learned in a cheder and yeshiva. In 1928 he went with his parents to Zhichlin, and from 1930 he lived in Warsaw. In 1939, when Poland was invaded by the Nazis, he fled to Vilna and during the late war years lived in Soviet Russia. Then he returned in 1947 to Poland.

Still in 1932 he began his literary activities with the novel, "In a keler-shtub" in "Undzer ekspres." Since that time he participated in the Yiddish periodical with songs, stories, novels and articles about literature, reportages, and translations. And after the Second World War in the BANEYTER Yiddish periodicals in Poland, also in "Yiddish Culture" (New York), issuing several books. Included was his play "Professor Shvartsshteyn," a drama on the flag of Hitlerish destruction in three acts and five scenes (Warsaw, 1950, 66 pp.), which was staged in the Yiddish theatre in Poland.

Jacob Mestel writes about the play "Professor Shvartstein":

"Jakub Zonszajn's 'Professor Shvartstein' suffers first of all from the unreliable dramatic technique; the character often goes down from the stage without a whisper and rushes back to the author's wink [?], like a 'Deus ex machina' (God From the Machiner--a sudden non-significant suffering of dealing in the old-classical tragedy). People say secrets to the ear. ... Pray it is clearly not for whom to watch, except for the theatre public. ...And the author can do nothing, He gives his beauties a monologue, or they let them deviate from the other embellished words "for yourself" (according to 'Camera Method of the Former Melodrama'). The monologue, in the modern drama, is right only in the poetic form, which gives the drama an unreal tone, but in the realistic prose-drama destroyed the monologue, the illusion of realism thus makes the whole scene incredible.

And Jakub Zonszajn has nothing to do. His dialogue is mostly smooth and human. ...The characters portray stage technique, although a bit too stalwart. The naive prefect Professor Shvartstein, who believes the Germans will not cheat him... is aesthetically pleasing, and therefore you cannot be the hero of a drama, already a friend in the title role of the play. ...It leaves the impression that Jakub Zonszajn is generally under the influence of Kruchovsky's play ("Germans," staged in New York "Ensemble" in Mestel's translation under the name, "Family Zonenbruch"), but it is not a disadvantage. He would not just split into pieces his action on purely individual ones and family interests. Individual characteristics is enacted to a degree in a play (as in any case of literature), but the motivation of the action must be characteristic of the general environment. If not, the character is minimized and socialized, in this case, the Yiddish tragedy to an angular episode.

But it is only wrong when a younger playwright does not master the language of the dialogue. There almost does not exist much information about Jakub Zonszajn's Yiddish. ...However Jakub Zonszajn had a desire for the stage. The final scene of the drama is authentically theatrical, even, through the entire dramatic minutes, swing through the basic idea -- 'The German Reich' (the Nazi rule then), and the German Nazis were 'two things' (quotation from Schiller's 'Don Juan'), only to hope that in his second drama there would be more character and more OPGEHITN."

Z. also wrote the play, "Fraylakh in shtetl (Jolly Village?)" (music and stage direction by Sh. Prizament, staged 1937-8), and "Hershele Ostropoler," (staged in June 1953 in Breslau under the direction of Jacob Rotbaum, sets by Alexander Yenrzhevski).

In the publishing house "Yiddish Book" there was published Z.'s volume of songs, under the name "Vort un nigun (Word and Melody?)" (Warsaw, 1959, 131 pp.), and in the same publishing house (1964) a volume of songs "Yunger vinter (Young Winter?) (144 pp.), also in the same house (1953, 68 pp.), a book "Der ratsionalizirter yitskhok fetner."

In Vrotslav (1958) there was published a brochure in Polish of his songs, translated by the Polish poet Koshutski and Kovalcik, and he also was in the Polish anthology, "Amiona gefokoyn" (Vrotslav, 1958), and in the German anthology of the new Polish lyric, "Lektsion der shtile" (1959).

On 7 February 1962 Z. passed away in Warsaw.

Sh.E. from Moshe Shkliar.

  • "Lexicon of the New Yiddish Literature," New York, 1960, Volume 3, pp. 552-553.

  • Jacob Mestel -- "Literature and Theatre," New York, 1962, pp. 316-318.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 7, page 6215.

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