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July 31, 1964 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-07-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

`Lonely Years ., Isaac Bathers Letters Edited by Composer Sholom Secunda to Conduct
His Daughter, Reveal Martyrdom Under Stalin (Music) Business as Usual at Age 70

Much light is cast upon the
story of Isaac Babel, one of Rus-
sia's most distinguished novelists
and storytellers. in the new Far-
rar-Straus volume, "Isaac Babel:
The Lonely Years 1925-1939," con-
taining reproductions of his pri-
vate correspondence and several
of his unpublished stories, edited,
and with an introduction by his
daughter, Nathalie Babel. The m-
pressive volume has been trans-
lated from the Russian by An-
drew R. MacAndrew.
Friend and protege of Maxim
Gorky, having gained fame and
leadership in Russian literary cir-
cles with his "Red Cavalry" in
1920, Babel's name became inter-
nationally known. But his pro-
duction of literary works lessened
with time as a result of the Stal-
inist repressions. He was arrested
in 1939 and hasn't been heard
from since.
There was a "rehabilitation" of
the eminent writer in 1957 when
a volume of his writings was ed-
ited by Ilya Ehrenburg. Now we
have added data about him from
his letters which are included in
"The Lonely Years," but many of
his messages are innocuous, and
the antagonism against him under
Stalin apparently left its indelible
The introductory essay by
Nathalie Babel concludes with a
reproduction of the document,
dated Dec. 23, 1954, which pos-
thumously rehabilitated and ex-
onerated Isaac Babel. Signed
by A. Cheptsov, chairman of the
USSR military college, the doc-
ement stated: "The sentence of
the Military College dated 26
January 1940 concerning Babel,
I.E., is revoked on the basis of
newly discovered circumstances
and the case against him is
terminated in the absence of
elements of a crime."
What the crime was is not
known. His daughter writes that
the official date of his death was
given at March 17, 1941; that
Ehrenburg, visiting Paris in 1946
for the first time after the war,
"assured my mother that Babel
was still alive, under house arrest
somewhere inside of Russia." But
in 1956 Ehrenburg told another
story and communicated to the
widow the official date of the
"Since my father's disappear-
ance has remained such a mys-
tery," Miss Babel writes, "it seems
useless to consider all the reasons
that have been advanced for his
arrest. The most remarkable
thing, to me, about his being taken
into custody was that it was de-
layed so long. In the terror of
1936-38 which went by the name
of ‘Yezhovshchina,' the literary

artistic community was decim-
Miss Babel repudiates accusa-
tions of Trotskyism against her
father. She disproves that he
had had a love affair with Pa-
goda's sister. She wrote a deeply
moving account of her father's
life and pays tribute to him and
his work. She shows how his
biographical sketches and the
stories of his life were distorted
by his persecutors. Her mother
renounced Soviet citizenship
when the tragedy struck the
family and she refused to re-
turn to Russia from France.
Nathalie writes that, having been
born in France, she made up
her mind to be French.
"We know," Nathalie states in
her introduction, "that Babel was
well aware of the cruelty of the
Stalinist regime, for he talked
about it with intimate friends on
his trip abroad. Nothing, however,
could shatter his feeling that he
belonged to Russia and that he
had to share in the fate of his
countrymen . . ."
Discrediting the stories about
him, Nathalie points to one bona
fide biographical document, an
autobiographical note he had writ-
ten in 1926, in which he spoke of
his Jewish background, his father's
insistence that he study Hebrew,
Bible, the Talmud until he was
16. His letters do not echo any
Jewish loyalties, and in one of
them, written April 2, 1928, he
referred to "a Yid, a shiker," (a
Jew, a drunkard) and he had this
to say:
"Today I'll buy matzos and, for
your sake, I'll intone praises to
that old crook the Jewish God at
the seder because, according to my
personal bookkeeping, this Pass-
over is a bit more cheerful than
last year's."
In another letter, written a year
later, Babel referred to a "wildly
hilarious biographical note" —
"Mama is promoted to a Moldavian
One wonders how a literary
genius with a good Jewish edu-
cation could have written, as
Babel did on Dec. 2, 1929, about
a girl named Lifshits: "I had
time to notice that this little
Jewess has, like every other
little Jewess, very short legs,
and that her little behind sags
very low over her legs—so she'll
be a girl like all the others."
While there is nothing nostal-
gically affectionate about Jews
in the reproduced works in "The
Lonely Years," we do find, in
a letter he wrote Oct. 4, 1932,
this query: "What date does
Yom Kippur fall on this year?"

Restore Lost' Cemetery in Japan

Under date of March 31, 1935,
he mentioned in a letter to his
"dear little Mama" the Jewish
Theater of Byelorussia, Mikhoels
and their staging of "King Lear."
Writing from Odessa, Sept. 10,
1936, he told about throngs of
Jews who came to see their Amer-
ican uncles visiting there.
A letter from S. Budyonny to
Maxim Gorky attacking Babel and
charging him with distorting facts
about a program was answered
by Gorky Oct. 26, 1928, and this
exchange of correspondence is
among the illuminating portions
of the book, as is also the next of
a speech by Babel on "Our Great
Enemy — Trite Vulgarity," re-
printed from Pravda, Aug. 25,
1934. It contained encomia to the
workers' republic and contained
this paean to Communism:
"Comrades, it is certain that a
writer whose ideas are pursued
by millions and tens of millions
of men is both lucky and great
when those men belong to the
first country in the world to be
governed by the workers."
Eight of the unpublished stories
reproduced here add to an under-
standing of the literary genius of
the Jew Isaac Babel who was a
martyr to his cause, who helped
elevate the workers' dream and
who fell a victim of Stalinist
treachery. It remains to be known
whether the Jewishness of the
great author, which was practically
abandoned by him, nevertheless
was one of the causes for the
Stalin hatred that sent him to his
—P. S.

Mrs. Abe Berniker
Succumbs in Windsor

Mrs. Abe (Nellie) Berniker, ac-
tive in both Windsor and Detroit
Jewish affairs, died July 21 in her
Windsor home at 1885 Ypres Blvd.
Shes was 58.
Mrs. Berniker, born in Poland,
lived in Detroit with her husband
from 1938 to 1954, when they
moved to Windsor. Mr. Berniker,
president of Electroline Manufac-
turing Co., Ltd., is chairman of the
Windsor Allied Jewish Campaign.
Among the organizations Mrs.
Berniker belonged to were
Americans for Progressive Israel
in Detroit and Hadass a: h in
Windsor. She delivered a num-
ber of book reviews for reading
clubs in the Yiddish Culture
Federation here.
Besides her husband, survivors
are a son, Eli, of Fort Wayne, Ind.;
two daughters, Ann of New York
City and Nina of Windsor; three
brothers, Morris and Leo Lesser of
Detroit and Victor of Lima, Peru;
two sisters. Mrs. Sidney (Shifra)
Kessler of Detroit and Mrs. Berl
(Fannie) Silverberg of Montreal;
and one grandchild. Interment

NEW YORK — An oratorio, a
Yiddish-English musical comedy
and the "usual" weekly symphony
concert will carry composer-con-
ductor Sholom Secunda through
his 70th birthday Aug. ,23.
The first two are being com-
posed by Secunda and will prem-
iere in the fall.
For the ora-
torio, to open at
the Eastman
School of Music
in Rochester, he
is working with
music. Richard
Tucker will star
in the 45-minute
work based on a
short story by Y.
L. Peretz.
Secunda is using traditional East
European Yiddish theater tunes
for the musical comedy, to open
at the Anderson Yiddish Theater.
He also is continuing a 19-
year tradition of conducting
weekly symphonic concerts of
classical European music at the
Concord Hotel in the Catskills.
In an interview with the New
York Times, Secunda described
the meager beginnings of the Con-
cord concerts. From a few people
in the first audience in 1945, the
numbers have swelled to 2,500.
Secunda, a graduate of the Juil-
lard School of 1VIusic, attributes
his start in the musical stage to
the Yiddish theater.
Secunda recalled meeting a
young composer named George
Gershwin, who hoped • to form a
team with Secunda. It didn't
work out because Gershwin
couldn't read music. Secunda
said it was just as well; other-
wise, Gershwin might have con-





Zangwill Relative Dies

Examining an inscription on a tombstone in the Nagasaki, Japan,
Jewish cemetery which was lost to memory for some 40 years are
(from left) Airman 2nd Class Max Markovitz; Chaplain Marvin To-
kayer, U.S. Air Force; Yosef Hassin, chancellor of the Israeli Em-
bassy in Tokyo; and Airman 1st Class Stefan Skoll. With the aid of
the congregation and rabbi of the Tokyo Jewish Community Center,
the Americans cleaned and beautified the cemetery, which Chaplain
Tokayer found after months of searching.

LONDON (JTA) — Miss Prim-
rose Horn, a niece of the late,
famous author. Israel Zangwill,
and a writer in her own right, died
here Sunday at 52. A writer of
short stories with Jewish themes,
and of essays, Miss Horn was also
the author of a biographical sketch
of Z a n g w i 1 1, entitled "Uncle

Friday, July 31, 1964

Sephardic Rabbi Molho
Dies at 73 in Argentina

Michael Molho of the Shalom Con-
gregation, a descendant of a prom-
inent family of Sephardic rabbis
in Greece, died here at age 73.
Rabbi Molho was born in Salon-
ika and served as the secretary of
the Greek Zionist Federation in
1921. He was later the editor of
the Greek Sephardic Journal. "El
His book on the Salonika Jewish
cemetery was valuable in recon-
structing the burial ground follow-
ing its destruction by the Nazis
during the Second World War. He
settled in Argentina in 1950.

Michigan's total
36,494,080 acres, is larger than
Greece, larger than Switzerland
and Portugal combined, and near-
ly five times the size of Belgium.



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tinned to write for Yiddish
theater and never achieved his
latter stature.
Despite his many musical con-
tributions, Secunda is perhaps best
known universally for his "Bei Mir
Bist Du Schoen." Although it
earned more than $3,000,000 as a
hit of the 1930s, he sold his rights
for $30.
He said on a trip to Japan last
year he heard an attendant in a
bath house singing the song in

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