“Der europeyisher arbeter un di psikhotekhnik,” by Józef Jaszuński, n.d. Józef Jaszuński, “Der Europeyisher arbeter un di psikhotekhnik” (The European Worker and Psychotechnics), n.d. Yiddish. With the author's stamp on the last page: J. Jaszuński, Elektoralna 30, m. 33. RG 108, Manuscripts Collection, F35.12. (YIVO)

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Jaszuński, Józef

(1881–1943), engineer, researcher, translator, and educator. Józef Jaszuński was born in Grodno to a wealthy family that provided him with both a traditional Jewish and a general education. Jaszuński studied physics and mathematics at Saint Petersburg University and at the Berlin Polytechnikum. Politically, he sympathized early on with the Zionist movement, but later identified with the Bund.

In 1906, Jaszuński returned to Saint Petersburg; there he contributed (under the pseudonym Ben-Khayim) to the first Yiddish daily newspaper in the Russian Empire, Der fraynd, as a correspondent and commentator on social and political issues. Additionally, he wrote for Russian-language Jewish periodicals, translated philosophical and scientific texts from German into Russian, and edited Russian reference books (1912–1914).

Józef Jaszuński, director of operations in Poland for ORT (Society for Handicraft and Agricultural Work among the Jews of Russia) (standing, second from right) with American ORT official, D. J. Brown (left), on a visit to a sewing course for girls, Warsaw, 1935. (2nd from left) Irena Pushkin, Brown's interpreter; (right) Mrs. Brandes. Photograph by Leo Forbert. (YIVO)

In 1920, Jaszuński moved to Vilna and became an important activist for the ORT organization. In 1924, he served as the principal of the Yidishe Realschule (Jewish scientific gymnasium) in Vilna, one of the most prestigious Jewish educational institutes in Poland. He was compelled to resign four years later due to his deteriorating eyesight. In 1922, he became a member of the editorial board of Bikher velt, and published articles about bibliography and printing. From 1922, he had a weekly column in the Bundist daily Folks-tsaytung (from 1926, called the Naye folks-tsaytung). Titled “Shmuesn vegn natur-visnshaft un tekhnik” (Chats about Natural Sciences and Technology), the popular column was written in an easily comprehensible style. By 1937, no less than 700 such “chats” had appeared in print. With the similar purpose of reaching a wide audience, Jaszuński published his books Natur un mentsh (Man and Nature; 1927) and Groyse mentshn, groyse maysim (Great Men, Great Deeds; 1930). During the 1930s, he edited a series of 18 texts in the popular-science series Natur un Kultur (Nature and Culture) for the Kultur-lige publishing house.

In 1928, Jaszuński moved to Warsaw. He continued to work for ORT and, beginning in the mid-1930s, served as its director of operations in Poland. He was a member of the central executive of YIVO and contributed regularly to the YIVO-bleter.

After the Germans captured Warsaw, Jaszuński was appointed to the Judenrat and at the same time served as deputy to Michał Weichert, head of the Yidishe Sotsyale Aleynhilf (Jewish Social Self-Help; ZSS). Jaszuński worked to expand vocational training programs for Jews and to open workplaces for unemployed Jews. In January 1943, he was transported to Treblinka with his wife and one of his sons. Another son, Grisha, became an active, well-known figure in the Vilna ghetto and survived.

Suggested Reading

Hirsz Abramowicz, Profiles of a Lost World: Memoirs of East European Jewish Life before World War II (Detroit, 1999); Hayyim Solomon Kazdan, ed., Lerer-yizker-bukh (New York, 1952–1954), pp. 191–193; “Jaszunski, Yoysef,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 4, cols. 228–231 (New York, 1961).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann