Letter from Froyim Kaganovski to Leo Finkelshteyn, 1947. From Froyim Kaganovski in Łódź, Poland, to Leo Finkelshteyn, 8 July 1947. Kaganovski writes that it is hot and that it would be nice to get out of the city, but "one has no desire to travel to unfriendly strangers, to an alien forest, to alien meadows." The "association" has been discussing a possible upcoming visit of Finkelshteyn to Łódź. Kaganovski's situation is not good. Most of his friends have left for America but he languishes in Łódź without an income. He asks Finkelshteyn to contact the Yiddish author Melech Ravitch on his behalf: "I consider him the only person who has a brotherly bond with us." Yiddish. Typed. RG 107, Letters Collection. (YIVO)

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Kaganovski, Froyim

(1893–1958), author and storyteller. Froyim Kaganovski was born in Warsaw, but few facts about his background and early years are available. It is known that he displayed an aptitude for painting and studied at an art school. He published his first story, “Bay nakht” (At Night), when he was just 16, in the weekly Teater velt. In the same year (1909), Kaganovski became acquainted with Y. L. Peretz and was honored by having another story, “In der alter mil” (At the Old Mill), included in the literary collection that Peretz edited, Yidish (1910). This recognition enabled Kaganovski to become a regular guest at the Peretz home.

Kaganovski then became one of a group of young writers living in Warsaw, of whom he was the only Warsaw-born member. Before World War I, he published numerous works in a series of periodicals in Warsaw and elsewhere, as well as his first collection of stories, Meydlekh (Girls; 1914). During the first year of the war, Kaganovski moved to Odessa, a center of Hebrew literature at the time and the residence of Mendele Moykher-Sforim. There he became closely associated with David Frishman, Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik, and other writers who had found refuge in that city. In 1921, Kaganovski returned to Warsaw, where he was accepted into the local Jewish literary environment and was regarded as a bohemian.

In 1921, Kaganovski published another collection of stories, Tirn-fenster (Doors and Windows); he was financially assisted in this endeavor by the literature fund of the local Association of Yiddish Writers and Journalists. The book saw three editions, and critics acknowledged Kaganovski’s talent as a first-rate short-story writer. The critic Shloyme Mendelssohn emphasized Kaganovski’s unique lyrical shaping of various characters, the romantic motifs that recur, and a subtle humorous strain. In 1928, Kaganovski published two additional collections in Vilna: Layb un lebn (Life and Soul) and Noveln (Short Stories). In 1937, another collection, Figurn (Figures), was financed by the Yiddish PEN club of Poland.

From 1928 to 1931, Kaganovski wrote serial stories, mainly about Jewish life in Warsaw, for the daily newspaper Undzer ekspres, which enhanced his reputation as well as the popularity of the newspaper. His stories were also printed in other publications. In 1932, he won a literary prize awarded by the Warsaw Jewish community. Kaganovski was also one of the earliest Yiddish writers to focus on the city rather than the shtetl.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Kaganovski escaped from Warsaw and settled in Białystok (then under Soviet rule). There he took part in local literary activities and published a collection of stories, Alt lebn (Old Life; 1941). Before the German invasion, he went into exile in the interior of the eastern Soviet Union, returning to Poland with the massive wave of repatriation in the summer of 1946. Upon his return, he immediately joined a group of Yiddish authors who tried to revive Jewish literary life in Poland. He was a member of the editorial board of the literary monthly Yidishe shriftn (Jewish Writings), and became editor in chief in 1947.

In 1949, Kaganovski left Poland for Paris, where he spent the rest of his life. There he wrote his memoirs for the Communist paper Di naye prese (The New Press), published from November 1954 to December 1955. His memoirs were subsequently compiled in the book Yidishe shrayber in der heym (Yiddish Writers at Home; 1956; an earlier edition had been issued in Łódź in 1949). Another collection of memoirs about his childhood years, Di tunkele dire (The Dark Apartment), was published in Tel Aviv in 1961.

Froyim Kaganovski’s talent as a short-story writer made him one of the most popular authors among Yiddish-language readers. In the post-Holocaust Jewish reality, Jacob Glatstein regarded him as the last successor to Y. L. Peretz, and his stories as “documents compelling not only because of their merit as literary creations, but also as a functional, living memorial book for a lost generation” (Glatshteyn, 1960, p. 209).

Suggested Reading

Yankev Glatshteyn, In tokh genumen: Eseyen 1949–1959, vol. 1, pp. 208–212 (New York, 1960); “Kaganovski, Efraym,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 8, cols. 7–9 (New York, 1981); Shlomo Mendelssohn, “E. Kaganovski: ‘Tirn-fenster,’” Bikher-velt [Warsaw] 1 (1922): 154–155.

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 101, Art and Artifacts, Collection, 18th c.-1980s; RG 1139, Abraham Cahan, Papers, 1906-1952; RG 1187, Genia Silkes, Papers, 1930s-1970s.



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann