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Appenszlak, Jakub

(1894–1950), publicist, writer, and translator. In the period between the two world wars, Jakub Appenszlak was a member of the editorial board of the Warsaw daily Nasz Przegląd, publisher of the literary weekly Lektura (1934), chair of the Jewish Association for the Advancement of Fine Arts, and a Zionist activist. He published poetry, a novel, and translations of works by Theodore Herzl, Sholem Aleichem, and Sholem Asch. He also wrote the screenplay for Henryk Bojm’s film Shaḥar, yom ve-lailah shel Erets Yisra’el (1934).

Appenszlak had made his literary debut before 1914. At first, he had written for both the Polish and Polish Jewish press (Kurier Warszawski, Izraelita), but in the interwar years he contributed mostly to the latter. His feuilletons (serialized as “Między wierszami” [Between the Lines] in Nasz Przegląd under the pseudonym Pierrot), political articles, and other writing reflected the formation of modern Jewish nationalism: they discussed Jewish national ideals, criticized assimilation, and spoke out against instances of antisemitism, such as the “ghetto benches” at Polish universities.

Appenszlak’s poem “Mowie polskiej” (To the Polish Language; 1915) was among the first lyric testimonies to the return of previously Polonized Jews to the Jewish fold. The Zionist educational novel Piętra: Dom na Bielańskiej (Floors: House on Bielańska Street; 1933) depicted the historical, social, and psychological circumstances of the coming of age of a new generation of Zionists between 1914 and the 1930s. As a theater critic, Appenszlak showed interest in both Polish and Jewish theater and was among cofounders of the Jewish Theater Society (1923).

Appenszlak’s final works dealt with the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the Holocaust, and Holocaust literature, which he considered to be a spiritual “shelter” for survivors. In the United States during and after World War II, he edited Trybuna Żydowska (1940–1950), worked in Polish Jewish organizations, and published Holocaust-related documentation in Polish and English, including The Black Book of Polish Jewry (1943), Armed Resistance of the Jews in Poland (with Mojżesz Polakiewicz; 1944); an anthology of poetry titled Z otchłani (From the Abyss; 1945); and an edited volume of poetry by Henryka and Ilona Karmel, Śpiew za drutami (Song from behind the Barbed Wire; 1947).

Suggested Reading

Joanna Godlewska, “Polski Żyd: Jakub Appenszlak jako krytyk teatralny,” Pamiętnik teatralny 1–4 (1992): 127–134; Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, Polish-Jewish Literature in the Interwar Years, trans. Abe Shenitzer (Syracuse, N.Y., 2003).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 732, Jakob Apenszlak, Papers, 1939-1945.



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti; revised by Magda Opalski