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Bryks, Rachmil

BRYKS, Rachmil

Nationality: American (originally Polish: immigrated to the United States, 1949, granted U.S. citizenship, 1953). Born: Scarzisk, 18 April 1912. Family: Married Irene Wolf in 1946; two daughters. Career: Worked for Development Corp. for Israel, New York, 1960-73. Member of cultural branch of Workmen's Circle and Independent Katzetnik Organization (for survivors of concentration camps). Agent: Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, Inc., 825 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10022, U.S.A. Died: 1974.

Publications

Novels

Der kaiser in geto [The King in the Ghetto]. 1961.

Di papirene kroyn [The Paper Crown] (sequel to Der kaiser in geto ). 1969.

Di antloyfers [The Fugitive]. 1975.

Short Stories

Kiddush Hashem. 1952; as A Cat in the Ghetto: Four Novel-ettes, 1959.

Di vos zaynen nisht gibliben [Those Who Did Not Survive]. 1972.

Poetry

Yung grin mai [Young Green May]. 1939.

Geto fabrik 76 /Ghetto Factory 76: Chemical Waste Conversion (Yiddish and English). 1967.

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Film Adaptations:

A Cat in the Ghetto, 1970.

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Rachmil Bryks was born in Scarzisk, Poland. The son of orthodox parents, Bryks developed his interest in poetry and story writing at a very young age. His first book of poems, Young Green May , was published in 1939. Although shortly thereafter forced into the Lodz ghetto, Bryks continued to write until he was deported to Auschwitz. His caustic descriptions of the Lodz ghetto almost cost him his life, but he was rescued by his cohorts in the ghetto. Most of his family members were murdered during the Holocaust, and one of his surviving brothers was shot by Polish nationalists shortly after the war. Years of slave labor took their toll on Bryks's health, but after liberation he began to write of the Holocaust. Professor Irving Howe, in the preface to Bryks's A Cat in the Ghetto , stated of Bryks's work that "what Rachmil Bryks deals with is not 'mere' literature but the most terrible event in modern life, perhaps the most terrible event of all human history." In the preface to Bryks's Kiddush Hashem , S. Morris Engel, who has translated many of Bryks's works from their original Yiddish into English, referred to Bryks's work as "not just a bukh [book], but rather as sefer , or holy writings."

Kiddush Hashem was published in 1959 and contains the novelettes A Cat in the Ghetto as well as Kiddush Hashem. Kiddush Hashem tells of the hope and desire that fill the minds of those being transported in a crowded train to what they hope will be just a labor camp in Vienna. Instead, the trickery and deceit of the Nazis is revealed to the Jews when they arrive at Auschwitz. Husbands and wives are brutally separated, infants are snatched from their mothers, and Dr. Mengele immediately commences with his selections. Bryks's descriptions of the horrors are explicit and vivid. He does not cut corners in his graphic depictions of the torture inflicted upon the inmates. Hope, however, does not die easily among the inmates of the camp. Engel relates that "they [the Nazis] failed ultimately in the spiritual plane where they hoped to pull down their victims to their depths of depravity."

Bryks has only recently been recognized as a Holocaust writer, thanks to his daughters' immense effort in educating the public on their father's work and life. They have continued to lecture in Israel and Bryks's works are slowly being translated into many other languages, such as German, Swedish, Hebrew, and Polish. Some of his works have been adapted into radio plays and theatrical performances. A Cat in the Ghetto became a film in 1970. Bryks's work can be compared to that of Arnošt Lustig and Elie Wiesel.

In the introduction to A Cat in the Ghetto , Sol Liptzin perhaps says it best when describing Bryks's work: "The reader of Rachmil Bryks will not easily forget. The images he conjures up and the scenes of horror and heroism he depicts will linger on in the memory for a long, long time and will stimulate the thinking of Jews about their tomorrow no less than about their yesteryear."

—Cynthia A. Klíma

See the essays on A Cat in the Ghetto: Four Novelettes and Ghetto Factory 76: Chemical Waste Conversion.

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