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Bryks, Rachmil

BRYKS, RACHMIL

BRYKS, RACHMIL (1912–1974), Yiddish poet and novelist. Bryks was born in Skarzysko, a Polish townlet in the district of Kielce which he commemorated in his Di Vos Zeinen Nisht Geblibn ("Those Who Didn't Survive," 1972).

Bryks began his literary career in Lodz in 1937 with a poem in the local Yiddish literary journal Inzl (Island) and then with a volume of lyrics entitled Yung-Grin-Mai ("Young Green May," 1939). Three months after its publication, however, Lodz was occupied by the Germans, and Bryks experienced the horrors of its ghetto until 1944. In that year, after reading his long poem Geto Fabrik 76 ("Ghetto Factory 76") before a ghetto audience, he was deported to Auschwitz, but was saved when the camp was liberated in 1945. (The manuscript of the poem was later discovered in the ruins of the Lodz ghetto and published in 1967, with an English translation, and as a cantata, with music by William Gunther.) After recuperating in Sweden, Bryks settled in New York in 1949.

All Bryks' subsequent works are based on his ghetto experiences. The first, Oif Kiddush Ha-Shem ("For the Sanctification of God's Name," 1952; Heb. 1970) deals with the degradation of man by his fellow men, and also the ability to surmount all pressures and to sanctify the name of God in the hour of death. His grotesque A Katz in Geto ("A Cat in the Ghetto," 1959) met with considerable success. It was translated into English in 1954 with a foreword by Eleanor Roosevelt, into Hebrew in 1966, and was filmed in 1970.

His Der Kaiser in Geto ("The King in the Ghetto," 1961) and its sequel Di Papierne Kroyn ("The Paper Crown," 1969) center on Chaim Mordechai *Rumkowski, the head of the Lodz Judenrat. The compassionate novelist portrayed Rumkowski at the summit of his power, sending tens of thousands of Jews to their death, and then, crushed by the weight of conscience, adding his own name to the list of deportees.

His last completed novel Antloifers ("Escapees"), portions of which appeared in 1974, deals with the plight of Jews from the outbreak of the war until the sealing of the Lodz Ghetto; it is largely autobiographical.

bibliography:

S. Liptzin, History of Yiddish Literature (1972), 435–6.

[Sol Liptzin]

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