Erlich, Henryk

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ERLICH, HENRYK

ERLICH, HENRYK (Wolf Hersh ; 1882–1941), journalist; leader of the *Bund in Poland. Erlich was born of a well-to-do family in Lublin; his father was a Ḥasid who became a maskil and a Ḥovev Zion. Having joined the Bund in 1903 while a student at the University of Warsaw, Erlich was arrested several times for revolutionary activities and expelled from the university. Later he graduated in law from the University of St. Petersburg and became a member of the central committee of the Bund. After the 1917 revolution he was a leading figure in the Petrograd (Leningrad) Workers' Soviet. In October 1918 he returned to Warsaw, becoming prominent in the Bund, and editor of the party's Yiddish daily Di Folkstsaytung. He was a member of the Warsaw city council and the kehillah board, and participated in numerous international socialist congresses. On the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 Erlich left Warsaw with his family, and in October was arrested by the Soviet authorities. With Victor *Alter he was accused of active subversion and helping Polish intelligence, and was condemned to death; the sentence was later commuted to ten years' hard labor. In September 1941, following the amnesty for all convicted Polish citizens in Soviet Russia, Erlich and Alter were set free. After their release they were approached by Soviet representatives to join a Jewish anti-Fascist committee. However, in the early morning of Dec. 4, 1941, they were again arrested in Kuibyshev. According to a communication of Feb. 23, 1943, from Maxim *Litvinov, then Soviet ambassador to the United States, addressed to William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, Erlich and Alter were executed shortly after their arrest "for hostile activities, including appeals to the Soviet troops to stop bloodshed and immediately conclude peace with Germany." The executions aroused worldwide protests by Labor and Liberal organizations. His wife, whom he married in 1911, was sophia *dubnow-erlich (1885–1986), the daughter of the historian Simon *Dubnow.

bibliography:

American Representation of General Jewish Worker's Union of Poland, The Case of Henryk Erlich and Victor Alter (1943); Chamberlain, in: New Leader (March 13, 1943); The Militant (March 20, 1943); Henryk Erlich und Victor Alter (Yid., 1951), includes bibl. 459–72. add. bibliography: H. Erlich, The Struggle for Revolutionary Socialism (1934); G. Pickhan, "G egen dem Strom," in: Der Algemeiner Juedische Arbeiterbund "Bund" in Polen 19181939 (2001), index.

[Ezekiel Lifschutz]