Wendroff, Zalman

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WENDROFF, ZALMAN (pseudonym of Zalman Vendrovsky ; 1877–1971), Yiddish author. Born in Slutsk, Belorussia, Wendroff moved to Lodz at the age of 16, worked in a factory, studied dentistry, and published his first articles about Jewish life in Lodz, in the journal Der Yud. Emigrating to England, he was befriended by the anarchist thinker Rudolf Rocker, who helped him publish short stories in anarchist and Zionist journals. The 1905 Revolution found him back in Russia, where he worked as a teacher of English. With the collapse of the revolution, he left for the U.S. In New York, he wrote humorous sketches, articles and short stories for both the anarchist Fraye Arbeter Shtime and the Orthodox daily, Morgn-Zhurnal. When the latter journal sent him as its correspondent to Russia, he made his home in Warsaw for seven years, also writing for Warsaw's Yiddish daily, Haynt. From 1915, he lived in Moscow, working for Jewish organizations during World War i and in the Commissariat for Nationalities after the 1917 Revolution. At the same time he continued to act as correspondent for Yiddish dailies in New York, Warsaw, and Vilna.

Wendroff's stories appeared in various periodicals, in booklets which sold for a few pennies each, and in collections, beginning with Humoresken un Ertseylungen ("Humoresques and Stories," 1911, 19212). Most popular were two Yiddish volumes which appeared under the Russian title Pravozhitelstvo (the legal term for the right to live outside the *Pale of Settlement; 1912). In humorous and tragic tales were described the life of Jews who, though not allowed to dwell outside the Pale, somehow managed to circumvent Czarist restrictions and to carry on a harried existence in forbidden cities as artisans, businessmen, and students. Wendroff had difficulty finding his place in Soviet literary circles, and Moses Litvakov criticized him for taking the line of least resistance and becoming an imitator of Sholem Aleichem. In the 1920s, his articles appeared regularly in the New York Forverts.

His book, Afn Shvel fun Lebn ("On the Threshold of Life," 1941), appeared just before the German assault upon Moscow. During World War ii he worked for the Moscow foreign-language radio service. After the war he was accused of cosmopolitanism and contact with enemy agents and was arrested in 1950 and condemned to ten years' imprisonment. Released in 1956, he returned to Moscow, where he was treated as the doyen of surviving Yiddish writers and contributors to Sovetish Heymland. His last Yiddish book, Undzer Gas ("Our Street") appeared in Moscow in 1967.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 1 (1926), 1002–07; lnyl, 3 (1960), 487–90; Pinkas Slutsk (1962), 134f., 389f. add. bibliography: Z. Vendrof [Wendroff], When It Comes to Living (2004); G. Estraikh, In Harness: Yiddish Writers' Romance with Communism (2005).

[Jerucham Tolkes /

Gennady Estraikh (2nd ed.)]