Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


Hersh Mendel

Dear Comrades

In one of her last letters Tamara Deutscher commented upon my review of Hersh Mendel’s Memoirs of a Jewish Revolutionary (Revolutionary History, Volume 3 no.1, Summer 1990). I thank David Binns for sending me a copy of this letter.

I wanted to thank you very much for sending me interesting cuttings. What is Revolutionary History? I found Ellis Hillman’s piece very well written indeed; and his reference to ID [Isaac Deutscher] as usual important to me. (I am only human, am I not?) I have met Hillman a few times – he did actually come to see me. Are you in contact with him? In his excellent review he makes one mistake which, I am sure, should be corrected. When he mentioned memories of ‘Yakov Vojtshekhovsky’ he assumed that this was Hersh Mendel’s pseudonym. This misunderstanding is probably due to the faulty translation, the said Vojtshekhovsky was a Polish (not a Jewish) worker, and his memoirs were famous as a piece of writing of a half-literate man – they were indeed the first piece of non-literary literature ... At the time a piece of writing by non-writers was a sensation, this had never happened before. But YV was not Hersh Mendel, and this was never his pseudonym. If you are in touch with Hillman, could you tell him this?

I must accept her correction of my identification of Hersh Mendel with the Polish non-Jewish worker Yakov Voitshekovsky (as it is spelt in the English translation of Memoirs of a Jewish Revolutionary. As I explained to her over the telephone, the responsibility for this must lie with the translator. I was reviewing the English translation, not the Yiddish original. Nonetheless, I am pleased that the error has now been corrected, and can only hope that translators are a little more methodical in the future.

Ellis Hillman

Updated by ETOL: 23.7.2003