The review Khaliastra (The Gang) illustrates the dynamism of the Yiddish artistic reviews to which writers, poets and artists contributed throughout the 1920s. Its publication in Paris in 1924, after the first number published in Warsaw two years earlier, also highlights the movements of artists active in the revival of Jewish culture.
The first number featured fifteen authors and artists representing the full range of Yiddish modernism, but contributors to the next number were reduced to two talented writers, Peretz Markish (1895-1952) and Oser Warszawski (1898-1944), the Italian Futurist poet Paolo Buzzi (1874-1956) and the painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985).
The second number features works of great quality: Weekdays, a long poem by Peretz Markish, and The Uniform, a sombre short story by Oser Warszawski. Marc Chagall provided the link between the two numbers of Khaliastra by again drawing the illustrations, writing a biographical text and conceiving an original cover showing figures climbing the Eiffel Tower to unfurl a “Khaliastra” banner and wave a flag with the inscription “Paris” in Yiddish.
Although, like most of the Yiddish avant-garde reviews of the time, Khaliastra was short-lived, it crystallised a key moment in Jewish modernism. In 1926 Peretz Markish returned to the Soviet Union for good and became an active member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. He was one of the victims of the “Night of the Murdered Poets” on 12 August 1952, when twelve Yiddish-speaking writers and intellectuals were executed in Moscow by the Stalinist authorities.
Oser Warszawski furthered the Khaliastra venture by publishing Revue Littéraire in Yiddish in 1925, again with Marc Chagall’s faithful collaboration. Frequenting the Montparnasse artists, he turned his hand to drawing and painting, continuing to write short stories published in Yiddish reviews in Warsaw, Berlin, London and New York. He was deported to Auschwitz and murdered there on 10 October 1944 aged forty-six.
This copy of the review was kept by Marie Warszawski, Oser Warszawski’s wife and mother of the donor, Lydie Lachenal. It complements the museum’s comprehensive collection of Yiddish literary reviews published in the 1920s: Eygns (Kiev 1920), Freyd(Kiev 1923), Albatros (Warsaw 1922, Berlin 1923) and Der Pruv (Vilnius 1925).
Khaliastra was translated into French in 1989 and published by Éditions Lachenal et Ritter.