(JOHANN) RUDOLF ROCKER (March 25, 1873-September 19Over, 1958)
He was born in Mainz, Germany, into a Christian family. He was raised in a Catholic orphanage. He graduated from public school, later mastering the trade of bookbinding. From 1891 he was active in the anarchist movement as a speaker and writer. Over the years 1891-1894, he was living in Paris and later in London where he drew close to Jewish laborers and learned Yiddish. Around 1898 he became active in their circles in speech and written word, and he exercised a considerable influence over the radical Jewish labor movement in England. In 1914 he was interned in a British camp because of his propagandizing against the war, and in 1918 he was deported to Germany. He lived there until 1933, when he fled and settled in New York. He was one of the spiritual leaders of the anarcho-syndicalist movement. He began writing Yiddish in the periodical he edited Dos fraye vort (The free word) in Liverpool (1898). That same year he undertook the editorship of the anarchist weekly Der arbayter fraynd (The workers’ friend) until the beginning of WWI. He edited (1903-1910) the journal of social issues, literature, and art entitled Zherminal (Germinal), “periodical for an anarchist world view.” He also placed work in: Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor) and Fraye shriftn (Free writings), among other serials. In book form: Mikhail bakunin, a byografishe skitse (Mikhail Bakunin, a biographical sketch) (Leeds: Leeds anarchist group, 1902), 40 pp.; Di geshikhte fun der teroristisher bavegung in frankraykh (The history of the terrorist movement in France) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1906), 300 pp.; Fransisko ferrer un di fraye ertsihung fun der yugend (Francisco Ferrer and the free education of youth) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1910), 230 pp.; Der veg tsum sotsyalizm (The road to socialism) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1914); Sovyetn-sistem oder diktatur (The Soviet system or dictatorship) (Buenos Aires, 1921): Bolshevizm un anarkhizm (Bolshevism and anarchism) (Buenos Aires, 1922), 104 pp.; Eseyen (Essays) (Buenos Aires, 1961), 216 pp. Works of his translated into Yiddish: Der anarkhizm un organizatsyon (Anarchism and organization) (London, 1922); Hinter shtekhige droht un gretes (Behind barbed wire and grid [original: Hinter Stacheldraht und Gitter]), trans. A. Frumkin (New York, 1927), 2 vols.; Zeks kharakteren in der velt-literatur (Six characters in literature [original: Die Sechs (The six)]), trans. A. Frumkin (New York, 1929), 237 pp.; Di ratsyonalizatsye fun der virtshaft un der arbeter-klas (The rationalization of the economy and the working class [original: Rationalisierung der Wirtschaft und die Arbeiterklasse], trans. Y. Birnboym (Buenos Aires, 1930), 167 pp.; Natsyonalizm un kultur (Nationalism and culture [original: Nationalismus und Kultur], trans. Y. Birnboym (Buenos Aires, 1949), 741 pp.; In shturem (In the storm), trans. Y. Birnboym (London, 1952), 812 pp.; Revolutsye un regresye (Revolution and regression), trans. Kh. Brakazh (Buenos Aires, 1963-1964), 2 vols.; Di yungt fun a rebel (The youth of a rebel) (Buenos Aires, 1965-1971), 3 vols.—vol. 1 and 71 pp. of vol. 2 translated by Borekh Tshubinski, the remaining portions by Arn Thorn. Rocker’s own translations would include: Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuiz, Di piramide der tiranay (The pyramid of tyranny [original: De Pyramide der Tirannie]) (London: Arbater fraynd, 1903), 35 pp.; Elisée Reclus, Der ideal un di yugend (Ideal and youth [original: Idéal et la jeunesse]) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1904), 16 pp.; Max Nordau, Der ekonomisher ligen (The economic lie) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1904), 49 pp.; Peter Kropotkin, Verter fun a revolutsyoner (Words of a revolutionary [original: Paroles d’un Révolté]) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1906), 426 pp.; Maxim Gorky, Konovalov (Konovalov) (London: B. Ruderman, 1906), 71 pp.; Victor Dave, Mikhail bakunin un karl marks (Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1907), 40 pp.; Jean Grave, Di abshtarbende gezelshaft un di anarkhye (Withering society and anarchy [original: Société mourante et l’anarchie]) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1908), 280 pp.; Marc Pierrot, Sindikalizm un revolutsyon (Syndicalism and revolution) (London: Arbayter fraynd, 1909), 70 pp.; Friedrich Nietzsche, Azoy hot gezogt tsarathustra, a bukh far ale un keynem (Thus Spake Zarathustra, a book for all and none [original: Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen] (London: M. Shpielman, 1910), part 1, 103 pp.; Henrik Ibsen, Ven mir toyte ervakhen (When we dead awaken [original: Når vi døde vågner]) (London: L. Fridman, 1908), 104 pp.; Georges Yvetot, Der alef-beys fun sindikalizm (The ABCs of syndicalism [original: A.B.C. syndicaliste]) (Paris: Arbayter fraynd, 1911), 71 pp.; Fritz Lemmermayer, Hashish (Hashish) (London, 1911), 132 pp. Rocker also published a series of books in German, mostly on anarchism. “From the end of the nineteenth century until WWI,” commented Yankev Glatshteyn, “Rocker was a productive Yiddish writer, Yiddish editor, [and] Yiddish translator from European literature…. He gradually became estranged from his well-learned Yiddish…. Around 1920 he was already through with being a Yiddish writer, and his articles…in Fraye arbeter shtime were being translated from German.” He died in Mohegan Lake, New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Herman Frank, Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings) (New York, 1954); Y. Rapoport, in Tsukunft (New York) 7 (1961); Yankev Glatshteyn, Mit mayne fartogbikher (With my journals) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1963), pp. 379-87; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 504.]