KALMEN-TSVI MARMOR (September 28, 1876-July 2, 1956)
He was born in Meyshagole (Maisiagala), Vilna district, Lithuania. His father, Mortkhe Marmor, a scholar and follower of the Jewish Enlightenment, was an agricultural worker by inheritance from his parents, held a lease on land in his landlord’s domain, later turned to business, and opened a soup kitchen in Vilna, which was a gathering point for revolutionaries. His mother came from a rabbinical family. Also having a share in his upbringing was his grandmother, Dvoyre Zayfert-Sapirshteyn, a women’s hairdresser, a pharmacist, and a midwife, and a great lover of Yiddish literature. Until age ten he studied the Pentateuch, Tanakh, and writing with the town’s school teachers and tutors. Later, in Vilna, he attended Katsenelboygn’s school and read Enlightenment and philosophical works in Strashun’s Library. He grew close, 1893-1894, to illegal revolutionary circles, and together with other students from these circles, prepared for examinations into middle school. In 1894 he became a socialist, cast aside his studies, mastered the trade of turning, joined the secret socialist organization, founded and led the turners’ trade union, and became part of the “labor opposition” led by Avrom Reztshik (Gordon). In 1897 he underwent a period of religious searching, studying day and night in a synagogue study chamber. The following year he resumed his studies. In 1899 he was studying literature, art, philosophy, and history at the University of Berne (Switzerland), and three years later he was at Freiburg University, where he studied natural science, philosophy, Hebrew, Tanakh, Assyriology, and the like. He visited virtually all of the cultural centers in Europe and the monuments and works of art in Italy and the “Orient” (Egypt, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, and elsewhere). In Berne he became a Zionist and served as a delegate to the Zionist congresses in 1901, 1903, 1905, and 1907. Together with Chaim Weitzman, Dr. M. Gaster, and others, he led the struggle against the Uganda proposal in England. He was one of the founders of the first Labor Zionist organizations in London. Later, in 1907, he—together with Ben-Zvi, Ber Borokhov, Nir-Rafalkes, Kamplanski, and others—founded the World Union of Labor Zionism. In 1906 he arrived in the United States, where he continued his activities in the Labor Zionist movement and served as the first editor of Der idisher kempfer (The Jewish fighter) in Philadelphia. He visited the land of Israel in 1907, traversed the entire country on foot, and was a close friend of Ben-Zvi, Raḥel Yanait [Ben-Zvi], the comrades in “Hashomer Hatsair” (The young guard), and other pioneers in the Jewish settlement. He wrote correspondence pieces from there for Der idisher kempfer. He left the Labor Zionists in 1914 and became a member of the American Socialist Party. In 1920 he joined the illegal Communist Party, for which he had to quit his job for Chicago’s Forverts (Forward). Marmor then settled in New York. He served as editor of the illegal Komunist (Communist) and was a member of the editorial board of the weeklies Emes (Truth) and Naye velt-emes (New world truth), official organ of the Jewish section of the legal Workers’ Party which in April 1922 changed to the daily Frayhayt (Freedom) in New York. He was active the entire time he was in New York as a cultural and school leader. Marmor began his literary activities in 1901 with translations of English fictional works, later contributing journalistic, scholarly, and critical articles in great numbers to Yiddish newspapers in England and the United States, among them the leftwing socialist daily newspaper Di velt (The world) in Chicago (1917-1918). In 1902 he was already editing Koysl-maarovi (Western Wall), the biweekly organ of the Zionist socialist association, “Maarovi.” In 1905 he edited Idishe frayhayt (Jewish freedom), the official organ of the Labor Zionists in England (among the contributors was Y. Kh. Brener, a close friend of Marmor’s). In the New York Frayhayt, Marmor wrote for the most part on topics of history, literature, and art, and directed the bibliographic-critical department “Tsvishn bikher un zhurnaln” (Among books and journals), and he published hundreds of biographies under the title “Vegvayzers fun der mentshheyt” (Guides for humanity). From 1926 he was co-editor of the monthly journal Der hamer (The hammer) in New York, in which he published longer monographic works on: Arn Liberman, Morris Winchevsky, and Dovid Edelshtadt, among others, which later appeared in book form. In 1930 he became cultural director of the International Labor Order and editor of its organ, Der funk (The spark), as well as secretary of its schools. At the same time, he was a teacher in the leftist Jewish Workers’ University, also giving lectures on the history of theater and drama in the leftist Artef theater. On the whole, throughout his life he did pedagogical work, gave thousands of speeches, and read papers on the origins of Jewish holidays and the history of religion. He was a teacher of Jewish history at the teachers’ seminary of Workmen’s Circle and of general history at the Sholem-Aleykhem Folk Institute, and he helped in founding the people’s schools (until 1913—in Hebrew and later in Yiddish), was a member of the national school committee of Workmen’s Circle, a delegate to the conference of the Workmen’s Circle schools, chairman of the Moses Hess Club for Jewish intellectuals in Chicago (1912-1915), and he was vice-president the Y. L. Perets Writers’ Association in New York, as well as a member of the central committee of IKOR (Yidishe kolonizatsye organizatsye in rusland [Jewish colonization organization in Russia]) and other organizations. At the same time, he was writing books, introductions to many works of other authors, and in the main collecting and adapting a colossal amount of material for a history of the Jewish labor movement and of the Yiddish press and literature in America. Marmor edited the edition of Morris Winchevsky’s collected works in ten volumes—the first volume was Marmor’s monograph on the “grandfather” of Jewish revolutionary labor literature. In 1933 the first volume appeared of his “History of class conflict from antiquity to the present.” That same year, he traveled to the Soviet Union at the invitation of the scientific research institute for Jewish culture in Kiev and lived there for about three years. Thanks to him they published there an academic edition of Edelshadt’s collected writings in three volumes—the third volume was not published, due to its discontinuation at the institute; through a bizarre series of circumstances, though, the manuscript ended up at YIVO in New York. The first volume is a monograph by Marmor on Edelshadt. In Kiev, thanks to him again, there was published a volume of plays by Morris Winchevsky—of a projected academic edition of six volumes. (His wife, Sore Marmor, died in Kiev in 1934; she had assisted him greatly in his scholarly work.) In 1936, after returning from the Soviet Union, he became director of the Workers’ University. Later there was published in New York his work on “the beginning of Yiddish literature in America,” concerning Arn Liberman, Edelshadt, Yoysef Bovshover, and Yankev Gordin, and posthumously two volumes of memoirs, entitled Mayn lebns-geshikhte (My life history), which was published earlier in installments in Frayhayt.
Marmor’s path in life was filled with meandering and searching. He was a Zionist, a Labor Zionist, a socialist, and a Communist. He was well-versed in Yiddish literature of the previous century and in Hebrew literature—from the Tanakh until modern times. He was also knowledgeable of Jewish, Arab, and Greek philosophy. As Shmuel Niger put it, he was “one of the most industrious and productive collectors and researchers of literary historical material and documents.” “Kalmen Marmor is a studious researcher,” wrote A. R. Malachi, “of the history of older Yiddish literature and the press in America. He also knows the history of the socialist and revolutionary movements among Jews…. We are also indebted to him for complete editions of the works of Winchevsky and Edelshtadt, which he assembled and edited with great effort and love, adding his own instructive introductions and annotations. As a researcher in the history of older Yiddish literature and the press in America, K. Marmor may by rights be considered among a small number of pioneers who laid the foundations in the field which now occupies an honorable place in Jewish scholarship.” In the early 1940s, Marmor presented YIVO with his library of over 5,000 books, among them many rarities. Over subsequent years, he gradually transferred to YIVO his immense archive as well, which was rich in source materials for the history of the Jewish labor movement (especially that of the Labor Zionists), the history of Yiddish literary and cultural movements, the history of social movements among Jews in America, and more. His letters alone, encompassing a period of over a half century, numbered in his archive over 30,000—Yedies fun yivo (News from YIVO) 62 (September 1956). Marmor also donated a large number of materials to the Kiev institute. He was among the most devoted, loyal friends of the labor archive (Arkhion Haavoda) in the state of Israel, to which for many years he regularly sent rare works of great historical value, and he also shipped to the Israeli archive numerous materials that were left with the passing of Arn Liberman and Morris Winchevsky, including letters and manuscripts, as well as newspaper clippings from his own archive. Among his letters written in Hebrew to Y. Zerubavel, director of Arkhion Haavoda, Marmor wrote that he planned to visit Israel “not as a tourist, but as a former resident” returning home and wishing to see his “old home.” In a letter of July 1954, he wrote: “I hope to remain healthy, to be cured of all illnesses, to live to my eightieth birthday (Simchat Torah, 1956), and return to being active on behalf of my Jewish people and their great cultural treasures.” In the obituaries following Marmor’s death, Zerubavel wrote in the organ of the archive: “The departed made numerous errors and even sinned at various times in his life, but deep in his heart he always remained devoted to his people and the state [of Israel]. He extolled and respected his former friends who remained loyal to the ideology that he shared in his youth and who devoted their lives and their activities to the realization of this very vision.” (Asufot [Collection], 1956)
In book form, he published: a translation of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis (From the depths) and his letters from prison in Reading, with an assessment of the author by Bal Makhshoves, Fun der tifenish, oyftsaykhnungen in brif fun der tfise in reding (From the depths, sketched out in letters from prison in Reading) (London: Progres, 1909), 144 pp.; Tsien oder tsienizm? (Zion or Zionism?), a pamphlet (Glasgow, 1916); De profundis, fun der tifenish, geshribn in tfise un keytn (De Profundis, from the depths, written in prison in chains) (New York, 1926), 80 + 231 pp.,, with a preface, “Oskar vayld un zayn tragedye” (Oscar Wilde and his tragedy); Moris vintshevski, zayn lebn, virkn un shafn (Morris Winchevsky, his life, impact, and works), introductory volume to Winchevsky’s Gezamlte verk (Collected works) in ten volumes, edited by Kalmen Marmor (New York: Frayhayt, 1927), 411 pp.; Der englisher imperyalizm in indye (English imperialism in India) (Lodz: Pro-kult, 1930), 29 pp.; Revolutsyonerer deklamator, zamlung fun lider, poemes, dertseylungen, eynakters, tsum farleyenen, shipln un zingen bay arbeter-farveylung (Revolutionary declamation, collection of songs, poems, stories, [and] one-act plays to read aloud, enact, and sing for workers’ entertainment) (New York, 1933), 329 pp.; Klasnkamfn in altertum (Class conflict in antiquity) (New York, 1933), 432 pp.; Moris ventshevski (Morris Winchevsky), vol. 5 of Geklibene verk (Selected works) in six volumes—plays, with a literary historical introduction by M. Erik (Minsk: Byelorussian Academy of Sciences, 1935), 24 + 248 pp.; Dovid edelshtadt, geklibene verk in dray bender (Dovid Edelshtadt, selected writings in three volumes) (Moscow: Emes, 1935), vol. 1 (biography written by Marmor), 264 pp., vol. 2, 339 pp., vol. 3, in manuscript in YIVO (New York); Dovid edelshtat (Dovid Edelshadt) (New York: Cooperative People’s Publisher, 1942), 40 pp.; Der onhoyb fun der yidisher literatur in amerike, 1870-1890 (The start of Yiddish literature in America, 1870-1890) (New York: Writers’ Section of IKUF, 1944), 136 pp.; Dovid edelshtadt (Dovid Edelshtadt) (New York: IKUF, 1950), 410 pp.; Arn libermans brif (The letters of Arn Liberman), with an introduction and explanation by Marmor (New York: YIVO, 1951), 252 pp.; Yoysef bovshover (Yoysef Bovshover) (New York: Kalmen Marmor Jubilee Committee, 1952), 80 pp.; Yankev gordin (Yankev Gordin) (New York: IKUF, 1953), 252 pp.; Mayn lebns-geshikhte (My life history) (New York: IKUF, 1959), vol. 1, 401 pp., vol. 2, 411 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, and the preface to vol. 4; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934), with a detailed bibliography; Zilbertsvayg, Di velt fun yankev gordin (The world of Yankev Gordin) (Tel Aviv, 1964), see index; M. Olgin, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (June 1952); M. Osherovitsh, Di geshikhte fun forverts, 1897-1947 (The history of the Forward, 1897-1947) (New York, 1950s), p. 257; Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (May 27, 1947); M. Bakal, “Ven kalmen marmor hot gelebt in shikago” (When Kalmen Marmor lived in Chicago), Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (December 16, 1951); Bakal, “Dray brif fun kalmen marmor” (Three letters from Kalmen Marmor), Morgn-frayhayt (February 21, 1954); Y. B. Beylin, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (May 1942; November 1946); Beylin, in Zamlungen (New York) (April-June 1954); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Der tog (New York) (November 13, 1932; December 30, 1934); Goldberg, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (July 1956); Goldberg, on an important letter from Marmor, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (November 21, 1954); M. Hurvits, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 36 (1952), pp. 275-82; Z. Vaynper, in Yidishe kultur (August-September 1956), p. 51; F. Berman (Max Weinreich), in Forverts (New York) (July 1956); R. Zaltsman, in Morgn-frayhayt (April 7, 1932), concerning the attack on Marmor during Winchevsky’s funeral—see Morgn-frayhayt (March 21, 1932) and Marmor’s reply to the Winchevsky family in “Zikhroynes vegn zeydn” (Memoirs of grandfather), in Morgn-frayhayt (April 12, 1932); Y. Zerubavel, in Asufot (Tel Aviv) (1956), pp. 180-81; Dr. L. Zhitnitski, in Di prese (July 1956); “A naye groyse kolektsye in yivo-biblyotek in arkhiv fun kalmen marmor” (A new, large collection in the YIVO library in the Kalmen Marmor archive), Yedies fun yivo (New York) 44 (March 1952); Yidishe kultur (March 1947), special issue for Marmor’s seventieth birthday, with contributions from Kalmen Marmor, N. Mayzil, B. Ts. Goldberg, and others; Moyshe Kats, in Morgn-frayhayt (December 16, 1951); H. Lang, in Forverts (June 24, 1953); Khayim Liberman, in Forverts (June 29, 1960); Der Lebediker, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (September 19, 1953); Marmor, “Etlekhe verter vegn zikh” (Several things about myself) (Morgn-frayhayt (June 28, 1952); Marmor, “Mayn mitarbetershaft in der morgn-frayhayt” (My contributions to Morgn-frayhayt (April 3, 1962), a reprinted piece by Marmor; a speech by Marmor in Paris, in Morgn-frayhayt (December 1, 1957); Ber Mark, in Folksshtime (Warsaw) (July 21, 1956); Mark, in Yidishe kultur (August-September 1957); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (April 13, 1947); Mukdoni, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 20 (1954); Mukdoni, in Di tsukunft (New York) (May-June 1955); N. Mayzil, Y. l. perets un zayn dor shrayber (Y. L. Peretz and his generation of writers) (New York, 1951), see index; Mayzil, in Al hamishmar (Tel Aviv) (Elul 10 [= August 17], 1956); Mayzil, Noente un vayte (Near and far) (New York: IKUF, 1957), pp. 145-57; Mayzil, Tsurikblikn un perspektivn (Retrospectives and perspectives) (Tel Aviv, 1962), see index; Y. Mestel, in Morgn-frayhayt (December 16, 1951); Shmuel Niger, “Shomers mishpet af sholem-aleykhemen” (Shomer’s judgment on Sholem-Aleykhem), Di tsukunft (January 1947); Niger, “A naye revizye fun shomers mishpet?” (A new revision of Shomer’s judgment?), Idishe kemfer (New York) (March 23, 1956); Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (May 22, 1944); Meylekh Epshteyn, in Morgn-frayhayt (June 20, 1932); Epshteyn, in Ershter alveltlekher yidisher kultur-kongres (The first World Jewish Culture Congress) (Paris, 1937), pp. 45, 216-26, 285, 362, 364; Al. Pomerants, in Morgn-frayhayt (September 24, 1931; July 2, 1944); Pomerants, in Proletpen (Kiev) (1935), pp. 42-42, 215-16; Pomerants, Inzhinyern fun neshomes (Engineers of souls) (New York, 1944), pp. 69-70, 75; Pomerants, in Der tog (February 10, 1952); Pomerants, in Edelshtat gedenk-bukh (Memorial volume for [Dovid] Edelshtadt) (New York, 1953), pp. 530, 536, 549-53; Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government) (Buenos Aires, 1961), pp. 47, 222, 303, 309, 323, 327, 341, 349, 354, 357, 359, 360-86, 390, 393, 396, 411, 416, 423; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Y. Tsuzmer, Beikve hador (In the footprints of a generation) (New York, 1957), p. 222; L. Sh. Kreditor, in Loshn un lebn (London) (May 1947); G. Kresl, in Di goldene keyt 13 (1952); Sh. Rozhanski, in Di yidishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (July 1956); Y. A. Rontsh, in Morgn-frayhayt (February 20, 1933; December 16, 1952); Rontsh, Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings) (New York, 1960); Dr. Y. Shatski, in Yivo-bleter (1954), pp. 381-84; Shatski, Shatski-bukh (Shatski volume) (Buenos Aires, 1958), p. 211; Elye (Elias) Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike, 1870-1900 (History of Jewish literature in America, 1870-1900) (New York, 1943), pp. 56, 236; Shulman, in Der veker (New York) (March 1, 1951); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Pinkes fun amopteyl fun yivo (Records of the American division of YIVO), vol. 1 (New York, 1927-1928), pp. 268-69; Shtarkman, in Tog (January 13, 1935); Shtarkman, in Di tsukunft (February 1951); L. Shpizman, in Idisher kemfer (Rosh Hashanah issue, 1956); N. B. Minkoff, in Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 7, pp. 364-65; S. Wininger, Grosse Jüdische National Biographie (Great Jewish national biography), vol. 4 (Czernowitz, 1930), pp. 282-83; Prof. A. A. Roback, Supplement to the Story of Yiddish Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1940), p. 24; M. Starkman, in Jewish Book Annual (New York) 4 (Jewish Book Council of America, 5706/1945-46), p. 71; M. Epstein, Jewish Labor in U.S.A.: An Industrial, Political and Cultural History of the Jewish Labor Movement, 1882-1914 (New York, 1950), pp. 7, 113; Epstein, The Jew and Communism: The Story of Early Communist Victories and Ultimate Defeats in The Jewish Community, U.S.A., 1919-1941 (new York, 1959), pp. 80, 103, 394-98.