HERMAN FRANK (December 18, 1892-August 10, 1952)
He was born in Bialystok, into a merchant family. He studied for a short time in religious elementary school and later at home with tutors, while at the same time attending commercial school from which he graduated in 1910 with a gold medal. Over the years 1911-1915, he studied at the Kiev commercial institute, and he took part in the Zionist student organization “Haḥaver” (The comrade). He later became active in the Jewish labor movement in Bialystok. In 1916, together with Yankev Pat, he founded the Perets children’s home, the people’s teahouse, and a reading room, among other cultural institutions. He was secretary of the central consumers’ association. He frequently gave public talks in the Zhitlovsky Club which he founded. He contributed to the local press, Dos naye lebn (The new life), and to the local Russian newspaper. He studied social economics in Berlin and received his doctoral degree for a dissertation on Bialystok in peace and wartime, which was published in Berlin. He also turned his attention to Yiddish, Russian, and German literature. He came to the United States in 1923. He wrote for, among others: Gerekhtikeyt (Justice), Forshrit (Progress), Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Tsukunft (Future), Forverts (Forward), Veker (Alarm), Byalistoker shtime (Voice of Bialystok), the anthology Fraye shriftn (Free writings), and Jewish Tribune (in English)—in New York. He edited the English section of Byalistoker shtime. Over the course of eleven years, until the end of his life, he was editor of Fraye arbeter-shtime. In book form: Dray yor fun byalistoker konsum-kooperatsye, 1915-1918 (Three years of the Bialystok consumer cooperative, 1915-1918) (Bialystok: Kooperatsye, 1918), 61 pp.; Statistik fun der bavegung fun der yidisher bafelkerung in byalistok far 10 yor, 1909-1918 (Statistics of the movement of the Jewish population in Bialystok for the ten years, 1909-1918) (Bialystok, 1920), 94 pp.; Grikhishe khakomim, mit 15 bilder (Greek wise men, with fifteen images) (Berlin, 1923), 54 pp.; Idishe tipografye un bukh-oysarbetung-kunst (Yiddish typography and the art of book production) (New York, 1938), 171 pp.; Tsvishn khurbn un oyfboy, der politisher un sotsialer velt-krizis un di yidishe lage (Between ruin and reconstruction, the political and social world crisis and the Jewish condition) (New Yor, 1940), 400 pp.; A. sh. zaks, kemfer far folks-oyflebung (A. Sh. Zaks, fighter for the people’s revival) (New York, 1945), 396 pp.; Anarkho-sotsyalistishe ideyen un bavegungen bay yidn, historishe un teoretishe aynfirung (Anarcho-socialist ideas and movements among Jews, historical and theoretical introduction) (Paris: Fraye tribune, 1951), 66 pp.; editor with D. Klementinovski and Z. Khabotski, Natsyonale un politishe bavegungen bay yidn in byalistoḳ, materyal tsu der geshikhte (National and political movements among Jews in Bialystok, material for a history) (New York: Association for the history of Bialystok, 1951), 64 pp.; Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings) (New York, 1954), 484 pp.; He translated from German into Yiddish (with B. Rozental): Gustav Landauer, Oyfruf tsum sotsyalizm (Call to socialism [original: Aufruf tsum Sozialismus]) (Berlin: Velt-farlag, 1921), 250 pp.; and Martin Buber, Dray redes iber yidish (Three talks about Yiddish [original: Drei Reden über das Judentum]) (Berlin: Yidisher farlag, 1921), 56 pp. From Russian into English, he translated: M. Gershenzon, Der shlisl tsum bloybn (The key to belief) (New York, 1925).
“Regardless of the chaos in his writings,” wrote Meylekh Ravitsh, “there is in his overall literary works a straight line, a consistent one all his own—the line of Dr. Herman Frank, and it seems whatever link between anarchic internationalism and familiar Jewish nationalism, whatever link there is with the world image in fine-turned, accurate studies of the Bialystok Jewish community, and whatever link there is with innumerable studies with cooperatives and trade union movements, chock full of numbers, like a bag of scattered poppy seeds, with idealistic world dreams floating all around, unrealistic ether? And, yet. Through Herman Frank, on the fields of his evergreen naïveté one encounters everything in full harmony.”
“H. Frank invested so much enthusiasm and faith in his work on Landauer,” noted Dr. Y. N. Shteynberg, “because he was expressing his own view of life. Now, thirty years after that date, it appears as if the admirer and pupil of Landauer would unconsciously have written about himself. His entire life was basically one entire tragedy. Thirty years without stop, he struggled for his own version of socialism, always alone. Virtually repudiated.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (December 2, 1932); Y. Leshtshinski, in Tsukunft (New York) (August 1940); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Yorbukh (New York) (1942/1943); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Der veg (Mexico City) (August 30, 1952); Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (September 2, 1957); L. Klementinovski, in Di shtime (Mexico City) (September 2, 1952); Klementinovski, in Byalistoker shtime (New York) (September-October 1952); Y. N. Sh. (Shteynberg), in Afn shvel (New York) (September-October 1952); Dr. Y. Rubin, in Afn shvel (September-October 1952); B. Aksler, in Forverts (New York) (November 2, 1952); Hirsh Abramovitsh, in Byalistoker shtime (January-February 1952); Abramovitsh, Farshvundene geshtaltn (Disappeared figures) (Buenos Aires, 1958), pp. 135-42; Y. Rapoport, in Byalistoker shtime (September 1953); Rapoport, in Der veg (October 3, 1953); Sh. Y. Dorfzon, in Unzer vort (Paris) (March 16, 1954); A. Gordin, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (November 5, 1954); Y. Yeshurin, Dr. h. frank biblyografye (Bibliography of Dr. H. Frank) (New York, 1954), special offprint from Frank’s Geklibene shriftn; Z. Babotski, in Afn shvel (September-October 1956); B. Y. Byalostotski, in Byalistoker shtime (September 1962).
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