Although most of Rudolf Rocker’s papers were sent to Amsterdam when he died, the Yiddish correspondence remained in New York in the archives of the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO). The seven Yiddish letters included among the papers that repose in the IISH reflect the great love and respect in which he was held by his many Jewish followers.
Rudolf Rocker, who was to become “the anarchist rabbi” of the Eastern European Jewish workers in England and the U.S.A., was born in Mainz in 1873 to a working class family. He became a typesetter and member of the socialist party of Germany (SPD). He was very active, even outside the party, and fled to Paris in 1892, when the socialists were persecuted. In 1895 he settled in London and met Milly Witkop, an Eastern European Jewish girl whom he married. She introduced him to the Yiddish language and culture and to the masses of poor Jewish emigrants from Russia and Poland. He introduced them to anarchism and European culture. To that end he learned Yiddish and edited a daily paper, the Arbeiter Freind, and initiated translations from anarchist works and journals.
During World War I, he was interned as a German citizen by the English authorities. In 1918 he returned to Germany and played an important role in the anarcho-syndicalist movement until 1933, when he fled with his wife to the U.S.A. There he continued his political work, wrote several books on the history of anarchism, and was an esteemed leader of the Jewish anarchists.
Avrich, Paul, Anarchist Voices (Stirling 2006).
Graur, Mina, An Anarchist Rabbi: the life and teachings of Rudolf Rocker (New York 1997).
Inventory of the Rudolph Rocker Papers