Ovsey Osipovitch (Alexander) Berkman was born in 1870 in Kovno, Lithuania, which was then part of the Russian Empire. His father was a well-to-do merchant and was permitted to settle in St. Petersburg, where Alexander went to a gymnasium (classical secondary school) for the children of the upper class.
In 1888 he went to the U.S.A. and met Emma Goldman, a well-known anarchist activist, with whom he lived. The couple was deeply involved in the revolutionary movement. He became a member of several anarchist groups and published articles in the anarchist press. In 1892 he attacked Henry Frick, the owner of a factory in Homestead (Conn.), who had the police shoot at his striking workers. Berkman was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment. In 1906 he was released and resumed his work for the anarchist movement.
In 1919 he was deported from the U.S.A and went to Russia. Like most of the anarchists and social-democrats, he had to flee persecution by the Bolsheviks to Germany, where he arrived in 1921 and organized help for imprisoned anarchists all over the world. In 1925 he went to France, where he tried to earn his living with translations and literary work. Being ill and living in great poverty, he committed suicide in Paris in 1936.
Among his papers are only 12 Yiddish letters of no great importance. He probably did not know Yiddish well.
Inventory of Alexander Berkman Papers.
Avrich, Paul, Anarchist Portraits (1988)