Saturday, 19 January 2013

Forword of Rudolf Rocker in "Hinter stekhige droht un grates: erinerungen fun der krigs-gefangenshaft in england"

by Rudolf Rocker

It is a special pleasure for me to write some words for the Yiddish translation of my book. I am in an unusual situation which can't be understood that easily by everyone. By accident I got into the Jewish world. Before that, I didn't know about it.

When political persecution forced me to leave the country I was born in and I befriended Jewish workers from Poland, Russia and Israel, it was a completely new experience for me. Judaism was a religion for me, the same as Catholicism and Protestantism. But that it is a people of its own, I didn't know. When I saw the Jewish workers movement with its socialist and libertarian tendencies, a movement with its own press, literature and propaganda, the same like everywhere else, it made an unusual and alien impression on me.

At that time I didn't know that one day I would be an active part of this movement and a famous activist among the Jewish masses. I came to London and a miracle happened. As a non Jew, I became head of a Yiddish newspaper and for 20 years I invested all my strength to support the Jewish workers movement. The days among the Jewish workers have been the best years of my life and this is why my memories about it are fresh and indestructible.

If you are young and full of enthusiasm for a big idea, then life has a very special meaning for you. There are no impossibilities when you're young. You find friends and comrades easily and you create your own world, which will stay in your memories forever. This happened to me too. In these 20 years I found lots of friends, lots of sympathy and love. The best friends you'll find in hard times, when you're alone, helpless and left aside by the world. To me this became clear during the dark years of war, when the world was full of hate, murder and cowardice. When I had to stand by when all of our work was destroyed within a few months, I understood what it means to have good and dear friends in hard times, who do not get influenced by the dark powers, which arose over the world at that times.

One thinking about my book, which contains some of the darkest chapters of human murder, will understand my thoughts and understand, why I was still happy in hours of pain and misery. If you meet so much love and sympathy in life as I did among my Jewish comrades and friends during my 20 year long occupation, you don't have a reason to mourn, even when you suffer by the hand of a cruel destiny. Good and honest friends, humans who feel with you and try to transfer themselves into your soul, are the most desirable luck.

War and its consequence influenced my life. I had no chance to say good bye to my friends to whom I was befriended for so many, many years. Destiny led me back to the country where I was born, where I met the same work and ideas like in my time in England. Right now, I live in a
country among people, a history, tradition and language, which I'm confident with since my childhood. And again I'm surrounded by friends and old comrades, who mean a lot to me.

But more and more, I remember these happy times in London and more and more I think about my dear friends, which I had to leave behind all over the world. It was a time with lots of trouble and material suffering, but at the same time it was full of noble ideas, feelings, ideas and
an extraordinary mood. When you're young, deep relations between humans are easier and
friendships are found easily. It is harder in later years, you look and look but seldomly you find something which touches your heart. Impressions from youth remain fresh and vital like a garden wich knows no spring or fading leaves.

When I went to America in 1925 to follow the call of my Jewish comrades, it has bean a special event for me. For the first time I felt that all the hard work done in England wasn't for nothing. There was no town in Canada or the United States, where I didn't meet old and dear friends. Everywhere people embraced me with so much sympathy and honest love, that I felt ashamed because I knew I don't deserve so much symphaty. But at the same time I felt, that it wasn't only my person which caused such enthusiasm. It was the remembrance of youth with its ideals, its inner beauty which gave joy to all hearts I met. For them I was the personification of a time, which had been the most beautiful period of their life. I caused memories of their youth. Most of them live under better conditions today than in the London years, when they carried the heavy lot of misery and pain. Yet they yearn back to this time, because it was rich of new impressions and full of beautiful memories. The fact, this yearning hasn't died until now credits those days, to which I had the honour to contribute.

Thanks to this yearning, my book appears on the Yiddish book market today. Comrades from Toronto brought up the idea to publish my writings again, a question which had been raised before the war by some friends in Los Angeles. But war destroyed all our plans. When comrades from Toronto came up with it again, many people supported that idea, so a committee was founded which wants to translate all of my writings into the Yiddish language and publish them.

The readers have to decide if it was worth doing so. But I think, those many hundreds oif Jewish workers to whom I was befriended during my time at the Arbeter fraynd and Zsherminal are still interested in the development of my ideas and views. This is why I say thank you to all of those who helped to realize this plan and who will help to make the plans of the New York committee
become a reality.

Berlin, February 1927.

Rudolf Rocker

Rudolf Rocker. Hinter stekhige droht un grates: erinerungen fun der krigs-gefangenshaft in england. Bd.1, Yiddish transl. by Avraham Frumkin. New York: Rudolf roker shriften komitet, 1927.