D: ... [Today is] Tuesday, and I am sitting
in the study of Zalmen Zylbercweig, and we're
chatting. Actually the first thing I really
wanted to know is how you got involved in this
D: ...mess of being a Yiddish
Z: I'll tell you, my friend
Doctor. You see first thing I have to warn the
people that ...(fade out) ... or with the
English, or language (fade out) ... I never
studied English, and I tell it to all over the
world there occupied, not towns but the
languages, and except Yiddish and Hebrew, I
don't think I'm perfect in any language, even I
talk and I understand maybe six, seven or even
eight languages, including English. Naturally, I
don't think it's so nice, being [an] American
citizen and living in this very nice country, I
would say the best in the world, uh, but it's
too late. I'm becoming this September the
27th, sixty-six years [old]. I'm so tied up with
work, you can see it, what's going on here in my
library, or in the studio as they call it, that
I have no time. I have wishes to ... to learn
English, but I have no time for it, except what
I read a newspaper, and listening to radio, and
television sometimes, forced to talk English
like today. So, excuse me, I don't know to whom
I'm talking, I mean who will be listening to it,
maybe fifty or a hundred years, later maybe they
will talk [at] that time Yiddish like (fade out)
... parts, because it is a long story...
Z: As I mentioned before, I am in
my sixty-sixth year. I was born in a little town
in Poland, and the name of the town is Ozorkow,
a little town in that time, as my father told me
after I found..... That's a very interesting
thing. Would you believe that in this little
town there was a man with the name "Zilverman"
-- not "Zylbercweig" -- and in his time, he
published -- I would say a brochure, a beginning
.... of a dictionary, Jewish and Arabic.
Naturally it was a meshuga, I mean
they...they...would be afraid to sit down with
him. But anyway, in that little town at that
time, the people were mashkilim.
Mashkilim I would say were people,
intelligent people, people that studied, not
only the Holy Script(ure) and the Talmud, but
even outside books, that they called it outside
books, books that didn't come by Jews, were
written by Gentiles, or classics of Greeks,
or... So, my father was among them. He was a
very, a very, I would say, Orthodox Jew, but in
the same time his eyes were open for the world.
I was two-and-a-half years when
my parents, my parents moved to a large town,
the second town (fade out) ...you know, the
first town was Warsaw, and the next town [was]
called the "Polish Manchester" is Lodz. And they
went there. And being a Polish Jew, my parents
moved to a large town, maybe a time ago they
wouldn't understand it. But the Polish Jews had
their merits. At the same time I would say, they
wouldn't know...they wouldn't ... you couldn't
call them very intelligent, even in Hebrew. They
learned Talmud, but their (unintelligible) the
Bible. This I think I'm not going into.
father, being a Polish Jew, decided that I
should go to a cheder -- it means a public, a
Hebrew public school. And at that time I'm
Orthodox, [being taught] by a Jew that came from Lithuania,
because the Lithuanians are known as people that
know better Hebrew, and they admired to teach
and learn the ... the Old Testament. So he gave
me.... these were already, I think Polish
Jews didn't like to recognize that the
Lithuanian Jews are better. I mean, are
greater... they know more, better Jewish history
or other things, so he gave me into the school,
and then the other schools.
I remember very well my mother,
always a very Orthodox woman, that started every
Saturday. She...she learned, in Yiddish, learned
all the Old Testament. And she wondered every
year, how could it happen that Joseph, that
Joseph was a clever man, and he didn't know that
his brother was going to sell him, and she cried
every time like it just happened yesterday. But
in the same time that she was a very Orthodox
woman, she sung the songs of Goldfaden. And
these, she looked at that part of Judaism like a
Bible, the same thing, the same thing.
She... she had no definition between, as we call
it, eh, secular and religious. She looked at
So, from the beginning (7:00) and
I had a nice voice, so I sung as a youngster. I
started to sing these songs of the Yiddish
theatre, and later on the Hebrew songs like "Hatikvah",
or other things. This was the beginning I would
say, the beginning, the "A", of my connection
with theatre. Then the whole stories in the
Bible, I looked at them, maybe now, I can see it
that I have seen it, them in the theatre, and
everything what's happened, what's going on, and
all these stories -- and there are lots of
stories -- you know, in the first Genese.... --
what's the name of it?
D: Genesis. (7:40)
Z: Yeah, Genesis. And there are
lots of stories and know you can see that the
movies are making all ... they came now... that
they are coming to that conclusion, and I as a
youngster have seen it already. But I remember,
I was ... my father opened the first bookstore
of Jewish and Hebrew books in Lodz. In the same
time another man, opened a store, and by the
way, his name was was Valach(sp), and his brother
was Litvinov, and I remember him very well, that
Litvinov, His brother came, Maximli Litvinov,
his name was as I mentioned before. So his
brother opened a store too. But my father was
the first one. And then my father's -- as a
youngste r-- [his] roots were from a little town,
later from Lodz, uh, as we say it, [made]
contributions to the Hebrew newspaper.
[8:53] So I remember at twelve
years...when I was twelve years old, or
eleven I would say, a friend of my father took
me to (fade out). This is a very, a very,
I would say a rough adaptation of Shakespeare's
"Hamlet". I was amazed to see it. (9:33) One
thing I couldn't understand. I can understand,
even as a youngster, how a man can change his
face. This I couldn't...but I couldn't
understand -- I just have seen a garden, and now
its a home. How can it be? Where is the garden?
That's kishuf. You know what it means? (9:53)
Z: So this was the first
performance, and after that it took me like a
fire immediately.(10:00) When I started to go to
the theatre, and remember that Lodz was a town
that included four towns, four cultures. It was
Poland, it was Russia, occupied by Russia, so
Russian troupes came, always, all the best
troupes from, groups, I mean, Tater(?) groups
from Russia came, Polish -- the Polish theatre
was always a wonderful theatre always -- you had
Polish theatres, Polish actors, included the
charm of the French people, the magination(?) of
the Russians, and the veltukh(?) of the
(10:55) So is Polish theatre. I
admired it very much. I've seen it later, later.
I mean when I came back already from America,
the same thing, the same impression I have. And
German theatre, we had a daily German theatre,
and the best actors. Zononkow(sp) played in
our...in our town. And I've seen other people.
I've seen Doyle, Conan Doyle that wrote, that
wrote "Keen", he rebuilt it, (11:21)
Holmes scene. He wrote a play.... I've seen a
lot of wonderful German Jews sometimes, but
German actors, and yidishe. So they had
four types of theatre, and I... I have seen all
of them. Once I fall in love with a play that I
have seen in Russian by the brother Adeline(sp),
a well-known actor at the time, "Keen".
"Keen", you know, it is a play of the life of
actors, and immediately I became one of them. I
felt that this play, this play is the "cradle"
of an actor. I translated it immediately, and in
1913, I published it. (12:30)
So these plays that I have seen
in all these four kinds of theatres, brought me
nearer and nearer to the theatre. And being that
my father was after the store, the bookstore, he
published the first Jewish daily in, not in
Warsaw, but as they call it "in the country",
the first country Jewish news[paper]... He was one of
D: By "country", you mean
Z: (13:00) Provincial, yeah. The
second town, it's not a little town, it was....
So, uh, I start there in 1910. I translated
there one humoresque, and it was published. I
was at that time sixteen, sixteen years. So now
I became fifteen years [old] when I began to
print in Yiddish. Translations I started,
translations and other things, but it's exactly
fifteen years that I started with my pen. At
that time I had no typewriters.
So, being surrounded, as you
hear, from one side by the songs by my mother,
on the other side the culture that my father
gave me, all the Hebrew literature I would say,
the whole Hebrew literature as a youngster I
would say, I "ate more books than food". I would
say -- I'm not exaggerating -- that I read a
book a day, I would say over three hundred books
a year. So in a few years, naturally its a
"mix-up". I don't remember, as other ... and
this would be very good for me, being today a
speaker, if I could use, exploit all these
things. I cannot. But in the same time, this
doesn't change the situation that I read a lot.
I would say the whole Hebrew literature, and the
whole Jewish, Yiddish literature I read as a
youngster. You can imagine, I read let's say,
being, uh, twelve years old, I read [14:45]
German, or "Nana" by Zola. You know, the life of
the prostitute. I didn't know what it meant, but
I read it. You know that years ago, even today,
children of four or five years, and they start
to learn the Talmud, sometimes there is a
chapter -- not a chapter, a whole book -- about
how women, all these things, I mean sexual life,
they don't understand nothing, but they have to
learn. Later on, they'll answer... Same
So I became nearer and nearer and
nearer to the theatre. And I start to play with
amateurs, in Yiddish. Then I organized amateurs
in Hebrew. And the first thing that I did, I
translated, I played, I played "Samson and
Delilah" by Sven Lange. You know, this is the
play that Ben Ami became so famous (in), and to
this play, he played it first in America in
Yiddish, and I have seen him, and took him over
to the English, to the English stage....
D: Who was the author again?
Z: Sven Lange....
D: Sven Lange...
Z: He's a Jew. You don't know ,,,
(unintelligible).... He's a Jew. He and his wife
... his... the main part in the play is the man,
naturally, and the wife Dagma. And Dagma is his
wife, an actress. And the whole story, that he
tells in this story is really an attempt in his
home. He was an actor of the Royal Theatre in
Denmark. [16:33] He wrote that play. And I
translated the play, and I played it, and I have
seen it before in Polish. A very, very
well-known Polish actor -- and he became,
I asked him, and he became the director of the
play with me. He directed my play with amateurs.
I played with a few actors too. But the main
thing that I have re..., from that time, I think
the most important thing is, that I came to the
idea to make a change of both playing in Hebrew.
Let me explain what I mean. I was not the first
to play in Hebrew. It was before me, they
started to play Hebrew in schools, on occasions
you know. And then I...the Jewish and Hebrew
poet Itzhak Katzenelson. He was murdered by the
Nazis. Well-known, one of the most important in
his time. He wrote a lot of plays in Hebrew, and
he played them with his family. You see, their
opinion was [that] the main thing was to know the
language, The play -- that's a sideline. I said,
the main thing is to play. Language you can
So I came at that time with a
proposition. So this was the first performance
by an actor in Hebrew. It came, at that time
had in Lodz a well-known group in the theatre.
And the head was Mr. Julius Adler. He played
later with [Maurice] Schwartz. He was the
"Schwartz of Europe". [18:18] All the Gordin
plays, most of them, he brought from America and
played them. So he knew Gordin only through the
Adlers, and later he brought these plays for...
for Esther Rokhl Kaminska too. To him. See, he
was the man -- illegally you know -- but he
brought all these plays, Gordin's plays, most of
them, to Europe.
D: He was the liaison then.
D: The liaison.
Z: Oh, yeah, yeah. And he played
in them too. And through these plays he became
the big actor, because in the other plays, in
the operettas, we had better ones.
[18:55] So you can imagine a
boy.... I was born in '94, so that's six and
twelve, eighteen years [old]. I came to that
well-known actor, and he was, I would say, like
the English people you see: "You don't know me,
how can you talk to me?" So I told him, I came
with a proposition to play in Hebrew. He said,
"Hebrew, I don't know". I said, "I will teach
you". And really I translated for him every
word. You see, he knew the play, he played it
before in Yiddish, and I have seen him. But I
had to translate word-by-word, not the meaning.
The meaning he knew, and therefore I became the
prompter. And we made the first performance by
(unintelligible) remember, and among this
group was a man, a teacher that became later on
the head of the Habima, Menachem Genesee(sp) who
played the (unintelligible)....
D: In Lodz....
Z:[20:00] In Lodz, yeah.
And then, after we played these, I came with
another proposition to play....It was a
tremendous success. Even he...he made a speech
later on. Naturally, I come with a speech too.
And then I came with a proposition to play "The
New Ghetto" by Herzl. And we played it. It was
tremendous... And then I came with another idea,
to go to the Zionist Congress in Vienna. And we
went there, we went there and we played there.
It was a tremendous, a tremendous, not success
-- people were busy. And another thing. We had a
competition. Zemach, Nachum Zemach, the founder
of the Habima. He, in that time, he organized a
group in Bialystok. This is too a
Polish-Russian, Russian town. He organized a
group calling "Habima" --"The Stage". [21:00]
Z: So he came with a play, "Shma
Yisrael". If you remember in that time it was a
tremendous success. "Listen, Israel" by Dymov.
Z: He came with that play, also
with his group, So two groups, more actors than
listeners. Then P(unintelligible word). And he
went back, and then he came to Russia You
know what happened to him is another chapter. So
D: But the Habima actually
started in Poland?
Z: In Poland, in Poland it started. His group
started in Poland. So I look at me [21:32], as
a, I would say if there can be a few fathers,
one of the fathers of the professional Hebrew
theatre. Not on the Yiddish, but on the
professional Hebrew theatre.
[21:45] But coming back to the
Yiddish theatre, being with these, uh, actors,
Julius Adler I call you, he knew that I, and at
that time I was published already my translation
of "Keen", so he engaged me to become, like we
had it years ago, he came from America and knew
every theatre had this writer. So he engaged me.
Naturally, I was not a writer like the other
ones, I mean to write my own plays, but he
engaged me as a translator and an "adoptioner1",
if you can call it [that]. So the first play
that, that I translated, and there was played
was, uh, a German operetta, "Robert and Bertla",
an operetta. Naturally, I don't write songs,
lyrics, so a man by the name Bonvil(?) became a
well-known Jewish, er, writer. Not a writer in
books, but a writer for theatre. He was murdered
by the White Russians. His daughter, Rukhl
Bonvil, is a poetess in Soviet Russia. [23:04]
So this was the first play, then Adler engaged
me [to] open a theatre in Lodz (the Scala --
ed.), he engaged me, and they played every
six weeks. I have, I had to give them a
translation. And I became a member of our
organization "Soiuz dramaticheskikh i
muzykal'nykh pisatelei v Sankt-Peterburge2." It means "The
Organization of Playwrights". And the uncle of
the Czar was the president of that organization.
I said you had no right to come to Peterburg. So
they invited me to the meetings. They are, I
mean, every year they had a meeting. A few days
later, I got a letter to come the 17th. I got
the letter [on] the 19th. See, and these were
accepted. I got thirty dollars a month.[24:03]
By the theatre, they paid me every night, as
though for each act. Let's say I translated
Hamlet for them. So it's five acts. So it's
three rubles for each act, every night. Matinees
So they played one
play after the other, and I... I gave them a
short time. I gave them a hundred.... "Keen"
they played. They played... they played a play
"A hintern moren", or "The Jewish, Di yidishe
goyvern(?)", that's by Henderin(?) Natanson, a
play... a Danish Jew too. And they played, uh,
"Samson and Delilah", my translation. And they
played "Farbrekhen un shtrof", by Dostoyevsky.
D: "The Broken
Z: No, no, no, no. "Brekhen
shtrof", that's "Crime and Punishment"...
D: "Crime and
Z: "Crime and
Punishment", an other plays. So it was a time
that night after night I was played.... I mean
my translation. They started one play, and
they finished the other. I made a lot of money.
I'm not going to tell you what happened [to]
that money...you know the Bourse(?)... I had it
in the... in the bank of the Russian government,
so... So then when, a year before the war, I
became, I got a job at an advertising office. So
you see, always, uh, I mean, [I was] surrounded
with this group of people. It was by an
Austrian, uh, Metzel(?), on account of the war
naturally,[that] I could, I could [not] work
[any]more [in] than this office...It was closed... So I
became a... I became a contributor in the
newspaper [26:10], the newspaper that my father
founded and (unintelligible)ed later. So I... I
had to make... I use the word "to make"....
millions for them. They gave me a home, and they
caused an amount(?), a whole story, and I had to
rebuild it, to localize it. They advertise it a
few days before, and then I came. I came
everyday to the newspaper. When I came ... and
they started: "What, you advertised on
both...another man's ...such things(?) as
yours." I didn't know it. So I had no time
to...to... to read it even. I had to give copy,
So after, in time of war, in time of
war I worked as a social worker, and in the
middle of the war, this newspaper was closed
because it was pro-Russian, and the Germans
closed it. But later, they [re-]opened the newspaper,
and I became inside every... I mean a staff
member. Then I start(ed) to play again with, uh,
End of part 1 of
Talk mostly about raising
money for the first volumes of Z.'s
"Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre"...
Z: ... the next meeting
they came, and I made them a
proposition. I told them, "If you need
twelve thousand dollars, why do you have
eight thousand dollars [in] expenses.
I'll do the work. I'll do the work. If I
do the work, you don't need, you don't
just stop for a moment.
back to that, er, thing, So I made... I
made a So I made, I made, I
said, "I don't know if you need a
hundred thousand dollars, if you would
say that the expenses are twelve
thousand dollars. I'll do the work. Then
anyway, They told that I'm crazy.
Z: No. I'll
do the work, collect this money. But, I
said, I'm going out, but who will give
me money? And I... Jacob Kalich is the
elected, was the president, and Jacob
Kalich the treasurer. I'll print
receipts in the name of Jacob Kalich,
but Jacob Kalich has to give me the
permission to sign it. And I'll make
with you an American agreement --
"fifty-fifty". I'll collect six thousand
dollars, and you will collect six
mentioned before, they told anyway I'm
crazy, and then who will give me money?
So, if I wouldn't collect, they have no
obligation. So, they agreed to it. I
printed this book of receipts, and I
went out, and in six weeks I collected
$5,800. In that time, if I didn't make
this mistake of all these people that
making Bourse(?)... making mistakes
later on, you can see it, If I would go
in that time, not [that] I wouldn't make
the campaign for six weeks, but that
I'll go on for half-a-year, and not only
went in a few towns that I ... I went to
-- Boston, let's say, I never went to
Washington, Boston and Chicago and...
But if I would make a big, really
a...a....a.... a raising money campaign,
I could collect in that time $25-30,000,
and have the whole money for the book
("Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" --
ed.) and [it] would [have been]
publish[ed] years ago already.
But soon I
got my... my part. I left America and
went to Europe to collect materials.
[2:53] And in the libraries there. And I
came back. I'm not going into what I did
in Europe. When I came back, it was the
(unintelligible) already... So from that
time on, I have -- I had and I have -- a
committee on paper. Everything -- all
these monies that was collected, all
these other things -- that was done for
the Lexicon, I did. I wouldn't say that
sometimes some people didn't help me.
But I have to organize and do
everything, not only to collect the
materials for the Lexicon, not only to
talk to these hundreds of people, not
only to read over the whole Jewish
press, and I did it in the YIVO in Vilna
for over half-a-year, day by day. I did
it in the British Museum in London. I
did it in the Harvard Library. I did it
in the Public Library in New York, and
in the Jewish Theological Seminary in
New York. I did it in the Vilna, I
mentioned already the YIVO, but I did it
in Jerusalem in the Hebrew University
Library, and I did it in Argentine. When
I was in Argentine, In Buenos Aires and
later on Brazil, all over in all these
countries, I went over to the libraries
where I found something, except that I
spoke to all the Jewish actors. And I
never went to Russia. [4:46] But I took
in, in the Lexicon, I didn't make any
difference between political groups, and
the whole Jewish theatre and the
writers, playwrights of Russia, Soviet
Russia, are included in the Lexicon. And
I never went there because they didn't
give me the permission. I asked for it.
But I went to Berlin, when the Jewish
Theatre of Moscow, by the late Mikhovich,
played. I went to Berlin, especially,
especially I went there to Berlin to
talk to them and to get their
biographies. Then I had correspondents
in Russia, a few. And I have here
now, I don't know what will happen, I
have here by forty or fifty biographies
sent to me by the embassy, through the
embassy in New York. They sent it
through their embassy....
Z: [5:47] To
the Russian Embassy. And they gave it to
me. It's stamped by, you know.
Everything must be by them, who and,
Tever, Tever(sp), Isaac Tever, the
playwright and poet. He signed all these
biographies, that they are kosher, you
can (unintelligible). So, So I mean to
say, except all these... And another
thing. When I started to work on that
Lexicon in America -- I call the
beginning in America -- we had the most
fifteen books. I don't,,.. I...I...I
wouldn't say fifteen, maybe ten books
about Yiddish theatre. Now, as you can
see in my library, I have over a
hundred. And I read them all, and, uh,
I...I have taken all these, what it said
about that or another, everything I have
to read and write on... So I worked for
the Lexicon til '31. We published the
first volume in New York. We arranged
some performance for that purpose....
D: May I ask
you one question before we begin...?
D: When did
you start the research for the first
Z: I told
you, not organized I started in 1912....
D: Yes. Back
Z: Yeah. But
I would say about organized, I would say
coming to America in '28. In '28. No,
pardon me, in '26. '26.
D: So five
years later, we published the first vol...
You see, we, we, Arnstein(?) and I were
looking [7:32] for somebody in
Australia. I had to wait ... weeks ...
He didn't answer. I was waiting. It's
like a traffic.... But if I could print,
as I had, it was published already. So
in, after that, you see officially I got
forty dollars. I took this forty dollars
that Cahan had offered me, I took it as
a payment(?) for it. You see, officially
I got forty dollars a week for my work.
But, in fact, when you take all the time
that I worked till I left that job -- if
I called it a job. I got six dollars a
week for my work. So you can't
understand that I finished that job, I
mean my job, the official job. I was
packed, packed I would say, with uh,
loans that I had to pay back [8:34], and
I became the editor of the "Jewish
American". I was eleven years the editor
of "Jewish American". Yeah. Through this
time, working on that Lexicon, seven
times I went there and back. To
Palestine, to Europe and South America.
those expenses ...
Z: Yeah. They were exact(?). This
doesn't go into my, into my wages.
Z: I should
get forty dollars a week, 'cause this
was my profession. I didn't do anything
else. I lost my position at the
D: How about
the... How about the cost of travel?
Z: I'll tell
To... to talk about travel, I have to
tell you a joke.
D: Go ahead.
Z: Once, the
manager of the Hebrew Actors Union,
Reuben Guskin, the late Reuben Guskin,
asked me, "Zylbercweig, a traveler you
are, I would like to ask you, how much
will cost me a trip to Europe?" I told
him, "You see, there's no fourth class.
That's third class, because his answer
was "No, I would like to go as a
mensch". You know, like a human
being, I told him, "If to go like a
mensch, you have to ask me, so you
can understand my expense." Many times
in New York,[10:00] I slept in the, in
the elevators. Many times. And when I
got an apartment. I got in
(unintelligible) in the Bowery
(unintelligible). Many times I ate
breakfast at ten o'clock at night. I
when I appeared sometimes in Romania, I
spoke, I gave lectures. So I was forced
to put on, they shouldn't see my, my,
my, my shoes. I took everything for
granted, because it was an idea for me,
and it is.... See, I belong to a group
of Jewish writers or Jewish cultural
workers that recognize the importance of
Yiddish theatre. [11:00] I think this is
not only a branch of Jewish culture, but
it is a force, and it is because things
that(?) who wore there are, if not
potential, there are in the
(unintelligible), they are existing.
It was a very important matter for yudes,
for Judaism, to hold together, to tie
together, Jews from all over the world,
to give them a lot of happiness, to
remind them in their past, to bring them
back a nostalgia of their towns, of
their people. And, not less, to give
them a lot of culture, Jewish culture,
history, by all these plays. By
Goldfaden, by Lateiner, by, by Professor
Horowitz. With all the mistakes that
they did, and later on by the
first-class Jewish writers like Leivick,
like Sholem Aleichem, like Peretz. And
the younger. The younger writers. So
these being sometimes in countries where
this were the only sign, the only sign
of being parts of Jews all over the
world, the Yiddish theatre played a very
big play, I would say as an
interlude(?), or an overture, to our
time when we are back, a nation -- a
recognized nation -- with a land like
Israel. Yiddish theatre, even for
Zionism, even for the, the, I would say
not the dream, but the fullfilness to go
to Israel, did more for Zionism than the
speakers, because it, originally when
you see something on the stage, played
with heart, like the Jewish actors
played it always, it then [affects you]
deeper than the speakers that they send
[there] was a time in Yiddish theatre
[when] we helped, we helped the other
side. Very large scale. Millions of
dollars for the JOINT, collected through
the Yiddish theatre, through the
benefits in Yiddish theatre. So that my
idea is, that the whole of Yiddish
theatre is not recognized, and to be
recognized, you have to give them the
fundament. You have to give them facts.
So therefore, I decided -- maybe I did
not know when that I started, but in the
work I came, I came to a conclusion that
my work is a national work. It's a thing
that is going to be recognized later on,
even when [there] wouldn't be any sign
more of living Yiddish theatre. [14:40]
I took for granted everything --"Like a
soldier", I said. I'm in war, and I have
to suffer. So in 1934, I went to Poland,
me. In 1931 the first edition was put
Z: Yes, yes.
D: And when
the first edition came out....
Z: It was a
Z: I have
twenty-three critics (critiques -- ed.),
twenty-three critics by the greatest
Jewish writers. It was a...a...a.. an
antflekung3. You know
what means "antflekung"? Like you
see a new world.... How do you call it?
D: A vision?
Z: No, no,
no, no, no, no. I'm talking... not a
vision. You see a new thing you've
never, you've never seen.
So, but in
the same time, they stand their old
opinions same time. So we have no money.
Had no money. Everything was a...
Because you asked me before, "What about
expenses?" I, I didn't forget. I would
say that the three volumes, the expense
for these three volumes went up to
$50,000. I think so. And you have to
remember that my part in it was, uh, I
would say, four years, or let's say five
years, fifty weeks, fifty times (ha,
ha)... you know, it's two hundred and
fifty weeks at six dollars. So it's the
minimal. You know we have expense. I
wouldn't mention it now. I wouldn't go
into things that are minor things, so I
published the third -- the second --
volume in Poland. I worked....
D: That was
In '34 it was published, yeah. And it
was work done. I have to explain [to]
you what I mean by that. You see, I
worked in a very small place, in a
forest. In a forest a Jewish writer
[17:00] brought in there, two people,
and his wife and a son. He's the only
one that is notion(?) up, the son. So,
and there they're composers. I mean,
there they composed it. You know what
means, composed it -- by hand. So every
page they put on in an oven, you know,
and they make paper mattes(?), not like
here, paper mattes. So once they burned
down the... the... the... how do you
call it? ...the letters...
D: Yeah, the
Z: ...It was
burned down, so it... it is not the same
Z: You know
what I mean?I I'll explain it to you. I
want to say to you about the same height
more, so it, it, it, didn't come out
exactly. You see, let's say this "L".
D: Yes, yes.
he put it back, this "F". (Z. is
showing D. something as a demonstration
of what he is talking about -- ed.)
You see here, that I...I... So no
printer accepted it in Warsaw. So...the
mattes... and so one gentile accepted,
and I had to stay there and ...
Z: No not correct. Behind, to put on a
piece of paper, they should be higher.
You are, you can, you see, he I put down
so this, you see, is more cut.... You
because you actually pushed it up..
Z: You see,
so I became blind in an eye at that
time. And I took everything. And then I
came back with the book [18:43], so we
printed only a small part, and I came
back at that time to America and brought
it from the second volume...
Z: Yeah. And
I took money from my sister. She had a
house in Tel Aviv in Palestine. I sold
the house and borrowed the money.
And then I sent in back, I give it back
by selling the book. But it came to a...
a to a position, I would say, or to a,
uh I mean, it came to a time that the
income was, and here, listen to it, a
dollar. A dollar. Somebody gave me -- at
that time, a book cost six dollars. He
gave me a dollar, meanwhile. A dollar
income a week, you see. So I decided I
can't go father. I have nowhere to
borrow money too. So I accepted the job
to become the editor of the "Jewish
American". For half a salary. Half a
salary I did work. I accepted. And from
this half-a-salary I had to pay back the
loans that I got... in the hundreds and
hundreds of dollars. I paid back
everybody. But soon I became the editor
of the "American". I couldn't go on. So
again, again the people that bought the
first book or maybe gave a few dollars,
I took part in a performance, came my
(unintelligible) that even Maury
Schwartz. He gave hundreds of dollars.
He played many times performances. He's
not mentioned it. So I came out with
this idea of these journals that I, I
have shown to you...
Z: The (two
unintelligible Yiddish words) hesten
(?) ...You see, by commercializing it .
But in the same time, I printed it as a
journal, and I left the leaves to
collect... to be collected. So I did by
two hundred pages. But I went to Los
Angeles, and I fell in love with Los
Angeles, with the idea to open here a
daily radio program. And I left my
position as the editor of the "Jewish
American", and I came to Los Angeles.
When I came to Los Angeles, I had a
terrible time in the beginning. I lost
every cent that I put in this radio.
Again, I borrowed money. Again I lost
everything. So I had no time to work on
the, on these leaves, on the Lexicon.
First thing, I couldn't do it here
because it's not only a matter of
writing. It's a matter to collect money,
too. And I couldn't collect it here. So
years passed by. Years passed by [and] I
didn't do nothing. I even...
D: When did
you first come out to Los Angeles?
Z: In '48.
Z: I even, I
even, I even start to collect material
for the Lexicon. I mean, I have
newspapers. Each newspaper cost me
thirty cents, or fifty maybe, because
it's.. It's... It's in storages (sic),
and take over from there, and take from
place to place. You know, it costs
money, everything. Some of them, er. you
can't read (any)more. They're falling
I start to work, but later on after a
few years I've established my piece of
bread(?) here in Los Angeles, and we are
sitting here in Los Angeles now. I came
with a proposition that we should change
the -- I would say the policy -- of
holding down the abc(?). We should
change it. We should print as we have,
and to mostly print people that are
still alive. [23:02] that we can
at least get this few dollars that it
cost their, their biography. I wouldn't
say a whole, or part of it, sometimes
the whole part. Naturally, I don't take
a penny of it. And the same thing was
with my, er, I would say, dear
colleague, Jacob Mestel, that worked for
two-and-a-half books, because the last
half book I finished already. He died
D: He was of
Z: Oh yes,
he was of assistance, especially it was
very important later on when I was in
Los Angeles, and he had to go to
the libraries, and he was very prompt,
and I would say like the Germans, you
see, very strict. He got a German
D: He was
Z: Oh yeah.
A German education. See, he didn't got
paid either for his work. He was only
the poor reader. He got a dollar a page.
But he didn't ... both of us, have
nothing except the banquet, when it
appeared(?). So the third volume I
finished up already in Los Angeles. And
for that purpose I went twice to New
York, collected a little money too, and
finished it up with $2,600 deficit, I
mean, meanwhile I gave this $260 (sic) a
check to pay up [the] printer and
everything. From my pocket. But it's,
its, it's, it's paid up already to me.
And no matter...
D: In 1959?
Z: In 1959
was ... after twenty-five years....
Z: See, and
the truth is a half a book is older than
the other half. Because one is finished
fifteen years ago, before I left for Los
Angeles through these leaves, and the
other half is coming up-to-date. Now I'm
working on the fourth volume. It's a
matter again of $15,000 dollars the
book. I mean the publishing, the
printing, the binding, a few trips that
I have to make, and I must make a few
trips to New York. And, er, there are
expenses. There's the usual: postage,
packing, the, er, writing, sometimes, er,
ordinarily there are a lot of expenses
-- photographs and maps, maps
(unintelligible)... Now, the third
volume, the second part, and the fourth
volume, is a little brighter than the
first. First thing, there are more
informations. And second, being that the
situation has changed. When we started
with the Lexicon, we still had hopes to
give another edition. So for the first
edition, it was enough. But today
there's no more hope. So when I come to
a biography of a deceased, I'm taking I
would say I don't leave nothing out.
Everything what can be collected, I...
that I'm taking it, because I know this
is the first and last edition of the
Lexicon. I don't dream about another
edition, even... I have a written plan
here to make another edition [26:45]
all, another way at all(?).
D: I'd like
to hear about that.
Z: I'll tell
you. My way now, I would like to make
historical. I mean....
Chronological. See I would like to make
the first volume till Goldfaden, not
would that include?
Z: It shall
include twenty-three writers.Twenty-three
writers, the Purim-shpilers. All
the Purim-shpilers and the Purim shpils.
They are two things: the plays and the
players. The badkhunim and the
Broder Singer. This should be the first
volume, till Goldfaden.
Then I would
like to make the Goldfaden theatre, and,
and, the people that are going, going
with him, like Kiner(?) and Datlas(?)...
Z: Then the
third-- four volumes to it -- the
third would be Gordin and his people
like Libin, Kobrin, the actors. The
fourth should be the art theatres...
After the war...
Z: After the
war, always. You see this is my... I
have it written. I can show it to you.
But I think it's, uh, more than a dream.
Maybe this will be left only... I mean
this... that's all...
Z: Ha, ha.
So this is the thing, you see. And if
you would ask me, and now it's 1912, and
I have all this experience, if I will be
ready to go over, yes, yes and yes. As I
said before, I am a soldier. And a
solider has to do something for his
country. In my countries [28:39], my
Jewish nation. My Jewish nation means my
Jewish cultural life, and this, this
cultural life, Yiddish theatre, Yiddish
language and Yiddish theatre, plays a
very, very big part. And I am proud if
years later, somebody, that will look
for something, will find it, and this
will be the best kaddish after, I
(unintelligible)...So that's quite an
answer to a question. That's excellent.
this tape finishes up, I want to ask you
about this next volume that's coming up,
that you know, that you're working on.
The fourth volume of the Lex...
Z: I think
the fourth volume will con... will
contain more pages. I wouldn't say that
it wouldn't be left out a lot. A lot
will be left out, naturally, but where
shall I take the the money?
D: Well, you
think perhaps there will be a fifth
Z: Why? I'll
tell you why.
D: As a kind
of a... a cap... as a kind of addendum
to the first one.
Z: I'll tell
you. I wouldn't ... I wouldn't mind to
sit down and write, but I cannot take
more on my shoulders to collect that
D: It's the
raising of the money...
Z: Yeah. I'm
a beggar, you see. .. and I.... People
they hear it, they hear it, and I could
show to them, but I have not a penny of
it. Not only have I none, but I'm losing
a lot of money because when I sit six,
seven hours a day, on that work, I'm, I,
I, I don't do nothing for my business.
And my family is not so happy of it.
And, and besides that, if I would come
to somebody who opens his door nicely
and... but they think they're doing
something for me. You see? So,
therefore, if some organization or some
foundation would understand the
necessity to finish this work, even to
rebuild it from the beginning, I will be
glad to work for nothing...
would...What do you mean by "rebuilding
it"? By this new plan...
Z: No, I'll
tell you. There is no more, there is no
more on the market the first and the
second volume, at all.
cannot... People...I have over twenty
D: I got
from YIVO extra copies.
people are asking me...
Z: I can
show you a lot of letters. There are
today, when I talk to you, and today is
the thirtieth of August in 1960, there
are maybe two hundred and fifty books
left of the third volume.
END OF PART
II AND RECORDED INTERVIEW.
perhaps this term means someone who
adapts plays from another form.
2 -- Library of
Congress transliteration of "Союз
драматических и музыкальных писателей в
Санкт-Петербурге". The acronym for this
organization is ДРАМСОЮЗ" (DRAMSOIUZ).
3 -- "Antflekung" means "revelation" in