Salamon Dembitzer Collection
Scope and Content Note
The main focus of the Salamon Dembitzer Collection is the professional life of this writer. It is comprised of manuscripts, correspondence, clippings, personal documents, and a few photographs.
Series I: Personal holds materials that describe the person of Salamon Dembitzer. Much of this includes biographies of his professional life, both published and unpublished. In addition, other types of documents to be found here include photographs, information on restitution for manuscripts left behind in Belgium, and a few clippings about his grandfather.
Correspondence is located in Series II. Most of the correspondence is comprised of individuals' opinions on Dembitzer's writing. Well-known persons whose letters will be found here include Thomas Mann, Julius Bab, Martin Buber, Philipp Scheidemann, Primo Levi, and former Australian Deputy Prime Minister H.V. Evatt. Other types of correspondence include information on funding he received from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany and correspondence concerning the copyright for his novels.
The largest series of this collection is Series III: Writings. Here researchers will find manuscripts of novels, short stories, articles, and poetry as well as published reviews of his work. Newspaper clippings and publications containing his shorter works are also in this series. Manuscripts of his works, however, make up the bulk of this series. Manuscripts of his Yiddish poetry, both handwritten and typed, will be found here as well as manuscripts of his novels. Many of the novel-length manuscripts appear to be earlier versions of some of his published books.
Researchers should note that there is very little information in this collection on Salamon Dembitzer's personal and family life, other than what may be gleaned from the manuscripts of his novels and short stories, which often contain autobiographical references.
- Creation: 1908-1975
Language of Materials
The collection is in German, Yiddish, English, Dutch, and Italian.
Open to researchers.
There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact
Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
Salamon Dembitzer, the son of Herschel and Amalia Dembitzer, was born in Cracow (now Kraków, Poland), at that time part of Austria-Hungary, on December 29, 1888. His grandfather Chajim Nathan Dembitzer was a Talmud scholar and a well-known historian.
Dembitzer spent his earliest years in a small village named Lancut. At 15 he left school and came to Germany, first to Frankfurt, then to Kassel, where he worked as an editor for the Kasseler Volksblatt. In 1910 he went to Berlin, returning there several times until he had to flee it in March 1933.
By the time he was 16 years old Dembitzer already had some of his poetry published. His earliest writings were written in Yiddish, not only with Hebrew letters but also with Latin. Some of his poetry was set to music. Prior to the first World War, Dembitzer lived in Antwerp, but had to return to Germany once the war broke out. Once more he went to Berlin, where his first work of prose Aus engen Gassen, a collection of essays, appeared in 1914.
At the end of 1915 Dembitzer had left Berlin once more and went to Holland where he wrote for two large Amsterdam newspapers, Algemeen Handolsblad and Het Volk. While in Amsterdam he also wrote some articles for the German newspaper Vorwärts, and became a literary writer for this paper when he returned to Berlin in 1920. He also authored articles for several other papers, including Die Welt am Montag, the Berliner Tagblatt, and the Viennese Arbeiter-Zeitung. His short stories especially were often published in German newspapers.
In 1930 Salamon Dembitzer's first novel, Bummler and Bettler, was published as well as a three-act play called Wohlfahrtsamt. In March 1933 Dembitzer fled Berlin for Holland, and would continue to travel through Europe over the next several years in his attempts to escape the Nazis. He stayed in the Netherlands and Belgium before landing in Portugal where he eventually received a visa to New York in 1941. Many of Dembitzer's novels, especially his later ones, contain autobiographical elements, and a description of this flight across Europe is depicted in his book Visas for America. Many of his manuscripts were lost during this time. In August 1942 Dembitzer's younger brother Chaim Nussyn Dembitzer and his wife were killed by the Nazis, and his book Visas for America is dedicated to this sibling.
Salamon Dembitzer struggled until 1947 with his life as a recent immigrant in New York City. He was occasionally supported financially by his brother in New Zealand, a character sometimes mentioned in his novels. His life as an immigrant during this time is depicted in his fictional writings, especially in his unpublished manuscripts "Das Affidavit and Triebmanns Verwirrungen" and "The Chronic Fugitive."
In 1947 Dembitzer left New York for Australia. He lived in Sydney until 1958. In 1950 his novel Drama in Ostende, first written in 1939, was published by Villon Press. Visas for America was published in 1952, and in 1955 several of his short stories from the 1920s were published under the title Adventure in Prague. While living in Australia Salamon Dembitzer married Hertha Weiss, the owner of Villon Press.
Although Salamon Dembitzer never returned to Germany, he did come back to Europe. In 1958 he moved to Lugano, Switzerland. He died there on October 11, 1964.
- Verloirene Welten (1910)
- Schwarze Blätter (1913)
- Aus engen Gassen (1915)
- Der Osten (1916)
- Über die Liebe (1920)
- Mein Onkel (1922)
- Holländische Erde (1924)
- Nächte im Vondelpark (1924)
- Bummler und Bettler (1930)
- Wohlfahrtsamt: Drama in drei Akten (1930)
- Abrechung (1931)
- Die Geistigen (1934)
- Drama in Ostend (1950)
- Visas for America: A story of an escape (1952)
- Adventure in Prague and Other Stories (1955)
Sources: Seelman-Eggebert, Ulrich, "Ein jüdisches Dichtershicksal," National-Zeitung Basel, Nr. 443, 27 September 1970.
2 Linear Feet
This collection describes the professional life of the writer Salamon Dembitzer, who is best known as a Yiddish poet and the author of Visas for America, a novel on the situation of Jewish refugees during World War II. Included in these papers are manuscripts of his poetry, newspaper articles, and novels as well as reviews of his work, correspondence, and biographical information on him.
The collection is divided into the following three series:
Other Finding Aid
An earlier paper finding aid is available.
Collection is available on 4 reels of microfilm (MF 673).
- Reel 1: 1/1-1/29
- Reel 2: 1/30-1/44
- Reel 3: 1/45-2/8
- Reel 4: 2/9-2/11
Reprocessed in April 2005 by Dianne Ritchey Oummia following the arrangement of the original paper finding aid created by Ilse Turnheim in 1975. Addenda were integrated into series, description was added, and basic preservation work was performed.
Genre / Form
- Amsterdam (Netherlands)
- Antwerp (Belgium)
- Berlin (Germany)
- Lugano (Switzerland)
- New York (N.Y.)
- Sydney (N.S.W.)
- Guide to the Papers of Salamon Dembitzer (1888-1964), 1908-1975 AR 4212 / MF 673
- Processed by Ilse Turnheim
- © 2005
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Edition statement
- This version was derived from SalamonDembitzer.xml
- 2010-04-19 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl. Added microfilm information.