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Omar Oscar Marcus Collection

Identifier: AR 5650 / MF 882

Scope and Contents

The Omar Oscar Marcus collection documents the life and work of photographer Omar Oscar Marcus (1910-1980). The collection contains typescripts of articles written by him that are primarily in Spanish and English, news clippings from Mexican newspapers from the early 1960s, letters to the editors of various international newspapers, clippings about his work and life, and numerous original photographs, many of which were taken in Mexico. Of particular interest is the correspondence with his parents from the years 1932 to 1938. Sent from North Africa, Palestine and elsewhere, his letters contain numerous accounts of his adventures including his personal reflections about politics, foreign customs and his interaction with various Jewish communities in other countries.

Series I contains personal items and records related to Marcus' personal life and professional work, such as a notebook, sketches, press cards and his obituary. Also included are documents concerning the Omar Oscar Marcus Fund as well as exhibition material used at a 1985 retrospective of his work held in Jerusalem.

Series II is composed of correspondence between Marcus and his parents, his brother and other acquaintances as well as correspondence with his clients and agencies.

Series III contains numerous publications, newspaper clippings, printed material and writings on and by Omar Oscar Marcus. These are arranged according to the language of the publication or the origin. Marcus' published pictorial features are well represented in this series.

Series IV constitutes the most extensive portion of Marcus' work and is composed of his pictures including photographs, slides and negatives. In addition, the series contains a section of photographs depicting Omar Oscar Marcus at work as well as a movie reel, an audio reel, and single filmstrips.


  • 1925-1996


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Spanish and German with some Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, French and Italian.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Collection is microfilmed, please use MF 882.

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

Use Restrictions

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


Biographical Note

Oscar Marcus was born in Berlin on August 12, 1910 and graduated from the Berlin art college. He left home at the age of twenty to pursue a career as a photographer and traveled around the world throughout his life. In 1930, he began working as a photographer for the company Mauritius, and later for the Associated Press. Those few early pictures taken before 1932 illustrate his interest in pictorial and social motives. As a member of the Reichsbanner Scharz-Rot-Gold, his political affiliation was close to that of the Social-Democratic Party (SPD). This relationship may have prevented his reentry into Germany after his first trip to Tunis in 1932, conducted on behalf of the Associated Press.

In 1933, Marcus visited Palestine, where his parents and his brother, Shimshon, eventually settled. On behalf of the Associated Press, Marcus traveled to several Mediterranean countries. One of his many assignments was to cover the Italian Colonial Wars in Abyssinia in 1937. He also lived in Egypt for several years and studied Arabic.

Most notably, Marcus became famous for his photographs of various Arab countries. He achieved special recognition for his photographs of worshippers in Mecca becoming the first non-Muslim to gain entry into the city (at the risk of his life). As his reputation as a photographer grew in the Arab world, he adopted the name of Omar (a compound of the beginning letters from his first and last names). When Marcus returned to London at the end of the 1930s, the English newspaper, The Star referred to him as, "Marcus of Arabia."

During the war, Marcus stayed in England where he was interned for a short time because of his German nationality. In 1940, he joined the British Army and was dismissed in 1942, obtaining British citizenship. From that period on he worked for the Associated Press London and published his work in different English newspapers and magazines, such as the Daily Mirror, Life, National Geographic, Weekly Illustrated, and Picture Post.

After the war he lived first in Scotland and then in the United State. In 1954 he was commissioned to cover an expedition to Africa. These pictures appeared in a two volume work entitled, Tropical Africa that was published in 1960 by the research director George H. T. Kimble and the 20th Century Fund.

In 1957 Marcus went to Mexico as a correspondent for the Daily Express. Having gained experience with movies and documentary films earlier in his career, he contributed to various film productions in Mexico and taught cinematography at the University of Mexico City.

From 1968 to 1972 Marcus lived in Chicago and then finally returned to Mexico City where he died on April 11, 1980 after a traffic accident. He was buried at the Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem, next to his parents.

As a photographer, Omar Oscar Marcus traveled to all Arabic speaking countries, even those that were traditionally off-limits to foreigners at that time. He visited the Balkans, Turkey and Africa. Marcus' knowledge of languages facilitated his travels. English became his second native language, Spanish almost his third. Additionally, he could speak French, Italian, Arabic, Greek, and even Japanese.

Marcus was particularly interested in Jewish-Arab reconciliation. In 1984 the Oscar Omar Marcus Fund for Understanding and Peace between Arabs and Jews was established in his memory at the Truman Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The Fund supports activities aimed at enhancing Arab-Jewish understanding and contributing toward a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.


3 Linear Feet


This collection documents the work and life of the press photographer Omar Oscar Marcus. The bulk of the records are his personal correspondence with his family and his published articles and pictures. Also included are clippings of his published photographs as well as typed written texts and original photographs, negatives and slides.


Collection is available on 3 reels of microfilm (MF 882).

  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/24
  2. Reel 2: 1/25-1/43
  3. Reel 3: 1/49-2/10
Guide to the Papers of Omar Oscar Marcus (1910-1980), 1925-1996   AR 5650 / MF 882
Processed by Olga Engel
© 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • February 2010:: Microfilm inventory added.
  • March 2011: Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States