In the struggle to make our so-called "free republic" into a truly soviet republic, one victory was the release of the 12 comrades who were arrested on Ellis Island and to be deported alongside others.
This article was the front page story of the Yiddish-language IWW paper "Der Klasen Kampf". This issue was published in 1919 in New York City. As is absolutely fitting, the Yiddish borrows from English and Russian, reflecting the context in which the paper was written. It was written before Yiddish spelling was standardized, and the ink on the paper was faded, so it was a challenge; the author also has a long-winded style which left the finer points of some passages ambiguous. I've done my best to retain the spirit and passion of the original, clarifying what I could without imposing on the text. The content remains depressingly relevant in 2020. There was no author credited for this article.
Ellis Island —
under the shadow of the Statue of "Liberty"
In the struggle to make our so-called "free republic" into a truly soviet republic, one victory was the release of the 12 comrades who were arrested on Ellis Island and to be deported alongside others. They awaited their destiny, the next victims of the Washington lackeys of capital. And these 12 comrades were certainly not freed through the justice of Washington—they have their freedom thanks to the general protests of the workers and their press. The American law didn't offer any defense; the ruling specifying the deportation of the comrades would be published from behind the dirty scenes of state and capital. They would be biased to expell them from the country without a fair trial and without a judge, without giving them the chance to defend themselves. These violent methods are typical, much like the police brutality and the persecution in old Tsarist Russia.
The 12 members of the IWW, together with 21 other wobblies, were dragged1 for 16 months from one prison to the next, from one detention center to the next: they were captured near the Pacific and ended up by the Atlantic. Imagine what they suffered, and what the others who were still held in Ellis Island must continue to endure until they are deported—and then what?
The comrades2 who were released are John Berg, August Bastram, John Leyve3 , Edwin Flenus, Axel, A. Hendrikson, James Lund4 , Aron Slutsker John Martin5 , Magnrenar Ross6 , Krist Yohnson, Arthur Smith and John Holm.
They took leave of their comrades who still remained on Ellis Island when the 12 wobblies went down to the immigration ship7 which should have already brought them to New York City. The rest of the wobblies who stayed exclaimed three cheers for the IWW and shouted, their voices joined collectively in an IWW song, probably written by Joe Hill. The collective singing resonated more and more forcefully and several among the wobblies shed a tear—and they again exclaimed, "Long live the wobblies!" The officials of Ellis Island were suprised over the comradery and friendship which existed between the IWW members. Their boat sailed for New York City, which they had thought themselves near when they were travelling close to the Statue of Libery. They then came to the IWW headquarters, 27 East 4th Street, New York, where they posed for photographers. They will stay in New York for some days before they return to their homes. Aron Slutski8 —one of the 12, who before was a cook in the Canadian army—has relatives in the Bronx who he thinks he can stay with.
The comrades who are on the list to be deported are: Kaiem Maskilinas9 , E. E. McDonald10 , Peter M. Gerta, Mrs. Peter V. Merta11 , Alex Kizil, Magnus Oterholm12 , Sam Neslon13 , Albert Osborn, Charles Jekson14 , Fritz Holm, Donald MacPherson, Frank Mihalik, Sol. Ehrlich15 , William Longfors, Louis Mishe16 , Martin De Val17 , John Morgan and Buthas18 . No one yet knows for certain if the other 2 comrades will be deported.
Mrs. Lowe19 and Charles Rest are very active in the cases to liberate the IWW members from Ellis Island.
For instance when Fredrik Baker20 , an English IWW member who was deported, wrote a letter to the National Civil Liberty Bureau requesting help. A week later the letter was intercepted by the censor of the Military and Navy Intelligence which controls the post from Ellis Island. Two days after the letter was written, Baker was already in the Atlantic bound for England.
After the big ambush was made on Wednesday March 14th in the Russian "Norodni Dom" ["People's Home"] on 133 East 15th Street, Russian comrades Peter Bianki, Marcus Oradovski21
and Arthur Ketezes were arrested and deported on the charge of being anarchists. Mollie Stimer22
, the anarchist, who is already sentenced to 15 years in prison and is out on bail appealing her case, was also arrested during the ambush and was liberated through hearing Wienberger of Ellis Island
[missing line due to damage of the paper; context of next line unclear]
Sam[?] thinks that she is guilty her 15 years, so today he can deport her? Our arrester23 knows how the brutality of "law and order" goes, how it is now really the time to make the bitter experience. But we've known that for a long time.
The workers should not be satisfied with the liberation of the 12 from deportation. Instead they should rise up in a large protest and struggle against deportation, and not tolerate the removal of the best from their ranks.
This article was translated from the original Yiddish by Misha Holleb.
- 1 The original word is אַרומשלעפּן. There is no direct translation which I could find, but "אַרומשלעפּן זיך" (with the reflexive) means "barhopping". There is no reflexive in the original article which could mean that they literally meant "shlept around", but it's possible that they meant to use the word barhopping to inject levity: "They were barhopped from one prison to the next".
- 2 The spelling in the original article was inconsistent with modern standard Yiddish; non-Yiddish names in particular were spelled differently than we might expect (e.g. Joe was spelt דזשאָו or Jou, and John was spelt דזשאַהן or Jahn) so for names less common, there might be alternate spellings. I made notes for other probable spellings in the hope that anyone name-searching these individuals have a better chance of finding them.
- 3 Could be John Lave, or John Leiv
- 4Could be James Lind; the ink is rubbed away
- 5Could be Aron Slutzker John Martin
- 6 This first name seems unusual, but I can think of no alternate spelling, especially given that the surname Ross was spelt exactly as so (ראָסס), contrary to how you would spell it in Yiddish (ראָס), suggesting that the transliteration into Yiddish is true to the original.
- 7 A small transport ship for ferrying people between Ellis Island and New York City
- 8 We can assume this is the same Aron Slutsker John Martin mentioned earlier, though Slutsker/Slutski is given a different spelling this time
- 9 Unfortunately I can't find any information on this first name or surname
- 10Could be E. E. MacDonald
- 11 I suspect that these two names are meant to be the same: either Mr and Mrs Peter M. Gerta, or Mr and Mrs Peter V. Mera. Could also be Mr and Mrs Peter W. Merta, or Peter W. Gerta, or Peter V. Gerta.
- 12 Could be Magnus Otterhalm, or Magnus Oterhalm
- 13 Could be Sem Neslon, Sam Neslin, Sem Neslin, or a misspelling of Sam Nelson or Sem Nelson
- 14Could be Charles Jackson
- 15 Could be Sol. Erlikh, Sol Erlich, Sol Erlikh, Sol Ehrlich, Solomon Ehrlich, Solomon Erlich, Solomon Erlikh, Saul Ehrlich, Saul Erlich, or Saul Erlikh
- 16Could be Louis Misha
- 17 Could be Martin De Valle, or Martino De Valle
- 18 Could be Buthasz
- 19Could be Mrs. Love
- 20 Could be Fredrick Baker, or Frederick Baker
- 21 Could be Markus Oradovski
- 22 Also spelt Molly Steimer, a well-known anarchist
- 23 It's unclear from context if the author means the police, or the arrestee.