Postcard from the Bund

I came across this correspondence card soon after I began to collect undivided-backs in September 2016. It has the printed wording:

Imprimerie Israélite

81, Rue de Carouge, à GENÈVE

It was postally used in Plainpalais Geneva on 15 March 1905 when it was sent to Herr A Katz at 15iii University Street, Zurich. Translated from Russian1, the message is:

My dear friend! I am very glad that you are living so close by!   Please go to my friend, comrade D. Machlin, 27ii University Street, show him this, and he will welcome you as a bundist comrade. I am sending him a letter about you. Keep well and let me know soon how you are settling in. Write often. I will write in more detail when I get a letter from you. Very warmest regards. 

The Bund


The Bund, a Jewish political party espousing socialist democratic ideology as well as cultural Yiddishism and Jewish national autonomism, was founded at a clandestine meeting in Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in October 1897 by a small group of Jews who were profoundly influenced by Marxism. Colloquially known as the Bund during the entire span of its existence, the full name of the party was changed several times, but its original name to 1921 was The General Union of Jewish Workers in Lithuania, Poland and Russia2. While a Central Committee led the Bund in the Russian empire, outside Russia, the party was represented from as early as 1898, by its Foreign Committee. During the period when the Bund had no legal status or was semi-legal in Russia, the Foreign Committee assumed many important organizational functions of the party apparatus3.

Imprimerie Israelite

In the Autumn of 1903, the Foreign Committee returned to Geneva from London together with its printing office. A police report into a February 1904 application for a residence permit by Abram Mytinkowitsch recorded that he was then administering the Israelite printing office at rue de Carouge where the Israelite periodical Latest News of the Revolutionaries in Russia was printed:

“There is cause to believe that this printing office served in London for the party and journal The Bound or Bund whose transfer to Geneva was announced some days ago.”

Imprimerie Israélite was the successor imprint to Imprimerie Russe Although the latter is mentioned for the first time in the 1905 edition of the Annuaire du Commerce Genevois, and the former only from 19074, publications with the imprint Imprimerie Israélite date from 19045. The printing press was an essential part of the structure of the Bund. It allowed the Foreign Committee to print propaganda in Yiddish, Russian and other languages6.

Dovid Makhlin

Dovid Makhlin or David Machlin was born in Odessa in 1879. He was was a student at the University of Berlin from where he was expelled in 1904 after which he lived in Zurich where he convalesced from tuberculosis and continued his studies. He was manager of the Bund as the Central Office Secretary. Makhlin was one of the founders and directors of the Bund Archives until after the First Russian Revolution (1905-6)7

Makhlin settled in Bern until May 1906 when he was expelled from Switzerland for ‘anarchist’ doings and for allegedly trying to build a bomb, even though he protested that the Bund was a Social Democratic organization and that he had nothing to do with terrorist activities8.

The Central Office moved to Geneva after his expulsion and Makhlin returned to carry out political activities in Russia9 and helped transport illegal literature to Russia. On the twentieth anniversary of the Bund, he published a historical work concerning the Bundist press10. In 1927 the Soviet government deported him to Almaty and later to Siberia where he died in Tajet in 1952.

Mr A Katz

I don’t know who the addressee Katz was but there were many Jewish students in Switzerland at that time who because of the quota for Jews in Tsarist Russia had to go abroad to study in universities and technical institutes. Many revolutionary emigres also lived there. Students and social research workers made good use of the Archives and the Library that grew up around it in Geneva for their studies and scientific works. Katz is an abbreviation of ‘Kohen Tzedek’11. Conclusions The signature is illegible but it is clear that the author was writing on behalf of the Bund on their official correspondence card. One of the features of postcards much mocked in the early days is that anyone can read your correspondence. The author clearly felt able to correspond with a potential member quite openly. Postcards are a great source of human interest and historic insight. This is an unusually rich example.

1 Thanks to Sandrine Mayoraz, MA Project Assistant in East European History at the University of Basel.

2Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln und Rusland

3http://findingaids.cjh.org/?pID=1991316

4 East European Jews in Switzerland Tamar Lewinsky & Sandrine Mayoraz 14 Oct 2013 Walter de Gruyter

5https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007921487

6 East European Jews in Switzerland Tamar Lewinsky & Sandrine Mayoraz 14 Oct 2013 Walter de Gruyter

7A Great Collection The Archives Of The Jewish Labor Movement NEW YORK 1965

8Student Migration of Jews from Tsarist Russia to the Universities of Bern and Zürich, 1865-1914. Aline Masé Master’s Thesis Utrecht University January 4, 2012

9 East European Jews in Switzerland, edited by Tamar Lewinsky and Sandrine Mayoraz, Berlin, de Gruyter, 2013, pp. 57, 75 and 192)

10http://yleksikon.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/dovid-makhlin.html

11Student Migration of Jews from Tsarist Russia to the Universities of Bern and Zürich, 1865-1914. Aline Masé Master’s Thesis Utrecht University January 4, 2012

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