11 Things You Need to Know About… the Marmorek Brothers


1. This is the story of two brothers, both of them ardent Zionists. Oskar Marmorek is certainly the man for whom Marmorek Street is named, but Alexander is equally worth knowing.

Oskar Marmorek

Oskar Marmorek

2. Oskar was born in Galicia in 1863 and trained as an architect. In 1895, he met Theodore Herzl [see my blog post of 6/26/13]. He helped Herzl and Max Nordau [see my blog post of 6/19/13] organize the First World Zionist Congress in 1897, and from then on dedicated himself to Zionism.

3. In May 1901, he traveled with Herzl and David Wolffsohn, Chairman of the Jewish Colonial Trust, to Istanbul to meet with the Sultan in hopes of fostering Jewish life and settlement in Palestine.

4. In 1904, after Herzl’s death, Oskar Marmorek was appointed acting chairman of the World Zionist Organization until the election of David Wolffsohn in 1905.

5. Herzl’s character Dr. Steineck in his book Altneuland is said to be modeled on Oskar – but I wonder whether it was actually his brother, Alexander, a bacteriologist; or even an amalgam of the two. Decide for yourself….

6. Alexander Marmorek was born in Galicia in 1865, two years after Oskar. He was educated at gymnasium and at the University of Vienna, earning his M.D. in 1887. As a student he joined Kadimah, the first students’ Zionist society of Vienna.

Alexander Marmorek

Alexander Marmorek

7. He went to study in Paris and became an assistant at the Pasteur Institute. In 1900, he claimed to have discovered an antidote to puerperal fever, but it proved unsuccessful. However, he did find an antistreptococcus serum that was useful in animals.

8. In 1903, at the French Academy of Medicine, he claimed to have found an antidote for TB. His was one of a long train (at least seven between 1890-1903 alone) of experimental treatments using horse serum that failed because the researchers lacked knowledge of the basic biology of the bacterium.

9. He served as an officer at the first Zionist Congress and succeeding ones. He was head of the French Zionist Federation and founder of the Jewish Popular University in Paris.

10. He was one of the founders of the Parisian Zionist monthly Echo Sioniste. He was decorated with the Legion of Honor.

11. Oskar Marmorek died in Vienna in 1909; his brother Alexander died in Paris in 1923: two brothers, both Zionists, neither of whom made aliyah, both of whom did much to further the vision of a Jewish state.

Marmorek Street can be found in central Tel Aviv intersecting at the spot where Ibn Gevirol becomes Yehuda Halevi Street.

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