John M. Spalek Papers, 1933-2010
- John Spalek was professor of Germanic languages at the University at Albany and main proponent of the German and Jewish Intellectual Emigre Collection who conducted oral history interviews. The collection consists of oral history interviews and photographs.
- 7 cubic ft.
- German , English .
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, John M. Spalek Papers, 1933-2010. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Spalek Papers).
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
- Scope and Content:
The collection consists of two series: Series 1: Tape recordings; Series 2: Photographs.
The cassette recordings, unless otherwise indicated, were made by Professor John M. Spalek as background material in the compilation of hisGuide to the Archival Materials of the German-Speaking Emigration to the United States after 1933. Additional tapes were subsequently been and added to the collection. Recordings made by Dr. Eve Lee are designated as (Lee). There are no transcriptions. Dates and subjects of the recordings are given when known. Reel-to-reel tapes are part of manuscript groups in the German Intellectual Emigr Collection.
The major portion of the photograph series was assembled during the early 1970s and formed the basis of a traveling "Exhibit on German Literature and Culture in Exile, 1933+", which circulated in the United States from approximately 1974-1978. Additional photographs were added later to the collection.
- Biographical / Historical:
John Spalek, professor of German literature and one of the pioneers of what is today known as Exile Studies, was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1928. His father, Reverend Bronislav Spalek, was the co-founder of the Polish Baptist Church and in 1936, the family moved to Narewka in eastern Poland. There, Spalek witnessed the German invasion in September 1939, then the German withdrawal and the subsequent Soviet occupation. The Soviets confiscated the retirement home run by his mother. At the end of the war, the family headed for Germany. The Protestant seminary in Cologne, where Spalek's father had studied theology more than 40 years earlier, helped them upon their arrival. For three years, Spalek learned the trade of cabinetmaker.
On his 21st birthday, Spalek left Europe on a boat for New York. A family friend sponsored him through the immigration process and found him a woodworking job. In 1951, he decided to go back to college. After completing an undergraduate degree in Spanish Literature, Spalek then embarked on post-graduate work in German literature at Stanford University. He completed his doctorate and was soon offered a teaching job at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (UCLA). While teaching at UCLA, Spalek developed an interest in exile studies, a passion that drove him to devote his research career to the exploration and preservation of the exile legacy. At that time, he was also working on a biography of émigré poet Ernst Toller and had to account for his exile years. He began a correspondence with one of the founders of exile research, Walter A. Berendsohn, living in Sweden, who urged him to begin similar research in the United States. At UCLA, and in the 1960s at the University at Albany, SUNY, he assembled and published the most comprehensive set of reference works devoted to exile writers in California and New York, which along with his guide to archival materials, have become indispensable tools in German studies. In 1971, Spalek, was approached by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Society) to begin a survey of papers on German émigrés found in the United States. It ended up as a 30-year project. Spalek and his associate, Sandra Hawrylchak, were largely responsible for locating and saving many of the papers, including many papers deposited at the University at Albany and the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. The exile project documents the migration from Europe to the Unites States from 1933 to 1945, along with its intellectual accomplishments and its contributions to American society.
- Acquisition information:
Items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives by John Spalek.
The collection is organized as follows:
Series 1: Tape Recordings
Series 2: Photographs
- Processing information:
Processed in 1993-2009 by Mary Osielski (1993) and revised by Sandra H. Hawrylchak (November 2009).