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Celmajster, Dovid

(1878–194?), impresario and theater director in Warsaw and Łódź. Dovid Celmajster was born in Warsaw into a merchant family. He received a thorough traditional education and a rudimentary secular education, and began working in theater in 1910, eventually with both popular and dramatic companies. In 1917, Celmajster produced the operetta Di dolar-printsesin (The Dollar Princess) at Kaminski’s Theater in Warsaw; in 1920 in Łódź he produced An-ski’s Der dibek (The Dybbuk), directed by Dovid Herman, with scenic design by Yitskhok Brauner (Broyner).

In German-occupied Warsaw during World War I, Celmajster directed a Polish variety theater in which German, Polish (including the future film star Pola Negri), and Yiddish actors (including Shmul Landau) performed. Until 1925, when Polish authorities forced him to sell the building, he directed, along with Abraham Bren and Henryk Ryba, the Tsentral (Central) Theater, where well-regarded operetta companies as well as dramatic troupes performed, among the latter, those of Zygmunt Turkow and Ida Kaminska.

During the interwar years, Celmajster organized appearances by the American stars Molly Picon and Jacob Kalich in Warsaw and Łódź, as well as appearances in Łódź by Sam Auerbach and Sadie Shengold, Yankev Rekhttsayt, Aleksander Granach, Michał Michalesko (Mikhalesko), and Maurice Schwartz, the latter with a company of Polish Yiddish actors. Celmajster also operated several movie and variety theaters in Warsaw.

Celmajster was one of the few theatrical impresarios who managed to survive in the business for decades, despite wars and political, economic, and legal changes. He was able to do so partly because of his activity in nontheatrical enterprises: he owned two large clothing stores while his wife manufactured and sold wigs (sheytlekh) for Orthodox Jewish women. Unlike other theatrical entrepreneurs, who were also actors, Celmajster did not link his business with personal artistic aspirations and was undismayed by occasional failures. He was a consummate businessman who, also unlike many other impresarios, had a reputation for fairness and honesty. Dovid Celmajster died during World War II, probably in the Soviet Union.

Suggested Reading

Andrzej Kempa and Marek Szukalak, Żydzi dawnej Łodzi: Słownik biograficzny Żydów łódzkich oraz z Łodzią związanych, vol. 2 (Łódź, 2002), pp. 27–28; Zalmen Zylbercweig (Zilbertsvayg), “Tselmayster, Dovid,” in Leksikon fun yidishn teater, vol. 5, cols. 4684–4686 (Mexico City, 1967), see also photograph in col. 4842.



Translated from Polish by Michael C. Steinlauf