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Samuel Mark Goldbloom (1919–1999)

by Michael Hamel-Green

This article was published online in 2024

Sam Goldbloom, Hiroshima Day, 1986

Sam Goldbloom, Hiroshima Day, 1986

By Ruth Maddison

Samuel Mark Goldbloom (1919–1999), peace activist and nuclear disarmament campaigner, was born on 31 December 1919 in London, younger son of Alexander Goldbloom, a tailor and refugee from the Russian pogroms, and his British-born wife Frances, née Hart. Sam also had a half-sister, born in Melbourne to Alexander’s Australian-born first wife (d. 1913). In 1923 Alexander returned to Melbourne with his new family and Sam began his education at Elwood Central State School. The Goldblooms moved to Perth in 1929, and in 1933 to Wellington, New Zealand, where Sam attended Wellington College.

Alexander Goldbloom died suddenly in 1934. Moving to Melbourne in 1936, Sam worked as a furrier for Kosky Bros and later as a commercial traveller. A keen tennis player, he was president (1937) of the Judaean Tennis Club and pursued the sport for much of his life. He moved increasingly leftwards politically, influenced by the unemployment and misery of the Depression, which he contrasted with the economic and social progress of the Soviet Union. The rise of fascism in Germany and Spain particularly disturbed him.

In the early years of World War II Goldbloom worked at the Government Aircraft Factories, Fishermans Bend, becoming a shop steward for the Sheet Metal Workers’ Union. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 15 January 1942, trained as a flight mechanic, and served for most of the war on the staff of No. 1 Engineering School, Ascot Vale. On 28 March 1942 he married Rosa Segal, a stenographer, at the Temple Beth Israel, St Kilda. After his discharge in November 1945, he was a proprietor of Meyer Manufacturing Co., which produced plastic goods. In the 1950s he and Rosa established Goldex Trading Co., a successful wholesale business trading in small electrical appliances, which they sold in 1972.

From the late 1940s, Goldbloom was a spokesman for the Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Anti-Semitism, which campaigned against postwar Nazi immigration to Australia. He also became a prominent figure in grassroots Australian campaigns for peace, working closely with the ‘peace parsons’—Alf Dickie, Frank Hartley, and Victor James. In 1955 he was the Victorian Peace Council delegate to the World Peace Council conference in Helsinki, also attending the Paris Conference on German rearmament.

Goldbloom was best known as the founding secretary (1959–69) and later chairman of the Melbourne-based Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament. He led its inaugural Frankston to Melbourne Hiroshima Day nuclear disarmament march in 1963, which aimed to show the radius of destruction of a nuclear bomb. The CICD opposed all nuclear testing, focusing on tests in the Pacific. Goldbloom also played a pivotal role as a co-chair of the Melbourne Moratorium of 8 May 1970, in which close to 100,000 people marched in protest at Australian involvement in the Vietnam War.

A long-standing member of the Australian Labor Party, Goldbloom twice stood unsuccessfully for Federal parliament: as an Independent Labor candidate for the division of Isaacs in 1951, and as an ALP candidate for Latrobe in 1958. Aligned also with the Communist Party of Australia, he was assumed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) to be an undisclosed member. He was frequently attacked in parliament and in the press for alleged communist links, and his family had to endure constant surveillance by ASIO, and verbal abuse as a result of the anti-communist press reports.

Goldbloom was a tall man with a commanding presence, a gift for oratory, a disarming humour, and strong convictions. A tireless advocate of the need for cooperation on nuclear disarmament and peace across the Cold War divide, he was courageous in the face of personal attacks aimed at discrediting grassroots peace and nuclear disarmament campaigns. He found inspiration from travelling and joined Australian peace delegations to the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, Europe, Japan, and the Asia–Pacific region. His visits to Hiroshima, to the Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, and to a Vietnamese hospital for children disabled by Agent Orange, deeply affected him. He authored pamphlets published by the CICD on German Re-armament (1962) and The Arms Race (1972), and a reflection on his peace campaigning, Origins of Conflict (1985), which concluded with his warning: ‘Nuclear weapons threaten us with a holocaust. This threat must link us in common actions for survival’ (Goldbloom 1985, 70).

In the last two decades of his life, Goldbloom continued to work on nuclear disarmament campaigns and to attend World Peace Council meetings. A lifelong supporter of the Soviet Union, he was encouraged by the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s but shattered by Russia’s shift to capitalism and oligarchy after 1991. He was appointed AM in 1990. Dogged by ill health in his final years, he died of cancer on 25 May 1999 at South Caulfield and was cremated. He was survived by his wife and their three daughters, Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo, Ruth Maddison, and Jackie Price, who followed their parents’ commitment to peace and social justice. Ruth used her father’s 17-volume ASIO surveillance files and other archival papers for her 2020 photographic installation The Fellow Traveller, while Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo published a memoir, My Father’s Shadow, in 2023.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Goldbloom, Sam, and Rosa Goldbloom. Interview by Itiel Berenson and Renate Kamener, 1998. Audio recording. University of Melbourne Archives
  • Goldbloom, Sam. Origins of Conflict: A Veteran Australian Peace Activist Reflects on Forty Years of the Cold War and the Struggle for Disarmament. Melbourne: Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament, 1985
  • Kamener, Renate, and Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo. ‘Samuel Mark Goldbloom: Peace Campaigner.’ Age (Melbourne), 24 June 1999, 27
  • Maddison, Ruth. Interview by the author, 24 February 2022
  • Mendes, Philip. ‘The Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Anti-Semitism: An Historical Re-appraisal.’ Pts. 1, 2, and 3. Australian Jewish Historic Society Journal 10, no. 6 (May 1989): 524–41, and 10, no. 7 (November 1989): 598–615, and 11, no. 1 (November 1990): 160–79
  • Mendes, Philip. The New Left, The Jews and the Vietnam War 1965–1972. North Caulfield, Vic.: Lazare Press, 1993
  • National Archives of Australia. A6119, Goldbloom, Samuel Mark, 17 vols
  • National Archives of Australia. A9301, 49615
  • Redlich, Sam. ‘Personal Politics: Sam Goldbloom in the Victorian Peace Movement.’ In A Shaft of Light Across the Land: Studies of Australian Peace Movements since 1930, 39–60. Melbourne: History Dept., University of Melbourne, 2006
  • Rovetto, Laura. ‘Peace Activism in the Cold War: The Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament, 1949–1970.’ PhD thesis, Victoria University, 2020
  • University of Melbourne Archives. 103/2, Goldbloom, Sam (1919–1999)
  • Zurbo, Sandra Goldbloom. Interview by the author, 5 March 2022
  • Zurbo, Sandra Goldbloom. My Father’s Shadow: A Memoir. Clayton, Vic.: Monash University Publishing, 2023

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Michael Hamel-Green, 'Goldbloom, Samuel Mark (1919–1999)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/goldbloom-samuel-mark-33662/text42124, published online 2024, accessed online 29 May 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Sam Goldbloom, Hiroshima Day, 1986

Sam Goldbloom, Hiroshima Day, 1986

By Ruth Maddison

Life Summary [details]

Birth

31 December, 1919
London, Middlesex, England

Death

25 May, 1999 (aged 79)
Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (prostate)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Education
Occupation
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