Jews Between Empires and Nation-States
From the Middle Ages down into modernity, Central, East-Central and Eastern Europe were largely shaped by imperial forms of rule: along with the Polish-Lithuanian state, these were mainly the Russian, Habsburg and Ottoman empires. In their political and cultural structures, these were trans-national, thus forming an ideal political correspondence to the Jews of Europe as a trans-territorial population. The ousting of imperial forms of rule by ever more common principles of the nation-state and its exclusivity in the 19th century, intensifying in the early 20th century, constituted a fundamental upheaval in the conditions of existence for the Jewries affected.
Especially useful to investigate in this context is the reconfiguring of political frame conditions of Jewish life worlds in Central and East-Central Europe in the interwar period. Research on Jewish diplomacy as an attempt to combine a new order of Europe based on the nation-state with the establishment of an effective framework of international law likewise encompassing minority protection takes on exemplary importance. This central research focus looks at several aspects. Along with Jewish “diplomatic history,” developed against the backdrop of international contexts transforming from empires into nation-states, it also explores the contributions of Jewish personalities who as lawyers and politicians took up the task of representing the interests of a population that was a “historical minority” without any territorial affinity. It now found itself exposed to the shifts and displacements associated with and flowing from the national and territorial ambitions of other actors. Along with the politics of Jewish representation of interests beyond the nation-states, these persons and personalities contributed to the development of non-national forms of law, especially international law. Within the context of a broad multi-segmented research program, scholars at the Institute are investigating its history of impact from the minority treaties after the 1919 Paris Peace Treaty down to questions of restitution after 1945.