Press Release

16 August 2023

Emissär der jüdischen Sache. Eine politische Biografie Richard Lichtheims

New release of the Dubnow Institute


Under the title »Emissär der jüdischen Sache« the first comprehensive political biography of Richard Lichtheim(1885–1963) has been published in the Studies of the Dubnow Institute series.

For decades, the Berlin-born Jewish politician and diplomat Richard Lichtheim (1885–1963) represented the interests of the Zionists towards the reigning powers of the time. As an emissary of the Zionist Organization, he spent World War II in Geneva, Switzerland, trying to save persecuted Jews. He was thus one of the first contemporary witnesses to understand that the Nazi mass crimes being committed against the Jews of Europe constituted crimes of a hitherto unknown dimension, aiming at nothing less than their systematic and total annihilation. Previously, during World War I, Lichtheim had worked in Ottoman Constantinople, where his skillful efforts succeeded in deflecting the repressive minority politics of the Young Turks away from Jewish settlement in Palestine. The changing political realities in Europe and Palestine repeatedly prompted Lichtheim to rethink his own concept of nationalism: In the interwar period, he still promoted the maximum demands of the Revisionist Zionists, but against the background of the Holocaust he finally became a supporter of the left-liberal party Aliya Hadasha. Andrea Kirchner here unfolds Lichtheim’s biography as one shaped by ruptures and reorientations, demonstrating how closely his life was intertwined with the complex history of the Jewish national idea, the realization of which was repeatedly confronted with existential threats.