The Hochschule. Material History and Intellectual Legacy

Held at the Centrum Judaicum in Berlin on 29–30 November 2022, this international conference by the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem and Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow marks the 150th anniversary of the »Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums,« as well as 80 years since its closure by the Nazi regime.

Established in 1872 against the background of the permanent exclusion of Jewish Studies and rabbinical training from German universities, the »Hochschule« was one of the leading Jewish academic institutions in Germany – a spiritual home for prominent Jewish scholars, including Leo Baeck, Hermann Cohen, Ismar Elbogen, Emil Fackenheim, Abraham Geiger, Julius Guttmann, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Solomon Schechter, and Eugen Täubler. Over its seven-decade lifetime, the »Hochschule« developed a unique tradition of learning that promoted a broad and liberal understanding of Jewish culture and thought.

The institute’s activity in Germany grounded into a halt in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power. Although it managed to carry on its work even after November 1938, when most German-Jewish institutions had been dissolved, the Hochschule was eventually closed in 1942, and the vast majority of its scholars and students perished in the Holocaust. Its material assets, especially the precious library holdings, were destroyed and plundered. Comprising about 60,000 volumes, the library constituted one of the most important Jewish book collections in Central Europe, representing the manifold traditions of the »Wissenschaft des Judentums.« Only remnants of the library survived the war, reappearing in many different places, where the Nazis had dumped or stored them, and were further disseminated across numerous countries in the immediate post-war period. In these times and places, the »Hochschule's« books and material remains took on different functions: some returned into Jewish collections and served Jewish scholarship once more, outside Germany. Some »disappeared« in German or other European libraries, and were seldom found or used. Still others were salvaged by members of the institute who managed to flee Germany and continue their intellectual work in new homelands. In that way, and despite its violent dissolution under the Nazi regime, the »Hochschule’s« legacy was kept alive against all odds.

In this conference we bring together scholars dealing with the intellectual legacy of the »Hochschule« as well as with the material aspects of the institution’s historical development. We welcome contributions on the material history of the Hochschule during and before the Nazi period, and are especially interested in what remained to form its (new) legacy after 1945. To add a fresh perspective to the question of (German-)Jewish cultural heritage and its development in the 20th century, we want to focus on the post-Holocaust Hochschule to understand what its remains may teach us about the Wissenschaft des Judentums, and Jewish scholarship and culture more broadly.

Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer

Irene Aue-Ben-David, Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem | Avriel Bar Levav, The Open University of Israel | Emily Bilski, Independent Curator, Jerusalem | Bettina Farack, Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem | Noah Gerber, Tel-Aviv University | Rachel Heuberger, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt | Anna Holzer-Kawalko, Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem | Caroline Jessen, Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow, Leipzig | Irene Munster, Priddy Library, Maryland | Nils Roemer, The University of Texas at Dallas | Joachim Schlör, University of Southampton | Daniel Schwarz, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem | Anja Siegemund, Centrum Judaicum | Zsuzsanna Toronyi, Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives | Kerstin von der Krone, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt | Yfaat Weiss, Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow, Leipzig/The Hebrew University of Jerusalem | Christian Wiese, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

29. bis 30. November 2022
Centrum Judaicum Berlin sowie digital

Konferenz im Rahmen des Schwerpunktprojekts »Das materielle und geistige Erbe der Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums« in Kooperation mit dem Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem

Gefördert von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft im Rahmen des Schwerpunktprogramms »Jüdisches Kulturerbe«