The Leo Baeck Institute recently signed an agreement with Dr. Horst Freitag, the German Consul General in New York, on behalf of the German Foreign Ministry, to receive $3 million over 4 years for LBI’s “New Acquisitions Preservation Project”, allowing for the cataloging of significant new historical material pertaining to the survivor population of refugees from Nazi Germany. The funding, authorized by the German Parliament, covers the years 2010 – 2013.
According to Carol Kahn Strauss, Executive Director of LBI, “The new funding will enable LBI to microfilm fragile and valuable historical archival materials, providing worldwide access to researchers, scholars, families and the general public. This funding will increase the rate at which microfilming will be conducted and allows for in-house handling of materials that are too fragile to be transported outside of the Institute.” The Institute is simultaneously digitizing its archival collections.
The funding will also be used to catalogue and conserve LBI’s collection of several thousand books, including a recently acquired collection of rare 16th century volumes dealing with Christian-Jewish relations. Works by Martin Luther, Hugo Grotius, and Thomas More are included. Among the archival papers being processed is the Pinkus Family Collection, a very important family from Silesia (a historical region in East Central Europe that spans Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany). The Pinkus and Fraenkel families were the leading textile manufacturers of their day and pioneered important welfare benefits for workers in their linen factories. Other members of this philanthropic family included the author/playwright Gerhart Hauptmann and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Ehrlich. Another collection of papers, those of George M. Mosse, contain some of the most important research done in the 20th century on the rise of National Socialism. A grandson of Berlin publishing magnate Rudolf Mosse, George spent his professional life as an internationally respected historian analyzing the society and its citizens. Taken to school as a boy in a chauffeur-driven car, Professor Mosse provided his students with intellectual insights and personal reminiscences of a period in history that changed the world.
“Access to these original materials that provide new insights into the German-Jewish heritage is important to scholars in the US and Europe, and increasingly to the new Jewish population in Germany,” continued Mrs. Strauss. As Dr. Freitag noted, the LBI archives are also being used by German citizens, especially high school and university students, who are interested in accessing their own local history – what happened in my town? How did the citizens react? What would I have done?
Leo Baeck Institute is the only organization dedicated to preserving the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry. The Institute was founded in 1955, with offices in each of the great outposts of the exiled community: London, Jerusalem and New York. From the beginning, New York was the repository for all library and archival collections. In 2001 LBI New York opened a branch of its archives at the new Jewish Museum Berlin.