Monthly Archives: September 2012

Rabbi Ronald B. Sobel Named President of LBI

Rabbi Sobel is Senior Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanu-El in New York City and a highly regarded scholar.

Children’s Literature

AM Silbermann and Emil Bernhard Cohn edited this “Children’s Haggadah” in Berlin in 1933. Intended to involve children in the seder, it features “moving picture” illustrations by Erwin Singer. Children are invited to “pull slowly” on tabs connected to inserts in the illustrations, which move to reveal hidden elements of the pictures. The book also contains songs by the composer Arno Nadel (who served as Choir Director of the Jewish Community in Berlin) and other contemporary artists.

Children’s literature digitized by LBI reflects efforts by German-Jewish communities to educate children about Judaism, and even Zionism, an increasingly relevant topic following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. Some, like the illustrated “Childrens’ Haggadah” remain enduring favorites today.

Jewish Liturgical Music

Chief Cantor Aron Weiss of Berlin sings "Ato Zodea" (only you know when the world will end) as part of the Yom Kippur service. This recording comes from a small collection of rare German records of Jewish liturgical music from the early era of recorded sound.

DigiBaeck includes a number of rare recordings of Jewish liturgical music from the 1920s. These shellac 78 rpm records are documents of Jewish religious life as well as the history of the recorded sound industry. [portfolio_slideshow]

Persecution, Deportation, and Emigration

Born in Brünn, Austria-Hungary (now Brno, Czechoslovakia) in 1896, Norbert Troller served as a soldier in World War I. After the war he studied architecture in Brno and Vienna. He was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942, where he worked as an architect for the Jewish self-administration of the camp, and produced works of art as well. In 1944 he was imprisoned by the Gestapo and then sent to Auschwitz.  He survived and emigrated to the United States in 1948 where he designed many Jewish Community Centers.

Among the artworks in DigiBaeck are many works that attest to the experience of German-speaking Jews under the Nazi regime. These include works secretly created in Theresienstadt by architect Norbert Troller, depictions of refugee and internment camps by Samson Schames, and David L. Bloch’s extensive body of work documenting the Shanghai Ghetto.

Illustrators – Hermann Struck, Hugo Steiner-Prag, E.M. Lilien

Czech-born painter and illustrator Hugo Steiner-Prag, who was partial to tales of the fantastic, illustrated the Gustav Meyrink novel, "The Golem", published in a luxury edition in Leipzig by Kurt Wolff, 1916. In most of the illustrations of the old Jewish quarter of Prague is the protagonist as much as the Golem. In this later drawing, however the bulky figure of the Golem looms on the page in isolation accompanied only by what appear to be a double shadow.

Among the many art books in DigiBack are limited edition volumes containing most of the major works of the illustrators E.M. Lilien, Hugo Steiner-Prag, and Hermann Struck.

Expressionists – Ludwig Meidner

Meidner, Ludwig, Prophet (1915)

Exponents of German Expressionism, an early 20th century movement that shaped many other avant garde movements over the course of the century, and artists influenced by it are well-represented in DigiBaeck, from Ludwig Meidner to Peter Lipman-Wulf.

Impressionists – Max Liebermann and Lesser Ury

The painting shows a figure bending over to attend the plants in a cabbage field, probably planted during WWI at the artist's summer house in Wannsee outside Berlin.  The handling and colors are close to Impressionism, but the brushstrokes are wider than French impressionism.

DigiBaeck includes many original works and rare prints of works by Max Liebermann an important German impressionist, and founder of the Berlin Secession. Lesser Ury (1861-1931), another Berlin impressionist who had a complicated relationship with Liebermann, is also represented in DigiBaeck.

Augenspiegel (Recommendation on whether to confiscate, destroy, and burn all Jewish books) (1511)

Johannes Reuchlin's famous defense of Jewish books, "Augenspiegel "(1511).

This early defense of religious tolerance was written by the Christian Hebraist Johannes Reuchlin in rebuttal of a widely discussed proposal to ban all Jewish books.

Jüdisches Ceremoniel (1726)

Jewish Customs and Accoutrements - from Juedisches Ceremoniel

Jüdisches Ceremoniel (1726), a beautifully illustrated description of Jewish religious ceremonies, rites of passage and feast days intended as a primer on Judaism for 18th century German audience. Its author, Paul Christian Kirchner, was a convert from Judaism who sought to persuade other Jews to follow his example and believed that an informed German public would be more effective at winning converts.

The Complete Horse Connoisseur (1764)

Der Vollkommene Pferdekenner, Tab IV

What is extraordinary about this veterinary work designed for equestrians, “Der Vollkommene Pferdekenner”, is the “Anhang” or Appendix, which consists of 36 pages of Hebrew words and phrases which were used by Jewish horse-traders, transliterated into Gothic letters and provided with German definitions. It was intended to give German horse buyers an extra edge in negotiations in an era when many horse dealers were Jewish.