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Lucien Wolf and David Mowshowitch Papers

Identifier: RG 348

Scope and Content Note

The primary strength of the collection is the light it sheds on the situation of the Jews of Eastern Europe and the efforts of Western European Jews to aid them through political action. The material on Eastern Europe is strongest for the period 1880-1930 and broadly speaking, deals with persecution, economic conditions and legal disabilities of Jews in Russia, Poland, Romania, and elsewhere. There is also important material on the Peace Conference at Paris in 1919, in particular the drafting of the minorities treaties, and later the enforcement of the treaties and the effort to secure Jewish rights at the League of Nations and the United Nations. In addition, the papers document the conditions of Jews around the world, most notably the rise of Nazi persecution in Germany and the problem of Jewish refugees in the 1930s; the contemporary situation and history of Anglo-Jewry; and Palestine and the Zionist movement.

The collection also reflects Lucien Wolf's career as a journalist and historian and contains many examples of his work in these fields, primarily his writings on international diplomacy and the history of the Jews in England. Similarly, the papers show David Mowshowitch's various interests, such as his research into Yiddish language and literature.

There are also records of the Joint Foreign Committee and materials collected by the Joint Foreign Committee in the course of its work, including reports of the Joint Foreign Committee and of other Jewish relief organizations; diplomatic and inter-office memoranda; and minutes of meetings. The correspondence in the collection consists of both Lucien Wolf's and David Mowshowitch's personal letters and official correspondence of the Joint Foreign Committee. Similarly, the press clippings relate both to Lucien Wolf's and David Mowshowitch's various activities and to the areas of concern of the Joint Foreign Committee. The papers of Lucien Wolf, including both his personal papers and some Joint of Foreign Committee records, passed after Lucien Wolf's death in 1930 to the care of his secretary, David Mowshowitch. However, it is not possible to separate correspondence between that of Lucien Wolf and that of the organizations he represented, since the correspondence had been mixed before it reached the YIVO Archives.

The sixth and seventh series consist of records of the Conjoint Foreign Committee and Joint Foreign Committee and are the longest and most significant in the collection. They reflect a wide variety of activities undertaken by that organization over many decades on behalf of Jews throughout the world. The two series contain similar types of documents and cover many of the same subjects. Because of this overlap, the researcher should consult the two series together for material on any given topic. It may be advisable to be aware of the fact that newspaper clippings removed to Series X supplement both these series.

The papers of Lucien Wolf and David Mowshowitch cover the years 1865 to 1963, with a few earlier items, particularly pertaining to Anglo-Jewish history, dating to 1708. Lucien Wolf's papers cover the period 1865-1930 and David Mowshowitch's papers span the years 1915-1963, with the majority of material on the period from the 1880s to World War II. The collection consists of diaries, correspondence, notes, manuscripts, typescripts, copies of articles, reports, memoranda, minutes of meetings, and newspaper clippings.


  • Creation: 1708-1963
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1880-1930


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, French, German, Russian, Yiddish, Polish, Hebrew, and Hungarian.

Access restrictions

The collection is open to the public. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained in writing from the YIVO Archives.

Use restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011 email:

Biographical Note

Lucien Wolf was born in London in 1857, the son of a Bohemian political refugee and his Austrian wife. Lucien Wolf began a career in journalism at an early age, becoming a writer for The Jewish World in 1874. He held this position until 1894. Lucien Wolf soon began writing for the general as well as the Anglo-Jewish press; for example, he became an assistant editor of The Public Leader in 1877. Later he served as an editor of The Jewish World from 1905 to 1908.

As a journalist, Lucien Wolf specialized in foreign affairs and diplomacy and became a highly respected expert in these areas. From 1890 to 1909 he served as foreign editor of The Daily Graphic, where his articles on foreign affairs were published under the pseudonym "Diplomaticus." He also wrote under this name for The Fortnightly Review during the years 1895-1905. Lucien Wolf's column "The Foreign Office Bag" ran in The Daily Graphic from 1907 to 1914.

Lucien Wolf first became interested in Russian-Jewish affairs after the outbreak of pogroms in 1881. He became an advocate for Russian Jews and a critic of the Czarist regime. In particular, he drew attention to the plight of persecuted Jews at the time of events such as the Kishinev pogrom (1903), the Beilis trial (1912), and the Polish economic boycott of the Jews (1912). Because of his sympathy for his suffering coreligionists, Lucien Wolf's writing was critical of Czarist Russia and favorable to the more liberal German government. In 1912 Lucien Wolf foundedDarkest Russia, which chronicled the disabilities of Jews under the Czarist government, as a supplement to The Jewish Chronicle. However, with the outbreak of World War I, Lucien Wolf's perceived anti-Russian and pro-German position undermined his standing as a foreign affairs expert and effectively ended his career in journalism. He lost his position at The Daily Graphic and halted publication of Darkest Russia out of deference to the Anglo-Russian alliance.

Lucien Wolf's concern for persecuted Jews and his knowledge of foreign affairs led to his long and fruitful involvement with the Conjoint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association (after 1917, the Joint Foreign Committee). Lucien Wolf first became a member of the Conjoint Foreign Committee in 1888 and was appointed secretary of the committee around the time of the outbreak of World War I. In this position, with the aid of his long-time secretary David Mowshowitch, he brought his diplomatic skills and his contacts at the British Foreign Office to bear on his work.

Lucien Wolf's most important contribution came with the end of World War I, when he attended the Paris Peace Conference as part of the Anglo-Jewish delegation. Lucien Wolf was instrumental in drafting the minority treaties, which guaranteed rights for the ethnic, religious, and linguistic minority populations of the defeated and newly-independent states of Eastern Europe. Lucien Wolf saw these treaties as a tool whereby the various groups of these multi-ethnic countries - notably Jews - could live in harmony and their governments be led to develop in the liberal, democratic traditions of Western Europe.

The Jewish delegations at the Peace Conference were themselves split along ideological lines. Most of the delegates from Eastern Europe supported the goals of Diaspora nationalism and sought for the Jews the status of a separate national minority. The majority of American delegates were Zionists. Lucien Wolf, however, like most West European delegates, opposed both Diaspora nationalism and Zionism. When a majority of the national Jewish delegations united to form the Comité des délégations juives, the English and French delegates, led by Lucien Wolf, refused to join. Whatever his differences with the other delegates, Lucien Wolf worked along with members of the Comité des délégations juives to secure Jewish rights through the minorities treaties. He used his diplomatic skills and personal contacts to facilitate negotiations, distributing copies of his Notes on the Diplomatic History of the Jewish Question to the delegates in order put the events of the conference in historical perspective and to disseminate his views.

Lucien Wolf worked to secure the rights set forth in the minorities treaties in the years following the Paris Peace Conference. However, despite his efforts, the treaties proved to be largely unenforceable. The League of Nations was charged with overseeing the treaty guarantees, but a member nation had to bring a treaty violation to the attention of the League of Nations before it could take action. Predictably, most countries were reluctant to antagonize a foreign government by complaining that that government was abusing its citizens.

Throughout the 1920s, Lucien Wolf continued his efforts on behalf of persecuted Jews as secretary of the Joint Foreign Committee. In 1925 he travelled to Poland to inspect the situation of Jews there, and in 1926 he visited Portugal and became involved in aiding Portuguese Marranos. With the outbreak of anti-Semitic violence in Romania in 1927, Lucien Wolf worked to alleviate the situation of Romanian Jews. Wolf also served in Geneva as an expert on minority rights at the League of Nations. He was a founder of the Advisory Committee of the High Commissioner for Refugees, and became head of that organization in 1929.

As a diplomat, Lucien Wolf's approach was always cautious. He preferred to work quietly with individuals whom he felt shared his views, rather than to put direct pressure on the Foreign Office or on foreign governments. As a loyal Englishman, he feared that any too aggressive action on behalf of foreign coreligionists might call into question his and other Jews' allegiances to their homelands and cause a backlash of anti-Semitism. Moreover, as a Western European liberal, he was confident that the governments of Eastern Europe could and would eventually be reformed into enlightened regimes where Jews enjoyed full equal rights, as they did in France and Britain.

Lucien Wolf's position on the issues of Diaspora nationalism and Zionism appeared to shift somewhat over the years. He met with Theodore Herzl at the time of the latter's visit to London in 1896, and when Israel Zangwill founded the Jewish Territorial Organization in 1905 he became an early member. However, Lucien Wolf later became a leader of the anti-Zionist camp, staunchly opposing the suggestion that Jews had a national identity other than as citizens of their country of residence. Lucien Wolf later seems to have modified his stance and become more sympathetic to the idea of Diaspora nationalism, possibly under the influence of David Mowshowitch. In an article of April 1917, Lucien Wolf wrote that over the past 35 years a new "Jewish secular nationality" had developed in Eastern Europe.

In addition to his diplomatic work, Lucien Wolf was an important Anglo-Jewish historian. He was one of the organizers of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition of 1887, at which time he compiled a bibliography of Anglo-Jewish history. This exhibit led to the founding of the Jewish Historical Society of England in 1893, of which Lucien Wolf was the first president.

Lucien Wolf's biography of Sir Moses Montefiore was published in 1884. He also edited Menassah ben Israel's Mission to Oliver Cromwell (1901) and a centenary edition of Disraeli's novels in 1905. Lucien Wolf published the Life of the First Marquess of Ripon (1921) and wrote on the history of the Portuguese Marrano community in 1925. He also compiled genealogies of many prominent Anglo-Jewish families.

Lucien Wolf's historical writings also reflected his concern with the persecution of Jews. He was considered an expert on anti-Semitism, and wrote The Jewish Bogey as a refutation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Lucien Wolf also contributed the article on "Anti-Semitism," as well as that on "Zionism," to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Biographical Note

David Mowshowitch was born in Russia and settled in London around the time of World War I. Beginning in 1915 he was active on the Board of Deputies of British Jews and was appointed Foreign Secretary of that body. David Mowshowitch served as secretary and chief assistant to Lucien Wolf after the latter became the head of the Joint Foreign Committee. He remained in this position throughout Lucien Wolf's tenure and continued his work for the Joint Foreign Committee after Lucien Wolf's death in 1930.

As a native of Russia , David Mowshowitch functioned as a liaison between the members of the Joint Foreign Committee and the Eastern European Jews on whose behalf the Joint Foreign Committee was working. He often travelled abroad to report on conditions in areas of Jewish suffering. During the years 1915-1918 David Mowshowitch was the Joint Foreign Committee representative in Stockholm, Sweden. The reports he sent back to London during these years provided the Joint Foreign Committee with its main source of intelligence on conditions in Eastern Europe.

David Mowshowitch is also credited with fostering in Lucien Wolf a more positive attitude towards minority rights and the use of Yiddish of which he was a fluent speaker. An amateur historian, as well as a Yiddishist and amateur linguist, David Mowshowitch wrote a book on the Yiddish language and published translations of parts of the Bible in Yiddish. He was an active member of the London YIVO Committee, through which he donated his papers to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Historical Note

The Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association was, as its name implied, a body formed by these two main organizations of British Jewry for the purpose of handling initiatives in foreign policy. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the officially recognized representative body of British Jewry, originated in 1760 from a cooperative effort of both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities of Great Britain. It adopted a written constitution in 1835. The Board of Deputies of British Jews fought for political emancipation and Jewish interests in British civil law dealing with marriage and divorce.

The Anglo-Jewish Association was founded in 1871 and modelled on its French counterpart, the Alliance israélite universelle . Like the Alliance israélite universelle, the Anglo-Jewish Association was a voluntary association that concentrated on educational work among the Jews of less "enlightened" countries, as well as on the promotion of rights of persecuted Jews abroad. In addition, because the Orthodox rabbinate controlled the official state-recognized organs of the Jewish community, the Anglo-Jewish Association served as means for many prominent assimilated Jews to participate in the affairs of Anglo-Jewry.

The Conjoint Foreign Committee was founded in 1878, with equal representation of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association. The Conjoint Foreign Committee worked with the British Foreign Office in its efforts to improve the conditions of Jews in foreign lands, an area of increasing concern as the situation of Jews in Eastern Europe deteriorated in the 1880s. The role of the Conjoint Foreign Committee became more important as the Alliance israélite universelle concentrated its efforts on educational work, in effect leaving the Conjoint Foreign Committee to speak for Western European Jewry in matters of diplomacy.

In 1917, the issue of Zionism, which had long divided the Anglo-Jewish community, came to the fore. The Board of Deputies of British Jews was Zionist in its orientation, while the Anglo-Jewish Association essentially opposed the creation of a Jewish state. In May of 1917, the Conjoint Foreign Committee issued a declaration stating its opposition to Zionism. This led the Board of Deputies of British Jews to withdraw its delegates from the Conjoint Foreign Committee and terminate its relationship with the Anglo-Jewish Association. By the end of 1917 a compromise was reached, whereby a new Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association was formed. It was agreed that the renamed Joint Foreign Committee have a majority of members from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and that it take no position on the issue of Zionism. Lucien Wolf was appointed the first secretary of the Joint Foreign Committee, a position which he held until his death in 1930. The representation of the Anglo-Jewish Association on the Joint Foreign Committee was further reduced in 1937 as the influence of the anti-Zionists diminished, and eventually was altogether eliminated.


13.2 Linear Feet


Lucien Wolf (1857-1930) was a diplomat, foreign affairs expert, journalist, and historian. As the secretary of the Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association (earlier the Conjoint Foreign Committee), Lucien Wolf took a leading role in the efforts of Western Jewry to aid persecuted Jews in Eastern Europe. He was also a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference (1919), where he helped to draft the minorities treaties guaranteeing the rights of Jews and other ethnic and religious minority groups. David Mowshowitch (1887-1957) was Lucien Wolf's secretary and aide at the Joint Foreign Committee for many years and continued to work for the Joint Foreign Committee until the 1950s. The collection consists of the papers of Lucien Wolf and David Mowshowitch, as well as fragmentary records of the Joint Foreign Committee. The material includes personal papers, correspondence, reports, memoranda, minutes of meetings, copies of articles, and press clippings. The documents pertain to the situation of persecuted Jews throughout the world, most notably the efforts of the Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association to aid the Jews of Eastern Europe, and to the Peace Conference at Paris in 1919 and the minorities treaties. There is also material on Lucien Wolf's and David Mowshowitch's other activities, most importantly Lucien Wolf's career as a journalist and as a historian of the Jewish community in Britain.


The collection is organized in 10 topical series.

  1. Series I: Lucien Wolf - Personal
  2. Series II: Lucian Wolf - Historical writings and related material
  3. Series III: Conjoint Foreign Committee and Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association - Correspondence with individuals
  4. Series IV: Conjoint Foreign Committee and Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association - Correspondence with organizations
  5. Series V: Conjoint Foreign Committee and Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association - Correspondence with British Government Offices
  6. Series VI: Conjoint Foreign Committee and Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association - Subject files arranged chronologically
  7. Series VII: Conjoint Foreign Committee and Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association - Subject files arranged geographically
  8. Series VIII: Conjoint Foreign Committee and Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association - Organization files
  9. Series IX: David Mowshowitch
  10. Series X: Newspaper clippings

Custodial History

In 1956 David Mowshowitch began sending these materials, along with his own papers, to YIVO in New York. After his death in 1957, his widow completed the task of transferring the collection to New York with the help of the London YIVO Committee and its secretary, Michael Zilberberg. By 1958 the entire collection was received by the YIVO Archives, along with approximately 1,000 books and pamphlets which were given to the YIVO Library. A supplement to the collection was received sometime prior to 1978.

Separated Material

Approximately one thousand books and pamphlets were removed to the YIVO Library.


This collection is available on microfilm, MK502.1-.26. In the finding aid, the first number in "Frame" refers to the reel number; the second refers to the frame on that reel.

Processing Information

Rivke Tcherikower completed the first organization of the collection after its arrival in the YIVO Archives. In 1966, the collection was arranged by Zosa Szajkowski with the help of a grant from M.E. Kalish of Philadelphia. At this time, the material was sorted into six series and the 28,433 pages numbered consecutively. Zosa Szajkowski prepared a Yiddish language catalog to the collection, which was published under the title Idishe diplomatie. katalog fun der David Mowshowitch-kolektsie in YIVO (Jewish Diplomacy. Catalogue of the David Mowshowitch Collection in YIVO) inYidn in England: shtudyes un materyaln, 1880-1940 (Jews in England: Studies and Materials, 1880-1940). New York: YIVO, 1966. pages 283-296.

A new catalog in English was prepared in 1978 by David M. Wolfson. David M. Wolfson's catalog followed Zosa Szajkowski's arrangement, although some folders were further subdivided. It also included an additional series consisting of material received after the Yiddish catalog was published. This material was divided into folders and appended to the end of the collection. Although the supplement was described as a separate series, the folders were also identified according to where they were believed to fit in with the original series.

In 1990, the collection was microfilmed with the help of a grant from the S.H. and Helen R. Scheuer Family Foundation. At this time, the collection was rearranged according to principles of provenance and original order by Cecile E. Kuznitz, who also prepared the present catalog and concordance of old and new folder numbers.

The description of the collection was revised and converted into an EAD finding aid by Stanislav Pejša in 2004. The romanization of the Russian titles follows the ALA-LC Romanization table.

Guide to the Papers of Lucien Wolf (1857-1930) and David Mowshowitch (1887-1957), 1708-1963 (bulk 1880-1930) RG 348
Processed by David Wolfson and Cecile E. Kuznitz
© 1990, 2004
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
with the assistance of a grant from the S.H. and Helen R. Scheuer Family Foundation
Edition statement
This version was derived from WolfMowshowitch.xml

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States