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Eduard Lasker Collection

Identifier: AR 1195

Scope and Content Note

The Eduard Lasker Collection is arranged in three series and contains a large amount of photographs, business cards, membership cards and identification cards, but also holds other significant documents, like newspaper clippings (mostly obituaries), personal correspondence, speeches, working notes, a transcript of Lasker’s testament and instruction relating to it, a scholarly article and essay, and documents pertaining to Lasker’s political activity.

The central theme of this collection is Eduard Lasker's public and political life and appears to be the 'leitmotiv' of the three series. He stands out as one of the most important and influential personalities of his time, as a politician, jurist, parliamentarian and defender of liberal values in Bismarck's Germany and years surrounding German unification (1870).

Looking at Series III: Photographs and Cards, it is striking to see that Lasker found the time to be a member of various associations (craftsmen, literary, arts and crafts) and even teach the 'common' people, along with being an active lawyer, one of the leaders of the German National Party and member of the German Parliament. The photographs in this series show men, some of whom have surely been his parliamentary allies, who discussed current political issues with him in letters from Series II: Political Activities (some letters are written in old Suetterlin handwriting). Series II also holds a book with transcripts of Lasker's speeches, with such titles such as 'The future of the German Empire', which is also translated into English. In Series I: Personal, one can extract information about Eduard Lasker, the person, through praising obituaries in newspapers, like the New York Times, in several German papers, and in Freemason journals. An essay and article by Gordon R. Mork constitute interesting views on Lasker and his activities from a scholarly point of view: a portrait of a 'critic of Bismarckian Germany' and an insight into Lasker's role in the Prussian Railway Scandal of 1873 ('Economics and Politics in the German Empire').


  • Creation: 1856-1976
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1860-1929


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

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

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

In 1829, Eduard Lasker was born into an orthodox Jewish merchant family in Jarotschin, a village in Posen (today Jarocin in Poland). He attended secondary school and subsequently University in Breslau where he studied mathematics and law. In 1848, he took an active part in the ongoing revolutions in Vienna, like many students of his time, who were discontented with the ruling system and asked for a more democratic order and social justice.

Afterwards he went to Berlin, where he continued his legal studies and eventually was employed as a lawyer's assistant at the Kammergericht in Berlin. He went to England after his second state examination in order to devote his time to the study of constitutional law. England at that time served as the model state for German liberals. He returned to Prussia/Berlin in 1856 after three years, and became Assessor to the Stadtgericht two years later. Because of his Jewish roots, a judge's career was denied him.

Throughout the years 1861-1864, Lasker earned an initial reputation by writing various articles, which were later to be published under the title Zur Verfassungsgeschichte Preussens (Leipzig, 1974).

In 1865, he was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives, and in 1867 to the German Parliament, benefiting from a changed social environment, where Jews were more readily given equal status, since they had fought in the same wars of unification in 1866 (Austro-Prussian War) and 1870 (German-French War).

As a consequence of his fervent identification with Liberalism, he first joined the German Progress Party (DFP), and later on helped form the National Liberal Party, whose members strongly supported Bismarck's foreign policy, although they disagreed with him most of the time on domestic issues.

Lasker was a very energetic and influential parliamentarian, who was a decisive force in the law-making process, always keeping in mind the values of liberty as a guiding principle. Amongst other things, he is well-known to posterity for a speech that he made in 1873, where he unveiled the financial mismanagement of the Pomeranian railway and was responsible for the resignation of Hermann Wagener, one of Bismarck's most trusted men.

Lasker was an idealist and optimist, and he and his parliamentary allies contributed to the legal unity of the German nation and the strengthening of the powers and privileges of Parliament. Two of his great achievements were a thorough-going reform of the fiscal structure and the right of parliamentary free speech, which was accepted by the Reichstag despite Bismarck's opposition.

Lasker also identified himself with the needs of the common people. He was a member of and even teacher at several craftsmen's associations.

He never married. In late 1883 he went on to a trip to the United States, where he met with his brother M. Lasker, who had immigrated to Galveston, Texas earlier in the century. He gave several speeches, some at charitable institutions like the Mount Sinai Hospital, and he died in January 1884 – some claim that it was due to an overload of work.

The U.S. House of Representatives sent a note of condolence to the German Parliament, which was rejected by Bismarck on the ground of irreconcilable differences.


0.75 Linear Feet


This collection documents the life and work of Eduard Lasker, a German politician and jurist, who was member of the Prussian House of Representatives between 1865 and 1879, and later on member of the German Parliament (1867). He played a decisive role in the process of German Unification (1870), and gained importance as a co-founder and leader of the National Liberal Party and chief opponent to Chancellor Bismarck. The collection includes a great amount of photographs, identity cards, membership cards and business cards, but the core consists of obituaries, transcripts of some of his speeches and essays of other scholars, a draft of a constitution of the North German Federation with marginal comments by Lasker, letters, newspaper clippings, scholarly papers, essays, articles and a review.


The collection is divided into three series in the following manner:

Other Finding Aid

This collection has a previous item-level inventory.

Related Material

The Lasker Family Collection documents Helmuth Lasker's genealogical research project on the origins of his family. It can be found in the Archives of the Leo Baeck Institute, call number: AR 5136. There is also an article on Lasker and Bismarck by Hugo Feldenfeld, published in Der Zeitgeist on January 4, 1909, which can be found under MF 41(7). A manuscript by Veit Valentin on Eduard Lasker is available on microfilm: MF 183: Manuscript by Veit Valentin: Eduard Lasker or the Tragedy of German Liberalism (586p).

Separated Material

Some photographs from this collection have been removed to the Photograph Collection.

Processing Information

Internal rearrangement of Series I, removal of folder III B 65 from Series III to Series II. Removal of business card (invitation card) no. 65 to Series I, Folder: invitation cards and drawing.

Guide to the Papers of Eduard Lasker (1860-1929) 1856-1976 AR 1195
Processed by Hannah Loewenberg-Harnest
© 2011
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from EduardLasker.xml

Revision Statements

  • January 13, 2013 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States