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Council of Jews from Germany Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 5890

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the records of the Council of Jews from Germany (Council for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Jews from Germany). The records primarily range from the 1950s to the 1970s, and include correspondence concerning all aspects of restitution, particularly with the Claims Conference, internal minutes and other administrative and financial documents, and a small amount of cultural material. The correspondence in this collection shows the Council and its members finding their way in the post-war world. A primary concern was financial restitution from the West German government, but social and cultural concerns are also reflected. The history of German post-war restitution is generally well-documented here, as the Council was involved in most of the important events in restitution, such as the founding of the Claims Conference, as well as the Augsburg decision of 1954, which concerned heirless property. Correspondents include the West German government (and later the East German government), restitution organizations such as the JRSO and URO, and Jewish organizations such as the JDC and the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland.

The collection contains correspondence and other documents about the Council of Jews from Germany and its involvement with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (the Claims Conference). The Council was a founding member, and documents include correspondence with the conference itself and with the Council’s national partners, minutes, protocols, and other documents reflecting the initial negotiations between West Germany, Israel, and various Jewish organizations. The Claims Conference minutes also include memos, statements, protocols and some correspondence from the initial negotiations surrounding the Claims Conference.

Many of the correspondence files contain both incoming correspondence as well as copies of outgoing correspondence. There are also many carbons and typed copies, often sent as enclosures. Also included are excerpts from various meeting minutes, as well as some newspaper clippings.

The collection also contains the administrative and financial records of the Council of Jews from Germany, such as minutes and circulars of the Council executive, as well as copies of important correspondence, agendas, minutes, budget documents, audit reports, and correspondence with financial bodies such as the Jewish Trust Corporation and the Leo Baeck Charitable Trust.

Finally, the collection also contains some cultural materials, such as correspondence and clippings regarding controversial books and publications such as Recha Freier’s "Let the Children Come Home," and books by Hannah Arendt and Raul Hilberg about Jewish victimhood. The Council argued for changes to the books and also released public responses. These documents reflect an important period in post-war German-Jewish historiography. In addition to other reviews and clippings, cultural materials found here include eulogies, memorials, and obituaries for Leo Baeck and Ernst Berent, the articles of incorporation of Leo Baeck Institute Limited, a typed copy of a poem "Das Lied von Theresienstadt,” and parts of a restitution application, including original identification documents from immediate post-war period.

This is a list of significant correspondents, prepared during previous processing: American Federation of Jews from Central Europe; American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; Arendt, Hannah; Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain; Auerbach, Philipp; Aufbau; Axis Victims League; B'nai B'rith; Bach, Hans; Baeck, Leo; Baron, Salo; Bentwich, Norman; Berent, Ernst; Borchardt, Frederick W.; Breslauer, Walter; Callmann, Rudolf; Central British Fund for Relief and Rehabilitation; Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany; Council for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Jews from Germany; Council of Jews from Germany; Eschelbacher, Max; Ferencz, Benjamin; Galinski, Heinz; Goldmann, Nahum; Grosz, Mikulasz; Gruenewald, Max; Gyseling, Walter; Heilberg, Adolf; Irgun Olej Merkaz Europa; Jewish Agency; Jewish Colonization Association (ICA); Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO); Jewish Trust Corporation; Josephtal, Paul; Kareski, Georg; Kiesinger, Georg; Kreutzberger, Max; Landauer, Georg; Leo Baeck Institute; Lindenbaum, Walter; Mann, Ludwig; Moses, Siegfried; Mosse, Martha; Oncken, Wilhelm; Reichmann, Hans; Schaeffer, Hans; Schwarzschild, Fritz; Simon, Ernst; Stein, Nathan; Tramer, Hans; United Restitution Organization (URO); Weil, Bruno; Weltsch, Robert; Wiener, Alfred; Wollheim, Norbert; World Jewish Congress; Woyda, Bruno; Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland; and Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der deutschen Juden.

Dates

  • 1936-1994
  • Majority of material found within 1950-1977

Creator

Language of Materials

This collection is in German and English, with a small amount of French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Historical Note

The Council of Jews from Germany (Council for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Jews from Germany) is the umbrella organization of organizations built up by Jews from Germany and other Central European countries in their countries of resettlement after fleeing Nazi Germany. It represents the interests of former German Jews in matters of restitution and indemnification, legislation, contacts with successor organizations for heirless Jewish property in West Germany, and social work activities. Founded in 1945 in London, the first member organizations were Israel's Irgun Olei Merkaz Europa (IOME), the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe, and the Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain. It also has affiliates in other countries.

In the immediate post-war period, the Council's activities centered on restitution advocacy for Jews who had lived in Germany before World War II. The area of German restitution payments was complex, with claims also put forth by Jews living in Germany after the war (so-called successor communities), by worldwide Jewish organizations such as the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the World Jewish Committee (WJC), and by the state of Israel. In this mix of competing claims, which was made more complicated by hesitance of the western powers to press for restitution as well as by German relutance, the Council forcefully asserted the "moral claims" of Jews who had lived in Germany before the war. Many of these issues were resolved by the mid-1950s. The Luxembourg Agreements of 1952, between West Germany, Israel, and the Claims Conference, created a framework for future restitution and indemnification claims. The American Court of Restitutions Appeals (CORA), in its 1954 Augsburg decision, determined that the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO), rather than successor communities in Germany, was the proper legal successor for German-Jewish heirless communal property. However, disagreements remained, with the Council briefly withdrawing from the JRSO in 1954 after a failure to agree about the allocation of payments.

The Council of Jews from Germany was central to many post-war Jewish organizations. It was instrumental in the founding of the United Restitution Organization (URO) in 1945, and was also intimately involved in Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO), which was set up in 1946 in the United States zone of western Germany. The Council was also a founding member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (1951), and helped create the Leo Baeck Institute (1955).

The first president of the Council was Leo Baeck, who was succeeded by Siegfried Moses in 1957. After the death of Siegfried Moses in 1974, three joint chairmen were elected. The Council's secretaries were Kurt Alexander (1945-1949), Hans Reichmann (1949-1955), Ernst Berent (1955-1961), Bruno Woyda (1961-1967), and Werner Rosenstock. Other active officers in the early years were Walter Breslauer, Rudolf Callmann, and Rabbi Max Gruenewald.

Extent

7 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection contains the records of the Council of Jews from Germany (Council for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Jews from Germany). It represents the interests of former German Jews in matters of restitution and indemnification, legislation, contacts with successor organizations for heirless Jewish property in West Germany, and social work activities, and was a founding member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (the Claims Conference). The records primarily range from the 1950s to the 1970s, and include correspondence concerning all aspects of restitution, particularly with the Claims Conference, internal minutes and other administrative and financial documents, and a small amount of cultural material.

Arrangement

The folders were titled based on the Council's filing system as reflected in its reference numbers and binder organization (primarily for documents created from about 1950 to the mid 1960s), or by topic where possible and desirable. An original order or filing scheme for files from 1970s-1980s was less apparent, and these were arranged by topic. There are some small gaps in the correspondence in the 1950s, and some larger gaps in the late 1960s.

This arrangement differs significantly from the previously prepared typed finding aid. To allow documents cited according to the previous arrangement to be found, a number is provided in the parentheses after most folder titles. A single number in parentheses after the folder title corresponds to the folder number in original typed finding aid. Folder titles followed by (AR488) are from a small collection that was processed into this collection. Folder titles followed by (6/X) originate with the first addendum, described in the 2004 MARC record inventory as box 6. Folder titles without any additional numbers are from the second addendum, which was not previously described.

For documents created from about 1950 to the mid 1960s, the following rough concordance of reference numbers (Aktenzeichen) with topics was determined by examining the documents.
  1. M/1/B = United Restitution Organization (probably also M/1A and U(11))
  2. M/2/1/a = General
  3. M/2/1/B(a) = Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO)
  4. M/2/1/B(k) = Pensions for former employees of Jewish Gemeinde
  5. M/2/1/B(m) = Claims conference (probably also M(m), M(p), and M(j))
  6. M/2/4 = Executive council and national member organizations (e.g., Irgun Olei Merkaz Europa, American Federation of Jews from Central Europe)
  7. M6 = Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland
  8. M13 = Jewish Trust Council (JTC), perhaps also Leo Baeck Charitable Foundation
The collection is arranged into the following four series:

Related Material

The Council and LBI are closely associated. As a result, the LBI Archives holds dozens of related collections. For example, the archives holds the following personal and organizational collections: Leo Baeck Collection (AR 66), Walter Breslauer Collection (AR 4129), Hans Reichmann Collection (AR 2236), JRSO Collection (AR 1485), and the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe Collection (AR 4420). For additional related collections, please search the catalog.

The LBI Library holds the Council's internal publication, Council Correspondence: Internes Korrespondenzblatt des Council of Jews from Germany, No. 1 (1959) - No. 13 (1966).

Separated Material

The following materials were previously removed from original folder 5/48 and added to the Memoir Collection: Hans Reichmann, "Geiselerschiessung in Berlin im Oktober 1942 (ME 748); Martha Mosse, "Erinnerungen" (ME 751); Ludwig Mann, "Heldentum in Guers" (ME 749); Oral History Division of the Hebrew University, Project on German Jewish institutions 1933-35 (questionnaire answered by Walter Breslauer and Bruno Woyda) (ME 71); Walter Breslauer, "Die Vereinigung fuer das liberale Judentum in Deutschland 1908-1914” (ME 71); Walter Gyseling, "Propaganda gegen die NSDAP in den Jahren 1929-33” (ME 750); Adolf Heilberg, "Pro Memoria 1933" (ME 257).

Articles in complete journals were copied, and the journals provided to the LBI Library. Removed periodicals, primarily from the 1950s, include individual issues of AJR Information, Allgemeine Wochenzeitung der Juden in Deutschland, Council Correspondence (Internes Korrespondenzblatt des Council of Jews from Germany), Die Gegenwart, the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Family Magazine, Juedische Sozialarbeit (Mitteilungsbaltt deer Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in Deutschland), La Solidarité (Bulletin d’information des résistants et réfugiés victims du Nazisme), Mitteilungsblatt (IOME), The New Citizen, and Wirtschaftsrundschau (Mitteilungsblatt der Arbeitsgemeinschaft juedischer Gewerbtreibender und Industrieller).

Also removed to the LBI Library were the 1961-1962 annual report of the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe, 10 Jahre Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (annual report 1960), and pages 6695-6762 of the 165th meeting of the Deutscher Bundestag (September 27, 1951).

Processing Information

Each folder was replaced, with original overstuffed folders broken into multiple folders. Documents were not rearranged within folders. Duplicates were removed. Some clippings are very fragile. For complete journals, relevant articles were copied and the original journal provided to the LBI library.

The collection was originally six linear feet. Memoirs were removed (see Related Material). One linear foot (1 box) of an initial three-foot addendum was combined with the original collection. Later, AR 488 (0.25 feet) was folded into AR 5890. Two additional boxes of the initial addenda were located in late 2011, and processed into the collection. After processing, the collection is now 7 linear feet (7 boxes) plus one oversized folder.
Title
Guide to the Council of Jews from Germany Collection Undated, 1936-1994 , bulk 1950-1977 AR 5890
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Kevin Schlottmann
Date
© 2012
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation

Revision Statements

  • October 28, 2014 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States