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Robert Raphael Geis Collection

Identifier: AR 7263

Scope and Content Note

Series I: Personal consists of a few personal documents, obituaries, and several photographs of Robert Raphael Geis and his relatives. Family documents in this series include papers related to Issac and Moritz Geis, the grandfather and father of Robert Raphael Geis.

Series II: Writings contains texts of Raphael Geis. The earlier articles, mostly published in Israelitisches Gemaindeblatt in 1930s, reflect his role as a youth rabbi and educator. The articles from the 1960s are characterized by more general topics of Jewish life and culture. Several articles commemorate friends and colleagues. Another significant portion of texts in this series are book reviews partly written by Robert Raphael Geis, partly some of his own books. Sermons for the major Jewish holidays written in the 1950s can also be found in this series.

Series III: Correspondence has two central points. One documents the work of Robert Raphael Geis as a youth rabbi shortly before the Nazi take-over in Germany and during the 1930s, until he left Germany in 1939. Many of his students left Germany and shared with Robert Raphael Geis their experiences in new countries that included Switzerland, Palestine, and the United States.

Robert Raphael Geis' letters after the Second World War are the other focus of the series. Many of the letters from the late 1940s and early 1950s are characterized by his effort to find a position in which he could serve Jewish survivors. In the late 1950s and in the 1960s, his correspondence reflects his preoccupation with the issues of Christian - Jewish dialogs and Christian and Jewish coexistence in Germany after the Second World War.

Robert Raphael Geis destroyed a great deal of his correspondence shortly before his death when he moved from Düsseldorf to Baden Baden. These papers represent material that was collected by Dietrich Goldschmidt and Robert Raphael Geis' wife, Susanne Geis, while putting together a biography of Robert Raphael Geis, in the 1970s and 1980s. This collection therefore mainly consist of copies and transcripts.

The original order of correspondence was chronological, which inhibited navigation through the finding aids, and particularly through the Series III: Correspondence that makes up the bulk of the Robert Raphael Geis Collection. In the new arrangement the correspondence was alphabetized and collated.

The collection consists of photocopies, transcripts, and letters both in hand and typed.


  • 1862-1984
  • Majority of material found within 1928-1972


Language of Materials

The collection is mainly in German, some documents are also in English, Hebrew, Dutch, and Italian.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

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<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Portrait of Robert Raphael Geis (1906-1972), 1935" linktype="simple" show="embed" title="Robert Raphael Geis (1906-1972), 1935" xpointer=""/>

Robert Raphael Geis was born in Frankfurt am Main on July 4, 1906 to Moritz Geis and his wife Sittah née Stern, a well-to-do assimilated couple. He attended grammar school (Gymnasium) in Frankfurt am Main from 1916 to 1925. He became friends with the children of the liberal rabbi, Ceasar Seligmann, and visited his household. During his studies, Robert Raphael Geis joined the local Jewish youth socialist association.

After his graduation Robert Raphael Geis decided to continue his studies at the University of Berlin where he studied modern history, and at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. This was against the will of his father who foresaw a career in banking for his son. He studied with Friedrich Meinecke at the University of Berlin, and attended the classes of Ismar Elbogen, Harry Torzcyner, and Julius Guttmann at the Hochschule. In 1926-1927 he studied at the University in Breslau (then Germany; now Wrocaw, Poland) with Johannes Ziekursch and at the Jüdisch-Theologisches Seminar. After Johannes Ziekursch left Breslau for the University of Cologne (Universität Köln), Robert Raphael Geis followed him and finished his studies completing his dissertation Der Sturz des Reichskanzlers Caprivi (The Fall of Chancellor Caprivi) in 1930. His rabbinic studies were concluded in 1932 by a rabbinical examination overseen by Ismar Elbogen, Leo Baeck, Julius Guttmann, Harry Torzyner, and Chanoch Albeck. The rabbinical ordination allowed Robert Raphael Geis to function as a rabbi and Religion teacher.

In 1932, Robert Raphael Geis received his first appointment as a youth rabbi (Jugendrabbiner) in Munich. He left his position two years later because of differences with the rather conservatively-inclined board of the local Jewish community and accepted the position of rabbi (Stadtrabbiner) in Mannheim. In 1935 he traveled to Palestine. In 1937, Robert Raphael Geis left his position in Mannheim and became a rabbi (Land- und Gemeinderabbiner) in Kassel. After Kristallnacht in 1938, Robert Raphael Geis was deported together with the other men of the Kassel community to the concentration camp Buchenwald. He was released one month later after showing his visa for Palestine. Robert Raphael Geis left Germany early in 1939 and after a short stay in Paris, where he visited his sister Ilse Feldmeier, he arrived in Haifa, Palestine.

His visit to Palestine in 1935 had already weakened his Zionistic sentiment. Robert Raphael Geis was troubled by the relations between the Jewish settlers and the Arab population. After his immigration to Palestine, Robert Raphael Geis had difficulties finding a position as a liberal rabbi. In 1943 he married Margarete Kitzinger, who, however, died only one month after the wedding. Starting in February 1944, Robert Raphael Geis worked as an editor and moderator for the Psychological Warfare Branch (Division) of the Allied Forces Supreme Headquarters in Jerusalem.

In February 1945, Robert Raphael Geis married Susanne Herzberg née Landshut and returned to Europe in 1946. After several months spent in London, England, Robert Raphael Geis accepted appointment as a teacher for the Jewish community in Zürich, Switzerland. He applied for several other rabbinical positions, among them were the Jewish communities in Bern, Switzerland; Luxemburg, Luxemburg; and Stockholm, Sweden, where he would succeed Marcus Ehrenpreis. In the end his colleague Kurt Wilhelm, was selected by a committee of which the professor of the Hebrew University Hugo Bergmann was a member. Robert Raphael Geis left Zürich in 1949 and became the rabbi for an émigré community in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In 1952, Robert Raphael Geis finally returned to Germany as he had intended to do immediately after the end of the war, and became a rabbi of the Baden region (Landesrabinner) in Karlsruhe. In 1956, Robert Raphael Geis resigned from his rabbinical duties. He moved to Düsseldorf in 1959 and to Baden Baden in 1971.

In 1961, Robert Raphael Geis took part in the Congress of the German Evangelical Church and for some time became an active participant in its Arbeitsgemeinschaft "Juden und Christen" (Working Group "Jews and Christians").

Robert Raphael Geis lectured frequently at various assemblies, conferences, and schools. He often appeared in radio broadcasts where he discussed Jewish religious and cultural traditions. He only received a formal academic appointment late in his life, however, when he was named an honorary professor of Jewish studies at the Pädagogische Hochschule Duisburg in 1969 and at the Theologische Fakultät of the Universität Göttingen.

Robert Raphael Geis authored four books, besides his dissertation: Der Sturz des Reichskanzlers Caprivi. Berlin 1930: E. Ebering, 124 p. and Pesach Haggadah, he edited three anthologies of texts. His essays, sermons, and lectures about Jewish religion and culture were published in Gottes Minorität. Beiträge zur jüdischen Theologie und zur Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland. München 1971: Kösel-Verlag, 246 p.. Another is an anthology of texts of German Jewish writers about Jewish tradition, life, and religion: Vom unbekannten Judentum. Freiburg 1961: Herder, 235 p., among the authors can be found Leo Baeck, Stefan Zweig, Hermann Cohen, Eduard Strauss, and numerous texts are taken from the Bible translation of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig. Together with Hans-Joachim Kraus, Robert Raphael Geis put together a collection of texts of Jewish and Christian thinkers on Christian and Jewish understanding in Germany Versuche des Verstehens. Dokumente jüdisch-christlicher Begegnung aus den Jahren 1918-1933 . Munich 1966: Kaiser, 306 p., which included texts by Leo Baeck, Martin Buber, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Eduard Lamparter, Alfred Jeremias, and Gerhard Kittel. Robert Raphael Geis also contributed a short biographical essay on Leo Baeck to Männer des Glaubens im deutschen Widerstand. Munich 1959: Ner-Tamid-Verlag, 72 p. a collection of portraits put together by him and Oskar Hammelsbeck and Oskar Simmel. In 1954, the weekly Allgemeine Wochenzeitung der Juden in Deutschland published Robert Raphael Geis' Pessach-Haggadah.

The contributions of Robert Raphael Geis to the reconstruction of cultural life in Germany after the Second World War were recognized in 1970 when he was awarded the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal. He represented German Jews in the Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission (German UNESCO Commission), and sat on the programing council of the German broadcasting company Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR).

Robert Raphael Geis died in Baden Baden on May 18, 1972. He had two children, Jael (1948) and Gabriel (1950).

Source used:

Geis, Robert Raphael: Leiden an der Unerlöstheit der Welt: Robert Raphael Geis, 1906-1972 : Briefe, Reden, Aufsätze. Dietrich Goldschmidt and Ingrid Ueberschär (eds.). Munich 1984: Chr. Kaiser, 399 p.


3 Linear Feet


Robert Raphael Geis (1906-1972) was a rabbi, educator, and Jewish theologian. He identified strongly with German liberal Judaism, but his keen interest in Jewish studies brought him close to leaders of conservative Judaism as well. Before the Second World War Robert Raphael Geis worked as a rabbi for the youth and Religion teacher in Munich and Mannheim, and as a rabbi in Kassel, Germany. After the war he served as a rabbi in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany. In the early 1960s, Raphael Robert Geis became engaged in the dialog of Protestant and Jewish theologians. The Robert Raphael Geis collection consists mainly of correspondence and writings. There are only a few personal documents. The writings consist of newspaper articles, reviews of books on Jewish topics and sermons for major Jewish holidays. The correspondence has two main foci: the periods before and after the Second World War. The first period is characterized by letters written by various leading figures of Jewish communities in Germany and is concerned with employment opportunities for young rabbis, as well as insights into inner workings of congregations. A large amount of letters from this period also come from Robert Raphael Geis' students. The correspondence written after the war centers on theological matters and the workings of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der "Juden und Christen" (Working Group of "Jews and Christians").

Other Finding Aid

There is a hand-written inventory of the collection which does not include the material that arrived after the initial donation. This inventory reflects the original chronological order.

Custodial History

The first items of the collection were donated in 1957. In 1986 one foot of material arrived at the LBI Archives and a substantial portion was added to it in 1989. The rest of the collection was received in 1996 and 1998. In 2001 several photographs were added to the collection. All material was donated by Susanne Geis.


This collection has six microfilm reels.

  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/82
  2. Reel 2: 1/83-1/146
  3. Reel 3: 1/147-2/60
  4. Reel 4: 2/61-2/160
  5. Reel 5: 3/1-3/39
  6. Reel 6: 3/40-3/106

Related Material

There are several collections in the custody of Leo Baeck Institute Archives that contain materials pertaining to the Robert Raphael Geis Collection. Among them the most prominent are:

  1. Leo Baeck Collection (AR 66)
  2. Ismar Elbogen Collection (AR 64)
  3. Ernst Simon Collection (AR 107)

Separated Material

All photographs were removed to the Photograph Collection at the LBI Archives and replaced with photocopies.


Old acquisition number AR 28.

Processing Information

The collection arrived in several shipments. It consists of the estate of Robert Raphael Geis and of material that resulted from preparations on his biography, Geis, Robert Raphael: Leiden an der Unerlöstheit der Welt : Robert Raphael Geis, 1906-1972 : Briefe, Reden, Aufsätze. Dietrich Goldschmidt and Ingrid Ueberschär (eds.). Munich 1984: Chr. Kaiser, 399 p..

The overall arrangement of the collection was chronological with some attempts to keep the personal correspondence separate from the organizational, which mostly consists of letters to and from Jewish communal bodies and their representatives. This is true particularly for the period before the Second World War. The original arrangement provided little indication of the content within the folders, therefore correspondence was arranged alphabetically by correspondent and efforts were made to identify all the writers and decipher their signatures. The rest of the letters remained in the section Various at the end of Subseries 1: Individuals.

The writings of Robert Raphael Geis and book reviews were collated and arranged alphabetically. Some minor preservation work including removing staples, and flattening and smoothing the surface of documents was applied.

Guide to the Papers of Robert Raphael Geis (1906-1972), 1862-1984 (bulk 1928-1972) AR 7263 / MF 706
Processed by Stanislav Pejša
© 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from RobertGeis.xml

Revision Statements

  • 2010-04-28 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl
  • March 2010:: Updated Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States