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Guido Kisch Collection

Identifier: AR 787

Scope and Content Note

The Guido Kisch Collection documents the life and professional activities of Guido Kisch, researcher, historian, and teacher. It also documents personal and to a lesser degree professional lives of some of the other members of the Kisch family, most notably his brother, Bruno Kisch, a cardiologist, and their father, Alex Kisch, a rabbi and writer. The collection includes brochures, booklets, clippings, correspondence, financial documents, minutes, notes, off prints, photographs, printed materials, and writings.

Documents comprising the collection reflect various aspects of Guido Kisch personal and professional life, teaching, and research and writings in the fields of jurisprudence, legal history, Jewish law, law history, German-Jewish relations, and to a lesser extent his interest in collecting and numismatics.

The collection consists of two sections, the second being an Addenda, that was received after the first section had been processed. Even though materials in both sections cover similar topics and are of a similar nature, the sections are kept separate in order not to interfere with the original order and to preserve the provenance of the documents.

Personal and related materials comprise roughly half of the collection and are spread throughout the collection. Most of the personal materials are grouped in Series I: Personal, 1799-1980 and Series I: Personal, 1850s-1979, Addenda. Personal correspondence can also be found in Series II: Professional, Subseries 1: Correspondence and in Series II: Professional, Subseries 1: Correspondence, Addenda, since in many cases Guido Kisch was involved with many of his colleagues personally as well as professionally. In such case professional and personal correspondence was difficult to separate and was put in either the Personal or Professional section of correspondence, depending on notes and professional judgment.

In many cases files include both, incoming correspondence and copies of Guido Kisch responses.

Guido Kisch’s personal materials include correspondence, financial, official and family documents, and materials pertaining to his restitution case. There is an abundance of correspondence between Guido Kisch and members of his family (Subseries 1: Correspondence, Subsubseries A: Family Members) as well as with friends (Subseries 1: Correspondence, Subsubseries B: Friends). Correspondence with family members is arranged alphabetically by recipient, whereas other types of correspondence are arranged alphabetically by senders.

Additionally, there are documents dealing with Guido and Hilde Kisch’s restitution case and materials documenting his financial activities before immigration to the United States. There are almost no financial documents dating after WWII, except for financial documents regarding Guido Kisch’s publications (Series II: Professional, Subseries 2: General and Series II: Professional, Subseries 1: Correspondence, Subsubseries E: Publishers, Addenda). In addition to correspondence with friends and family, personal materials also include correspondence with German, American, and Czech authorities and organizations, lawyers, as well as German banks in regards to immigration, restitution, financial matters, and paintings stolen from Guido Kisch.

Portion of the collection is comprised of materials dealing with other members of the Kisch family, particularly his parents Alex and Charlotte Kisch, his brother Bruno Kisch, and his grandparents, Löw and Marie Polatschek (Series IIII: Personal: Kisch Family Members). The bulk of these materials consist of correspondence of various family members with Guido and Hilde Kisch. Correspondence is arranged by sender. In addition there is also some professional and business correspondence, immigration documents, school reports, contracts, membership cards, photographs, and receipts.

Professional activities of Guido Kisch’s are well represented by professional correspondence, and printed materials, such as articles, reviews, and off prints of his works, and his writings, with the later being a smaller fraction. Surprisingly there are not many manuscripts in this collection, with the majority of writing being incomplete drafts of Guido Kisch’s works. In many cases these are drafts of just a few chapters of his works. His writings include drafts of articles, reviews, and books. There are almost no notes to accompany these drafts. In some cases there is correspondence to go with the writings, whereas the bulk of the correspondence regarding Kisch’s writings is collected in Series II: Professional, Subseries 1: Correspondence, Subsubseries D: Publications, Addenda.

The bulk of the materials pertaining to Guido Kisch’s professional activities consists of correspondence with organizations (Jewish and non-Jewish), publishing houses, journals, and individuals. Topics discussed in the correspondence include academic research, publishing of Kisch’s writings, charitable work, in particularly helping foreign scholars in the US, job search at American universities, grants. Guido Kisch was professionally involved with a wide variety of individuals including academicians, Jewish scholars, philosophers, rabbis and Christian priests, artists, and writers.

There are also some materials pertaining to Guido Kisch’s involvement with numismatics (Series II: Professional, Subseries I: Correspondence and Subseries III: Writings) as well as medals and books.


  • 1794-1986
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1971


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English with some French, Czech, Italian, and Yiddish.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the “Request” button`

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

Guido Kisch, scholar, jurist, historian, and collector was born on January 22, 1889, in Prague, Austria-Hungary, (now Czech Republic) into a prominent family of rabbis, physicians and scholars. He was the son of Rabbi Alex Kisch and his wife Charlotte, née Polatschek. His father, Alex Kisch, was a rabbi and a writer who in the late 1870s became the first rabbi of Zurich. In 1886 Rabbi Alex Kisch succeeded Dr. Stein at the Meisel Synagogue, and became a leader of the Jewish community in Prague.

Guido Kisch’s earlier schooling took place at the Altstädter Staatsgymnasium in Prague. He then continued his studies at the University of Prague and later at the University of Leipzig, where he studied jurisprudent, political science, history and philosophy, under Adolph Wach, Rudolph Sohm, Ludwig Mitteis, Karl Lamprecht, and Karl Bűchner. While at the University of Prague, between 1909 and 1912 he passed three State Examinations in Law and Political Studies required for the qualification of judge.

Upon the completion of his studies Guido Kisch served as a substitute judge at the Austrian Country Court in Prague, from 1913 to 1915.

In 1915 Kisch began his distinguished career as a teacher and scholar of legal history when he was appointed Privatdozent and became an instructor in legal history at the University of Leipzig. In 1920 he was appointed Professor Ordinarius of History of Law and Political Theory at the University of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia), where he taught until 1922. In 1922 Kisch became Professor Ordinarius of History of Law and Political Theory at the University of Halle, where in 1925 he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Science. He held this position until 1933, when he was dismissed by the Nazi Government.

In addition to his teaching positions, Guido Kisch was also the Director of the Law School Library at the University of Königsberg from 1921 to 1922 and Chief Librarian of the Law Library at the University of Halle from 1925 to 1933.

After his dismissal from the University of Halle he briefly taught at the University of Prague and at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland). Unable to find a permanent academic position, Professor Kisch immigrated to the United States in 1935.

After his immigration Professor Kisch settled in New York, where he taught Jewish History at the Jewish Institute of Religion/Hebrew Union College. During this period he also lectured at a number of universities in the United States as well as abroad. Among others, he was a visiting professor at Lund University, Sweden (1949, 1952-1959) and University of Basel, Switzerland (1954). He was also a research associate at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana (1953-1959), Columbia University, and briefly at the Leo Baeck Institute, New York. In 1962, he returned to Europe. He settled in Basel, Switzerland and taught at the Law School at the University of Basel.

Guido Kisch was a member of several professional organizations, such as Mediaeval Academy of America, American Historical Association, International Congress of Historical Sciences, American Numismatic Society, and American Numismatic Association.

Additionally, he was involved with a number of Jewish cultural and historical institutions. Most notably, Professor Kisch was a founding member of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews, of which he was elected Honorary President in March, 1962 and also served as Vice President of the American Academy for Jewish Research (1953-1959).

Guido Kisch wrote extensively on the subjects of humanism, medieval and German jurisprudence, history and German-Jewish relations. He published over four hundred titles, including academic works, essays, articles, and reviews. Many of his articles and reviews were published in Historica Judaica, a scholarly journal that he started in 1938 and remained its editor until 1961.

Before his immigration in 1935 his research was focused on the history of medieval German law. During this period he produced such major works as German Arrestation Process (1914), Studies on Medieval German Private and Business Law (1923), Rechts und Sozialgeschichte der Juden in Halle, 1686-1739 (1930), and Jews and University of Prague (1935).

During his American period he shifted the focus of his research towards the history of German-Jewish relationship seen through the prism of the German-Jewish jurisprudence. He had authored a number of important works pertaining to this subject, including Sachsenspiegel and the Bible (1941), Jews in Medieval Germany (1949), and Jewry-Law in Medieval Germany. Another important work from this period is In Search of Freedom (1949), dedicated to the history of immigration of the Jews from Czechoslovakia to the United States.

In his later period, Guido Kisch became interested in the humanistic aspect of jurisprudence. He dedicated a number of works to explore this little known characteristic of jurisprudence. Major works from this period include Zasious und Reuchlin, and Melanchthons Rechts- und Soziallehre. Other important works from this period include Judentaufen (1973), Studies in Medallic History (1975), and Lebensweg eines Rechtshistorikers-Erinnerungen (1975).

Furthermore, Guido Kisch compiled a number of bibliographies, such as Alex Kisch, and Bruno Kisch, Medieval Conception of the Jew, Deutsch-Judaistische Bibliographie, Medieval Legal History of the Jews among other.

Guido Kisch remained active after retiring from his position at the Basel University. He kept close contact with scholars and students and continued writing for scholarly journals and other publications. He died in 1985, at the age of 96 in Basel, Switzerland.


33 Linear Feet


The Guido Kisch Collection documents the life and professional activities of Guido Kisch, teacher, researcher, and scholar in the field of Legal History. It also documents personal and to a lesser degree professional lives of some of the other members of the Kisch family, most notably his brother, Bruno Kisch, a cardiologist, and their father, Alex Kisch, who was a rabbi and a writer. The collection includes brochures, booklets, clippings, correspondence, financial documents, minutes, notes, off prints, photographs, printed materials, and writings.


Alphabetical, with personal coming first

  1. Series I: Personal, 1794-1986
  2. Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1899-1986
  3. Subsubseries A: Family Members, 1899-1974
  4. Subsubseries B: Friends, 1913-1986
  5. Subsubseries C: Kisch, Hilde, 1929-1980
  6. Subsubseries D: General, 1919-1979
  7. Subseries 2: Restitution, 1924-1980
  8. Subseries 3: Finance, 1906-1946
  9. Subseries 4: Various, 1794-1966
  10. Series II: Professional, 1919-1980
  11. Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1919-1980
  12. Subseries 2: General, 1921-1972
  13. Subseries 3: Writings, 1933-1976
  14. Series III: Kisch Family Members, 1853-1978
  15. Subseries 1: Feywulowitz, Henriette and Isaac, 1935-1946
  16. Subseries 2: Freund, Else and Moshe, 1935-1977
  17. Subseries 3: Kirchenberger, Mizzi and Richard, 1914-1939
  18. Subseries 4: Kisch, Alex, 1877-1917
  19. Subsubseries A: Correspondence, 1877-1917
  20. Subsubseries B: Documents, 1900-1905
  21. Subseries 5: Kisch, Bruno, 1911-1966
  22. Subseries 6: Kisch, Charlotte, 1880-1931
  23. Subsubseries A: Correspondence, 1880-1931
  24. Subsubseries B: Other, 1899-1920s
  25. Subseries 7: Kisch, Curt, 1892-1914
  26. Subseries 8: Kisch, Ruth, 1926-1974
  27. Subseries 9: Polatschelk, Löw and Marie, 1853-1900
  28. Subsubseries A: Correspondence, 1864-1900
  29. Subsubseries B: Documents, 1853-1888
  30. Subseries 10: Other Family Members, 1857-1978
  31. Series IV: Printed Materials, 1880s-1976
  32. Subseries 1: Articles and Reviews, 1914-1976
  33. Subseries 2: Clippings and Scrapbooks, 1880s-1972
  34. Addenda, 1806-1985
  35. Series I: Personal, 1806-1979
  36. Series II: Professional , 1834-1981
  37. Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1881-1981
  38. Subsubseries A: Historica Judaica, 1937-1970
  39. Subsubseries B: Individuals, 1918-1981
  40. Subsubseries C: Organizations, 1934-1979
  41. Subsubseries D: Publications, 1881-1979
  42. Subsubseries E: Publishers, 1927-1980
  43. Subseries 2: Writings, 1834-1974
  44. Series III: Printed Materials and Photographs, Photocopies, 1874-1985
  45. Subseries 1: Printed Materials and Photographs, 1874-1985
  46. Subseries 2: Photocopies, 1960s

Related Material

Waterman family papers, MS-560, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH

Kisch, Guido, (1889-), papers, MS-260, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH

Dr. Bruno Z. Kisch Papers, 1904-1968, 2003.3069, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Division of Medical Sciences

Letter from Gotthold Weil to Dr. Bruno Kisch, AR 3414, Leo Baeck Institute, New York

Guido Kisch Papers, Collection 6314, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library

Separated Material

Photographs have been removed to the LBI Photo Collection. Books have been removed to the LBI Library. Artifacts such as medals and other items have been removed to the LBI Art Collection.

Guide to the Papers of Guido Kisch (1899-1985) 1794-1986 bulk 1920-1971 AR 787
Processed by Yakov Sklar. Addenda processed by Yakov Sklar and Lea Osborne
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2010-03-23 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from "extref" to "dao" through dao_conv.xsl

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States