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Leo Baeck Collection

Identifier: AR 66

Scope and Content Note

The Leo Baeck Collection is comprised of items pertaining to rabbi Leo Baeck, and includes various personal documents, clippings, manuscripts, and a few photographs. This collection was originally composed of eight different collections, which are now consolidated into a single collection. Each of the former collections remains a separate subgroup within this one collection. As a result of the consolidation, researchers should be aware that papers of a similar nature are often located in several areas of the collection.

The collection holds several types of personal papers, including correspondence, certificates, and official documents. Original personal documents belonging to Leo Baeck may be found in Subgroup I, Series 1; Subgroup II, Series 1; and Subgroup VIII, Series 1. In Subgroup I, these type of papers include wedding telegrams, award certificates, educational and employment documents, and a passport. Subgroup II holds a family tree and list of family members. Correspondence will also be found throughout the collection, including in Subgroup I, Series 1; Subgroup II, Series 1 and 2; Subgroup III; Subgroup IV, Series 2, and Subgroup VIII, Series 1. Subgroup III holds the largest amount of correspondence. The letters found in Subgroup II, Series 2 are copies of correspondence sent from Leo Baeck to his wife Natalie while on a trip to the United States as well as letters to his daughter when he was incarcerated in Theresienstadt. Religious topics are often encountered among the correspondence in Subgroup III. Subgroup IV includes correspondence between Leo Baeck and Albert Einstein, among others.

Manuscripts written by Leo Baeck will be found in five subgroups: Subgroup I, Series 2; Subgroup IV, Series 3; Subgroup V, Series 1; Subgroup VI; and Subgroup VIII, Series 1. Lecture manuscripts are located in Subgroup I, Series 1and Subgroup IV, Series 3; and lecture notes in Subgroup VIII, Series 1. The remaining manuscripts pertain to Baeck's essays and books. Manuscripts for Dieses Volk – Jüdische Existenz will be found in Subgroup I, Series 1, with fragments belonging to the second part of this work in Subgroup VIII, Series 1. Subgroup IV, Series 3 holds another lengthy piece titled Die Rechtsstellung der Juden Europas, which was never published. The remaining manuscripts in the collection are of Baeck's shorter essays on religious, philosophical, and political topics. This same subgroup also holds bound page proofs for Baeck's published work Aus drei Jahrtausenden. Subgroup I, Series 1 also holds manuscripts for many published articles as well as clippings of the published works. Published essays will also be found in Subgroup V, Series 1 and Subgroup VI.

Biographical material written by others about Leo Baeck is situated in many different areas of the collection. There are numerous clippings concerning Leo Baeck, most of which were produced after his death or in honor of his significant birthdays. Clippings and articles about Leo Baeck are in Subgroup I, Series 3; Subgroup II, Series 3; Subgroup V, Series 2; and Subgroup VIII, Series 2. Subgroup VI contains articles about Leo Baeck both written during his lifetime and after his death. Obituaries and other articles written in memory of Leo Baeck will be found in Subgroup I, Series 4 and Subgroup VII. A scrapbook of a visit to America in 1948 by Leo Baeck is in Subgroup I, Series 1 ("American Jewish Cavalcade").

Finally, this collection has information on honors bestowed on Leo Baeck or named after him. These honors include the Leo Baeck School in Haifa, Israel, the Leo Baeck Prize, Leo-Baeck-Straße in Berlin, and Germany's Leo Baeck commemorative stamp. Material on these items will be found in Subgroup II, Series 4 and Subgroup VIII, Series 2, with additional information on the commemorative stamp in Subgroup VI. Copies of honorary degrees and membership certificates awarded to Leo Baeck are in Subgroup I, Series 1. Depictions of artwork created in honor of Baeck is located in Subgroup II, Series 3.


  • 1885-2001


Language of Materials

The collection is mainly in German, English, and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Collection is microfilmed - MF 710.

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.

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

Leo Baeck was born in Lissa (now Leszno, Poland), in the then German province of Posen on May 23, 1873. He was the son of the rabbi Samuel Baeck and Eva née Placzek and grew up with four sisters. Some of his earliest schooling took place at the Johann-Amos-Comenius-Gymnasium in Lissa. From 1891-1894 Baeck went to Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland), studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as at the University there. Leo Baeck continued his studies in Berlin at the Lehranstalt für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, where he studied with Wilhelm Dilthey. By 1897 he had secured his first post as rabbi in Oppeln (now Opole, Poland).

While in Oppeln, Leo Baeck married Natalie Hamburger in 1899, the daughter of the former rabbi there; they would later have a daughter, Ruth. In 1905, in answer to Adolf von Harnack's Das Wesen des Christentums, Leo Baeck published his work Das Wesen des Judentums, in which he defended Judaism against the accusation of diminishing modernity and stressed its timelessness. After staying in Oppeln for ten years, the Baecks moved to Düsseldorf. In 1912 Leo Baeck was called to Berlin. There he worked both as a rabbi at the large synagogue on Fasanenstraße as well as a lecturer at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. During the First World War, Baeck served as a chaplain (Feldrabbiner) in the German Army, serving on both the east and west fronts.

In 1918 Leo Baeck returned to Berlin and worked at the Prussian Culture Ministry as an expert in Hebrew. During the 1920s he became involved in the work of several Jewish organizations. In addition to his position as a rabbi and his lecturing at the Hochschule, Leo Baeck also became President of the Union of German Rabbis (Allgemeinen Deutschen Rabbinerverbands) in 1922. He was elected President of the German B'nai B'rith Order in 1924. At this time Baeck also joined the Central-Verein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens, and the Jewish Agency for Palestine.

When the Nazis rose to power in 1933 Leo Baeck was elected president of the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden (renamed the Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland after the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935). As the head of this organization he worked to keep the morale of the German Jews high while simultaneously working to alleviate the discrimination and persecution of the Jews by the National Socialists and helping as many people as possible leave Germany. He traveled frequently in an attempt to bring the situation of the German Jews to international attention. In spite of several offers of emigration, Leo Baeck refused to leave Germany and the members of his community. He is reported to have stated that he would only leave Germany when he was the last Jew remaining there. In 1937 Baeck's wife Natalie passed away; during the November pogroms of the following year the synagogues in Berlin were destroyed, including the one at Fasanenstraße. Leo Baeck remained the nominal president of the Reichsvertretung when it was placed under Nazi control and renamed the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland. When this organization was finally disbanded in 1943, Leo Baeck, along with his family members, was sent to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt (Terezin) at the age of seventy.

During his time in Theresienstadt, Leo Baeck continued to teach, holding secret lectures on philosophy and religion in the barracks of the camp. In spite of being forced to perform hard labor, he also managed to begin a manuscript that would later become Dieses Volk – Jüdische Existenz, a work which attempted to interpret Jewish history. The camp was liberated in May 1945 by the Red Army. None of Baeck's four sisters survived Theresienstadt.

After the liberation of the camp, Leo Baeck eventually made his way to England where his daughter Ruth resided. He received many citations and honors as a result of his efforts under the Nazis, and spent much of his next years travelling and lecturing, as well as writing and helping to found several organizations with the goals of assisting the remnants of European Jewry. He lectured in the United States, including holding a series of Monday seminars at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He also lectured in Germany and Israel. Baeck became president of the Association of Synagogues and of the Council of Jews from Germany, and was involved with the work of other organizations, including the B'nai B'rith, the Council of Christians and Jews, the Society for Jewish Study, and the Leo Baeck Foundation. In 1955 the Leo Baeck Institute was founded in Jerusalem for the study of the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry, with parallel institutes in London and New York. During the last week of his life, he completed the second part of his work Dieses Volk.

Leo Baeck died in London on November 2, 1956.

Published Works

Das Wesen des Judentums
Wege im Judentum; Aufsätze und Reden
Die Pharisäer: ein Kapitel jüdischer Geschichte
Aus drei Jahrtausenden. Wirtschaftliche Untersuchungen und Abhandlungen zur Geschichte des jüdischen Glaubens
Maimonides, der Mann, sein Werk und seine Wirkung
Dieses Volk – jüdische Existenz
Von Moses Mendelssohn zu Franz Rosenzweig


4.5 Linear Feet (+ 1 OS box, 1 card file box)


The Leo Baeck Collection documents the life and work of Rabbi Leo Baeck, well-known as a leader, scholar, and spokesman for German Jewry. Although the most prominent items in this collection are articles, clippings, and biographical material on Leo Baeck, the collection also holds original manuscripts of his writing, as well as personal documents, correspondence, and a small amount of photographs and artwork.


The LBI had eight collections on Leo Baeck, each donated at separate times by separate individuals. These have been consolidated into one collection, and are represented as subgroups in this finding aid. The eight subgroups of this collection are arranged as follows:

Other Finding Aids

The LBI had eight collections on Leo Baeck, each donated by different people at separate times. These have been consolidated into one collection, and are represented as subgroups in this finding aid. The following finding aids exist for the former collections:

Paper inventories are available for the Leo Baeck Estate collection (Subgroup I); the Leo Baeck Institute, London collection (Subgroup IV); the Rabbi Dagobert Nellhaus collection (Subgroup VI); and the Obituaries collection (Subgroup VII). Catalog cards are available for the General collection (Subgroup II) and the Writings collection (Subgroup V). These paper inventories and catalog cards contain item-level lists of the contents of the collections. The Leo Baeck Letters collection (Subgroup III) has a brief description and identification of prominent letters available among its documents. Most of the these item descriptions are in German. Addenda added to the collection are described in the computer catalog record for the collection.


Collection is available on 8 reels of microfilm (MF 710).

  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/13
  2. Reel 2: 1/14-1/23
  3. Reel 3: 1/24-2/22
  4. Reel 4: 2/23-3/18
  5. Reel 5: 3/19-3/52
  6. Reel 6: 3/53-4/5
  7. Reel 7: 4/6-5/16
  8. Reel 8: 5/17-6 (and ROS 10)

Related Material

The Leo Baeck-Leonard Baker Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute contains materials, including personal papers, clippings, and correspondence, which Leonard Baker compiled for his biography "Days of Sorrow and Pain: Leo Baeck and the Berlin Jews" (New York, 1978).

Separated Material

Objects have been removed from this collection and placed in the Art Collection. Photographs have also been removed from this collection and placed in the Photograph Collection. A complete version of Leo Baeck's manuscript on the "Rechtsstellung der Juden" has been removed to the Manuscript Collection (MS 624).

Processing Information

This collection was formerly composed of eight collections, each with their own collection numbers and some of which had their own finding aids. In November 2005 these collections were consolidated into one Leo Baeck collection. Series were maintained in collections that already had them. The General, Writings and Addenda collections, which had many items randomly assembled, were given series to assist in the retrieval of materials.

Guide to the Papers of Leo Baeck (1873-1956) 1885-2001 AR 66 / MF 710
Processed by Ilse Turnheim, LBI Staff, and Dianne Ritchey Oummia
© 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from LeoBaeck.xml

Revision Statements

  • 2010-11-15 : 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