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Records of the Farband fun di Yidishe Studentn Fareynen in Daytshland (Verband Jüdischer Studentenvereine in Deutschland; Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany)

 Collection
Identifier: RG 18

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the records of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany (Yiddish: Farband fun di Yidishe Studentn Fareynen in Daytshland; German: Verband Jüdischer Studentenvereine in Deutschland), an umbrella organization of associations of East European Jewish students who were pursuing their education in cities throughout Germany in the 1920s. Along with the Union's records (Series III) are the records of two of its affiliate associations, the Jewish Student Association in Berlin (Yidisher Studentn Fareyn in Berlin; Jüdischer Studentenverein Berlin; Series I) and the Jewish Student Association in Jena (Yidisher Studentn Fareyn in Yena; Jüdischer Studentenverein Jena; Series II). The student associations and the umbrella organization that they founded aimed to further Jewish cultural life among members; to provide material assistance to members in need; and to advocate for the interests of members vis-à-vis state and academic authorities.

All three sets of records include administrative records such as bylaws, minutes, and announcements; petitions and correspondence from members concerning financial aid; and general correspondence, with a significant portion consisting of copies of outgoing letters. Among the correspondents are Jewish charitable and social-welfare organizations that contributed to the support of East European Jewish students through the student associations, including the Yidishe Velt-Hilfs-Konferents (Conférence Universelle Juive de Secours, Paris), the Verband der Russischen Juden, the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden, and the Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Deutschen Juden, as well as the Jewish Community of Berlin, and Jewish communities in other cities in Germany. The correspondence of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany includes materials related to the Weltverband der Jüdischen Studentenschaft (World Union of Jewish Students).

Also included among the records of the Jewish Student Association in Berlin are materials documenting membership meetings and elections, as well as its library. The records of the Jewish Student Association in Jena include membership lists and clippings concerning its last years in operation and its dissolution, in May 1930. The records of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany include correspondence with affiliate associations; correspondence of the Union's Employment Service, which assisted members in finding positions after graduation and during vacations; materials and correspondence pertaining to the traveling library shared among the associations; documentation of other activities, including a publishing house and a journal; and newsletters.

In addition, the collection also includes a variety of materials of mixed provenance related to other associations and umbrella organizations of East European Jewish students (Series IV), both in Eastern Europe (Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) and Central and Western Europe (Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, and Switzerland). The majority of these materials are from interwar Poland, with Vilna being the best represented.

Dates

  • 1913-1917, 1920-1939
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1930

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is predominantly in Yiddish, German, and Russian, with some Hebrew and Polish, occasional items in French, and one item each in Hungarian and Latvian.

Access Restrictions

The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.

Use Restrictions

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Historical Note

Background

Due to the difficult circumstances of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, including pogroms, poverty, and restricted educational opportunities, Jewish students from Eastern Europe migrated to Western European countries in increasing numbers at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The students came mainly from the Russian Empire, as well as from Galicia and the Bukovina (both in Austria-Hungary), and Romania. In part because of the close relationship between the Yiddish and German languages, as well as the esteem in which the students held German intellectual life, Germany was a favored destination.1 In academic year 1886/87, approximately 130 foreign Jewish students were studying at Prussian universities; that number rose steadily to a peak of 483 in 1905/06, following the failed Russian Revolution of 1905, and leveled off at 400 in 1908/09, at which point East European Jewish students comprised 1.9% of the total student body at Prussian universities, 21.7% of Jewish students, and 26% of foreign students.2

Just before the First World War, scholars writing in the German-Jewish press estimated that a total of approximately 10,000 East European Jewish students were studying in cities throughout Western Europe.3 East European Jewish students in the West formed their own associations, which reflected particular interests in literature, economics, politics, or sports, as well as a common sense of Jewish national identity.4 The East European Jewish students had little social contact with their fellow Jewish students from Germany, and even less with the non-Jewish students.5

At a conference held in Zurich 7–13 March 1913, delegates from 27 associations of East European Jewish students in 25 different cities in Western Europe came together to found an umbrella organization called the Verband Ostjüdischer Studentenvereine in Westeuropa (Union of Eastern Jewish Student Associations in Western Europe).6 With the outbreak of the First World War in the following year, these activities of the student associations came to an end.

East European Jewish Student Life in Germany after the First World War

The upheavals of the war, along with developments in the postwar period, including the establishment of the Second Polish Republic and the other newly independent or newly constituted states, and waves of anti-Jewish violence in Poland, the Ukraine, and Hungary, created a new set of conditions under which significant numbers of East European Jewish students sought to pursue their education at German universities – now in the newly established democratic German state known as the Weimar Republic. Some students were refugees who had been displaced from their homes during the period; others were hindered in pursuing studies at their home universities in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere, due to explicit or de facto quota systems ("numerus clausus"); and in the Baltic states the new official languages (Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian) were a barrier for some.7

As in the earlier period, some of the East European Jewish students at German universities were supported by families at home or relatives abroad, or managed to hold jobs while taking coursework, but typically 20-30% of them faced desperate struggles to meet basic living expenses, along with the expenses of tuition, books, and examination fees, especially in the wake of the economic crisis and accompanying hyperinflation that affected Germany in the period 1921-1923. The East European Jewish students in this period, like those in the pre-war period, remained largely isolated from the German-Jewish student population; they formed their own associations to provide for the sociable and Jewish cultural life of members and to advocate for common interests vis-à-vis the academic and government authorities, as well as to provide assistance for members who lacked means of support. The associations often maintained their own libraries and organized cultural events.

The Jewish Student Association in Berlin

In the postwar period, an association of East European Jewish students existed in Berlin since at least 1920; it appears to have been originally known as the Jewish Academic Home (Yiddish: Yudishe Akademishe Heym; German: Jüdische akademische Heim). The association was formally established by May 1921 under the name Eastern Jewish Student Association (Yiddish: Mizrekh-Yidisher Studentn Fareyn; German: Ost-Jüdischer Studentenverein). It was an officially registered association under German law (signified in German by the abbreviation "e.V." for "eingetragener Verein").

In 1920-1921 the association's address was at Kurfürstenstrasse 150, in premises that it rented from the Kartell Jüdischer Verbindungen (a German-Jewish federation of Zionist-leaning student groups). By fall 1921 the Jewish Student Association in Berlin was located at Pestalozzistrasse 52, and in fall 1922 the association moved into new permanent headquarters at Friedrichstrasse 115.

In a fundraising letter written one and a half years after its founding (circa 1922-1923), the Berlin Jewish Student Association states that it has 150 members, of which 47 require financial assistance.8 In December 1924, in a letter to the Berlin police concerning an event, it gives the number of members as 175. The association's records also include a draft report, circa April 1923, covering the period since 1920, that presents cumulative statistics on 461 members, giving their disciplines of study as follows: philosophy (referring to the humanities, as well as the natural and social sciences), 133; medicine, 110; technical college, 28; commercial college, 21; agronomy, 18; law, 7; veterinary medicine, 4; and 141 members not matriculated. According to the report, the most frequent countries of origin were Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Latvia, Hungary, the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, and Estonia.9

In July 1923 the Berlin association hosted a conference attended by delegates from East European Jewish student associations in cities throughout Germany, which resulted in the founding of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, an umbrella organization. The Berlin association, as the largest of the Jewish student associations in the Union, had a proportionally strong representation in the Union's leadership.

By April 1928, the membership of the Berlin Jewish Student Association had declined to 109.10 The association remained active through at least 1929.

The Jewish Student Association in Jena

The Jewish Student Association in Jena (Yiddish: Yidisher Studentn Fareyn in Yena; German: Jüdischer Studentenverein Jena) – an association of East European Jewish students at the University of Jena – was likely founded in the early 1920s, and existed until the end of May 1930. The city of Jena, located in the German province of Thuringia, had a population of approximately 50,000 as of 1920. Like the Berlin association, the Jena association was an officially registered association under German law ("e.V."). One address it used in the mid 1920s was Talstrasse 95; in 1929-1930 it was located at Lutherstrasse 143.

In 1923 the Jena association became an affiliate association of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany. In the following years it sometimes led fundraising campaigns in Thuringia and Saxony on behalf of the Union.

In June 1926, following a dispute within the Jena association, some 40 of the total 55 members resigned and 35 of them formally founded a new association that ultimately was recognized by the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany as the new Jena affiliate. This new association drafted its bylaws under the name "Verein Jüdischer Studierender an der Thüringischen Landesuniversität zu Jena" (Association of Jewish Students at the Thuringian University of Jena), also known as the Verein Jüdischer Studenten Jena.

The Jena association's membership numbered 25 at its founding, and peaked at 104 members in 1925.11 After 1925, since there were virtually no further East European Jewish students arriving in Jena to study, membership steadily declined. In 1927 the association had 40 members, more than half studying medicine. In mid 1929 the association counted only 18 members, of which six depended upon financial aid. At that time, the association reported that over the previous four-year period, a total of 76 members had completed their studies, and that 31 of them (41%) had received financial support through the association. The latter 31 students had completed degrees in medicine (20), law (3), political economy (2), chemistry (2), natural sciences (2), agriculture (1), and philosophy (1).12

The Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany

On 27-28 July 1923, delegates from East European Jewish student associations from 16 different cities in Germany, representing 1,800 members, met at a conference in Berlin.13 The conference resulted in the founding of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany (Yiddish: Farband fun di Yidishe Studentn Fareynen in Daytshland; German: Verband Jüdischer Studentenvereine in Deutschland). The Union became an officially registered association under German law ("e.V."), and subsequently held annual conferences attended by delegates of its affiliate associations. Over time the Union included affiliate associations in Altenburg, Arnstadt, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Darmstadt, Frankenhausen, Giessen, Hainichen, Halle, Hannover, Jena, Königsberg, Köthen, Leipzig, Mittweida, Oldenburg, Rostock, Strelitz, Wismar, Würzburg, and Zwickau.

The Union's headquarters was in Berlin. From 1923 through early 1927 its address was Auguststrasse 17; by February 1927 the office had moved to Artilleriestrasse 6.

In August 1924, the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany had approximately 1,500 members; it was giving monthly support to approximately 250 students.14 As of August 1925, the Union had 20 affiliate associations, with a total of 750 members. Its members came from 18 different countries and made up approximately 80% of all the foreign Jewish students studying in Germany.15

According to S. Adler-Rudel, the organization had an annual budget of 40,000 to 60,000 marks.16

The Union sent delegates to the founding conference of the Weltverband der Jüdischen Studentenschaft (World Union of Jewish Students) in Antwerp, 30 April to 4 May 1924, and subsequently became an affiliate organization of the World Union, which was based in Vienna. In early 1925, on behalf of the World Union, the executive of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany appealed to Albert Einstein, who was the World Union's honorary president, to allow the student organization the honor of disseminating his message for the ceremonies upon the opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (on 1 April), and Einstein agreed. Over the several preceding years, Einstein, then a professor at the University of Berlin, had been supportive of the Jewish Student Association in Berlin and, later, the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, in terms of both well wishes and charitable donations.

In May 1925 the Union established an employment service to assist members in finding positions after graduation, as well as work during vacations. At the Union's conference in late February 1926, a statistical report on the Employment Service indicated a total of 218 applicants, in fields including technical professions, business, teaching, chemistry, and agriculture; positions had been found for 180 members and 77 were still seeking positions (with overlap among the categories due to the inclusion of temporary positions).17

By October 1925, the Union's membership had decreased to approximately 700. Many members had by then completed their studies and left Germany, and there were few students arriving from Eastern Europe. The Union's expenses had nevertheless increased, since many of its remaining members were in the last semesters of their studies, and needed to cover fees for examinations, in addition to tuition, and had less time to take on jobs to support themselves; a fundraising effort led by the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden (Relief Organization of German Jews) was crucial in sustaining the Union's efforts to support members in need.18

At the time of the Union's conference in April 1928 it counted 409 members.19 The Union held annual conferences through at least 1929. Most of them took place in Berlin; the conference in 1927 was held in Leipzig.20

In a report published in Der Israelit, 23 January 1930, the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden summarized its charitable assistance to and fundraising on behalf of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany in the five-year period from summer 1924 through summer 1929. From its own funds and other sources, including the Jewish Colonization Association and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Hilfsverein had raised a total of 177,000 marks for the Union over that period; the money had assisted 1,471 students, of which 840 had completed degrees. The following disciplines were represented: technical sciences (322), medicine (229), natural sciences (105), philosophical sciences (82), agriculture (31), business (28), law (12) and music (5). Of the students who had graduated, approximately half had returned to their home countries, some had remained in Germany, and some had emigrated to France, Palestine, or other destinations. The Hilfsverein indicated at that time that its fundraising on behalf of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany was ongoing.

The Union remained active through 1932, and likely disbanded shortly after that.21

Footnotes

  1. Adler-Rudel, p. 10-12.
  2. Adler-Rudel, p. 13-14, 163.
  3. Charasch, p. 258; Rosenblum, p. 208.
  4. Rosenblum, p. 211-212.
  5. Adler-Rudel, p. 15-16.
  6. Rosenblum, p. 213-214.
  7. Adler-Rudel, p. 99-100; Jewish Student Association in Berlin, fundraising letter, circa 1922-1923 (RG 18, Folder 3).
  8. Jewish Student Association in Berlin, fundraising letter, circa 1922-1923 (RG 18, Folder 3).
  9. Jewish Student Association in Berlin, draft report, circa April 1923 (RG 18, Folder 33).
  10. Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, memorandum addressed to the Jewish Student Association in Berlin, 10 January 1929 (RG 18, Folder 132).
  11. Jewish Student Association in Jena, questionnaire completed for the YIVO Institute, Vilna, 1927 (RG 18, Folder 101).
  12. "Jena." Wochenblatt für den Synagogenbezirk Erfurt, 20 May 1929, p. 284-285 (RG 18, Folder 96).
  13. Rabbi Meier Hildesheimer, presentation for conference to found an "auxilium academicum judaicum," Berlin, 24 October 1925 (RG 18, Folder 121).
  14. Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, letter to the World Union of Jewish Students, 22 August 1924 (RG 18, Folder 185).
  15. Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, fundraising memorandum, 11 August 1925 (RG 18, Folder 106).
  16. Adler-Rudel, p. 100.
  17. Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, "Statistik des Akademischen Arbeitsnachweises beim Verband Jüdischer Studentenvereine in Deutschland," circa February 1926 (RG 18, Folder 120).
  18. Rabbi Meier Hildesheimer, presentation for conference to found an "auxilium academicum judaicum," Berlin, 24 October 1925 (RG 18, Folder 121).
  19. Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, memorandum addressed to the Jewish Student Association in Berlin, 10 January 1929 (RG 18, Folder 132).
  20. Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, circular letter to affiliate associations, 2 May 1927 (RG 18, Folder 129).
  21. "Verband Jüdischer Studentenvereine in Deutschland, E.V." (listing under heading "Studentenvereine"). In Jüdisches Jahrbuch 1932. Berlin: Verlag Jüdisches Jahrbuch. p. 126. The Union had also regularly been listed in earlier editions of the Jahrbuch; however, no entry for it appears in the 1933 edition.
References

Adler-Rudel, S. Ostjuden in Deutschland, 1880-1940: Zugleich eine Geschichte der Organisationen die sie betreuten. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1959. Especially p. 99-101.

Charasch, Abraham. "Die ostjüdischen Studenten im Westen." Die Freistatt, Vol. 1, No. 4 (15 July 1913): p. 257-259.

Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden. "Hilfswerk für jüdische Studenten." Der Israelit, Vol. 71, No. 4 (23 January 1930): p. 6.

Rosenblum, Moses. "Die ostjüdische Studentenschaft in Westeuropa." Die Freistatt, Vol. 2, No. 4 (July 1914): p. 208-215.

Extent

2.3 Linear Feet (6 boxes, including one half-size box; 217 folders)

Abstract

This collection contains the records of the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany (Yiddish: Farband fun di Yidishe Studentn Fareynen in Daytshland; German: Verband Jüdischer Studentenvereine in Deutschland), an umbrella organization of associations of East European Jewish students who were pursuing their education in cities throughout Germany in the 1920s. Along with the Union's records are the records of two of its affiliate associations, the Jewish Student Association in Berlin and the Jewish Student Association in Jena. The student associations and the umbrella organization that they founded aimed to further Jewish cultural life among members; to provide material assistance to members in need; and to advocate for the interests of members vis-à-vis state and academic authorities. Included are administrative records such as bylaws, minutes, and announcements; materials documenting membership meetings of the Berlin association and conferences of the umbrella organization; petitions and correspondence from members concerning financial aid; materials documenting libraries maintained by the students, and other activities; and general correspondence. Among the correspondents are Jewish charitable and social-welfare organizations that contributed to the support of East European Jewish students through the student associations, including the Yidishe Velt-Hilfs-Konferents (Conférence Universelle Juive de Secours, Paris), the Verband der Russischen Juden, the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden, and the Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Deutschen Juden, as well as the Jewish Community of Berlin, and Jewish communities in other cities in Germany. The collection also includes a relatively small amount of materials of mixed provenance documenting the activities of other associations and umbrella organizations of East European Jewish students, both in Eastern Europe and the West, the greatest portion related to interwar Poland, especially Vilna.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following series:
  1. Jewish Student Association in Berlin, 1920-1928
  2. Jewish Student Association in Jena, 1923-1930
  3. Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, 1923-1930
  4. Other Associations of East European Jewish Students in Europe, undated, 1913-1917, 1920-1939

Custodial History

These records were part of the YIVO Archives in Vilna before the Second World War. In 1942, during the Nazi occupation of Vilna, the records were looted by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (a special task force of the National Socialist regime devoted to the plunder of art and cultural artifacts) and sent to the Institut zur Erforschung der Judenfrage (Institute for Study of the Jewish Question), an institution of the National Socialist Party (NSDAP), in Frankfurt am Main. In 1945 they were recovered by the U.S. Army and returned to the YIVO Institute in New York, via the U.S. Army archival depot in Offenbach. The records arrived in New York in 1947.

Related Material

A few items related to the present collection can be found in the Germany Collection (Vilna Archives; RG 31), held by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, specifically: correspondence addressed to the Jewish Student Association in Berlin, from students Jona Woronowsky, A. Sandler, Stefan Markus, and Gdaly Jossimow (Folder 354, "Ostjüdischer Studentenverein"); an invitation letter from the Verband Ostjüdischer Organisationen in Deutschland to a conference in 1924, received by the Jewish Student Association in Berlin (Folder 365); and a copy of an outgoing letter, 1924, from the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany, addressed to the Verband Russischer Juden in Deutschland (also in Folder 365).

The Papers of Abraham Charasch (RG 86), also held by the YIVO Institute, contain a significant amount of materials related to the Union of Eastern Jewish Student Associations in Western Europe, the umbrella organization that existed for a brief period just prior to the First World War.

The Leo Baeck Institute, another partner at the Center for Jewish History, has two collections that apparently contain small amounts of materials related to the Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany (mentioned in the finding aids by the German name, Verband Jüdischer Studentenvereine in Deutschland): the Robert Weltsch Collection (AR 7185) and the Emigration Collection (AR 1989).

Processing information

During initial processing at the YIVO Institute in New York, sometime in the postwar period, the collection was sorted in a preliminary fashion and placed in folders; it does not appear that any inventory list was ever created. During processing for the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project, the collection was further examined, sorted, and arranged, and then re-foldered into acid-free archival folders.
Title
Guide to the Records of the Farband fun di Yidishe Studentn Fareynen in Daytshland (Verband Jüdischer Studentenvereine in Deutschland; Union of Jewish Student Associations in Germany), 1913-1939 (bulk: 1920-1930) RG 18
Status
Completed
Author
Partially processed by YIVO staff. Materials further processed, described and prepared for digitization, and finding aid encoded by Violet Lutz in 2019.
Date
©2019
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Processed, conserved and digitized as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project (2015-2022).

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

Contact:
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