INTRODUCING THE LEO BAECK INSTITUTE LONDON COLLECTION
The Leo Baeck Institute London Collection is a valuable resource for the study of German-Jewish history and culture. It was recently deposited at Queen Mary University of London Library, by the Leo Baeck Institute London, and is available to researchers. In this post, we give an overview of the collection and take a look at some notable items.
27 February 2019
The Leo Baeck Institute London (LBI London), founded in 1955, conducts and supports research on the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry from the 17th century to the present day. In 2011 the Institute moved to Queen Mary University of London, where it plays a key role in research and teaching in the School of History.
The LBI London’s library contains books, journals and pamphlets relating to German-Jewish history and culture. It was deposited at Queen Mary University of London Library in 2017. The collection is made up of over 4,500 books, 30 metres of journals, and 50 boxes of pamphlets. It is a multilingual collection, with works in German, Hebrew, Italian and English. Many of the items are from the early 20th Century and are not held by any other library in the UK.
Over the past year, much work has been undertaken by Library staff to catalogue this collection and make it available to students and researchers. Cataloguer Anne-Marie has undertaken the lengthy task of adding all of the books to the Library catalogue, which has brought many interesting items to light.
The LBI London’s Collection contains a wide range of primary sources and seminal publications on the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry. In many cases we hold the only copies accessible in the UK. The collection contains primary sources and rare historical publications such as a wide range of early Zionist pamphlets from the 19th and early 20th century such as an illustrated publication by the engineer of agronomics, S. Zemach, Das Jüdische Dorf (The Jewish Village, 1932) that describes a Jewish settlement in Mandate-Palestine. Furthermore, we hold early copies of the periodical Die Arbeit (The Labour) that was circulated since 1919. It was published by the German branch (Zentraler Waad des Deutschen Landesverbands) of the socialist Zionist party Hapoël Hazaïr (The Young Worker) that founded early Kibbutzim in Mandate-Palestine.
The collection features published speeches by Walter Rathenau who was German foreign minister in the Weimar Republic and early publications engaging with German-Jewish history and culture (from the late 19th and early 20th century). One example for the latter is an edited volume from 1896 that contains six lectures on the history of the Jews by the literary historian Dr. Gustav Karpeles, a founding member of the Verein fur jüdische Geschichte und Literatur (Association for Jewish History and Literature).
Furthermore, the LBI Collection holds texts that illustrate German-Jewish involvement in early feminist discourse in the early 20th Century such as a published version of Johanna Simon-Friedberg’s Gegenwartsaufgaben der jüdischen Frau (Contemporary tasks of the Jewish woman), a speech she held in Berlin on the 25th November 1913. The book collection is also significant in the number of personal stories and autobiographical accounts it contains relating to the Holocaust. One example is In the beginning was the Ghetto, an English translation of 21 notebooks written by the journalist and playwright Oskar Rosenfeld, meticulously recording life and conditions in the Łódź Ghetto from 1942-1944. Rosenfeld and the other inhabitants of the Ghetto were later deported to Auschwitz, where he was killed.
Most of the books in the LBI Collection date from the twentieth century, but there are some historical items too. This includes a Mahzor (book of liturgical prayers) for the feasts of Sukot, Pesach and Shavu’ot dating from 1784.
There is also a copy of Naphtali Herz Homberg’s Bne-Zion, a religious and moral manual for young people dating from 1812. Bne-Zion was commissioned for use in all the German-Jewish schools within the jurisdiction of the Austrian Empire. When Jewish couples wished to marry, they were examined on the content of the manual.
Of course the library also holds a full set of the Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, an annual series featuring ground-breaking research on German-Jewish History. The Yearbook is published in English by Oxford University Press.
We are happy to announce that the cataloguing project of the LBI London’s unique collection of rare pamphlets (image below) has been completed in 2019. This collection contains a wide range of documents. It promises to open up many avenues for future research, particularly regarding networks of Jewish émigré scholars in London, and their exchanges with Jewish institutions on the continent. The cataloguing project was accompanied by an exhibition that showcases the diversity of the materials that it holds.
Everyone is welcome to use the Leo Baeck London Collection – you do not need to be part of the University. The books can be found on the Library catalogue. A catalogue of the pamphlets can be obtained by emailing email@example.com while the online format is finalised. Due to the unique and special nature of the Leo Baeck London Collection it is reference only and can be viewed in the Archives Reading Room. If there is something you would like to see, please email the Archives and Special Collections team on firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment. We are open Monday-Friday, 9.30am-4.30pm.