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Research projects

Research projects

In January 2023 the Leo Baeck Institute London (LBI London) began a research project on the provenance of the institute’s Arnold Paucker Library, named after its long-serving and esteemed second director Arnold Paucker. Building on the recent cataloguing of the library’s holdings and following an exhibition of key items from this collection, the current research project seeks to explore yet another layer of information contained within the 4600 volumes that have come to our institute since its foundation in 1955. The project aims to provide insights into the provenance markers found in this unique corpus of books dedicated to German-Jewish history and culture and aspires to record evidence of the Networks of Knowledge that were established by and via the LBI London since its foundationtracing markers of intellectual exchange amongst Jewish émigré scholars.

Under the supervision of Deputy Director Kinga S. Bloch, intern Malaika Muwanya…

Project Description

The Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem together with Leo Baeck Institute London and the association Freunde und Förderer des Leo Baeck Instituts are preparing a hybrid exhibition project centered on the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums and the remnants of its library. The online exhibition and its accompanying Social Media campaign shall be launched in Autumn of 2023 and will run until the end of 2024. Physical installations promoting the exhibition in different spaces related to the legacy of the Hochschule across the globe will follow suit. This exhibition project aspires to engage broad international audiences in joining the search for the library’s lost books as citizen scientists.

For 70 years, the Hochschule in Berlin constituted a vibrant world of study and scholarship. The Hochschule, founded in 1872, served as a rabbinical seminary and as a research hub for the scientific study of Judaism. It was the…

This was a long-term project, carried out by Ulrich Charpa, Ute Deichmann, and Anthony S. Travis. The project aimed at documenting, evaluating and explaining the role of Jews in German-speaking academia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In connection with the project international workshops were organised in Leipzig (2002), Jerusalem (2003), Brighton (2004), and Jerusalem (2006), Beer Sheva (2007, 2008, 2009), London (2010). Among the publications related to the project are two collections: 

Schwerpunkt Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Yearbook of the Simon Dubnow Institute, Vol. 3, Göttingen 2004: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, S. 149-312. (eds. Charpa/Deichmann)  Jews in the Sciences in Modern Times, vol. 72 of the Schriftenreihe des Leo Back Instituts, Tübingen 2007: J.B.C. Mohr (Paul Siebeck). (eds. Charpa/Deichmann) 

External talks were given at various conferences and at universities and research institutions in Aachen, Berlin, Bochum, Bonn,…

Perceptions of Jews are crucially shaped by visual imaginations and arguments. Even a quick glimpse in the visual archive of European history demonstrates this: from paintings in Medieval churches (‘Judensau’), over Early Modern leaflets (Jud Suess) to the famous journalistic and ethnographic projects of Jewish photographers (Roman Vishniac) in the early 20th century. Visual language, coined by both Jews and Gentiles, shaped European ‘knowledge’ about Jews and Judaism. This knowledge also influenced and was further developed by film, one of the most important mass media of the 20th and 21st century.

Jewish characters in German films are a continuous phenomenon since the silent film era. These images of Jews tell stories and convey messages by appealing to moral sentiments such as shame, anger or empathy, bound up with moral values. The project's central question is: how do film productions try to convince their audience of the moral significance and place in society credited…

Our former Director, Dr Daniel Wildmann takes part in "The Diaries of Anne Frank" project of the Lichtenberg-Kolleg and the Fritz Bauer Institute.

Seventy years after the end of the Second World War our knowledge about the war and the Holocaust is based upon a wide variety of sources and a rich range of historiographies. Amongst the first sources to be published, and quickly acquiring a rather unique status, were the diary notes of Anne Frank. Around the world many children and teenagers have read and are still reading editions of Anne´s diaries – either at school or in private. In the biography of many readers as well as in national commemorative cultures the engagement with the war and the Holocaust began with the diary of Anne Frank. It became a symbol.

Meanwhile Anne Frank’s notes have been aligned with a wide range of moral debates – on refugees, on asylum, on human rights. From a historian’s perspective this is not without problems. Historical dimensions…

The Leo Baeck Institute's Library and Pamphlet collection is a valuable resource for the study of German-Jewish history and culture. In 2017, the LBI forged a new strategic partnership with Queen Mary University Library Services, allowing for better access to this resource.

Over the last year, large parts of the library have been catalogued in collaboration with Queen Mary University Library Services. The next phase of work on the Leo Baeck Collection will focus on the pamphlet collection (image below), which contains a mixture of personal documents, unpublished manuscripts, and publications by Jewish institutions. In 2019, the LBI won funding by private foundation for professionally cataloguing this resource for the first time, and to make it accessible to the public through online finding aids.

This was complemented by a display in the university Library, showcasing the archive material, which promises to open up many avenues for future research, particularly…

Art History as an academic discipline in Britain is commonly regarded as a German import. Before the 1930s, British art writing was the domain of the amateur and connoisseur. This only changed radically with the influx of émigré scholars – most of them of German-Jewish descent – to Britain after 1933. These highly skilled professional art historians played a pivotal role in developing the research and teaching programmes of both the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes.

The project Innovation and Acculturation: the Émigré Art Historians and Britain aims to reappraise and – where appropriate – to challenge the received narrative about the history of art history in Britain.

Its aim is to situate the work of the German (-Jewish) émigré art historians in a wider sociology of British Academia, and the intellectual debates within and beyond art historical scholarship. The project seeks to re-evaluate just how ‘German’ British art history became between 1920 and 1970.…

Responses to National Socialist antisemitism covered a wide spectrum, ranging from open resistance to voluntary support. This project seeks to examine how Protestant political theology is situated within this spectrum, and to sketch the various positions articulated in response to the increasing radicalisation of National Socialist "Judenpolitik". Neither the inclusion of the so-called "Arierparagraph", legislation regarding "Aryan" origin, within church law, for instance, nor the introduction of the Nuremberg Laws themselves were met with silence. On the contrary: it is possible to show how theologians attempted in the course of a number of debates to assimilate their worldview to these political changes.

By bringing together a number of sub-disciplines, such as research on antisemitism, the history of National Socialism and church history, as well as the history of theology, the project examines two main questions: first, how antisemitic policies were commented upon, or…

Christian Strub, Fellowship project

This project is based on the conviction that it is wrong to regard the relationship between the members of the Nazi Volksgemeinschaft and their regime solely as a relationship of power and coercion, without considering that the moral justification of what the perpetrators did or allowed to happen played an important role. It is often argued that people were seduced by their Führer and that acts of violence did not result from their own free will. Other frequently cited stereotypes are that of the Mitläufer (fellow traveller) who was forced to join in and that of the amoral person who committed violence out of political conviction and did not lay claim to any moral justification.

This study will pursue the argument from a new angle, namely that the members of the Nazi Volksgemeinschaft were acting on a concept of morality and that they therefore had an interest in their principles to be universally applicable. This…

Birgit Erdle, Fellowship project

This project investigates how Jewish authors addressed the problem of historical transmission (Tradierung) from the early 19th century onwards. It will analyse selected texts by Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Erwin Straus, Theodor W. Adorno and others, covering a period from 1826 to 1944. The project tries to reconstruct how these writings reveal the process of historical transmission and which concepts, figures and images are created by the authors to represent it. The question of how to conceptualise historical transmission will be combined with a Theorie des Ereignisses (theory of incidence), which focuses on the concept of trauma and thus on the connections between shock, repetition, language and narrative. In order to reconstruct the connection between trauma and historical transmission and place it in the context of German-Jewish history, this study will investigate a series of exemplary textual…