Page 60 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
the cataloging of the existing material, today more urgent than
ever, we have provided some valuable bibliographical pointers.
Memoirs and Reminiscences
Finally, the catalog (Vol. I) contains a third element which, in
a sense, can be considered the basis of the collection of the Institute:
cataloging and describing 450 unpublished memoirs and privately
printed reminiscences which the Institute was able to collect over
the years. These memoirs span a long period, some going back
to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Most of them, however,
stem from the turn of the century, and some from the days of the
destruction of the German Jews. They could not be tracked down
and compiled systematically to provide an unbroken collective
memoir of the German Jewish history of the last decades and of
its tragedy. They came into the Institute's possession mostly by
chance, even as their origin is often probably a matter of chance.
A number were written at the suggestion of the Institute. Many
were probably born out of the need to leave behind a memory
of the writer for children and grandchildren, or as catharsis to
liberate oneself from the burden of the past. For some, writing
memoirs may have helped to mitigate the emptiness and pain of
forced rootlessness; to build a bridge to the present through re-
membrance of the past.
Looked at as a whole, the collection of memoirs reveals how
multifaceted and colorful German Jewry had been. Among the
writers of these memoirs are scholars, academicians, journalists,
successful businessmen, experienced politicians. But they also
include simple, diligent people from all walks of life and from
every area of Germany. The reminiscences touch upon major con-
temporary problems and events, but they also let us see the daily
life of important and average businessmen as well as of the unas-
suming common men. Some are important because they disclose
the activities of Jews in public life, in state and community, that
go far beyond purely Jewish interest. Many are of documentary
importance for the rise of the German Jews in the nineteenth
century, and for migration from one German province to the other,
from village or small town to the big city, especially to Berlin,
where one-third of German Jewry settled. When the proper selec-
tion of all these memoirs will one day be published, it will limn
a momentous and exciting picture of the life of German Jewry
during the last century of its existence on German soil.
Hopefully, when the catalogs of the Leo Baeck Institute and
the scholarly publications of the three Institutes planned or pres-
ently in work will be ready, they will constitute a fully documented
testament to the singularly important role German Jewry, in its
rise and destruction, has played in the history of the Jewish people.