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(1873 - 1956)
German rabbi and religious thinker, leader of
Progressive Judaism, Baeck was born in Lissa (now Poland) the son of Rabbi
Samuel Baeck. Leo Baeck first studied at the Conservative Jewish Theological
Seminary of Breslau and from 1894 at the liberal Hochschule fuer die
Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin. At the same time he also enrolled in
philosophy at the University of Breslau and at the University of Berlin.
|Baeck served as rabbi in Oppeln, Duesseldorf
and Berlin (from 1912 on), and as an army chaplain in World War I. In
1912 he began lecturing on midrashic literature and homiletics at the
Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums (the Academy for the
Science of Judaism, a seminary for liberal rabbis and educators).
In 1933 he declared that the „thousand-year" history of the German
Jews had come to an end. During the Nazi period he was the head of the
Reichsvertretung, which represented German Jews. He rejected all
possibilities to escape and to serve as a rabbi or scholar abroad. He
declared that he would remain with the last minjan of Jews in Germany
as long as possible.
1934 in a Berlin Synagogue
Photo: A. Pisaro
|In 1943 he was deported to
Theresienstadt concentration camp. There he continued
to encourage and to support people as far as possible. Thus, he became
a „witness of his faith", He survived and in July 1945 he shifted to
London. Leo Baeck became president of the council of Jews from Germany
and chairman of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. From 1948
until his death he lectured intermittently about issues covering
history of religion at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
Leo Baeck Institute for the study of the history of the Jews from
German-speaking countries was established in his name, and he served
as its first president.
Leo Baeck, Lily Montagu, Martin Buber