August 10th, 2005

Tucholskystrasse 9

Leo Baeck House: The headquarters of the Central Council of Jews in Germany at Tucholskystrasse 9

Since April 1999 the Central Council of Jews in Germany has been officially domiciled at Leo Baeck House, no. 9 on Tucholskystrasse. From 1907 to 1942 this was the home of the Academy for the Science of Judaism.

The distinguished building named after Rabbi Leo Baeck was designed by architect Johann Hönniger (1850-1913).

Leo Baeck, the well-known Berlin rabbi, was elected on 17 September 1933 to preside over the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden, the public body for the representation of Jews that preceded the Central Council. He taught here from 1912 until he was deported to Theresienstadt in 1943. In July 1942 only 12 students remained at the Academy for the Science of Judaism, receiving their instruction from Rabbi Baeck. Baeck survived the Nazi repression, and after the war he left for London. There, in 1955, he founded the Leo Baeck Institute as the leading institution researching the history of Germany’s Jews before his death on 2 November 1956.

The Academy in Berlin had been founded in 1872 by Moritz Lazarus, Moritz Meyer and Dr Salomon Neumann. The Prussian government was initially dismissive of this mere “school”. During the heyday of liberal Judaism in Germany, Orthodox Jews also distrusted the Academy, regarding it as an intellectual centre of the movement. However, these reservations failed to dent the Academy’s reputation. One of its earliest scholars was the eminent rabbi and Judaist Abraham Geiger (1810-1874). Even then students would come from the United States to hear him lecture in Berlin. The subjects taught included Hebrew, the History of Judaism, Literature and General History. Immediately following the Nazi take-over the Jewish Academy offered sanctuary and intellectual sustenance to many Jewish researchers and scholars. One of them was Martin Buber, who fled Germany, as did many others, after the night of pogrom in 1938. For the few students that ultimately remained the Academy was an island of knowledge during the Nazi darkness where they were able to probe the mysteries of the Talmud and the Bible.

In 1942 the National Socialists closed the Academy down. After the war the building, in the central borough of Mitte that now formed part of East Berlin, was used for residential purposes, until it was converted to serve its present functions after the political changes.