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Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian

Lloyd P. Gartner

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 42, 2009 Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian LLOYD P. GARTNER Early on Sunday 6 July 1975 Salo Baron made his way to Ben-Gurion airport for a flight to London, accompanied by his wife. A few days earlier Columbia University graduates in Israel had feted him on his recent eighti? eth birthday, but in London his destination was the British Library where there was work to be done. After registering at the Russell Hotel on that hot, humid day he made his way the short distance to University College London. I had told him of the Jewish Historical Society's conference on Provincial Jewry in Victorian England to be held there, and said that they would be happy and honoured to see him at that event. Baron had said he would try to come, and I informed the conference organizers of this. When he walked in during a session, Professor Raphael Loewe, then in the chair, welcomed him warmly. Invited to speak, Baron admitted he knew nothing of the subject of the conference, yet, he continued, believed strongly in the future of the Diaspora. Soon thereafter there was a break for tea, and Baron stood politely as many participants came up to introduce themselves. When he was ready to leave, someone offered to walk with him in the heat back to his hotel; he declined to take a taxi. I relate this to illustrate Salo Baron's physical vigour and literally tireless interest in encouraging Jewish histori? cal study wherever he found it. Few Jewish childen in Austrian Poland (Galicia) around the turn of the twentieth century could have enjoyed as privileged a childhood as Salo Baron. Born on 26 May 1895, he was the only boy among the three children of Elias and Minna Baron (1872-1942) of Tarnow in western Galicia.1 (Both parents would died in the Holocaust.) Elias Baron (1870?1942) was a private banker and an investor who owned widely scattered estates and houses. One of his holdings produced oil, from which he profited handsomely. As a man of substantial wealth he lived in a large house on the main square of Tarnow, where he was a leader of a community of approximately 12,000 mostly poor Jews who constituted nearly half the city's population. Elias Baron was a pious Jew, but the language of his home was not the Yiddish generally spoken by Galician Jews, but the language of the Polish majority, with whom 1 He later observed that birthdays were disregarded in Eastern Europe; only his Bar Mitsvah when he was aged thirteen was marked. 173</page><page sequence="2">Lloyd P. Gartner he did much of his business. He also spoke German to a lesser extent. His very religious and charitable father-in-law, Hirsch Wittmayer (1840-1915) dwelled next door and owned what would be called today a department store. He played an active role in his grandson's upbringing.2 Throughout his life Salo Baron was interested in economic matters, as may be seen not only in his major works and specialized articles, but in his management of the finances of organizations which he headed. No other Jewish historian gave as much knowledgeable attention in his writings to such subjects as taxation, commerce, finance and banking. His interest started at a young age in his father's house. Baron recalled proudly that he conducted the family businesses at the age of fifteen for several weeks while his parents and grandfather were away, and at the same time directed the large lying-in society headed by his parents. In his memoirs he recalled his family's communal work as an important aspect of their life. On one occa? sion a group of needy Tarnow Jews whose Passover stipends had been reduced by a change in welfare policy, so could not celebrate the holiday properly, 'sat in' in the Baron home to demand what they needed. There was no thought of removing them; in fact Mrs Baron served them food. Elias Baron hurried about to secure his 'guests' the money they required, after which they left. Salo Baron spoke later in lectures with a certain relish of the right according to Jewish law, although modified in time, of any Jew who believed he had been ill treated by the community to halt synagogue worship until steps were taken there and then to right his wrong. Not only the necessities of life were amply provided in the Baron house. The young Salo displayed unusual intellectual talent, and began to learn Bible and the intricacies of Talmud as a young boy, as well as chess. When it soon became evident that heder study by a bright young child alongside adolescent boys was unsuitable, a private tutor was engaged. Under the full-time guidance of the former yeshivah student Eisig Wrubel, who lived with the family, Salo's learning blossomed. Not only did he study Talmud, the central subject of traditional learning, but he learned the Bible thor? oughly, mastered modern Hebrew and read widely. When he was about eleven the family received as a guest the celebrated Rabbi Shalom Mordecai Shwadron (known as Maharsham) of Brzezany, the foremost rabbinic authority (posek) of the age. The rabbi questioned the youngster about his studies, and the discussion developed into an examination. The results pleased the august examiner and his warm praise delighted the family. It is doubtful whether Rabbi Schwadron would have endorsed the other side of the boy's studies, his course as a gymnasium external student. Salo 2 In approximately 1933 Salo Baron added Wittmayer to his name in memory of his grandfather, who had only daughters. 174</page><page sequence="3">Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian studied science, mathematics and classical languages among other subjects, and presented himself for oral examinations. He changed from traditional Jewish garb to modern clothing while en route to the gymnasium. His change of clothing was noticed, and the hostile reaction from some aggres? sive Hasidim to what they deemed a religious impropriety caused annoy? ance to the family. In addition to his exacting studies the young Salo's reading included Heinrich Graetz's multi-volume history of the Jews in German, which he later claimed he knew almost by heart as a youngster. At this stage Salo was firmly Orthodox, and he later recalled that in his early adolescence he had been particularly devout. His mother took care that her children should benefit from physical exercise with other children, includ? ing swimming, and that they should take music lessons. The entire family spent several weeks a year at spas such as Carlsbad, much frequented by Orthodox Jews, where the youth could meet prominent Jewish personali? ties. By his seventeenth birthday he had passed gymnasium examinations and possessed substantial knowledge of the Talmud, Bible, Latin, Greek and several modern languages, as well as mathematics and science, and had read widely on his own. He was well on the way to his later fabled erudition, and had acquired his lifelong habit of long hours of concentrated work. Physically he had a vigorous constitution, which he retained into his old age. By this time the question of Salo's future arose. He had a wide choice of career thanks to his intensive education and his family's means and connec? tions, but he did not wish to enter his father's business, whether by inclina? tion or because the elder was a dominating person. So was the son, however. People who knew him in his maturity testify to the stubborn determination beneath his courtliness. His family seems to have thought of Salo as the future rabbi of Tarnow and were in a good position to bring about his elec? tion to that honorific post. But Salo would have none of it. Career possibili? ties included law or the sciences or something in the Jewish field, all of which meant university study. For a few months he commuted weekly to Cracow where he attended the university and studied Talmud privately, but this ended with his decision early in 1914 to enroll at the University of Vienna. Aided by the intervention of his father, a supporter of the institu? tion, he was also accepted to the Jewish Theological Seminary in Vienna. Student life in the imperial capital, then in the late summer of its cultural glory, opened a new chapter in the life of the young man from the Habsburg provinces. For the first time he lived in a western city and as a student among students, and returned to Tarnow only for visits. He enjoyed student life and was a leader in Jewish student societies. But a few months after Baron came to Vienna the Great War broke out, and his family joined him to take refuge there 011914-1915 from the battles near Tarnow and the 175</page><page sequence="4">Lloyd P. Gartner Russian occupation of their town. They stayed until the Russians were driven out in mid-1915. The war damaged the family fortunes, but Elias Baron's son, exempt as a divinity student from military service, was little affected except in the intangible sphere of intellectual orientation, as he underwent a transformation from an East European to an emancipated Western Jew. Having arrived in Vienna as an Orthodox young man, between ordination as a rabbi in 1920 and his depature from Europe in 1926 he discarded most religious observance. These developments are barely documented, since the decisions lay within the young Baron's mind and he was not self-revealing. Apparently there was a period of quest. He hinted at this in a later tribute to Thomas Mann: 'As an adolescent I have [sic] found myself impelled to consider the life of my own environment in terms of the historic relationships so classically depicted in [Mann's] Buddenbrooks\ That novel treated changes between the generations within a prosperous German merchant family.3 Baron occasionally mentioned that he attended lectures given at the University of Vienna by Sigmund Freud, acquiring some knowledge of psychoanalysis although he did not accept many of its basic doctrines.4 Baron's memoirs relate that after considering various career directions he decided to become an historian of the Jews. With his strong practical sense he realized how few positions existed for Jewish historians, all of them in rabbinical seminaries or Jewish teacher-training institutes. At this time he was a Hebraist and Jewish nationalist, standpoints that he moderated but never entirely forsook. He wrote little about the seminary that ordained him a rabbi, but sought to help it financially when he settled in New York. For Baron, two individuals stood out in the Viennese Jewish cultural scene. One was the eminent rabbinic scholar at the seminary Avigdor (Victor) Aptowitzer (1870-1942), whom Baron assisted with his work as the elder scholar's eyesight failed, and whom he also helped to leave for Palestine when Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938. The other was the chief rabbi of Vienna, Hirsch Peretz Chajes (1876-1927), a charismatic scholar, teacher and Hebraist who helped guide his career. Of the university Baron says almost nothing. His debt to it is expressed in the three doctorates he earned there, in law, political science and philosophy, after concentrating in history and Semitic languages. Yet Baron's interest in the social sciences, virtually unique in a Jewish historian of his generation, may have come from his university studies, stimulated perhaps by his business background. 3 Letter to Harry Woodburn Chase, Chancellor, New York University, 2 May 1938; Box 22, Folder C-24. 4 He mentioned that he saw Freud in the street in the neighborhood where they both lived. Since the founder of psychoanalysis lived in a desirable neighbourhood, the student from Tarnow may have lived in better conditions than the average student. 176</page><page sequence="5">Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian His first book, a dissertation on the Jewish question at the Congress of Vienna of 1815,5 appeared in 1920 when its author was twenty-five, and remains the standard study of the subject. It was the first in his series of studies on the Jewish question in international diplomacy. From early in his career Baron conceived of Jewish history in a different way from what was then generally accepted. For most people it was mainly the study of perse? cutions endured by Jews and the lives and writings of Jewish cultural heroes. For him, Jewish history formed part of history in general, and had to be understood in the light of historical developments among the peoples with whom Jews lived. Baron declared himself a republican in post-Hapsburg Austria and a supporter of national minority rights in Central and Eastern Europe. In these postwar years he could, with his three doctorates, practice law. He never employed his rabbinic ordination professionally. Baron enjoyed life and society in Vienna, but knew his future was dim as a Jew in an impover? ished, reduced postwar Austria, where anti-Semitism was rife. He taught the full range of Jewish history in the Hebrew language at the J?disches Pedagogium in Vienna. Most of its students came from Eastern Europe, planning to be teachers in the new Jewish school systems in those countries. Baron also continued his own research in Jewish history and began to acquire a reputation in that field, then professionally minuscule. Offers of work started to arrive, most decisively from Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the Reform rabbi and Zionist who had just founded the Jewish Institute of Religion as a rabbinical seminary. Despite its nondenomina tional status, almost all the Institute's graduates became affiliated with Reform Judaism. The young scholar was appointed lecturer, with his long term future left open as he demonstrated his ability. Curious about America and what possibilities there might exist there, he accepted Wise's offer, but for a few years did not feel committed to remain in America. He arrived there under the fortunate conditions of a single man with a salary of $5000 or $5500? worlds better than the East European immigrant masses who had preceded him. Wise built up a distinguished faculty, among whom Baron readily found his place. He liked his students, most of whom came with strong backgrounds in Jewish studies. In addition to his professorship in history, Baron became librarian of the Institute and director of its incipi? ent graduate department. Another young historian at that time, likewise on a temporary appointment, was the Englishman Cecil Roth (1899-1970), with whom Baron had a life-long wary friendship. Roth's brittle personality and Oxford airs assisted his return to England. As a new American, Baron observed New York City and its Jews closely, 5 Die Judenfrage auf dem Wiener Kongress. 177</page><page sequence="6">Lloyd P. Gartner as well as America itself, although he apparently travelled little. He instead made annual summer visits to his family and to old friends in Vienna. Unusually for a scholar of that or the next generation, he developed a posi? tive faith in the cultural greatness of Judaism in his new country, and in the prospects for Jewish learning. Within two years, and definitely by the time he received an offer from Breslau, he decided his future lay in the United States and applied for citizenship. Salo Baron set about establishing his name as a scholar and making the difficult transition from German to English by means of diligent study and the help of the writer Herbert Solow. A decade earlier he had shifted more easily from Polish to German. His last German publication appeared in 1931. He wrote numerous book reviews, magazine articles and encyclope? dia entries in Hebrew, German and English. But his main effort lay in orig? inal historical studies.6 A lifetime's interest in Jewish historiography had begun with a brief German study of Heinrich Graetz in 1918 (No. n, in English no. 381), and came to full expression in 1925 and 1926 with two substantial studies of the critical Italian Renaissance historian Azariah de' Rossi (Nos 27, 381). Years later there were sizeable studies of the master of bibliography Moritz Steinschneider (Nos 220, 381) and the little-remem? bered economic historian Levi Herzfeld (Nos 185, 381). Baron's favoured outlet in his early American years was the Menorah Journal, a literary and scholarly periodical with whose strong-willed editor, Henry Hurwitz the no less determined Baron had a sometimes touchy relationship. Memorable essays published in the Menorah Journal include 'Ghetto and Emancipation: Shall We Revise the Traditional View?' (Nos 30, 385). He responded that we should, and attacked the sorrowful exaggerations of the 'lachrymose conception of Jewish history', a term which became famous. 'Nationalism and Intolerance' (Nos 40, 437) was a penetrating comparison of Jewish prospects in multi-national and unitary states. 'Modern Capitalism and Jewish Fate' (Nos 49, 156, 381) in 1941 was the last of the Menorah Journal essays, in which Baron set forth many of the theses he was to discuss fully in larger works. In 1929 came the next major step in Baron's career. An endowment at Columbia University by the wealthy widow Linda R. (Mrs. Nathan J.) Miller went to establish a chair in Jewish History, Literature and Institutions. In American universities only Harvard preceded Columbia in Jewish studies with the Littauer Chair in Jewish Literature and Philosophy in 1925. Its incumbent was the brilliant Harry A. Wolfson, who had also 6 All writings are cited here in cursory fashion. Full citations are provided in Jeannette Meisel Baron, 'A Bibliography of the Printed Writings of Salo Wittmayer Baron', Salo Wittmayer Baron: Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (3 vols, Jerusalem and New York, 1974) 1:1-37, esp. nos 18-57. i78</page><page sequence="7">Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian taught at the Jewish Institute of Religion. Columbia took time to decide on the appointment and several names were circulated. Baron's came up late, and the choice fell on him at the end of 1929 without his active promotion. A tenured professorship in Jewish history at one of America's and the world's foremost universities conferred much prestige, but the new profes? sor's first years were not easy. Columbia's president Nicholas Murray Butler had ruled that Baron, as he wished, would become a member of its history department, but that department did not take him in readily. As a young foreigner with a pronounced accent, and as a Jew teaching a subject strange to his colleagues, some of whom questioned whether it was a proper field of history at all, several years passed before he was fully accepted as a colleague. Baron also continued to teach a course at the Jewish Institute of Religion until 1937, and at the Graduate School of Jewish Social Work until it closed in 1938. Salo (from 1933: Salo Wittmayer) Baron's career centered at Columbia University from his arrival in 1930 to his retirement in 1963, and thereafter until he died in 1989. There is no record of an offer from another univer? sity, although he was a visiting professor in later years at the nearby Jewish Theological Seminary and, around the time he retired, also at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Brown University in Rhode Island. But Columbia University, with its excellent Judaica library collections, augmented through his recommendations, set in the capital city of the Jewish Diaspora where his prestige slowly but steadily rose, was ideal for Baron. He was an effective lecturer who usually arrived in class slightly late, seated himself at a desk from which he did not move, and spoke extempora? neously without notes, rising from an almost hushed opening to a forceful delivery. Source quotations were read from note cards. At any point he would stop to answer a question patiently and in detail, and then return to precisely where he had interrupted himself. For most students, Jewish and not, this was the first encounter with Jewish history at a mature level. At the outset of a lecture course he distributed a bibliography and commented on the works listed. A student once inquired, 'What reading do you require, Professor Baron?' He replied, CI don't require reading, I require knowl? edge', adding that it did not matter where the student acquired it. A permanent frustration for Baron was the nearly complete absence of academic positions in the field of Jewish history for which advanced gradu? ate students could be recommended. Only rabbinical and Jewish teachers seminaries had such positions, and their few occupants came from other, often European, sources. Qualified and interested students realized this situation, and would not risk their professional futures by concentrating on Jewish history. At Columbia, where doctoral candidates were required to take both a major and a minor speciality, several students took Jewish 179</page><page sequence="8">Lloyd P. Gartner history as their minor. Altogether, it appears that no more than ten students earned doctorates in Jewish history at Columbia under Baron's direction, but a larger number did so as a minor. It was the 1960s, when Jewish studies in American universities blossomed, that doctoral studies in Jewish history at Columbia began to flourish. By then Baron was approaching his retire? ment in 1963, although even in later years he supervised doctoral disserta? tions and was called on for recommendations and references. Baron claimed to have worked 105 hours weekly, exclusive of eating, which he enjoyed, took regular exercise into his old age in the form of long walks, attended university and communal meetings, and had a limited social life. Yet with minimal rest and sleep he maintained robust health until shortly before he died on 24 November 1989 at the age of ninety-four. Baron lived comfortably, during his first decades in America on Manhattan's West Side and then near the Columbia campus on Morningside Heights. He recalled how he avoided marital commitments before knowing where his future lay, and then married Jeannette Meisel in 1934. They had two daughters Shoshana (Tancer) and Tobey (Gitelle), who in turn had seven children. Besides his home in cosmopolitan Manhattan, he had a country house on 130 acres of wooded riverside land on the edge of the small town of Canaan in northwest Connecticut. Soon after coming to Columbia Baron delivered the Schermerhorn Lectures entitled 'Jewish Society and Religion in Their Historic Interrelation'. Out of these lectures emerged in 1937 the central work of his career, the epoch-making^ Social and Religious History of the Jews (Nos 75-77), a reconsideration of Jewish history that included numerous revi? sions of accepted views. He believed the history of the Jews to have been shaped by the interplay (a favourite term) between Jewish society and Jewish religion. The 'social and religious' qualifiers in Baron's title meant that the work would show the unbroken relationship between Jewish soci? ety and religion. The preface expressed the governing idea: to demonstrate 'the interrelation of social and religious forces, as exemplified in the long historic evolution of the Jewish people'. People and religion shaped one another. There can be no adequate history of one without the other. To use terms which he did not employ, there cannot be a Jewish history conceived in purely secular terms, or a history of Judaism without its people. People and religion shaped one another. In his writings, Jewish history is moulded in one immense continuity, without abysses and breaks between ages. The 'emancipation' of Jewish religion from a specific geographic location allowed it to develop out of a people's history rather than from a material environment and its imperatives. Judaism and the Jewish people could therefore survive and even prosper in exile from their land. Seven years after Baron's original edition of 1937 a then little-known 180</page><page sequence="9">Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian Jerusalem scholar of German origin, Gershom G. Scholem, produced his likewise epoch-making Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 'based on the Hilda Strook [Stroock] lectures delivered at the Jewish Institute of Religion, New York'. This brought Scholem to the world's attention and made him a scholarly celebrity in the postwar years. Both great works origi? nated as little-noticed lecture-series given in Manhattan during the 1930s. We do not know how many people heard these lectures, and no public reac? tion is recorded, but reviews of the books were laudatory. A Social and Religious History of the Jews, published in two volumes of text and a third of notes, bibliography and index, secured Baron's reputa? tion and brought him international prominence as a Jewish historian. The distinguished German refugee scholar Ismar Elbogen devoted a thoughtful review in the first number oi Jewish Social Studies, of which Baron was a founder and editor. Elbogen's review opened with the resounding, 'Professor Baron's work belongs to the most notable achievements in the field of Jewish historiography that have appeared for a long time'.7 Other reviewers were likewise complimentary, with the exception of the crotchety Solomon Zeitlin, who attacked the History in the French Revue des etudes juives, as he did later works by Baron. Five years after his Social and Religious History of the Jews Baron published The Jewish Community: Its History and Structure to the American Revolution (Nos 148-150), like its predecessor consisting of two volumes of text and a third volume of appara? tus. His standing as one of the foremost Jewish historians was secure. Only Yizhak (Fritz) Baer at the Hebrew University, in that time specializing in Spanish Jewish history, was reckoned, especially in the Yishuv, as his equal or superior. Baer's anti- diaspora principles and quest for what he consid? ered the forces shaping Jewish history were polar opposites to the American scholar rejection of the concept of immanent forces and positive view of the Jewish exile. Yet Baron esteemed the rather reclusive Baer highly and maintained cordial epistolary and social relations with him. A long critical discussion of the Social and Religious History^ by Baer was regarded by Baron not as an attack, but as the expression of a contrary view. The Hebrew bibliographic journal Kiryat Sefer also published Baer's brief, complimentary review.9 Baron devoted much time to the affairs of the Jewish community, espe? cially its cultural affairs, and held positions of leadership in numerous organizations. In 1943 the Jewish Community Council of Detroit asked his opinion about its detailed plans to combat anti-Semitism in that city, which was the home to the two foremost American anti-Semites, Henry Ford, 7 Jewish Social Studies I:i (January 1939) 125-7. 8 Zw? III (1938-9) 277-99. 9 Kiryat Sefer XV (1938-9) 201-2. i8i</page><page sequence="10">Lloyd P. Gartner silent for years by then, and Father Charles E. Coughlin, recently silenced by his Church.10 Baron criticized 'the heavy emphasis' on defence against anti-Semitism. He regarded such emphasis as 'dangerous' since it 'leads to the concentration of communal energies on a negativistic side of Jewish life...'. While not rejecting defence efforts, he argued that the 'only really fruitful action' against anti-Semitism is 'buttressing the Jewish people internally and thus making it more secure against the ravages of anti semitism...'. He saw the need for a cultural and educational programme. In his communal activity Baron differed from most Jewish scholars in the United States, who regarded the American Jewish community with disdain, largely in response to the often crass character of the community, few of whose leaders knew about or showed any interest in Jewish culture and history. Many years passed before the community and its leaders changed for the better. Some of the change was thanks to Baron's urging in lectures and writings that support of Jewish education and cultural efforts should be a community responsibility, and that the community should be conscious of its own historic setting. At a time when Jewish education was held to be solely the responsibility of parents or synagogues, he argued that it was a communal obligation. Despite many disappointments, his faith in the cultural future of the American Jewish community sustained him until, in later years, he witnessed a considerable improvement.11 Baron was first elected a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research in 1929, soon after its founding. He was active in its scholarly and financial management for more than fifty years, contributed major articles to its annual Proceedings and served twelve annual terms as president. The Academy was an exclusive body controlled by its scholarly Fellows, while the Conference on Jewish Relations, another of Baron's organizations, sought to reach a larger public. Many members were Jews minimally connected to the Jewish community. It carried out well publicized projects and the already legendary Albert Einstein was a promi? nent member. The impetus to the Conference's founding was the shock at the rise of the Nazism in Germany and its active promotion of anti-Semitism in the United States. The fear grew that 'it can happen here'. Baron spoke little of personal matters. During the 1930s he aided many Europeans, including family members, to reach the United States by means of affidavits guaranteeing support. But his parents would not leave Tarnow, where they lived during the depression in reduced but still solid prosperity, until the Second World War started. Their son in America secured visas for 10 Letter to Abraham Srere, Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit, 8 February 1943. Box 25, Folder S-13. 11 A selection of his writings and lectures on these themes will be found in Jeannette Meisel Baron (ed.) Steeled by Adversity: Essays and Addresses on American Jewish Life (Philadelphia 1971). 182</page><page sequence="11">Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian them, yet by the time they had waited for their daughter, whom they needed to accompany them, it was too late. The Germans killed the parents and daughter on n June 1942, together with 10,000 Tarnow Jews, includ? ing Eisig Wrubel who had remained close to the family. Baron never spoke of this tragic episode in his family's life. Salo Baron, who himself passed through the Holocaust unscathed, never made it a subject of study of his own. But he urged research and publication at a time when the field barely existed, although this painful subject was avoided for years by historians and others. In 1949, the Conference on Jewish Relations held perhaps the first conference on Holocaust research. Perhaps the most significant of Baron's communal activities came in the aftermath of the War. Allied troops found vast collections of Jewish books and ritual objects in caves and warehouses in Germany and the present Czech Republic, wqhich had been robbed by the Germans from Jews and Jewish institutions they destroyed. Impounded and placed under American control, their disposition was entrusted to the Commission on European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, an international body which included representatives of Jewish cultural and educational institutions. In 1947 it was reorganized as Jewish Cultural Reconstruction and recognized for its purpose by the Western Allied governments. It returned books and cultural artifacts to the few owners who were still alive and identifiable, and distrib? uted hundreds of thousands of books and manuscripts among Jewish libraries. YIVO, once in Vilna, recovered most of its library and archives in this way. Books were repossessed from German and Austrian university libraries which had received them from the Nazis. The history of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, over which Baron presided until its work was completed in 1951, has yet to be written. Baron's involvement in post-Holocaust rehabilitation continued ten years later. He was invited by the Israeli government to appear on 24 April 1961 as a witness at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of those who planned the Holocaust. Barons' testimony, later published as 'European Jewry Before and After Hitler', (No. 352) summarized the situation of European Jewry before and after its catastrophe and served as an introduction to detailed statements by witnesses on their Holocaust experience. This briefly brought Baron to world prominence. He prepared methodically for his task in strict privacy. He received a room in Jerusalem in which to work, and a number of books that he had previously requested to be made available to him. Opening his testimony by apologizing to the court for any linguistic faults, Baron testified in polished, rather literary Hebrew, replying judiciously to the defence lawyer's questions. He earned wide praise for his effectiveness, and on his return to America turned down a lucrative offer of a lecture tour about his trial experiences. 183</page><page sequence="12">Lloyd P. Gartner Baron the Jewish historian also worked on American Jewish history in essays gathered in Steeled by Adversity: Essays and Addresses on American Jewish L//^_(Philadelphia, 1971; no. 450). His only programmatic study, 'American Jewish History: Problems and Methods' (No. 219), of 1950, maps the underdeveloped field, on the brink of notable improvements in methods and content. Two years later he became president of the revital? ized American Jewish Historical Society, whose origins went back to 1892. His term fell during the American Jewish Tercentenary of 1954-5, a nation-wide celebration that prompted enthusiasm for American Jewry's accomplishments and prospects. The tercentenary organization agreed to sponsor a ten-volume 'Documentary History of the Jews in the United States', to be headed by Baron. But even after a research staff had gathered a mass of material, the project foundered for lack of promised funding. Years later, Baron and his friend and collaborator Joseph L. Blau published The Jews of the United States, iygo-1840: A Documentary History (3 volumes, New York and Philadelphia, 1963; no. 364) largely based on mate? rials which the project had gathered. Baron tenaciously tried at the age of eighty-nine without success to revive the ten-volume project. The American Jewish Historical Society was divided by a dispute ten years over the plan to use Lee M. Friedman's bequest of $1,750,000 to leave New York and build home adjoining Brandeis University campus near Boston. Baron and his wife were parties to the lawsuit against the move, amid allegations of improprieties committed by advocates of the move. The move took place in 1968, but the Society later returned to New York as a constituent of the new Center for Jewish History. Baron was most deeply involved in Jewish community affairs from 1945 to 1955. Prosperity in the United States allowed unprecedented sums to be raised to aid Jewish survivors of the War and the new state of Israel. American Jewry, relieved of the threat of anti-Semitism, could plan confi? dently for its own future. These were also the years in which Baron published many of his major writings. They included a series of articles on Jews and the revolutions of 1848? their impact on Jewish emancipation (Nos 215, 485), the crisis in Jewish communal life (No. 239), relations between Church and state (No. 247), the role of Samuel D. Luzzatto (No. 250), and the relation of Jewish scholars to the revolutions (Nos 216, 224). The last article appeared in two parts totaling 166 pages, and showed that scholars of the 'Science of Judaism' were not only enthusiastic for the revolu? tions, but withdrew from political involvement after the victory of reaction. Baron shows that the founders of modern Jewish scholarship, like himself a century later, did not stay aloof from public and communal affairs.12 Studies 12 The studies are fully cited in the bibliography, Nos 215,216, 224, 239, 247, 250. 184</page><page sequence="13">Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian of medieval masters show Rashi (No. 136) and Saadia simiularly active in community leadership (Nos 171, 462), and Judah Halevi (No. 137) express? ing the fragile status of Spanish Jews caught between Christianity and Islam. He also issued major studies of Maimonides' historical outlook and economic views (Nos 68, 134, 381,462). One can only admire the physical and intellec? tual energy and powers of concentration that enabled Baron to produce these works of scholarship within a single decade, besides a full round of commu? nity work, and his teaching and supervisory responsibilities. The publications that appeared in 1945-1955 were weighty, but the most important of all began to be issued in 1952 with the appearance of the first two volumes of the 'Revised and Enlarged' edition of A Social and Religious History of the Jews (Nos 237, 238). This new edition of the original three volumes of 1937 had been under discussion by Baron and his Columbia University Press publishers for years. They sought five volumes; he wanted ten. The parties agreed on seven volumes. Two were to be on ancient times, an undertaking that he duly fulfilled. There would be two more on the medieval period, two on modern times, and a seventh volume for notes, bibliography and index. This second edition had reached eighteen volumes by the time its author ceased his labours in 1987. Around 1955 he appeared, as I recall, preoccupied with the future of his Social and Religious History, saying he would require more than two volumes in order to cover medieval cultural history. Aged sixty and a practical man, he realized that he might spend the rest of his life on the work. He defined the Middle Ages until 1200, in both Jewish and general history, as High Middle Ages, and located the end of the Later Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times in about 1650. In Jewish historical terms the transition from High to Later Middle Ages coincided with the transition from the predominance of Jewry within Islamic lands to that of the Jews in Western Christian countries. In the end, the Social and Religious History contained sixteen medieval volumes, with the cultural history of the Later Middle Ages yet to come. Baron's huge work never reached modern times. Its High Middle Ages series consisted of three volumes for political, economic and social history, while cultural history took three more. These six volumes appeared in 1957 and 1958 (Nos 296-298, 306-308). Their vast scope and enormous erudi? tion meant that the 'social and religious' nexus, central in the original three volumes of 1937, was absorbed within the numerous new volumes. Baron observed that he should have given a new title to the work, but he was stuck once the first two volumes' had appeared with the old one. Ten more volumes dealt with the 'Late Middle Ages and Era of European Expansion'. Even more than the High Middle Ages volumes, these followed the periodization of European history widely used by general historians. Not, for example, the Spanish expulsion of 1492 nor the Jewish 185</page><page sequence="14">Lloyd P. Gartner disasters following the Black Death, but such titles as 'Under Church and Empire' and 'Catholic Restoration and Wars of Religion', the titles of volumes IX and XIV respectively. (For full details see bibliography Nos 391, 392, 411, 412, 436 and 477. The bibliography is complete to its date of publication in 1976, so does not include three final volumes?XVI, XVII, and XVIII.) By the time these later volumes appeared, Baron's approaches were well known and widely accepted. Perhaps they no longer seemed novel to read? ers. His vast excursuses and bibliographic notes were indispensable to scholars and students, but inevitably began to be dated. The introductory philosophical chapters to the editions of 1937 and 1952 hardly differed, although the intervening fifteen years had seen the Holocaust and the founding of the state of Israel. Baron supported Zionism in a moderate form, recognizing the postwar and post-Holocaust need for a Jewish state. His interest lay in the state of Israel's cultural development, while his prac? tical sense enabled him to understand the need for economic growth. But unlike most Israeli leaders in the state's early years, he never wavered in his belief in the creative continuance of the Diaspora. Baron also took an active interest in American affairs. Occasional remarks showed him supportive of the social programs of the New Deal and Fair Deal, and of the Black eman? cipation struggle during the 1960s. Stories that Baron employed a research staff to collect material and bibli? ographies annoyed him, and he finally declared, in the introduction to his Volume XIII, published in 1969, that 'I believe that I ought to deny rumors, which have extended as far as Australia, that bibliographical material has been assembled for me by a staff of coworkers. I must emphatically state that throughout the preparation of this History I have operated without any research assistance' except his wife and a part-time secretary. This gigantic work, containing over 5100 pages of text and 2400 pages of closely printed notes, is one of the most massive studies ever undertaken by a single person. Baron gradually retired from public life during the last fifteen years of his life. He remained accessible to visitors and interested in meeting newcom? ers to Jewish historical research, and appeared periodically at meetings and at Columbia University occasions. By then almost legendary, there was a stir when he went to meet a class in Jewish history in place of an absent professor. Honours and awards were bestowed, and volumes of the Social and Religious History continued to appear. In 1976 there came the brilliant, original synthesis, Poland-Lithuania 1500?1650, and in 1980 Byzantines, Mamelukes and Maghribians, constituting Volumes XVI and XVII respec? tively. Volume XVIII, the largest of all?at 620 pages? turned out to be the last. It appeared in 1983, when he was eighty-eight, and was entitled The Ottoman Empire, Persia, Ethiopia, India and China. Its title exemplifies 186</page><page sequence="15">Salo Baron, universal Jewish historian his determination to penetrate the least-known corners of Jewish historical experience. Baron's tireless work habits also continued. When he was in his eighties fellow passengers on a train from New York to Boston, en route to the annual Association for Jewish Studies meeting, saw him work steadily on papers for more than four hours, almost until the train reached Boston. He was honoured as a 'Senior Scholar' at that meeting. When he was ninety Baron attended the World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where a plenary session was dedicated to him. His last work, The Contemporary Relevance of History, appeared in 1986, sixty-six years after the publication of his first book. It expressed his basic principles as an historian, long famil? iar to his students and readers. Baron's mental and physical vigor did not fail him, and he took long walks regularly. He was ninety when I accompa? nied him in walking two miles from his home down Riverside Drive and back. Baron died of congestive heart failure on 24 November 1989, aged ninety-four, and was buried in Acacia Cemetery in Westchester County, New York. Salo W. Baron dominated the field of Jewish history in America for more than fifty years. He died sixty years after he was appointed to Columbia as the first American university professor of Jewish history. His field, once hardly known or appreciated, was being taught by the time of his death in dozens of universities, while others were planning to appoint an historian to teach Jewish history. Baron's writings and example were essential for the gradual academic acceptance of Jewish history, and his many lectures and essays stimulated Jewish communities and their leaders to support Jewish education at all levels, including universities. This development was also thanks to the rising interest of students and the newfound readiness of wealthy Jews to endow chairs and scholarships in Jewish studies. But Baron's studies provided proof to skeptics that Jewish history had a place in the mansion of history. Salo W. Baron's contributions to Jewish historiography go far beyond the new data or fresh interpretations he presented in his writings. More than any previous Jewish historian he synthesized Jewish and general history, presenting Jewish emancipation not as a matter of new attitudes to Jews, but in terms of the emancipation of European society generally from its old regimes. The place of the Talmud in Jewish life was considered in terms of the relation between talmudic and other legal systems of its era. Economic history was studied not simply by describing Jewish occupations, but by weaving together general and Jewish economic history. No earlier Jewish historian had systematically employed the social sciences, especially economics and sociology, in his studies. He was an early proponent of studying the Holocaust, well before it was taken up actively from the 1960s. He did much to elevate American Jewish history from its low-caste status 187</page><page sequence="16">Lloyd P. Gartner into a reputable field of Jewish history. Baron showed the way into these and other new fields and into fresh methods, his endeavours making his name virtually synonymous with Jewish history in the Jewish community and the American university. Baron had something of the grace of a seigneur, imperturbably relaxed and serene, blessed with a long life and robust health, broad education, family felicity, high academic position and substantial means. He did much with what he was given, and it is difficult to think of encountering such a historian again. Baron donated his papers to Stanford University on the understanding that it would prepare a calendar of them. Its Users Guide is an indispensable key to the collection. The papers contain almost nothing from before Baron's emigration to America, and most of the few personal letters are addressed to his wife during trips. Letters to professional associates contain a few personal words before they get down to business. His family has told me that no papers were removed. But nothing was found about the Eichmann trial of 1961, and letters of whose existence I know seem to be missing. But the collection is so vast that even with the Guide at hand they may not have been located. 188</page></plain_text>

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