About this Publication Project

Research Project

The most important centers of a German-Jewish diaspora are well researched, particularly during the Nazi Period, as individual places and partly also in their development over a longer period of time. However, an overview of the German-Jewish diaspora on a transnational basis that considers earlier and later periods of German-Jewish migration does not yet exist. The publication project “History of the German-Jewish Diaspora” aims to close this gap. Based on the latest research it seeks to present for the first time an overall history that takes a closer look at the various historical phases of a German-Jewish diaspora with its wide range of destinations.

In pursuit of this objective, the hybrid publication project “History of the German-Jewish Diaspora” commenced in 2023. As a research project of the Academic Working Group of the Leo Baeck Institute in Germany (WAG) it is located at the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies in Potsdam under its Director Prof. Dr. Miriam Rürup. The project is designed on two different, complementary publication levels: on the one hand, it envisions a volume on the history of the German-Jewish diaspora, and on the other, an online source portal.

The planned print publication is intended as a continuation of the LBI's renowned and successful series of overviews, which were published in five volumes so far between 1996 and 2012 (German-Jewish History in Modern Times, C. H. Beck Munich). While the previous volumes dealt with Jewish life within the German states, the aim now is to present a standard work on German-Jewish history outside and beyond the German-speaking lands. To this end, the migration movements of jews who belonged to the German linguistic and cultural area and who had to leave it in large numbers, especially in the course of the 1930s, will be examined.

In addition to the volume, a digital source portal will be launched. It seeks to make an interested public aware of further, less well-known sites of German-Jewish emigration and exile. The portal’s focus lies on the fates and lives of Jews, who from the 1840s onwards built up a new existence permanently or temporarily in around 90 (transit) countries countries - from A for Argentina to Z for Zypern. The German-Jewish diaspora is to be made visible via the website as a transnational network that was characterized by dynamic relationships beyond individual places of immigration as well as by return and remigration. (Interactive) maps should play a central role in illustrating the diversity of this diaspora over the course of history and the individual migratory movements of German-speaking Jews.

The hybrid research project, whose digital content goes beyond a conventional “thinking in printed pages”, ultimately aims to create synergies. Thus, both forms of publication will complement each other in addressing the temporally broad topic of a German-Jewish diaspora. QR codes placed in the volume are, for example, intended to act as a link by allowing access to the digital portal.

Target Audience

The online source portal is primarily aimed at university students, teachers and scholars in the field of Jewish history, but also at high school students and interested members of the general public. In keeping with the subject of a German-Jewish diaspora and its transnational ties, the website is planned to be multilingual. Its content will be available in German and English, ideally also in Spanish. In order to reach as many users as possible, an inclusive web design will also increase the usability and accessibility.

Moreover, the portal is intended as a space for networking. How German-Jewish cultural heritage is remembered and preserved today in various countries is to be illustrated by means of an institutional overview. Such a directory - figuratively imagined as a “diaspora tree” - includes archives, libraries, research institutions and museums dedicated to the topic in their respective national contexts. With its many ramifications, the tree is intended to create a virtual network with which knowledge of archival and collection holdings can be bundled and through which further research on the history of the German-Jewish diaspora can be initiated.

In addition to historical reconstruction, research and learning are to be linked in a growing digital learning space. With its interactive maps, the presentation of individual biographies and institutional forms of the German-Jewish diaspora, the online portal will also be well-suited for school lessons and extracurricular education. Above all, the life paths of individuals offer a more personal insight into the various historical, social and political reasons for emigration and exile. Against this background, it is planned to include the digital source portal in the educational work of the Moses Mendelssohn Center.

Editorial Model

The digital source portal “History of the German-Jewish Diaspora” is a joint project and collaborative effort. The Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies is responsible for the editorial supervision and coordination, as well as the technical implementation. However, the project is significantly shaped by several editors and authors, whose text contributions continuously enrich the portal.

For the source portal, a total of three text levels are planned, which are related to each other through targeted cross-links:

Firstly introductory texts dedicated to the respective regions of German-Jewish immigration (e.g. Europe, Latin America). Further survey texts on single countries of a region form the second strand, which takes into account the different national developments in detail. In addition, individual cities or communities will be examined in order to address the development of the German-Jewish diaspora not only at the national level, but also at the local level.
The third strand of this textual level, in addition to destinations, is finally formed by historical actors. They are to be given space in individual and group biographies. The individual life stories of those affected by emigration and exile thus come to the fore, giving the German-Jewish diaspora a face, so to speak. This biographical approach is intended to counteract a “depersonalization” of the migration topic, which is currently proving to be dominant in the media of the Global North.

Secondly sources will be used for in-depth research which as text, image, sound or audiovisual documents will illuminate individual thematic fields in an exemplary manner. Three-dimensional objects are expressly welcome. In accordance with the editorial principles for an accessible reproduction of historical sources, this heterogeneous material is textually prepared by a source description. It will be supplemented by a transcription and a digital facsimile.

Thirdly, an interpretive text will situate the source in its context of origin and use, leaving alternative interpretive possibilities and open questions to be considered.

The editors write the survey texts on single regions and suggest historical actors and sources for their subject area. Together with the editors, they solicit texts for this purpose. All submitted contributions (introductory texts, source descriptions and interpretations) undergo at least a two-stage review process: First, the project editors review the texts; in a second step, the respective editors review them.

The survey texts are also first reviewed by the editorial team, then by all other editors. The revised texts are then reviewed again by the editors before being checked for formal guidelines and proofread.

The authors write the introductory texts on countries, cities and municipalities, as well as the historical actors. They also write the source descriptions and interpretations. The discussion of this content will take place in specially organized workshops.

This multi-stage review process and the close cooperation between the editorial staff, editors and authors ensure the high scholarly quality of all contributions. In addition to reviewing and editing, the editorial team is responsible for coordinating the translations as well as the procurement and subsequent transcription and markup of the sources. The translations also undergo a review process and proofreading.