Jewish Religious History, Migration History

The study on Fritz Pinkuss (1905–1994) opens the view on twentieth-century German-Jewish history and, as it were, points beyond this geopolitical space. In 1936, Rabbi Pinkuss and his family fled to São Paulo, Brazil, where he co-founded the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP), a community that had to face the challenges of modernity in Brazil and the aftermath of the experiences of repression and extermination in Nazi Germany.

The reappraisal of his biography allows asking questions about the self-image of German-Jewish Reform rabbis, their concept of national self-positioning, social obligation, and religious modernization. In addition to his religious training at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau (today Wroclaw in Poland) and the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (“Higher Institute for Jewish Studies”) in Berlin, the project therefore also focuses on his time as Chief Rabbi of Heidelberg. The study examines his experiences in Nazi Germany, such as the persecution of his family and congregation, but also the expressions of solidarity, for example, by Hermann Maas, a Protestant clergyman and pioneer of Christian-Jewish dialogue.

However, the investigation also takes into account Pinkuss’ years in Brazil: not only his religious construction work in the CIP/São Paulo, but also his social and political involvement in Brazilian urban society. Against the backdrop of the emerging military dictatorship, his life and work as an admonisher for justice and peace is particularly interesting. Moreover, his commitment as a “Brazilian and European” for rapprochement between Germans and Jews after the Holocaust also draws a connection to his original homeland, Germany, after 1945.

This biographical study, bringing together archival materials scattered around the world, focuses on a life representative of many German-Jewish emigration stories and uncovers the global dimension of Nazism, but also the formative and vital power of German Jewry before and after 1945.

Dr. Björn Siegel
Phone: 040 42838-2935
E-mail: bjoern.siegel[at]igdj-hh.d