Salo Wittmayer Baron
Salo Wittmayer Baron (May 26, 1895 – November 25, 1989) was a
Polish-born American historian, described as "the greatest Jewish
historian of the 20th century". Baron taught at Columbia University
from 1930 until his retirement in 1963.
3 Literary works
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
Prof. Baron testifying at Adolf Eichmann's trial
Baron was born in Tarnów, Galicia which was then part of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire but is now in Poland. Baron's family was
educated and affluent, part of the Jewish aristocracy of Galicia. His
father was a banker and president of the Jewish community of 16,000.
Baron's first language was Polish, but he knew twenty languages,
including Yiddish, Biblical and modern Hebrew, French and German, and
was famous for being able to give scholarly lectures without notes -
in five languages. Baron received rabbinical ordination at the Jewish
Theological Seminary in
Vienna in 1920, and earned three doctorates
from the University of Vienna, in philosophy in 1917, in political
science in 1922 and in law in 1923. He began his teaching career at
the Jewish Teachers College in
Vienna in 1926, but was persuaded to
move to New York to teach at the
Jewish Institute of Religion by Rabbi
Stephen S. Wise
Stephen S. Wise in New York.
Baron's appointment as the Nathan L. Miller Professor of Jewish
History, Literature and Institutions at
Columbia University in 1929 is
considered to mark the beginning of the scholarly study of Jewish
History in an American university.
In 1933, Jeannette Meisel, a graduate student in economics, consulted
him about a dissertation she was writing. They married in 1934, and
Jeannette Baron became a collaborator in his scholarly work. "He and
his wife, in their heyday, were a kind of partnership," Mr. Hertzberg
recalled. "She helped with every one of his books, and they signed a
couple of monographs together."
After World War Two, Baron ran the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction,
Inc., an organization established in 1947 to collect and distribute
heirless Jewish property in the American occupied zones of Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of books, archives, and ceremonial objects were
distributed to libraries and museums, primarily in Israel and the
On April 24, 1961, Professor Baron testified at the trial of Adolf
Eichmann in Jerusalem. Baron explained the historical context of the
Nazi genocide against the Jews. He further explained that in his
birthplace, Tarnow, there had been 20,000 Jews before the war but,
after Hitler, there were no more than 20. His parents and a sister
were killed there.
In addition to his scholarly work, Baron was active in organizational
efforts to maintain and strengthen the Jewish community both before
and after World War II. From 1950 to 1968, he directed the Center of
Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University. He received more
than a dozen honorary degrees from universities in the United States,
Europe and Israel and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences in 1964.
He died in
New York City
New York City aged 94. The
Salo Wittmayer Baron
Salo Wittmayer Baron Chair of
Jewish History, Culture and Society at
Columbia University was created
in his honor.
According to Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Baron "was undoubtedly the
greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century." His and his wife's
magnum opus was A Social and Religious History of the Jews (Columbia
University Press), which began as a series of lectures, turned into a
three-volume overview of
Jewish history published in 1937 and finally
grew into a revised version. Professor Baron continued to work on the
series throughout his life.
Baron opposed the "lachrymose conception of Jewish history," sometimes
identified with Heinrich Graetz, a great 19th-century Jewish historian
who found the main elements of Jewish experience through the ages to
be suffering and spiritual scholarship. In a 1975 interview, Baron
said "Suffering is part of the destiny [of the Jews], but so is
repeated joy as well as ultimate redemption."
Professor Baron also strove to integrate the religious dimension of
Jewish history into a full picture of Jewish life and to integrate the
history of Jews into the wider history of the eras and societies in
which they lived.
The Jewish Community (3 vols., 1942)
Jews of the United States, 1790–1840: A Documentary History (ed.
with Joseph L. Blau, 3 vols., 1963)
A Social and Religious History of the Jews (18 vols., 2d ed.
American Jewish Historical Society
^ Boyd, Kelly, ed. Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writers
(Rutledge, 1999) 1:75-76
^ a b c d e f g Peter Steinfels, "Salo W. Baron, 94, Scholar of Jewish
History, Dies," New York Times, November 26, 1989, 
^ Salo Wittmayer Baron
^ Grossman, Grace Cohen (September 2000). "Scholar as Political
Activist: Salo W. Baron and the Founding of the Jewish Cultural
Reconstruction". For Every Thing A Season: Proceedings of the
Symposium on Jewish Ritual Art: 147–153.
^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of
Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
^ Liberles, Robert (1995). Salo Wittmayer Baron: Architect of Jewish
History. New York University Press. pp. 117–118.
Boyd, Kelly, ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical
Writing. Taylor & Francis 2 vol. pp. 75–76.
Liberles, Robert. Salo Wittmayer Baron : architect of Jewish
history, (New York University Press, 1995)
Salo W. Baron Papers, 1900-1980, 1982-2000 (400 linear ft.) are housed
in the Department of
Special Collections and University Archives at
Stanford University Libraries
ISNI: 0000 0001 2279 0865
BNF: cb12030681j (data)