Leo Baeck Institute Launches DigiBaeck, A Free Digital Archive Documenting 500 Years Of German-Speaking Jewry

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Leo Baeck Institute, the premiere research library and archive devoted exclusively to documenting the history of German-speaking Jewry, has completed the digitization of its entire archive, which now provides free online access to primary source materials encompassing five centuries of Jewish life in Central Europe.

The project, named DigiBaeck, offers a digital gateway to Leo Baeck Institute’s growing collections. It already includes 3.5 million pages of material that ranges from the personal papers and photographs of luminaries like Albert Einstein and Moses Mendelssohn to letters, diaries, recipes, and other ephemera chronicling the lives of everyday people over five centuries. The collection encompasses documents in German and over a dozen other languages, and many pieces in the collection include English translations.

“German-speaking Jews accomplished breakthroughs in so many fields – from science to medicine and art and architecture – so it is appropriate that this archive is the first to present itself in its entirety on the Internet,” said Carol Kahn Strauss, Executive Director of Leo Baeck Institute. “Before the Nazi seizure of power, Jews in Germany probably had better opportunities for success than Jews anywhere else in the world. As a new Jewish community once again flourishes in Germany, it is all the more important to ensure it also has broad access to this past.”

To create DigiBaeck, Leo Baeck Institute partnered with Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library that offers permanent storage of and free public access to digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly three million public-domain books.

I founded the Internet Archive with a mission to provide free access to all printed materials in our libraries around the world through digital means,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of Internet Archive. “I found a like-minded partner among the leadership of the Leo Baeck Institute who keenly understood that digital access is essential in fostering not simply the ease of scholarship, but a general heightened awareness of the culture that they have so painstakingly preserved for more than half a century.

Leo Baeck Institute is a research library and archive that contains the most significant collection of source material relating to the history of German-speaking Jewry, from its origins to its tragic destruction by the Nazis and continuing to the present day. Dating back almost 2,000 years, when Jews first settled along the Rhine, the Jewish communities of Germany, Austria, and other German-speaking areas of Europe had a history marked by individual as well as collective accomplishments. To appreciate the impact of German-speaking Jewry in modern times, one need only recall such names as Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka.

Founded in 1955, LBI was named for the rabbi who was the last leader of the Jewish community in Germany under the Nazis. Rabbi Leo Baeck survived the concentration camp of  Theresienstadt to become the first president of the Institute. The Institute was set up with offices in New York, London and Jerusalem, with New York the site of the LBI library and archives.  Since the opening of the Jewish Museum Berlin, LBI also maintains a branch of its archives there.


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