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ASSER , family of lawyers and public figures in Holland. The founder of the family was moses solomon asser (1754–1826), Amsterdam merchant and jurist. He was one of the protagonists of Jewish civic emancipation in the Netherlands after 1795 and a founder of *Felix Libertate, a society for attaining Jewish civic emancipation. He wrote many of its pamphlets and memoranda. In 1798 he became the first Jewish member of the Amsterdam district court. He took an active part in the constitution of the pioneering *Reform congregation in Amsterdam, Adath Jeshurun. He was appointed in 1808 to a commission to prepare the commercial code of the Bonapartist Kingdom of Holland, a work in which he laid the foundations of Dutch commercial law. His son carel (1780–1836), jurist, was one of the first Jews to practice law in Holland. He became secretary of the Department of Justice, and was responsible for much of the legislation of the Napoleonic period in the Netherlands and thereafter. Among the many government positions he filled, the most important were department head of the Council of State, secretary of the National Legislative Committee, and service as one of the authors of the Legal Code of 1830. He drew up the constitution of the Jewish *Consistory at the request of Louis Napoleon in 1808. From 1814 until his death, he was a member of the Supreme Committee on Israelite Affairs, of which he was appointed president in 1828. He was the founder of the Charity Board of the Ashkenazi community in Amsterdam. He wrote, among other things, a comparative study of the Dutch and French civil codes, Het Nederlandsch Burgelijk Wetboek vergeleken met het Wetboek Napoleon (1838), and, prompted by his sister-in-law, Rachel Varnhagen van *Ense (Lewin), a Précis historique pour l'état des Israélites du Royaume des Pays-Bas (1827, unpublished). Carel's brother, tobias (1783–1847), was a lawyer as well. He married Caroline Itzig, the daughter of the prominent Berlin Jew Izak Daniel *Itzig. He succeeded his brother as a member of the Supreme Committee on Israelite Affairs (1836–47) and was chairman of the Charity Board. Tobias' son, carel daniel (1843–1898), jurist, was appointed judge at the district court of The Hague and subsequently professor of civil law at Leiden University. Later editions of his textbook on civil law, Handleiding tot de beoefening van het Nederlandsch Burgelijk Recht (5 vols., 1885–1915; in collaboration with Ph.W. van Heusde), are still in use at most Dutch universities. From his marriage with Rosette Godefroi, the sister of the first Jewish minister in the Netherlands, Michel Henry *Godefroi, tobias michaËl carel (1838–1913) was born. He was a statesman and jurist specializing in international law. In 1860 he was appointed Dutch representative on the International Commission on the freedom of navigation in the Rhine. From 1862 to 1893 he was professor of commercial and private international law at the University of Amsterdam. Asser helped to found the Institut de droit international in 1873. In 1893 he was appointed a member of the Council of State, and in 1898 chairman of the royal commission on private international law. Asser participated in The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 and was appointed a member of The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration in 1900, where he frequently arbitrated on international issues, such as the dispute between Russia and the United States over fishing rights in the Bering Straits. He shared with two others the Nobel Peace Prize in 1911. He was a member of the board of trustees of the Dutch Israelite Seminary (1882–87), but broke with Judaism around 1890. Asser was a cofounder and coeditor of the Revue de droit international et de législation comparée (1869). He wrote works on the codification of private international law (translated into French) and on Dutch commercial law, a standard work.


I.H. van Eeghen (ed.), in: Amstelodamum, 55 (1955); Van Vollenhoven, in: Jaarboeken der Koninklijke Akademie (1914), on Tobias. add. bibliography: J. Michman, Dutch Jewry during the Emancipation Period, Gothic Turrets on a Corinthian Building (1995); P. Buijs, in: Levend Joods Geloof, 43 (1996), 14–17.

[Charles Boasson /

Bart Wallet (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 23 2018

Asser (d. 909). Bishop of Sherborne. Author of the Life of King Alfred, Asser was a Welshman who was a monk and priest at St David's in Dyfed until recruited by Alfred of Wessex in 885 to become one of a group of scholars at his court who assisted the king with his own studies and translations. His famous biography of Alfred was written by 893 and makes use of the recently completed Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Asser added to the work his own observations and discussions with the king and others at the court. It is a major source for the reign, but it must be remembered that the portrait of Alfred has been carefully modelled to fit 9th-cent. perceptions of a good Christian king. Asser lovingly records the many gifts he received from Alfred, and he may have been created a suffragan bishop based in Exeter before succeeding Wulfsige c.900 as bishop of Sherborne.

Barbara Yorke

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