Central-Verein Deutscher Staatsbuerger Juedischen Glaubens

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CENTRAL-VEREIN DEUTSCHER STAATSBUERGER JUEDISCHEN GLAUBENS

CENTRAL-VEREIN DEUTSCHER STAATSBUERGER JUEDISCHEN GLAUBENS (Ger. Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith , abbreviated cv), organization founded in Berlin in 1893 to safeguard Jewish civil and social equality against rising German antisemitism. The Central-Verein or cv advocated a German-Jewish "symbiosis" and denied that German Jews were a part of a worldwide Jewish national entity. It was therefore accused by contemporary Zionists and some later historians of promoting assimilation. Actually the cv opposed apostasy and intermarriage. Starting as a solely outward-looking defense organization ("Abwehrverein"), its leaders, mainly influenced by Eugen Fuchs (1856–1923), soon added the goals of an organization of conviction ("Gesinnungsverein"), embracing an internal Jewish aim to strengthen the ties of Jewish identity. Accused of assimilationism, Fuchs declared in 1917: "If indeed the Centralverein would promote apostasy and the disintegration of Judaism, while Zionism confirms antisemitism, I would go over, without a moment's hesitation and under flying banners, into the Zionist camp because … I regard antisemitism as the lesser evil" (quoted in Um Deutschtum und Judentum, p. 258).

Besides initiating legal action and publicity campaigns against the defamation of Jews or Judaism, the cv devoted much energy and funds to its literary activities, not only in defense against antisemitic invectives, but also as part of the internal Jewish discourse on the substance or the re-definition of Jewish identity in modern times. The organization's main publications were the monthly Im Deutschen Reich, from 1895 on the official organ of the cv, replaced in 1922 by the weekly Central-Verein Zeitung, which issued a monthly selection for non-Jewish readers. Der Morgen, a learned bimonthly (1925–38), and over 100 books published by the cvs Philo-Verlag dealt with a wide range of current and historical problems, not only concerning German Jewry but also worldwide Jewish issues. Its press printed, under different covers, numerous brochures, pamphlets, and flyers to be used in the political campaigns of the liberal and socialist anti-Nazi parties in the last years of the Weimar republic.

At the end of the republic the cv had 70,000 dues-paying members in over 500 local chapters, and the cv Zeitung a circulation of 55,000. The organization's claim to represent the majority of German Jewry was therefore not unfounded. After Hitler's accession to power in 1933 the cv cooperated with the Zionists and other Jewish organizations in the establishment and work of the Reischsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland, presided over by Leo *Baeck. In a quietly agreed-upon division of labor, its experienced staff provided Jews all over Germany with legal advice and counsel on economic problems. By official order, the name was changed in 1935 to Central-Verein der Juden in Deutschland ("Central Association of Jews in Germany"), and in 1936 to Juedischer Central-Verein ("Jewish Central Union"). After the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938 the c.v. was dissolved by the Nazi authorities together with most Jewish organizations.

bibliography:

E. Fuchs, Bestrebungen und Ziele des Central Vereins… (1895); idem, Um Deutschtum und Judentum (1919); H. Reichmann, in: In Zwei Welten: Siegfried Moses zum fuenfundsiebzigsten Geburtstag (1962), 556–77; idem, in: Festschrift Leo Baeck (1953);A. Hirschberg, in: ylbi, 7 (1962), 36–69; A. Paucker, Derjuedische Abwehrkampf (196); Z. Levi, in: Yalkut Moreshet, 12 (Hebrew, 1970); 63–86. add. bibliography: I. Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Antisemitism 1870–1914, (1972); J. Reinharz, Fatherland or Promised Land (1975); M. Lamberti, Jewish Activism in Imperial Germany (1978); Jacob Borut, "A New Sprit among our Brethren in Germany" (Heb., 1999); A. Barkai, "Wehr Dich!" Der Centralverein deutscher Staatsbuerger juedischen Glaubens 1893–1938 (2002).

[Ze'ev Wilhem Falk /

Avraham Barkai (2nd ed.)]