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Hersch, Pesach Liebman


HERSCH, PESACH LIEBMAN (pseudonyms: P. Liebman ; P. Lemansky ; "Academicus "; 1882–1955), statistician and demographer, Bundist leader, and publicist. Born in Lithuania, Hersch moved to Warsaw when young and was active for some time in Zionist youth circles. In 1904, when studying at Warsaw University, he took part in the students' strike and was put under police supervision. He subsequently went to Geneva, where he spent most of his life. In 1909 he was appointed instructor in demography and statistics at Geneva University, becoming professor after World War i and gaining an international reputation. From 1905 Hersch was associated with the *Bund. He contributed to the Yiddish, Polish, and Russian press as a writer and editor, dealing with social and political issues, in particular emigration and problems of Jewish nationalism. Hersch was a member of the central bureau of the Bund's organization abroad. During 1912–13 he was in St. Petersburg, and wrote a polemic against Lenin concerning national autonomy. In 1915 Hersch represented the Bund at the international Socialist conference at Zimmerwald. After the war he contributed to the Bundist organ Folkstsaytung, published in Warsaw. He was also active in *yivo and contributed to its publications. During World War ii Hersch served as a representative of the American "Jewish Workers' Committee," and was active on behalf of the Jews in the Nazioccupied countries and in facilitating the admission of Jewish refugees to Switzerland. He helped to establish centers of *ort and *ose in Geneva. After the war Hersch undertook manifold activities on behalf of the Bund and served as its representative at the Socialist International. The experience of the Holocaust and concern for the continuation of Jewish existence led Hersch to advocate a revision of Bund ideology. Although opposed to Zionism, as early as 1927 he had pointed out the importance of the deep emotional historical attachment of the Jewish people to Ereẓ Israel, which he visited in 1947 (where he also broadcast in Hebrew). Hersch appreciated the socialist achievements of the Histadrut in its various sectors of activity. He saw the establishment of the State of Israel as a major bulwark against assimilation and a factor for strengthening the national consciousness of the Jews throughout the world. Hersch published a collection of his articles on contemporary issues in Oyf der Grenets fun Isaytn (1952). In the field of scholarship Hersch already became known through his dissertation Le Juif errant d'aujourd'hui (1913), which was rewritten in Yiddish as Di Yidishe Emigratsye (1914). He subsequently published numerous studies in various languages, mainly French. In English these include "Jewish Migrations during the Last Hundred Years," in: The Jewish People, Pastand Present (1 (1946), 407–30); "Jewish Population Trend in Europe," and "Jewish Population in Palestine," ibid. (2 (1948), 1–25, 40–50); and "Delinquency among Jews," in: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (27 (1936), 515–38). A member of many learned societies, in 1954 Hersch served as chairman of the United Nations International Conference for Demography and Statistics in Rome.


lnyl, 3 (1960), 220–6 (includes bibliography); J.S. Hertz (ed.), Doyres Bundistn, 2 (1956), 32–40.

[Moshe Mishkinsky]

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