Hirsch, Otto

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HIRSCH, OTTO (1885–1941), leader of the German-Jewish community under Nazi rule. Born in Stuttgart, Hirsch studied law. In 1912 he entered the legal profession and was in charge of the municipal Food Control Office of Stuttgart during World War I. In 1919 he was appointed a senior official in the Ministry of the Interior. Hirsch was a member of the board of the *Centralverein, belonging to its pro-Zionist wing, and deputy member of the Jewish Agency and promoted emigration to Palestine and adult Jewish education. In 1919 he became head of the Union of Jewish Communities in Wuerttemberg, and in 1933 he was elected executive chairman of the Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland (later the Nazi-imposed *Reichsvereinigung), a post in which he devoted his efforts to the twofold process of organizing emigration and ameliorating the situation of the remaining Jews. His courageous interventions to free Jews under arrest led to his imprisonment several times by the German authorities, but he rejected several offers from abroad to emigrate and take up another post. He was finally arrested (spring 1941) by *Eichmann, who disliked Hirsch's fearless behavior, including his attempts to influence the Gestapo. Hirsch was murdered at Mauthausen camp on June 19, 1941. A memorial for him was set up in 1959 in Shavei Zion.


Baeck, in: ylbi, 1 (1956), 54–56; Gruenwald, ibid., 57–67; Simon, ibid., 68–75; Adler, ibid., 5 (1960), 292–5; A. Leber, Das Gewissen entscheidet (1957), 12–17; Marx, in: blbi, 6 no. 24 (1963), 295–312. add. bibliography: P. Sauer, "Otto Hirsch 1885–1941 – Director of the Reichsvertretung," in: lbiy, 32 (1987) 341–68; idem, Fuer Recht und MenschenwürdeLebensbild von Otto Hirsch (1985).

[Yehuda Reshef]