Humboldt, Wilhelm von°

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HUMBOLDT, WILHELM VON ° (1767–1835), German philologist and statesman. Humboldt grew up during the Enlightenment period in Berlin where he frequented Henriette *Herz's salon. He became acquainted with D. *Friedlaender, was introduced to *Mendelssohn, and heard informal lectures by Markus *Herz and *Dohm. A friend and counselor of K. *Hardenberg, Humboldt was responsible in 1809/10 for education and religious questions in the Prussian administration. During this time he wrote a draft of a constitution for Prussian Jewry, submitted on July 17, 1809. He proposed that the nomadic existence of Jews, the political nature of their communal organization, and their isolation could be eliminated through resettlement, terminating the autonomy of Jewish communities, and ensuring full assimilation. Humboldt demanded that emancipation be complete and immediate: Jews were to be acknowledged not only as citizens but as human beings. The state should not concern itself with their "improvement" but provide equal rights for all its citizens if they agree to equal obligations. He was also instrumental in opening to Jews the new University of Berlin (founded in 1810). At the Congress of *Vienna he was a vigorous advocate of Jewish rights. His brother, alexander von humboldt (1769–1859), geographer and naturalist, was a consistent philo-Semite who was vehemently opposed to the Kreuzzeitung and to other antisemitic and illiberal doctrines, but his views concerning the Jews were generally more of the aesthetic or personal kind than political.


S.W. Baron, Die Judenfrage auf dem Wiener Kongress… (1920). add. bibliography: P. Sweet, Wilhelm von Humboldt, 2 vols. (1978–80), 203–8; P. Honigmann, in: BullLBI, 76 (1987), 3–34; idem, in: R. Heuer et al. (eds.), Konfrontation und Koexistenz (1996), 46–81; J. Grossmann, in: German Studies Review, 20:1 (1997), 23–47.

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Humboldt, Wilhelm von°

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