JUEDISCHER KULTURBUND (Ger. "Jewish Cultural Association"), German Jewish organization founded in Berlin in May 1933 when the National Socialist regime dismissed Jewish high school teachers, artists, and authors from their positions and excluded all Jews from German cultural life. The Juedischer Kulturbund was initiated by Kurt Baumann, a young theater director, and directed by Kurt Singer, who was a physician and a musician and a director of the Berlin Opera. Singer engaged some good Jewish artists to perform and also organized a series of lectures on scientific subjects. Their existence was accepted by the Gestapo only after the words "German Jews" were eliminated from its title and their activities were under Nazi scrutiny. The Juedischer Kulturbund devoted itself to extensively spreading interest in Jewish art and culture in spite of the Nazi persecution and worked to secure continued cultural activity by providing funds from the resources of its members and through the communities themselves. Evidently the work of the Juedischer Kulturbund largely helped to maintain a closely knit Jewish population and awaken a love for the land of Israel by promoting Zionist ideas. This body also published the Monatsblaetter des Kulturbundes deutscher Juden from 1933 on, edited by Julius *Bab. The paper was forced to change its name to Monatsblaetter des juedischen Kulturbundes in 1938, after *Kristallnacht.
From its foundation until October 1938 it organized 8,457 programs, including lectures, concerts, plays, art exhibits, and operas. Julius Bab, Joseph Rosenstock (d. 1985; musical director), Kurt Singer, Kurt Baumann, and Werner Levie (secretary general) directed the Juedischer Kulturbund's affairs. In early 1938 there were 76 branches of the Kulturbund in 100 towns, with more than 50,000 members and 1,700 artists. Membership and the scale of activities were proportionately larger outside of Berlin. Yet, in Berlin alone the membership fluctuated between 12,000 and 18,000. The choice of the programs for lectures, plays, and concerts was often very difficult and was constantly controlled by the secret police (*Gestapo), the Chamber for Arts and Culture (Reichskulturkammer), and the leadership (Gauleitung) of the Nazi Party in Berlin. The Kulturbund was itself divided over whether to present general cultural programs or those of specific Jewish content as advocated by the Zionists. For every organized performance the material had to be submitted in writing for approval by the state commissioner, Staatskommissar Hinkel. Hinkel told the Juedischer Kulturbund which plays and lectures could be performed and which articles and literary works could be published. After the November 1938 *Kristallnacht pogroms, local activities were centralized and therefore better controlled by the national organization, which was disbanded in September 1941. A few of the leading organizers managed to emigrate, but the great majority of artists eventually perished in death camps. The Kulturband provided spiritual support for Jews in Germany during a time of ever more intense persecution; and for individual artists it provided both employment and an opportunity to remain creative and productive amidst the great struggle for basic survival.
H. Freeden, in: ylbi, 1 (1956), 142–62; idem, Juedisches Theater in Nazideutschland (1964); B. Cohn, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 3 (1959), 272–5. Y. Cochavi, Armament for Spritual Survival (1988).
[B. Mordechai Ansbacher /
Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]