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Kompert, Leopold


KOMPERT, LEOPOLD (1822–1886), Austrian writer, celebrated in his days mainly for Bohemian Ghetto-Tales. A native of Muenchengraetz (Mnichovo Hradiště, Bohemia), he moved in 1837 to Prague and in 1839 to Vienna to study philosophy and medicine but had to interrupt his studies to earn his living as a private tutor (Hofmeister). In 1840 he traveled through Hungary, and then stayed in Pressburg as a journalist, publishing in Pressburger Zeitung and the German-language literary periodical Pannonia, in which he published his first articles on Hungarian life (Reisebilder aus Ungarn, 1841). In 1843 he returned to Hungary as a tutor and published his novel Roman der Puszta. Ludwig August *Frankl asked him to write for the Vienna Sonntagsblaetter, in which he published his first picture of Jewish life, "Die Schnorrer," 1846. His first collection of Ghetto-Tales, Aus dem Ghetto, was published in 1848 and became a big success (18502, 18593). Joining the Oesterreichisches Central-Organ für Glaubensfreiheit, Cultur, Geschichte und Literatur der Juden in 1848, he campaigned for "right, not rights" (Recht, nicht Rechte) for the Jews, particularly the poor and uneducated ones. Although Kompert acclaimed its democratic and social aims, he was deeply disappointed by the anti-Jewish riots in Prague (from April until June 1848) which accompanied the revolution there; therefore he wrote an article urging the suppressed and plundered Jews to emigrate to the United States (Österr. Central-Organ, May 6, 1848, reprinted by Kisch, ajhsp 38:98–201).

In 1848 Kompert settled in Vienna as a journalist (Oesterreichischer Lloyd, 1848–52); in the following years he published a number of collections of Ghetto-Tales, such as Boehmische Juden (1851), Neue Geschichten aus dem Ghetto (2 vols., 1860), and Geschichten einer Gasse (2 vols., 1865), which established his international reputation. Some of them were translated into English, Scenes from the Ghetto (1882), The Silent Woman (1890), and Christian and Leah: Other Ghetto Stories (1895). His stories were based on personal observation, childhood memories, and incidents related by his elders. In a romantic vein, they were intended for the assimilated Western Jewish but also gentile readers; some of them are nostalgic, some deal with the confrontation of Jews and gentiles. In many of them Kompert deals with mixed marriage, which is the central problem of his novel Zwischen Ruinen (3 vols., 1875). His novel Am Pflug (2 vols., 1855) intended to encourage the Jews to take up agriculture and made a strong impression on Jewish youth in Eastern Europe at the time of the Second and Third Aliyah (in the first two decades of the 20th century) in the original and the Hebrew translation. His last work, the novel Franzi und Heini: Geschichte zweier Wiener Kinder (2 vols., 1881), deals with non-Jewish schoolchildren, but a Jewish woman peddler is a major figure. Kompert was coeditor of the Jahrbuch fuer Israeliten (1859–65). He also co-edited the *Neuzeit with Simon Szánto. In his later years he was active in Jewish affairs and in Viennese civic life, taking an especial interest in education and the welfare of orphans. Two editions of his collected writings were published, in 1882–83, reprinted in 1887 and in 1906. New editions in German are Ghetto-Geschichten (1988); Der Dorfgeher (1997); and Die Kinder des Randars (1998).


S. Hock, in: L. Kompert, Saemtliche Werke, 1 (1906), v–viii; K.E. Franzos, in: Jahrbuch f. jüd. Geschichte und Literatur (1906), 147–60; G. Kisch, In Search of Freedom (1949), index; idem, in: ajhsp, 38 (1948/49), 185–234; S.W. Baron, in: paajr, 20 (1951), 26–27; O. Wittner, Moritz Hartmanns Gesammelte Werke, 1 (1906–07), index; J. Shatzky, in: Freedom and Reason, Morris Raphael Cohen Memorial Volume (1951), 413–37 passim; Jews of Czechoslovakia, 1 (1968), index; M. Grunwald, Vienna (1936), index; R. Michael, in: ylbi, 9 (1964), 102–7 (Ger.); H. Bergmann, in: Czechoslovak Jewry, Past and Future (1943), 22–24. add. bibliography: Th. Winkel-bauer, "L. Kompert und die boehmischen Landjuden," in: B. Horch, Conditio Judaica (1989), 190–217; G. v. Glasenapp, Aus der Judengasse (1996), 102–21; F. Krobb, Nachwort, in: Der Dorfgeher, 1997 (with bibliography and literature); M. Th. Wittemann, Draußen vor dem Ghetto: L. Kompert und die "Schilderung juedischen Volkslebens" in Boehmen und Maehren (1998); Lexikon deutsch-juedischer Autoren, 14 (2006).

[Sol Liptzin /

Archiv Bibliographia Judaica (2nd ed.)]

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