Nathan, Paul

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NATHAN, PAUL (1857–1927), German politician, Jewish leader, and philanthropist. A protégé of Ludwig *Bamberger and Theodor Barth, he was associated with the Berlin liberal publication Die Nation, serving as its editor until 1907. Because of his influence in political circles and as founder in 1901 of the *Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden, Nathan was often regarded as the spokesman of German Jewry apart from the Zionists. He was active in almost all international Jewish conferences on emigration and relief for Jewish victims of pogroms and wars, helping to shape international political and relief campaigns to aid them. Nathan was convinced that the Jewish problem in Russia was part of the general Russian problem, to be solved only by change of regime–if necessary by revolution. He advocated economic pressure on Russia by the West, primarily through refusals to grant loans. Under Nathan's influence the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden aided liberal and even revolutionary movements in Russia, and he was also instrumental in influencing Lucien *Wolf in England and Jacob H. *Schiff in the United States to accept its policies toward Russia. The Hilfsverein published the Russische Korrespondenz, which informed the press, political leaders, and other personalities of the true situation in Russia, and similar bulletins in England and Paris.

During the *Beilis trial of 1913 Nathan, with the help of Lucien Wolf in London, organized the defense of Beilis outside Russia. In Germany Nathan obtained a large number of signatures of non-Jewish personalities in favor of Beilis and expert opinions by scientists. At the same time Nathan published the book Der Fall Justschinski, an account of the German pro-Beilis campaign. He was among the founders of the Comite zur Abwehr Anti-semitischer Angriffe in Berlin. In 1896 he published Die Kriminalitaet der Juden and Die Juden als Soldaten and Uber das juedische rituelle Schaechtverfahren.

Nathan was basically a sincere assimilationist who saw only in complete assimilation with the non-Jewish population the possiblity of full emancipation in every country. Thus he strongly opposed the Zionist movement. During World War i, while German Zionists demanded autonomous rights for Jews in countries occupied by the German armed forces, Nathan gave constant help to the assimilationists of Poland. When the war broke out he helped to gain the sympathy of Jews in neutral countries for the cause of the Central Powers, his main argument being that a war against Russia, the country of barbaric pogroms, should be supported by Jews. At the beginning of the Weimar Republic Nathan officially joined the Socialist Party (spd). The German government asked him to accept the post of its ambassador to Vienna, but Nathan declined the offer because of his close association with the major Jewish organizations at a time when antisemitism was strong in Austria. Through his many friends abroad he tried to gain sympathy for Germany, constantly warning that the harsh conditions of the Versailles Treaty would help bring back a totalitarian and reactionary regime in Germany from which both that nation and others would suffer. Nathan's enthusiasm for Jewish colonization in Soviet Russia led to his publishing a pamphlet in 1926 in which he favored the concentration of Soviet Jews in the far-eastern part of that country.


E. Feder, Paul Nathan, ein Lebensbild (1929); Szajkowski, in: jsos 19 (1957), 47–50; 29 (1967), 3–26, 75–91; idem, in: paajr, 31 (1963), 197–218; idem, in: ylbi, 9 (1964), 131–58; idem, in: ylbi, 3 (1958), 60–80; idem, in: hj, 14 (1952), 24–37.