Eugen Mittwoch

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Eugen Mittwoch
Born (1876-12-04)December 4, 1876
Schrimm, Province of Posen, Prussia, Germany (now Śrem in Poland)
Died November 8, 1942(1942-11-08) (aged 65)
London, England, UK
Nationality Prussian, German, British
Education Ph. D., Islamic Studies
Alma mater Berlin University, Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin
Occupation Jewish Theologist, Rabbi, Orientalist
Employer Berlin University, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Eugen Mittwoch (December 4, 1876 - November 8, 1942) was the founder of Modern Islamic Studies in Germany, and at the same time an eminent Jewish scholar (teacher and rabbi of the famous "Rav" Joseph B. Soloveitchik).

Life[edit]

Coming from an old Orthodox Jewish family, Mittwoch was born in Schrimm, Prussian Province of Posen, Imperial Germany (now Srem in Poland). He initially wanted to become a Rabbi. During his studies in Berlin he discovered Islamic studies and did his doctorate with Eduard Sachau.

During World War I, Mittwoch was the head of the German Nachrichtenstelle für den Orient from 1916 until 1918. After the agency initially employed people who advocated Jihad and violence against the Western powers, Mittwoch hired more liberal and cosmopolitan writers and intellectuals for the Nachrichtenstelle such as the Swiss Max Rudolf Kaufmann, the Social Democrat Friedrich Schrader and the Zionist Nahum Goldmann.

In the 1920s Mittwoch was the leading orientalist in Germany, and the founder of a more politically oriented, modern science of Middle East Studies, in contrast to the traditional philologic, apolitical approach very much influenced by Goethe.

Since he was the leading specialist on Ethiopian languages world-wide, Mittwoch did not lose his academic position in 1933 immediately like almost all his Jewish colleagues in Germany did at that time. This had to do with a special intervention by Mussolini with Hitler on behalf of Mittwoch. Because of their colonial activities in Ethiopia, the Italians were extremely interested in Mittwoch's knowledge and research. Mittwoch was very active on behalf of the Ethiopian Jews (Falasha), and was also one of the first German Jews who could speak fluent Ivrit.

Starting in 1933, Mittwoch used his "privileged" position in Germany (he continued to receive his salary as a German professor until the beginning of the war) on behalf of the Jewish community, he became head of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Berlin. However, in 1938, after Kristallnacht, also Mittwoch had to emigrate, and moved via Paris to London with his immediate family. The remaining family, including his mother, who was murdered in Bergen-Belsen, perished in the Shoah.

Mittwoch died in London, England, UK.

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