Isaac Schneersohn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with Joseph Isaac Schneersohn.

Isaac Schneersohn (1879 or 1881 ?-1969) was a French rabbi, industrialist, and the co-founder of the first Holocaust Archives and Memorial. He emigrated from Ukraine to France before the Second World War.

On April 28, 1943, he founded, under the Nazi Occupation of Grenoble, At his residence of rue Bizanet, with the participation of about forty delegates of Jewish organizations [1] in collaboration with the philosopher Jacob Gordin,[2][3][4] the futur Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine) (CDJC) which was integrated into the Shoah Memorial (Mémorial de la Shoah) in 1997.[5][6][7][8]


Court Rabbi[edit]

Isaac Schneersohn was born in Kamenetz-Podolsk,[9] currently in the Ukraine, in 1879[10] or in 1881?[9]

According to Heilman & Friedman (2010):[11] "This man [Isaac Schneersohn] had served as a Crown Rabbi in Gorodnya (Gorodnia) (Horodnia (in Ukrainian: Городня) or Gorodnia (in Russian: Городня)) and later in Chernigov (Tchernihiv (in Ukrainian: Чернігів) or Tchernigov (in Russian: Чернигов; in Polish : Czernihów), both in northern Ukraine. He had been active in Russian Jewish community affairs and education, as well as later serving as a council member and deputy mayor in Ryazan in the western region of Russia, not far from Moscow, representing the moderate liberal party."

Industrialist in Paris[edit]

Originally from Russia, Isaac Schneersohn immigrated to France in 1920.[10][12] He was naturalized as a French citizen during the inter-wars years.[9]

in Paris,[13] "His home became a place where Jewish leaders, many of them Zionists, mostly right-wing Revisionists, as he had become, met."

Isaac Schneersohn[14] had three sons, Boris,[15] Arnold, and Michel,[16] who were mobilized as reserve officers in the French Army. The first two, captives, were internees at the disciplinary camp of Lübeck. The last one was liberated in August 1940. He took part then in the fight in the Maquis of Dordogne.[17]

Isaac Schneersohn was Director Delegate of the ‘’’Société Anonyme de Travaux Métalliques (SATM)’’’ [Limited liability company of Metallic Work], located at 10 rue Marbeuf in Paris).[18]

World War II[edit]

When World War II broke out, he left Paris for Bordeaux, with his family. In 1941, he settled in Mussidan,[19] in Dordogne.[18]

He was active in the ‘’’Union Générale des Israélites de France (UGIF)’’’. As such, he made numerous trips to Grenoble, where in 1942 the idea grew to create a Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation.[18]

The work of the CDJC was interrupted by the German invasion of the Italian zone in September 1943. The members of the CDJC took refuge in the underground. Isaac Schneersohn and Léon Poliakov got back to Paris at the time of the insurrection of August 1944. They succeeded to seize the archives of the Commissariat général aux questions juives, of the archives of the German Embassy in Paris, of the staff headquarters, and especially of the AntiJewish department of the Gestapo.[20]

Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation[edit]


In 1946, Isaac Schneersohn became President of the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (CDJC) and director of the Revue published by the center, until 1969.[18]

On October 8, 1958, the future Nobel Peace Prize laureate René Cassin presented him with the Croix of Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in the lounge of the hotel Plaza Athénée.[18]

His son Arnold Schneersohn became treasurer of the ‘’’Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (CDJC)’’’ on an honorary basis after the war. Captive in an Oflag, he had organized a pocket of resistance, which earned him a transfer to the discipline Oflag of Lübeck.[21]

A descendant of a long line of rabbis and a rabbi by training,[22] Isaac Schneersohn decided to become an industrialist. Later, he dedicated his life to the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (CDJC).

In Paris, he was close to Rabbi David Feuerwerker, who took part in the annual ceremonies at the CDJC on numerous occasions in the presence of the authorities. When Rabbi Feuerwerker became the rabbi of the Synagogue Chasseloup-Laubat in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, Isaac Schneersohn and his son Arnold Schneersohn were members of his community.

Isaac Schneersohn was synonymous with the CDJC. He personified the institution which continues to have an important influence on a worldwide scale.[citation needed]

Schneersohn died in Paris on June 25, 1969 at the age of 88 or 90.[23]

The meeting of April 28, 1943 in Grenoble[edit]

On April 28, 1943, at Isaac Schneersohn's residence, rue Bizanet, Grenoble, took place the meeting which prepared the ground for the collection of documents and testimonies on the situation of the Jews during the war.

André Kaspi described Schneersohn's motives :

«On April 28, 1943, in his apartment of the rue Bizanet Grenoble, Isaac Schnerrson [sic] founded the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation. In the middle of the war, a good year prior to the Normandy landings, whereas in the extermination camps the nazis carry out their grim work. Oblivious? Overly optimistic? No, Schneersohn doesn’t believe in miracle. Emigré from Russia, a former rabbi, businessman victim of the laws of aryanisation, he applied the memorable recommendation of Judaism: "Remember." Later, he explained: "My stubborn determination and my perseverance, he wrote, my firm conviction of the necessity to collect this documentation strengthen always more. [...] I didn’t know if I would survive, none of us thought he would come out alive from hell. But I had only one desire, as long as I could, to put down in writing all what was happening." To accumulate proofs and archives, to put together files readily accessible, to lay the work of the historians... The CDJC was born in the turmoil. Since then, it has not stopped helping researchers, to publish a journal, Le Monde juif, to sponsor history books of which the first are published as soon as 1945. It shows the debt that we all have, we the historians of World War II, we the amateurs and the users of history towards this institution.»[24][25]

Who were the participants to this meeting of April 28, 1943? André Kaspi explains:

«When Isaac Schneersohn organizes in April 1943 the meeting at Grenoble, during which the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation is founded, 40 representatives of diverse Jewish organizations are present. The management committee is made up of 7 members: 2 representatives of the Consistory (Consistory (Judaism)) (Consistoire central), 2 representatives of the Fédération des Sociétés juives de France, 1 representative of the World ORT, 1 representative of the rabbinate and Schneersohn himself who presides over. The objective is to gather together all the documents which would allow, one day, to write the history of the Jews of France during the war. Promise honoured, since beginning in 1945 3 important works are published by the CDJC, followed by 5 others in 1946, 5 more in 1947, with a total of 20 until the end of the year 1951. Thus the CDJC became the memory of the Jewish community, all the community.»[26]

Founding of the CDJC[edit]

To accumulate testimonies on the Shoah, Schneersohn together with Léon Poliakov[27][28] devoted himself to collect documents which served the history of the Jews during the war. The group organized around Isaac Schneersohn and Léon Poliakov return to Paris, during the Insurrection of August 1944, and takes possession of the archives of the Commissariat général aux questions juives, of the Régime de Vichy, of those of the German Embassy in Paris, of the German staff headquarters[29] and of the AntiJewish archives of the Gestapo in Paris.[30][31]

Related institutions[edit]

In 1944,[10] the CDJC was thus transferred to Paris. It settled in Le Marais, practically in the Pletzl, the old Jewish neighborhood, an evident symbolism.

The Mémorial du martyr juif inconnu was inaugurated on October 30, 1956.

In 1997, the decision was taken to merge the two institutions: the CDJC and the Mémorial du martyr juif inconnu.
From this merger was born the Mémorial de la Shoah, which opened its doors on January 27, 2005.[32]

Periodical publications of the CDJC[edit]

The CDJC began publishing a periodical bulletin in 1945 which continued appearing under various names, into the 21st century. It began in April 1945 as the Bulletin du Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (Bulletin of the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation) which printed eight issues through January 1946. These were not sold openly. It stopped publishing temporarily in September 1945, when Schneersohn applied to the French Minister of Information for permission to publish, under the new name Revue du Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (Journal of the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation). This, in turn, officially changed its name to Le Monde Juif (Jewish World) in July 1946, and was published as a monthly, 24-page magazine with about 1500 charter subscribers. Its first issue was published on August 1946.[33] In 1995, it was renamed as Revue d’histoire de la Shoah – Le Monde Juif (Journal of the History of the Shoah–Jewish World) and finally ending up as the Revue d'histoire de la Shoah in 2005. The CDJC initials had disappeared from the cover and were incorporated instead as part of the new logo adopted by the Mémorial de la Shoah, Musée, Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine.[34]


The posthumous recognition of the work of Isaac Schneersohn[edit]

At the time of the commemoration ceremony of the liberation of the camp at Auschwitz, on January 27, 1945, on January 27, 2005, Éric de Rothschild, president of the Mémorial de la Shoah, stated :

"Let's remember with an infinite gratitude the founders of the Mémorial : Isaac Schneersohn, who with an unequalled foresight decided as soon as 1943, in the middle of the war, right in the middle of the roundups, to collect proofs of what the community suffered. Without him, without them, today, we couldn’t do anything. Many trials would have been lost, the Mur [Wall] would have enormous gaps, many books wouldn’t have been written or would have been much later. Together with his companions, Joseph Billig, Georges Wellers, Léon Poliakov, with his friend Claude Kelman, they have done an extraordinary work at an extremely difficult time when silence and embarrassment were the fate for the surviving deportees".[35]

The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, noted that same day:

"From the outset, the history of the first Mémorial is closely bound to the one from our city. The idea is due to Isaac Schneersohn who in 1943, in the height of the occupation, has the intuition that the tragedy under way demands to put together the maximum proofs. Thirteen years later, Paris welcomes the Tomb of the Unknown Jewish Martyr, which gave birth to the Mémorial.[35]"

The President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac, at this same ceremony recalled:

"Taking notes in the midst of the Apocalypse, gathering together papers and testimonies, against the inexorable mechanism of the extermination, such was the challenge taken up by Isaac Schneersohn. Stirring Symbol of the heroism and admirable illustration of the work of the historian.

By founding in Grenoble in April 1943 the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation, Isaac Schneersohn carried out an act of genuine resistance. The one of memory. Already, weakness was stronger than force itself; honor greater than shame; hope more powerful than fear. Already, all the dignity of man when he remains standing, in the midst of gloom, expressed itself. Isaac Schneersohn or the archivist of the spirit against the bureaucracy of barbarism.[35]"

Works or publications[edit]

  • De Drancy à Auschwitz (From Drancy to Auschwitz), with Georges Wellers - French. (1946) Paris : Éditions du Centre. OCLC 458932152
  • Activités des organisations juives en France sous l'occupation (Activities of Jewish Organizations in France under the Occupation) - (1947) French. Paris : Ed. du Centre. OCLC 313311271
  • L'étoile jaune (The Jewish Star), with Léon Poliakov, J. Godart - (1949) French. Paris : Éditions du Centre de documentation juive contemporaine (Impr. des Éditions polyglottes). OCLC 459556534
  • La persécution des juifs dans les pays de l'Est présentée à Nuremberg : recueil de documents (Persecution of Jews in the East presented at Nuremberg: Collection of Documents), with Henri Monneray; René Cassin and Telford Taylor - (1949) French. Nuremberg, Germany. French. Paris : Éditions du Centre. OCLC 490644866
  • Jews under the Italian occupation, with L. Poliakov, P. Hosiasson, J. Godart - (1955). CDJC; Paris : Ed́itions du Centre. OCLC 490535438
  • Dix ans après la chute de Hitler (1945-1955) (Ten Years After the Fall of Hitler), with René Cassin; J M Machover - (1957) French. Paris : Éditions du Centre de documentation juive contemporaine (Impr. des Éditions polyglottes), OCLC 461240459
  • Le Seder des 32 otages : l'histoire des otages en Russie pendant la première guerre mondiale et la lutte pour leur libération - (1966) French. Paris : Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine. OCLC 13909240
  • D'Auschwitz à Israël, vingt ans après la Libération - (1968) French. Paris, C.D.J.C.. OCLC 1949208
  • Lebn un kamf fun jidn in tzarišn Rusland, 1905-1917. (Life and Struggle of Jews in Tsarist Russia) - (1968) Yiddish. OCLC 164671895
  • D'Ausschwitz à Israel : 20 ans après libération - (1968) French. Paris. OCLC 313379406

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Michel-Gasse, 1999, p. 28.
  2. ^ Cf. V. Kuperminc, 2001, pp. 3-7 & Léon Poliakov, testimony of April 28, 1997.
  3. ^ Jacob Gordin worked part-time at the library of the ‘’’Alliance Israélite Universelle’’’ and also with Isaac Schneersohn towards the creation of the CDJC. La reconstruction de la bibliothèque de l'Alliance israélite universelle, 1945-1955. Jean-Claude Kuperminc. Les belles lettres, Archives juives, 2001, no34, pp. 98-113. pdf.
  4. ^ According to Document : Rue Amelot. J. Jacoubovitch. Traduit du yiddish par Gabrielle Jacoubovitch-Bouhana., Abraham Danoïlovitch ALPERINE participated together with Isaac Schneersohn towards the creation of the CDJC.
  5. ^ Mémorial de la Shoah. The History of the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation. (With a photo of Isaac Schneersohn).
  6. ^ Holocaust, Education, Remembrance, and Research in France.
  7. ^ Mémorial de la Shoah - Paris -EVENE.
  8. ^ Entrevue avec Jacques Fredj, directeur du Mémorial de la Shoah. Propos recueillis par Irène Michine. Le Patriote Résistant. Mai 2006.
  9. ^ a b c Afoumado, p. 14.
  10. ^ a b c Benbassa et DeBevoise, 2001, p. 181.
  11. ^ p. 115.
  12. ^ With the arrival of the Bolsheviks. Heilman & Friedman, 2010, p. 115.
  13. ^ Heilman & Friedman, 2010, p. 115.
  14. ^ He had a brother Dr. Fishel Schneerson. Dr. Fishel Schneerson..
  15. ^ He became honorary vice-president of ORT France. World ORT Report 2006..
  16. ^ Heilman & Friedman, 2010, p. 116.
  17. ^ Afoumado, p. 14-15.
  18. ^ a b c d e Afoumado, p. 15.
  19. ^ Michel Schneersohn was the mayor from that city from 1946 to 1947.
  20. ^ Isaac Schneersohn, fondateur durant la guerre du Centre de documentation juive contemporaine (CDJC).
  21. ^ Afoumado, p. 15, in a note.
  22. ^ Shoah. Paris se souvient. Propos receuillis par Michèle Leloup. Entrevue avec Jacques Fredj. L'Express, 24 janvier 2005. Fredj stated that Isaac Schneersohn abandoned religion to devote himself to other activities : company director, member of the French Resistance.. This statement has to be qualified. He didn’t hold, as he did in his younger days, a rabbinical position, but he didn’t abandon religion.
  23. ^ Ami Eden, ed. (1969-06-30). "French Bury Isaac Schneersohn; Founded Memorial to Unknown Jewish Martyr in Paris". JTA. Archived from the original on 2015-03-16. Retrieved 2015-03-16. Isaac Schneersohn, who founded the Memorial to the Unknown Jewish Martyr and a memorial museum of the Nazi Holocaust here, was buried Friday at services attended by Government officials and others. Mr. Schneersohn died last Wednesday at the age of 90. 
  24. ^ Kaspi, 1991, p. 9-10.
  25. ^ Renée Poznanski. La création du Centre de documentation juive contemporaine en France (avril 1943). Science Po University Press. JSTOR : Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire, no.63 (Juillet-Septembre, 1999), pp. 51-63.
  26. ^ Kaspi, 1991, p. 376.
  27. ^ Poliakov knew Isaac Schneersohn from before the war. See his testimony of April 28, 1997.
  28. ^ Léon Poliakov was temporarily the secretary of Chief Rabbi Schneour Zalman Schneersohn, Isaac Schneersohn's cousin, during the war.
  29. ^ Isaac Schneersohn, founder during the war of the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (CDJC).
  30. ^ It's Léon Poliakov who discovered the archives of the Gestapo.
  31. ^ In his testimony of April 28, 1997, Léon Poliakov declared that he was at the origin of the CDJC, «absolutely», since without him, there would have been no documents.
  32. ^ Le Mémorial de la Shoah.
  33. ^ Afoumard, p. 1-3
  34. ^ Afoumard, p. 43
  35. ^ a b c under «Discours de M. Jacques Chirac, Président de la République, à l'inauguration du Mémorial de la Shoah, le 25 janvier 2005».

Further reading[edit]

  • 1946-2006: 60 ans dans l'histoire d'une revue (in French), by Diane Afoumado, 2006

External links[edit]


  • André Kaspi, Les Juifs pendant l'Occupation, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1991. ISBN 2-02-013509-4
  • Tzvi M. Rabinowicz. Encyclopedia Of Hassidism. Jason Aronson: Northvale, New Jersey, London, 1996. ISBN 1-56821-123-6
  • David S. Wyman & Charles H. Rosenzveig, The world reacts to the Holocaust, 1996, p. 21.
  • Alvin Hirsch Rosenfeld, Thinking about the Holocaust after half a century, Indiana University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-253-33331-8. p. 281.
  • Michel-Gasse, Dictionnaire-guide de généalogie, Éditions Jean-Paul Gisserot, 1999. ISBN 2-87747-413-5
  • Florent Brayard, Le génocide des juifs : entre procès et histoire, 1943-2000, Centre Marc Bloch (Berlin), Éditions Complexe, 2000. ISBN 2-87027-857-8. p. 116.
  • Esther Benbassa, M.B. DeBevoise, The Jews of France: A History from Antiquity to the Present, Princeton University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-691-09014-9
  • Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944, Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-19-925457-5. p. 14.
  • Jean-Yves Boursier, Musées de guerre et mémoriaux : politiques de la mémoire, Éditions MSH, 2005. ISBN 2-7351-1079-6. p. 53.
  • Annette Wieviorka, The era of the witness, Translated by Jared Stark, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006. p. 50. The first French edition had for title: L'ère du témoin, Paris, Plon, 1998, with the second edition L'Ère du témoin, Hachette, « Pluriel », Paris, 2002. ISBN 2-01-279046-1
  • David B. Ruderman & Shmuel Feiner, Schwerpunkt: Early Modern Culture and Haskala, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007. ISBN 3-525-36933-6. p. 448.
  • Samuel C. Heilman & Menachem M. Friedman. The Rebbe. The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Princeton University Press: Princeton and Oxford. 2010. ISBN 978-0-691-13888-6