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DOHM, CHRISTIAN WILHELM VON:

German historian and political writer; advocate of the Jews, and friend of Moses Mendelssohn; born in Lemgo Dec. 11, 1751; died on his estate near Nordhausen May 29, 1820. Dohm, who was deeply moved by the humanitarian ideals of the era of enlightenment, wrote a work in two volumes on Jewish emancipation in 1781. He did this at the suggestion of Mendelssohn, to whom the Alsatian Jews had appealed for aid, but who thought that such a work would produce a better effect if written by a Christian. Dohm's work dealt not only with French Jews, but with the condition of the Jews in the different stages of their history, and argued for their political equality on grounds of humanity and justice. The work appeared at Berlin under the title "Ueber die Bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden," and passed rapidly through two editions. Dohm demanded that the Jews be treated as human beings, and declared that his work was no apology for them. Their religious convictions would not prevent their performance of the duties of citizenship. His book aroused wide interest, and he was even accused of standing in Jewish pay. He was fêted by the Jews, and the communities of Berlin, Halberstadt, and Surinam passed votes of thanks. The adverse criticisms of Dohm's work, moreover, drew Mendelssohn into the arena, and he expressed his views on Jewish emancipation in the preface to Marcus Herz's translation of Menasseh ben Israel's "Vindiciæ Judæorum." Mendelssohn criticized some of Dohm's contentions, especially those in which he sought to favor the legislation initiated by Frederick the Great. Dohm also wrote an article in French on the colony of Surinam.

Bibliography;
  • Mendelssohn, Schriften (ed. Brasch), ii. 473 et seq., Leipsic, 1880;
  • Kayserling, Moses Mendelssohn, pp. 371 et seq., ib. 1888;
  • Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, v. 297.
D. A. M. F.
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