German historian and exegete; born Oct. 31, 1817, at Xions, province of Posen; died at Munich Sept. 7, 1891. He received his first instruction at Zerkov, whither his parents had removed, and in 1831 was sent to Wollstein, where he attended the yeshibah up to 1836, acquiring secular knowledge by private study. The "Neunzehn Briefe von Ben Uziel" (see Samson Raphael Hirsch) made a powerful impression on him; and he resolved to prepare himself for academic studies in order to champion the cause of Orthodox Judaism. His first intention was to go to Prague, to which place he was attracted by the fame of its old yeshibah and the facilities afforded by the university. Being rejected by the immigration officers, he returned to Zerkov and wrote to S. R. Hirsch, then rabbi of Oldenburg, intimating his desire. Hirsch offered him a home in his house. Graetz arrived there May 8, 1837, and spent three years with his patron as pupil, companion, and amanuensis. In 1840 he accepted a tutorship with a family at Ostrowo, and in Oct., 1842, he entered the University of Breslau.

Orthodox Champion.

At that time the controversy between Orthodoxy and Reform was at its height, and Graetz, true to the principles which he had imbibed from Hirsch, began his literary career by contributions to the "Orient," edited by Julius Fürst, in which he severely criticized the Reform party, as well as Geiger's text-book of the Mishnah ("Orient," 1844). These contributions and his championship of the Conservative cause during the time of the rabbinical conferences made him popular with the Orthodox party. This was especially the case when he agitated for a vote of confidence to be given to Zacharias Frankel after he had left the Frankfort conference because of the stand which the majority had taken on the question of the Hebrew language. After Graetz had obtained his degree of Ph.D. from the University of Jena (his dissertation being "De Auctoritate et Vi Quam Gnosis in Judaismum Habuerit," 1845; published a year later under the title "Gnosticismus und Judenthum"), he was made principal of a religious school founded by the Conservatives. In the same year he was invited to preach a trial sermon before the congregation of Gleiwitz, Silesia, but failed completely ("Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1845, p. 683).

Professor at Breslau.

He remained in Breslau until 1848, when, upon the advice of a friend, he went to Vienna, purposing to follow a journalistic career. On the way he stopped at Nikolsburg, where S. R. Hirsch was residing as Moravian chief rabbi. Hirsch, who then contemplated the establishment of a rabbinical seminary, employed Graetz temporarily as teacher at Nikolsburg, and afterward gave him a position as principal of the Jewish school in the neighboring city of Lundenburg (1850). In Oct., 1850, Graetz married Marie Monasch of Krotoschin. It seems that Hirsch's departure from Nikolsburg had an influence on Graetz's position; for in 1852 the latter left Lundenburg and went to Berlin, where he delivered a course of lectures on Jewish history before rabbinical students. They do not seem to have been successful (ib. 1853, p. 506). Meantime his advocacy of Frankel'scourse had brought him into close contact with the latter, for whose magazine he frequently wrote articles; and accordingly in 1854 he was appointed a member of the teaching staff of the seminary at Breslau, over which Frankel presided. In this position he remained up to his death, teaching history and Bible exegesis, with a preparatory course in Talmud. In 1869 the government conferred upon him the title of professor, and thenceforward he lectured at Breslau University.

Attacked by Treitschke.

In 1872 Graetz went to Palestine in the company of his friend Gottschalck Levy of Berlin, for the purpose of studying the scenes of the earliest period of Jewish history, which he treated in volumes i. and ii. of his history, published in 1874-76; these volumes brought that great work to a close. While in Palestine he gave the first impetus to the foundation of an orphan asylum there. He also took a great interest in the progress of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and participated as a delegate in the convention assembled at Paris in 1878 in the interest of the Rumanian Jews. Graetz's name was prominently mentioned in the anti-Semitic controversy, especially after Treitschke had published his "Ein Wort über Unser Judenthum" (1879-1880), in which the latter, referring to the eleventh volume of the history, accused Graetz of hatred of Christianity and of bias against the German people, quoting him as a proof that the Jews could never assimilate themselves to their surroundings.

This arraignment of Graetz had a decided effect upon the public. Even friends of the Jews, like Mommsen, and advocates of Judaism within the Jewish fold expressed their condemnation of Graetz's passionate language. It was due to this comparative unpopularity that Graetz was not invited to join the commission created by the union of German Jewish congregations (Deutsch-Israelitischer Gemeindebund) for the promotion of the study of the history of the Jews of Germany (1885). On the other hand, his fame spread to foreign countries; and the promoters of the Anglo-Jewish Exhibition invited him in 1887 to open the Exhibition with a lecture. The seventieth anniversary of his birthday was the occasion for his friends and disciples to bear testimony to the universal esteem in which he was held among them; and a volume of scientific essays was published in his honor ("Jubelschrift zum 70. Geburtstage des Prof. Dr. H. Graetz," Breslau, 1887). A year later (Oct. 27, 1888) he was appointed an honorary member of the Spanish Academy, to which, as a token of his gratitude, he dedicated the third edition of the eighth volume of his history.

The summer of 1891 he spent as usual in Carlsbad; but alarming symptoms of heart disease forced him to discontinue the use of the waters. He went to Munich to visit his son Leo, a professor at the university of that city, and died there after a brief illness. He was buried at Breslau. Besides Leo, Graetz left three sons and one daughter.

His History of the Jews. Heinrich Graetz.

To posterity Graetz will be chiefly known as the Jewish historian, although he did considerable work in the field of exegesis also. His "Geschichte der Juden" has superseded all former works of its kind, notably that of Jost, in its day a very remarkable production; and it has been translated into English, Russian, and Hebrew, and partly into Yiddish and French. The fourth volume, beginning with the period following the destruction of Jerusalem, was published first. It appeared in 1853; but the publication was not a financial success, and the publisher refused to continue it. Fortunately the publication society Institut zur Förderung der Israelitischen Litteratur, founded by Ludwig Philippson, had just come into existence, and it undertook the publication of the subsequent volumes, beginning with the third, which covered the period from the death of Judas Maccabeus to the destruction ofthe Temple. This was published in 1856 and was followed by the fifth, after which the volumes appeared in regular succession up to the eleventh, which was published in 1870 and brought the history down to 1848, with which year the author closed, not wishing to include living persons.

In spite of this reserve he gravely offended the Liberal party, which, from articles that Graetz contributed to the "Monatsschrift," inferred that he would show little sympathy with the Reform element, and therefore refused to publish the volume unless the manuscript was submitted for examination. This Graetz refused; and the volume therefore appeared without the support of the publication society. Volumes i. and ii. were published, as stated above, after Graetz had returned from Palestine. These volumes, of which the second practically consisted of two, appeared in 1872-75, and completed the stupendous undertaking. For more popular purposes Graetz published later an abstract of his work under the title "Volksthümliche Geschichte der Juden " (3 vols., Leipsic, 1888), in which he brought the history down to his own time.

A translation into English was begun by S. Tuska, who in 1867 published in Cincinnati a translation of part of vol. ix. under the title "Influence of Judaism on the Protestant Reformation." The fourth volume was translated by James K. Gutheim under the auspices of the American Jewish Publication Society, the title being "History of the Jews from the Down-fall of the Jewish State to the Conclusion of the Talmud" (New York, 1873).


A new translation into English of the complete work, in five volumes, by Bella Löwy, was published in 1891-92 in London, and was republished by the Jewish Publication Society of America (Philadelphia, 1891-98), with an additional volume containing a copious index (lacking in the German original) to the whole work, made by Henrietta Szold; it also contains an extensive biography of the author by Philipp Bloch. In this translation the foot-notes and appendixes to the original are omitted. The French translation is fragmentary. Moses Hess, an admirer of Graetz, published the third volume under the title "Sinai et Golgotha" (Paris, 1867), and the sixth volume under the title "Les Juifs d'Espagne" (ib. 1872). From 1888 onward the translation was continued by L. Wogue and Moïse Bloch. The first Hebrew translation, undertaken by Kaplan, gave only the third volume, under the title "Dibre Yeme ha-Yehudim" (Vienna, 1875). A translation of the first ten volumes, with very valuable original notes by Harkavy, was published in eight volumes at Warsaw, 1890-98. It is the work of S. P. Rabbinowicz. The eleventh volume the translator would not translate, because he considered it too biased.

A great number of historical essays were published by Graetz in the annual reports of the Breslau Seminary and in the "Monatsschrift," to which he contributed from the beginning, and of which he was the editor from the time of Frankel's retirement (1869) until he abandoned its publication (1887).

As Exegete.

Graetz's historical studies, extending back to Biblical times, naturally led him into the field of exegesis. As early as the fifties he had written in the "Monatsschrift" essays dealing with exegetical subjects, as "Fälschungen in dem Texte der LXX." (1853) and "Die Grosse Versammlung: Keneset Hagedola " (1857); and with his translation of and commentaries on Ecclesiastes and Canticles (Breslau, 1871) he began the publication of separate exegetical works. A commentary and translation of the Psalms followed (ib. 1882-83). Toward the end of his life he planned an edition of the whole Hebrew Bible with his own textual emendations. A prospectus of this work appeared in 1891. Shortly before the author's death, a part of it, Isaiah and Jeremiah, was issued in the form in which the author had intended to publish it; the rest contained only the textual notes, not the text itself. It was edited, under the title "Emendationes in Plerosque Sacræ Scripturæ Veteris Testamenti Libros," by W. Bacher (Breslau, 1892-94).

The most characteristic features of Graetz's exegesis are his bold textual emendations, which often substitute something entirely arbitrary for the Masoretic text, although he always carefully consulted the ancient versions. He also determined with too much certainty the period of a Biblical book or a certain passage, when at best there could only be a probable hypothesis. Thus his hypothesis of the origin of Ecclesiastes at the time of Herod, while brilliant in its presentation, is hardly tenable. His textual emendations display fine tact, and of late they have become more and more respected and adopted.

Other Literary Work.

Graetz's activity was not limited to his special field. He enriched other branches of Jewish science, and wrote here and there on general literature or on questions of the day. His essay "Die Verjüngung des Jüdischen Stammes," in Wertheimer-Kompert's "Jahrbuch für Israeliten," vol. x., Vienna, 1863 (reprinted with comments by Th. Zlocisti, in "Jud. Volks-Kalender," p. 99, Brünn, 1903), caused a suit to be brought against him by the clerical anti-Semite Sebastian Brunner for libeling the Jewish religion. As Graetz was not an Austrian subject the suit was nominally brought against Kompert as editor, and the latter was fined (Dec. 30, 1863). Within the Jewish fold the lawsuit had also its consequences, as the Orthodox raised against Graetz the accusation of heresy because he had denied the personal character of the prophetic Messiah. To the field of general literature belongs also his essay on "Shylock," published in the "Monatsschrift," 1880. In the early years of the anti-Semitic movement he wrote, besides the articles in which he defended himself against the accusations of Treitschke, an anonymous essay entitled "Briefwechsel einer Englischen Dame über Judenthum und Semitismus," Stuttgart, 1883. To supplement his lectures on Jewish literature he published an anthology of Neo-Hebraic poetry under the title "Leḳeṭ Shoshannim" (Breslau, 1862), in which he committed the mistake of reading the verses of a poem horizontally instead of vertically, which mistake Geiger mercilessly criticized ("Jüd. Zeit." i. 68-75). A very meritorious work was his edition of the Palestinian Talmud in one volume(Krotoschin, 1866). A bibliography of his works has been given by Israel Abrahams in "The Jewish Quarterly Review" (iv. 194-203).

His History Critically Considered.

The facts that Graetz's history has become very popular, that it has held undisputed rank as an authority, that it has been translated into three languages, and that some volumes have been edited three or four times—a very rare occurrence in Jewish literature—are in themselves proofs of the worth of the work. The material for Jewish history being so varied, the sources so scattered in the literatures of all nations, and the chronological sequence so often interrupted, made the presentation of this history as a whole a very difficult undertaking; and it can not be denied that Graetz performed his task with consummate skill, that he mastered most of the details while not losing sight of the whole. Another reason for the popularity of the work is its sympathetic treatment. This history of the Jews is not written by a cool observer, but by a warm-hearted Jew. On the other hand, some of these commendable features are at the same time shortcomings. The impossibility of mastering all the details made Graetz inaccurate in many instances. A certain imaginative faculty, which so markedly assisted him in his textual emendations of the Bible, led him to make a great number of purely arbitrary statements. Typical in this respect is the introductory statement in the first volume: "On a bright morning in spring nomadic tribes penetrated into Palestine," while the Bible, which is his only source, states neither that it was in spring nor that it was on a bright morning. His passionate temper often carried him away, and because of this the eleventh volume is certainly marred. Graetz does not seem to possess the fairness necessary for a historian, who has to understand every movement as an outgrowth of given conditions, when he calls David Friedländer a "Flachkopf" (xi. 173) and "Mendelssohn's ape" (ib. p. 130), or when he says of Samuel Holdheim that since the days of Paul of Tarsus Judaism never had such a bitter enemy (ib. p. 565). His preconceived opinions very often led him to conclusions which were not borne out and were even frequently disproved by the sources. His feelings often led him to make unwarranted attacks on Christianity which have given rise to very bitter complaints. All these short-comings, however, are outbalanced by the facts that the work of presenting the whole of Jewish history was undertaken, that it was executed in a readable form, and that the author enriched Jewish history by the discovery of many an important detail.

  • Rippner, in the third edition of the first volume of Graetz's Geschichte;
  • Abrahams, as above;
  • Ph. Bloch, in the Index volume of the English translation of Graetz's work, History of the Jews Philadelphia, 1898;
  • M. Wiener, Zur Würdigung des verfahrens G. . ., in Ben Chananja, 1863, Nos. 22, 23.
S. D.