This letter, dated 12 July, 1983, was written by Salomo / Solomon A. Birnbaum to Peter Freimark in Hamburg. Prof. Dr. Peter Freimark, then Director of the Institute for the History of the German Jews Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden in Hamburg, was researching the situation in Hamburg University during the National Socialist era. The letter is part of a correspondence discussing Salomo / Solomon A. Birnbaum's memories of his time in Hamburg, and whether he encountered antisemitism.
The letter is held by the Nathan and Solomon Birnbaum Archives, Toronto, Canada. The Archives contain documents, letters and books mainly pertaining to the Jewish thinker and writer Nathan Birnbaum, and his sons: scholar Salomo / Solomon A. Birnbaum, artist Menachem Birnbaum and artist, writer and poet Uriel Birnbaum. The letter is about Salomo / Solomon A. Birnbaum’s experiences when teaching Yiddish at Hamburg University from 1922 to 1933, when Hitler came to power.
Dr. Salomo / Solomon A. Birnbaum was an internationally recognized pioneer in two main fields: Yiddish and Hebrew palaeography. His “Praktische Grammatik der jiddischen Sprache” (1918) [“Practical Grammar of the Yiddish Language”], the first well-organized grammar of Yiddish, was republished four times till 1988. In 1922 he was appointed external lecturer for Yiddish language and literature in Yiddish at Hamburg University, the first university position in Yiddish in Germany. At the University there were at that time two professors, Dr. Conrad Borchling and Dr. Heinrich Meyer-Benfey who were interested in Yiddish, and it was through them that he was appointed lecturer in Yiddish. In May 1933 he fled from the Nazi regime to the Netherlands, and then London, where he became professor of both Hebrew palaeography and Yiddish. Birnbaum’s most significant works are his “Praktische Grammatik”, “The Hebrew Scripts” (1954-1971) and “Yiddish: A Survey and a Grammar” (1979; a 2nd edition was published in 2016).
Letter Written by Salomo A. Birnbaum to Peter Freimark, Downsview (Ontario), July 12, 1983 (translated by Insa Kummer), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:source-189.en.v1> [February 24, 2021].