Faculty of Protestant Theology

Biography of Rabbi Dr. Leopold Lucas (1872 - 1943)

Leopold Lucas was born in Marburg an der Lahn, Germany, on 17 September 1872. His parents, Bernhard and Bertha Lucas, belonged to a respected Marburg family whose members had lived there as "Schutzjuden" (Jews under the special protection of the head of the state) for several centuries. His great-grandfather Loeb Aron Lucas (born on 29 September 1779) was appointed as a municipal councillor in Marburg in 1808. Another great-grandfather, Wolf Hellwitz, was "Landesvorsteher" (superintendent) of the Jewish population in Westphalia. Among the family's members are several distinguished figures, including the poet Heinrich Heine, who mentions the "family seat" in Bückeburg in his poem Germany. A Winter's Tale: "When we reached the city of Bückeburg / I took the time to get down / And look at my grandfather's place of birth - / Hamburg was grandmother's town" (translation by Aaron Kramer in Jost Hermand and Robert C. Holub (eds.), Heinrich Heine. Poetry and Prose, 1982). Also worthy of mention are the distinguished physicists Heinrich and Gustav Hertz, and above all Dr. Salomon Ludwig Steinheim (1789 - 1866), philosopher of religion, physician and pioneer of the Jewish emancipation movement - described as perhaps the most important Jewish philosopher of religion of the 19th century - who was his great-uncle.

After attending a classical grammar school in Marburg and passing the "Abitur" (school leaving examination) there in 1892, Leopold Lucas studied Eastern languages, history, philosophy and Jewish studies at university in Berlin and in parallel at the Academy of Jewish Studies (Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums). On 19 December 1895, he was awarded a doctorate by the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Tübingen for a doctoral thesis supervised by the historian Bernhard von Kugler. The thesis examines the "History of the City of Tyre at the Time of the Crusades". Christology and medieval history remained the focus of his interest and research for the rest of his life.

Four years later, in 1899, Lucas was appointed as the successor to Dr. Benjamin Rippner in the office of rabbi of the long-established Jewish congregation in Glogau, which at the turn of the 20th century still numbered 716 members. In 1904, Dr. Lucas married Dora Janower, a native of Breslau. The couple went on to have two sons. Dr. Leopold Lucas worked with great dedication as a rabbi, pastor and scholar in Glogau, until he was called to work in Berlin. His profound sermons made him one of the best-known Jewish preachers in Germany. The regular public lectures which he gave in Glogau on a variety of topics were enthusiastically received by members of the different religions and denominations there. Lucas became president of the Salomon Munk Lodge and a member of the grand council of the B'nai B'rith Lodges in Germany. In 1924, Leo Baeck, at that time chairman of the General Association of Rabbis (Allgemeiner Rabbinerverband) in Germany, thanked him personally for his faithful service in a letter on the occasion of his 25-year anniversary as a rabbi, particularly acknowledging his academic achievements: "Your work has extended beyond the sphere of your own congregation. Your academic work and the far-reaching merit which you have earned in founding the Society for the Advancement of Jewish Studies (Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaft des Judentums) have given you your place in German Judaism."

Dr. Lucas' lifelong quest to further the academic exploration of Judaism was made manifest in 1902 in the founding of the Society for the Advancement of Jewish Studies, which was a result of his suggestion and initiative, and of which he became the first secretary, while his friend the historian Professor Martin Philippson (1846 - 1916) took on the first presidency. Under the leadership of Philippson and Lucas, the society quickly became the leading institute for Jewish scholarship in Germany. Lucas outlined the purpose of the newly founded society in a lecture held in Berlin at the end of 1905 entitled "The Study of Judaism and the Means to its Advancement" ("Die Wissenschaft des Judentums und die Wege zu ihrer Förderung", Berlin, 1906). The Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums ("Journal for the History and Study of Judaism"), which had been in existence since 1851 already, was adopted as the mouthpiece of the society, and in 1920 the society reached its highest membership of 1,742. The first publication sponsored by the society was Leo Baeck's classic work "Das Wesen des Judentums" ("The Essence of Judaism"). There followed equally famous studies such as I. Elbogen's "Der Jüdische Gottesdienst" ("Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History") in 1931, and H. Cohen's "Die Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums" ("Religion of Reason, Out of the Sources of Judaism"), as well as the uncompleted "Corpus Tannaiticum" and "Germania Judaica" series, and the great undertaking of a 36-volume encyclopaedia entitled "Grundriss der Gesamten Wissenschaft des Judentums" ("A Complete Compendium of Jewish Studies"). In 1927, on the occasion of the society's 25th jubilee, the "Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums" 71 (1927) published a review by Dr. Lucas of the society's work and accomplishments. In 1938 the society became a victim of the National Socialist dictatorship.

Particularly noteworthy among the academic works which Dr. Lucas himself authored are "Innocent III et les Juifs", Revue des Etudes Juives 35 (1897) 247-255, and his book "Zur Geschichte der Juden im 4. Jahrhundert" ("The Conflict Between Christianity and Judaism: A Contribution to the History of the Jews in the Fourth Century", Berlin, 1910), whose chapter on the Church Fathers and the Jews in the fourth century provoked particular interest. Even today the work is not outdated, but remains a milestone in the exploration of the tension-laden relationship between Judaism and Christianity in the post-Constantinian period. The balanced, unemotional stance of the author gives the study its lasting value. The choice of subject illustrates that what he cared about first and foremost was the changeful history of Jewish-Christian relations. In 1920, he published a volume of religious history entitled "Mitteilungen auf Grund neuer Forschungen über die Religionen" ("Notes Based on New Research on Religions"). From the estate of his great-uncle Dr. Salomon Ludwig Steinheim he published a manuscript entitled "Moses und Michelangelo" ("Moses and Michelangelo"). In recognition of his academic accomplishments he was made a member of the "Byzanteological Society" in Athens in 1911. A lifelong friend of Leo Baeck, Dr. Lucas was called to Berlin by Baeck early in 1941 to be Professor Eugen Täubler's successor as a lecturer in biblical literature and history (particularly early medieval history) at the Academy of Jewish Studies. By then almost 70 years old, Lucas took on the new task. One of his students, who sat an examination with him as late as May 1942, writes of him: "I remember him as a very kind and gracious person, who suddenly had to take on what must undoubtedly have been a heavy teaching load." Another student from that time reports: "He taught us history, and my memories are of a gracious, meticulous and capable scholar."

During this difficult time, Lucas supported Leo Baeck in his work on a "Manifesto for the German People" ("Manifest für das Deutsche Volk"), which was to be read out publicly after Hitler's defeat, and on his book on the "Development of the Situation of the Jews in Europe" ("Entwicklung der Lage der Juden in Europa"), which was intended to provide information for the public after the liberation. Leo Baeck wrote of this in his memoirs (Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook III (1958) 362): "In this connection it was suggested that a book on the development of the position of the Jews in Europe should be written for the information of the public after the liberation [...] I worked on it from 1938 to 1941. The writing could be done only in the very early morning hours; for this purpose I rose at 4 a.m. My assistants were Rabbi Dr. Lucas, Glogau, and Dr. Hilde Ottenheimer [...] The finished manuscript consisted of five volumes in typescript and dealt with the development of the legal position of the Jews, outside Palestine, particularly in Germany. Dr. Lucas and Dr. Ottenheimer were most useful to me in obtaining the details, but were at a disadvantage due to the lack of sources and literature." In December 1942, Dr. Lucas and his wife were deported to Theresienstadt, where he, by then seventy years old, ministered selflessly to the sick and dying, despite his own ill health. The former rabbi of Frankfurt, Dr. Neuhaus, wrote later of this to Rabbi Lucas' son, Consul General Franz D. Lucas: "Even in Theresienstadt, your father helped very many people, and everyone was full of praise for his care, for as long as he was able to give it". We read similar words in Leo Baeck's letter of 30 October 1945: "I spent a lot of time with your parents in Theresienstadt, and I did my best to support them as far as I was able. Your dear father was plagued by illness, as was almost everyone in the camp, but at first he was always able to overcome it. He remained mentally agile and alert, and encouraged the prisoners by giving lectures to the patients in the hospitals. I had always loved him, and came to love him even more dearly during those harsh and difficult days. It was a great sorrow to me when he eventually succumbed to pneumonia (on 10 September 1943). His memory will always remain with me."

Dorothea Lucas, who had supported her husband tirelessly in Theresienstadt, where she had worked as a nurse, was deported with 18,000 other prisoners to Auschwitz-Birkenau in October 1944 and killed.

[Source: Dr. Leopold Lucas Foundation - (slightly edited) statutes with attached biography, Tübingen, 1980]