31 May 1933
Letter written by Julius Bab to Georg Hermann regarding the planned founding of the Cultural League of German Jews
In the letter Bab makes clear that he considered the “ghettoization” of German Jews to be permanent. In order to make this exclusion “reasonably tolerable” and offer Jewish audiences a high-quality cultural program and Jewish artists officially banned from their professions the opportunity to work, he and his companions had resolved to launch a cultural league that was to be supported by “all major Jewish organizations.” The project was ambitious: in addition to establishing a theater, they wanted to make the visual arts, music and lectures (i.e., on literature and scholarly topics) an integral part of the self-help organization’s work. Bab knew that success depended on securing the consent of those in power and seems to have had a premonition that the league would be placed under strict supervision. He asked Georg Hermann to become a member of its honorary board.
Sixteen days after Bab wrote his letter to Hermann, the Prussian Ministry of Science, Art and National Education approved plans to establish the Cultural League. It was not until early July that Georg Hermann responded from Amsterdam. He accepted Bab’s invitation and became a member of the honorary board, joining the painter Max Liebermann, the sociologist Franz Oppenheimer, the art critic Max Osborn and several other renowned figures. At the time he was the only member living in exile.
The Cultural League of German Jews was officially founded in Kurt Singer’s apartment on 17 July 1933. On 1 October 1933 the league’s theater opened its first season with a production of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s famous play Nathan the Wise, which appealed for tolerance between religions.
Tel.: Westend 3160
31 May 1933
Dear Georg Hermann,
we have not heard from each other during this terrible time, which is not as it should be. If the few people who are aware that they share more or less the same thoughts and feelings can shake hands now and again, then this can provide, if not solace, then at least a foothold. I do not know where you are staying, but I believe that these lines will reach you via Neckargemünd. I do not wish to know what you are thinking and feeling—that I can imagine. But I would very much like to know what you are doing and how you are surviving.
As for me, I am presently attempting to make life reasonably tolerable in the corner of the ghetto to which we have been indisputably and quite permanently assigned. Together with Dr. Singer, the former manager of the Municipal Opera, and a few young people, I have founded the “Cultural League of German Jews” [Kulturbund deutscher Juden], which is supported by all the major Jewish organizations. Our first aim is to create a private subscription theater where the many Jewish actors who have been thrown out of their jobs can perform for the Jewish audiences that are happily no longer going to the ideologically aligned [gleichgeschaltet] theater. But a great deal will also be done for music, the visual arts and the entire lecture system, and an affiliated newsletter is also planned. The Cultural League will begin its promotional work as soon as the higher authorities, without whom nothing happens in Germany anymore, have given their approval. It is quite likely that they will indeed do so and word will probably come soon after Whitsun. The association will be
run by an executive committee and an honorary board, which will exert an influence commensurate with the renown of its members. I would also like to have you on this board and would ask for permission to add your name to those of the others. Other eminent members include Max Liebermann, Max Reinhardt, Ernst Cassirer, Jacob Wassermann, Franz Oppenheimer.
Please write me a few lines on this matter.
With warm regards,
(Signature of Julius Bab]