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Kisch, Guido

(1889–1985), lawyer and historian. Guido Kisch (son of Rabbi Alexander Kisch and an older brother to noted medical scholar Bruno Kisch) was born in Prague; he studied law at the German university there and received his habilitation from the University of Halle in 1915. Kisch became professor of the history of German law in Königsberg in 1920; he returned to Prague in 1921; and from 1922 he taught at the University of Halle. He was forcibly retired in November 1933 by the Hitler regime and worked thereafter as a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau. In 1935, Kisch moved to the United States, where he taught Jewish history at the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He moved to Basel in 1962.

Kisch’s works are devoted to three related areas. First, he specialized in the history of German law, and because of his knowledge of Slavic languages was recognized as an expert on in this field in Eastern Europe. Second, especially after 1933, Kisch focused his interest on the social and legal position of Jews in Germany during the Middle Ages. Finally, after his return to Europe in 1962, he concentrated on jurisprudence in the humanist period.

From 1929 to 1938, Kisch served as coeditor, with Samuel Steinherz, of the Jahrbuch für Geschichte der Juden in der Čechoslovakischen Republik. Kisch wrote several articles for this journal, including a detailed study on censorship of Jewish books in Bohemia from 1528 to 1845. He also was the founder and editor of the journal Historia Judaica from 1938 to 1961. In 1962, this periodical merged with the Revue des études juives, and Kisch continued to be an associate editor. He was also a cofounder of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.

Kisch wrote several articles and a book devoted to the history of Charles University in Prague, and to its Jewish students and professors from its foundation in 1348 to 1848. In this work, Die Prager Universität und die Juden 1348–1848. Mit Beiträgen zur Geschichte des Medizinstudiums (University in Prague and the Jews 1348–1848: With Contributions to the History of Medical Studies; 1935), he called attention to the university’s medical studies.

Among other Kisch’s works on Jewish topics are texts about legal and social history of Jews in medieval Germany (The Jews in Medieval Germany: A Study of Their Legal and Social Status; 1949) and about the rabbinical seminary in Breslau, founded by Zacharias Frankel (Das Breslauer Seminar, Jüdisch-Theologisches Seminar in Breslau 1854–1938 [Seminary in Breslau: Jewish-Theological Seminary in Breslau 1854–1938]; 1963). Kisch also wrote his memoirs, Der Lebensweg eines Rechtshistorikers. Erinnerungen (Life of a Historian of Law: Memoirs; 1975). Over his lifetime, Kisch received several awards and prizes, including the Goethe Foundation’s Jacob Burckhardt Prize in 1972.

Suggested Reading

Festschrift Guido Kisch ([Stuttgart, 1955]); Heiner Lück, “Der Rechtshistoriker Guido Kisch (1889–1985) und sein Beitrag zur Sachsenspiegelforschung,” in Hallesche Rechtsgelehrte jüdischer Herkunft, ed. Walter Pauly, pp. 53–66 (Cologne, 1996).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1133, Rudolf Glanz, Papers, 1930s-1970s.