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Stein, Edmund

(ca. 1893–1943), Hebrew translator, writer, and Judaic studies scholar. Edmund (Menaḥem Mendel) Stein was born either in Dobromyl or Borynia, shtetls in eastern Galicia. He received a traditional education, continued his studies at a high school in Borysław, and later studied classical linguistics and ancient history in Kraków and Berlin, earning a doctoral degree. In 1929, he completed his studies at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, as a student of Leo Baeck and Julius Guttman.

Because of his roles as an educator, a Zionist, and a member of the Tarbut organization for Hebrew education, Stein was appointed inspector of Hebrew studies for bilingual secondary schools based in Łódź. Additionally, he was on the board of the Hebrew Writers and Journalists Union in Poland and, from 1937, he served as its chair. In 1928, Stein was invited by Mojżesz Schorr to join the teaching faculty at the Institute for Jewish Studies in Warsaw as a lecturer. He taught the history of Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, midrash, and medieval Jewish history. In 1938–1939, he became rector of the institute.

Stein’s academic publications included a variety of translations and research studies. His translations into Hebrew included Philo of Alexandria’s historical writings (1936); the popular philosophical writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero (1937); three books of Apocrypha (1937); and the autobiography of Josephus Flavius (1933). Many of Stein’s articles were collected in an anthology titled Dat ve-da‘at (Religion and Knowledge; 1938), as well as in the Polish anthology Idealy Judaizmu (The Ideals of Judaism; 1939). Noteworthy, also, within the context of dealing with antisemitism, is Stein’s first publication, the booklet Judaizm i Hellenizm (1928), written in reaction to the Polish philologist and historian Tadeusz Zielinski’s long composition Hellenizm a Judaizm (1927), the latter of which claimed that modern Judaism was severed from ancient and authentic Judaism.  

During the Nazi occupation, Stein was incarcerated in the Warsaw ghetto. In spring 1941, when a teachers’ training seminar was organized within the framework of the Judenrat, he trained teachers in Judaic studies. Concurrently, he was active in the ghetto’s Hebrew cultural organization Tekumah from the beginning of 1941 until the great deportation in the summer of 1942. He also contributed to the ghetto’s official newspaper Gazeta Żydowska, for which he was criticized.

Stein was granted immunity from deportation due to his work in the Schultz textile workshop. However, the transport of his wife and son to Treblinka broke his will and he refused an offer of refuge on the Aryan side of Warsaw. Apparently in January 1943, he was deported to the Trawniki camp. In November 1943, he was transferred, together with prisoners of other camps in the area of Lublin, to the Majdanek death camp, where he was murdered.

Suggested Reading

Emanuel Ringelblum, Ketavim aḥaronim (Jerusalem, 1994), pp. 111–112; Yehuda Rosenthal, “Menaḥem (Edmund) Shtain,” in Ben tarbut Yisra’el ve-tarbut Yavan ve-Roma, by Edmund Stein (Menaḥem Shtayn), pp. 5–25 (Tel Aviv, 1970).



Translated from Hebrew by Carrie Friedman-Cohen