Jüdischer Almanach, Prague, 1930–1931 [5691 in the Hebrew calendar], coedited by Friedrich Thieberger and Felix Weltsch. (Leo Baeck Institute, New York)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Weltsch, Felix

(1884–1964), philosopher and journalist. Born in Prague, Felix Weltsch obtained doctorates in both law and philosophy, and in his books concentrated on social philosophy and political ethics. He belonged to what his lifelong friend Max Brod, the writer and biographer of Franz Kafka, called the Prague Circle of young Jewish intellectuals, of which Kafka was the most famous member (Weltsch himself was a friend of Kafka). Weltsch was a Zionist from an early age, and in the interwar period he was editor in chief and the moving spirit of the main Zionist weekly in Czechoslovakia, Selbstwehr (Self-Defense). He also worked as an academic librarian.

Both Weltsch and Brod managed to flee Prague in 1939 and reached Palestine, where Weltsch obtained a position at the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. He had visited Palestine for the first time in the 1920s and had written a book about his experiences, Das Land der Gegensätze (The Land of Contrasts; 1929), the title of which reflects, according to Brod, the dialectic approach that was also typical of Weltsch’s philosophical writings. The best known of these, and the only one that was reprinted, is Das Wagnis der Mitte (The Daring of the Center; 1937), in which he argued in favor of a democratic and humanistic center between the extremes of fascism and socialism. In more abstract speculations, he preferred “becoming” to “being,” seeing man as always incomplete. A popularization of his political philosophy was published in Hebrew in 1950: Teva‘ musar u-mediniyut (Nature, Morality, and Policy), but nearly all of his writings are in German, including some Zionist tracts and an essay on Kafka. His monograph Sinn und Leid (Sense and Suffering) was published only in 2000, long after his death.

The younger journalists who worked at Selbstwehr remembered Weltsch as a mentor. His editorials were noted for their perspicacity in an increasingly dark time for European Jewry in general and for Czechoslovak Jewry in particular.

Suggested Reading

Max Brod, “Felix Weltsch, dem Freund, zum Gedächtnis,” Bulletin des Leo Baeck Instituts 7.28 (1964): 285–294; Margarita Pazi, “Felix Weltsch: Die schöpferische Mitte,” Bulletin des Leo Baeck Instituts 13.50 (1974): 51–75; Carsten Schmidt, Kafkas fast unbekannter Freund (Würzburg, Ger., 2010).