Ludwig Geiger was a German literary historian; a fervent adherent of the symbiosis of Judaism and Germanness. Son of Abraham Geiger, he studied philology and history in Heidelberg, Goettingen, and Berlin and concluded his academic studies in 1873 with a dissertation, presented to Leopold von Ranke on the attitude of Greek and Roman authors to Judaism and Jews. In 1880, he was appointed extraordinary professor of the history of literature at Friedrich Wilhelm University, Berlin. Later he additionally became a lecturer at the Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums. Geiger was a versatile scholar, editor, and translator.
His major contributions were to Renaissance, Humanism, and Reformation studies, German-Jewish history, and research on Goethe and other writers of the 19th century. Even when treating the first and last subjects he remained particularly conscious of the Jewish aspect. Appreciation of Geiger’s work on the Rennaissance led the Swiss historian, Jacob Burckhardt – a notorious antisemite – to appoint him editor of all future editions of his Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien (“Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy”). Geiger’s major work in this subject was Renaissance und Humanismus in Italien und Deutschland (1882). He published the letters of Johann Reuchlin (1875) and the latter’s biography, Johann Reuchlin, sein Leben und seine Werke (1871). Founder and editor of Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland (1887–92), he also wrote Geschichte der Juden in Berlin (2 vols., 1871), Die deutsche Literatur und die Juden (1910), and numerous articles on German Jewish history. The Goethe Jahrbuch was founded by him in 1880; he continued to edit it until 1913, when he had to leave in the aftermath of an acrimonious dispute. His major works on Goethe were Goethe und die Seinen (1908) and Goethe, sein Leben und Schaffen dem deutschen Volke erzaehlt (1910); he also wrote on Goethe’s relationship to Jews and Judaism. Geiger edited his father’s Nachgelassene Schriften (5 vols., 1875–78) and other works; he also wrote a biography of his father, Abraham Geiger, Leben und Lebenswerk (with others, 1910).
Geiger was a vigorous exponent of liberalism and Reform Judaism and an opponent of political Zionism and Orthodox Judaism. In 1911, in his birthday letter to the kaiser, he courageously protested against the social discrimination to which German Jews were subjected. From 1909 he edited the leading Jewish newspaper, Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums. His unpublished works include a projected edition of the correspondence of Leopold Zunz.
G. Lauer, in: C. König (ed.), Internationales Germanistenlexikon 1800–1950 (2003), 547–549. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Hague, B. Machosky, and M. Rotter, “Waiting for Goethe. Goethe’s Biographies from Ludwig Geiger to Friedrich Gundolf,” in: Goethe in German-Jewish Culture (2001), 84–103; H.-D. Holzhausen, “Ludwig Geiger (1848–1919) – ein Beitrag ueber sein Leben und sein Werk unter dem Aspekt seiner Bibliothek und weiterer Archivalien,” in: Menora, 2 (1991), 245–69; C. Koenig, “Cultural History as Enlightenment. Remarks on Ludwig Geiger’s Experiences of Judaism, Philology and Goethe,” in: Goethe in German-Jewish Culture (2001), 65–83.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.