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Fritz Mordecai Kaufmann

KAUFMANN, FRITZ MORDECAI (1888–1921), German essayist and writer on Yiddish culture. Born in Eschweiler, Kaufmann studied medicine and history in Geneva, Munich and Leipzig. He joined a Zionist student group in Leipzig and came into contact with East European Jews. Their culture fascinated him and he began to study Yiddish. Here, he also came to know Nathan *Birnbaum, and was profoundly influenced by the latter's zeal for There organic culture of unassimilated Jewry, however much more with its socialistic aspects than Birnbaum's new-Orthodox tendency. Kaufmann's first essays appeared in the Juedische Rundschau in 1912. In the following year, moving to Berlin, he founded his own periodical, Die Freistatt (1913–14), which he symbolically subtitled Alljuedische Revue, thus affirming his faith in Jewish national unity, however, herein following Birnbaum, not in his Zionist sense. Although he accepted Jewish nationalism, Kaufmann opposed Zionism's emphasis on Palestine and its negation of the Diaspora. He believed in Alljudentum, the strengthening of Jewish culture everywhere, especially in the Yiddish-speaking communities. There, in his opinion, Jewish life had not degenerated as it had among the Central and Western European intellectuals who had lost their Jewish roots. Kaufmann sought particularly to instill in his Western-Jewish readers a love for the Eastern-Jewish culture, i.e. Yiddish language, literature, folklore, and customs. After having served as an officer in the war and being disabled by typhus in 1915, he resumed writing for the Jewish press in 1916, specifying this position. Some of his essays were published after the war in Vier Essais ueber ostjuedische Dichtung und Kultur (1919) and in the collection Die Einwanderung der Ostjuden (1920). He also published the pamphlet Das juedische Volkslied (1919) and the anthology Die schoensten Lieder der Ostjuden (1920) while working as secretary general of the Arbeiterfürsorgeamt der jüdischen Organisationen Deutschlands. He also began a German translation of the Yiddish works of Mendele Mokher Seforim, but committed suicide before it was completed.


F.M. Kaufmann, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. by L. Strauss (1923), 7–20 (incl. bibl.). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Flohr, Fritz Mordechai Kaufmann und 'Die Freistatt' (2006).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.