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Jacob Robinson

(1889 – 1977)

Jacob Robinson was a jurist, diplomat, and historian. Born in Serijai (Lithuania – then Russia), Robinson graduated from the law school of the University of Warsaw (1914), served in the Russian army (from 1914), and was for a time in German captivity. He returned to what became independent Lithuania, entered into Jewish public life, and pioneered in the building of a Hebrew school system. For three years, he was director of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Verbalis. In 1922 he was admitted to the bar and in the same year was elected to the Lithuanian parliament, holding office as chairman of the Jewish faction and leader of the minorities bloc until its dissolution in 1926.

With the foundation of the Congress of Nationalities, he became (1925–31) one of the spokesmen for the Jewish cause at international gatherings. He was legal adviser to the Lithuanian Foreign Office (1931–33), and represented Lithuania in the Memel Case before the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague (1931), as well as the German-Lithuanian Conciliation Committee.

With the emergence of the Nazi threat to European Jewry, he organized a secret committee for the protection of Jewish rights and used his connections for admission of German Jews to Lithuania. He left Lithuania at the end of May 1940, and later reached New York, where, in 1941, he established the Institute of Jewish Affairs sponsored by the American and the World Jewish Congress. He headed the Institute for seven years, in the course of which he undertook a number of special assignments as special consultant for Jewish affairs to the U.S. chief of counsel, Robert H. Jackson, in the trial of the major war criminals in Nuremberg, and as consultant to the UN Secretariat in the establishment of the Human Rights Commission. When the Palestine question was submitted to the UN, he became legal adviser to the Jewish Agency and later legal adviser to the Israel mission to the UN (1948–57). In 1952, he was in charge of drafting Israel's Reparations Agreement with West Germany.

From 1957, he was adviser to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (subsequently the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture) and coordinator of research activities and publications on the Holocaust for *Yad Vashem and *Yivo. He was recognized as a leading authority in this field. Before and during the Eichmann trial, he was special consultant to the attorney general on problems of the history of the Holocaust and of international law.

Robinson was the author of numerous books and articles on international law and organization, and Jewish affairs. These include: The Metamorphosis of the United Nations (1958; a course given to the Hague Academy of International Law); Guide to Jewish History under the Nazi Impact (a bibliographical work with Philip Friedman, 1960); And the Crooked Shall be Made Straight (1965), which was a reply to Hannah *Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem; and International Law and Organization (1967). He also served as consultant editor and adviser to the Holocaust Department of the Encyclopaedia Judaica.


Académie de droit international, Recueil des Cours, 94 (1958), 495–6; Lithuanian Encyclopedia, 25 (Boston, 1961), 372–3; Yahadut Lita, 3 (1967), 231.

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