Leo Pinsker

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Leo Pinsker

Leo Pinsker (more common name variant: Leon Pinsker; also: Juda or Jehuda Löb or Leib Pinscher, Yiddish לעאָן פינסקער Leon Pinsker , Hebrew יהודה לייב פינסקר Jehūdah Lejb Pīnsker ; born on December 13th jul. / December 25,  1821 greg. in Tomaszów Lubelski , then the Kingdom of Poland in the Russian Empire ; died on December 9th jul. / December 21,  1891 greg. in Odessa ) was a doctor and journalist as well as a pioneer of Zionism .


The Jewish doctor Leon Pinsker - the son of Simcha Pinsker - who originally wanted to become a lawyer, but had to accept that as a Jew he would be denied a career as a lawyer, came from advocating assimilation to emphasizing Jewish nationality and Jewish independence and emancipation .

Under the impression of the pogroms in the Russian Empire after the assassination attempt on Alexander II , he addressed the topic of Autoemancipation! Reminder to his tribal comrades from a Russian Jew (1882) for the first time clearly those already earlier (by Moses Montefiore , then Moses Hess in 1862 with Rome and Jerusalem etc.) for a Jewish nation-state , which was made in 1897 with that of Theodor Herzl, formulated the Basel Declaration, became the main demand of political Zionism.

Pinsker was reacting to the increasingly aggressive anti-Semitism in Europe (especially in Russia). Originally he advised the Jews to assimilate and encouraged them to speak Russian. When pogroms broke out in Odessa in 1881, the Jews were unsettled; the assimilation efforts ceased. Government-backed anti-Semitism prompted Pinsker to face the situation. He no longer regarded the Enlightenment and the Haskala movement as adequate for Russian Jews and no longer believed that general humanism was a means of countering hatred of Jews.

Leo Pinsker had toured all of Europe under the impression of the pogroms in Russia in 1881. He saw the spread of anti-Semitism, especially in the “enlightened” countries, as a “judaophobia”, i.e. a mental illness in which mutually reinforcing “certainties” indicated a collective mental disorder (“Judophobia is a psychosis. As a psychosis, it is hereditary, and as a disease inherited for two thousand years, it is incurable ”). It was a fear of ghosts that stems from the fact that the Jewish people walked among the living in the uncanny form of a dead man. It can only be overcome if the ghostly form of Jewish existence ceases. There is only one way to do this, that of the national resurrection of the Jewish people.

In his work Autoemancipation , published in 1882, he deduced from this the need for a Jewish country of his own and thus became a pioneer of Zionism. Pinsker became chairman of the Chovevei Zion movement . Although there was party fighting within the movement, Pinsker remained in the service of the organization with the support of Baron Edmond de Rothschild .

In Germany, most Jews rejected the position propagated by Pinsker, they still preferred to attempt to fight for their integration and recognition. The Berlin committee of the “Organizacii russko-ukrainskich sionistov” (Russian-Ukrainian Zionist group) held a meeting for Pinsker's centenary in January 1922, with speeches by Chaim Bjalik, Kurt Blumenfeld , Heinrich Loewe , Vladimir Temkin, and Israel A. Trivus.

Pinsker's last days were marked by pessimism and official rejection of the Jewish immigration plans with regard to Palestine (Pinsker had previously examined the possibility of settling in Argentina). Leon Pinsker died in Odessa in 1891.

In 1934 his remains were buried on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.

Theodor Herzl did not know Pinsker's writings until the end of 1895.

In 1883 he became an honorary member of the Kadimah (student union) .


  • Anon. [L. Pinsker]: “Auto-emancipation!” A warning call to his tribesmen from a Russian Jew . Berlin: Issleib, 1882


  • Julius H. Schoeps : Palestine love. Leon Pinsker, anti-Semitism and the beginnings of the national Jewish movement in Germany (= studies on intellectual history, vol. 29). Philo, Berlin / Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-86572-530-9 .
  • Marlies Bilz: Hovevei Zion in the Leo Pinsker era. Lit, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8258-0355-1 ( Eastern Europe 42), (also: Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 2006).
  • Scott Ury: Autoemancipation. In: Dan Diner (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture (EJGK). Volume 1: A-Cl. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2011, ISBN 978-3-476-02501-2 , pp. 209-213.

Web links

Commons : Leo Pinsker  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Harald Seewann : Circle and Zion Star . Volume 1. Graz 1990, p. 124.