Guide to the Papers of Siegmund Salfeld (1843-1926)

AR 7017

Processed by LBI Staff and Dianne Ritchey

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2006 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey in February 2006. Description is in English.
2010-12-17  encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl 2014-12-30. Biographical note edited.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Salfeld, Siegmund, 1843-1926
Title: Siegmund Salfeld Collection
Dates:bulk 1880-1920
Abstract: This collection documents the personal and professional life of the rabbi Siegmund Salfeld, who served in Dessau and Mainz. Although the major focus of the collection is on the rabbi himself, there is also some material on the Mainz Jewish community and correspondence exchanged with prominent Jewish individuals. The collection is composed of official documents, correspondence, manuscripts of articles and sermons, published works, and clippings.
Languages: The collection is in German, Hebrew, English, and Latin.
Quantity: 0.75 linear foot
Identification: AR 7017
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Salomon Benjamin Salfeld was born on March 24, 1843 in Stadthagen (Niedersachsen), the son of Benjamin and Adele Salfeld. At some point before he began his university studies, his first name was changed to Siegmund. After completing his general education, Salfeld became a teacher. At this time he met Zipporah Herzberg, his future wife, from Oschersleben-Bode (Anhalt). Her father was opposed to their marriage due to the young couple's financial situation, and Siegmund Salfeld went to Berlin, where he taught at the Auerbach Orphan Asylum while continuing his studies at the University of Berlin and the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. One of his teachers was the Jewish historian Moritz Steinschneider. In January 1870 Salfeld received his doctorate in philosophy and the liberal arts. Once he had completed his studies, Siegmund Salfeld married Zipporah Herzberg.

By August 1870, Siegmund Salfeld was working as a preacher (Prediger) for the Jewish community in Dessau. After further studying the Jewish scriptures, he became a rabbi in 1878. Siegmund and Zipporah Salfeld remained in Dessau for ten years, where they had five sons: Albert, Richard, Berthold, Erich, and Ludwig. To earn extra money they also started a boarding house for Jewish boys. Salfeld maintained close relations with both the Jews and Gentiles in his community, and in 1876 was elected a city councilman.

In 1880 Siegmund Salfeld became a rabbi of the Jewish community in Mainz, in the then Archduchy of Hessen. The Salfeld family lived across the street from the archduke's palace, in the same building as the community's Hebrew school. It was in Mainz that Siegmund Salfeld wrote his most recognized work, Das Martyrologium des Nürnberger Memorbuches, which was published in 1898. This was a scholarly work that focused not only on the book referenced in the title, but also on the Jews of Nuremberg and Germany during the Middle Ages. Salfeld also taught at both the Hebrew school and the city Gymnasium, and was a member of the local school board. He established a library for the community, comprised of scholarly works of biblical, Hebrew, and Jewish literature, and maintained the records of the Jewish community.

In addition to publishing some of his sermons, Salfeld also had many works of religious and local historical interest published; often these articles appeared in periodicals and Festschriften, although some sermons, especially those for nobility, were printed in newspapers. Some examples of his published writings included: Dr. Salomon Herxheimer (1885); Der alte israelitische Friedhof in und die hebräischen Inschriften des Mainzer Museums (1898); Die Judenpolitik Philipps des Großmütigen (1904); Vorboten der Judenemanzipation in Kurmainz (1912); Zur Geschichte des Judenschutzes in Kurmainz (1916); and Zur Kunde des Mainzer jüdischen Vereinsleben im achtzehnten Jahrhundert (1919). Salfeld also wrote articles that were included in theGermania Judaica, the Jewish Encyclopedia, and Mayer's Konversationslexicon.

While living in Mainz Salfeld received many honors. The first of these was a Knights' Cross first class and induction into the order of Philipp des Großmütigen in 1905, after he had been a rabbi in the city for twenty-five years. In 1912, when the new Mainz synagogue was dedicated, the Archduke Ernst Ludwig conferred upon Salfeld the title of professor. During World War I both Siegmund and Zipporah earned certificates of honor (Ehrenzeichen) for their assistance with the war effort, and Siegmund received another Knights' Cross first class.

Siegmund Salfeld died in May 1926 in Mainz, when he was 84 years old.

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Scope and Content Note

The documents in this collection describe the personal and professional life of Siegmund Salfeld. They consist of official papers and certificates, correspondence, clippings, manuscripts of sermons and articles, and copies of his published works.

Biographical material on Siegmund Salfeld will be found in two series: Series I: Personal and Series IV: Clippings about Siegmund Salfeld and his Writings. Series I holds official papers such as Salfeld's birth certificate and naturalization documents as well as educational documents including copies of his doctoral degree. In addition, this series also features certificates for honors and awards won by Siegmund Salfeld, including those proclaiming the awarding of a Knights' Cross first class in 1905 and 1918, citing his support of wartime efforts, and the Archduke's conferral of the title 'Professor' upon Salfeld in 1912 at the inauguration of the new synagogue. In Series IV users will find clippings about Salfeld. These describe significant events in Salfeld's life as well as reviews of his writing and obituaries.

Correspondence is located mainly in Series II, although there are also letters of congratulation among the documents on honors granted to Salfeld in Series I. The correspondence in Series II contains letters from prominent Jewish individuals, including Leo Baeck and Martin Buber, among others. The letters in this series primarily mention the professional activities of Siegmund Salfeld, such as his writing, teaching, and duties as a representative of the Mainz Jewish community. Some letters concerning his retirement will also be found in Series II. Users should note that most of the correspondence is handwritten.

Examples of Siegmund Salfeld's writing will be found almost entirely in Series III. These works include both published and unpublished articles and sermons written by him. Many of the articles focus on Jewish history. His sermons consisted of funeral services for individuals, including nobility, and congratulatory speeches given at celebrations of Jewish organizations and for specific individuals. Two poems written by Salfeld will be found in Series I.

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This collection consists of four series:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Collection is microfilmed - MF 702.

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Related Material

The LBI Library holds copies of sixteen of Siegmund Salfeld's published works.

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Separated Material

Photographs have been removed from this collection to the LBI Photo Collection.

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Custodial History

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Collection is available on 1 reel of microfilm (MF 702).

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Siegmund Salfeld Collection; AR 7017; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Container List

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Personal,  1854-1943

This series is in German, Hebrew, and Latin.
0.25 linear foot.


Scope and Content:

The largest portion of documents found in this series are those describing honors given to Siegmund Salfeld. In addition, there is also material on occasions he celebrated, such as anniversaries and birthdays. This series also contains citizenship records, such as his birth certificate, a naturalization certificates. Educational documents located here include a report card and several copies of his doctoral diploma, in Latin. The folder " Death of Siegmund Salfeld" holds telegrams, notes, a copy of his death certificate and the memorial speech given at his funeral, as well as a notification for his funeral service. Genealogical documents in this series include copies of family trees, a detailed biography of Salfeld, and a letter from 1934 stating that his grandson is Hans Salfeld. "Other Personal Documents" include a few documents describing Salfeld's status as the keeper of the Mainz Jewish Community's records.

Among the congratulatory letters in Series I are numerous letters for Salfeld and his wife on their fiftieth (golden) anniversary in 1920, as well as a smaller amount for his seventieth and eightieth birthday. Most of these are from members of local organizations in the Mainz area, although congratulations are also sent from representatives of other Jewish communities such as Hannover, Frankfurt, and Worms. Other correspondence concerns his celebration of twenty-five years as a rabbi in Mainz in 1905; documents on this event include a certificate granting him membership into the order of Philipp des Großmütigen, and awarding him a Knight's Cross first class. Documents pertaining to other honors granted to Salfeld include the certificate given to him in 1912 by Archduke Ernst Ludwig conferring the title of 'Professor' on him and certificates marking his and his wife's involvement in the war effort during World War I. Included among these are a second Knight's Cross first class for Salfeld, given in 1918.

Finally, this series also holds poems, many of them written in honor of Siegmund Salfeld. One of these poems was written by him for his wife Zipporah. Several of the poems appear to be drafts. A small amount of material on the dedication of the new Mainz synagogue in 1912 includes a program of the religious services, the texts in German and Hebrew of songs sung during the service and newspaper clippings showing the interior and exterior of the new building and Siegmund Salfeld.

11Birthday Greetings1913, 1923
12Citizenship Documents1876-1897
13Death of Siegmund Salfeld1926-1933
14Educational Documents1954-1867
15Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary1920
16Genealogical Documentsundated, 1943
17Honors – Bestowing of title "Professor"1912
18Honors – 25 Years as Rabbi in Mainz1905
19Honors – World War I1916-1918
110Other Personal Documents1880-1918
112Poemsundated, 1903-1904
113Programs – Dedication of Synagogue in Mainz1912-1913
114Rabbinical Documents1869-1905
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Series II: Correspondence, 1869-1990

This series is in German and English.
0.125 linear foot.


Scope and Content:

The small amount of correspondence in Series II is largely professional in nature, although there are a few postcards between Siegmund and Zipporah Salfeld, and one letter from Salfeld to his son Erich. Almost all of the correspondence in this series is handwritten.

Professional correspondence includes invitations, letters, and correspondence sent to him as the rabbi of the Mainz Jewish Community. The folder of invitations includes notifications of various ceremonies Salfeld was requested to attend, and includes the opening of the Mainz-Kassel bridge, the five-hundredth birthday celebration of Johann Gutenberg, lectures, and invitations to four balls held at the archduke's palace. Correspondence in alphabetical order in this series does not consist of extensive correspondence with any one individual, but contains mainly letters sent to Salfeld by several well-known individuals, including: Hermann Adler, Leo Baeck, Markus Brann, Martin Buber, Ismar Elbogen, Moritz Lazarus, Martin Philippson, and Moritz Steinschneider. Much of this correspondence discusses work on reference sources Salfeld contributed to, including with Gotthard Deutsch and others on the Jewish Encyclopedia, with Ismar Elbogen and Johanna Nathan on the Germania Judaica, and with Isaak Markon on the possible compilation of a Hebrew encyclopedia. A very small amount of letters are addressed to Salfeld's wife. Included among the rabbinical correspondence of this series are documents requesting his assistance in providing documents on Jewish history for a historical exhibit in 1925 as well as letters and a few other documents discussing his retirement and teaching duties.

115Family Correspondence1883-1912
116Invitations to Meetings and Lectures1876-1916
117Letters A-M1896-1921
118Letters N-Z1879-1925
119Letters – Unknownundated, 1879-1911
120Rabbinical correspondence1869-1924
121Salfeld, Henry1891-1990
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Series III: Writings, 1867-1975

This series is in German.
0.25 linear foot.


Scope and Content:

Series III is comprised of Siegmund Salfeld's writings as well as one folder of bibliographies of his works and some notes. Contained here are both manuscripts and published versions of Salfeld's articles and sermons.

Most of the articles and manuscripts in this series consist of articles on Jewish history. Examples of these among the manuscripts are essays entitled: "Ursachen und Wirkungen der mittelalterlichen Judenverfolgungen in Deutschland," "Die Vertreibung der Juden aus Spanien," and the text of lecture on the history of the Mainz Jewish community. His published articles include a copy of Zur Geschichte des Judenschutzes in Kurmainz, which he wrote for a Festschrift in honor of Martin Philippson, and two biographical entries Salfeld prepared on rabbis Abraham Alexander Wolff and Abraham Jakob Adler.

The sermons of this series contain memorial speeches given at funeral services and celebratory speeches. Most of these date from Salfeld's term as rabbi in Mainz, although a few published sermons are earlier. Among the funeral speeches are an unpublished sermon for Archduke Ludwig IV, as well as published memorials for Kaiser Wilhelm I, Kaiser Friedrich III, and Duke Leopold Friedrich of Anhalt. Most of the celebratory speeches are for organizations and individuals. Included among the published sermons are commemorations Salfeld gave in Dessau on the 1870 Day of Prayer and Repentance (Buß und Bettag) and the ending of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871.

122Bibliographiesundated, 1943, 1975
123Manuscriptsundated, 1867
22Published Articlesundated, 1916, 1925
23Sermons – Published1870-1896
24Sermons – Unpublishedundated, 1886-1915
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Series IV: About Siegmund Salfeld, 1881-1927

This series is in German.
0.125 linear foot.
Scope and Content:

Series IV is comprised of only one folder of clippings focusing on either Salfeld or his wiritngs. The majority of clippings are obituaries and death notices, but there are also articles mentioning him briefly, including features on the dedication of the Mainz synagogue. In addition, announcements and biographical essays concerning Salfeld's wedding anniversary and twenty-five years as a rabbi in Mainz are located here. This series also contains reviews of Salfeld's published works, especially his Martyrologium des Nürnberger Memorbuches.

25Clippings about Siegmund Salfeld and his writings1881-1927
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