Schorr belongs to the most outstanding personalities in the scientific life of Galician and Polish Jewry, being a renowned historian - the first Jewish researcher of Polish archives, historical sources and pinkasim, world-class assyriologist, president of the 13th district Bna’i Brith Poland, humanist and reform rabbi who ministered the central synagogue of Poland during its last years before the Nazi annihilation.
The interdisciplinary activity of M. Schorr is astonishing. Schorr was the first historian who undertook the systematic study of Jewish history in Poland, and Galicia in particular. He made discoveries after finding and translating Babylonian, Assyrian and Hittite legislative annals, as a major scholar of the Ancient Middle Eastern jurisprudence and civilizations. Schorr can be called a legal philosopher and sociologist of Ancient Middle Eastern societies. Besides, Schorr was the senator of Polish parliament personally appointed to the Senate by the Polish president Ignacy Mościcki (1926 – 1939). He did not belong to any political party, though was inclined to Zionism, being active in social, public and religious life of Polish Jews, often chosen by them to head a great number of public organisations and represent Polish Jewry to Polish and international powers, though he never aimed at this role himself.
Moses Schorr was born on May 10, 1874, in the town of Przemyśl in Galicia (today, small Polish town and border checkpoint on the Ukrainian frontier), then a kreis town within Austro-Hungarian empire. Moses was the oldest son of Osjasz Schorr, the director of the Jewish copperative bank in Przemyśl and of Esther Schorr (née Friedman). He had two brothers Adolf and Samuel, who both became lawyers in Lwów and Jarosław respectively. Moses Schorr started his education at the local Przemyśl gymnasium which he completed in 1893. At gymnasium he acquired the basics of Judaic lore, along with the instruction of his father and private teachers. Among the last was grandfather of outstanding slavist Moshe Altbauer, who instructed Moses in Bible and Talmud, something that he always had his heart attached to later on.
To continue his education Schorr moved to imperial Vienna where he embarked upon studying theology at the Jewish Theological Institute / Israelitisch – Theologische Lehranstalt (1893 – 1900). The institute was founded in October 1893 with the assistance of Albert von Rothschild aiming to train the reform rabbis, and had 26 students preparing for the rabbinate and 11 for teachers of religion at that time. Among Schorr’s teachers were such celebrities as Adolf Schwarz in Talmud and religious-ritual codes, David Heinrich Müller in Biblical exegesis and Semitic linguistics, Adolf Bücher in Jewish history and Meir Friedman in Midrash studies. Simultaneously Schorr studied philosophy at Vienna and Lwów Universities (1893 - 1898). During his studies in Vienna, Schorr spent a great deal of time and efforts into learning Hebrew and other oriental languages and showed particular interest in the Egyptian mythology and psychology.
In 1898 he was conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Medieval Studies at Lwów University of Jan Kazimierz, and in spring 1900 received the diploma of rabbi in Vienna, being among the first dozen of graduates of Rothschild’s seminary.
Soon after graduation, in November 1899 he became a lecturer at the Jewish Teachers Seminary and the Teachers Gymnasium in Lwów working there until 1923, where he also engaged in educational and social work. Schorr did not feel motivated to work as a gymnasium / seminary teacher. Of his time teaching in Lwów he was writing to Ludwik Gumplowicz:
“…For along time I have not written to you of my old intentions to continuing studying aiming at a dozent position. Besides that “spirit” of semitology…has not left me for a moment, haunting me as a shadow at every step. I have not missed contact with the orientalistics not for a bit. I have used every free minute to get acquainted with ever growing literature, but unfortunately these free moments are quite rare. Professional work takes a lot of my time and causes a painful conflict between a forced, often mechanic work which I lack internal vocation for, and the results of my [oriental] studies...On one hand, I do not want to be a charlatan in the profession, I even know that I have certain mission as the religion teacher in Galicia and could even to obtain “laurels” of the reformer in this subject. But I lack namely this ambition or enthusiasm. On the other hand, I am getting convinced that I would have to study at least a year at the university (Berlin or Leipzig) so that I could independently work with the assyriology here. I have to admit one more moment, that I have become a personality here and everywhere they try to involve me into a friendly, humanitary and scientific life…and everyday the circle of my “social virtues” widens itself – popular meetings, ceremonial speeches, committees, collectives etc., etc., – all this distracts me from my work as I see myself suddenly thrown into the whirl of life when I would like to remain still unknown among my co-confessors. As an unripened apple I am reaped off the tree and I still miss my tree – the knowledge. As for the altruistic impulses, I think that I still have enough of time to realize them…” Lviv, January, 1901
At that time, rabbi of Lwów Jecheskiel Caro offered Schorr deputy post at the Reform Synagogue “Templum”, namely to preach, to give marriages, make burial speeches during the absence of Rabbi Caro. However, Schorr did not accept the offer as being the state teacher preferred to be completely independent from the “kahal” as he said. In the meanwhile Schorr corresponded with number of intellectuals of that time, including Polish sociologist Ludwik Gumplowicz, whom he wrote at least 46 letters and Simon Dubnow was writing to Schorr from Odessa. His correspondence with Simon Dubnow has not been studied yet. Schorr’s letters to Gumplowicz were published by R. Żebrowski.
Schorr managed to realize his plans. Having received the scholarship from the Austrian Ministry of Education, he went to Berlin for two years where he studied the Semitic languages, Assyriology and the history of the Ancient Orient under the guidance of famous scholars Delitsch, Winkler, Bart, Sachaua, Leman-Haupt and Schtreck. In 1905 - 1906 he broaded his knowledge in the field studying the Arabic philology in Vienna under the guidance of the remarkable semitologist David Heinrich. Müller. The latter scholar left a strong influence on Schorr, who can be justly referred as his disciple. Müller himself was a Galician Jew, born in Buczacz and this was probably the link that united the teacher and disciple during Schorr’s studies in Vienna. Müller first taught him Biblical critics and Semitology at the Seminary and a decade later the Arabic linguistics. Müller advanced a novel theory on the structure and form of the Biblical Psalms. The theory was developed later by Schorr in serious of articles.
In 1904 Schorr was appointed a lecturer (as Privat Dozent) and in March 1910, associate professor of Semitic languages and history of the Ancient Orient at Lwów University, a chair which he later held in Warsaw.
Being inclined to Zionist movement Schorr took part in the 7th Zionist Congress of 1910 in Basel. The congress and three weeks stay in Switzerland made an impression on Schorr as he writes to Gumplowicz from hotel “Habsburg” in Basel:
“There is no need to stress how strong impression I got from the wonderful views of Swiss nature. I will stay here in Basel for 14 days for the whole duration of the 7th Zionist Congress, that is going to start on Thursday. Already today there are several hundreds guests, most from Russia, among them the outstanding Jewish figures, also very many ladies. Already today, congress seems to me as the most powerful manifestation of Jewish solidarity around the world. During the entire course of Jewish history, there was no such movement that would so deeply enter the consciousness of all the Jews with such an enthusiasm. But already nowadays various group with different tendencies are being formed, away from the main fundamental idea.”
According to the stenographic protocols of the congress, Schorr took part in it but did not make any public speech, just following the event. His attitude towards the Zionism can be defined as “liberal skeptic of reserved opinion”. He was not particularly fond of the movement, which seemed to him being inadequate and tendentious to a certain extent. Being a liberal Jewish historian and orientalist of broad intellect and outlook, he did not see the Zionist claims to be convincing enough for such a political step, as he writes:
“.As for the Zionist movement…I am noting in advance, that to my opinion the historical proofs can not be decisive for the present. After all, Prof Winkler proved that the Jews had never been to Egypt but does this mean that the Jewish religion, that is based on the fact of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and its consequences, should disappear from history?”
Żebrowski presumes, that the only fact of Schorr’s participation in the congress was perhaps one of the reasons that rich merchant from Wilno, banker and fervent Zionist chose him to marry his daughter Tamara, who was rather disappointed by father’s choice but nevertheless married (under chupa) father’s appointee Schorr in the synagogue of Prussian Königsberg (modern Kaliningrad) on the 31st of October 1905. The marriage came out to be successful, and thanks to her support scholar was capable to surmount the pressure and stress from so great number of duties he had to perform. The boulevard rumours claimed his wife and daughters to be among the most beautiful ladies of Warsaw in the inter-war period.
In April 1916 M. Schorr received the degree of merited professor of Lwów University in the field of Semitic languages and Ancient Oriental history, combining this post with other certain duties at the same university until 1923. In 1912 he participated in the international congress of orientalists in Athens, where the scholar was assigned the functions of one of the secretaries of the semitology section and presented a lecture entitled Sumerian and Semitic beginnings of the Ancient Babylonian law, which was published later in the Paris edition of Revue Semitique. In 1918 he became a member of Oriental committee at the Cracow Academy, and in 1920 a member of the Polish Scientific Society in Lwów, and finally one of the founders of the Polish Oriental Society in the same city, which was founded in 1923 calling him to its work.
Moses Schorr, moved from his house in Lwów in 1923 to Warsaw, never to return there. He was invited to Warsaw to succeed the well-known Samuel Poznański as preacher at the moderate Reform Synagogue on Tłomackie street, designed to seat 1.100, then the largest synagogue and community in Europe and second largest in the world, behind only to New York. Never suspecting that he came to be its last minister, exactly 20 years before it was blown up in retaliation for Jewish ghetto uprising in 1943. Warsaw Judaic Community numbered then 352.659 Jews (1931 census), and to head its religious life on the eve of the coming Holocaust and growing antisemitism was a great responsibility and challenge entrusted to Moses Schorr. In the same rabbinical capacity he became a member of Warsaw rabbinical council, one of the top Jewish religious authorities in Poland. Some of his preachings were published. He was also elected to the position of inter-regional rabbi whose main duties and functions were to represent the Jewish community in front of the state and administrative authorities. Schorr was also appointed a member of city and regional School Councils by Jewish community board.
At the Warsaw University Schorr headed the Institute of Semitic languages and history of the Ancient Orient . While working at the Institute of Judaic Sciences Schorr headed the department of Bible Studies and Hebrew theology, and during 1928-1930 he was its rector. In 1933, he took this position the second time, being at this post just one year until 1934. In 1933-1934 he was elected the member of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAU), and in 1935 member of the Finnish Oriental Society in Helsinki. In 1937 Schorr received the title of merited doctor from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
In 1927 he initiated the creation of the Committee for setting up the Jewish Library at the Great Synagogue in Warsaw and became its head. This library was finally completed in 1936. Today the library building houses the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland.
In February 1928 Schorr together with M. Balaban, Tohn and Braud, founded the Institute of Judaic Sciences, for the research of Judaic sciences and Judaism, in particular the Biblical subjects, philosophy, religion, Talmud, sociology, Semitic languages and Hebrew literature. It was located on the site of the present-day Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, side by side with the Great Tłomacka Street Synagogue, that did not survive the war, where the impressive Blękitny Wieżowiec (the Blue Skyscraper) at “Bankowy plac” stands now. It functioned on the strength of a state budget, receiving help also from foreign Jewish institutions. The Institute retained the library which numbered over 35 thousand books, documents and magazines. Professor Schorr became the first rector of the newly created institution.
In 1924 he became the head of the State Examination Committee for Jewish teachers of religion and Judaic subjects in secondary schools, and a member of the Ministerial Commission for the evaluation of the school handbooks in the field of Judaica.
He was also the member of the State Council of Education of Poland and many other social institutions.
Speaking about the social-educational and cultural activity of M. Schorr, we should turn back for a few years and note that in 1904- 1905 he headed the Toynbeehali, the Society for the promotion of education among Jews in Lwów. At the same time he was also one of the founders and long-term members of Opieka (Care), a society to support the Jewish Youth of the secondary schools. During his stay in Lwów, M. Schorr became one of the founders and the first head of the "Society of the teachers of Moses religion of the people's secondary schools of Galicia" and at the same time he led the first teachers' congress in 1904 in Lwów. Since the moment of the foundation of the Jewish Community Library in Lwów, he was a member of its board and later on its head.
In 1917-1918 he headed the Jewish Rescue Committee in Lwów, and from 1916 on Schorr was also a member of the central committee over the Jewish orphans in Lwów. The Society of Jewish national and secondary school, which was established at the beginning of 1919, had chosen him its first head, and in 1920 entitled him a merited member of the society.
From 1901 on, Schorr was a member of the humanitary society B’nei Brith Leopolis in Lwów, where during a few years he led the library and from 1921 Schorr was the president of the Lwów branch of B’nei Brith in Galicia, part of the royal Austro-Hungarian Empire within the 12th district of B’nai Brith Austria. The B’nai Brith “Leopolis” was founded in 1889 and since 1932 had its own building at 3 Maja street, 10. The archival documentation of B’nai Brith “Leopolis” has been partially preserved. These are the acts of great historical value for possible research and Schorr’s speeches and papers delivered at B’nai Brith “Leopolis” are still to be studied. The same relates to the papers of such lodge members and fellows of Schorr in Lwów as: Dr Michael Ringer, Victor Chajes, Dr Levi Freund, Dr Alexander Mayer or Max Schaff. From 1922 Leopolis was incorporated into the 13th district of Poland and numbered 217 persons being the most numerous lodge in Poland.
Since the creation of the great lodge of the 13-th district of B’nei Brith in Poland (on 22-23.10.1922 Cracow session), Schorr was elected the vice president of the Polish district, while the presidency was entrusted to layer Dr Adolf Ader from Cracow. From 1924 he was also the president of the lodge Braterstwo (Brotherhood) in Warsaw. This lodge numbered 85 members, including 32 merchants, 14 physicians, 13 engineers, 8 lawyers, 8 industrialists, 6 bankers, 1 writer, 3 senators (eng. Moses Koerner, Schorr himself and banker Rafael Szereszowski), 1 deputy (lawyer Dr Apolinary Hartgas) and two professors – Schorr and his close colleague, historian and friend Meir Balaban. The highest number of membership the lodge reached in 1931 when it had 130 members. After Schorr’s resignation from its presidency, his role was taken over by Meir Balaban and consequently the lodge was headed by lawyer Maurycy Edelman, merchant Maurycy Meyzel, Seminary director Meir Tauber and lawyer Ignacy Bamberg.
The headquarters of Warsaw Braterstwo lodge were located at Rymarska 8 street. In the years of his presidency, Schorr organised many initiatives, undertakings and cultural events, managed the meetings of so called “speaking diaries” with the participation of renown personalities, writers and publicists. Took part in the creation of Auxilium Academicum Judaicum, an organisation formed for the erection of the Jewish Academic House in Warsaw. Schorr’s brotherhood played an important role in the founding of the already noted Reform Institute of Judaic Sciences and the publishing society Menora, that in its turn published Miesięcznik Żydowski (Jewish Monthly, 1930 – 1935), which remained under the influence of B’nei Brith. Through, Warsaw lodge, Schorr co-organised and supported the Relief Committee for the Jewish victims of the economic crisis, continuing his role in the religious affairs of the nomination of rabbis and Orthodox influences. While heading Warsaw lodge, Schorr took initiative of setting up a special literary award for an outstanding writer of Jewish origin. In 1932, Schorr intervened to the president of Polish organisation Dr Leon Ader as well as to the lodge “Concordia” in Katowice in case of employment of Rabbi Dr M. Vogelman though the matter was not solved.
In the revived charity activity rich members of the lodge played an important role, not sparing generous offerings; among them a friend of Schorr, renown wood merchant Horacy Heller, who assigned for social activities 20.000 dollars. Significant sums were donated by his colleagues banker Szereszowski (one of two Jewish colleagues in the Polish senate with him), Dr. Joseph Landau, industrialist Maurycy Raabe and others. In the years 1937 – 1938, violent antimasonic campaign took place in Poland and led to the special decree of 1938 that dissolved any sort of free Masonic societies, including B’nei Brith.
Moses Schorr performed the functions of vice president of the B’nai Brith Lodge Solidaność (Solidarity) in Cracow. There are dozens of letters written by M. Schorr (on different range of matters) preserved in the B’nai B’rith collection of the State Archives in Cracow. During his presidency Schorr corresponded with a number of BB officials, including the Secretary of Great Conventional Lodge in Chicago. Schorr’s BB letters are still to be studied. In this matter, in 1993, Polish historian Dr Bogusława Czajecka delivered a paper “Moses Schorr as social activist in the light of B’nai B’rith documents (1922 – 1938) ” during the scientific session on Schorr at Polish Academy of Arts in Cracow.
Schorr’s views on Bnai-Brith’s goals and its practical application in terms of social activities are expressed in his work (in Polish) “Ideals of the Order B’nei B’rith and their application towards the real life conditions.” The essence of B’nai Brith M. Schorr describes as following:
“…The union of Bnai Brith, as an international organization (…) is characterized by two fundamental principles: the idea of solidarity of all the Jews in the entire world (…), the idea of universalism of humanity, the brotherhood of all the peoples and nations (…). These two ideas I consider for the highest goal of our spiritual and intellectual program…”
Besides other accomplishments within the B’nai Brith, Schorr’s initiative was the creation of the lodge Montefiory in Łódź, then the second largest Jewish urban community in Poland (222.497 Jews). In 1928 lodges “Montefiore” and “Braterstwo” took on the discussion concerning the official name of organisation arguing between B’nai B’riss” and B’nei B’brith formulas. Schorr’s suggestion “…taking into consideration the scientific and practical views, the name of the order should be written “B’nei B’rith” was adopted unanimously.
Schorr authored the appeal of the information bureau of the lodge Braterstwo about the situation of the Jews in Germany and other countries after 1933. Schorr was member of the committee, which managed the bureau. His goal in the activity of B’nei Brith was the unification of the national solidarity among the Jews with the ideas of the universalism.
In the political life, Schorr didn't take an active part. He clearly defined his political position regarding the Polish Jewish question in the questionary campaign arranged in February 1919 by the Governmental Commission, where Schorr participated as a scientific expert. The protocols of the campaign were published in a separate book W sprawie polsko-żydowskiej. Ankieta (Concerning the Polish-Jewish question. Questionnary).
Schorr concentrated mainly on scientific, teaching and social activities, rather than politics. In 1935, the president of Poland Ignacy Mościcki named him senator in the parliament. In his parliamentary speeches, along with the publications in the Jewish press as Nasz Przegląd and Chwila, Schorr expressed his concern about the growth of antisemitic feelings and actions in Poland and the passive conduct of the authorities in this concern. He led the Jewish immigration and colonial committee, which aimed to make possible the Jewish immigration from Poland to countries other than Palestine. In July of the same year, he participated in the international summit in Evian, France on the problem of 500.000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria with the advent of Nazi regime and after “Anschluss” of Austria. Evian Conference was held in Evian-les-Bains, on the French shore of Geneva Lake in 1938 where US President T. Roosevelt invited European, American, and Australian delegates for an open discussion on organising the resettlement and immigration of those who experienced persecution on the basis of religion or race. Schorr was one of key speakers in Evian and was highly involved in the matter as many Jews fled Germany for Poland. Dr Weizmann and Dr Goldman of World Jewish Congress represented Palestine solution at Evian.
After the beginning of the Second World War, M. Schorr entered the Jewish Civil Committee and on 6th or 7th of September he left Warsaw. He knew that the Nazis will not spare him, as he was an active Jewish social leader who often spoke against fascism in the parliament. These fears forced him and wife to escape eastwards. His daughter Felicia with her 3 children (two her own and 1 of her sister Sonia) stayed in town of Ostróg near Równe. Moses and Tamar Schorr reached Ostróg on 27th of September.
The appearance of Schorr was quickly noted by Soviet securities in the town. Two days after his arrival, Schorr was arrested by Ostróg NKVD branch, being kept in custody in local prison for a week. Later he was transferred to the nearby regional administrative center of Łuck, where he spent another week in Łuck prison.
On the 24 of September he transferred to Lwów (back to his native town where he had been studying, working and living until he moved from there in 1923 for Warsaw). This time he arrived there as a prisoner, and not home but to jail. The psychological associations and pressure the scholar was undergoing must have been intolerable. In confinement, Schorr was forced to fill in the questionnary, got photographed, his personal belongings were taken off: the golden watch, pen, scissors, organiser, file of photos and a comb with a cover-box. The first questioning most likely took place yet in Ostróg. The scholar was asked when, who and why was he appointed for the senator’s position, since when was he rabbi, to which party he belonged. Schorr was answering that president Mościcki appointed him to Polish Senate in the capacity of Rabbi of Warsaw and that he did not belong to any political party. The prosecutor noted down only his words concerning the rabbinical functions and the account of marriage of Schorr’s daughter Sophia (residing in Paris) with the official of Polish Ministry of Justice. After his arrest, Schorr’s wife and daughter Felicia moved to Lwów, where the latter worked as a waitress.
On the February 3, the newly appointed Russian prosecutor of Lwów branch of NKVD Lopunov, received the order from the Deputy of the Peoples Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR V.N. Merkulov, sent him to Moscow for continuation of the investigation. Schorr was sent in convoy to the First Special Department of Soviet NKVD. In the documentation which was sent along, the mark “healthy” was noted.
In Moscow he was imprisoned in famous Lubyanka being kept in the same cell with the Bund activist Viktor Alter, the poet Wladislaw Broniewski and the Polish senator of the National Party - Stronnictwa narodowego / SN professor Stanisław Gląbiński. Polish nationalist later recollected: We became so close friends that slept together at one bench. In one of the account of cell inmate Mrs. Wisia Wagner from the 10th of August, 1943 we read:
Cell no. 21 was little. It housed 30 persons. Among them the main rabbi of Warsaw, renowned scientist, professor of Warsaw University Dr Moses Schorr, the activist of Bund Victor Alter, senator professor Stanisław Gląbiński – the leader of Polish National Democrats and other personalities who formed the intellectual elite of Poland. I spent a few days together with Prof Schorr. Despite his elderly age, he was constantly taken for torturing questioning and beaten. He was woken in the middle of the night, being led away for many hours and only in the morning returned back. As he told us in the cell, he was accused in belonging to the protagonists of the bourgeois government. I spent 10 days with Prof Schorr and was astonished by his spiritual posture, despite the sufferings, he did not allow himself to get broken and after questioning was coming back calm and full of dignity. By chance he happened to share his cell with the leader of “endecja” [Polish Nationalist Party pursuing the policy of tough assimilation of the minorities]. The representative of Jewish people and former antisemite went into so friendly relationship that slept at the same cell bed. After 10 days Prof Schorr was driven off from our prison and I have not seen him ever since.
The attempts to liberate Schorr, which were undertaken by Polish Government in exile with the mediation of Vatican and the U.S. State Department did not succeed. In February 1940, Secretary of the State of the USA during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Cordell Hull appealed to the Soviet powers through the mediation of international organisations to find and rescue Schorr from Soviet prisons. However this did not produce any results. At the same time the President of the Council of Ministers of Polish government in exile, Władysław Sikorski applied to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of his government with the following letter:
I ask you Sir minister about the entreatment of our Ambassador in the Vatican with the intervention, aimed to free Professor Schorr, arrested by the Bolshevik powers in Lwów. I consider the diplomatic means through Vatican to be onliest advisable solution of this matter. After release, I ask you to direct Prof. Schorr to France. Head of the Council of Ministers – gen. div. Sikorski.
On the 17-th of April, 1941 Schorr was assigned 5 years of mandatory prison labour in the Central Asian deserts of the Soviet Uzbeki Republic. He was taken to the 5-th concentration camp in Posty, Uzbekistan, where he got sick and died in a camp hospital on the 8th of July, 1941 being buried at the grave no. C-30 on the territory of the same hospital. Polish authorities learned about his death only on the eve of 1942, after establishing the diplomatic relations between the Polish London government and USSR's government. Polish government tried to liberate him the second time planning to appoint him for the post of the main Rabbi of the Anders Army, which was forming at that time but it was too late already.
At that time A. Sztibel, renown Jewish publisher was writing of M. Schorr the following lines:
At every ship arriving in America from Europe, nearly every Polish Jew claims to be the leader of the Jews of Poland. These are the people, whose names I never heard, despite the fact that I was born and brought up in Poland. In the meanwhile professor Schorr, a real authority of Polish Jewry, is kept in Bolshevik prisons and no one makes the slightest effort to rescue him… (the letter to Cyrus Adler)
After the outbreak of the Soviet German War, Schorr’s wife Tamara and her daughter Felicia with grandchildren left Lwów for Warsaw. Having enduring the hell of Warsaw ghetto, by the virtue of obtaining the Costa-Rican and Nicaraguan passports (from the daughter Sonia), they were interned at Warsaw “Pawiak prison” on the 19th of June 1942 as citizens of the neutral state. After several months, they were transferred to the French town of Vittel (170 km west of Strasbourg) in Elsace, where they arrived on the October 20, 1943 and had to be exchanged for German prisoners of war there. In Vittel, they (and 300 other Jews with foreign passports) were kept in a special hotel guarded by Gestapo.
After more than a year of waiting, it became clear that the next day they all will be deported to the transitional camp Drancy (from where detainees normally were transported to Auschwitz) and consequently to the death camp. Tamara Schorr and her daughter Felicia Kon decided to commit suicide on the 17th of April in 1944 in Vittel, so that Felicia’s children as orphans could avoid transfer. The wife of Prof Schorr finally died after the consumption of poison and her daughter being wounded after jumping off the window, got to the hospital. The other daughter Sonia managed to reach New York (together with husband Arthur Miller) in the end of 1940.
Schorr was married (since 1905) to Tamara Ben Jacob, the daughter of a publisher, Zionist, banker and bibliographer Yitzhak Ben Jacob (1858 – 1926) from Wilno; as noted she committed suicide in Vittel in France in April 1944 . He had six children with her:
Schorr was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit. His name is listed on the recent memorial next to the Polish Sejm [Parliament], a monument erected in the memory of the senators of the II Polish Republic who perished from the NKVD and Nazi hands.
The scientific meeting devoted to M. Schorr and in 1993 the similar meeting took place at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow. Recently, in 2001 the Educational Center named after Prof. Moses Schorr was established in Warsaw, aimed at the education of the remaining Jewish community in Poland. Schorr Center was founded as one of the projects of Ronald Lauders Foundation to cultivate Jewish literacy, culture and history among Jews all over Poland.
The scientific heritage of M.Schorr is undoubtedly large and worth of attention. Two main trends can be defined in his works. The first stream of his scientific activity deals with the history of Polish Jews. Schorr’s historiographic approach and view upon the methodology applied to the study of the history of Polish Jewry, can be aptly summarized in his own writing:
“The major defect of the methods of research of Jewish history in Poland is that the general issues were studied before the details had been exposed. There was attempt to present the history of the Jews in entire Poland, before this history had been reviewed in specific cities. The historical entireness was treated, before the elemental processes had been exposed. Therefore, also today’s general works on the history of Polish Jewry, and they are few after all, are characterised by the dilettante forms, lacking integrity, accurateness and clarity in subject presentation. Their material used is meager and is at no case sufficient to encompass the entirety of the history of Polish Jewry, neither in the political-economic sphere nor in the cultural developments. The appropriate solid basis for such a general task can only be constructed by the virtue of the archival material, which is so abundantly accumulated in different archives and partially the libraries. The fundamental, scientific presentation of the entire history will only be possible when the factual history, economic and cultural developments in the major cities will be multilaterally studied on the basis of archival sources. Publication and analysing of the archival documents should be the first task preceding the general studies.” M. Schorr. Lwów, October 1902
The techniques and methods Schorr used in the historical studies were far ahead of his young age (28) and the time he worked. He started his early scientific work in this field yet as an auditor of Vienna University in 1897, writing his first serious work entitled Zur Geschichte des Don Josef Nasi (Concerning the history of Don Joseph Nasi), which was published in Monatschrift fur die Wiessenschaft des Judenstum. In this work, the author analyses the relations of Joseph Nasi with Polish king Sigismund August in the light of the situation of Jews in Poland at that time. Joseph Nasi was the Portuguise born marrano, the Antwerp banker, the duke of the Ottoman islands of Naxos and the Cyclades, Lord of Tiberias, one of the first “proto-Zionists” and an influential Ottoman statesman during the reign of Salim (1566 - 1574). Schorr’s analyses the relations of Joseph Nasi with Poland. Being 20 years old student at that time, he managed to correct the fundamental error of leading historian of the time Graetz, who claimed that Sigismund August acknowledged a number of commercial privileges for the Polish Jews by the virtue of the services of Joseph Nasi to Polish diplomacy at the Ottoman court. On the basis of sources found by Schorr in the histotorical city archives of Lwów, young student came to conclusion that Joseph Nasi was not guided by the altruism in this situation, but only wanted to be endowed with the privileges for himself to trade in Lwów, and according to his wishes he got them.
The doctoral dissertation of M. Schorr entitled Organizacja Żydów w Polsce (The Organisation of Jews in Poland) first appeared in at the Lwów’s leading historical quarterly Kwartalnik historyczny in 1899, and later was also translated into Russian in the Russian scientific monthly Voskhod. In 1903 Schorr was awarded the Wawelberg Prize (the famous Polish-Russian banker and philanthropist) for his work Żydzi w Przemyślu do roku 1772 (Jews in Przemyśl until 1772) . It was republished in 1991 in Jerusalem with the introduction of Jakub Goldberg and epilogue by his last surviving son Joshua Otton Schorr. The former study Organisation of Jews in Poland is a serious attempt to summarise the data about the kahal organisation of the central institutions of Jewish self-administration - the vaads and the brotherhoods of Jewish craftsmen. As for his dissertation and its subject, Schorr expressed the following opinion writing to Ludwik Gumplowicz from Vienna in October, 1897:
“…the organization of Jews in Poland is thus one of the most important and the most interesting parts of Jewish culture in Poland, I will just only note the huge importance “the council of four lands” had directing the life of Polish Jews for 200 years. In general, my intention is to devote myself to the study of Jewish history in Poland. For the next task of mine I consider the publication of the most important archival documents concerning the Jews – the way Bershadsky began that already. During my search of the City Historical Archives in Lwów, I got convinced, that there are real treasures for the history of Polish Jews. I am staying all the time in Vienna, except holidays. I still have 1 ½ years until finishing of my theological studies. I doubt very much that I will be doing the profession of a preacher [rabbi] in practice. I am more found of scientific work. I repeat that your interest in my historical works is a good stimulus for me, that motivates me even more to my intended research….”
Another work, the monograph about the Jews in Przemyśl, is precious not only for its concise examination of the history of this remarkable community but also for the numerous Polish, Latin and Hebrew documents from the 16-18th centuries concerning the history of Przemyśl Jewish community, which are added in the end of the book, nearly half of the work. Schorr starts his historical account from the early 15th century, when the first Jews start to appear sporadically in significant numbers in the major cities of Czerwona Rus’ (Red Ruthenia: Lwów, Halicz, Przemyśl or Sanok, with the first historical mention of Jews in Przemyśl from 1466, following with the reviews of the privileges of Sigismund II August (1548 – 1572) , statute ad bonum ordinem of Stephan Batory (1576 – 1586) and other privileges, contracts, antisemitic assaults and internal Jewish organisation. The last chapter deals with the Jewish professional brotherhoods (Jewish artisan and tailor fraternities, their emergence, organisation and the role played. The author also notes Jewish religious societies, as the Society of Psalms Readers (whose task was gathering in synagogue each day before the sunrise to recite the psalms) or Chevrah Kadisha (Holy society) with the purpose of burying the dead, whose members were divided into “seniors” and “juniors” being obliged to perform certain functions and accompany every burial in ceremonial order. Schorr explores the pinkasim of the brotherhoods and having found the pinkas of Przemyśl guild of Jewish artisans that existed there in the 17th and 18th cen., he was the first one to claim the existence of Jewish artisan brotherhoods in that period. The wide usage of pinkasim in scholar’s historical studies was innovational for that time.
Among the wide range of sources presented in the second part of the book we find the first fundamental privilege to the Jews of Przemyśl given in 1559 by the king Sigismund II August and allowing them to live in Przemyśl with the same rights and freedoms as other townsmen (no. 1), the Order of Sigismund August to Przemyśl mayor and counselors regarding the attack on the Jews in 1561 (no. 2); the contract of 1595 between the town hall and Jewish elders on the matter of Jewish participation in the fortification of the city (no. 20); Protest of town pharmacists against the Jewish elders for the production of medical items by the Jews in 1677 (no. 121); The order of the governor of Rus’ lands Jabłonowski allowing a free election of rabbi after the ardent requests of “unfaithful” Jewish elders and whole synagogue of Przemyśl (no. 130). Several of Polish sources from 1759 (no. 143 – 144) published in this edition deal with the charges in the supposed ritual Easter murder against the Jews of Stupnica, their tortures and refusal of the charges and the consequent execution of the accused. Similar Polish document (no. 76) is from the year 1646 and deals with the same ritual child murder charges against Przemyśl Jews Berko, Mendl, Jelenia, Ryfka, goldsmith Lewko, synagogue sexton Tobiasz, tanner Boruch, stall-keeper Izak, Jakòb Żelaznik, certain Stryjska with her sons and Jelonka who have been freed from the charges by the royal decree, while the accuser, certain Sienko got punished. Schorr preserves the archaic form of old Polish language in the documents what gives a special taste of the those times to the presented documental accounts.
Schorr published also The Cracow code of Jewish laws and privileges in Poland having written in addition the article about its significance and contradictory questions regarding the main privileges.
Schorr is also the author of a large article about the Hebrew language in the Encyklopedja Polska (Polish Encyclopeadia, vol. III, 1915). One of his last works in the field of Jewish history in Poland, is a research Rechtsstellung und innere Verfassung der Juden in Polen (The legal situation and internal organisation of Jews in Poland) published in German in Berlin and Vienna in 1917.
The second major stream of Schorr's scientific activity concerns primarily the Bible Studies (in particular the researches of Biblical Law), Assyriology and the history of the Ancient Orient in general. Starting from 1904 onwards all of Schorr's works are mainly focused on these subjects. Scholar’s switch to Oriental studies was caused also by professional circumstances. Polish historian Krzysztof Pilarczyk notes that Schorr could not count on professorship in the field of Jewish history in Poland and because of that, after completion of the historical-philosophical studies and defence of doctoral dissertation Organisation of Jews in Poland from the earliest times until 1772 and years of work as a gymnasium teacher in Lwów, in 1902 he got interested in newly discovered Hammurabi Code and thus in the laws of the Ancient Babylon and Assyria. Though I would say, this interest of Schorr was rooted rather in his religious beliefs and came through his early fascination in the Bible, Oriental and Egyptian mythology yet during his gymnasium and university studies, when he thoroughly studied Hebrew, Assyrian and Babylonian languages.
The first works in this field of Oriental studies were published earlier he started studying the Hammurabi Code, one of the first ones was paper on Tell-Amarna findings and excavations (1900), followed by the investigation Starożytności biblijne w swietle archiwum egipskiego (Biblical antiquities in the light of the Egyptian archive). It was published in magazine Przewodnik naukowy i literacki in 1901 and was published separately as well. In 1903 Schorr writes large comments on respected and famous book Babel und Bibel (Babylon and Bible) of his former German tutor Friedrich Delitsch. This commentary is named Kultura Babilońska a starohebrajska (Babylonian and Hebrew culture) which appeared first time in Lwów’s Kwartalnik historyczny, and later as a separate edition. Kwartalnik Historyczny was the major forum of Lwów historians at that time and Schorr was one of its regular contributors.
As it was noted before, some of Schorr's works were written and published in German, his second native language, then official Habsburg language in Eastern Galicia along with Polish and Ukrainian. One of such studies is the investigation Die Kohler-Peiserische Hammurabi Übersetzung (The Hammurabi Code translation of Peiser-Kohler), where the author gives detailed analyses of this translation.
Schorr was also dedicated to the study of Babylonian history. His main work on this subject is Państwo i społeczeństwo babilońśke w kresie t.zw. dynastyi Hammurabiego (The Babylonian state and society at the time of Hammurabi dynasty) which first appeared as a separate edition in 1906 in Lwów and afterwards was published also in Kwartalnik historyczny. Another highly respected work of the scholar in this field is Eine Babylonische Seisachtie aus dem Anfang der Kassitenzeit, ende XVIII vorchristl. Jahrhunderts (The Babylonian Seisachtie of the times of the Kassites dynasty, the end of 18-th century B.C.). In this research Schorr discusses and presents one of the newly discovered old Babylonian texts, which were published and investigated by Oxford assyriologist Langdon.
He also made serious research on the history of the social and commercial life of the Ancient Orient and in particular the trade movement in the ancient Babylon. The work's title is Ruch handlowy w Satorożytnej Babilonii (The trade movement in the old Babylon). It was published in 1911 in a commemorative book while celebrating the 25th anniversary since founding of Lviv University.
Schorr had also translated and systematised the old Babylonian legal documents, having written large commentary in addition to it. This serious work entitled Altbabylonische Rechtsurkunden aus der Zeit der I -ste Babylonische Dynastie (Old Babylonian legal documents of the times of the I -st Babylonian dynasty). The legal issues and the law history were of the main subject of Schorr's research. That is not surprising since the scholar was a rabbi himself. He did a significant research in the comparative studies of the law system of Babylon and the surrounding cultures of that time, in particular the Hebrew legal system.
Among them: Kodeks Hammurabiego a ówczesna praktyka prawna (Hammurabi Code and the ancient oriental legal practices) which first appeared in Rozprawy (Studies)of the historical department of Cracow Academy of Sciences and in 1907 it was published separately .
The greatest achievement of the scholar in the oriental field is considered the work Urkunden des altbabylonische Zivil- und Prozessrechts (The documents of the Old Babylonian civil and criminal law). This is the edition of sources with broad comments of Schorr.
For a long time Schorr actively cooperated with Lwów Zionist newspaper Chwila (the wave), published in Lwów in the inter-war period. In his numerous publications he popularised his old and initiated the new themes and ideas. Those articles in their larger part, were neither examined nor included in his bibliography. The set of newspapers for 1918-1939 had been reviewed, which is kept in the Scientific Library of Lwów University. The most important among them are: Palestyna a Babylon w świetle najnowszych wykopalisk (Palestine and Babylon in the light of recent archaeological excavations, 1923); Samuel Hirsch Margulies (1922), which is dedicated to the outstanding personality of Italian Jewry, a native of Galicia Samuel Hirsch Margulies (1858-1922), who became later the leader of Italian Jewry. This publication is in commemoration of the scholar due to his death in the same year. In his obituary, Schorr writes:
"Italian Jewry has undergone a great loss in the death of the Rabbi of Florence and rector of local rabbinical seminary Dr. Samuel Hirsch Margulies (died on March 12), who had been the Rabbi for more than three decades leaving a strong footprint on a life and culture of the Jews of whole Italy. Margulies was of Polish origin…In 1890 he was called for the position of the Rabbi of Florence, where he managed to became the leader of whole Italian Jewry. He became the spiritual leader in all the spheres of the civic life, on account of his deep Judaic knowledge, organisational abilities and personal favourite pursuits in the subjects of spirit and heart. Thanks to him the indifferent religious life of Italian Jews started to be a live artery filled with strong native Jewish traditions and culture. He also initiated the centralized unification of all Jewish communities which created a new Collegio rabbinico italiano…in Florence...This seminary produced an array of young Rabbis, who started the spiritual renaissance of Italian Jewry."
Schorr's interest in spiritual subjects and religious life was his distinct trait and attribute, for he himself was the main Rabbi of Warsaw and the first rector of the Institute of Jewish Sciences (Rabbinical seminary), deeply sympathising the personality of his friend S. Hirsch Margulies, so alike to his own. Sschorr’s broadest article in Chwila is extensive "Prawo Mojżesza na tle poròwnawczem prawodawst Starożytnego Wschodu" (The Moses' law in the comparative perspective with the laws of the Ancient Orient). This is the large series of articles in several newspaper issues, where Schorr continues and develops his previous studies drawing comparisons between the Biblical and Babylonian laws in the first part of the publication, following with the comparison with the Assyrian and Hettite legislatures in the second and third sections. Here Schorr is also referring to his previous work about the Hettites Problem Chettòw (The Hettites' problem), published seven years before in Kwartalnik historyczny.
Furthermore, a few others newly discovered publications of Schorr should be mentioned. Some of them deal with the history of the Polish Jewry as: "Kwestya żydowska w dobie Sejmu Wiekiego" (The Jewish question at the time of the Great Sejm).
Some are of the reliogious and teaching content like "Radosna Chwila" (The joyful moment) and Pesach Micarim - Pesach le Atid on the occasion of the Easter celebration. The latter one is the series of articles of the religious – historical character, where the author talks about the Haggadah and the Exodus of Jews from Egypt, through the prism of this legendary collection of the legends and tales of the Jewish people. He starts it with the words from Mishna (Pesach X.5) : In every generation and age a man must be considered as a member of the Exodus from Egypt... - the sublime flash in the mind of deep historiosopher, who as intuitively grasped the greatness of this episode on the eve of Israel's history…continues Schorr. Summarising the biography and the scientific legacy of Schorr, we may surely talk about him as the outstanding personality and famous historian, the person of wide outlook and versatile interests, whose scientific heritage is deserving the most serious attention and study.
The Wikipedia article on Moses Schorr had been entirely and interest free contributed by the editor and author Roman Zacharij and is based on editor's paper: "Moses Schorr: Galician Jewish historian, orientalist, politician and rabbi in the vanguard of Poland’s Jewry"(written in 2004 at S. Dubnow Institute, Leipzig)
(Organisation of Jews in Poland since the earliest times till 1772). Kwartalnik Historyczny, 1899.