Guide to the Papers of Eduard Lasker (1860-1929)

AR 1195

Processed by Hannah Loewenberg-Harnest

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2011 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey in January 2011. Description is in English.
January 13, 2013  Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Lasker, Eduard, 1829-1884
Title: Eduard Lasker Collection
Dates:bulk 1860-1929
Abstract: This collection documents the life and work of Eduard Lasker, a German politician and jurist, who was member of the Prussian House of Representatives between 1865 and 1879, and later on member of the German Parliament (1867). He played a decisive role in the process of German Unification (1870), and gained importance as a co-founder and leader of the National Liberal Party and chief opponent to Chancellor Bismarck. The collection includes a great amount of photographs, identity cards, membership cards and business cards, but the core consists of obituaries, transcripts of some of his speeches and essays of other scholars, a draft of a constitution of the North German Federation with marginal comments by Lasker, letters, newspaper clippings, scholarly papers, essays, articles and a review.
Languages: The collection is in German and English.
Quantity: 0.75 linear feet
Identification: AR 1195
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
Return to the Top of Page

Biographical Note

In 1829, Eduard Lasker was born into an orthodox Jewish merchant family in Jarotschin, a village in Posen (today Jarocin in Poland). He attended secondary school and subsequently University in Breslau where he studied mathematics and law. In 1848, he took an active part in the ongoing revolutions in Vienna, like many students of his time, who were discontented with the ruling system and asked for a more democratic order and social justice.

Afterwards he went to Berlin, where he continued his legal studies and eventually was employed as a lawyer's assistant at the Kammergericht in Berlin. He went to England after his second state examination in order to devote his time to the study of constitutional law. England at that time served as the model state for German liberals. He returned to Prussia/Berlin in 1856 after three years, and became Assessor to the Stadtgericht two years later. Because of his Jewish roots, a judge's career was denied him.

Throughout the years 1861-1864, Lasker earned an initial reputation by writing various articles, which were later to be published under the title Zur Verfassungsgeschichte Preussens (Leipzig, 1974).

In 1865, he was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives, and in 1867 to the German Parliament, benefiting from a changed social environment, where Jews were more readily given equal status, since they had fought in the same wars of unification in 1866 (Austro-Prussian War) and 1870 (German-French War).

As a consequence of his fervent identification with Liberalism, he first joined the German Progress Party (DFP), and later on helped form the National Liberal Party, whose members strongly supported Bismarck's foreign policy, although they disagreed with him most of the time on domestic issues.

Lasker was a very energetic and influential parliamentarian, who was a decisive force in the law-making process, always keeping in mind the values of liberty as a guiding principle. Amongst other things, he is well-known to posterity for a speech that he made in 1873, where he unveiled the financial mismanagement of the Pomeranian railway and was responsible for the resignation of Hermann Wagener, one of Bismarck's most trusted men.

Lasker was an idealist and optimist, and he and his parliamentary allies contributed to the legal unity of the German nation and the strengthening of the powers and privileges of Parliament. Two of his great achievements were a thorough-going reform of the fiscal structure and the right of parliamentary free speech, which was accepted by the Reichstag despite Bismarck's opposition.

Lasker also identified himself with the needs of the common people. He was a member of and even teacher at several craftsmen's associations.

He never married. In late 1883 he went on to a trip to the United States, where he met with his brother M. Lasker, who had immigrated to Galveston, Texas earlier in the century. He gave several speeches, some at charitable institutions like the Mount Sinai Hospital, and he died in January 1884 – some claim that it was due to an overload of work.

The U.S. House of Representatives sent a note of condolence to the German Parliament, which was rejected by Bismarck on the ground of irreconcilable differences.

Return to the Top of Page

Scope and Content Note

The Eduard Lasker Collection is arranged in three series and contains a large amount of photographs, business cards, membership cards and identification cards, but also holds other significant documents, like newspaper clippings (mostly obituaries), personal correspondence, speeches, working notes, a transcript of Lasker’s testament and instruction relating to it, a scholarly article and essay, and documents pertaining to Lasker’s political activity.

The central theme of this collection is Eduard Lasker's public and political life and appears to be the 'leitmotiv' of the three series. He stands out as one of the most important and influential personalities of his time, as a politician, jurist, parliamentarian and defender of liberal values in Bismarck's Germany and years surrounding German unification (1870).

Looking at Series III: Photographs and Cards, it is striking to see that Lasker found the time to be a member of various associations (craftsmen, literary, arts and crafts) and even teach the 'common' people, along with being an active lawyer, one of the leaders of the German National Party and member of the German Parliament. The photographs in this series show men, some of whom have surely been his parliamentary allies, who discussed current political issues with him in letters from Series II: Political Activities (some letters are written in old Suetterlin handwriting). Series II also holds a book with transcripts of Lasker's speeches, with such titles such as 'The future of the German Empire', which is also translated into English. In Series I: Personal, one can extract information about Eduard Lasker, the person, through praising obituaries in newspapers, like the New York Times, in several German papers, and in Freemason journals. An essay and article by Gordon R. Mork constitute interesting views on Lasker and his activities from a scholarly point of view: a portrait of a 'critic of Bismarckian Germany' and an insight into Lasker's role in the Prussian Railway Scandal of 1873 ('Economics and Politics in the German Empire').

Return to the Top of Page


The collection is divided into three series in the following manner:

Return to the Top of Page

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.

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

Return to the Top of Page

Access Points

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

Related Material

The Lasker Family Collection documents Helmuth Lasker's genealogical research project on the origins of his family. It can be found in the Archives of the Leo Baeck Institute, call number: AR 5136. There is also an article on Lasker and Bismarck by Hugo Feldenfeld, published in Der Zeitgeist on January 4, 1909, which can be found under MF 41(7). A manuscript by Veit Valentin on Eduard Lasker is available on microfilm: MF 183: Manuscript by Veit Valentin: Eduard Lasker or the Tragedy of German Liberalism (586p).

Return to the Top of Page

Separated Material

Some photographs from this collection have been removed to the Photograph Collection.

Return to the Top of Page

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Eduard Lasker Collection; AR 1195; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

Return to the Top of Page

Processing Information

Internal rearrangement of Series I, removal of folder III B 65 from Series III to Series II. Removal of business card (invitation card) no. 65 to Series I, Folder: invitation cards and drawing.

Return to the Top of Page

Other Finding Aid

This collection has a previous item-level inventory.

Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Personal, 1856-1976

This series is in German and English.


Scope and Content:

Series I consists of a wide array of documents, such as letters, newspaper clippings, obituaries, speeches and articles, which all reflect different aspects of Lasker’s personality and career. A common theme is the amount of praise and appreciation with which his life and activities are depicted. He was acquainted with prominent figures like the chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, and maintained an active correspondence with leading political figures. The obituaries at his time of death and at the anniversaries of his passing speak highly of his great services for the fatherland, devoted patriotism and sincere altruism. He was an admirable statesman, who ‘worked indefatigably for the attainment of high ideals’, and wanted ‘justice for all classes and liberty for every individual’. One quality of Lasker shines through all the documents, which is idealism and the fact that he did not renounce political ideas, although it eventually meant the end of his career. One of his main goals as leader of the National Liberal Party was to advance constitutional liberalism. Most of the letters are in ‘Suetterlin’ handwriting and hard to read. Mr. Lasker was also interested in the charitable work of Jewish organizations in America, which is reflected in his speech at the Mount Sinai Hospital in December 1883 (journal extract).

11Invitation cards and drawing1856-1884
13Newspaper clippings and obituaries1884-1934
Box TitleDate
OS 38 Newspaper clippings and obituaries - Oversized1884
14Scholarly research1968-1976
16Wills and testaments1880-1884
17Working notes1925?
Return to the Top of Page

Series II: Political Activities, 1867-1881

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

Series II contains documents pertaining to Eduard Lasker’s involvement in the political life of Germany under Bismarck in the second half of the 19th century, in his position as parliamentarian and defender of liberal values. There are drafts of the constitution of the North German Alliance (with marginal, handwritten comments by Lasker) and of (later on) the German Alliance, resolutions for an electoral assembly of Berlin, newspaper clippings, electoral calls to be addressed by the Lasker Committee and Liberal Committee, several letters (one from the foreign office; one discussing the politics of Bismarck; one from parliamentary allies; one about the relation between the war in 1866 and the present time), notes (which were identified as being most certainly by Lasker himself), and a volume of transcripts of some of Lasker’s speeches (also translated into English).

A handful of these documents merit further attention in order to get an insight into Eduard Lasker’s work: By reading the paragraphs of the resolutions presented to the Berlin General Electoral Meeting for the North German Parliament, one can get acquainted with some of Lasker’s main political ideas. He was one of the chief defenders of the necessity of a united German state, with the central powers in the hands of the Prussian state and the Liberty of the Nation, guaranteed by a freely elected Parliament. In this document, Lasker speaks about the basic rights of the Nation, and proposes a division of powers: the central power (the Prussian State) should decide in matters relating to the military, the navy, diplomacy and economics, and the Parliament should have a decisive role in the legislation process and the approval of taxes.

Furthermore, there is a newspaper article in the Neue Frankfurter Presse, in which Eduard Lasker gives account of his political activities and motivations. He speaks about the good work, developing reputation and activities of the House of Representatives, which are the development of liberty, the constitutional law, and of parliamentary reforms. He mentions the unusual transparency of the German tax and financial management, and that a reform of latter one can only be possible through an initiative of the government. Having made himself a name for being close to the common people, he also talks about the advantages of self-administration. Lasker touches on the topic of the catholic church, and quite modern for his time suggests the adoption of 'civil marriage', reflecting the so-called Kulturkampf against catholic citizens in those days.

In an electoral address of 1874 to the ‘voters of the city and the state’, the Lasker Committee campaigns for a seat for Lasker in the second German Reichstag. He is fervently being depicted as a 'true' German, who does not leave any doubts about his German patriotism and loyalty. He shall create a harmonious relationship between law and justice and the claims of liberty and welfare of the people.

18Political activities1867-1881
Box TitleDate
OS 38 Political activities - Oversized1867-1874
Return to the Top of Page

Series III: Photographs and Cards, 1860-1883

This series is in German.
0.5 linear ft.


Scope and Content:

Series III comprises a large amount of photographs of males, most probably from the public sphere and Lasker’s political circle. Furthermore, there is a wide range of business cards: of his immediate family members (several Laskers), lawyers, judges, political allies (members of Parliament like him), rabbis (Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Hermann Adler 1891-1911), craftsmen, medical doctors, editors, bankers (e.g. Oppenheim), musical directors (e.g. Hermann Levi) etc.

In this section one will also find identification cards of Lasker, issued by the Kingdom of Prussia, as well as permits for free journeys with the German National Railway, due to his position as member of the Reichstag (Parliament).

There are quite a few membership cards: German National Association Coburg; Society for the Advancement of the Ability to Work of Women; teacher at a craftsmen association in Berlin; Berlin media; International Literary Association; admission ticket to the sculpture collection of the 'Alte Museum'; identification cards for deputies; and membership cards for several legislative periods of the Reichstag and the North German Federation.

22Photographs A1865-1883?
23Photographs B1865-1883?
24Photographs C1865-1883?
25Photographs D1865-1883?
Return to the Top of Page