Despite its pivotal role in the Jewish history of southern Germany and Switzerland, Stühlingen has been largely ignored by historians. A notable exception was Berthold Rosenthal, who is not even mentioned in the Encyclopedia Judaica. Rosenthal, a secondary-level school-teacher, self-taught historian, and genealogist, was born 1875 in Liedolsheim near Karlsruhe.3 For three years he attended teachers’ college in Karlsruhe, and from 1894 to 1897 he taught Jewish parochial school in a variety of small towns. In 1901 Rosenthal attained a position as a high-school teacher in Karlsruhe. From 1914 to 1916 he served in the German army and was wounded in action. By 1933 he had been fired from his teaching position under the racial laws of the Nazi regime,4 and in 1940 he managed to immigrate to the United States. Rosenthal died in 1957 at the age of eighty-two in Omaha, Nebraska.
He is best remembered today for his avocational research into the history of the Jews in southern Germany. Between 1920 and 1940 Rosenthal visited archives all over southwestern Germany in order to carry out his research. It was the time before copy machines. He recorded all of his findings by hand in a distinctive German script, producing copious notes that measure some six linear feet in the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) archives; his notes were later microfilmed, digitized, and are now accessible on the internet as the “Berthold Rosenthal Collection.”5
Rosenthal’s magnum opus, Heimatgeschichte der badischen Juden (Regional History of the Baden Jews) attempted to defend the issue of an integral German Jewish identity against misgivings both from within and from without.6 The literal translation of his book’s title is both inadequate and misleading. “Baden” refers to the southwestern corner of Germany and now constitutes part of Baden-Württemberg, one of Germany’s federated states. But the German word Heimat — a romantic concept implying home, roots, belonging, identity, and race — has no proper English equivalent and is ideologically and emotionally charged. Published in 1927, Rosenthal’s book was more didactic than scholarly, very much in keeping with traditional Jewish historiography.7 Unfortunately, the book was too little, too late to stem the tide of history.
3Rosenthal, “LBI, Guide to the Papers of Berthold Rosenthal.”
4Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums
5Rosenthal, “Guide to the Papers of Berthold Rosenthal.”
6Derman, “Constructing a German-Jewish Heimat.”
7Bell, Jewish Identity. 1–18.