Jewish professors

at Heidelberg University

Jacob Israel (1621-1674)

Jacob Israel (1621-1674), Jew, German physician, city physician and professor in Heidelberg
Jacob Israel (1621-1674), Jude, deutscher Arzt, Stadtphysikus und Professor in Heidelberg

Jacob Israel (1621 - 1674) is the only Jew who became a professor and even rector at a German university in modern times without converting.

He was hired in March 1651 as Stadtphysikus (city physician) in Heidelberg, responsible for public health and hygiene in Heidelberg. In December 1652, he was appointed professor at the university by Elector Karl Ludwig. He taught physiology, anatomy, and surgery, and from 1672 medical practice, pathology and pharmaceutics. In 1658 he held the office of secondary rector of the university (the rector was, so to speak, "honoris causa" a Count v. Nassau-Saarbrücken), and in 1662, 1670, and 1673 that of a rector.

In 1665 he was appointed by the Elector as Surgeon General and Overseer in the hospitals of the Sapienz College and the orphanages at Handschuhsheim and Mannheim.

Jacob Israel organized public dissections of human bodies for an entrance fee and enforced the ban on pig keeping in the city of Heidelberg.

He lived at Dreikönigstraße 10, where his widow is still mentioned until 1686.

The professorship of the Jewish physician Jacob Israel remained an isolated case and did not mean the opening of the university to Jews as teachers or students.

It was not until 1724 that the first Jewish student was enrolled in Heidelberg: Seligmann Elkan Heymann Bacharach from Mannheim.

Ernst Levy (1881-1968)

Ernst Levy, title page
Ernst Levy, Titelblatt "Die römische Kapitalstrafe"


Ernst Levy (1881 - 1968) was a German jurist and legal historian. Because of his Jewish origin he was persecuted during the National Socialist era and had to leave Germany.

As a scientist, Ernst Levy worked mainly in the field of Roman law and ancient legal history.

From 1928 he belonged to the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and was a professor at the University of Heidelberg. He was removed from this post in 1935 because of his "non-Aryan" origins.

In 1936, Levy was forced to immigrate to the USA.

After World War II, he was awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of Heidelberg, Frankfurt am Main, and Athens.

In 1956 he received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Otto Fritz Meyerhof (1884-1951)

Otto Fritz Meyerhof (1884-1951), Jew, German biochemist, Nobel Prize winner
Otto Fritz Meyerhof (1884-1951), Jude, deutscher Biochemiker, Nobelpreisträger

Otto Fritz Meyerhof (1884-1951) was a German biochemist who, together with Archibald Vivian Hill, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1922 for his research on metabolism in muscle.

In 1929, he was appointed to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, initiated by Ludolf von Krehl, where he served as director of the Physiological Department from 1930 and made further ground-breaking discoveries.

Meyerhof was elected a full member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences in 1931.

In 1935, Otto Meyerhof was deprived of his honorary professorship, which he had held since 1929, for racist reasons. In 1937 he resigned from the Academy and in 1947 he was readmitted as a corresponding member.

As director of an institute that was not directly state-run, Meyerhof was initially able to retain the directorship of the institute in 1933 regardless of his Jewish origins, but in 1935, under the Nazi influence, the Minister of Culture of Baden revoked his teaching license. In the following years, although Meyerhof's colleagues at the institute held on to him, working conditions deteriorated to the point of intolerability, so that in September 1938 Meyerhof initially fled to Switzerland and from there went to Paris. In 1940, he fled to the United States to escape the invading German troops.

He died at age 67 of his second heart attack.

Heidelberg University erected an honourable memorial to his memory in 2001 with the establishment of the Otto Meyerhof Centre for Outpatient Medicine and Clinical Research.

Karl Löwith (1897 – 1973)

Karl Löwith (1897-1973), Jew, German philosopher
Karl Löwith (1897-1973), Jude, deutscher Philosoph

Karl Löwith (1897 - 1973) was a German philosopher. Although baptized Protestant, he was persecuted by the National Socialists as a Jew and had to emigrate from Germany in 1934. Löwith's main areas of research were the field of philosophy of history and the thought of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Martin Heidegger. His works "Von Hegel zu Nietzsche" and "Weltgeschichte und Heilsgeschehen" are considered classics of contemporary philosophical literature.

Through the mediation of the Heidelberg philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, Löwith was appointed to the University of Heidelberg in 1952 and taught there until his retirement in 1964. He was a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences.

He died in Heidelberg in 1973 at the age of 76. He was buried in the cemetery of Heidelberg-Neuenheim.

It appears that you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer as your web browser to access our site.

For practical and security reasons, we recommend that you use a current web browser such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, or Edge. Internet Explorer does not always display the complete content of our website and does not offer all the necessary functions.