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Nov 2002 Journal

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C. C. Aronsfeld: Passionate scholar of the Holocaust

Cesar (he preferred the initials C.C.) Aronsfeld, who has died at the age of 92, was a major scholar, researcher and historian of the Holocaust, playing a key role in the establishment and running of the Wiener Library. In his later years, he became the temporary editor of AJR Information, the forerunner of the AJR Journal.

Born in 1910 the oldest of four children of an Orthodox wine merchant in Exin in eastern Germany (now Kcynia in Poland), Aronsfeld left Germany for England soon after Hitler gained power. In London he met Alfred Wiener, who was at the time seeking an English translator for an archive he was assembling on National Socialism. He was to become Wiener’s principal assistant for the next quarter-century. The Jewish Central Information Office, as it was known before it was renamed the Wiener Library, played a key role in information and propaganda aspects of the Second World War. After the war, Aronsfeld edited the Wiener Library Bulletin, which was perhaps his greatest contribution in the postwar years. When Wiener retired in 1961, Aronsfeld took over as acting director of the Library. Following Wiener’s death in 1964, Walter Laqueur was appointed director. In 1966 Aronsfeld left the Wiener Library for the position of Senior Research Officer at the Institute of Jewish Affairs. Here he edited the scholarly journals Patterns of Prejudice and Christian-Jewish Relations.

Aronsfeld was a prolific letter-writer and one of the journals to which he frequently wrote, and to which he made a regular contribution on themes relating to world Jewish history, Anglo-Jewish history and Christian-Jewish relations was the AJR Information. Having retired from the Institute of Jewish Affairs in the mid-1980s at the age of 75, he was invited to become the temporary editor of AJR Information, which he did for two years, handing over the editorship to Richard Grunberger in spring 1988. Following his departure, the AJR Information noted that ‘we have since received many letters indicating appreciation of the lively debate he has introduced’ and that the publication’s ‘contents and layout soon showed the marks of his professional experience, a deep knowledge of Jewish affairs, and a feeling for the interests of our readership.’

Cesar Aronsfeld held characteristically strong views on major Jewish issues of the day, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, on which he was inclined to take a doveish stance. A strong polemical element informed many of his writings, which were not seldom imbued with a somewhat apocalyptic warning about a possible recrudescence in the UK or elsewhere of Nazi-style antisemitism. He was very much a private man, deeply sensitive, modest, and friendly with people whom he respected, yet he could be unexpectedly abrupt towards those for whom he had little respect or who, as he believed, wished to interfere in his closely guarded independence.
Howard Spier

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