Scandinavia Special Interest Group (SIG)

Josef Fischer (1871-1949)

Nestor of

Jewish Genealogy in Denmark

Josef Fischer was born 15. August 1871 in Siůfok, Hungary, as son of merchant Jacob Fischer (1826-1908) and Rosalie (1841-1914), he died 1949. He was married 21. May 1901 in Copenhagen to Paula Priefche Eichel born 26. December 1878 in Copenhagen, daughter of Lion Eichel (1830-88) and Sara Goldschmidt (1855-1921), she died in 1972. Josef Fischer studied to become a rabbi in Eisenstadt and graduated at the age of 22. In 1893 he became a teacher and librarian in Copenhagen as well as director of the Jewish poor relief in Denmark (1901-1932) and inspector of the Jewish cemeteries.

In the spare time from these jobs - and additional other jobs which he took upon himself or was given by the Jewish Community - he diligently researched and published a great number of books on Danish Jewish genealogy. His works were of a very high - academic - standard and they set an example to be followed by others.

The first genealogy by Josef Fischer was published in 1904: a pedigree for his wife's family. From 1911 to 1928 he published one - sometimes two genealogies - almost every year. From 1928 he was busy preparing the many genealogical surveys for the 2nd Edition of "Dansk Biografisk Leksikon" ( ~ "Danish Biographical Lexicon") which was issued 1933-1943.

Josef Fischer was also a renowned historian and personal historian: From 1917-1925 he was editor of the "Journal of Jewish History and Literature", in 1914 (together with Julius Salomon) he edited "Mindeskrift i Anledning af Hundreaarsdagen for Anordningen af 29. marts 1814" [Memorial Publication at the Occasion of the Centenary of the Royal Decree of 29. March 1814] and in 1923 he was coeditor of "Festskrift i Anledning af Professor D. Simonsens 70-aarige Fødselsdag" [Festschrift at the Occasion of Professor D. Simonsenís 70 years Anniversary]. Apart from that Josef Fischer has also published a number of articles on Danish Jewish genealogy and history.

In his genealogical as well as historical research Josef Fischer was the first in Denmark to make use of Hebrew and primary sources, e.g. headstones, Jewish probate records, tax- and donation lists. This is reflected in the National Archivesí extensive collection comprising among others his correspondence, his transscripts of records, original documents he received, his notes (made in preparation of many of the genealogies and historical works - much of which was never published). This as well as all his published works are a treasure-trove for historians and genealogists.

The years 1933-1943 left him no time for genealogies, there were more important and serious issues at hand: Joseph Fischer devoted his time to helping refugees from Germany and later the German occupied countries. As member of the "Committee of 4. May 1933" he was solely responsible for the "Emigrant Office" until 1938, at which time he was assisted by a young Jewish emigrant, Erich Bier, who came to Denmark in 1933.

In 1943 Josef Fischer was caught by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camp Theresienstadt.

He survived and after his return to Copenhagen - in spite of illness - Josef Fischer once more devoted his time to history and genealogy and published two more books in 1948 and 1949. At the time of his death in July 1949 he was working on yet another genealogy and for which he had already gathered a comprehensive material. This last unfinished genealogy, was completed by Michael Hartvig and published in 1953.

Most of Josef Fischer's genealogies also contain much information on the history of the Jews in Denmark in older times, as well as many illustrations and portraits.

We owe much to Joseph Fishcer, who inpsired many with his interest for both genealogy and history of the Jews in Denmark, first and foremost his successor as librarian, Julius Margolinsky, and Michael Hartvig.

In February 2000 Josef Fischerís name has been inscribed on JewishGen's "Wall of Honor" in honor of his immeasurable inspiration - and importance - for Jewish genealogy and history in Denmark.


  • Karsten Christensen: "Dansk Jødisk Genealogi, I" [Danish Jewish Genealogy, I], in: Dansk Jødisk Historie, May 1986, No. 23 (pp. 18-22).
  • Elias Levin: "Den gamle jødiske begravelsesplads i Møllegade 1694-1994", Vol. 1, Copenhagen, 1994 (p. 11).
  • Det Mosaiske Troessamfund i København med nedlagte troessamfund i provinsen - en arkivregistratur. (Eds. Thyge Svenstrup & Vello Helk), National Archives, Copenhagen, 1993 (pp. 88-94).

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Compiled and updated 30.okt.2005