Eduard Gans 1798-1839
Gans was born into an affluent family in Berlin. His father was a banker, and he received an excellent early education. His studies of law began in the Berlin Univeristy, then Goettingen and Heidelberg. In the following year he became docent at Berlin University, soon attracting an extraordinarily large number of hearers.
Gans and his friends established a movement that aimed to prevent the conversion of Jews to Christianity for political or social reasons. Such conversions were common in Gans’ day, as conversion to Christianity opened a door of opportunity that was closed otherwise to the Jews. To aid in carrying out the purposes of the society Gans founded a scientific institute, in which lectures were delivered by the members. He discussed, in a cycle of lectures, “the laws concerning the Jews in Rome as derived from ancient Roman law”; he delivered a lecture on the history of the Jews in the north of Europe and in the Slavonic countries, and wrote an essay on the principles of the Mosaic-Talmudic hereditary law, which constituted a chapter of his volume on “Erbrecht.” All these treatises appeared in a periodical entitled “Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums” (vol. i., 1822). The movement however, was not appreciated and the society went out of existence in 1822 due to a lack of interest.
Three years later, Gans himself became a Christian! He was a contemporary of Regine Jolberg, Sigmund Zimmern and Dr. Neustetel, all like him members of the upper echelon of society, who came to faith in the Messiah of Israel.
In 1828 he became professor. He was a singularly attractive teacher. The largest lecture-hall in the university was not capacious enough to accommodate the number of his hearers, particularly at his lectures on modern history, which were delivered in such a spirit of freedom that the government authorities frequently suppressed them. They were, however, as often resumed on the representations of Kultusminister von Altenstein.
Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1839, pp. 294-295, 307-308;
St. Marc-Girardin, Notice sur la Vie et les Ouvrages de Gans, Introduction to the French translation of the Erbrecht by De Lomenie;
Strodtmann, Heínes Leben und Werke, i. 247 et seq.;
Bernstein, A. Jewish Witnesses for Christ. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, new edition, 1999.
Breza-Spazier, Gallerie der Ausgezeichnetsten Israeliten, 1835;
Geiger, Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, v. 91 et seq.;
Grätz, Gesch. xi. 441 et seq.S. M. Co.
Hallische Jahrbücher für Deutsche Wissenschaft und Kunst, 1839, No. 132, pp. 206-207; 1840, No. 113;
Marheineke, Rede am Grabe des Prof. Gans, Berlin, 1839;
Steffenhagen, in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, viii. 361-362;