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Salman Schocken

Hebrew: שלמה זלמן שוקן
Birthplace: Margonin, Chodzież County, (then - German Empire), Poland
Death: August 06, 1959 (81)
Pontresina, Maloja District, Grisons, Switzerland
Place of Burial: Jerusalem, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Isaac Schocken and Eva Schocken
Husband of Private
Father of Gershom Gustav Schocken, (Journalist politician editor of Haaretz member of Knesset); Theodore Ernst Schocken; Chava Rome, Glazer; Micha Joseph Schocken and Major-General Gideon (Walter) Schocken
Brother of Emma Hirsch; Hermann Schocken; Lea Helene Spiro; Julius Joseph* Schocken; Simon Schocken and 4 others

Occupation: Department Store chain Owner, Publishman and businessman
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Salman Schocken

Salman Schocken (1877-1959) led an extraordinary life. An East European Jew by birth, he flourished as a businessman and cultural entrepreneur in Germany, Palestine and Israel, and the United States. His great marketing insight was that common people desired quality goods, so long as they were affordable.

Before WWI and into the 1920s, he turned a small retail shop into a modern department store chain, following the most efficient business principles and commissioning the great modernist architect Erich Mendelssohn to design his flagship store.

But Schocken's true loves were books and Jewish and German culture. He amassed a library of treasures, including medieval Jewish manuscripts and first editions of Goethe and others. A modern Medici, Schocken supported with stipends and advice (not always desired) many of the great Jewish cultural figures of the first half of the 20th century, including S.Y. Agnon, Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem.

Like so many German Jews, his belief in German rectitude and culture blinded him to the seriousness of the Nazi threat, and only very late and with a great deal of good fortune was he able to move his family and some of his wealth to Palestine.

His greatest legacies were the establishment of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in which he played a key role, and Schocken Books, which remains to this day an important imprint. This biography by David, editor and translator of Gershom Scholem's letters, is serious and illuminating, but the writing can barely keep pace with the colorful character that was Salman Schocken

Salman Z. Schocken שלמה זלמן שוקן‎ (October 29, 1877, Margonin, Province of Posen, German Empire (today Poland) – August 6, 1959, Pontresina, Switzerland) was a German Jewish publisher and businessman. He lived in Germany until 1934, when he first emigrated to Palestine, and then in 1940 to the United States.

Salman Schocken was the son of a Jewish shopkeeper in Posen. In 1901, he moved to Zwickau, a German town in southwest Saxony, to help manage a department store owned by his brother, Simon. Together they built up the business and established a chain of stores throughout Germany. In Chemnitz and Stuttgart, Schocken commissioned German Jewish architect Erich Mendelsohn to build branches of the Kaufhaus Schocken.

In 1915, Schocken co-founded Zionist journal Der Jude (with Martin Buber). After Simon's death in 1929, when his friend Franz Rosenzweig also died, Salman Schocken became sole owner of the firm and established the Schocken Institute for Research on Hebrew Poetry in Berlin. In 1931, he founded the publishing company Schocken Verlag, which, at the time, reprinted the Buber-Rosenzweig translation of the Bible.

In 1933, the Nazis stripped Schocken of his citizenship. They forced him to sell his German enterprises to Merkur AG, but he managed to recover some of his property after World War II.

In 1934 Schocken left Germany for Palestine. In Jerusalem, he built the Schocken Library, also designed by Erich Mendelsohn, was a board member of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and bought the newspaper Haaretz for 23,000 pounds sterling in 1935. His eldest son, Gershom Schocken, became the chief editor in 1939 and held that position until his death in 1990.

The Schocken family today has a 60% share of the newspaper. Salman Schocken also founded the Schocken Publishing House Ltd. and, in New York in 1945 with the aid of Hannah Arendt and Nahum Glatzer, opened another branch, Schocken Books. In 1987 Schocken Books became an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Random House, owned by Bertelsmann since 1998.

Schocken became a board member of the Jewish National Fund and helped with the purchase of land in the Haifa Bay area.

Schocken became the patron of Shmuel Yosef Agnon already during his years in Germany,. Recognizing Agnon's literary talent, Schocken paid him a stipend that relieved him of financial worries and allowed him to devote himself to writing. Agnon went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966, not without the support of the well-connected Schocken.

In 1940 Schocken left Palestine with his family except for one son, and settled in the United States. Schocken died in 1959 while vacationing in Switzerland.

In 1910 Salman Schocken married Zerline (Lilli) Ehrmann, a twenty-year-old German Jewish woman from Frankfurt. They had four sons and one daughter.

  • Their eldest son, Gustav Gershom Schocken, succeeded his father at the Schocken publishing house in Tel Aviv and at the Haaretz newspaper.
  • Another son, Gideon Schocken, became a Haganah fighter and later a general and the head of the Manpower Directorate of the Israel Defense Forces.

The home of Salman Schocken is at 7 Smolenskin Street in Rehavia (aka Rechavia), a neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel. It was designed by Erich Mendelsohn. The building, constructed of Jerusalem stone between 1934 and 1936, was originally surrounded by a spacious 1.5-acre (6,100 m2) garden. In 1957, the property was sold to the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, which invited another architect, Joseph Klarvin, to design an additional front wing of classrooms facing the street. Klarvin also added a third story, dispensing with the pergolas and blocking over the oval pool in the courtyard.

Schocken also had a library built in Jerusalem for his significant book collection. The building was also designed by Erich Mendelsohn and was built at 6 Balfour Street.

Today, the historic building is home to the Schocken Institute for Jewish Research of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. The Institute houses the Salman Schocken Library and other important archives and collections of Jewish and other books.

On June 12, 2014 a court in Berlin awarded 50 million euros to Salman Schoken's surviving heirs in Israel as part of reparations for the seizure of Schocken AG by the Nazi regime in 1938.

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Salman Schocken's Timeline

October 30, 1877
Margonin, Chodzież County, (then - German Empire), Poland
- 1938
Age 23
Zwickau, Sachsen, Germany

1901 - 1938, 1949-1953

September 29, 1912
Zwickau, Sachsen, Germany
October 8, 1914
Zwickau, Germany
September 28, 1918
Zwickau, Sachsen, Germany
December 28, 1919
Zwickau, Germany
January 15, 1923
Zwickau, Germany
August 6, 1959
Age 81
Pontresina, Maloja District, Grisons, Switzerland
Age 81
Jerusalem, Israel