Emil Margulies (1877-1943)




Sosnowiec, Poland 16.07.1877
(Ober Schlesien/Upper Silesia, at that time part of Russian-Poland).


Father: Moritz Margulies
Mother: Clara Sussman


1869 Anna Margulies
1871 Isidor Margulies
18?? Julius Margulies
18?? Siegmund Margulies
1876 Isabella Margulies
1877 [Self]
1869 Hans Margulies
1890 Heinrich Margulies



Marriage announcement, Jüdische Zeitung 1919, Vol. 39
Marriage announcement in the
"Jüdische Zeitung", 24th Sept. 1919

1919 Marriage in September in Teplitz-Schönau to
Fritzi Scheuer (1896 - 1972)


1923 Lea Margulies (born 10.05.1923; died 1970)




1943 Israel 16.02.1943
Emil Margulies died, after a long battle with cancer of the liver.

Dr. Emil Margulies, Co-author of the Bernheim Petition, Dies in Palestine.
Tel Aviv, Feb. 19 (JTA)
Dr. Emil Margulies, prominent Zionist leader from Czechoslovakia and former president of the Jewish Party there, died here last night at the age of 66. He settled in Palestine in 1939.

Dr. Margulies was one of the authors of the historic "Bernheim Petition" which was presented to the League of Nations in 1933 in protest against the introduction of Nazi anti-Jewish laws in Upper Silesia, where legislation was to be regulated by a mixed Polish-German commission under then existing international regulations. The League recognized the validity of the arguments presented in the Bernheim Petition and the Nazis were prevented from applying their anti-Jewish laws in Upper Silesia for several years. JTA Jewish News Archive, February 21, 1943
Biographical Notes and Snippets…
Under [Isidor's] influence, Emil Margulies, who had gone a similar route in his studies and choice of profession, also jettisoned his leaning towards German-ness and german culture, and took up the zionistic cause[1].
Emil was in close contact with two of his brothers: the oldest, Isidor and the youngest, Heinrich. The parents sent both of them, as well as Emil, to larger cities, when they were still young, where they could visit better schools than were available in the small town of Sosnowitz [PL: Sosnowiec/Sosnowice]. [1]

Emil went to grammar school in Bielitz-Biala ("k.k.Staats-Gymnasium"), and spent his voluntary* military year in Olmütz and Vienna. He studied in Vienna, Munich, Zurich and Berlin, and then went back to Vienna for his dissertation.

* Normally a three year compulsory conscription, but academics could do one years service.
The "voluntary" as used here meant that they could choose where and in which branch of the services.

Map of Northern Bohemia

He spent a couple of years in Graz, Innsbruck and Teschen, and in 1903 he moved to Teplitz-Schönau, in Bohemia (today: part of the Czech Republik).

He lived most of his working life in Leitmeritz (Leitmerice), where he had a law practice.
Übersiedlung. Herr JUDr. Emil Margulies verlegt seine Advokatskanzlei von Prag nach Leitmeritz und wünschen Genannten in seinem neuen Domizil recht viel Glück. Jüdische Volkstimme 08.06.1910

During the war he served as a Food supply accessionist ("Verpflegsakzessist"), and in 1915 he was awarded the Medal of the Red Cross, 2.Grade ("Ehrenzeichen zweiter Klasse vom Roten Kreuz"). Source: Fremden-Blatt, Wien, 27. July 1915.

After the war he returned to Leitmeritz and re-opened his law practice.
Advokat : Dr. Emil Margulies hat seine Tätigkeit in, Leitmeritz wieder aufgenommen .... Teplitz-Schönauer Anzeiger, 7, Dec. 1918
As an active Zionist he travelled widely, organising various jewish groups and parties and giving talks and lectures. He wrote many articles in newspapers and periodicals, and - in between - continued his work as a lawyer.

In the newspapers of that time we find many mentions of his activities. The announcements and reports for his talks and lectures ranged from simple one-liners, to a 2-column spread with editorial comments.

Here are some examples of what were probably hundreds of similar announcements:

Announcement of a coming lecture in Dresden, by Dr. Emil Margulies

Die Welt, Vol.18 (1914) Nr 1, p.20.
A coming Meeting in Dresden

Report of a Meeting in Saaz, Bohemia, with Dr. Emil Margulies

Die Welt, Vol.18 (1914) Nr 6, p.147.
Report of a Meeting in Saaz, Bohemia

When Germany occupied the Sudetenland in 1938, Emil and his family had to flee Czechoslavakia. They stayed a while in Prague, but in 1939, they had to flee, again, in the last train that was able to cross the borders without hinderance.

This time the Margulies family fled to Erez Israel, Palestine. He knew no hebrew, so he couldn't apply for a licence as a lawyer. Instead he opened an office for legal advice, with other Czech colleagues.
He also joined various german-speaking clubs and organisations, where he continued to give lectures

In 1941 Emil "lost" his Czech citizenship:
7 Czech Jewish Exiles Stripped of Citizenship
London, Mar. 7 (JTA)
The Nazi authorities in the Czech Protectorate have deprived of citizenship seven leading Jews now abroad on charges of conducting "atrocity propaganda," The Jewish Chronicle reported today. Those named are former [...] and Emil Margulies, author of the famous Bernheim petition on Upper Silesia; [...]. JTA Jewish News Archive, March 09, 1941

See also the Margulies Family History, Moritz Margulies and Clara Sussman

Some highlights of his life…
Margulies, Emil (1877-1943), lawyer and Zionist leader. Born in Sosnowiec, Poland, Margulies became an ardent Zionist as a young man and, after his settlement in Bohemia, had a great share in the development of Zionism there and in the West Austrian district. At the Tenth Zionist Congress (1911), he submitted a new statute for the Zionist Movement. Throughout his life he was a "political" Zionist, and in 1923 he was co-founder of the Radical Zionist Fraction (Democratic Zionists), fighting against the enlargement of the Jewish Agency by non-Zionists. Parallel to his Zionist activities, Margulies was one of the principal founders of the Czechoslovak "Jewish Party", of which he became president for a time. He also actively participated in the work on international minority problems and was a Jewish representative to the Congress of National Minorities. Margulies attained world renown through his action in the Bernheim Petition. In 1939 he settled in Palestine, where, together with some colleagues, he opened an office for legal advice. [2]

(Memo to self: expand !!!

1911: 10th. Zionist Congress, in Basle

1914-1918: World War I, Emil Margulies was an officer in the Austrian Army.

1922: The Palestine Mandate

1925: The Minorities Conference

The "First Conference of Organised National Groups of European States" was held in Geneva. It was intended as an extension of the League of Nations, to protect the rights of minority groups in Europe. Emil was one of the eight jewish representatives. Through his work here, he became more well-known, and often had to come to Switzerland in connection with work for the League of Nations.

1927: The Diffamation Process ("Ehrenbeleidigungsprozess")

In 1926 Emil Margulies wrote a detailed article for the Prague "Selbstwehr" accusing Chief Rabbi Koloman Weber of fraudulence and deceit. This forced Weber to take the case to court, claiming diffamation of character (which is what Emil wanted).
The trial was in 1927, the verdict in 1928. Dr Emil Margulies was found "not guilty", thus proving the guilt of Weber.

1927: The Jewish Party of Czechoslovakia

Emil Margulies was the ideologist, the propagandist and the leader of the Czechoslavakian Jewish Party[1].

Under his leadership the party managed to win a seat in the Czech. parlament. Emil resigned as leader of the party, when it later decided not to present it's own candidate, and supported a socialist candidate instead.

1933: The "Bernheim Petition", League of Nations

According to Paragraph 147 of the 1922 German-Polish Convention, Germany undertook to protect all minority rights in the region annexed to her. In a letter to the Zionist Executive in London, Margulies proposed that a protest be lodged with the League of Nations at Germany's violation of the said paragraph vis-a-vis Upper Silesia. 'A petition must be organized by Jews throughout the world and the initiative must extend to all Jews everywhere. Geneva expects the initiative to come from the Jews...They must not remain silent and wait for others to act on their behalf. [The petition] must be based on legal evidence - not on 'atrocities' - on the violation of an international agreement in that the Jews of Upper Silesia who are lawyers, hospital doctors, university professors, and government clerks are not permitted to work.' On behalf of Fritz Bernheim, a minor employee in a government warehouse in Gleiwitz who had been fired by the Nazis and subsequently emigrated to Czechoslovakia, Margulies submitted a petition to the League of Nations, since by the terms of the Upper Silesia Convention any citizen whose national rights had been infringed could apply to the League. Margulies attached a hundred applications from Jewish organizations to the Bernheim petition, much to the consternation of von Keller, the German delegate to the League, who claimed that one Bernheim had no right to speak for all the Jews. To support his contention, von Keller submitted letters from assimilated Jewish organizations in Germany who protested the right of any Jewish minority to speak on their behalf. An ad hoc committee of jurists rejected the German objection, and in May 1933, the Bernheim petition was brought before the Council of the League of Nations. In this way at least the rest of the world learned of the civil rights problem of the Jews of Germany. http://www.vex.net/~nizkor/ftp.cgi/ftp.py?places/czechoslovakia/czech.001
Further: The Bernheim Petition"

Im Mai 1933 wurde im Namen des Pariser Comite des Delegations Juives beim Völkerbund in Genf die sogenannte Bernheim-Petition eingereicht. Mit ihr wurde die Entrechtung der deutschen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland öffentlich angeklagt. Sie bewirkte, dass bis 1937 in Oberschlesien alle antijüdischen Gesetze außer Kraft gesetzt wurden. Diese Klageschrift, ihre Entstehungsgeschichte und ihre aus heutiger Sicht erstaunlichen Folgen sind weitgehend vergessen, ebenso wie die jüdische Minderheitendiplomatie insgesamt oder ihre einzelnen Vertreter, z.B. Leo Motzkin, Emil Margulies oder Nathan Feinberg. Klappentext zu: Die Bernheim-Petition 1933, von Philipp Graf.

Picture Gallery…


  1. Dr. Emil Margulies, Ein Lebenskampf für Wahrheit und Recht, Faerber, 1949, Tel Aviv
  2. Encyclopedia Judaicum, 1971(?)
  3. YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
  4. Tschechische Wikepedia Artikel
  • Oral History
  • Various Austrian newspapers, at http://anno.onb.ac.at and http://compactmemory.de