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» Paul Jacobsthal (1880-1957)

Paul Jacobsthal (1880-1957)

Paul Jacobsthal (1880-1957)

The Institute of Archaeology is researching the life of Paul Jacobsthal (1880-1957) who was given an academic position as Professor of Celtic Art at Christ Church following his move from Germany in 1937.

If you have any information about him, please contact Dr Megan Price, Education and Liaison at


Persecution and survival: the experience of the Jewish refugee Paul Jacobsthal

‘Persecution and survival’ is a social history project which will enable us to piece together the lives of refugees living in Oxford during the Second World War. We are focusing on one émigré in particular, Paul Jacobsthal 1880-1957, an eminent professor of archaeology in Marburg who was forced to flee Nazi Germany because of his Jewish origins. The project will also provide a human picture of what Oxford was like for wartime refugees.

In Professor Jacobsthal found refuge in Oxford, and was a senior academic in the University until his death in 1957. He made his name as a world leading expert in Celtic Art, publishing a ground-breaking book in 1944, Early Celtic Art. He also left a stack of personal letters, which reveal his and his wife’s experience as refugees in Oxford.

This project is significant: Celtic art is now very familiar – in tattoos and jewellery, for example - but few people today realise that Jacobsthal’s interest in Celtic art was politically dangerous in Nazi Germany. As Nazi power grew, the study of archaeology had become highly politicised, and the pan-European origins of Celtic Art did not fit with the regime’s nationalistic doctrines. What Jacobsthal’s letters reveal is that, even after he had fled Germany, many of his former colleagues continued to write to him with information and support for his research, in direct defiance of the Nazi regime. The quiet German resistance to Nazism shown in these letters has rarely been recognized.

We are 6 months into this project and already have discovered a great deal of valuable information from interviews and archives.

Megan Price

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