Former Laureates

Martin Buber

Martin Buber


Martin Buber was born in Vienna in 1878; he spent most of his youth in the care of his grandfather, a banker who was also an authoritative researcher in Biblical interpretation. Until 1933 he taught Comparative Theology in Frankfurt, and in 1938 he left Germany to teach General Sociology and Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Buber was the author of many books and articles, particularly in the fields of theology, Chassidic literature, Biblical studies and sociology. His views on Zionism differed from those of Theodor Herzl. Buber was not primarily concerned with the nation state, but with social and spiritual enrichment. Martin Buber died in Jerusalem in 1965.

Martin Buber was awarded the Erasmus Prize for having clarified Jewish belief in the light of the ‘life of dialogue’ arising from man’s personal encounter with God. He thereby removed many misunderstandings and prejudices from the dialogue between Judaism and Christianity as well as Biblical belief and modern culture. He assumed the role of mediator between the faith of ancient Israel and modern western man. Buber also took an optimistic view of the possible cooperation of Jews and Arabs. His work met with much response beyond the confines of the academic world, also through his original and surprising German translation of the Old Testament.

Martin Buber devoted the prize money to studies of the Dutch Jews before, during, and after the Second World War. As part of this, support was given to J. Michman for his dissertation ‘The problem of German-Jewish refugees in the Netherlands from 1933 to 1940’; to the project ‘Documentation of Hachsjara and Alya in the Netherlands’, and to the commemorative book of Hartog Beem. A subsidy was extended to the symposium ‘History of the Jews in the Netherlands’, held in Amsterdam in 1980. Financial contributions were also made to the series Studies on the History of Dutch Jewry and publications of the Leo Baeck Institute in London.

HRH Princess Beatrix with Martin Buber

HRH Princess Beatrix and the philosopher Martin Buber after the Erasmus Prize award ceremony in 1963.

Members of the Royal Family with Martin Buber

Members of the Royal Family in conversation with philosopher Martin Buber, Erasmus Prize winner in 1963.