Jewish historian Salo Wittmayer Baron, who testified at Adolf Eichmann's trial and taught at Columbia University for 33 years, has died at his Manhattan home of congestive heart failure. He was 94.
"He was undoubtedly the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th Century," said Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, a former student of Baron who now holds the Salo Wittmayer Baron Chair of Jewish History, Culture and Society at Columbia.
Baron, who died Saturday, was a witness for the prosecution at Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem in 1961, setting the historic framework for the Israeli government's case against the Nazi official, who was subsequently convicted and hanged.
Baron's magnum opus was "A Social and Religious History of the Jews," which began as a series of lectures, turned into a three-volume Jewish history and eventually grew into 18 volumes.
"He was equally at home in everything from ancient history to the modern era, and the major father of Jewish historical studies in the United States," said Arthur Hertzberg, another former student.
Baron was born in 1895 in Tarnow, which is now in Poland but was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
He eventually learned 20 languages.
Baron was ordained a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Vienna, Austria, in 1920. He also earned three doctorates from the University of Vienna in philosophy, political science and law.
In 1926, Baron was invited to teach at the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. In 1930, he began teaching at Columbia. He retired from Columbia in 1963.