Jewish Studies Edith Stein
Carolyn Beard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 February 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0244


Edith Stein (b. 11 October 1891–d. 9 August 1942; religious name St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) was born into an observant Jewish family in Breslau, Prussia (now Wrocław, Poland). Renouncing religion as a teenager, Stein enrolled at the University of Breslau to study psychology, where she first encountered phenomenologist Edmund Husserl’s writing and thought. Stein subsequently transferred to the University of Göttingen to study under his supervision and became a central member of the intimate Göttingen Circle. Stein’s studies were interrupted with the outbreak of World War I in 1918, when she volunteered as a nurse with the Red Cross and served for two years in a military hospital in the modern-day Czech Republic. Moving to Freiburg after her service, Stein worked as Husserl’s assistant until the end of the war, when she participated in the establishment of the new German state by advocating for women’s suffrage in Breslau. Unable to earn a faculty position in philosophy as a woman, Stein wrote and taught in her family home. In 1921, Stein had a conversion experience when reading Teresa of Avila’s autobiography and was baptized on 1 January 1922. Stein’s initial application for admission to monastic life was denied and she was encouraged to pursue a vocation of teaching instead. Stein taught at a teachers’ college in Speyer before moving to a position at the German Institute for Scientific Pedagogy in Münster. In 1933, Stein was removed from her faculty position because of her identity as a Jewish woman and was granted entrance into the Carmelite monastery in Cologne, Germany. Stein took monastic vows and lived there until moving to a sister monastery in Echt, the Netherlands, to evade Nazi persecution. Stein was arrested on 7 August 1942, deported, and killed at Auschwitz two days later. Following her death, Stein was beatified as a martyr and canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Known as the “Holocaust martyr,” Stein is a controversial figure in Jewish and Christian discourse because of her status as a canonized Jewish convert and Holocaust victim. Beyond this contentious legacy, Stein is survived by twenty-eight volumes of philosophy, scholarship, theology, mystical texts, and correspondence—texts that have inspired nearly eighty years of scholarship. Recent scholarship is particularly interested in Stein’s syncretism of Thomistic-Aristotelian metaphysics and phenomenology, writings on women and the state, and religious and mystical texts.

Research Resources

In light of Stein’s multinodal legacy, there are many rich resources for researching Stein’s life and work. The Edith Stein Archive preserves and digitalizes Stein’s writings, and the Edith Stein House and Edith Stein Museum preserve Stein’s legacy. Printed resources are plentiful: Die Rezeption Edith Steins catalogues seventy years of scholarship on Stein and the Edith Stein-Lexikon makes central concepts and figures in Stein’s life and work accessible to readers. The Edith Stein Jahrbuch advances the field by publishing recent studies on Stein annually and both “Edith Stein” in the Open Commons of Phenomenology and Die Rezeption Edith Steins offer excellent bibliographical accounts of the reception of Edith Stein’s work, life, and legacy. The Paderborn Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists organizes regular programming focusing on the study of female philosophers, and the International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of Edith Stein organizes regular programming and a biannual conference for scholars studying the philosophy of Edith Stein.

  • Edith Stein.” Open Commons of Phenomenology.

    Open Commons of Phenomenology maintains a vast database of open source phenomenological texts, as well as significant repositories of recent journal and monograph publications. Stein’s profile includes nearly 3,000 bibliographic citations.

  • Edith Stein Archive. Karmel Maria vom Frieden, Cologne.

    Located in the Carmelite monastery in Cologne, the Edith Stein Archive houses Stein’s original manuscripts and an extensive collection of secondary literature on Stein. Digitized manuscripts and secondary literature are available for research by appointment.

  • Edith Stein House. Wrocław, Poland.

    A house museum and cultural center in Wrocław, Poland, dedicated to the life and legacy of Edith Stein. Located in her childhood home, this museum has reconstructed the space as it might have been in her childhood and young adulthood. Guided tours by appointment.

  • Edith Stein Jahrbuch. Edited by Ulrich Dobhan. Würzburg: Echter, 2004–.

    This annual journal publishes academic articles relevant to the study of Stein’s life and work. The back matter includes a list of newly published works on Stein from the past year.

  • Edith Stein Museum. Lubliniec, Poland.

    A house museum in Lubliniec, Poland, dedicated to the life and legacy of Edith Stein. Located in her ancestral hometown, the museum has multiple interactive exhibits and surviving architectural elements from a family home. Tours by appointment.

  • Francesco, Alfieri, ed. Die Rezeption Edith Steins: Internationale Edith-Stein-Bibliographie 1942–2012: Festgabe für M. Amata Neyer OCD. Würzburg, Germany: Echter, 2012.

    A comprehensive bibliography of the reception and the study of Edith Stein from her death in 1942 to the year 2012, dedicated to long-time scholar Maria Amata Neyer OCD. For more recent publications, see the annual Edith Stein Jahrbuch. Finally, the International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of Edith Stein (IASPES) acts as a scholarly circle of Stein scholars from around the world.

  • International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of Edith Stein (IASPES).

    The International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of Edith Stein (IASPES) is an academic association that connects scholars studying Edith Stein’s life and work, with a particular focus on her philosophy. The association organizes biennial conferences and has published a number of conference proceedings.

  • Knaup, Marcus, and Harald Seubert, eds. Edith Stein-Lexikon. Freiburg, Germany: Herder, 2017.

    A German-language reference book featuring rich introductions to figures and themes important to Stein’s life and writing with cross-citations to relevant sections of Stein’s German-language collected works.

  • Paderborn Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists.

    This center supports the academic study of the life and work of female philosophers, including Edith Stein, through regular programming.

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