Swiss Jewish Philosopher Dies

Geneva, Switzerland - Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich, a Jewish religious philosopher who escaped the Nazis and became a European bridge-builder between Christians and Jews, has died at age 86.

Ehrlich died Sunday at his home in Riehen, a suburb of Basel, according to the family notice in Swiss newspapers.

The Berlin-born Ehrlich studied at Higher Institute for Jewish Studies, Rabbi Leo Baeck's rabbinical seminary, until the Nazis closed it in 1942. He was made to perform forced labor until he was able to find shelter with a Berlin couple and was then smuggled the following year into Switzerland.

He obtained his doctorate at Basel and later he taught at universities in Switzerland and Germany. From 1961 to 1994, he was European director of the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, founded in New York in 1843.

At the Second Vatican Council in 1965, he was the adviser to German Cardinal Augustin Bea in preparing "Nostra Aetate," a key document on Roman Catholic-Jewish relations.

Rabbi Walter Homolka, rector of Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany, called Ehrlich "the bridge to Jewish heritage before the Holocaust" and an important liberal thinker.

Ehrlich was the author of several books on Judaism and was credited by the Free University of Berlin with thus "influencing generations of scientists."

Ehrlich is survived by his wife and a daughter. A funeral is to be held Thursday in Zurich.