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Hans Epstein Collection

Identifier: AR 6362

Scope and Content Note

The Hans Epstein collection stretches from roughly the early 1920s to the early 1960s, with some items extending through to the 1980s. Most of the collection deals with Epstein's efforts to secure teaching positions both during Nazi rule in Germany, and in New York during and after the Second World War. The correspondence from before his emigration includes exchanges with Martin Buber, and Adolf Leschnitzer of the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden. There is also interesting material from the Jewish Anlernwerkstatt in Frankfurt, including a number of postcards and posters.

Most of the remainder of the collection, especially after Epstein's immigration to America in 1938, combines personal correspondence, and correspondence relating to various jobs that Epstein held, including the directorship of the Washington Heights & Inwood YMHA. Of special interest in this latter part of the collection is the detailed correspondence regarding Epstein's effort to claim restitution from the German government. Letters to and from Epstein's lawyers are present; there is also correspondence with the German government. Of note is a letter from one German high official to another, asking for special priority and attention in regard to Epstein's claims, with some commentary on the subjects of restitution and German responsibility for crimes under National Socialism.


  • Creation: 1905-1999


Language of Materials

This collection is in English and German.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Hans Leo Epstein was born in Frankfurt am Main on March 11, 1905. He attended the University of Frankfurt, where he studied German literature, history, Hebrew, psychology, and sociology, among other things. He received his doctorate there in 1929, having written a thesis called "Die Metaphysizierung in der Literarwissenschaftlichen Begriffsbildung und ihre Folgen – Dargelegt an drei Theorien über das Literaturbarock". His career plans did not follow the course set by his academic focus, and he became a teacher. His first position was as Studienassessor at the Goethe-Gymnasium in Frankfurt, where he taught History, German, and Jewish History. However, the early thirties were hardly a good time for a Jew to start out on a career in Germany, and in 1933, after only a year at the Goethe Gymnasium, he was fired. Retreating into the relative safety of Jewish organizations, but with no diminished passion for pedagogy, Epstein became a teacher at the Philanthropin, the liberal Jewish high school in Frankfurt, and an educational consultant to the Department of Schools of the Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland. In 1936, he left the Philanthropin, and was among the founders of a new school, the Anlernwerkstatt, designed to prepare Jewish children for emigration by teaching them crafts and mechanical skills. He became the principal there.

After continuing his work in the field of education, working on various plans and projects in different cities in Germany, he and his wife prepared for emigration. They went on a trip to Israel in 1937, and deciding that it did not quite fit their plans for the future, they settled on going to America. They moved to New York with the aid of various Jewish organizations in Germany. Epstein's first jobs were as teacher and house father at the Kohut School for Boys, and an unhappy stint at Hessian Hills school, both in upstate New York. He also held a number of other short-lived jobs, before becoming the director of the Washington Heights/Inwood YM&YWHA.

Using the foundation of his studies in Germany, and also the time he spent in the early forties studying at Columbia's Teachers College, he began to practice psychology, especially in the use of Rorschach testing and group work. These had long been Epstein's interests, and in his new careers in New York he pursued them actively. Finally finding continuity in his position at the Washington Heights Y, and with his work in psychology, Epstein was able to settle into a career. He was by that point in his middle ages, and for the rest of his life, his career maintained roughly the same shape, with a number of other jobs and projects at various times.

Hans Epstein died on September 20, 1967. His wife survived him, and lived for quite a while longer; she passed away on January 16, 1987.


1 Linear Feet


Papers of Hans Epstein (1905-1960), educator and historian. The collection consists of documents relating to Epstein's teaching activities during Nazi rule in Germany, and in New York during and after the Second World War; correspondence from before the emigration with individuals and organizations (including with Martin Buber, and Adolf Leschnitzer of the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden); personal and business correspondence relating to immigration in 1938 and Epstein's work in New York; posters and postcards.


The collection is on three reels of microfilm (MF 951):

  1. Reel 1: 1/I.1 - 1/I.24
  2. Reel 2: 1/II.1 - 2/IV.2
  3. Reel 3: 2/IV.3 - 2/V.2
  4. Reel 4: Photographs

Separated Material

Photographs removed to LBI Photograph Collection. The photographs are available on microfilm.

Guide to the Hans Epstein Collection (1905-1967) 1905-1999 AR 6362 / MF 951
Processed by Sam Spinner
© July 2001.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • September 2004.: Converted to ead 2002. Revised as HansEpstein02.xml by Dianne Ritchey Oummia. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc.
  • January 2006.: Entities removed from EAD finding aid.
  • October 2007.: Death date added to finding aid.
  • January 2009.: Microfilm inventory added.
  • October 2010.: Information on microfilmed photographs added.
  • April 2012:: Added 1/19 - 1/24 in Container List.
  • February 05, 2013 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States