Skip to main content

Helen and Eva Hesse Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25327

Scope and Content Note

The Helen and Eva Hesse Collection documents the lives of members of the Hesse family, including the childhood of Helen and Eva Hesse as seen by their father Wilhelm. A significant portion of the collection is comprised of diaries; the collection additionally holds many photographs and some photo albums, scrapbooks, educational papers, and some correspondence.

The first two series of this collection hold diaries documenting the lives of Helen and Eva Hesse, made by Wilhelm Hesse, and to a smaller degree, Ruth Hesse. The diaries detail the events of their childhood, with special attention given to their earliest years. In addition to written descriptions, diary entries often include photographs and papers pasted to the pages of the diaries, such as wartime clippings, school report cards, and especially correspondence. They concentrate on the growth of the sisters, their education, and their interactions with each other and others. The earliest entries include comments by Ruth Hesse on her daughters. Mention is also made by Wilhelm Hesse of prominent events in his children's lives; such events include the children's travel to Holland via Kindertransport, their brief stay in London, and the sisters' first years in the United States. Series III includes a folder of translations of diary entries.

Series III contains the remainder of the papers of this collection, many of which pertain to Wilhelm Hesse as well as other members of the family. Among these items are scrapbooks and a photo album, educational papers, documents related to family celebrations, and some immigration correspondence. The majority of papers of Series III relate to the Hesse family's immigration as well as the Second World War. Prominent in Series III are the two scrapbooks possibly made by Wilhelm Hesse; these primarily hold newspaper clippings, but also include excerpts of performance programs and a few postcards. Material included in the scrapbooks dates from the late 1930s and early 1940s and focuses on topics such as American Jews, World War II and the Holocaust, and Israel, as well as material on cultural events and travel to Italy and Israel (then Palestine). A photo album contains photographs depicting numerous Hesse family members and members of related families. Other family papers include a folder of material assembled for family celebrations such as weddings or anniversaries. Immigration papers are largely comprised of correspondence with the Finanzamt (Financial Office) of Hamburg and lists of items the family intended to bring with them during immigration. One folder holds educational certificates of Wilhelm Hesse.


  • 1882-1956
  • Majority of material found within 1933-1946


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with some Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Requires special permission to view original materials.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

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

Wilhelm Hesse, the son of the Orthodox Jewish businessman Samuel and Helene Hesse, was born in 1901 in Hamburg. After attending the Talmud Tora Realschule and the Oberrealschule in Eppendorf, he began studying law; in 1924 he received his doctoral diploma in law from the University of Hamburg.

In 1932 Wilhelm Hesse married Ruth Marcus, the daughter of Moritz and Erna Marcus. The following year they had their first daughter, Helen, born on June 30. The couple had a second daughter, Eva, born January 11, 1936. Following the events of Kristallnacht, on December 7, 1938 Helen and Eva Hesse were sent to Holland via Kindertransport. At the end of February 1939 Wilhelm and Ruth went with their daughters to London, where they stayed while awaiting their American visas. On June 16th 1939 the family left England for New York.


1.75 Linear Feet


The Helen and Eva Hesse Collection holds material on the Hesse family of Hamburg. Most notable in this collection are the diaries of Helen and Eva Hesse, created by Wilhelm Hesse, which document the sisters' childhood. In addition, the collection includes scrapbooks and photograph albums, some of Wilhelm Hesse's educational papers, and correspondence related to immigration.


The collection is on two reels of microfilm:

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 2/3
  2. Reel 2: 2/4 - 3/2

Related Material

The LBI Library holds the book Eva Hesse: Sculpture by Elisabeth Sussman and Fred Wasserman, published in conjunction with the exhibition Eva Hesse: Sculpture at the Jewish Museum from May 12-September 11, 2006 (Yale University Press, 2006).

Guide to the Papers of the Helen and Eva Hesse Family 1882-1956 AR 25327 / MF 979
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from HelenEvaHesseFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • October 2009:: Microfilm inventory added.
  • July 2010:: Links to digital objects added.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States