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Kurt Hohenemser Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 25643

Scope and Content Note

The Kurt Hohenemser Collection documents the personal and professional life of German-born aerospace engineer Kurt Heinrich Hohenemser, as well as the lives of his parents, spouses, children, and extended family.

Through diaries and correspondence, Series II details Hohenemser’s life in Germany from his birth in 1906 through his immigration to the United States with his wife and two children in 1947. These materials cover his education from primary school through his doctoral studies, his work at and ultimate dismissal from the University of Göttingen in 1933, work as a consultant for Anton Flettner’s aircraft company during World War II, and attempts to regain his position at Göttingen after the war’s end. The correspondence in this series includes a great deal of discussion regarding the social, political, and economic conditions in Germany during World War II and in the war’s immediate aftermath.

Series III contains materials regarding Kurt Hohenemser’s personal and professional life after his family’s immigration to the United States in 1947 through 1962, the year of his first wife Kate Hohenemser’s death from breast cancer. Correspondence and diaries found in this series describe the family’s journey to the United States and their adjustments to life in a new country. During these early post-war years, a major topic in the correspondence between Kurt and Kate and their family members and friends still in Germany is discussion of the political and economic situation in Germany, particularly regarding food shortages and rationing. After Kate Hohenemser’s breast cancer diagnosis in 1956, her health and treatments are also a prominent topic throughout the correspondence in this series. The final subseries in this series describes Hohenemser’s work as chief aerodynamics engineer at McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis, as well as his continued collaboration with Anton Flettner, who reestablished his company in the United States after World War II.

After Kate Hohenemser’s death, Kurt married his second wife Rose Hohenemser, and Series IV focuses largely on their relationship. In diaries found in this series, Kurt recorded Rose’s decades-long struggle with mental illness. Discussion of her illness can also be found in correspondence between Kurt and Rose as well as correspondence between Kurt and Rose’s family in Germany. The series also includes correspondence between Kurt and his family as well as Kate’s family, which is largely personal in nature, as well as a handful of professional correspondence from this period.

The collection also contains official documents and correspondence regarding the lives of Kurt’s parents Richard Heinrich Hohenemser and Alice Matilda Florence Hohenemser née Salt, which can be found in Series I. Official documents are mostly comprised of birth and marriage certificates, correspondence, and family trees compiled by Alice Hohenemser, the English daughter of a Baptist minister, in order to prove her Aryan descent and her family’s Protestant faith. Correspondence in this series is largely personal in nature, but does contain discussion regarding the roles of England and Germany in World War I. The series also includes a folder of condolence letters sent to their son Kurt Hohenemser after their deaths by suicide on April 6, 1942.

Dates

  • undated, 1885-2007
  • Majority of material found within 1931-2001

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers.

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.

Biographical Note

Kurt Heinrich Hohenemser was born in Berlin, Germany, on January 3, 1906, to the musicologist Richard Heinrich Hohenemser (1870-1942) and Alice Matilda Florence Hohenemser née Salt (1879-1942). While his father came from a German Jewish family, Kurt’s mother was an English Protestant, the daughter of a Baptist minister.

Kurt Hohenemser attended primary school in Berlin and received his secondary education at the Goethe-Schule in Berlin-Wilmersdorf (1915-1918), Hermann-Lietz-Schule in Haubinda (1919), and Ziehenschule in Eschersheim (1920-1924). Hohenemser attended university at the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt (today Technische Universität Darmstadt) from 1924 through 1929, receiving his Diplom-Ingenieur in 1927 and his Doktor-Ingenieur in 1929. His studies were in the fields of applied mathematics and mechanical engineering. In 1930, he followed his thesis advisor William Prager to the Universität Göttingen; while in Göttingen, Hohenemser and Prager coauthored the book Dynamik der Stabwerke (1933). During his time at the university from 1930 to 1933, Kurt Hohenemser was Privatdozent and assistant to Ludwig Prandtl, director of the university’s Institute of Applied Mechanics. On February 11, 1933, Kurt married Katharina Hohenemser née Dietrich (1910-1962). Their son Christoph was born in Berlin, Germany, on May 29, 1937. Their daughter Veronika was born in Berlin, Germany, on January 18, 1940.

At Göttingen, Hohenemser and William Prager organized a weekly political discussion group. They invited a colleague to the meeting who was known to sympathize with Nazi ideology. After the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, this colleague reported anti-Nazi statements made by Hohenemser and Prager; both men were dismissed from the university. After his dismissal, Hohenemser worked for the aircraft manufacturer Fieseler Flugzeugbau in Kassel for a year before going to work as a consultant for Anton Flettner, whose company specialized in the manufacture of helicopters. He remained with Flettner through the end of World War II. Though Kurt Hohenemser’s father was Jewish, Kurt and his wife and children were protected during the war due to his work for Flettner. In 1942, Richard and Alice Hohenemser committed suicide in their Berlin apartment, rather than face the possibility of deportation. In 1943, because of increased Allied bombing of Berlin, Hohenemser and his family moved with the Flettner company to Schweidnitz in Silesia. They remained there until the company’s factory was destroyed by Allied bombs in late 1944. In January 1945, as the Soviet Army neared the city, Hohenemser and his family fled Schweidnitz for the convent of Bildhausen near Münnerstadt, where his wife’s mother had found refuge from the bombing of Frankfurt am Main. The family remained in Bildhausen after the war while Hohenemser tried to regain his position in Göttingen. After over a year of unsuccessful attempts, the family made the decision to immigrate to the United States.

Kurt Hohenemser and his family sailed for New York from Bremerhaven, Germany, aboard the SS Marine Marlin, arriving in the United States on July 17, 1947. The family stayed with his colleague Hans Reissner in Brooklyn, New York, before moving to St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1947 for Hohenemser’s position at McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis. He worked as chief aerodynamics engineer of McDonnell’s helicopter division for 18 years before joining the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis in 1966 as professor of aerospace engineering. While at the university, Hohenemser’s research focus shifted from helicopters to wind turbines. He retired from Washington University in 1975 but remained as professor emeritus for two more decades. Hohenemser received many accolades during his career, including the Grover E. Bell Award (1957) and the Alexander Klemin Award (1964) from the American Helicopter Society.

Kurt Hohenemser's first wife Kate Hohenemser died on August 22, 1962, of breast cancer, with which she was originally diagnosed in 1956. In 1963, Kurt met Rose-Marie Gertrud Ingeburg Sader née Geisel, whom he married on December 17, 1966. Rose-Marie died of breast cancer on March 5, 1998. Kurt Heinrich Hohenemser died in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 7, 2001.

Extent

3.5 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection documents the personal and professional life of aerospace engineer Kurt Heinrich Hohenemser (1906-2001) in Germany and the United States. Mainly comprised of diaries and correspondence, materials in this collection describe Hohenemser’s education in Germany, work at and dismissal from the University of Göttingen in 1933, work for the aircraft manufacturer Anton Flettner during World War II, attempts to regain his position at Göttingen, and his family’s immigration to and new life in the United States. Correspondence with family and friends throughout Germany includes discussion of the political, economic, and social situation in Germany both during the World War II and during the post-war and Cold War periods. Also included in the collection are official documents and correspondence pertaining to Kurt Hohenemser’s parents, the musicologist Richard Heinrich Hohenemser (1870-1942) and his wife Alice Matilda Florence Hohenemser née Salt (1879-1942).

Arrangement

Collection materials arrived at the Leo Baeck Institute lacking a coherent original order. Some correspondence was grouped into labeled folders based upon a subset of correspondents—for example, Kurt Hohenemser’s extended family in England, or his colleagues from Anton Flettner’s company—or time period. The arrangement of the collection according to time period and separation of family, general, and professional correspondence was derived from the organization of these previously labeled folders.

Separated Material

A copy of the book Mein Weg zum Rotor by Anton Flettner (Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1926) was removed to the LBI Library.

Processing Information

Collections materials arrived at the Leo Baeck Institute in five boxes. Staff members transferred the materials from the original boxes into archival boxes, keeping materials in the order in which they arrived. Loose materials were placed into archival folders. During processing, the remaining original folders were replaced with archival folders.
Title
Guide to the Kurt Hohenemser Collection undated, 1885-2007 (bulk 1931-2001) AR 25643
Author
Processed by Sarah Glover and Felix Rieg-Baumhauer
Date
© 2015
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States