Herman Bernstein Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Herman Bernstein Papers (ca. 1899-1935) include correspondence, memos, writings and translations by Herman Bernstein, writings by others, contracts, clippings, printed matter, ephemera, and photographs. This collection documents the life and career of Herman Bernstein and touches on many of his pursuits, including journalism, philanthropy, diplomacy, theater, and advocacy for Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe. In his work Bernstein was in contact with many prominent statesmen, literary figures, philanthropists, and leaders of the Jewish community in the United States.
The Bernstein papers are arranged physically into seven series, six of which are chronological, with the remaining series consisting of addenda. The first five series are made up largely of correspondence and some personal papers from the time period represented in each series. Each series contains at least four subseries: correspondence from individuals; correspondence from organizations; personal, and subjects. Series IV, however, has only three subseries. Series II has an additional two categories: The Day, the newspaper which Herman Bernstein edited, and subjects. Series III has a fifth subseries concerning the Ford Libel Suit as well as a sixth on subjects. Series V contains a subseries concerning Albania in addition to the four other subseries. The last series, Series VI: Mostly Undated, is comprised largely of manuscripts of writings and translations by Herman Bernstein and others. Series VI also contains newspaper clippings, undated personal documents, photographs, and plays.
Bernstein’s journalistic work is represented by his writings, his interviews, and by organizational files for various papers which published his work or where he served as editor. Among the publications represented are The American Hebrew, The Day, The Jewish Tribune, The New York Herald, and The New York Times. Correspondence includes information on editorial policy, letters from readers, and financial arrangements. Also included are copies of Bernstein’s articles and interviews which may include manuscript, typescript, and printed copies. Many of the interviews do not include transcripts, but only Bernstein’s narrative of the interview. Several files of dispatches from Russia, many of which may be found in Series VI, Subseries 7, include his writings on Lenin, Andreyev, Kerensky, the Tsarina Alexandra (wife of Nicholas II), and the changes wrought by the Revolution. Most of the articles and dispatches are undated, and their date and place of publication are not noted. Some of the articles that can be found in the clippings files (Series VI, Subseries 15), which are arranged alphabetically, include the actual newsprint copies of Bernstein’s articles. His work appeared in many New York and U.S. papers in addition to those listed above. Bernstein also corresponded regularly with publishers and magazines regarding the publication of his writings and translations. These include The Century Magazine, the Associated Press, Harper & Bros., Alfred A. Knopf, Macmillan, and The Independent.
The collection includes a significant amount of material relating to Bernstein’s theatrical work. In addition to writing his own plays and translating works from Russian and German, a large amount of which are located in Series VI, Subseries 17, Bernstein often served as the agent for playwrights whose works he translated. He corresponded regularly with playwrights, actors, agents, theater companies, publishers, and producers. Among the noted playwrights represented (by correspondence and scripts) are Leonid Andreyev, Georg Erastov, Ossip Dymow, Nicolas Evreinoff, Rudolf Lothar, Luigi Pirandello (1 letter), Arthur Schnitzler, George Bernard Shaw (1 note), and Leo Urvantzov. Other correspondents relevant to his theatrical work include Nina Caraciollo, Feodor Chaliapin, Morris Gest, Jacob Gordin, Bertha Kalich, Alla Nazimova, Max Rabinoff, and Maurice Schwartz. Organizations represented include: Brady and Wiman, the Theatre Guild, Radiant Productions, and the Yiddish Art Theatre. The collection also includes programs, reviews, and some photographs of theatrical productions and personalities.
Bernstein’s involvement in the American Jewish community is documented by his work with organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Relief Committee, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the Jewish National Fund, Joint Distribution Committee, ORT (Obschestvo Rasprostraneniia Truda sredi Evreev, the Society for Spreading Work Among Jews), and the Zionist Organization of America. In his work with these organizations Bernstein corresponded with prominent political, philanthropic and communal society leaders including Cyrus Adler, Joseph Barondess, Bernard Baruch, Jacob Billikopf, Josephus Daniels, Adolph Lewishohn, Louis Marshall, Jacob Schiff, Nathan Straus, and Stephen Wise. Correspondence with these organizations and individuals is located chronologically in Series I through V. Some organizational papers include minutes and reports.
Materials relating to Bernstein’s tenure as the Minister to Albania are located in Series V, Subseries 6, and include official letters and invitations, general correspondence and correspondence with other legations, reports, clippings, press releases, and writings including King Zog’s story as told to Herman Bernstein. Photographs from Bernstein's time in Albania will be found in Series VI: Subseries 16.
The scope of Bernstein’s many pursuits is reflected in his correspondence. Other prominent correspondents are Shalom Aleichem, Auguste Rodin, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William G. McAdoo.
Family papers include correspondence, photographs and miscellaneous materials. The earliest letters in the collection are letters from Herman Bernstein (in Russian and English) to Sophie Friedman, written in 1896 and located in Series I. The collection also includes letters from Bernstein’s children, and from his brother, Harry Bernstein.
This collection holds photographs, which will be found in Subseries 16 of Series VI, that portray Bernstein's work and travels, including photos related to his theatrical work, such as production photos and photos of performers. Of particular interest to researchers may be photos acquired during Bernstein's tenure as ambassador to Albania. These include photos of King Zog and other government officials, of offical functions, and of an archeological excavation in the city of Butrinto. The collection also contains personal photos, including portraits and family images. Photos of American and French soldiers from World War I will also be found in this subseries, as well as images of Bernstein's trip to Siberia under the auspices of the American Expeditionary Forces.
Users of this collection should be aware that there this collection has an index. Information on this index may be found here.
- Bernstein, Herman, 1876-1935 (Person)
Language of Materials
The collection is in English, Yiddish, Russian, German, Polish, and French.
The collection is open to the public. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained in writing from the YIVO Archives.
There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
YIVO Archives, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
Herman Bernstein, journalist, author, translator, diplomat, and advocate for the rights of the Jews of Eastern Europe, was born in Neustadt-Schwerwindt on the Russo-German border on September 21, 1876. He was the son of David and Marie (Elsohn) Bernstein. In 1893 Bernstein emigrated to the United States where he completed his education. He was married to Sophie Friedman on December 31, 1901.
Bernstein’s journalistic career began in 1900 when his first stories were published. He was a contributor to the New York Evening Post, The Nation, The Independent and Ainslee’s Magazine. He was a founder and editor of The Day (1914-1916) and an editor of The Jewish Tribune(1926; 1930), and an editor of the Jewish Daily Bulletin (1933-1934). As a special correspondent to the New York Times, Bernstein traveled to Europe in 1908, 1909, 1911 and 1912. On these visits he interviewed many prominent individuals of the day and his dispatches and articles were widely read in the U.S. Bernstein also went to Europe in 1915 to study the conditions of Jews in the war zones. He went to Russia in 1917 to report on the Revolution for the New York Herald, which also sent him to Japan and Siberia with the American Expeditionary Forces. His work for the Herald extended to his coverage of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. In the 1920s Bernstein wrote for the New York American and the Brooklyn Eagle, often reporting from Europe and writing frequently about Russia. One of Bernstein’s journalistic coups was his publication of the so-called “Willie-Nicky” correspondence between Wilhelm II and Nicholas II, which he discovered in Russia in 1917. These secret telegrams between the Kaiser and the Tsar during the years 1904-1907 revealed, according to Bernstein, how “Both talked for peace and plotted against it.” The telegrams were first published in the Herald.
Many of Bernstein’s interviews, including those with Henri Bergson, Hall Caine, Albert Einstein, Havelock Ellis, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Max Nordau, Auguste Rodin, Romain Rolland, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, Leo Tolstoy, Chaim Weizmann, Count Sergius Witte, Woodrow Wilson, and Israel Zangwill, were later published in three volumes: Celebrities of Our Time (1924), With Master Minds, and The Road to Peace (1926).
Bernstein’s literary work included translations of short stories and plays by Gorky, Tolstoy, Andreyev, Lothar, Urvantzov, Schnitzler, Asch, Chekov, and Turgenev. Bernstein’s own writings include a book of verse, The Flight of Time (1899), a book of short stories, In the Gates of Israel (1902), and a novel, Contrite Hearts (1905). He also wrote his own plays including The Mandarin and The Right to Kill which were presented on Broadway.
Bernstein was also known for his efforts to expose anti-Semitism in the United States and elsewhere. He won a retraction from Henry Ford after suing him for libel for anti-Semitic statements Ford had published in the Dearborn Independent. In 1921 Bernstein’s book, The History of a Lie, exposed the fraudulent origins of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” His 1935 work The Truth about the Protocols of Zion was released to combat a renewed interest in the Protocols coinciding with the rise of anti-Semitism in pre-war Europe. Throughout his career Bernstein researched and wrote about the conditions of Jews in Europe, reporting on pogroms in Poland and Russia, and the effects of the Revolution on Russia’s Jews. Bernstein worked with organizations such as ORT, the Central Relief Committee, the American Jewish Relief Committee, and the Joint Distribution Committee to improve conditions for Jews in Europe. He also served as secretary of the American Jewish Committee, as an officer of the Zionist Organization of America, and as a member of various committees of HIAS. Politically he advocated for liberal immigration policies and was a member of the Democratic National Committee and worked to elect Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Bernstein also supported the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and wrote about the politics of the Middle East and the settlement of Palestine.
Bernstein met Herbert Hoover at the Paris Peace Conference and supported his bid for the presidency in 1928. In 1930 Hoover appointed Bernstein as the United States minister to Albania, a position he held until 1933. During this appointment, he worked on negotiation and extradition treaties between the U.S. and Albania, and received an award from King Zog for his service to Albania, the Grand Cordon of the Order of Skanderberg.
Herman Bernstein died in Sheffield, Massachusetts on August 31, 1935. He was survived by his wife Sophie and three daughters, Violet Bernstein Willheim, Hilda Bernstein Gitlin, and Dorothy Bernstein Nash, as well as a son, David.
32.75 Linear Feet
This collection contains the papers of the journalist, author, translator, and diplomat Herman Bernstein. It documents his work on behalf of Eastern European and Russian Jews and holds correspondence, memos, writings and translations by Herman Bernstein, writings by others, contracts, clippings, printed matter, and photographs.
The best way to access the collection is with the detailed index available at YIVO's reference desk in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History. Please also see the description of the index.
The physical arrangement of the papers corresponds to the following six groupings and one addendum:
- Series I: 1896-1912
- Subseries 1: Individuals, 1899-1912
- Subseries 2: Personal, 1896-1919
- Subseries 3: Subject Matter, 1903-1912
- Subseries 4: Organizations, 1897-1912
- Series II: 1913-1916
- Subseries 1: Individuals, 1912-1919
- Subseries 2: Personal, 1911-1924
- Subseries 3: Organizations, 1911-1924
- Subseries 4: The Day , 1914-1916
- >Subseries 5: Subjects, 1913-1915
- Series III: 1919-1924
- Subseries 1: Individuals, 1914-1925
- Subseries 2: Organizations, 1915-1924
- Subseries 3: Personal, 1915-1930
- Subseries 4: Ford Libel Suit, 1920-1929
- Subseries 5: Subjects, n.d., 1918-1920
- Series IV: 1925-1929
- Subseries 1: Individuals, 1920-1929
- Subseries 2: Organizations, 1920-1930
- Subseries 3: Personal, 1925-1930
- Series V: 1930-1935
- Subseries 1: Individuals, 1929-1935
- Subseries 2: Organizations, 1925-1935
- Subseries 3: Personal 1, 1930-1935
- Subseries 4: Subjects, 1930-1935
- Subseries 5: Personal 2, 1930-1933
- Subseries 6: Albania, 1930-1935
- Series VI: Mostly Undated:1898-1935, undated
- Subseries 1: Articles by Herman Bernstein, 1920?, 1922, undated
- Subseries 2: Interviews by Herman Bernstein, 1918, 1922, undated
- Subseries 3: Short Stories, Plays and Poems by Herman Bernstein, undated
- Subseries 4: Statements and Addresses by Herman Bernstein, undated
- Subseries 5: The Truth about "The Protocols of Zion," 1921, 1933, undated
- Subseries 6: Books by Herman Bernstein, 1919, undated
- Subseries 7: Dispatches - Russia, 1919, , undated
- >Subseries 8: Translations by Herman Bernstein, undated
- Subseries 9: Articles by Others, n1915-1929, undated
- Subseries 10: Books by Others, 1929, undated
- Subseries 11: Notes and Outlines by Herman Bernstein, undated
- Subseries 12: Subjects, 1906-1925, undated
- Subseries 13: Personal, 1902-1939, undated
- Subseries 14: Fragments, undated
- Subseries 15: Clippings, 1898-1935, undated
- Subseries 16: Photos, 1928, undated
- Subseries 17: Plays, undated
- Series VII: Addenda, 1915-1956
Other Finding Aid
Because the collection is not organized into traditional series, the best way to access the collection is through the index, which is available at YIVO's reference desk in the reading room of the Center for Jewish History. The index lists names of individuals and organizations, titles, and subjects. A description of the organization of this index follows.
The index is organized into the following seven sections:
I. Individuals (1899-1935):
The index provides correspondence files for individuals which include incoming and outgoing correspondence, memos, clippings, occasional information about the correspondent, and a few photographs. It also leads to other material in the collection by that individual including writings, or interviews. Not all names listed in the index refer to incoming correspondence.
II. Organizations (1899-1935):
Files for organizations contain correspondence, minutes and agendas, addresses by Bernstein and others, clippings, financial papers, contracts, printed matter, and a few photographs.
The index to subjects is quite comprehensive. Subject headings reflect many of the major themes in the collection. These entries refer to actual subject files, but also to subject specific materials throughout the collection. Subjects include countries (Albania, Palestine, Poland, Russia), events (the libel suit of Herman Bernstein versus Henry Ford, the Ford Peace Expedition, the Paris Peace Conference), and the Nathan Straus milk pasteurization project.
IV. Writings by Herman Bernstein:
Writings by Bernstein include addresses, articles, book reviews, interviews, plays, poetry, short stories, and translations. Most works are listed by title. Writings include holograph manuscripts, typescripts, clippings and other printed versions of some works.
V. Writings by Others:
These are mainly typescript manuscripts for articles, short stories, plays, and books. Some of the plays are published versions. These works are in English, Russian, German, and Yiddish. It includes plays that were translated by Bernstein, and perhaps plays that he was considering for translation. It is not known how Bernstein obtained the articles or if they were published in any of the publications he edited or elsewhere.
Among the authors represented are Boris Almasoff, Leonid Andreyev, Vladimir Bourtzeff, Victor Chernoff, Ossip Dymow, Nicholas Evreinoff, Maxim Gorky, Rebecca Kohut, Melchior Lengyel, Rudolph Lothar, and Arthur Schnitzler. The collection also includes writings that are not identified by author and/or title. A series of folders containing a history of the Joint Distribution Committee was probably written by Herman Bernstein, although no author is identified.
VI. Personal Papers:
Personal papers include family correspondence, biographical information, ephemera, records of tributes and testimonials, personal finances and business papers, and theatrical contracts. Note: Some family correspondence is filed under the names of individual family members.
VII. Miscellaneous Papers:
Files include clippings, photographs, unidentified correspondence, theatre playbills, and programs.
The clippings are arranged first by language (English, Russian, Yiddish, German) and then chronologically. Articles include work by Bernstein, articles about him, reviews of his books, and some articles by others on subjects relevant to Bernstein’s work. Theatre clippings are filed separately.
The Herman Bernstein Papers were donated to YIVO by David Bernstein, Adele Bernstein, and Ann Weissman.
- Guide to the Papers of Herman Bernstein (1876-1935), 1899-1935 RG 713
- Processed by David Wolfson, Geulah Schulsinger, and Francesca Pitaro
- © November 2003.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.