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Marvin Lowenthal, papers

Identifier: P-140

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains Marvin Lowenthal's correspondence, journals, diaries, documents, photographs, memorabilia, and printed materials relating to his life, writings, Zionist activities, and relief work on behalf of German Jewry.

Includes: material regarding his youth, school work, and college years; autobiographical writings; family correspondence; correspondence with Jacob Billikopf, Jerome Frank, Horace M. Kallen, Elmer Rice, Eugene C. Taylor, and Stephen S. Wise; notes on a 1916 Committee on a Jewish Congress meeting; correspondence, writings, and printed material concerning his Zionist work; his journal of a 1925 journey to Palestine; correspondence with The Menorah Journal; manuscript and printed material regarding German Jewry between 1933 and 1935; materials relating to the 1933-1934 Conference on Jewish Relations; unpublished writings; typescripts of various articles; notes, drafts, illustrations, publicity, reviews and correspondence relating to Glückel of Hameln, A World Passed By, The Autobiography of Michael de Montaigne, A History of the Jews in Germany, Henrietta Szold: Life and Letters, This Was New York The Diaries of Theodore Herzl.

Collection is valuable to researchers studying German Jewry, the Holocaust, Judaism, U.S. relations with Palestine, Zionism, and the early State of Israel.

The collection is in English, with some French, German, and Yiddish.


  • Creation: undated, 1871-1959


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, French, German, and Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at

For reference questions, please email:

Biographical Note

Marvin Marx Lowenthal (1890-1969)

Marvin Marx Lowenthal was born on October 6, 1890 in Bradford, PA to jeweler Louis S. Lowenthal, and Pauline Marx. He was an author, lecturer, traveler, and historian.

Lowenthal worked at a local silk mill at the age of 15. In 1912, after six years of working there, he quit to enroll in the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue humanistic studies. There, Lowenthal won the Menorah Society's (an intercollegiate Jewish cultural organization) essay contest, which came with $100 of prize money. He then began to attend the organization's meetings. There, he met Horace Kallen, a philosophy professor and co-founder of the organization.

Horace Kallen had a dramatic impact on Lowenthal's attitude towards Jewish history and culture. In 1914, he began to study Zionism under Kallen, and won another Menorah Society essay contest with an article on Zionism. From 1915 on, he became a frequent contributor to the Menorah Journal. At the time, the Menorah Journal served as an important cultural journal for American-Jewish intellectuals prior to the Commentary's founding in 1945.

Upon his graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1915, Lowenthal enrolled at Harvard University to pursue a master's degree in philosophy. At Harvard, Lowenthal became a part of a tight-knit group of Zionists, which counted Louis Brandeis in its number. In 1916, Brandeis asked Lowenthal to head the Zionist Bureau of the Pacific Coast in San Francisco. Lowenthal began working as its fundraiser until the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) moved to its New York office in 1919.

In 1920, Lowenthal left his work with the ZOA in order to pursue writing full time. He worked as an editor at the Menorah Journal, and continued to write for it in addition to his editorial duties, focusing on Jewish cultural affairs.

In February of 1922, he moved to Europe with his wife, Sylvia Mardfin. They lived in Florence, London, and Berlin. That year in Europe turned Lowenthal from a journalist, into a writer focused on the fate of the European Jewry. His writings provided great insight into the rise of fascism in Europe, and its threat to Jewish life. He saw Adolf Hitler and his rise to power as "the most virulent and deadly enemy of the Jews." Indeed, the atmosphere was so thick with hatred against that he and Sylvia left Europe in February 1923.

One year after their return to the United States, Lowenthal began to feel restless. Over the next decade, he traveled to and spent time all over Europe and parts of Africa, and in Palestine. During his travels for ournalistic assignments, he established the foundations for his major works; he wrote extensively on literature, politics, and Zionism, showing early affection for these secular aspects of Jewish culture.

In 1932, Lowenthal published his translation of the Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln, a seven-part book by a 17th century widow with 14 children. His next book, A World Passed By, an intellectual guidebook of Jewish Europe and North Africa, was published in 1933. In 1934, je returned to the United States, once more needing an escape from the oppression of Jews in Europe.

In 1935, he published his favorite book, The Autobiography of Michel de Montaigne, edited and translated from the works of the great French philosopher. In 1936, Lowenthal published his most important and popular book, The Jews of Germany: A Story of Sixteen Centuries. Through this book, he hoped to demonstrate that discrimination against Jews in Germany was not something that began with Hitler; he wanted to reach out to his readers and explain that if something was not done, the Jews of Europe were doomed.

Lowenthal followed events in Germany closely. He was disturbed by the passing of the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935, which stripped Jews of their German citizenship and forbade them from marrying non-Jews. Lowenthal was appalled by the treatment of Jews in Germany, and writing of The Jews of Germany left him exhausted.

In 1941, Lowenthal published The Life and Letters of Henrietta Szold, the founder of the women's Zionist organization, Hadassah. During World War II, he worked with Frank Monaghan on This Was New York: The Nation's Capital in 1789, which they hoped would instill pride in their country. From 1946 to 1949 he served on the Zionist Advisory Committee, and between 1952 and 1954, he served as editor of the American Zionist. In 1956, he published his last book, a one-volume edition of translations from the works of the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl: The Diaries of Theodore Herzl.

Lowenthal spent the remaining years of his life working as an active Zionist and fighting against anti-Semitism in America. He Lowenthal died in New York City on March 15, 1969.


Susanne Klingenstein. "Lowenthal, Marvin Marx";; American National Biography Online February 2000. Accessed September 9, 2009.

Nikke Jones. Marvin Lowenthal; Accessed September 9, 2009.

Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed., vol. 13, page 235.

The Concise Dictionary of American Jewish Biography edited by Jacob Rader Marcus AJHS Call # Ref E184.J5 C653 1994, page 404.

Biographical vita. Marvin Lowenthal Papers, P-140, Box 1, Folder 10, American Jewish Historical Society

Biographical note. Marvin Lowenthal Papers, P-140, Box 16, Folder 3, American Jewish Historical Society


8 Linear Feet (16 manuscript boxes)


This collection contains Marvin Lowenthal's correspondence, journals, diaries, documents, photographs, memorabilia, and printed materials relating to his life, writings, Zionist activities, and relief work on behalf of German Jewry. Includes material on his youth, school work, and college years, as well as autobiographical writings and family correspondence containing information on Horace Kallen and early 20th century Zionist activities. Of particular note is his later correspondence with Jacob Billikopf, Jerome Frank, Horace M. Kallen, Elmer Rice, Eugene C. Taylor, and Stephen S. Wise.

Acquisition Note

Gift of Robert C. Samuels, 1974.

Guide to the Papers of Marvin Lowenthal (1890-1969), undated, 1871-1959 *P-140
Processed by Marvin Rusinek
© 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • April, July 2020: EHyman: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States