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Susanne B. Hirt Collection

Identifier: AR 25340

Scope and Content Note

The Susanne B. Hirt Collection documents the professional development and activities of Susanne Hirt as well as the lives and significant experiences of other members of the Hirsch family, most notably those of Margarete and Rosetta Hirsch. This collection contains correspondence, official and educational certificates, manuscripts, notes, clippings, and scrapbooks. Especially prominent in this collection is the extensive amount of photographs, photo albums, and slides.

One prominent subject in this collection is the professional development of Susanne Hirt, which is largely documented in Series I. Among the papers of this series are certificates and notebooks showing her initial studies at German and American educational institutions. In the first subseries of Series I are also some papers of the Weigert family. Subseries 2 holds early letters from Susanne Hirt's mentor Frances Hellebrandt and papers from Hirt's initial studies in physical therapy at the University of Wisconsin. Documentation of her advancing positions at the Medical College of Virginia and involvement with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) are also present in this subseries. Material on the Mary McMillan Lecture, which the APTA awarded her in 1981, is also here, as well as some papers regarding her study of the Feldenkrais method. Series V: Travel includes material on Susanne Hirt's time as a visiting professor of physical therapy in Israel. Objects, such as awards and souvenirs derived from her professional work, are in Series VI: Objects.

The daily lives of members of the Hirsch family can be seen in several areas of the collection. Most noteworthy are the numerous photographs of family members in Series VII, especially those showing Susanne Hirt and her sister Margarete Hirsch. Other material relating to the early life of Susanne Hirt is available in several areas of the collection. Extensive correspondence between the sisters' parents, Dorothea and Joseph Hirsch, is located in Subseries 1 of Series IV. Furthermore, there is a considerable amount of correspondence from the 1940s from Margarete Hirsch (Series II, Subseries 1) and Dorothea Hirsch (Series IV, Subseries 1); these letters document Margarete Hirsch's life in England, including her work with refugee children, as well as the sisters' attempt to assist their mother in emigrating from Germany. These years are also discussed in Margarete Hirsch's autobiographical compositions, present in Series II, Subseries 2. Series III holds the papers of Susanne Hirt's older half-sister Rosetta Hirsch, and provides some information on her life as a piano teacher in England. Finally, genealogical notes and family trees are located in the concluding subseries of Series IV as well as among Margerete Hirsch's writings and research papers.


  • 1822-2008
  • Majority of material found within 1938-1990


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in English and German.

Access Restrictions

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.

Part of the 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

Susanne Hirt was born as Berta Susanne Hirsch in Berlin on August 1, 1913, the youngest daughter of Joseph Hirsch and his second wife Dorothea Hirsch née Schwabach. She had an elder sister Margarete (born Anna-Margarete), and two older half-siblings from Joseph Hirsch's first marriage, Alexander and Rosetta. Joseph Hirsch died when Susanne Hirsch was eight years old.

Susanne Hirsch began to study medicine at the University of Berlin, but was expelled from the university due to her Jewish heritage in 1934. She then went to Vienna, where she continued her medical studies for two semesters at the University of Vienna. When she had to leave the University of Vienna, she began a two-year course in physical education and physical education and gymnastics (kinesiology) in Vienna, where she worked with children with cerebral palsy. She watched the German troops enter Vienna in March 1938. Shortly thereafter she left to work as a nanny for family friends (the Weigerts) who had previously fled Germany and needed a caretaker for their young son. After six months, the Weigert family immigrated to the United States; Susanne Hirsch went with them, and in 1939 changed her surname to Hirt. She would spend the next three years with them. Her siblings were able to escape to Britain, but her mother was not, despite the work of both Susanne and Margarete Hirsch to assist her in leaving Germany. Dorothea Hirsch died in 1942, after deportation to Riga.

Susanne became interested in the developing field of physical therapy after hearing about the work being done in the new field with veterans. In 1942 she received her certificate in physical therapy from the University of Wisconsin. Her studies included some courses with Elizabeth Kenny, known for developing the Kenny method for the treatment of polio. Hirt then worked as a physical therapist at the University of Wisconsin's General Hospital, most notably working with polio patients, while additionally teaching anatomy and pathology. During her work with polio patients, Susanne Hirt became acquainted with Frances Hellebrandt, then director of the University of Wisconsin's School of Physical Therapy.

After Frances Hellebrandt moved on to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), she asked Susanne Hirt to teach there and assist her in establishing a School of Physical Therapy at the MCV. Susanne Hirt would remain with this institution for more than thirty years, including working as technical director of the School during the polio epidemics of the later 1940s and 1950s. She began as an assistant professor of anatomy and supervisor of the polio clinics in 1945. After receiving her Bachelor of Science in physical therapy from the University of Wisconsin in 1948, Hirt was named technical director of the MCV's School of Physical Therapy, and went on to become the chair of the department. In 1956 she received her Masters in Education from the University of Virginia. She co-authored the work Scientific Bases for Neurophysiologic Approaches to Therapeutic Exercises, a physical therapy textbook published in 1977. Susanne Hirt retired from the MCV in 1982, although she continued to teach some courses as Professor Emeritus.

Susanne Hirt was additionally very active in several professional societies, especially the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and its local chapter, the Virginia Physical Therapy Association (VPTA). Her work with these organizations included serving as president of the local chapter during the 1950s and as chief delegate to APTA's national conference in the 1970s and she additionally served on APTA's Board of Directors for a time. In 1981 Susanne Hirt was selected as the sixteenth recipient of APTA's prestigious Mary McMillan Lecture Award, the highest honor of the organization. She also served on several committees for various health-related associations. In 1983 the Greater Richmond YWCA named her woman of the year for health and fitness.

In 1979 Susanne Hirt took her first course in the Feldenkrais Method. Following her retirement she continued to study this technique, and completed her training in it in 1991. She gave instruction in this technique at a local senior citizen's center and in her home for several years.

Susanne Hirt died on September 17, 2006.


11.75 Linear Feet


The Susanne B. Hirt Collection deals with the life and significant events of the physical therapy professor Susanne Hirt and her family members. Prominent topics in this collection include Susanne Hirt's professional development and family members' immigration and wartime experiences. The collection contains a considerable number of photographs, photo albums, and slides. In addition, it consists of correspondence, official papers, manuscripts, notes and research material, educational certificates, clippings, scrapbooks, and a few videocassettes.


The collection is on twelve reels of microfilm (MF 966).

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/23
  2. Reel 2: 1/24 - 1/49
  3. Reel 3: 1/50 - 2/16
  4. Reel 4: 2/17 - 2/44
    (13/4 not microfilmed)
  5. Reel 5: 2/45 - 3/12
  6. Reel 6: 10/2 - 3/30
  7. Reel 7: 3/31 - 4/24
    (10/4 not microfilmed)
  8. Reel 8: 4/25 - 4/49
  9. Reel 9: 4/50 - 5/6
  10. Reel 10: 5/7 - 5/22
  11. Reel 11: 5/23 - 7/26
  12. Reel 12: 7/27 - OS 129/7

Series VII, Subseries 5: Slides not microfilmed.

Separated Material

Some photographs from Series VII have been removed to the LBI Photo Collection (F AR 25340).

Processing Information

The collection was organized by grouping clusters of files whose material were similar by content or genre together to form series and subseries. Description of the collection was added to the finding aid and superfluous copies of identical documents were also removed from the collection. When entire publications or books without extensive handwritten notes were included in the collection, the relevant articles were photocopied and the published material removed. Books containing only dedications or brief notes to Susanne Hirt had the notes photocopied and were removed from the collection.

Box 10 holds smaller oversized materials, while box OS 129 contains larger oversized materials. Box 13 has books that should remain with the collection, but which should not be microfilmed.

Slides, audiocassettes, and videocassettes have not been microfilmed.

Guide to the Papers of Susanne B. Hirt (1913-2006) 1822-2008 AR 25340 / MF 966
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2008
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from SusanneHirt.xml]

Revision Statements

  • October 2009.: Microfilm inventory added.
  • December 2012:: 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