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Renate Herzfeld Modern Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25608

Scope and Content Note

The Renate Herzfeld Modern Family Collection documents four generations of the extended Herzfeld family, with material that pertains to both family members' professional and personal lives. The collection largely focuses on Renate Herzfeld Modern's direct forebears: Rabbi Levi Herzfeld, Felix Herzfeld, and Adolf Herzfeld. Material on their wives and other family members is also included, in addition to some documentation of the Wolfes family, especially her grandfather, Hermann Wolfes. The collection includes correspondence; poetry and manuscript drafts; official, educational and military documents; sermons; newspaper clippings; family trees; notes; and a few photographs.

The first series of the collection contains the correspondence of family members. Much of the correspondence is between family members, and portrays the family relationships. Other correspondence relates to business interests of family members, especially of Adolf Herzfeld, with some discussion related to the workings of Gebrüder Wolfes.

Series II holds the personal and professional papers of Herzfeld family members, including Levi, Felix, and Adolf Herzfeld. The papers of Levi Herzfeld relate almost entirely to his role as rabbi of Braunschweig, with much of his material consisting of biographies and copies of his sermons. Papers of banker Felix Herzfeld largely relate to his written work as a poet and scholar of Italian literature. An essay in his subseries shows his thoughts on the importance of Judaism in modern life. The papers of Adolf Herzfeld, located in Subseries 3 of Series II, pertain to his professional work as head of Gebrüder Wolfes and as owner of a cement factory. However, Subseries 3 also includes some papers of his wife as well as of his daughter Edith. The subseries additionally documents the family's personal interests in art and music, as well as depicting the family home. The papers of Adolf Herzfeld's daughter Renate Herzfeld Modern form Series IV and include information on her husband's family as well as some descriptions of her emigration experience, including some information on earlier family generations such as her father and great-grandfather.

Papers of the related Wolfes family, the family of Lisbeth Herzfeld, comprise Series III. Much of this series documents the life of her father Hermann Wolfes, although information on the Wolfes family history and on some other family members is also present.

General family information and material on other related family members will be found in the final two series of the collection. Series V holds information on the family's genealogy, clearly delineating the connections between the Herzfeld, Wolfes, and Modern families as well as relations such as members of the Rüdenberg family. Series VI holds articles on Werner and Reinhold Rüdenberg as well as on general German-Jewish history.


  • Creation: 1815-2014
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1868-1961


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, and Portuguese with a small amount of Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

On December 27, 1810 Levi Herzfeld was born in Ellrich, Thuringia, Germany, the son of Ruben and Frederike (née Levi) Herzfeld. In Braunschweig, Levi Herzfeld studied theology and the Talmud under Rabbi Samuel Egers, where he also attended the Gymnasium. Afterwards he attended universities in Würzburg and Berlin, studying philosophy, Oriental languages, geography, archaeology, and history in addition to attending Berlin lectures on the Talmud under scholars such as Leopold Zunz and others. In 1836 he received his doctorate in philosophy with a dissertation (in Latin) on the chronology of the Biblical judges and the first kings. He returned to Braunschweig to continue his rabbinical studies.

In 1842 Levi Herzfeld was named Braunschweig's regional Rabbi (Landesrabbiner). A prolific writer, he achieved renown as a scholar of history and economics, and was called the first Jewish economic historian. His works included the three-volume Geschichte des Volkes Israel von der Zerstörung des ersten Tempels bis zur Einsetzung des Makkabäers Schimon zum Hohen Priester und Fürsten (History of the People of Israel from the Destruction of the First Temple until the Establishment of the Maccabee Simon to the High Priests and Princes), as well as Die Kunstleistungen des Hebräers (The Art Accomplishments of the Hebrews), a work derived from lectures he gave at Braunschweig's Art Club. Other works included Die Handelsgeschichte der Juden des Altertums (The Trade History of the Jews of Antiquity) and in 1883, Einblicke in das Sprachliche der semitischen Urzeit (Insights into the Linguistics of the Semitic Primeval Times). In 1879 the Duke (Herzog) of Braunschweig awarded Levi Herzfeld the title of professor in recognition of his scholarly work.

Levi Herzfeld married Georgine Salomon. They had eight children: Anna, Felix, Elsbeth, Robert, Clara (Claire, Klara), Lea, Gottfried, and Marta. Levi Herzfeld died in 1884.

Felix Herzfeld was the eldest son of Levi Herzfeld, and was born September 3, 1849 in Braunschweig. He became a banker, but also had an interest in writing poetry and in Italian literature. He married Anna Bremer of Gandersheim, Germany; together they had three children: Adolf, Ernst, and Ludwig. Felix Herzfeld died in 1910, Anna Herzfeld committed suicide in 1943 on the eve of deportation to Theresienstadt.

Adolf Herzfeld was born in 1883 in Hannover. He completed his Gymnasium studies in 1901 and then studied law and political science in Freiburg, Berlin, and Heidelberg. In 1906 he received his Doctor of Philosophy from the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University of Berlin. In 1906 and 1907 he lived in France and England, where he learned wholesale trade and banking. At the end of 1907 he joined the Braunschweiger Privatbank A.G. and in 1911 the Dresdner Bank in Berlin, where he worked as secretary of the bank's branches. In 1914 he became director of the Dresdner Bank in Kassel. Later that year he volunteered for World War I, where he became a First Lieutenant (Oberleutnant) of the infantry. For his service he received the Iron Cross First and Second Class.

In August 1919 Adolf Herzfeld married Lisbeth (Luise) Wolfes, the daughter of Hermann and Rosa (née Nordheimer) Wolfes. He rejoined the Dresdner Bank in Berlin in March 1920 and in April became a general partner in the firm founded by his father-in-law, Gebrüder Wolfes Bank und Getreidegeschäft, Hannover.

Hermann Philip Wolfes had founded the firm Gebrüder Wolfes in 1850 in Elze, near Hannover, and in 1891 it was established in Hannover. It was one of the leading firms in grain (Getreide) wholesaling in northern Germany and belonged to one of the prominent private banking firms of Hannover. The firm was a leader in the development of the cement industry in the Hannover region. In 1898 the firm helped found the Norddeutsche Portland-Cement-Fabrik (North German Portland Cement Factory) in Misburg, near Hannover. In addition to having founded Gebrüder Wolfes, Hermann Wolfes was prominent in the commercial sphere of Hannover. From 1912-1915 he was a Minister of Trade for the city. He also headed the Getreidebörse (grain exchange) of the city for decades and was a member of the city's Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife had one daughter, Lisbeth (also called Luise; her official documents include the use of both names). She was musically inclined and studied piano under Heinrich Lutter, a former student of Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow. As a young woman she participated in musical performances. Lisbeth and Adolf Herzfeld had two daughters, Edith and Renate.

Following the death of Hermann Wolfes in 1924, Adolf Herzfeld was elected chair of the North German Portland Cement Factory in Misburg, a position he held until 1933 when he had to resign. He was also on the Board of Directors for several other cement factories and was chair of the interest group for these factories.

Adolf and Lisbeth Herzfeld left Germany in 1937; they first stayed from March-July 1937 in Amsterdam before leaving for Brazil and settling in São Paulo. There Adolf Herzfeld began a printing business. After completing school, Renate Herzfeld spent one year studying art but then assisted her family in their business. She became a graphic artist; her sister Edith, who married Jiri Low-Beer, became an artist who worked with metal and jewels. Renate Herzfeld married Geraldo (Gerhard) Modern; they have four children.


1.5 Linear Feet


The collection includes correspondence; poetry and manuscript drafts; official, educational and military documents; sermons; newspaper clippings; family trees; notes; and a few photographs.

Related Material

The LBI Library includes some books written by Rabbi Levi Herzfeld. See the online catalog for further details.

The LBI Manuscript Collection also includes a family cookbook of Renate Herzfeld Modern (MS 1052) and a privately published book (in Portuguese) about her and her family, O Destino dos Judeus (MS 1053).

Additional items pertaining to the Renate Herzfeld Modern Collection were donated to the Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum.

Separated Material

Duplicate documents, photocopies of documents were removed from the collection, along with one edition of Die Pyramide and of Baha'i Briefe.

Processing Information

The collection was organized into series during processing of the archival collection. Duplicate photocopies were removed from the collection during processing.

Guide to the Papers of the Renate Herzfeld Modern Family 1815-2014 AR 25608
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2016
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Renate_Herzfeld_Modern_Family.xml

Revision Statements

  • March 2017:: dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States