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Erich Kahler Collection

Identifier: AR 2141 / MF 755

Scope and Contents

The Erich Kahler Collection is divided into two series. The first series concerns the author's professional life, his many works and his numerous colleagues. The second series concerns the author’s personal life. The collection consists of a number of the author's manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, documents and clippings.

The bulk of the first series is manuscripts. Some of them are handwritten while others are typed with accompanying handwritten notes from Erich Kahler. They span a time period from 1913 to 1965. There are also handwritten notes and pieces of manuscripts by the author that are either sections of or notes for his most well known books. These are, for example, The Jews and the Arabs in Palestine, which he wrote together with Albert Einstein in 1944 and Was ist Musik? Das Leben V.Z.'s, an obituary to Viktor Zuckerkandl from 1965.

Since the author was friends with famous German authors like Thomas Mann and Hermann Broch, their letters are a highlight of the collection's correspondence.

Furthermore Kahler's entire family was very close friends with Albert Einstein. Erich Kahler himself, as well as his second wife Alice Kahler-Loewy and also his mother Antoinette von Kahler corresponded with Einstein. Those letters may be found in this collection. Photos from Albert Einstein also document the close relationship between the Kahler Family and him.

Also included in this collection is a large amount of letters from Friedrich Gundolf. Erich Kahler and his first wife Josephine (born Sobotka) were very close with Gundolf. These letters are well preserved.

The documents in the collection span a period of fourty-four years, from 1884 to 1938. Of particular interest are several documents from the time right before World War II. Financial certifications from the Czech Republic and from Austria, Antoinette von Kahler's health attestations and certifications from different authorities document the preparation of the family's immigration to their exile in the United States.


  • 1886-1980


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English.

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`

Access Restrictions

Researchers must use microfilm (MF 755)

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

Erich Kahler (originally von Kahler) was born on October 14, 1885 in Prague and grew up in Vienna, Austria. Both cities were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire then, which was very rich with culture and cultural exchange, due to its multi-ethnic population. Vienna and Prague, in particular, were cultural centers and helped mold the literary landscape in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Kahler was a typical scholar of his age. His studies at the universities of Berlin, Munich, Heidelberg and Freiburg were highly well rounded. He attended lectures in Philosophy, Literature, Fine Arts, History, Sociology and Psychology, which illustrate the wide range of his academic education.

He earned his Ph.D. in 1911 at the University of Vienna and made his home in Wolfratshausen, near Munich. After which he traveled through Europe, working as an author and lecturer.

When Hitler gained power in 1933, Erich Kahler fled Nazi-Germany and returned to Prague. Soon the political development in Europe forced him into exile and he left the continent for the United States. In 1938 he arrived in New York and then moved to Princeton, at the request of his friend Thomas Mann. He became a U.S. citizen in 1944.

Erich Kahler continued his career in the United States successfully as a lecturer and visiting professor from 1940 to 1960. One of the university teaching positions he held was at the New School for Social Research, in New York City. Man the Measure, his first book published in America, is based on his lectures there.

Other German Jewish academics and scientists, who left Europe before Word War II, always surrounded him. This so-called Kahler-Kreis (Kahler-Circle) included such famous persons as Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann and Hermann Broch. Kahler cultivated a very close friendship with Thomas Mann and his entire family. The correspondence of these two individuals was published under the title, An Exceptional Friendship: The Correspondence of Thomas Mann and Erich Kahler.

It is possible to rank Erich Kahler among a part of the great German tradition of the uomo universale. This term can be loosely defined as describing an eclectic scholar with an unusual amount of skills and acquaintances from different academic fields. According to the documents, this is apparent in the wide range of subjects he studied as well as the broad spectrum of works that he produced. He continued exploring various topics throughout his time as a writer. Kahler analyzed the changing roles of science, technology and history and was especially interested in the relationship of man and his reaction to these changes. The role of the Jews in the world's history was always a major topic throughout all his works.

Besides his teaching, Erich Kahler was a literary critic, especially of Thomas Mann. He also published a remarkable number of books, essays and contributed regularly to magazines and papers. As a member of various anti-war and anti-bomb groups he protested World War II and the devastating effects of military action. He volunteered for the Committee to Frame a World Constitution and the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, just to name a few organizations. Throughout his life, Kahler was also a staunch supporter of the Zionist movement.

Erich Kahler died in Princeton in June 1970. His second wife Mrs. Alice (Lili) Kahler-Loewy, who he married during his time in Princeton, lived until 1992. She took care of his bequest and donated his papers to different research establishments, among others to the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.


2 Linear Feet


This collection documents the personal and professional life of Erich Kahler (1885-1970), an author and lecturer in Europe and the United States. Throughout his entire professional life he researched and wrote on the history and culture of the Jews. After he left Nazi-Germany in 1933, he continued publishing his literature and social scientific works. Kahler also held several university teaching positions, one of which was at the New School for Social Research, in New York City. He kept company with further German Jewish intellectuals in his American exile, such as Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein. His works were well respected among his academic peers.


This collection is available on 6 reels of microfilm:
  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/9
  2. Reel 2: 1/10-1/23
  3. Reel 3: 1/23-2/4
  4. Reel 4: 2/5-2/13
  5. Reel 5: 2/14-2/26
  6. Reel 6: 2/27-2/35

Separated Material

Rare Material: Belloc, Hilaire. Die Juden. München: Verlag Joseph Koesel 7amp; Friedrich Pustet, 1927.

Books were removed to the LBI Library (please see bibliography within the collection) and select photographs have been placed in the LBI Photograph Collection.
Guide to the Papers of Erich Kahler (1885-1970), 1886-1980   AR 2141 / MF 755
Processed by Valentina Schmidt
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2010-03-11 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl
  • 2010-03-02 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States