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Leon Szalet Collection

Identifier: AR 10587

Scope and Contents

The collection documents the life and various interests of Leon Szalet. A significant part of the collection is related to his memoirs entitled Experiment 'E', which were published by Didier Publishers in 1945. In his memoirs, Leon Szalet describes his imprisonment in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which lasted almost 8 months. Included in the collection is the original manuscript (Series I) as well as legal documents (Series IV) and correspondence with his publishers and other persons involved in the publication of his book (Series V, Subseries 1). Newspaper and journal reviews of his book as well as clippings and radio interviews can also be found in the collection (Series III). In addition, there are letters Leon Szalet sent to and received from his daughter in Sachsenhausen (Series V, Subseries 3) and a manuscript written by his daughter Gitla-Matla Szalet, which describes his imprisonment, his liberation and their subsequent emigration in detail (Series I).

In the 1920s Szalet was very much engaged in developing a patent with George Breslauer for prefabricated steel-houses. Series IV holds the copies of these patents in addition to legal and business correspondence concerning the steel-houses. There are also architectural measurements/calculations, architectural plans, concrete descriptions of the invention, writings on the exploitation of the steel houses, blue print copies and a manuscript on steel-house building. Articles and brochures concerning houses in general and steel-houses in particular can be found as well.

Series VII deals with the real estate properties of Marie Faszyniak (later Fried) in Berlin, which Leon Szalet represented. It contains legal and business correspondence as well as rent calculations, architectural plans of some properties and legal documents.

The collection also contains a few personal documents and autobiographical notes by Leon Szalet (Series 1) and newspaper clippings he collected on various topics (Series VIII). There are also a few photographs depicting Leon Szalet, models of his steel-houses, and inmates of concentration camps (Series IX).


  • 1914-1996


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, Yiddish, Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Russian.

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

Leon Szalet was born on April 9th 1892 in Zelechow (Poland). As a boy he moved with his parents to Warsaw where he attended and finished school and later set himself up in business. In 1921 he moved to Berlin and became active in the real estate business. With his friend Georg Breslauer, an architect, he developed a design for prefabricated houses made of steel in 1926. They applied for patents, which were granted in several important industrial countries. Model houses based on this design were shown at the Olympia building exhibition (with the cooperation of the British Steelwork Association) in London in 1936. The outbreak of the war interrupted the work.

On September 13, 1939 Leon Szalet was taken prisoner by the Gestapo and sent to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. On May 7th 1940 he was released and escaped to the Far East via Italy on the SS Conte Verde (the last ship to leave for Asia before the outbreak of the war). He came to Shanghai and remained there until October 1941 when he was granted an immigration visa to the United States. He entered the US on October 23, 1941 in San Francisco.

In the US, Leon Szalet tried to renew his contacts in order to reestablish his business. He demanded reparations for the loss of properties in Berlin and was able to reclaim a building. In 1957 he travelled through Europe (Austria, France, Britain, Germany). Health problems forced him to stay in sanatoriums in Austria and England.

Leon Szalet died in Berlin on March 2, 1958.

Leon Szalet had a daugther, Gitla-Matla Szalet (Madleine Lejwa-Chalette), who was born in Paris in 1914, while here parents were visiting there. In 1947, she married Arthur Lejwa, a Polish biochemist. The couple opened a gallery in Manhattan and became successful art dealers in the 1950s. Following her husband's death in 1972, Gitla-Matla Szalet closed the Galerie Chalette, but contined working as an art consultant to collectors and museums. She died in 1996.


2 Linear Feet


The collection documents the life and various interests of Leon Szalet (Chaim Jehudah Leon Chalette), an engineer/architect from Berlin, who immigrated to the United States via Shanghai. It holds the manuscript of his book Experiment 'E', which is based on his experiences in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, as well as correspondence and legal documents regarding the publication and reviews. Also included are letters Szalet sent to and received from his daughter in Sachsenhausen. Another important part of the collection consists of materials related to Leon Szalet's patented design of prefabricated steel-houses. His involvement in real estate in Berlin is documented as well. The collection also contains Szalet's correspondence as well as a few personal documents.


The collection is on four reels of microfilm (MF 944):

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/4
  2. Reel 2: 1/5 - 1/22
  3. Reel 3: 1/23 - 2/20
  4. Reel 4: 2/21 - 2/41

Related Material

In 1946, Leon Szalet donated regulations of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and a map of all concentration camps in Germany to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The materials can be found in the YIVO archives in the following collections: Territorial Collection: RG 116 Germany II, 1933-1945, folder 8.8 and the Map Collection: RG 109, Part II.

Processing Information

Restitution correspondence in Series X was originally accessioned as ‘Leon Szalet Collection Addenda’, AR 11806 and microfilmed on MF 1385.

Guide to the Papers of Leon Szalet (1892-1958), 1914-1996   AR 10587 / MF 944
Processed by Johanna Schlicht
© 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • January 2009.: Microfilm inventory added.
  • June 2017.: dao links added.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States