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Hannah Busoni Collection

Identifier: AR 10427 / MF 928

Scope and Content Note

The Hannah Busoni Papers (1914-1985) are arranged in three series and include clippings, correspondence, legal documents, photographs, and sketches by Hannah Busoni and others.

The central topic of this collection is Hannah Busoni's life and that of her family. Letters illustrating Hannah's relationship with her parents, her husband, her friends, and her son will be found in Series I: Correspondence. Especially prominent in this collection are the letters she exchanged with Rafaello Busoni in the time leading up to their marriage and after. A theme relevant to Series I is emigration. Correspondence dating from 1935-1939 illustrates Hannah and Rafaello Busoni's moving to and fro until their eventual settlement in the United States. Typewritten correspondence from Albert Einstein addressed to Dr. Alfred Apfel will also be found in this series.

A secondary topic in the collection pertains to Dr. Alfred Apfel's professional life as a defense lawyer. Pamphlets advertising Dr. Apfel's publications about German justice will be found in Series I, while court proceedings from four of his cases, including one against Carl von Ossietzky, will be found in Series III.

In this collection, there are no documents concerning Ferrucccio Busoni directly, although he is referenced indirectly in publications concerning his son or his granddaughter.


  • 1914-1985
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1958


Language of Materials

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

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Collection is microfilmed; use MF 928.

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.

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

Hannah Apfel was born on May 17, 1905 in Berlin, the daughter of the prominent Jewish lawyer Dr. Alfred Apfel and his wife Dora (née Schoenewald) Apfel. Dr. Alfred Apfel defended Carl von Ossietzky in a trial related to the famous Weltbuehnenprozess. As a girl, Hannah took piano lessons with a Japanese woman named Hide, who herself had learned to play the piano under the guidance of the composer Ferruccio Busoni and would later marry his son, Rafaello Busoni.

In 1927, Hannah Apfel earned her law degree in Heidelberg. Just three weeks after passing the "Referendarexamen," she was expelled from the University because of her Jewish faith.

Kiki Busoni, Rafaello and Hide Busoni’s daughter, was born in 1927. One year later, Hide was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was sent to Switzerland to be cured. While Hide was away and slowly dying, Rafaello and Hannah’s friendship developed into romance. In 1930, Hide's health had supposedly improved dramatically, and so she returned home to Berlin. Unfortunately the diagnosis was spurious, and Hide died fourteen days later at home.

Soon after, Hannah Apfel and Rafaello Busoni married. In January of 1935, the newlywed couple, accompanied by Kiki Busoni, took the steam ship Arlanza to Madeira and lived there until the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936; they then went back to Berlin. In November of 1938, Mario, Hannah and Rafaello's son, was born. Knowing they could not stay in Germany, Rafaello decided to move the family to Sweden, his mother's home country, thinking they would at least be safe there. However, after only six months, the Busonis were forced to leave again, given the choice to return to Germany or go to Italy. Choosing neither, the Busonis boarded a ship in October of 1939 in Norway that brought them to New York. On October 15, 1939 the Busonis arrived in Ellis Island.

The three Busonis proceeded to live with Eva Feilchenfeld, a close friend of Hannah's, in Mount Vernon, New York, for a few months before moving to New York City. There they settled into an apartment in Midtown. Hannah started a framing business, while Rafaello continued painting and earning a living as an illustrator. In 1962, Rafaello passed away.

After the death of her husband, Hannah spent a lot of time traveling. In 1969, she explored the Balkan Peninsula, going to countries like Yugoslavia and Greece. In 1973, she went to Africa. Towards the end of her life, Hannah became involved in the Austrian Stammtisch centered around the writer Oskar Maria Graf and attended many of the meetings.

Hannah Busoni died on November 9th, 1995 in New York City.


1.5 Linear Feet


This collection documents the life of Hannah Busoni (née Apfel) and her husband, the artist Rafaello Busoni, son of the renowned composer, Ferruccio Busoni. The collection consists primarily of personal correspondence and photographs, but also includes Portuguese newspaper clippings. There are also four court cases pertaining to the defense attorney, Dr. Alfred Apfel, Hannah's father.


Collection is available on 8 reels of microfilm (MF 928).

  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/4
  2. Reel 2: 1/5-1/10
  3. Reel 3: 1/11-1/13
  4. Reel 4: 1/14-1/19
  5. Reel 5: 1/20-1/23
  6. Reel 6: 1/24-1/29
  7. Reel 7: 2/30-2/49
  8. Reel 8: 2/50-Portraits of Women

Related Material

Die Alpen von Maine: Exilerfahrung in Amerika am Oskar-Maria-Graf-Stammtisch contains an interview in German with Hannah Busoni from 1995. This manuscript can be found in the Archives of the Leo Baeck Institute, call number MS 720.

Separated Material

All photographs in this collection have been removed to the LBI Photograph Collection.

Processing Information

This collection was processed in 2008. Similar materials were grouped together chronologically, and each folder contains a list of contents.

Guide to the Papers of Hannah Busoni (1930-1958) 1914-1985 AR 10427 / MF 928
Processed by Julia von Tuerk
© 2008
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from HannahBusoni.xml

Revision Statements

  • 2010-04-16 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl. Microfilm information added.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States