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Erich Seligmann Collection

Identifier: AR 4104

Scope and Content Note

This collection records some of the significant personal and professional events in the life of the bacteriologist and hygienist Erich Seligmann. Among his papers are detailed handwritten personal narratives consisting of diaries and a family history. In addition, this collection holds documentation of his professional work that includes certificates and diplomas, curricula vitae, and some correspondence. Other material pertains to the Seligmann family.

Details of Erich Seligmann's personal life will be found in Series I and, to a lesser extent, in Series III. In Series I are four diaries, which largely focus on events of the 1930s and 1940s. Similar in nature to the diaries is the family history (Familiengeschichte) of Series III. Although this work begins with the Seligmann family, much of its content appears to relate to events in Erich Seligmann's own life. Further biographical material on him will be found among the obituaries and other articles of Series I, while a short typed manuscript in Series III focuses on the history of the Seligmann family.

Series II focuses on the professional life of Erich Seligmann, especially on the loss of his position as head of the Central Health Office (Hauptgesundheitsamt) in Berlin and his immigration to the United States. Among the papers are many certificates, diplomas and similar documents attesting to his work in Berlin and to membership in American medical organizations. Included are copies of his medical licenses. Of particular interest may be his letters to the Berlin mayor's (Oberbürgermeister's) office protesting his dismissal from public service in 1933.


  • 1812-1982
  • Majority of material found within 1931-1948


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with a small amount of Latin and Spanish.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Collection is microfilmed (MF 1074).

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

Erich Seligmann was born on November 2, 1880 in Berlin. In 1904 he received his medical degree from the University of Heidelberg. His career began with the position of assistant bacteriologist from 1904-1907 at Berlin's Institute for Infectious Diseases (later the Robert Koch Institute) where he worked under such medical luminaries as Robert Koch (who was the first to isolate anthrax, tuberculosis and cholera), Georg Gaffky (who identified the typhoid bacillus) and Bernhard Proskauer.

In 1907 Seligmann entered the public health service, following Proskauer to the newly-founded Investigative Office for Hygenic and Commercial Purposes (Untersuchungsamt für hygienische und gewerbliche Zwecke), later part of the Central Health Office (Hauptgesundheitsamt) of Berlin, where in 1918 he became head of the department of bacteriology and hygiene. During World War I Seligmann served as a captain in the medical corps and chief of the bacteriological laboratories of the army. In 1927 he became the director of the scientific institutes of the Central Health Office (Hauptgesundheitsamt) and deputy health commissioner for the city of Berlin. These laboratories were the largest investigators of bacteriological samples for contagious diseases in Germany. Seligmann's responsibilities here centered on disinfection, vaccination, immunization, supervision of the water and milk supply as well as of the public baths and general sanitation. From 1919 until 1933 Seligmann also taught as a professor for infectious diseases at the Berlin Academy for Social Hygiene. Additionally, he served as an advisor to the Reich and the League of Nations in matters of public health and hygiene. In 1929 he traveled to the United States to conduct research in the control of contagious diseases and public baths.

After 1933, due to official German policies, Seligmann was dismissed from his post as director of the Hauptgesundheitsamt. He then became director of the newly organized Board of Health of the Berlin Jewish Community and president of the Jewish Hospital of Berlin. He was also advisor to the Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland for public health and social care.

In 1939 Seligmann immigrated to the United States via England, where he received the position of assistant professor of public health at Columbia University. In 1941 he became chief bacteriologist at Beth Israel Hospital and director of Beth Israel's Salmonella Center.

He died in New York on January 1, 1954. Over his lifetime, Erich Seligman produced more than two hundred articles in bacteriology and related fields such as epidemiology, immunology, general and social hygiene and public health education. He was especially known for his work in diphtheria and salmonella research. In addition to his scholarly papers he wrote articles for popular newspapers and magazines and gave lectures on the radio in matters of public health.


0.75 Linear Feet


The Erich Seligmann Collection documents the noteworthy events in the life of this bacteriologist and hygienist, holding material on both his personal and professional life. The material focuses on the events of the 1930s and 1940s, including the loss of his position in Berlin, his immigration to the United States and World War II. The collection consists of diaries, a family history, professional documentation, a small amount of correspondence and a few family trees.

Other Finding Aid

Item-level lists of the contents of the collection prior to reprocessing are available.

Custodial History

The collection was donated by Ruth Frank, daughter of Erich Seligmann.


The collection is on two reels of microfilm (MF 1074):

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/20
  2. Rell 2: 1/21 - 2/3

Related Material

One book by Erich Seligmann is available in the LBI Library:

  1. Seuchenbekaempfung. Vorlesungen an der Socialhygienischen Akademie Charlottenburg [RA 643 S4]

Separated Material

Two fabric banners with wedding poems (Tischlieder) were removed to the Arts and Objects Collection.

Processing Information

This collection was reprocessed in preparation of the EAD finding aid and eventual microfilming. At this time the addenda (AR 4104a) was integrated with the single overfilled folder that comprised the original collection (AR 4104). Item-level lists of the contents of the collection prior to reprocessing are available.

Guide to the Papers of Erich Seligmann (1880-1954) 1812-1982 AR 4104 / MF 1074
Processed by Dianne Ritchey and LBI Staff
© 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from ErichSeligmann.xml

Revision Statements

  • November 2010:: Microfilm inventory added.
  • September 2011:: 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