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Clara Michelson Collection

Identifier: AR 25196

Scope and Content Note

The Clara Michelson Collection documents the life and work of the writer and graphologist, Clara Michelson. The main subjects of the collection are her life as a Latvian Jew from Riga, her writings and her publications. The collection consists of personal correspondence (Series I), manuscripts with an added list of all titles and publications (Series II) and a photograph.

She wrote in German, French and (her early stories) in Russian. From 1910 - 1913 she was a regular contributor to Die Waage, a Viennese weekly, which published several of her short stories, as well as her essays The Legacy of Tolstoi and Ibsen's Brand and Kant's Categorial Imperative (Folder 8).

In 1936, Philo Verlag printed a small volume of her short stories in German, which can be found in Series II Folder 9. She was also interested and versed in graphology. A publication on graphology, Le Symbole dans l'Écriture, appeared in Paris in 1936. Although Clara was not interested in Judaism as a religion, much of her work addressed Jewish themes. She depicted Jewish life in Eastern Europe in cultural and humanistic terms. Her topics reflect her concern with psychological and sociological issues, as well as the position of women in Eastern European society.

Biographical information on her - especially giving evidence of her travels and emigrations/immigrations - can be extracted from her correspondence with family and friends, especially with Sacha and Leo Rosenthal. The correspondence starts in November 1925, when Clara was in Berlin, and continues until September 1937 (Series II). Main biographical data can be found in her nephew's publication: Max Michelson, City of life, City of Death: Memories of Riga.

There are several letters (Folder 15), manuscripts (Folder 16) and loose notes (Folder 17), that have been added later. The Addenda can be found in Series III.


  • 1910-1940, 2005-2008


Language of Materials

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

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

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

Clara Michelson was born in 1881 as the second daughter of a well-situated Jewish family in Riga. As opposed to Russia, her mother and father created a cultural alignment with Germany. Clara Michelson was fluent in German, Russian and French, as were her other siblings.

Sent to a German elementary and high school, she took courses in sociology and philosophy with Georg Simmel, a well-known professor at the University of Berlin. She also attended lectures by Sigmund Freud in Vienna, which might have deepened her interest in psychoanalysis and therefore made her increase her knowledge in Adlerian psychoanalytical theory.

At the start of World War I Clara Michelson was in Germany. She returned to Russia, probably via Stockholm, in 1916. Her family fled Moscow. In early 1917 she went to the Caucasus with her mother. The start of the Russian Revolution trapped her in the South. It took her almost two years until she returned to Riga, to finally move to Berlin in 1921, while most of her family stayed in Latvia. From Berlin she moved to Paris in 1925 and worked as a creative fiction writer in addition to studying graphology and psychoanalysis.

In the early 1930s Clara returned to Berlin, but with the Nazi seizure of power immigrated back to Paris. Clara failed to escape Paris when the Nazis occupied the city. In July 1942 she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where she was killed.


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The Clara Michelson Collection documents the life and work of the writer and graphologist Clara Michelson. The main subjects of the collection are her writings and her publications. The collection consists of manuscripts, a list of manuscripts, correspondence, publications and a photograph.


The collection is on four reels of microfilm (MF 974):

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/4
  2. Reel 2: 1/5 - 1/11
  3. Reel 3: 1/12 - 1/15
  4. Reel 4: 1/16 - 1/17

Related Material

Max Michelson Collection, AR 6016

Max Michelson, City of Life, City of Death. Memories of Riga. University Press of Colorado in 2001

Separated Material

A photograph of Clara Michelson from the 1930s has been removed to the LBI's Photograph Collection.

Processing Information

The collection was arranged by format and chronology. Photos were removed.

Guide to the Papers of Clara Michelson (1881-1942) 1910-1940, 2005-2008 AR 25196 / MF 974
Processed by Linda Selma Oberndorfer
© 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from ClaraMichelson.xml

Revision Statements

  • 2010-04-07 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl
  • May 2009.: Microfilm inventory added to finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States