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Fred Halbers Collection

Identifier: AR 25325

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the personal and professional life of the actor, writer, and artist Fred Halbers. Among the papers in this collection are personal, professional, and some official papers, correspondence, manuscripts, a large amount of notes, drafts, and research material, exhibition programs, awards, travel material, and clippings. In addition, the collection also holds genealogical material, such as family trees and a family history.

The foundation of the arrangement of this collection was the existing original order created by Fred Halbers himself. Since this order was not equally elaborated for every part of the collection, several minor changes were made. Still, the preservation of Halbers' original arrangement led sometimes to subseries with rather mixed contents. Moreover, documents of similar natures are located in different areas in this collection.

Papers recounting Fred Halbers' personal experiences and containing biographical data will be found in Series I, which holds personal correspondence, a biographical article and biographical notes, as well as personal papers. The personal papers also include official papers, such as identification and government-issued documents. Additional information about Halbers' personal experiences will be found among the documents about his travels in Series IV, Subseries 3. More biographical information is provided by the correspondence about his donations in Series IV, Subseries 1 and Subseries 4.

Papers documenting Halbers' activity as a writer are located in Series II. Besides unpublished manuscripts of novels and poems these papers include Halbers' preliminary works, such as notes, drafts, and research material, as well as correspondence with publishers and friends. Other related correspondence will be found in Series IV, Subseries 4 that contains Halbers' correspondence with other writers.

Documents that focus on Halbers' professional life as an artist are chiefly represented in Series III of this collection. This series holds information about his exhibitions and awards as well as his own records on techniques, sales and exhibitions. Other documents relating to Halbers' profession will be found among the correspondence concerning his art donations in Series IV, Subseries 1: in folder 32 we find discussion about an exhibition of his works in Berlin. In addition, a small amount of material about Halbers' first profession as an actor is located in Series IV, Subseries 2.

Papers listing and stating Fred Halbers' various other artistic interests besides writing and painting are located in Series IV of this collection. These interests cover on the one hand the donation of artworks, books, and correspondence to different cultural institutions. On the other hand they include also theater material, from the period when Halbers was involved in the theatre as a young man, his various travels in North America, South America and Europe, the correspondence with other writers, as well as a collection of newspaper clippings about various subjects.

In addition to papers directly about Fred Halbers, this collection also includes documents about his parents, siblings, and ancestors of the Halberstaedter and Wienskowitz families. These papers will be found in Series V, which holds family correspondence, genealogical material, such as family trees and a chronic, and correspondence discussing genealogical matters.


  • Creation: 1882-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1950-1980


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in German, English, and Spanish.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

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

The actor, artist, and writer Fred Halbers was born as Fritz Josef Halberstaedter in Berlin, Germany, on July 6th, 1894, the son of Ernst Wolfgang and Gertrude (née Wienskowitz) Halberstaedter. He had an older sister, Hertha Johanna, as well as a younger brother, Werner. Beginning in 1912 Halbers studied two years at the Max Reinhardt drama school in Berlin. In 1914 he volunteered as a soldier for Germany, but was not accepted in the military until 1915. Due to an injury in Russia, Halbers spent several months in a military hospital in Belgium and worked afterwards as an interpreter in Belgium until he was dismissed from the German army in 1918. His brother Werner was killed in Russia in 1916.

After World War I Halbers was active as an actor, director, and a stage designer in several theaters in various German cities, including Munich, Coblenz, Duesseldorf, Bremerhaven, and Berlin. In 1933, when Jewish actors were subjected to a stage ban, Halbers was forced to find a new profession and established a house painting business. In 1935 he married Johanna Archenhold. The couple emigrated in 1939 via London to La Paz, Bolivia, where Fred Halbers worked first as a house painter and restorer, and later as an artist. Moreover he had his own radio broadcast once a week called La voz alemana, managed an amateur theater, and helped at the University San Andres de La Paz to translate the works of the German philosophers Martin Heidegger and Nicolai Hartmann into Spanish. In addition, Halbers traveled widely in Bolivia, giving lectures and producing films and slide shows about his travel experiences. In 1948 he was divorced from his wife. He did not remarry.

In 1954 Halbers left Bolivia and moved to New York, where his sister Herta had been living since her marriage to Walter Gimple, an American, in 1922. Living in Astoria, Queens, Halbers worked again as a painter and restorer. He became a U.S. citizen in 1960. After having spent about 16 years in the U.S. he moved to Cordoba, Argentina, where Elsbeth Ahlfeld, the widow of his cousin Ernst, was living. After the death of Ernst in 1969 Fred Halbers and Elsbeth Ahlfeld developed a close relationship.

Halbers discovered his talent for painting and drawing already as an adolescent, when he tried to create his first drawings and watercolors. In Bolivia Halbers began to focus on etchings, oil paintings, and drawings, finding his inspiration on various trips around the country. As an artist Halbers achieved considerable success. He was not only able to sell many paintings and etchings to private collectors in Europe, South America, and the U.S., but also participated on various exhibitions in La Paz (1948-1954), New York (1958-1960), and Berlin (1968), and received the Gold Medal for Etchings of the American Artists Professional League in 1958 as well as other awards. He sold several etchings for a permanent display to the New York Public Library, the Museo de Arte in Madrid, the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and the Bezirksamt Neukoelln von Berlin.

Another passion, which Halbers had cultivated since his youth, was writing. Throughout his life he worked on various manuscripts for novels, poems, and plays. Apart from a few exceptions the main topic of his literary work was the New Testament character of Judas, who was the subject of his novel, Der geheiligte Judas, as well as the subject of many of his Judas poems. While some of his poems were published in newspapers, Halbers was never able to find a publisher for his main work.

The year of Halbers' death is unknown. The last documents of Halbers' life found in this collection originate from 1987, when Halbers lived in the Adolf Hirsch Heim, a home for the elderly, in Buenos Aires.


3 Linear Feet


The Fred Halbers Collection documents the life and work of the actor, artist, and writer Fred Halbers. The main subjects of the collection are his life, his writing and his artwork, although material concerning other members of the family is also present. The collection consists of manuscripts, correspondence, clippings, official documents, notes, some photographs, negatives and slides.

Separated Material

Fred Halbers medal from World War I, six ribbons and his etchings were removed to the LBI's Art and Objects Collection.

Photographs of Fred Halbers, his artwork, his friends as well as his family and ancestors were removed to the LBI's Photograph Collection.

Guide to the Papers of Fred Halbers (1894- ?) 1882-1987 AR 25325
Processed by Rebekka Rueegsegger
© 2008
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from FredHalbers.xml

Revision Statements

  • 2010-03-23 : 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