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Ernst Heumann Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25752

Scope and Content Note

The Ernst Heumann Family Collection holds the papers of Ernst and Hedi Heumann and their greater family, including members of the Messer, van Gelder, Oppenheim, Haas, and related families. Most of the collection focuses on Ernst and Hedi Heumann's lives in the United States, although documents about their lives in Germany are also present. The bulk of the collection is composed of family and personal correspondence along with documents both personal and official. Correspondence and documents of their parents and children are also prominent, as is correspondence to and from them during their travels from the late 1950s through the 1970s. The collection contains correspondence; official documents; educational documents; family writing including poems, essays and short stories; travel memorabilia; some immigration papers; legal documents; Ernst Heumann's business correspondence and papers; family trees; and other documentation.

Most of the collection centers on the lives of Ernst and Hedi (née Messer) Heumann, whose papers form much of Series I. These files of mixed correspondence and documentation were originally ordered either chronologically or topically; these divisions were retained during the arrangement of the archival collection. Much of the correspondence consists of letters from friends and family to them, although some letters by them are also present. Series I was divided into subseries by volume of papers, with Ernst and Hedi Heumann's papers further subdivided based on the files' original order. The chronological files of the first subseries of Series I include much documentation and correspondence of Ernst Heumann's life and employment in Frankfurt am Main, including some documents that pertain to his experience of World War I as a boy and correspondence about his emigration to the United States. Later letters provide evidence of his impressions of life in the United States, including others' commentary on it, and of his courtship of Hedi Messer. Some correspondence of Hedi Messer from this time is also present. Their marriage and children are addressed in letters sent to them. Other letters and some financial documents show the growth of Ernst Heumann's real estate business. A large amount of correspondence and some documents relate to the couple's later travels on cruises both around the world and to places such as South America, Africa, India, and the South Pacific. Some documentation of Ernst Heumann's finances and his funeral are present in Series II.

Correspondence and a small amount of documents about Ernst and Hedi Heumann's daughters Audrey Regen and Elaine Gurian are located in Subseries 3 of Series I. These papers provide details of Audrey's attendance at summer camp and theater programs, her studies at Bard College, and of both daughters' news of their married lives.

Correspondence and documents of Hedi Heumann's parents, Isak Josef ("Isi") and Elizabeth ("Betty") Messer comprise Subseries 2 of Series I, with folders of personal papers, official documents, and correspondence. Much of this material is correspondence, including correspondence with Betty Messer prior to her marriage and later correspondence related to their emigration from Germany. Documents include some that pertain to Isak Messer's World War I military service or to Betty Messer's interest in ballroom dancing. Official documents related to their citizenship and that of their children are also in this subseries.

Papers of Ernst Heumann's parents, Adolf and Fanny Heumann, will additionally be found in Subseries 2 of Series I. Most of their personal papers are official documents such as naturalization and death certificates, but the subseries also includes their personal correspondence sent to Ernst and Hedi Heumann, both while Ernst was a young man in Frankfurt and later letters from his mother while he and Hedi traveled. Further documents about Fanny Heumann are located in Series II, including papers such as songs and poems that describe or show her interests, personality, and aspects of her life.

Series II additionally includes family trees that depict the branches of the Heumann and Messer families.


  • Creation: 1843-1999
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1918-1931; 1950-1981


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in German and English, with small amounts of Hebrew, Polish, and French.

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 "Reserve" 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

Ernst Heumann was born on July 24, 1900 in the town of Gau-Odernheim, Germany, the son of Adolf and Fanny (née Haas) Heumann. He had two younger sisters: Edith and Alice. As a young man he apprenticed at the import and export firm Siegmund Strauss Jr. in Frankfurt am Main. However, by the early 1920s he had become concerned at the lack of economic opportunity in Germany and decided to emigrate to the United States. In 1924 he traveled with his friend Artur Schuster to New York, arriving in January 1924.

In New York Ernst first found work in a corset store in Manhattan, but later took a position at the real estate firm of Loeb Holding Corporation in Astoria, New York. His sister Alice followed him to New York, arriving in 1926 until she returned to Germany three years later; in May 1932 she returned to the United States once more. Ernst also returned to Germany in December 1929 to visit his family, but came back to New York later that year.

Before he left to visit Germany in 1929, Ernst Heumann had met Hedi Messer (born Margot Hedwig, but called Hedi in later official correspondence). Hedi, born January 25, 1908, was the daughter of Isak Josef (called Isi) and Elizabeth (called Betty, née van Gelder) Messer of Frankfurt am Main. She had two siblings: Herbert and Gretel. Hedi had emigrated to New York in 1927 with the financial assistance of her cousin Max Oppenheim, who also assisted other members of the Messer family to emigrate. Ernst and Hedi married in early 1932. They would have two daughters: Audrey and Elaine. The family first lived in Astoria, New York, and later Forest Hills. Eventually the family moved to Great Neck, New York. By the late 1940s, Ernst Heumann had become head of the real estate firm, Trylon Realty Corporation in Forest Hills.

During the 1930s, other members of the family joined Ernst and Hedi Heumann in New York. Isak Josef Messer and Elizabeth (Betty) Messer arrived in New York on April 27, 1934. Adolf and Fanny Heumann arrived in New York on May 31, 1935. Ernst's sister Edith immigrated via Canada in 1934. Hedi's brother Herbert had emigrated in 1928, their sister Gretel came to New York in 1934.

Audrey Heumann studied theater at Bard College and eventually married the lawyer Ezra Regen; they had 3 children. Elaine Heumann attended Brandeis University and married physician Bennett (Ben) Gurian with whom she had two children.

Beginning in 1959 Ernst and Hedi Heumann travelled on extensive cruises, including trips around the world, to South America, Europe, and several trips to Asia and the South Pacific.

Ernst Heumann passed away in 1981, Hedi Heumann in 1991.


3 Linear Feet


The Ernst Heumann Family Collection documents three generations of this family, including members of the Messer, van Gelder, Oppenheim, Haas, and related families. Much of the collection centers on how the businessman Ernst Heumann and his wife Hedi née Messer established themselves in the United States and built their family, although documentation on their early lives in Germany and their emigration is also present. Although the bulk of the collection consists of the family's extensive personal correspondence, official and personal documents are also a central part of the collection. The collection contains correspondence; official documents; educational documents; family writing including poems, essays and short stories; travel memorabilia; some immigration papers; legal documents; Ernst Heumann's business correspondence and papers; family trees; and other documentation.

Separated Material

Duplicate photocopies of documents were removed from the archival collection during processing. The book Altenzentrum der Jüdische Gemeinde Frankfurt am Main was removed from the archival collection to the LBI Library.

Processing Information

The collection was originally ordered with a large amount of chronological and topical files of combined correspondence and documents. This order was preserved during the processing of the archival collection to form series, subseries, and subsubseries. Most of these chronological files were further divided during processing. Some folders pertained to specific topics or individuals; these files were arranged alphabetically during processing. The many files of papers related to Ernst and Hedi Heumann's cruise trips were also further divided by trip, topic, or date during processing due to their size.

Guide to the Papers of the Ernst Heumann Family 1843-1999 AR 25752
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Ernst_Heumann_Family.xml

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States