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Walter Liebling Family Collection

Identifier: AR 10791 / MF 738

Scope and Contents

The collection relates to the life of Walter Liebling, his sister Elsbeth Liebling, his mother Jenny Liebling, and his wife Rita Liebling (neé Hagelberg). The material concerning Walter Liebling covers his life from the 1920s until his death in 1998. Documents of his father Max, his mother Jenny and his sister Elsbeth date back to 1894.

The material is arranged in six series: Walter Liebling, Elsbeth Liebling, Jenny Liebling, Rita Liebling (neé Hagelberg), Family Papers, and Miscellaneous.

The records in this collection grant access to the biographical background of the Lieblings, whereas the large amount of correspondence provides an insight into the emotional side of their lives, and their experiences in Nazi Germany before their emigration, on their journey to America and during their first years in New York.


  • Creation: 1894-1998


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, and French.

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

Walter Liebling was born in Berlin on May 23, 1903 to Max Adolf Liebling (1866-1918), a lawyer, and Jenny Eisenstädt (1869-1955). In 1921, he enrolled for law studies at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin. The family ran into financial difficulties after his father's death in 1918, and after five semesters Walter Liebling had to leave university and enroll at the Handels-Hochschule instead. He never completed his law degree and worked for two banks (H. Oppenheim und Sohn and Siegfried Rosendorff) after finishing school. From 1924 until 1938, he worked in the real estate business as a bookkeeper and administrator. During those years, he became interested in foreign languages and studied English and Spanish.

Walter Liebling's older sister Elsbeth (later Elizabeth) was born in Berlin on June 28, 1894. She attended a public school for girls. After finishing school, she studied music (singing), but like her brother she had to give up her studies because of financial problems. She eventually worked as a secretary.

Music always played a big role in the life of the Liebling family. In Berlin, they were part of many social gatherings where a circle of friends met to play music together. Walter Liebling tried to make a living out of his passion for music and joined the orchestra of the Jüdischer Kulturbund in Deutschland e.V. in 1939, which spared him from forced labor for a while. He supplemented his income by giving Latin and violin lessons. Elsbeth Liebling had to work in a Siemens factory for eight months, while her brother worked in a factory for only a few weeks before their emigration.

After having tried to leave Germany for almost two years, Walter, Elsbeth and their mother Jenny Liebling finally immigrated to New York City via Spain and Portugal (Lisbon) in May and June 1941. Rita Hagelberg, who would become Walter Liebling's wife, had already immigrated to London in 1939. She tried to organize an affidavit for them for England, but was not successful. The Lieblings eventually received an affidavit of support by distant relatives from America, Dr. Louis J. and Jeannette E. Sokol, whom they had never met before. After they arrived in New York, they stayed with the Sokols for a week before moving into their own appartment.

In New York, Walter and Elsbeth Liebling both took various jobs. Walter Liebling worked in several factories as a shipping clerk and as an office clerk. In order to find better-paid jobs he took a course in accounting at the Manhattan Accountancy Institute. He also tried to work as a musician on a professional basis, but since this did not provide him with enough income he had to continue factory and office work and leave music as a hobby. Elsbeth Liebling first worked as a domestic in several households of other immigrant families, but felt uncomfortable with this kind of work and so she worked in factories instead.

By the time he immigrated to the United States, Walter Liebling had been considered a professional musician for viola and violin in Germany. In New York, he established a new circle of friends through their common interest in music and playing together in an orchestra. Thus, he managed to assimilate into his new life in New York quite quickly. Elsbeth and Jenny Liebling did not make new contacts that easily, however, and stayed together at home most of the time.

In February 1965, Walter Liebling married Rita Hagelberg after many years of engagement. Sharing an interest in music, they had already known each other in Germany, and stayed in touch during their years of separation. Rita Liebling was born in Berlin on July 15, 1910 to Ernst Anton Hagelberg and Edda Hagelberg (neé Loewenthal). She was a registered teacher for piano, theory and composition. Rita Liebling immigrated to London in 1939. Her parents and her sister were deported and perished. She was the only family member who was able to escape from Nazi Germany. In London, Rita Liebling first had difficulties finding a job, because she was looking for a position in the music business. She held several unsatisfying postitions until she finally found employment as a nurse. Rita lived with an artist friend named Mary B. Ping for about six months. They stayed in touch after Rita's immigration to the United States.

In June 1947, Rita Liebling immigrated via Canada to the United States (New York). She received her affidavit of support from her cousin and friend O.L. Marton. In New York, she worked as a physical therapist. She completed her bachelor's degree in 1954, and her master's degree in nursing at New York University in 1959. She had only been married to Walter Liebling for a little over a year when she died on June 17th 1966.

Elsbeth Liebling died on August 9, 1986 and Walter Liebling on April 21, 1998.


1.75 Linear Feet


This collection documents the lives of Walter Liebling, his mother Jenny Liebling, his sister Elsbeth Liebling, and his wife Rita Liebling (neé Hagelberg). The family lived in Berlin until their immigration to New York in 1941. Included are documents related to their education, their professional careers, their interest in music, and their immigration. The extensive amount of correspondence offers a detailed insight into the lives of immigrants trying to establish themselves in their new environment.


This collection is available on three reels of microfilm (MF 738).

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/24
  2. Reel 2: 1/25 - 2/1
  3. Reel 3: 2/2 - 2/26
Guide to the Walter Liebling Family Collection, 1894-1998   AR 10791 / MF 738
Processed by Juliane Reissig and Lea Osborne
© 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

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