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Werner Kleeman Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 25113

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the personal experience of Werner Kleeman as a young man in Gaukönigshofen, Germany who was sent to and released from Dachau, immigrated to the United States, and later returned to Germany as a U.S. soldier who took part in D-Day. Also included are documents on the Kleeman family history, particularly in the town of Theilheim. The restitution claims of both Werner Kleeman and his father Louis Kleeman comprise substantial portions of the collection. With the exception of a few mentions of his family and work in correspondence, there is very little information on Werner Kleeman's personal or professional life after World War II.

Series I comprises the personal papers of Werner Kleeman, Louis Kleeman, and the Kleeman family. Family trees, genealogical tables, clippings, correspondence, and typescripts regarding the Kleeman, Loeb, and Lehman families, all of which have their roots in the same area of Bavaria, Germany, are included. These are followed by personal papers of Werner Kleeman, which include correspondence and clippings from his military service, correspondence and official documents regarding his restitution claims, and further correspondence and official documents from his unsuccessful attempt to claim a pension from Germany. The personal papers of Louis Kleeman comprise almost half of this series, and these range from military records and immigration papers to extensive amounts of official documents and correspondence with lawyers regarding restitution claims.

Series II includes drafts of Werner Kleeman's memoir From Dachau to D-Day and related correspondence, notes, and clippings.

Series III consists of the personal papers of Norborne P. Gatling, Jr., a friend of Werner Kleeman from his time in the U.S. army. These papers either stem from or reflect upon Gatling's experiences during World War II.

Dates

  • 1877-2010
  • Majority of material found within 1939-2010

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and German with a few documents in Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

This collection is 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.

Biographical Note

Werner Kleeman was born on September 26, 1919 in Gaukönigshofen, Bavaria, to Louis Kleeman (sometimes spelled Kleemann, born June 19, 1884, died December, 1963), a prosperous businessman, and his wife Lina née Bamberger (born June 8, 1886). He applied for a visa to immigrate to the United States via England in 1938, sponsored by a distant relative in Nebraska. Before he could leave Germany, however, he was arrested during Kristallnacht, imprisoned along with his family members, and then sent to Dachau. Because he had already obtained a visa to emigrate, he was released from Dachau January of 1939. He went to England, where he procured visas for his parents and siblings, and then came to the United States in December of 1939.

Louis Kleeman, Werner’s father, took a Torah scroll from the local synagogue during Kristallnacht and hid it until he immigrated to the United States in 1940. This Torah is now held at the Lloyd Street Synagogue, part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Werner Kleeman was drafted into the U.S. Army in August of 1942 and joined the 4th Infantry Division. He took part in the D-day invasion of Normandy alongside J.D. Salinger and Ernest Hemingway, both of whom he knew personally.

After the war ended, he traveled to his hometown of Gaukönigshofen without the permission of the U.S. Army. In Gaukönigshofen, he arrested all the townspeople who had taken part in Kristallnacht, put them into the prison where they had put him, and had them sign confessions of what they had done. These confessions were later used in a trial in Würzburg in 1948. After the U.S. Army ordered Werner Kleeman to leave Gaukönigshofen, he left the army and returned to the United States.

For most of his life, Kleeman worked as an interior decorator from his home in Flushing, New York. He married Lore Heiman (1927-1979) in 1948, and they had two daughters, Susan and Deborah.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Werner Kleeman applied for restitution. His claims of damages to his education, property, and freedom were successful, but his claim of damages to his health was not. The restitution claims of his father, Louis Kleeman, were successful.

Only later in his life did Werner Kleeman begin to share the story of his experiences in Gaukönigshofen before the war and as a U.S. soldier. These experiences are collected in his monograph From Dachau to D-Day, published by Marble House Editions in 2007.

Extent

1.75 Linear Feet (3 manuscript boxes, 1 half-manuscript box, 1 oversize folder)

Abstract

As a young man in Gaukönigshofen, Germany, Werner Kleeman was imprisoned during Kristallnacht, sent to Dachau, and released a few months later. He immigrated to the United States and later took part in D-Day as a U.S. soldier. This collection contains correspondence, official documents, notes, and clippings regarding Werner Kleeman's military service, restitution claims, and pension claims, as well as drafts of his book From Dachau to D-Day. Papers from the military service, immigration, and restitution claims of his father Louis Kleeman comprise a substantial portion of this collection. Also included are genealogical tables, typescripts, and clippings focused mainly on the Kleeman, Loeb, and Lehman families. The final series consists of personal papers of Norborne P. Gatling, Jr., a U.S. soldier whom Kleeman knew.

Arrangement

The materials in this collection were donated over the course of a decade from 2000-2010. Since the materials in each addendum usually related to the materials already donated, the materials were treated as a single record group for the purposes of processing. In the case that an addendum constituted a logical separate series, it was arranged as such, as in the case of the papers of Norborne Gatling, Jr.

The collection is arranged first by creator and then by document type where the extent of papers necessitated further distinction. The papers regarding the Kleeman family, including genealogical documents as well as the personal papers of Werner and Louis Kleeman, were arranged as a single series. Werner Kleeman often included his own inventory of items with each new donation of materials. These inventories (located in box 1, folder 1) could serve researchers as an indication of the types of individual materials located in the collection, but they are not comprehensive.

Digitization Note

Boxes 1, 2, and 4 were digitized in their entirety. Access to folders 10 and 11 is restricted due to privacy concerns. Researchers may ask questions regarding suppressed materials by contacting the LBI Archivist at lbaeck@lbi.cjh.org.

Related Material

Werner Kleeman's recollection of a trip to Europe in 1996, ME 1114, is available online.

The LBI Archives holds a digitized copy of Werner Kleeman’s memoir From Dachau to D-Day: ME 1554.

The LBI Library also holds a physical copy of the pubished book From Dachau to D-Day.

The Torah saved by Louis Kleeman during Kristallnacht is located in the Lloyd Street Synagogue, part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Pictures of this Torah are available online as part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland collections database.

Werner Kleeman was interviewed by Bobby Allen Wintermute on March 31, 2009 for the Queens College World War II Veterans Project. The transcript is available online.

Several articles covering Werner Kleeman’s life and the release of his book From Dachau to D-Day are available, including "Werner Kleeman's Private War" (Richard Firstman, New York Times, November 11, 2007) and "Full Circle" (Jeff Stoffer, The American Legion, March 1, 2011).

Separated Material

Video tapes of American and German television programs commemorating Kristallnacht in Gaukönigshofen, Veitshöchheim, and Lengfeld were separated from this collection and placed in the LBI Audiovisual Collection.

Processing Information

Duplicate copies were removed.
Title
Guide to the Werner Kleeman Collection 1877-2010 (bulk 1939-2010) AR 25113
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Leanora Lange
Date
© 2012
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Described, encoded, and digitized as part of the CJH Holocaust Resource Initiative, made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.

Revision Statements

  • July 2015: dao links to oversized material added and digitization note updated by Leanora Lange.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States