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Franz Werfel Family Correspondence

Identifier: AR 6225

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists primarily of Werfel family correspondence from 1940-1947, and also contains some correspondence concerning Ferdinand Rieser's work at the Zurich Playhouse (Schaupielhaus Zürich).

The Werfel family correspondence from 1940 to 1947 documents Franz and Alma Werfel's escape from France to the United States, as well as the efforts of the family, primarily Franz's sisters, to help their parents escape Europe. Rudolph and Albine Werfel had reached Bergerac, France, by 1940, and with the help of Varian Fry, Albine managed to obtain the necessary Portuguese transit visas, boat tickets, and American visas to travel to New York. Rudolph Werfel was already in ill health at the beginning of the journey and died in France. Other topics in the correspondence include the war situation and family matters such as health, children, and jobs. These documents probably originated with Franz Werfel's sister Marianne Amalie Rieser and her husband Ferdinand.

This collection contains a few autograph letters from Franz Werfel, to Marianne Rieser and his parents; these are found in folder 7.

The collection also contains materials from the professional lives of Marianne and Ferdinand Rieser. Ferdinand was the first director of the Zurich Playhouse (Schauspielhaus Zürich), from 1929-1938, and he remained involved in its affairs even as he and his family immigrated to New York. The correspondence in this collection is primarily about the employment lawsuits of one Schauspielhaus employee, Hedwig Lipski. It also addresses general administrative matters. Also included in this collection is a typescript of Marianne Rieser's English-language play "Your Problem Please," as well as a few clippings of her poetry.


  • 1925-1947
  • Majority of material found within 1940-1944


Language of Materials

This collection is in German and English, with some French.

Access Restrictions

The 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.

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Biographical Note

Author Franz Werfel (1890-1945) was born in Prague to the glove merchant Rudolph Werfel. He had two sisters, playwright Marianne Amalie Rieser (1899-1965) and Hanna Fuchs-Robettin (1896-1964). Werfel was educated in Prague, and from 1915 to 1917 he served in the Austrian army on the Russian front. After the war he settled in Vienna and worked as a full-time writer. His novels were especially popular in England and in the United States. In Vienna he met Alma Mahler-Gropius (1879-1964), the widow of the composer Gustav Mahler. At that time she was married to the architect Walter Gropius. She divorced Gropius and went to live with Werfel; they were married in 1929. The Werfels lived in Austria until 1938, when the Anschluss forced them into exile. After travelling from France to Spain, they settled in the United States in 1940. Franz Werfel died in Beverly Hills, California, on August 26, 1945, in the middle of his work, correcting galley proof of his last book of verse. Alma Mahler Werfel died in New York in 1964.


0.5 Linear Feet


This collection consists primarily of Werfel family correspondence from 1940-1947. Letters and telegraphs mainly document Franz and Alma Werfel's escape from France to the United States, and the efforts of Franz's sisters Marianne Rieser and Hanna Fuchs-Robettin to help their parents escape Europe by way of France and Portugal. Additional correspondence concerns Ferdinand Rieser's work at the Zurich Schaupielhaus, and the collection also contains a typescript of the Marianne Rieser play "Your Problem Please."

Related Material

LBI holds archival material related to the correspondents in this collection, including the Alma Mahler-Werfel Collection (AR 1663) and the Franz Werfel Collection (AR 2756). The LBI Archives and Library also hold additional material about Franz Werfel.

The University of Pennsylvania (Mahler-Werfel Papers) and UCLA (Franz Werfel Papers) hold related collections.

Processing Information

This collection was rehoused in acid-free folders. Acid-free paper was placed around the telegrams and other discolored items.

Guide to the Franz Werfel Family Collection undated, 1925-1947 (bulk 1940-1944) AR 6225
Processed by Kevin Schlottmann
© 2011
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • March 2012: Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States