Skip to main content

Helmut Hirsch Collection

Identifier: AR 3150

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the professional work and life of the historian Helmut Hirsch. The primary focus of the collection is on his professional activities and immigration experiences, although some documentation of his family life is also present. The collection consists largely of extensive correspondence but also includes unpublished manuscripts, and a small amount of research material and articles.

Correspondence, found in Series I: Correspondence and Series III: Addenda, primarily relates to Helmut Hirsch's professional life. Much of the correspondence is from Helmut Hirsch to publishers and colleagues. The correspondence exchanged with many publishing houses and related institutions discusses possibilities of publication or rejection of his work, payment schedules, editing of works and the status of his works accepted for publication. Correspondence with institutions where Hirsch worked as a professor, such as Roosevelt College and the University of Chicago, display his activities as professor, including classes he taught and his relationships to other professors and staff. Much of his correspondence additionally mentions his research on topics such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Saar region, and Rosa Luxemburg.

This collection also contains some personal correspondence, with indications of major events in Helmut Hirsch's life, such as his wartime and immigration experiences, the birth and development of his son Helmut Villard Hirsch, and his moves within the United States and return to postwar Germany. Information on such topics will largely be found among the folders of correspondence with his parents, Hedwig and Emil Hirsch; with his son; and among the extensive correspondence of Wuppertalers, especially with that of friends such as Klaus Goebel. Some information on his immigration, reasons for fleeing Germany in the 1930s, and experiences in France will be found among the restitution correspondence, which additionally includes a large amount of legal and financial correspondence concerning his and his family members' attempts to secure restitution.

Further documentation of Helmut Hirsch's professional work in the form of manuscripts and research material comprise Series II. This series includes drafts, often with Hirsch's handwritten notations, of some of his works. Especially prominent are his transcriptions of the letters Eduard Bernstein sent to Friedrich Engels in the late nineteenth century. Some lecture texts and a small amount of research relating to various subjects within Jewish history will also be found in Series II. In addition, this series includes copies of inventories of Helmut Hirsch's papers at other archival institutions.


  • 1879-2002
  • Majority of material found within 1940-1980


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, and French.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

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

Helmut Hirsch was born on September 2, 1907 in Barmen, Germany, the son of Emil Hirsch, a businessman and active left-wing social democrat, and Hedwig Hirsch née Fleischhacker, a milliner. From 1928 until 1932 Helmut Hirsch studied theater, philosophy, art history and journalism at Berlin, Bonn and Leipzig.

In April 1933 Emil Hirsch was arrested by the Nazis; he would be incarcerated in the Kemna concentration camp. As a result of this event, and unable to take his comprehensive exams or publish his completed dissertation on the Marxist journalist Karl Friedrich Köppen, Hirsch made the decision to leave Germany. At first he fled to the Saarland, still independent from the Nazi government; when it too became dangerous after the 1935 plebiscite returned the region to Germany, he went across the border to France along with his wife Eva Buntenbroich-Hirsch. When World War II began in 1939 Hirsch, along with other German refugees, was taken into custody and spent time in the French internment camps of Vierzon. In 1940 he volunteered for the French army where he served as a laborer (Prestataire) for them, loaned to the British Expeditionary Forces for a short time. After his eventual release, the couple went to Marseilles, where they sought and eventually acquired emergency rescue visas for the U.S. in 1941 through the assistance of Prince Hubertus zu Löwenstein and Lee De Blanc with later sponsorship by Lee de Blanc and Oswald Garrison Villard.

In 1942 Helmut Hirsch returned to his university studies. From 1942 until 1945 he studied for a time at the University of Wyoming in Laramie before continuing at the University of Chicago where he finally received his doctoral degree in 1945 with a dissertation on the history of the Saarland. In 1945 he also became a history professor at Roosevelt College, later Roosevelt University. In 1957 he returned to Germany, where he taught or lectured at various German universities, including the Düsseldorf Verwaltungs- und Wirtschaftsakademi and the Gesamthochschule Duisburg. During this time Helmut Hirsch wrote prolifically, producing many books including several biographies as well as works related to Marx and Marxism; his later books were written with the assistance of his third wife, Marianne Hirsch née Tilgner.

Helmut Hirsch died on January 21, 2009 in Düsseldorf.


6.75 Linear Feet


This collection holds the papers of the historian and author Helmut Hirsch, which focus primarily on his professional activities and connections as well as some material pertaining to his immigration experiences. Prominent in this collection is his extensive professional correspondence. Other materials included here are some personal correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, notes and research material.


The collection is on twenty-five reels of microfilm (MF 1045):

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 – 1/8
  2. Reel 2: 1/9 – 1/15
  3. Reel 3: 1/16 – 1/18
  4. Reel 4: 1/19 – 1/22
  5. Reel 5: 1/23 – 2/4
  6. Reel 6: 2/5 – 2/11
  7. Reel 7: 2/12 – 2/17
  8. Reel 8: 2/18 – 2/42
  9. Reel 9: 2/43 – 3/9
  10. Reel 10: 3/10 – 3/19
  11. Reel 11: 3/20 – 3/23
  12. Reel 12: 3/24 – 3/33
  13. Reel 13: 3/34 – 4/4
  14. Reel 14: 4/5 – 4/12
  15. Reel 15: 4/13 – 4/22
  16. Reel 16: 4/23 – 4/31
  17. Reel 17: 4/32 – 5/17
  18. Reel 18: 5/18 – 5/21
  19. Reel 19: 5/22 – 5/38
  20. Reel 20: 5/39 – 5/60
  21. Reel 21: 5/61 – 6/10
  22. Reel 22: 6/11 – 6/23
  23. Reel 23: 6/24 – 7/8
  24. Reel 24: 7/9 – 7/32
  25. Reel 25: 7/33 – 8/12

Related Material

Helmut Hirsch has collections at several other archival institutions. The archives at SUNY Albany has 3 feet of his papers (GER-043) as part of their German and Jewish Intellectual Émigré Collection.

Helmut Hirsch was a prolific writer. The LBI Library holds 38 works by Helmut Hirsch, including several different editions of several of his books. Among these is his autobiography, Onkel Sams Hütte: Autobiographisches Garn eines Asylanten in den USA [JV 6895 J5 H5]. In addition, the LBI Archives hold his English memoir Yankees from the Rhine [ME 309], which focuses on Helmut Hirsch's time in Chicago and time at Roosevelt College.

Separated Material

The unannotated pages of Helmut Hirsch's book August Bebel: sein Leben in Dokumenten und Briefen were removed from Series II; a complete copy of the book resides in the LBI Library.

Processing Information

Overfilled folders in Series I and Series III had their contents divided by topic or chronologically.

Folders in Series II and Series III were rearranged during the processing of the collection. Folders of correspondence were kept in Helmut Hirsch's designated numerical order.

Guide to the Papers of Helmut Hirsch (1907-2009) 1879-2002 AR 3150 / MF 1045
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from HelmutHirsch.xml

Revision Statements

  • August 2010.: Microfilm inventory added.
  • March 31, 2014 : 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