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Harry Kranner Fiss Collection

Identifier: AR 25595

Scope and Content Note

The Harry Kranner Fiss Collection documents the life of Harry Kranner Fiss, especially highlighting his life in Vienna, Austria, in the 1930s, as a translator for the American military's prosecution team at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945, and his professional career. A smaller amount of material relates to the Kranner/ Fiss family and to the related Römer, Singer, and other families. The collection contains many manuscripts and drafts of articles, novels, and poetry; diaries; extensive photographs and photograph albums; correspondence; notes; official documents; programs; and other materials.

Harry Fiss's youth in Vienna is well-documented in several areas of the collection. Prominent in this is the first series, with Harry's diary and its translation, which began in November 1938 when he was twelve. This diary documents in detail his life in Vienna until the family's emigration nearly six months later. Series I also includes his school records and a very lengthy letter to the director of his former school in Vienna, in which Harry Fiss outlines his experiences in Nazi-controlled Vienna as well as his life thereafter. Similar information is also present in some of the biographical articles of this series. Visual material on these years will be found in abundance in Series VI, which encompasses many photographs of family outings and trips to locations in Austria, the Alps, Abbazia, and elsewhere.

Another highlight of this collection is Harry Fiss's time spent in the United States Army, where he was stationed in postwar Germany and assisted the staff of the Nuremberg Trials as a translator. Official documents regarding his service will be found in Series I, along with newspaper clippings, some military newsletters, and the declaration by Rudolf Höß regarding the number of people gassed in Auschwitz. It is Series II and Series III that primarily hold Harry Fiss's reflections on this time. In Series II are a few of his own notes, taken while in Germany and during a visit to Vienna at the time. There are also articles on the Nuremberg Trials in general, a copy of the charges against the defendants at the trials, and a copy of the declaration by Rudolf Höß, and a copy of Harry Fiss's published article "The Interpreter" on his witnessing of Höß's signing this declaration. General material on the Holocaust is also present, as are articles on the psychology of Holocaust victims, including varying drafts of one authored by Harry Fiss, "Beast but Machine: Coping Styles of Nazi Victimizers and their Victims." Further material on Harry Fiss's time in the army may be found in his autobiographical novels of Series III. Although their protagonists have fictional names and may include fictional events, they also portray details from his own life. Finally, two photo albums and one folder in Series VI contain photographs of Harry Fiss and the places he visited while in postwar Europe. One of these photo albums includes the medals and sleeve stripes he earned while in the army affixed to its itinial pages.

Harry Fiss's career and professional work is also well-documented in this collection. His earliest career, as a journalist, is documented through his notes and university documents in Series I as well as through his writing in Series III, which includes non-fiction written for journalism courses. Most of his professional material, however, is in Series IV: Professional. In this series is a portfolio of his early journalism work as well as his professional writings, correspondence, and other materials from his career as a psychologist. His early work in this field is documented through his professional correspondence, which includes letters related to his study of psychology at New York University and his work at the university's Research Center for Mental Health along with some information on research he conducted and other correspondence regarding later work and positions. Series IV also holds his dissertation and a few articles on subliminal stimulation along with extensive articles related to his studies on sleep and dream research. Later articles show his growing interest in the connection between dreams and self psychology, as does his intent to author a book on the subject; a draft, correspondence, and some notes pertain to this proposed work.

This collection additionally contains some papers of other members of the Kranner/ Fiss family, especially Harry Fiss's biological and adopted father and his mother. Papers of these individuals will be found in Series V, and include diaries of both Emil (Fichmann) Fiss and Gertrude Fiss (née Römer), along with poetry and essays of Edmund Kranner. A brief memoir of his cousin Renee Green is also present. The photographs and photo albums of Series VI additionally feature many family members, including his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, along with more distant family.


  • 1907-2010
  • Majority of material found within 1920-2001


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in English and German.

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

Harry Kranner was born April 15, 1926 in Vienna, Austria, the son of Edmund and Gertrude (née Römer) Kranner. On June 9, 1929 Edmund Kranner died; Gertrude Kranner later married Emil Fichmann, who owned a leather export business. Harry attended the Zieglergasse primary school and the Kandlgasse Realgymnasium until he was expelled along with all other Jewish students on April 28, 1938. During Kristallnacht, his stepfather was forced to scrub the sidewalk outside the family's residence while his uncle Artur Singer was arrested and spent several months at the concentration camp at Dachau. After attempting various avenues of emigration, the family left Austria for the United States in August 1939 and settled in New York City. After his graduation from high school, Harry was officially adopted by Emil Fichmann, renamed Fiss after immigration.

In August 1944 Harry Fiss volunteered for service in the United States Army. After first receiving basic training as an airplane mechanic, he was transferred to the intelligence division due to his knowledge of German and French. His ship arrived in Europe just after V-E Day and Harry Fiss became part of the occupation forces in Germany. There he was assigned as a translator at the Nuremberg Trials, and became head of documentation for the American prosecutor; he also assisted in interrogations, including of Rudolf Höß, commandant of Auschwitz, and Otto Ohlendorff, a commander of the SS (Schutzstaffel) Mobile Extermination Units (Einsatzgruppen). While in Nuremberg he spent much of his free time with the Displaced Persons in the area and collected food, money, and clothing for them. In early 1946 he returned to Vienna, sent by the International Military Tribunal to find witnesses among the Displaced Persons camps there.

After his honorable discharge from active duty in July 1946, Harry Fiss studied at New York University, where he majored in English. He graduated in 1949 and then went to Hollywood, California, where he eventually found work as a news writer but was hampered in advancement by his accent. He returned to New York, where he worked for a short while as a sales representative in his father's factory for ladies' novelties, but felt little satisfaction with such work. Harry Fiss began attending graduate courses in psychology at New York University; three years later he was accepted into their doctoral program in psychology. It was after he took his final comprehensive examination that he joined New York University's Research Center for Mental Health, under the supervision of his mentor George Klein. There he became involved in studies on subliminal stimulation, which led to his dissertation in 1961, titled State of Consciousness and the Subliminal Effect. Just prior to his receiving his doctoral degree he married his first wife, Joan Goldhirsch, a marriage that lasted four years.

After receiving his doctorate Harry Fiss worked first at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where for three years he had an appointment in Child Psychiatry and Pediatrics. During this time he married Gerda May; they had two daughters, born in 1963 and 1966. In 1963 Harry Fiss began collaboration with George Klein in conducting dream research. They received a federal grant to establish one of the first experimental sleep laboratories. Their research led to the discovery that dreaming occurs not only during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, followed by the importance of dreaming as an adaptive phenomenon, a subject whose investigation Harry Fiss would continue for much of the rest of his life. This also led to his research into self psychology and investigation of the function of dreaming in developing, maintaining, and restoring the self.

During the late 1960s Harry Fiss became director of the Clinical Psychology Training Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, then two years later accepted a professorship at Long Island University. By the 1970s Harry Fiss and his family decided to leave New York, and he found a position at the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine, where he became head of the psychology department and chief psychologist in the department of psychiatry. He spent twenty years there, continuing his research on dreaming, teaching and supervising students, and attending patients. While there he established the university's sleep disorders center. Upon his retirement at the age of sixty-six he continued his private practice and also taught graduate students in psychology at the University of Hartford. In 1990 he returned to Vienna, Austria to give a lecture series on sleep and dreaming, and also gave talks about his experiences during the 1930s.

In 2001 Harry Fiss's wife, Gerda, died after a prolonged illness. He later married Sari Max-Fiss. In 2003 he returned to Vienna as the keynote speaker for the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Harry Fiss died on May 2, 2009.


4 Linear Feet


The Harry Kranner Fiss Collection documents the life of Harry Kranner Fiss, especially highlighting his life in Vienna, Austria, in the 1930s, as a translator for the American military's prosecution team at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945, and his professional career. A smaller amount of material relates to the Kranner/ Fiss family and to the related Römer, Singer, and other families. The collection contains many manuscripts and drafts of articles, novels, and poetry; diaries; extensive photographs and photograph albums; correspondence; notes; official documents; programs; and other materials.

Digitization Note

The collection was digitized in its entirety. Access to box 1 folders 21, 23, 24-25, box 2 folders 6-14, box OS 162 folder 3, and selections from box 1 folder 28 is restricted to onsite access only due to copyright.

Separated Material

Several books and publications were removed to the LBI Library, with photocopies retained in the collection of title and copyright information, along with copies of any annotations in the published materials.

One box (0.5 linear feet) of audiovisual material on Harry Fiss was removed to the LBI Audiovisual Collection. Such material consists of two small external flash drives, audiocassettes, and videocassettes with interviews of Harry Fiss as well as recordings of his professional talks.

One cloth item was removed to the Arts and Objects Collection.

Processing Information

During processing of the collection, materials were arranged into series by topic. Materials in the album in Series I received conservation treatment.

Guide to the Papers of Harry Kranner Fiss 1907-2010 AR 25595
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2014
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Digitization made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Edition statement
This version was derived from HarryKrannerFiss.xml

Revision Statements

  • June 2015: dao links and digitization information added by Leanora Lange.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States