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Emil J. Gumbel Collection

Identifier: AR 7267

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the political and professional work of pacifist statistician Emil J. Gumbel. It includes extensive scrapbooks of printed material about Gumbel, from the 1920s through the 1960s, including information on his political activity, his trips to the Soviet Union, and his expulsion from the faculty of the University of Heidelberg. It also contains scrapbooks and typescripts of Gumbel's pacifist and anti-fascist writings. Particularly in the 1920s and early 1930s, he focused on renewed German militarism and the so-called Fememorde, a series of right-wing political murders during the Weimar Republic.

Emil J. Gumbel's academic work as a mathematician is also found in this collection. The primary topic of Gumbel's work was statistics, particularly the predictability of extreme events. Such inquiry is relevant to wide range of fields, and Gumbel's work reflects this, as his theorem found application in fields from engineering and meteorology to actuarial analysis. Hundreds of published articles and reports as well as academic material are found here.

Gumbel was also a prolific collector of newspaper clippings about topics of interest to him. Subject files in this collection include Nazi political terror in the 1930s, Communist and anti-Nazi publications, fascism in France, World War Two, and some miscellaneous folders. The clippings are from German newspapers, including Communist and other left-wing papers, as well as from French and American papers. Also found here are press releases, typed copies of clippings, and other similar material.

The collection also includes reports about Nazism in Germany and Europe that Gumbel prepared for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) at the end of World War Two, and a very small amount of personal material.


  • 1912-1967


Language of Materials

This collection is primarily in German and English, with a fair amount of French, and a few individual items in other European languages. Corresponding to his country of residence, Gumbel worked primarily in German from 1914-1932, in French from 1933-1940, and in English for the remainder of his career.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links found under Collection Organization to access the digitized materials.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical Note

Emil Julius Gumbel (July 18, 1891-September 10, 1966) was born in Munich to Hermann and Flora Gumbel. He studied mathematics, economics, statistics, and physics at the universities of Munich and Berlin. After further studies at the University of Heidelberg, he completed his habilitation in statistics in 1923, and served there as Privatdozent and professor. He joined the Unabhaengige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (USPD) and later the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), and was active in pacifist and left-wing groups including the Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte (German Human Rights League). His political and scholarly interests were combined in his studies in the 1920s of the so-called Fememorde, a series of political murders during the Weimar Republic. In 1932, Gumbel was among the many prominent signatories of the anti-Nazi Dringender Appell (Urgent Call for Unity). For his work on political violence and his left-leaning views, Gumbel was among the Nazis' most-hated public intellectuals. He was dismissed by the University of Heidelberg in 1932 and emigrated to France.

There, Gumbel taught at Paris and Lyon and was active in emigré politics. In 1940, he emigrated to the United States, where he taught at various institutions of higher learning in New York City including the New School, Columbia University, and the École Libre Des Hautes Études. He died in Brooklyn on September 10, 1966.

Gumbel was a prolific writer in two distinct areas. His political writings, particularly in the 1920s and early 1930s, focused on pacifism, renewed German militarism, and the so-called Fememorde. His hundreds of mathematical writings primarily concern statistics, particularly extreme values and the predictability of extreme events.


7 Linear Feet (plus three full oversize boxes, two oversize folders, one large oversize folder, and one extra-large oversize folder.)


This collection documents the political and professional work of left-wing pacifist and academic statistician Emil J. Gumbel (1891-1966). It includes his political and professional writings, scrapbooks of printed material about him, and subject files concerned with Nazi terror and World War Two.

Other Finding Aids

A typewritten finding aid reflecting the previous arrangement can be found in the LBI Archives.

University Publications of America published a guide to the previously microfilmed collection, entitled Guide to the Microfilm Edition of THE EMIL J. GUMBEL COLLECTION: Political Papers of an Anti-Nazi Scholar in Weimar and Exile, 1914-1966.

Related Material

The LBI Library holds dozens of Gumbel's books, pamphlets, and off-prints, as well as books about Gumbel by historians Annette Vogt, Arthur Brenner, and Christian Jansen. Jansen's book "Emil Julius Gumbel: Portrait eines Zivilisten" includes a biography and a bibliography.

The LBI Archives holds materials that reference Gumbel, including "Emil Julius Gumbel Im Interview" (AR 11405) and the memoir of Gerhard Bry, "Resistance. Recollections from the Nazi Years, 1930-1948" (ME 73).

The Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago Library holds the Emil Julius Gumbel Papers, consisting primarily of correspondence.

Separated Material

A folder of Ernst Lissauer material was removed to the LBI Archives.

The following items were removed to the LBI Library:

  1. Charter and bulletins of the New School for Social Research (1941-1955)
  2. Bulletins of the École Libre Des Hautes Études (1942-1953)
  3. Issues of German-Jewish periodicals, such as Das Zelt and the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums
  4. Issues of the journal of the Liga für Menschenrechte

A photograph of Emil J. Gumbel has been moved to the LBI Photograph Collection.

Processing Note

This collection comprises seven linear feet (7 boxes), three full oversize boxes, and four additional oversize folders.

The political materials were rehoused in acid-free folders, arranged, and described in the 1980s. A typewritten finding aid reflecting this prior arrangement can be found in the LBI Archives. In the late 1990s, a subset of the political material was rearranged into five series (A through E), and described and microfilmed by University Publications of America. The finding aid for this arrangement on microfilm may be found here. Additional political and scholarly materials had been neither arranged, described, nor microfilmed.

Current Subgroup I (Series 1, 2, 3, and 4) corresponds to Series A, B, C, and E in the previously microfilmed collection. The materials of original Series D, "Miscellaneous," are placed in Subgroups I and II according to their political, scholarly or personal importance. Subseries A through C in Subgroup I/Series 4 correspond to the subseries in original Series E; there are five new subseries, D through H. Most of the originally unprocessed material is now placed in Subgroup II: Scholarly and personal.

In 2012, the entire collection was reevaluated and newly described. All the materials were refoldered. Aging interleaving paper was replaced with new acid-free paper. Large scrapbooks were placed in appropriate oversize boxes. Published materials supporting Gumbel scholarly work, such as reports and articles, had their covers photocopied and were discarded. Bulletins for Brooklyn College (1948-1949), Deutsche Hochschule für Politik Berlin (1953), and the University of Lyon (1934-1939) were discarded. Academic material that cites Gumbel's theory, without any additional notations or other markings, was removed. The entire collection was de-duplicated.

Guide to the Emil J. Gumbel (1891-1966) Collection, undated, 1912-1967 AR 7267
Processed by LBI Staff and Kevin Schlottmann
© 2012
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation

Revision Statements

  • March 2013:: Link to digital object added in Container List.
  • February 25, 2014: : Remaining links to digital objects added in Container List.
  • August 8, 2016:: Separated Material edited.
  • June 20, 2019:: Oversized box numbers corrected.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States