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Ernst Hamburger Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 7034 / MF 672

Scope and Content Note

The life of Ernst Hamburger was extraordinarily rich and varied; regrettably, his literary estate does not completely document it. In his flight from Nazi Germany, Hamburger had to leave all his papers behind. With a few exceptions, the same was the case in 1940. It appears he made it a practice to periodically weed his papers. At his request, a friend went through his papers after his death and destroyed two cartons full of personal and confidential material. Consequently, the remaining matter is only a fragment of a much larger life’s work.

Series 1 contains personal papers such as curriculum vitae, letters of recommendations, clippings, obituaries and materials related to restitution and his estate.

The correspondence (Series 2 and 3) includes letters from old Social-Democratic comrades of Hamburger (correspondence index provided in the inventory list). The correspondence describes conditions in Germany after World War II and in the early 1950’s. Another useful source for conditions in post-World War II Germany in this collection are Hamburger’s reports on the impressions he gathered during lecture tours for the U.S. Information Service in the late 1950’s (Series 5). Other correspondence concerns themes such as the conditions of refugees in the United States during and after the Second World War, Jewish affairs, the activities of the Leo Baeck Institute, questions concerning reparations and restitution, scholarly debates in history and law, etc. Of particular interest is the extensive and detailed correspondence of Hamburger with John (Hans) Caspari, former head of the provincial self-government (Landeshauptmann) of the German province Grenzmark during the 1920’s. The letters of these two elderly men are both an analogy of and a eulogy for the Weimar Republic.

Memoranda, speeches, correspondence, and related items from the period of Hamburger's work at the U.N., including a commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, can be found in Series 4.

Series 5 contains lecture texts and notes for lectures given at the Academie de droit international, at the ecole libre des hautes etudes, in West Germany on behalf of the U.S. embassy.

Smaller manuscripts, reviews and other scholarly projects not related to Juden im oeffentlichen Leben Deutschlands are included in Series 6.

The bulk of the material in this collection is related to Hamburger’s book on Jews in public life during the Weimar Republic (Series 7 and 11). Except for a few remnants, the research material for his book on Jews in public life in nineteenth and early twentieth century Germany has not been preserved. The manuscript, variants of it and a more extensive first draft are present in the collection. Also present are the research notes, not just for the book as published, but for the book as originally planned. These notes, varying in extent from extremely detailed to rather sparse, are a remarkable source of information on Weimar politics and government. The material includes notes, clippings, photocopies and correspondence with archives, survivors of the Weimar period, and their friends and relatives.

Series 8 contains clippings and offprints by Hamburger and others on Hamburger's life and publications, and on questions of history and politics.

Miscellaneous materials are compiled in Series 9.

Series 10 contains materials related to Ernst Hamburger's work with the Leo Baeck Institute.

Dates

  • 1810-1982

Creator

Language of Materials

This collection is in German, English, French and Chinese.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Collection is microfilmed; use MF 672.

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.

Use Restrictions

Publication of items containing references to individuals requires their consent.

Biographical Note

Ernst (or Ernest) Hamburger (1890-1980) was born on December 30, 1890 to a middle-class Jewish family in Berlin. After attending Gymnasium, he went on to study at the universities of Berlin and Munich, receiving his doctorate in history at the former institution in 1913. After a brief spell as a Gymnasium teacher, he was drafted into the army and served at the front during the First World War.

After the war, Hamburger became active in the Social-Democratic Party. He began journalistic work for the party in 1919 and continued it through 1933. In 1919, Hamburger was hired as a public-relations assistant in the office of the Silesian Provincial Governor in Breslau. He rose through the hierarchy of the Prussian bureaucracy, becoming by 1932 a senior official in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior in Berlin.

In 1926, Hamburger was elected to the Prussian Parliament on the Social-Democratic ticket from the Breslau constituency. He was re-elected until 1933. Hamburger was a member of the executive committee (Vorstand) of the Social-Democratic delegation in the Prussian Parliament. His most noted role in this position was the development of a scheme by which an acting Weimar coalition government could continue to rule in Prussia, even after the Nazi electoral victory of 1932 made an ordered parliamentary regime impossible. The state of affairs thus created led to the famous "Preussenschlag," the expulsion of the Prussian government by the national government under the leadership of Franz von Papen in August of 1932.

Following the Nazi seizure of power in March 1933, Hamburger was forced to flee the country. He went to France where he supported himself by freelance journalism, and by work at the "Institut de droit compare" and the "Institut de science de la presse" in Paris.

In 1940, Hamburger was once more forced to flee from the Nazis. Illegally crossing the Pyrenees, he came via Spain and Portugal to the United States. Arriving in New York, he lectured at the New School for Social Research and at the French university in exile, the Ecole Libre des Hautes Etudes.

In 1948, Hamburger was hired by the United Nations and worked as an official I the Division of Human Rights, eventually becoming editor of the Human Rights Yearbook. Following his retirement in 1955, he continued to work for the U.N. as a consultant, providing an extensive commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In his retirement, Hamburger lectured extensively, both in the United States and abroad. As one of the last surviving leaders of the Weimar Republic, Hamburger received a growing number of inquiries from scholars and students interested I modern German history and carried out an extensive correspondence with them.

In 1962, Hamburger became a fellow of the Leo Baeck Institute and a few years later a member of the Institute’s Executive Committee. The final years of his life were taken up with Jewish themes. His scholarly study of Jewish politicians and civil servants in nineteenth and early twentieth century Germany, sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute, "Juden im oeffentlichen Leben Deutschlands: Regierungsmitglieder Beamte und Parliamentarier in der monarchischen Zeit (1848-1918)", (Tuebingen, 1968). The book appeared to highly favorable reviews. Hamburger was determined to produce a second volume, dealing with Jewish politicians and civil servants in the Weimar Republic. He worked on this project in the last years of his life but the bulk of the material proved more than he could deal with to his satisfaction. He completed a much abbreviated manuscript, covering Jewish government ministers and Jews as voters, just a few weeks before his death on April 2, 1980.

Extent

9 Linear Feet

Abstract

The life of Ernst Hamburger was extraordinarily rich and varied; regrettably, his literary estate does not completely document it. In his flight from Nazi Germany, Hamburger had to leave all his papers behind. With a few exceptions, the same was the case in 1940. It appears he made it a practice to periodically weed his papers. At his request, a friend went through his papers after his death and destroyed two cartons full of personal and confidential material. Consequently, the remaining matter is only a fragment of a much larger life’s work.

Arrangement

  1. SERIES I: PERSONAL PAPERS
  2. SERIES II: GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE A-Z
  3. SERIES III: CORRESPONDENCE
  4. SERIES IV: UNITED NATIONS
  5. SERIES V: LECTURES
  6. SERIES VI: SMALL MANUSCRIPTS AND SCHOLARLY PROJECTS
  7. SERIES VII: “Jews in German public life during the Weimar Republic”
  8. SUBSERIES A: MANUSCRIPTS
  9. SUBSERIES B: NOTES AND RESEARCH MATERIAL
  10. SUBSERIES C: INDIVIDUAL JEWISH POLITICIANS AND PARLIAMENTARIANS
  11. SERIES VIII: PUBLICATIONS
  12. SERIES IX: VARIOUS
  13. SERIES X: LEO BAECK INSTITUTE
  14. SERIES XI: ADDENDA

Other Finding Aid

Name-index to the correspondence.

Microfilm

Collection is available on 37 reels of microfilm (MF 672).
  1. Reel 1: 1/0-1/14
  2. Reel 1A: 1/32-1/37; 2/1
  3. Reel 2: 1/15-1/19
  4. Reel 3: 1/20-1/22
  5. Reel 4: 1/23-1/26
  6. Reel 5: 1/27-1/31
  7. Reel 6: 2/2-2/4
  8. Reel 7: 2/5-2/9
  9. Reel 8: 2/10-2/14
  10. Reel 9: 2/15-2/19
  11. Reel 10: 2/20-3/1
  12. Reel 11: 3/2-3/7
  13. Reel 12: 3/8-3/16
  14. Reel 13: 3/17-3/28
  15. Reel 14: 4/1-4/17
  16. Reel 15: 4/18-4/24
  17. Reel 16: 4/25-4/28
  18. Reel 17: 4/29-4/31
  19. Reel 18: 4/32-4/44
  20. Reel 19: 5/1-5/11
  21. Reel 20: 5/12-5/17
  22. Reel 21: 5/18-5/21
  23. Reel 22: 5/22-5/27
  24. Reel 23: 5/28-5/30
  25. Reel 24: 5/31-6/4
  26. Reel 25: 6/5-6/15
  27. Reel 26: 6/16-6/22
  28. Reel 27: 6/23-6/63
  29. Reel 28: 6/64-7/21
  30. Reel 29: 7/22-7/35
  31. Reel 30: 7/36-7/39
  32. Reel 31: 7/40-8/3
  33. Reel 32: 8/4-8/5
  34. Reel 33: 8/6-8/9
  35. Reel 34: 8/10-8/14
  36. Reel 35: 8/15-9/6
  37. Reel 36: 9/7-9/32

Related Material

Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture 16, 1972

Separated Material

Photographs have been removed to the LBI Photograph Collection.
Title
Guide to the Ernst Hamburger Collection, 1810-1982 AR 7034 / MF 672
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by LBI Staff
Date
© 2009
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • March 2011: Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

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