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Vicki Baum Collection

Identifier: AR 5130

Scope and Content Note

Most of the collection consists of correspondence exchanged between Vicki Baum and Carl Ostertag, a younger confidant. Two of the later letters are addressed to Carl from other senders. The collection also includes a few calling cards with greetings, as well as a handwritten manuscript of her Adolf Kringelein story which likely formed the basis for the novel Menschen im Hotel , later adapted into the classic Hollywood film Grand Hotel .


  • 1920-1983


Language of Materials

This collection is in English and German.

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

Born (1888) and raised in Vienna, Vicki Baum first published stories as a teenager but then focused on musical studies at the Vienna Conservatory, where she made her professional debut in 1907. Shortly thereafter she met first husband, the writer Max Prels. Around the same time she won a juried prize for a story appearing in a Munich journal. By 1911 her marriage to Prels had fallen apart, and in 1913 their divorce was finalized. By 1914 she moved to Darmstadt to play in the orchestra with future husband Richard Lert, whom she married in 1916. During the 1920s she rose in prominence as a popular novelist, and in 1926 she moved to Berlin after being offered a job as an editor at the major book and periodical publisher Ullstein. Her novel Menschen im Hotel was so popular that it was adapted into a Broadway show in 1931, and later into the Hollywood classic film Grand Hotel . While on a promotional tour in the United States for this Broadway adaptation, she was offered a job as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Influenced by the increasingly hostile political climate in Germany, she decided to accept the job and remain in the United States. Lert joined her, and eventually became conductor of the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra. Although more of her novels were adapted for the screen and she secured a number of screenwriting jobs, she never enjoyed again enjoyed the level of success and celebrity which she experienced with Menschen im Hotel. She died of leukemia at home in the Hollywood Hills in 1960.

Carl Heinz Ostertag was born in 1910 in Stuttgart, Germany, and studied fine arts, art history, dance, and music at the Sorbonne, the University of Vienna, and elsewhere. By 1937 he had left Germany and Austria for England, where he worked as a ballet dancer, but by 1942 he had relocated to the United States. There he seems to have been involved in the military and worked briefly for the Office of War Information, before returning to the arts. He and Baum reportedly traveled in Asia together during the 1940s, and in 1950 he became a translator of Baum's novels. During the 1950s he traveled extensively in South and East Asia, and upon returning to the United States he took up various curatorial and teaching positions, mostly in California.


0.25 Linear Feet (5 folders)


Most of the collection consists of correspondence exchanged between the novelist and screenwriter Vicki Baum and Carl Ostertag, a younger confidant. The collection also includes an unpublished manuscript version of her "Adolf Kringelein" story, which was later expanded into the novel "Menschen im Hotel" and the film "Grand Hotel."

Arrangement Note

The correspondence in folder 2, Correspondence with dates, is arranged in reverse chronological order.

Other Finding Aid

An earlier inventory and biographical information is available in folder 1.

Related Material

See also the Vicki Baum Papers, 1929–1953 (GER-020), M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives University Libraries University at Albany State University of New York 1400 Washington Avenue Albany, New York 12222 (518) 437-3935

Some additional letters of Carl Heinz Ostertag are available in the de Mille, Agnes, 1905-Collection , available at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Separated Material

Clippings have been removed to the Vicki Baum Clippings Collection , AR 5130 C .

Guide to the Vicki Baum Collection, 1920-1983  AR 5130
Processed by Timothy Ryan Mendenhall
© 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • January 09, 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