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Arthur Rath Collection

Identifier: AR 25762

Scope and Content Note

The Arthur Rath Collection contains the correspondence and papers of Arthur Rath, as well as some papers pertaining to Arthur's parents, Adolf and Anna Rath. Primary topics of the collection are Arthur’s life in Switzerland towards the end of World War II and the decades immediately after, correspondence with friends who were also Jewish refugees from Germany after the war, and Arthur Rath's life decisions following the displacement of his family during the war.

Series I holds the collection's correspondence, dating from 1940 to 2013. It is made up of numerous letters and postcards. Family members, friends, romantic partners, and Jewish organizations are all represented. Jewish organizations represented include the Verband Schweizer Juedischer Fluechtlingshilfen and the Juedische Geminde Essen. The correspondence is nearly all personal in nature. Of special interest is a Mitgliederliste from 1947 for the Jewish community of Essen. Two folders of correspondence were separated from the main body. One is a compilation of letters from Erika, a woman from Switzerland he kept in contact with throughout his life, and a section originally kept together between family members in the early 1970s, recording a period of conflict and familial issues.

Series II consists of a folder of photographs from 1919 to 1961. Photographs include family pictures, school classroom portraits, and Arthur with friends and fellow internees while imprisoned in Switzerland.

Series III of the collection holds family documents and some official correspondence. The earliest material is from 1908, and deals with the residency of the Rath family, who were originally from Galicia, now living in Essen. The documents trace the family from their years in Germany to their flight in the 1930s to the Netherlands. They continue with the family escape to Switzerland in 1942 and then continue after the war, officially documenting the family members up to 1980.

Series IV contains Arthur Rath's documents, reports, and other material related to his university career. Following the war Arthur Rath chose to stay in Switzerland and attended both Geneva and Basel universities. He received a teaching degree from the University of Basel.

Series V consists of Arthur Rath’s writings. The first items are handwritten notebooks of poetry written during his internment in the Swiss refugee camps from 1942 to 1945. These notebooks are followed by a handwritten speech, undated, in honor of Theodor Herzl and Chaim Nahman Bialik. Finally, and of great importance, is the autobiography Arthur wrote about his life from the time of birth until the end of the Second World War and into his years as a university student. The manuscript can provide readers with a deeper look into Arthur’s life.

Series VI consists of writings, both published and unpublished, by others. In many cases, it is unclear who the author of the writing is. They seem to have been mostly collected by Arthur Rath and did not originate from his personal history. (For example, an assortment of newspaper clippings).


  • Creation: 1908-2013
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1942-1960


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with a small amount of French.

Access Restrictions

The folder of correspondence with “Erika” in Box 1, Folder 3 is restricted from researchers unless permission has previously been granted by the Leo Baeck Institute.

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<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Photograph of Arthur Rath" href="" show="embed" title="Photograph of Arthur Rath"/>

Arthur Rath was born in 1919 in Essen, Germany, the son of furniture-store owner Adolf (originally Avraham) Rath and his wife Anna (originally Chane Malke) born Schoenbach,. At the age of six Arthur was sent with his brother to a Jewish school in Gettingen, Bavaria. From there his parents sent them both to Gymnasium in Amberg, Oberpfalz. Arthur Rath graduated in Amberg in 1935. Following this his father sent him to study at the Breuer Yeshiva in Frankfurt am Main, and then had Arthur enrolled at the University of Hamburg. Arthur moved to Hamburg and started attending the university in April 1938. It should be mentioned that, having been sent away from home early to pursuit his education, Arthur was not emotionally close to his family. Arthur never lived with his parents or other family members for an extended period past the age of six.

In the summer of 1938 the entire Rath family decided to emigrate. That September Arthur crossed the border illegally into Holland. Two weeks later the rest of the family arrived in the Netherlands, settling in the Hague. In June 1939 Arthur was detained by Dutch officials, and sent to the quarantine camp Hooghalenwer with other German Jews under suspicion of being in the country illegally. From 1939-1941 he was detained in a number of internment camps for German and Austrian Jews, including Franeker and Westerbork (where he was one of the first inmates). In June 1942 Arthur obtained leave to visit Amsterdam with other prisoners and register his assets. Instead of returning to Westerbork he was convinced by family members to go into hiding and flee towards Switzerland. Arthur faked his own suicide, sending a farewell letter to the Nazi authorities in Westerbork, stating he was in a state of depression and by the time this message reached them he would have drowned himself in the Ij, the river that flows through Amsterdam. By sending this letter, he hoped to spare the harsh punishments his fellow prisoners would receive if it was known he had escaped. Arthur then went underground with the rest of his family.

After crossing the border into Belgium and then France, the family separated. Arthur and his father spent the summer hiding in Marseilles. Arthur managed in August 1942 to reach Switzerland. (The entire immediate family reached Switzerland safely, though not at the same time). At the request of the Jewish Refugee Committee, he handed himself over to Swiss authorities for asylum. Arthur was then placed in a series of Swiss internment camps for the next two and a half years. Most of this period was spent in the internment camp in Raron. In December 1944 he was released from the Swiss internment camp system.

Arthur was already attending the universities of Bern and Basel, studying French, English, and History before the end of the war. He graduated and became a high-school teacher in Switzerland. Different family members, meanwhile, were leaving Switzerland and moving to Israel and the United States. After a period of indecision, Arthur chose to move to the United States, where various siblings had also settled. He arrived in the United States in December 1951, moving to Cleveland, Ohio. He then moved to Boston where he returned to university, becoming a librarian. After a work internship at Brandeis University Library, he moved to Queens, New York and became at first a librarian and then an administrator at the Queens Public Library. After retiring, he was a volunteer for 30 years at the Leo Baeck Institute.

Arthur Rath married Harriet Cherksy on October 10, 1965. They lived in Forest Hills, Queens. The couple had no children. Arthur passed away in September 2017, preceded in death by his wife some years before. At the time of his passing he was staying at a home for the elderly in Sarasota, Florida.


0.75 Linear Feet


This collection contains the archival papers of Arthur Rath. Most of it consists of correspondence with friends and family members. Primary topics of the collection are Arthur's life in Switzerland towards the end of World War II and the decades immediately after, correspondence with friends who were also Jewish refugees from Germany after the war, and Arthur Rath's life decisions following the displacement of his family during the war.

Processing Information

During processing of the archival collection in August 2018, the correspondence was organized alphabetically. Two sections of the correspondence were kept in their original folders and order, as organized by Mr. Arthur Rath before the donation.

The remaining material of the collection had no original order and was organized by the processing archivist.

Guide to the Papers of Arthur Rath 1908-2013 AR 25762
Processed by Michael Simonson
© 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from ArthurRath.xml

Revision Statements

  • December 2018:: 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