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Kaiser Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25801

Scope and Contents

The collection traces the history of the Kaiser family and the lives of its members over the course of the 20th century through correspondence, documents, writings, family history information, and photographs.

Correspondence in Series I provides the most detailed view, as it spans several epochs in the life of the Kaiser family. The earliest correspondence dates from the last 20 years of the life of family matriarch Mathilde Kaiser, during which time her husband died, her oldest son Isidor lived in America, and five of her other sons fought in World War I. Starting in the 1930s, the correspondence shifts its focus to Mathilde Kaiser’s youngest son Max, who immigrated to Palestine in 1934. As the 1930s progress, letters from Germany to Max begin including reports of the worsening situation of Jews there. By the late 1930s, the situation in Germany and the efforts of Max’s brothers Isidor, Alfred, Siegmund, Rudolf, and their families to emigrate dominate the correspondence. Letters from the early 1940s bring the news of the deportation of Rudolf and his family to Minsk and Siegmund and his family to Auschwitz. Correspondence of the post-war period consists mainly of letters from Isidor in Denmark to his brother Max and sister Berta in Israel. The Kaiser family correspondence essentially concludes in the wake of Isidor’s death on September 3, 1965, and Berta’s death on June 12, 1968.

Many of the events recorded in the correspondence are also described in Isidor and Max’s memoirs, found in Series III. The memoirs of Isidor Kaiser cover the period from his birth in Brilon on May 6, 1890, through his emigration from Germany in August 1939. He portrays his parents, childhood home, aspects of their Jewish family life, the political and social landscape of Prussia at that time, and his education, including remembrances of antisemitic taunting by other students. He also recounts the beginning of his apprenticeship with Gebr. Salomon in Hannover, which lasted for two years, as well as his journey to America in October 1912. Isidor’s memoirs also relate his experience of Kristallnacht and its aftermath and his efforts to arrange for emigration from Germany, departure in August 1939, and arrival in Denmark.

Max Kaiser’s memoirs span almost his entire life, from his birth in Wittenberge on September 1, 1910, to becoming a United States citizen in 1995. The memoirs include remembrances of his childhood and the difficult years of World War I. He notes his passing of his engineering exam in March 1933 and decision to immigrate to Palestine after Hitler came to power. Max documents his voyage to Palestine in 1934 and records the various positions he held in the paper industry throughout his career. An entry written in 1992 on his daughter Miriam’s 50th birthday describes the situation in Palestine the year of her birth, their family life, and her later military service and studies.

The correspondence and memoirs are supported by assembled documents pertaining to members of the related Buchthal, Frank, Heilbrun, Kaiser, and Silber families. Common document types include visiting and business cards, passports and identity cards, biographical notes, poems for birthdays and weddings, school records, birth, marriage, and death certificates, wills and estate materials, and pages of testimony submitted to Yad Vashem for those family members killed in the Holocaust.

Family history research and resources found in Series IV document not only the Kaiser family but also their town of Wittenberge. The most extensive folder in the series regards Stolpersteine laid in remembrance of the Kaiser family in Wittenberge. The last folder of this series contains Max Kaiser’s correspondence with various individuals in Wittenberge, particularly local historian Günter Rodegast, regarding the history of the family in that area. Family trees tracing the family’s ancestors back to the 17th century document the related Buchthal, Frank, Grunsfeld, Heilbrun, Kaiser, and Steinberg families. Miriam’s correspondence with the International Tracing Service (ITS) regarding her inquiry into her father, uncles, and their families includes relevant documents located and provided by the ITS.

The bulk of the albums in Series V contain photographs of the Kaiser siblings and their mother Mathilde. The Kaiser family album in Box 7, Folder 7 contains images of the largest number of members of the Kaiser and related families, beginning with a photograph of Hermann Kaiser and his family taken in 1870. Also included are Nathan Grunsfeld, Jacob and Berta Steinberg, Arthur and Mathilde Kaiser, the Kaiser siblings, the family’s residences at Burgstrasse 20 in Wittenberge and Ohestrasse 3 in Hannover, Moritz Kaiser, Adele Levin née Kaiser and her husband Sam Levin, Johanna Kaiser and her husband Gherardo Ferreri, Louis Heilbrun, Rudolf Kaiser, his wife Grete Kaiser née Buchthal, and their son Gerd, Alfred Kaiser, his wife Else Kaiser née Saalfeld, and their daughters Marion and Renate, and Siegmund Kasier, his wife Ruth Kaiser née Braun, and their son Heinz. Three of the albums in this series pertain specifically to Isidor Kaiser.

Loose photographs include portraits of Max and Leonie Kaiser, Isidor Kaiser, Johanna Kaiser, and the Heilbrun sisters. Also included are a set of photocopies of family photographs sent to Miriam Harel from her maternal uncle Henry Silver. These include photographs of Miriam, her husband Asher and their children Noam and Tamar, Miriam’s maternal grandparents Hersch Leib and Selde Silber, her maternal aunt Anna Kapp née Silber, Henry Silver, Henry’s wife Evelyn, and their son Norman.


  • Creation: undated, 1870-2017


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with some Hebrew and Danish and a small amount of Polish, French, and Latin.

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 "Request" button.

Biographical / Historical

Arthur Kaiser was born April 8, 1859, in Bremke to Hermann Kaiser (1816-1896) and Friederike Kaiser née Grunsfeld (1832-1873). His wife Mathilde Kaiser née Steinberg was born October 18, 1866, to Jacob Steinberg (1836-1901) and Berta Steinberg née Buchthal (1836-1889). Arthur and Mathilde were married May 28, 1889, in Brilon. They lived in Brilon after their marriage; their first son Isidor was born there in 1890. The family moved to Alme where their second son Josef was born in 1891. The family then moved to Hannover, where they had nine more children: Fritz (1894), Alfred (1896), William (1896), Meinhold (1898), Hermann (1899), Siegmund (1900), John (1903), Rudolf (1905), and Berta (1907). From Hannover, the family moved to Wittenberge, in Brandenburg, where their youngest son Max was born in 1910.

Arthur Kaiser died December 14, 1912, in Rheda. Mathilde Kaiser died October 27, 1930, in Wittenberge. Fritz and Meinhold both died at the front during World War I, Fritz on the Russian front and Meinhold on the French front. Josef and Hermann survived the war, but both died in 1921 because of injuries sustained during the war. A fifth Kaiser brother, Alfred, also fought in World War I. Alfred, Siegmund, and Rudolf, along with their families, died in the Holocaust. John and Max immigrated to Palestine in 1934; they were followed by their sister Berta the next year. John died in Tel Aviv on December 17, 1940, and Berta Frank née Kaiser died in Cholon on June 12, 1968.

Isidor Kaiser was born to Arthur Kaiser and Mathilde Kaiser née Steinberg in Brilon on May 6, 1890. Isidor was three when the family moved from Brilon to settle in Hannover. He was educated in Hannover and lived there until he left for America in October 1912. He returned to Germany in February 1920 and established himself in Berlin. On March 2, 1920, he married Grete Heilbrun (1897-1954). In 1922, he founded the company Deutsch Amerikanische Rohstoffgesellschaft (“Darag”), which dealt with the purchase, production, and sale of wool waste. As life became increasingly restrictive for Jews in Germany in the 1930s, Isidor saw that there was no future for his business and began efforts to emigrate. In March 1939, he obtained entry permits for himself and his wife to England but was unable to secure an exit permit until July of that year. Isidor and Grete left Germany in August 1939 en route to England via Denmark. However, the outbreak of the war in September 1939 prevented them from continuing to England. Isidor Kaiser remained in Denmark, where he died in Copenhagen on September 3, 1965.

Max Kaiser was born on September 1, 1910, in Wittenberge, where he attended the local high school and business school. After finishing school, he joined the firm “Darag” in Berlin. He then attended the university in Köthen to study paper and pulp technology and chemistry; he passed his engineering examination in this area in March 1933. In April 1934, Max immigrated to Palestine. He held positions at many companies in the paper industry throughout his career, culminating in his post as a consultant for the paper industry in the Israeli Ministry of Commerce and Finance, where he served from 1957 until his retirement in 1970.

On October 25, 1935, Max married Leonie Silber in Tel Aviv. Leonie was born August 20, 1909, in Chodorów to Hersch Leib Silber (1879-1963) and Selde Silber née Laden (1879-1962). Their daughter Miriam was born July 1, 1942, in Tel Aviv. In 1972, Miriam and her husband Asher Harel, both physicians, came to the United States for training and stayed. Max and Leonie came to the United States to join them in 1988 due to Leonie’s Alzheimer’s. Max Kaiser died September 27, 1997, in Boston, Massachusetts. Leonie Kaiser died March 21, 2000, in Boston, Massachusetts. Miriam Harel died October 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah.


4 Linear Feet


The collection traces the history of the Kaiser family and the lives of its members over the course of the 20th century through correspondence, documents, writings, family history information, and photographs.


The collection arrived sorted by document type, with letters further sorted chronologically. The arrangement in five series by document type follows the original order of the collection.

Series I: Correspondence, 1909-2010
Series II: Documents, undated, 1889-2017
Series III: Writings, undated, 1902-1997
Series IV: Family History, undated, 1963-2017
Series V: Photographs, undated, 1870-2002

Separated Materials

Publications have been removed to the LBI Library. Letter opener made by Josef Kaiser (1891-1921) from a shell casing during his imprisonment by the British in Cambrai (1918-1920) has been removed to the LBI Art & Objects Collection.

Processing Information

During processing, materials that arrived in plastic sleeves were removed from the sleeves and the sleeves discarded. All items in the collection were rehoused in archival folders and boxes.

Guide to the Kaiser Family Collection
Sarah Glover
© 2021
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States