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Doris Orgel Collection

Identifier: AR 25931

Scope and Contents

The Doris Orgel Collection consists of the papers of this children's author and translator, with an emphasis on her professional life as a writer. Included is a great deal of material that shows her writing process as she created her stories as well as her other professional work, such as reviews and materials related to her teaching. The collection additionally holds correspondence between Doris Orgel and her publishers, agents, editors, fellow authors, and other colleagues along with other professional documentation.

Documentation of Doris Orgel's creative process, especially examples of her works in the various stages of their development, is particularly prevalent in this collection. Series I, the largest series of the collection, encompasses materials about her writing projects, including examples of early and later drafts of many of her books, fragments and notes relating to incomplete works, as well as files of ideas and research for projects. This series also includes reviews written by her of others' books as well as reviews of her own books. Series II, which holds the collection's notebooks, additionally includes much information on her writing, with notes on research, characters, and plots, as well as reflections on difficulties she encountered while writing. Some notebooks include stream-of-consciousness entries that attempt to unravel problems she faced with specific projects.

Another focus of the papers of this collection are the professional connections of Doris Orgel, specifically her correspondence with colleagues such as agents, editors, publishers, and fellow writers. Series I includes correspondence regarding her books, including discussions about suggested changes or revisions of individual works, reactions to her books, or correspondence related to the publishing of her works. Series IV includes further correspondence and related documentation about her works, includes correspondence with publishers about her short stories for magazines, as well as correspondence and contracts related to her books or their copyright.

Orgel's accumulation of decades of notebooks forms Series II. In addition to the many notes related to her professional work, these notebooks include numerous notes from her daily life. Many of the works mentioned in Series II are referenced among the many notebooks of Series II, with notes on characters, settings, and plotting.

As a published author, Doris Orgel also taught a number of writing workshops to potential children's authors, both for adults as well as children. Documentation of her work as a teacher of writing will be found in Series III, which includes papers from courses she taught and lectures she gave at conferences. The notebooks of Series II also contains many notes from workshops she taught.

Although the collection centers on Orgel's professional life, documentation related to her personal life will be found in the collection as well. Some notes among the many notebooks of Series II include commentary on her personal life and relationships. In addition, there is a small amount of personal correspondence and papers among the papers of Series IV. Descriptions of her life and its most prominent events will be found among her autobiographical writing in Series I, among some notes in Series II, and in the biographical articles about her in Series IV.


  • Creation: 1954-2014
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1978-2008


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in English, with some German.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

For more information, contact: Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011 email:

Biographical Note

Doris Orgel was born Doris Adelberg in Vienna on February 15, 1929, the daughter of Ernst and Erna Adelberg. She had an older sister, Charlotte. In the spring of 1938, she and her sister had to leave their school to attend a school for Jews only. In August 1938 the family escaped Vienna for Zagreb, Yugoslavia, then went to London, England, and then to the English countryside in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, before arriving in New York in 1939.

The family spent the year 1940 in St. Louis, Missouri, where they had relatives, then returned to New York City in 1941. Doris’s eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Elmendorf, encouraged her to write. After graduating from Hunter College High School, Doris began attending Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1946. There as a first-year student she met Harvard senior Shelley Orgel, who became a psychoanalyst. In 1948 she transferred to Barnard College in New York City, from which she graduated cum laude. Doris and Shelley Orgel married in 1949. Although Doris Orgel worked in publishing after graduation, she stopped working outside the home to raise the couple’s three children: Paul, Laura, and Jeremy.

In the 1950s Doris Orgel worked writing book reports for publishers such as McGraw Hill and book reviews for various publications. While her children were small, she began to write stories for children, starting with translations of German fairy tales. Her first published book was a translation of Wilhelm Hauff’s Dwarf Long-Nose, which won the Lewis Caroll Shelf Award in 1960. Her first four books were illustrated by Maurice Sendak. She would go on to have published 58 books in total, for ages ranging from picture books through novels for early and middle grades as well as young adult novels. A number of her books won awards: Sarah’s Room (1963) was named one of The New York Times’ best 100 books; Little John (1972) won Book World’s Children’s Spring Festival Book Prize, first prize for picture books; A Certain Magic (1976) won the American Library Association (ALA)’s Notable Book; Merry, Merry, Fibruary (1977) won the New York Times Best Illustrated Books Award. She wrote some books for younger readers as a staff writer for Bank Street College’s Writers Lab.

In 1978 her semi-autobiographical young adult novel The Devil in Vienna was published, which featured a protagonist who was a composite of Doris herself and her sister and told the story of a Jewish family’s experiences of the annexation of Austria and of the protagonist’s close friendship with a non-Jewish friend whose parents were Nazis. This novel won the Golden Kite Award, the ALA Notable Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries Notable Award, the Phoenix Honor Award, the Sydney Taylor Award, and the Child Study Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street Award, among other honors and awards. In 1988 the book was made into the television film A Friendship in Vienna, produced by the Disney channel. The book was published in Germany under the title Ein blauer und ein grüner Luftballon by Bertelsmann press and as Der Teufel in Wien by Rowohlt press. It was a finalist for the German Youth Literature Prize in 1981 and was excerpted for German radio for Kinderfunk (on Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor) and for Schulfunk und Bildungsprogramme (on Westdeutscher Rundfunk).

Some of her earliest published works were translations and retellings of German fairy and folktales, before focusing on her own original stories. In addition to The Devil in Vienna, Doris Orgel’s book A Certain Magic is a novel that focuses on a story about an Austrian-Jewish refugee. Many of her books for younger and middle-grade readers deal with themes common to children, like relationships between family members, childhood friendships, and stories about pets and animals. Doris Orgel wrote two original young adult novels: Risking Love (1985) and Crack in the Heart (1989); both deal with young adult romantic relationships and family dynamics, with Risking Love additionally focusing on psychotherapy, and Crack in the Heart addressing the topic of drug use. Among her many translations of German-language stories and books are two young adult novels, both by David Chotjewitz: Daniel Half-Human (2000) and Crazy Diamond (2005).

A prominent theme among Orgel’s later books were retellings of the stories of ancient Greek mythology, in particular the stories of Greek goddesses. In addition to authoring her own books she wrote many short stories, especially for Cricket Magazine and Parents’ Magazine, as well as book reviews of children’s books for several publications, including The New York Times and Kirkus Reviews. She also conducted writing workshops for both adults and children.

In 2019, she moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon, where she passed away on August 4, 2021.


7 Linear Feet

1 Boxes (1 oversized box)


This collection contains the papers of the children's author and translator Doris Orgel. It primarily focuses on her career as a writer of children's books, and documents both her writing process as well as her interaction with colleagues including publishers, editors, agents, and other authors. Included in this collection are many drafts of her stories and novels, a large amount of notes and notebooks, research, reviews, professional correspondence, idea files, contracts, biographical articles, , and a small amount of personal papers.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  • Series I: Writing, 1954-2014
  • Series II: Notebooks, undated, 1978-2011
  • Series III: Talks, Teaching and Conferences, 1974-2008
  • Series IV: Correspondence and Documents, 1974-2008
  • Series V: Digital Files

Related Materials

Related collections include the Doris Orgel Papers at the University of Minnesota (call number CLRC-1083), part of the Children’s Literature Research Collection, which includes manuscript drafts of many of her books and the Doris Orgel Papers at the University of Southern Mississippi (call number DGO748), Part of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

Separated Materials

Digital files and two CDs of Doris Orgel’s Austrian Heritage Collection interview have been removed to the LBI Audiovisual Collection. Two wooden figures were removed to the LBI Arts and Objects Collection. Two books by David Chotjewitz were removed to the LBI Library. Photocopies of the post-it notes in David Chotjewitz’s books were retained in the archival collection (folder 1/23). Two copies of the book Paging the Author and three copies of the publication Emigration, N.Y.: Die Geschichte einer Vertreibung were also removed to the LBI Library. Pages in these published materials about Doris Orgel along with the publications’ bibliographic details were retained in the archival collection. An issue of the literary journal Zwischenwelt (18 Jg. Nr. 1 Doppelheft, Februar 2001) and an issue of Florida Keys Magazine (First Quarter 1980) were removed from the archival collection.

Duplicate copies of documents and photographs have been removed from the archival collection.

Processing Information

The series of this collection were primarily determined by the observed groups of papers in the original order of the archival donation. These included boxes of notebooks, contracts, files of writing projects with manuscripts and correspondence together, idea files, and files of correspondence. During processing of the archival collection, many folders and all notebooks were assigned titles based on Doris Orgel’s original titles; untitled folders were given titles based on the contents of folders; some folders were given more specific titles. Large folders were further subdivided when necessary. Folders were placed in alphabetical or chronological order during processing.

Guide to the Papers of Doris Orgel

Processed by Dianne Ritchey
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