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Luise Antonie Lenel Collection

Identifier: AR 25905

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of three series. Series I consists of correspondence from 1905 through the 1960s. Series II consists of photographs from the 1880s through the 1960s. Series III consists of personal items. Series I contains a large volume of letters written among Toni Lenel and her three siblings once they had emigrated to the United States in the 1930s and sibling correspondence during the 1930s and 1940s with their mother, Luise Lenel, who was not Jewish and had remained in Germany through the war to care for her elderly mother. Several Red Cross Civilian Message forms from the war years are included. Correspondence from 1945-1946 describes conditions in Germany immediately following the war. A smaller collection of correspondence written by Toni’s parents, Walter and Luise Lenel, dates from 1905-1918.

The photographs in Series II include early portraits from the late 19th-early 20th century of Toni Lenel’s grandparents and parents before marriage. There are photographs of Toni Lenel’s family members, including both her parents, her siblings in their youth and her maternal grandmother, and the family home in Heidelberg. There is a photo album from the 1920s-1930s with family snapshots and vacation pictures.

Series III includes various personal items of Toni Lenel’s including her diploma from the University of Geneva, her Ahnenpaß from the Nazi German era, a document required to prove one’s ancestry, and an autograph album from the 1920s. A small amount of items pertaining to the writer Theodor Fontane is also part of this series.

Included in the collection are several programs for musical performances of Ludwig Lenel’s musical compositions, two letters from Helene and Albert Schweitzer who were family friends, a typescript copy of the memorial for Walter Lenel that appeared in the journal Historische Zeitschrift from July 1937, and two letters dated 1941 from Bertha Lenel, a relative who was interned at Camp de Gurs in southwestern France.


  • Creation: 1880s-1965
  • Creation: 1930s-1940s


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in German, with small amounts in English and a few items in French.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

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 email:

Biographical Note

Luise Antonie Lenel, known as Toni, was born in Straßburg, Germany (today Strasbourg, France) on September 5, 1912. Her parents were Professor Walter Lenel, born on August 3, 1868 in Mannheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, German Confederation (today Germany) to a family of Jewish heritage and Luise Lenel (née Borckenhagen) born on July 26, 1882 in Charlottenbrunn, Prussian Silesia (today Jedlina-Zdrój, Poland). Toni Lenel’s elder brother, Fritz Victor Lenel, was born in Kiel, Germany on July 7, 1907. Her elder sister, Edith Grete Helene Lenel, was born in Straßburg, Germany on May 22, 1909. Her younger brother, Ludwig Moritz Lenel, nicknamed Ludo, was born in Straßburg, Germany on May 20, 1914. Due to Jewish heritage, Walter Lenel was dismissed from his professorship at the University of Heidelberg under the Nazi government, and he died in Germany on April 28, 1937. The four Lenel siblings immigrated to the United States before World War II started. The eldest, Fritz Victor, emigrated in 1931 and assisted his three siblings in their process of emigration. Toni Lenel arrived via the ship Cherbourg and arrived in New York in September 1938. During the war, Luise Lenel, Toni’s mother, remained in Germany to care for her mother, Toni’s maternal grandmother, Grete Borckenhagen (née Kapp, born in New York, USA, 1857-1945). Luise Lenel emigrated to the United States in 1947, became a naturalized US citizen, and died in 1982. Fritz Victor Lenel established a career as a chemist/metallurgist, married Margaret (Peggy) Schroy, had five children, and died in 2003 (see Fritz Victor Lenel collection, AR 25424). Ludwig Lenel became a professor of music and organist/ composer, had three children during his marriage to Jane Harmon, and died in 2002. Edith Lenel worked as a professor in the United States and died on October 23, 1994. Toni Lenel studied modern languages at the University of Geneva and the University of Wisconsin- Madison. She worked for many years as a German professor and teacher. She died in 2012 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


1.25 Linear Feet

1 Folders (1 oversized folder in a shared oversized box.)


The collection pertains to the life of Luise Antonie Lenel, known as Toni, and members of her extended family. It includes documents and photographs of her youth in Germany, correspondence and personal items from her time as a student in Europe, and extensive correspondence with her mother and siblings once she emigrated to the United States. Personal documents include an Ahnenpass, a required document of ancestry under the Nazi regime.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
    • Subseries 1: Aughts through Early Thirties, 1900s-1930s
    • Subseries 2: Pre-War and War Years, 1918-1945
    • Subseries 3: Post-War, 1945-1960s
  • Series II: Photographs
  • Series III: Personal Items

Related Materials

LBI also holds the Fritz Victor Lenel collection, AR 25424, created by Toni Lenel’s elder brother.

Separated Materials

The six cloth pouches used to store the correspondence before processing were deaccessioned.

Processing Information

Correspondence in Series I was originally stored in multiple cloth pouches and envelopes. Within each pouch, letters were kept in multiple bundles labeled and organized by correspondent and year. These organized bundles were randomly stored among the pouches and arranged into a consistent chronological order during processing.

Guide to the Papers of Luise Antonie Lenel
Processed by Karen Levine
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