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Schweitzer Fürstenheim Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25935

Scope and Contents

The Schweitzer Fürstenheim Collection portrays the story of these two interrelated families originally from Berlin, their dispersal from Germany, the years of their separation, and their eventual resettlement and establishment of new lives in the United States. The collection focuses on the life of Ulrich Schweitzer along with his immediate family: his twin sister, Isabel, and parents, Hugo and Charlotte Schweitzer, and also centers on the life of Ulrich’s maternal grandfather, Franz Fürstenheim. The collection holds a considerable amount of correspondence, especially of Ulrich Schweitzer and Franz Fürstenheim. In addition, the collection includes an extensive amount of documents, including official documents, personal papers, documentation necessary for emigration and immigration, photographs and photo albums, professional papers, genealogical research, and other papers.

The first series of this collection contains the papers of Ulrich Schweitzer, with its first subseries holding his correspondence and the second subseries his documents. His early years in Germany are documented to a small degree primarily in Subseries 2 with such documents as speeches from his bar mitzvah, school papers and notebooks, and a report of a family trip; his early correspondence includes a school writing assignment in the form of a letter and an exchange with a pen pal in America. The extensive correspondence from his family began once he arrived in New York in March 1937, with frequent letters informing of their activities, health, and news of others at home. The bulk of the correspondence in Series I dates from these years of the family’s separation. Ulrich’s first years in the United States are further shown through the documents in Subseries 2, including some diary entries and daily planners, official documents related to his petition for naturalization and registration for the draft once World War II had begun, and documents related to his education, summer jobs, and developing legal career. Ulrich’s marriage to and life with Florence Billikopf is also documented, including documentation of their wedding, for properties they leased or owned, and trips they took. In addition to the materials of Series I, many of the photographs in the collection’s final series depict Ulrich Schweitzer.

Franz Fürstenheim’s papers comprise Series II. These likewise consist of a large amount of correspondence and documents, found in Subseries 1 of Series II, while Subseries 2 holds his documents. Subseries 2 includes some documents related to his professional work, documents related to his emigration and the journey to New York, and notes related to the family history and genealogy. Nearly all of his correspondence in Subseries 1 dates after his arrival in New York in 1941. He received and wrote many letters to Hugo and Isabel Schweitzer in England, as well as to his son Julius Fürstenheim and family in Buenos Aires and daughter Annelise Casper and her husband in New York. In addition, much of his correspondence was also with various nieces and nephews in Germany, Shanghai, London and elsewhere, with updates and news of them and those they knew. Other correspondence was exchanged with friends, including those left behind in Germany. Some of his correspondence and a few documents pertain to or mention his membership in a Berlin Masonic lodge prior to his emigration.

Series III holds the papers of Hugo and Charlotte Schweitzer. Among the papers of this series is documentation of Hugo Schweitzer’s military service in World War I and a small amount of papers relating to his employment at Gebrüder Feisenberger. There is also documentation of his incarceration in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and of Charlotte’s death in England. This subseries also contains his official documents, including those used in his immigration to the United States and documents relating to his final illness and death.

The collection’s fourth series holds papers of family members of which there is only a small amount. These include papers of Ulrich’s sister Isabel, his aunt and uncle Annelise and Wolfgang Casper, and his grandfather Isaac Schweitzer, among others. Some papers in this series pertain to the family genealogy, history, or businesses owned by family members.

The final series of the collection consists of a large amount of family photographs and a photo album. The photographs depict three generations of the family and show individuals from both the Schweitzer and Fürstenheim branches of the family, although most focus on Ulrich Schweitzer and his immediate family. Some photographs are of more extended family members or of friends or social occasions. This series also includes a photo album that shows Franz Fürstenheim’s home and furnishings.


  • 1859-2020
  • Majority of material found within 1937-1950


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in English and German, with very small amounts of French and one document including Latin and Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

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 email:

Biographical Note

Franz Fürstenheim was born on January 22, 1866, in Küstrin, Germany (today Kostrzyn nad Odrą, Poland), to the banker and city councilman Julius Fürstenheim and his wife Clara (née Speyer). He studied medicine in Würzburg and Berlin, and in 1889 his dissertation was published: Ueber Amaurose nach Blepharospasmus (Concerning Amaurosis following Blepharospasm). In 1890 he passed his medical exams in Würzburg. In 1893, he was given the rank of Assistant Doctor for the Landwehr reserve of Berlin.

He settled in Berlin, where he practiced internal medicine. In 1891 in Berlin he married Clara Hirschhorn, the daughter of Jakob Hirschhorn and his wife Cäcilie) Kiliniski of Berlin. Jakob Hirschhorn owned a metalware factory in Berlin, notable for the production of street lamps as well as oil lamps for the home. Franz and Clara went on to have three children: Julius (born in 1892), Charlotte (born in 1894), and Annelise (born in 1904). Franz eventually took over the factory of Jakob Hirschhorn and later became an arbitrator (Gewerberichter) and later commerce judge (Handelsrichter). During World War I he founded the Imperial Association of the German Metalware Industry (Reichsverband der deutschen Metallindustrie), of which he was president for many years. He was a member of the Imperial German Industry Association (Reichsverband der deutschen Industrie), the German Employer Association (Deutscher Arbeitgeber-Verband). He was also a Freemason, a member of the Berlin Lodge “Stern der Liebe,” of which he was elected Meister vom Stuhl (Worshipful Master). Among his friends were leading members of German industry. Around the late 1920s he gave the leadership of the J. Hirschhorn factory to his son and became president of the Board of Examiners of Certified Public Accountants (Prüfungskommission für Vereidigte Wirtschaftsprüfer). In 1925, Clara Fürstenheim died in Berlin.

On February 3, 1920, Charlotte (called Lotte) Fürstenheim and Hugo Schweitzer married. Hugo, the son of Isaac and Isabella (née Guggenheimer) Schweitzer, worked for the firm Gebrüder Feisenberger, which focused on the production of rubber products. In 1924 he became general manager, in charge of the buying and selling of multiple product lines of the company. Charlotte and Hugo lived in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin and had two children, twins Ulrich (called Uli) and Isabel (called Isa), born on their mother’s birthday on October 21, 1920. The family had a governess for the children, Marie Blandino (called Made), who would later become Franz Fürstenheim’s housekeeper. During Ulrich’s bar mitzvah on October 20, 1934, his Torah reading happened to be from the portion “Lech, Lecha” (Go, leave; Genesis 12:1), which also happened to be the same bar mitzvah text as that of his rabbi, Manfred Swarsensky.

In July 1935 and April 1936, Franz Fürstenheim traveled to the United States to investigate possibilities for the family to emigrate. There were extended family members of both the Fürstenheim and Schweitzer families already living in the United States. Franz’s daughter Annelise and her husband Wolfgang Casper, both physicians, arrived in the United States on December 13, 1935, where they first settled in New York City. On March 19, 1937, Ulrich Schweitzer arrived in New York on board the S.S. Manhattan, with his aunt Annelise as his visa sponsor; after staying with his aunt and uncle for a few weeks, by the middle of April he had moved to stay with a foster family, the Solenders, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. There he attended George Washington High School. He would stay with the Solenders until October 1938. In August 1937, Ulrich’s mother, Charlotte Schweitzer, traveled to the United States to visit him, afterward returning to Germany. Ulrich graduated high school in February 1938. From February until September he studied at New York University’s University Heights campus since alien students were restricted from attending the public City College. Once these restrictions were lifted, he began studying in September 1938 at City College, taking evening courses at the School of Business and Civic Administration until September 1940. He also held various jobs while a student. Beginning in 1939 for several summers thereafter, Ulrich worked as a bellhop at hotels along Lake Placid and Lake Champlain.

In March 1937 another branch of the Fürstenheim family also departed Germany: Julius Fürstenheim (later Julio Furstenheim), along with his wife Gertrude (Trude) and their children Lilli and Herbert, went to Argentina, where they settled in Buenos Aires.

By May 1938 Hugo and Charlotte Schweitzer and their daughter Isabel decided that they should also leave Germany and began attempting to do so, especially wanting to get Isabel out of Germany, but by the time they began applying there was more than a six month wait for visa applications to the United States. Hugo Schweitzer was among the Jews of Berlin arrested during the events of Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938; he was sent to the Sachsenhausen camp until his release on November 26. The Schweitzers decided to go to England to await their American visas. Isabel traveled there first, in spring 1939, where she lived with a Quaker family in Hale, England as domestic help. Her parents arrived in Hale several weeks later. While in England, Charlotte Fürstenheim began having worsening health likely connected to the effects of Graves’ disease. In fall 1941 and May 1942 she had operations related to this, followed several months later by depression and psychosis apparently brought about by the problems with her thyroid. In spite of many medical consultations her health deteriorated over the next few years. Charlotte Schweitzer died due to heart failure on January 28, 1945.

Back in New York, in September 1940 Ulrich Schweitzer entered New York University’s Law School, for which he had received a partial scholarship. He attended classes in the evening, with a clerkship from September 1941-February 1943 at the law firm of Marshall, Bratter, and Seligson during the day.

Meanwhile, Franz Fürstenheim had remained in Germany, awaiting his American visa to join his daughter and grandson in New York. In 1941 he finally received it, arriving in New York on March 24, 1941 after a four-week journey traveling via Spain and Cuba. Although wealthy prior to his departure, due to Nazi regulations regarding the sale of his house and various taxes and levies they imposed on Jews leaving Germany, he lost almost all of his fortune during emigration, estimating that in 1941 he lost 118,000 RM. Once in New York, Franz moved into an apartment with Ulrich in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York City.

Ulrich Schweitzer was unable to be drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II due to a problem with his eardrum. During the war he was a member of the Air Warden Service. In April 1943 he passed the New York bar exam. Thereafter he received a position as a law clerk at the firm of Root, Clark, Buckner & Ballantine. On August 1, 1944, Ulrich Schweitzer became an American citizen.

After the death of Charlotte Schweitzer and the end of the war, Hugo and Isabel Schweitzer were free to consider joining Ulrich Schweitzer, Franz Fürstenheim, and the rest of the family in New York, and applied for American visas. They received the visas at the end of April 1946 and made plans to sail on the M.S. Gripsholm. On May 27, 1946, Hugo and Isabel arrived in New York, and the Schweitzer family members were finally reunited after nine years of separation.

By 1945, Ulrich had met Florence Billikopf (sometimes called Billie), a niece of his previous employer, James Marshall. In January 1947 they became engaged; they married on March 30, 1947. From 1948-1949 they lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, before moving to the neighborhood of Gramercy Park. In 1951 they traveled to Berlin, where they met some of Ulrich’s friends and acquaintances. Their son Peter was born the next year. The couple also financially supported a foster son in France, Lucien Zylberstein. In 1952 they purchased a home in the town of Greenburgh, Westchester County, New York, near Scarsdale.

In New York City, Hugo Schweitzer found work as a clerk at the Loft Candy Company. Several of his siblings lived on the Upper West Side, so he also spent time with them. He died in 1950 after a period of declining health and an unsuccessful surgery.

Isabel Schweitzer worked first at a millinery and for a wedding dressmaker, before finding a position as a tailor at Elizabeth Arden, under the designer Castillo. In August 1947, she became engaged to Gunther Jack Ostheimer, whom she married on February 1, 1948. The couple moved to Washington, Pennsylvania and had three children: Carol, Elaine, and Michael. They were active in their synagogue, the Beth Israel Congregation. Isabel served on its Board of Directors, was President of the congregation’s Sisterhood, and was elected President of the local Washington chapter of Hadassah.

On August 29, 1946, Franz Fürstenheim became an American citizen. In America he had a circle of acquaintances among the German-Jewish refugees in New York City and in the Catskill Mountains, where he spent his summers in Tannersville or Haines Falls, New York. He also worked as office manager for the Society of American Chemists and Pharmacists and was a member of Congregation Habonim. In August 1948 Franz was hospitalized for problems with his heart, and had weakened health in the years thereafter. He died on May 21, 1950.

Ulrich Schweitzer remained with his abovementioned law firm as an associate until 1955; it was later renamed the firm of Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood. Beginning in December 1955 he began working as a general corporate attorney at the New York Central System railroad, becoming their general counsel in 1967, and continued his employment there as general corporate counsel after the system was acquired to become the Penn Central Company in February 1968. In 1970 he joined the Morgan Guaranty Trust Co., where he was the chief legal officer as well as Senior Vice-President and Resident Counsel. In addition to legal professional associations, he was active in several local community organizations; he was president of the Greenville Community Council, the Edgemont Association, of the Westchester Reform Temple, and was president of the Board of Education of the Union Free School District, Town of Greenburgh from 1966-1973.

Ulrich and Florence’s son, Peter, became a rabbi. Florence Schweitzer died in 1982. In 1984 Ulrich married Caren Haldenstein. Ulrich’s sister, Isabel Ostheimer, passed away in 1989. In 1996 Ulrich revisited Berlin with his son Peter and niece Carol. Ulrich Schweitzer died on August 21, 2014.


4 Linear Feet

3 Folders (3 oversized folders (one is a shared oversized folder in a shared oversized box and two more are oversized folders in shared oversized boxes))


The Schweitzer Fürstenheim Family collection holds the papers of the interrelated Schweitzer and Furstenheim families, most prominently focusing on the lives of the attorney Ulrich Schweitzer, his parents Hugo and Charlotte Schweitzer, sister Isabel, and Charlotte’s father Franz Furstenheim. Papers of some related family members are also included. The collection contains the family’s comprehensive correspondence especially during their separation from 1937-1946, along with documentation of their lives in Germany and the United States, immigration, professional papers, extensive photographs, personal papers, and other documents. Ulrich Schweitzer’s professional work is also documented.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  • Series I: Ulrich and Florence Schweitzer, 1920-2017
    • Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1937-2005
    • Subseries 2: Documents, 1920-2017
  • Series II: Franz Furstenheim, 1859-2018
    • Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1939-1952, 2018-2020
    • Subseries 2: Documents, 1859-2018
  • Series III: Hugo and Charlotte Schweitzer, 1915-1950, 2003-2013
  • Series IV: Other Family Members, 1915-1950, 2003-2013
  • Series V: Photographs and Photo Albums, undated, 1898-1970s, 1991-2003

Related Materials

Especially related to this collection is the book Dear Uli! by Peter H. Schweitzer. The book tells the story of the Schweitzer and Furstenheim families and is based on the papers found in this collection. The LBI Library holds a copy of this book under the call number st 15349.

In addition, the LBI Archives includes the Schweitzer-Guggenheimer letter collection (call number AR 25837), which holds the correspondence of Isaac Schweitzer, father of Hugo Schweitzer.

Separated Materials

During the processing of the archival collection, the following items were deaccessioned from the collection: duplicate photocopies of documents present in the collection; old wallets and folders; three entire issues of Berlin newspapers kept as mementos from Ulrich and Florence Schweitzer’s trip to Berlin in May 1951 (Der Abend, Der Tagesspiegel, Berliner Zeitung); duplicate copies of wedding announcements, stationery, and business cards. A frame holding Franz Furstenheim’s 1893 patent as a doctor was also removed for preservation purposes.

A flash drive with translations of correspondence in the collection and 2 DVDs were removed to the LBI Audiovisual Collection.

Three books, restituted to Franz Fürstenheim by the German government and mentioned in the documents of Series II, were removed to AR 25935 C.

Processing Information

During the processing of the archival collection, the original order of the collection was observed to determine the collection’s series and arrangement. Much of the arrangement of correspondence in the collection’s first two series is based upon this observed order. Some order was imposed upon the collection during processing in the remainder of the collection.

During processing, the following items were deaccessioned from the collection: duplicate photocopies of documents present in the collection; old wallets and folders; three whole issues of Berlin newspapers kept as mementos from Ulrich and Florence Schweitzer’s trip to Berlin in May 1951 (Der Abend, Der Tagesspiegel, Berliner Zeitung); duplicate copies of wedding announcements, stationery, and business cards. A frame holding Franz Furstenheim’s 1893 patent as a doctor was also removed for preservation purposes.

This finding aid uses the name Furstenheim, which is the Americanized version of the original name ‘Fürstenheim.'

Guide to the Papers of the Schweitzer Fürstenheim Family
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