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Arthur Abelmann Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 25372

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the life of Arthur Abelmann. It contains materials about his personal and professional life, including his service in World War I. The bulk of the material concerns Chemiewerk, the pharmaceutical firm he founded in 1920 and cultivated for 13 years. In 1933, Abelmann was forced to resign his leading position and then to sell the company in one of the earliest "Aryanizations." Some documents have English translations prepared by Walter Abelmann, Arthur's son.

The personal material in Series I includes birth and death records, CVs, residence permits, and medical records. It also includes correspondence with his children, autobiographical writings, restitution files, and a personal bookplate.

Series II documents Abelmann's professional life as a pharmacist and chemist, exclusive of materials relating to his company Chemiewerk. He trained as a pharmacist all over Germany and France, including at the University of Nancy under Nobel-prize-winning chemist Victor Grignard. This series also includes Abelmann's articles and patents in the area of chemistry and pharmacy, and other materials related to his education.

Arthur Abelmann's service in the German Army during World War I is documented in Series III. Abelmann served from 1915 to 1917 as a chemist and pharmacist in the military hospital for prisoners-of-war at Limburg an der Lahn (Hesse). It includes photographs, a scrapbook, two laboratory notebooks and other documentation of his service.

Series IV contains materials about Chemiewerk, the pharmaceutical company founded in 1920 by Arthur Abelmann. While the materials in this series were most likely Abelmann's personal files, rather than the actual corporate files, as the sole director he wrote most of the reports and was privy to the rest, and therefore a significant number of corporate records are found here. Subseries 1 contains general Chemiewerk corporate materials, such as reports and printed materials. Subseries 2 is a remarkable collection of documents about Abelmann's forced exit from Chemiewerk. Subseries 3 includes Abelmann's Chemiewerk materials of a more personal nature, such as a handwritten notebook of pharmaceutical recipes, poems, certificates, and his employment contracts.

Dates

  • 1888-1950
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1934

Creator

Language of Materials

This collection is primarily in German, with a small quantity of English, Russian, and French.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers. There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Biographical Note

Arthur Abelmann was born in Riga, Latvia on February 10, 1888 to Prussian citizens Tobias Abelmann and Dorothea (née Schalit). When Arthur Abelmann was five years old, the family moved to Memel in East Prussia (today Klaipėda, Lithuania). In 1906 he started as pharmacy trainee in Memel, and also trained in pharmacies in Wiesbaden, Geneva, Lyon, Cannes, and Nancy. Abelmann then pursued university-level pharmacy studies in Munich, Strasbourg, and Nancy (there, under the Nobel-prize-winning chemist Victor Grignard).

Abelmann returned to Germany from France just before the outbreak of hostilities, and served in the German Army from 1915 to 1917 as a chemist and pharmacist in the military hospital for prisoners-of-war at Limburg an der Lahn (Hesse). He finished his Ph.D. at the University of Frankfurt in 1919 with the dissertation Ueber Quecksilberarbeiten auf anorganischem und organischem Gebiet (On the function of mercury in the inorganic and organic areas).

He worked briefly as a pharmacist for Farbwerke Leopold Cassella & Co in Frankfurt, but in 1920 he founded the pharmaceutical company Chemisch-Pharmazeutische Werke AG in Bad Homburg, known as Chemiewerk. In 1927 the firm moved to Frankurt, and by 1933 had over 200 employees. Its best-known products were Kamillosan and various other chamomile-based preparations, Spirobismol, Transpulmin, and Treupel'sche Tabletten.

In early 1933, the Doctors League of Berlin declared a boycott against Chemiewerk's "Jewish" products, and Abelmann, under pressure, quickly resigned his leading position. A holding company controlled by his family still owned most of Chemiewerk, but by August 1933 the German companies Degussa and IG Farben had purchased the company. Despite the political and anti-Semitic conditions that forced him to sell, Abelmann managed to negotiate a sale price of 1.8 million Reichsmark, and was able to have his Reichsfluchtsteuer (Reich exit tax) waived. Abelmann and his family then left for Switzerland, where he managed the subsidiary Treupha AG until 1934, focusing on non-German markets. This episode of Aryanization is addressed in more detail in the books From Cooperation to Complicity by Peter Hayes and Wege juedischer Apotheker by Frank Leimkugel.

Abelmann had two children, Walter (born 1921) and Edith (born 1923), with his wife Else (née Weill). Abelmann died on Dec 2, 1934 in Zurich. His family left for the United States soon thereafter, and after the war pursued restitution claims against Degussa and IG Farben.

Sources: Collection, From Cooperation to Complicity by Peter Hayes

Extent

2 Linear Feet (2 boxes + oversize material)

Overview

This collection documents the life of pharmacist and entrepreneur Arthur Abelmann. It contains materials about his personal and professional life, including his service in World War I. The bulk of the material concerns Chemiewerk, the pharmaceutical firm he founded in 1920 and cultivated for 13 years. In 1933, Abelmann was forced to resign his leading position and then to sell the company in one of the earliest cases of "Aryanization."

Arrangement

The materials were partially arranged by Arthur Abelmann's son Walter before they were donated to LBI. The collection was subsequently rearranged into series, although Series II, subseries 2 is largely in the original order.

Related Material

LBI holds a memoir by Arthur Abelmann in English translation, Thoughts and comments on life (MS 775).

Processing Information

Materials were transferred to acid-free folders. Duplicate publications, patents, and Chemiewerk printed materials were removed. Photographs and notebooks were placed into separate sleeves. Articles from complete, published journals were copied out as per LBI processing guidelines, and the journals removed. A few documents, particularly in the Personal series, have English translations or notes prepared by Walter Abelmann. Those found on sticky notes were copied to acid-free paper and are found behind the original document in the folder. A parchment certificate is found in Box 2, Folder 22.
Title
Guide to the Arthur Abelmann (1888-1934) Collection 1888-1950 , 1997-2000s (bulk 1920-1934) AR 25372
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Kevin Schlottmann
Date
© 2012
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Made possible by the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources through The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support "Illuminating Hidden Collections at the Center for Jewish History"

Revision Statements

  • 2012: OS folder numbers added.
  • November 21, 2013 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States