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Felix Freilich Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25187

Scope and Content Note

The Felix Freilich Family collection concerns material on the life and family of Felix Freilich. It is comprised of correspondence, family trees, clippings, photographs, publications, and music scores.

The primary focus of this collection is on the genealogy and family history of Felix and Joan Freilich and their family members. Material pertaining to this topic will be found in several series in the collection. Much of the correspondence with family members found in Series II discusses family genealogy. Series III: Family Papers has translations and transcriptions of family ancestors of Joan Freilich, as well as materials such as birth and death certificates of various family members. Series X and Series XI hold photographs of various family members. Finally, Series VI: Genealogy and Family History provides many family trees, some information on family history, and correspondence with genealogists.

Felix Freilich's professional life and development may also be followed in several areas of this collection. Series I not only holds Freilich's educational degrees, but also items pertaining to Jerusalem music performances Freilich participated in. The scrapbook found in Series I focuses on the performances of the Jerusalem String Quartet, as do the oversized posters of Jerusalem performances. Finally, Series I also contains a document on the Yugoslavian military band Freilich joined in 1942. Correspondence between Felix Freilich and his wife in Series II discusses his life while in Houston and Atlanta, while correspondence with his wife while on tours with the Cleveland Orchestra in the Soviet Union, Central Europe, Scandanavian countries, South America, and Japan is located in Series XI. Among the letters are a detailed description of Felix Freilich's experiences in the Soviet Union and from his tour in Europe, which included performances in Berlin and Stuttgart in 1957. Clippings on the Cleveland Orchestra will be found in Series V; this series also contains copies of the publication Fanfare, which describes the orchestra. Photographs of Felix Freilich's last performance with this orchestra will be found in Series XI. Series X holds photographs not only of Felix Freilich, but also of the Houston Symphony and the Jerusalem ensembles in which he participated.

Material on the city of Altenburg can be found in this collection as well. The majority of these items are located in Series IV: Altenburg. Information on Altenburg includes general information on the city and documentation on the Holocaust and World War II in Altenburg. Material concerning experiences of survivors of this time period will also be found in this series. A few photographs of Altenburg are located in Series X. In addition, information on restitution for the Freilich family property in Altenburg is located in Series VIII: Restitution.


  • Creation: 1858-2003
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1990-2000


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, German, Hebrew and Yiddish.

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 to reserve the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

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


Biographical Note

Felix Freilich was born in Altenburg, Germany on February 28, 1920 to Bernhard and Sophie Freilich. His father worked in textiles and his mother maintained a grocery on the ground floor of their house. Felix Freilich’s siblings included Friedel, Max and Sala. At nine years old Felix Freilich began to study the violin, and by eleven he was playing solo pieces at school concerts. In February 1933 Freilich's name was listed in the local newspaper as one of several performers scheduled to appear at a concert in Altenburg's Brüderkirche. Freilich's involvement in the concert was cancelled at the last minute when the minister, perhaps anxious to avoid antagonizing the newly-installed Nazi government, informed the choir director that Freilich could not participate because he was Jewish, and a Nazi official from outside Altenburg was planning to attend. To maintain the ruse that Freilich was too sick to participate, Freilich's father instructed him to remain in bed all day. Freilich took private lessons in Leipzig in 1934-1936, and began considering continuing his studies outside of Germany because of the rising anti-Semitism. In February 1936 his father took him to Prague, where Freilich entered the Deutsche Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst (German Academy for Music and the Performing Arts).

For the next three years Freilich studied in Prague, returning home to see his family during summer breaks. After Germany's invasion of the Sudeten area, he left Altenburg for the last time, and did not return again until after the end of the Second World War. Although Freilich's parents were able to send his siblings to England, they were themselves not able to flee the country. In 1943 they were sent to Auschwitz, where Sophie Freilich presumably died; Bernhard Freilich perished in Dachau in April 1945. The arrival of the German troops in Prague meant that Freilich needed to find a new place to study, and he found that when the director of the Palestine Conservatory of Music came to Prague in 1939, searching for new students. Freilich received a stipend to study in Jerusalem, although he had to wait until December of 1939 to leave Prague. For the following two years he studied the violin with the trumpet as a secondary instrument.

In January 1942 Freilich joined the Yugoslavian military orchestra. This orchestra was composed almost entirely of Jewish musicians, who had already been living in Palestine for some time, and Freilich may have found out about it through answering an advertisement. He played the trumpet during marches and parades, and the violin during concerts that the orchestra played in military camps and for the general public. In June 1943 this orchestra was disbanded because its members were being sent to Italy or Yugoslavia. In August 1943 Freilich entered the Palestine Police Force, where he performed similar work as in the Yugoslavian military. He left the police service in April 1945, and received a position with the British ENSA (Entertainment National Service Association). This contract only lasted a few months and came to an end shortly before the end of the war.

After the end of World War II, Freilich became a member of the Jerusalem Radio Orchestra and Jerusalem String Quartet. From 1948 on he was the assistant Concertmaster of this orchestra until his emigration to the United States in 1953. In 1950 he went to study for a year in London with Max Rostal. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he met his future wife, Joan Greenberg, an American who taught English literature at Hebrew University. After their marriage in Jerusalem the couple came to the United States. Freilich joined the Atlanta Symphony in 1953, the Houston Symphony in 1954, and the Cleveland Orchestra (led by George Szell) in 1955, where he remained until his retirement in 2000. Throughout his first year of retirement, the orchestra called him back to perform numerous concerts, both in Cleveland and other cities. In 1957, Felix Freilich returned to Europe to tour with the orchestra, including performances in Berlin and Stuttgart, apparently his first visit to Germany since his departure in 1939.

The Freilichs had four children: Ellen (born 1953), Joel (born 1956), Jessica (born 1959), and Jonathan (born 1964).

Felix Freilich returned to his birthplace of Altenburg several times, starting in 1975, although his family members did not accompany him until after the fall of the Berlin Wall. One of the most notable visits was in 1998, when the city invited all its surviving Jewish citizens to participate in a commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of Kristallnacht. In 2002, having only recently learned of the cancellation of Freilich's participation in the 1933 concert, the Altenburg Posaunenchor and the Brüderkirche invited Freilich to perform in the same church that had once rejected him. He performed a composition by Bach and a new work written for the occasion by local composer Günther Witschurke, titled: Reminiscence: Damals durfte seine Violine nicht erklingen (In those days his violin could not sound).

Felix Freilich died on October 25, 2002.


3.75 Linear Feet


This collection portrays the personal and professional life of the violinist Felix Freilich. It also provides information on his wife and the genealogy of their families. The collection contains correspondence, family trees, photographs, clippings, publications and music scores. Subjects found in this collection include the genealogy of the Freilich and Greenberg families, the professional life of Felix Freilich, and the city of Altenburg, Germany.


The collection is on 7 reels of microfilm (MF 764):

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1-50
  2. Reel 2: 1/51 - 2/9
  3. Reel 3: 2/10 - 2/13
  4. Reel 4: 2/14 - 2/28
  5. Reel 5: 2/29 - 3/20
  6. Reel 6: 3/21 - 3/43
  7. Reel 7: 3/44 - 6/21

Processing Information

The collection was found largely unprocessed, but with many items already in folders. Processing this collection included grouping documents into series based on original order and content, and conducting basic preservation work.

Guide to the Papers of the Felix Freilich (1920-2002) Family Collection 1858-2003 AR 25187 / MF 764
Processed by Dianne Ritchey Oummia
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from FelixFreilich.xml

Revision Statements

  • 2010-03-23 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl
  • January 2006.: Finding aid was revised to add information and make corrections provided by donor.
  • July 2007.: Finding aid was revised to include addenda.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States