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Frankl-Kulbach Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25568

Scope and Content Note

The Frankl-Kulbach Family Collection contains materials documenting the lives of members of the Frankl, Kulbach, and related families, particularly art historian Paul Frankl and his wife Elsa Frankl, and their daughters Johanna Kulbach née Frankl, Susan Wilk née Frankl, and Regula Davis née Frankl. Such documentation includes a large quantity of personal correspondence with family members and friends, diaries, vital documents and immigration records, memoirs, interviews, and photographs. These records cover the family’s lives in Germany before World War II, their efforts to immigrate to the United States, and their lives and careers in the United States.

In addition to personal documents, materials pertaining to the family members’ professional endeavors can also be found in the collection. Included are drafts and manuscripts of Paul Frankl’s writings on politics and art history; radio scripts, articles, and book drafts by Gerard Wilk, Susan Wilk’s husband, who worked as an author and journalist; fashion drawings and commission books from Susan Wilk’s first career as a fashion design and musical compositions and concert programs from her second career as a musician and music teacher; and records of Johanna’s career as a recorder teacher in New York City and involvement with Sensory Awareness.

The collection also includes a family history compiled by Elizabeth (Lisle) Kulbach about the Frankl family and other related families, including: Davis, Herrmann, Herzberg, Löslein, Kulbach, Meeske, Spira, Stoerk, and Wiener. It contains scans of photographs and documents that can be found in the collection.


  • 1728
  • 1867-2015


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with some Italian, Danish, Swedish, and Czech.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers. Medical and educational records are restricted.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

Biographical Note

Art historian Paul Frankl was born on April 22, 1878, in Prague, to Karl Frankl (1832-1899) and Amalie née von Wiener (1855-1934). On his father’s side, Paul Frankl descended from generations of prominent rabbis in Prague. On June 28, 1905, Paul Frankl married the artist Elsa Johanna Herzberg in London. Elsa was born on August 29, 1879, in Berlin, to Alexander Herzberg and Elisabeth Amalie Therese née Herrmann. Elsa’s father was Jewish, and her mother was Huguenot. Paul and Elsa Frankl had five children: Peter (1906-1935), Wolfgang (1907-1994), Johanna (1912-2010), Susan (1915-2005), and Regula (1921-1973). Paul and Elsa Frankl raised their children as Protestants; Paul converted to Catholicism so that he could pursue university studies in Berlin.

Paul Frankl attended the Deutsches Staats-Obergymnasium in Prague from 1888 to 1896. He continued his studies at the Technische Hochschule in Munich, then Berlin, graduating with a degree in architecture in 1904; he practiced as an architect until 1908. In 1908, he undertook studies in art history at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, and he received his doctorate in 1910. He served as a Privatdozent at the university starting in 1914, he was promoted to assistant professor at Munich in 1920, after which he took a position as a full professor at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in 1921. In 1934, Paul Frankl was dismissed from his post at the university due to his Jewish heritage.

On September 24, 1938, Paul traveled to the United States to lecture at New York University, arriving in the United States on October 2, 1938. On the night of Kristallnacht, SS officers came to the family’s home, where Elsa, Susan, and Regula were present, looking for Paul Frankl. Elsa wrote Paul a letter warning him not to return to Germany. Two days later, Elsa and Susan crossed the border into Denmark; Regula sailed to the United States to join Paul in New York. Elsa stayed in Denmark until September 1939 before continuing on to England, where she stayed until her immigration to the United States in 1943. Susan remained in Denmark until the German invasion, at which point she fled to Sweden.

Wolfgang/Volfango Georg (Wolfi) Frankl was born on August 5, 1907, in Munich. Wolfgang studied architecture in Stuttgart before moving to Rome in 1933 with his wife Lenore Gertrud née Haag (1907-1990) in order to work. Wolfgang and Lenore had two children: Rosemarie (August 8, 1931- ) and Brigitte/Brigida (Bizzele) (January 4, 1934- ). He left Rome five years later to escape the Fascist government, spending the war years in England. He returned to Rome in 1945 and worked there as an architect for the next 50 years. In 1959, Wolfgang married Pina Albegiani (1921- ). Their son Paolo was born on January 29, 1964. Wolfgang Frankl died on April 27, 1994, in Terni, Italy.

Johanna Elisabeth (Hannelies) Kulbach née Frankl was born on January 1, 1912, in Gauting, Germany. She was educated at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. On May 13, 1933, Johanna married Richard Kulbach, whom she met at a music party in Halle an der Saale. Richard was born on September 28, 1903, in Höchst am Main, Germany. He attended Leipzig University, where he studied bookselling. Thereafter, he worked for three years as an assistant at various publishing houses before becoming joint owner of the university bookstore of Ludwig Hofstetter in Halle an der Salle in 1928. Richard married his first wife Irene née Kramer (1905-1933) in 1926; she died of tuberculosis shortly after the birth of their son Bernhard (1931-1979). In 1933, Richard was forced out of his share of the ownership of the university bookstore, due to Johanna’s Jewish heritage and his political leanings; Richard joined the Eiserne Front (Iron Front) in 1932. In 1937, Richard’s son Bernhard went to visit Richard’s half-sister Ella Höfer née Kulbach and her husband Jo; they refused to return the child to Richard because of his marriage to Johanna. Richard made several failed attempts through the courts to regain his son but was not able to reestablish contact with Bernhard until after World War II.

Richard and Johanna Kulbach lived in Berlin for most of World War II. Though Johanna was considered Jewish by the Nazis, her marriage to Richard, who was not Jewish, protected her. From 1941 to 1944, Richard was employed by the German Air Force in an armaments factory. In 1944, he was removed from the factory and put into forced labor through Organisation Todt. From May 1942 until April 1945, Johanna was compelled to peel potatoes under Gestapo supervision. During this time, she began taking Sensory Awareness classes with Elsa Gindler. In January 1946, Richard and Johanna moved to Weimar, where Johanna had a job teaching singing at a boys’ school. Richard worked in the Ministry for People’s Education in Weimar. On February 1, 1947, he became the library advisor for the Weimar National Library. He resigned in November 1947, at which point they moved to the American Zone of Berlin. Richard became the head librarian of the Dahlem Museum. Richard and Johanna’s daughter Elisabeth/Elizabeth (Lisle) was born in Berlin on April 4, 1948. On January 20, 1949, Richard Kulbach fell down an empty elevator shaft in the library at Dahlem; he died later that night.

After Richard’s death, Johanna immigrated to the United States with their daughter Lisle. She worked as a recorder teacher in New York and continued her involvement with Sensory Awareness. Johanna Kulbach died in 2010.

Susan Ruth (Susi) Wilk née Frankl was born on January 20, 1915, in Gauting, Germany. On February 16, 1949, Susan married Gerard Wilk (September 1, 1902, Berlin-August 31, 1990, New York). Their daughter Jane Wilk was born on January 15, 1950, in New York. Susan worked as a clothing designer and, later in life, as a music composer and teacher. Susan Wilk died on January 10, 2005, in Fairfield, Iowa.

Regula (Heka) Davis née Frankl was born on January 19, 1921, in Gauting, Germany. Regula immigrated to the United States in 1938, arriving in New York on December 7, 1938. She enrolled at Radcliffe, one of two students admitted as part of an initiative to assist refugees from Germany. In 1945, Regula married Harold Meeske; their daughter Monika was born in New York on May 28, 1946. After her marriage to Harold ended, Regula married Robert R. (Bob) Davis (1917-2002) on October 17, 1952. Bob was previously married to Harold’s sister Charlotte (Schatzi) (1919-2005), with whom he had two daughters: Nan (1944- ) and Susan (1945- ). Charlotte later married Russell Durgin (1924-1985). Regula worked as an editor for several scientific publications: Physics Today (1951-1961), International Science and Technology (1961-1969), Innovation (1969- ), and Search (1969- ). Regula Davis died on April 17, 1973, in Sandia Park, New Mexico.


17 Linear Feet


The Frankl-Kulbach Family Collection contains materials documenting the lives of members of the Frankl, Kulbach, and related families, particularly art historian Paul Frankl and his wife Elsa Frankl, and their daughters Johanna Kulbach née Frankl, Susan Wilk née Frankl, and Regula Davis née Frankl. Through family histories, correspondence, diaries, vital documents, writings, and photographs, the collection covers their lives in Germany before World War II, their efforts to immigrate to the United States, and their lives and careers in the United States.

Related Material

The Leo Baeck Institute holds the memoirs of Paul Frankl's sister Olly Schwarz. Additional papers of Paul Frankl can be found at the Princeton University Library and Deutsches Exilarchiv. Additional papers of Gerard Wilk can also be found at the Deutsches Exilarchiv.

Elsa Frankl's granddaughter Lisle Kulbach made a slide show of Elsa Frankl's art work.

Separated Material

Books and offprints have been removed to the LBI Library. Wedding rings of Karl Frankl and Amalie von Wiener, Paul Frankl’s Princeton University bicentennial medallion, and a camera lens have been removed to the LBI Art & Objects Collection. VHS tapes, CDs, and DVDs, some of which contain interviews with Johanna Kulbach, have been removed to the LBI Audiovisual Collection. Clippings have been removed to the LBI Clippings Collection.

Processing Information

Staff members placed collection materials in archival boxes upon receipt. During processing, letters were removed from envelopes and the envelopes were discarded, as were paperclips, photocopies of letters and other documents found in the collection, and duplicate photographs. College notes and papers belonging to Susan Wilk, as well as slides of scenery belonging to Bob Davis, were discarded. Moldy documents pertaining to Charles Horman were photocopied and the originals discarded. All collection materials were placed in archival folders and boxes; photographs were additionally placed in photo sleeves.

Guide to the Frankl-Kulbach Family Collection undated, 1728, 1867-2015 AR 25568
Processed by Sarah Glover
© 2017
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States