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Margarete Susman Collection

Identifier: AR 1166

Scope and Content Note

The Margarete Susman Collection centers on the professional and personal life of this author, including documentation of some of her closest friendships. Among the documents in this collection are letters and postcards, drafts of her memoir, newspaper clippings and other articles about her, a few articles by her, and photographs.

The span of Margarete Susman's private and professional life is documented throughout this collection. Series I includes extensive correspondence written to her from her close friends Gertrud Kantorowicz, Georg Simmel, and Karl Wolfskehl and include mentions of literary projects under development by them or by Susman, in addition to more routine conversations such as travel plans or personal news. A few letters from Franz Rosenzweig are also present. Especially notable are the two drafts of her memoirs in Series II, which delve into the biographical details of her life as well as include her ruminations on events and the multitude of individuals she knew, on her connections with them, and on their significance in her life. Shorter biographies from newspapers and other publications are also located in this second series as are a few of her published essays.

Series III includes a list of Margarete Susman's final words on her deathbed, in addition to some photographs and various other papers.


  • Creation: 1905-1972
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1912-1966

Language of Materials

The collection is in German.

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


Biographical Note<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Portrait of Margarete Susman (1872-1966)" href="" show="embed" title="Portrait of Margarete Susman (1872-1966)"/>

Margarete Susman was born in Hamburg, Germany, on October 14, 1872, the third daughter of Adolph Susman and his wife Jenni (née Katzenstein). She grew up in Zürich, Switzerland. Since her father forbid her to study at the university in Zürich, she turned to writing, drawing and painting. She studied art in ateliers in Paris, Düsseldorf and Munich, where she encountered art historian Gertrud Kantorowicz, who would become a close friend. In 1901 Susman's first book of poetry was published, Mein Land. Gedichte.

In 1905 Margarete Susman married the painter Eduard von Bendemann and the couple moved to Berlin, in whose social circles she would meet individuals such as Georg Simmel and Martin Buber, Ernst Bloch, and Bernard Groetheysen, among many others. The following year they had a son, Erwin. She continued to write and publish books of her own poetry as well as on literature, such as Das Wesen der modernen deutschen Lyrik (1910), which brought her into contact with Stefan George. Susman also began to write essays for the Frankfurter Zeitung. In 1912 the family moved to Rüschlikon, Switzerland and soon after her first philosophical essay "Spinoza und das jüdische Weltgefühl" appeared in the compendium Vom Judentum, together with essays by Martin Buber and many others. Once World War I began, her husband returned to Germany to volunteer for military service and in 1915 Margarete and her son went to Frankfurt am Main. After the war the family resided in Frankfurt and later, Säckingen. She continued to write for the Frankfurter Zeitung, with many essays reflecting on philosophical or religious themes. In 1928 she and her husband divorced. In 1929 her book Die Frauen der Romantik was published.

In summer 1933 she left Germany, returning to Zürich in January 1934. Both her sister Paula and her close friend Gertrud Kantorowicz tried to immigrate to Switzerland, but were both captured at the border; Paula committed suicide and Kantorowicz died in Theresienstadt. Margarete Susman resided in Switzerland for the rest of her life and continued to write books and essays in spite of failing eyesight in her later years. Among these was her book Das Buch Hiob und das Schicksal des jüdischen Volkes, which was published in 1946 and was an attempt to deal with the events of the Holocaust. In 1951 her book on Goethe and Charlotte von Stein, Deutung einer großen Liebe came out. A book of essays, Vom Geheimnis der Freiheit was published in 1964, as did her published memoir Ich habe viele Leben gelebt. Margarete Susman died in Switzerland on January 16, 1966.


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This collection holds the papers of the author Margarete Susman, with a focus on the significant events of her life and her relationships with others. In addition to drafts of her memoirs the collection contains extensive correspondence with Gertrud Kantorowicz, Georg Simmel and Karl Wolfskehl. Other items include newspaper clippings, among them many obituaries, other correspondence, a few photographs and other papers.

Other Finding Aids

Ten catalog cards list many items in the collection; most documents in the collection include numbers that correspond to the numeration on the cards. Most folders of correspondence include lists of the letters included, with their date, location, format and number of pages. An overview of the contents of the Gertrud Kantorowicz letters is included in the folder of her correspondence.

Digitization Note

The collection was digitized and made accessible in its entirety.

Related Material

The LBI Library includes the book Die Jüdin Pallas Athene by Barbara Hahn [st 1275]. The book contains a chapter ("Seltsame Wesen") on the friendship between Margarete Susman and Gertrud Kantorowicz, which also discusses the relation of Georg Simmel to the two women. The LBI Library also holds the books Der abgerissene Dialog: die intellektuelle Beziehung Gertrud Kantorowicz - Margarete Susman [PT 1155 A24 1999] and Briefe [von] Karl Wolfskehl [und] Margarete Susman eingeleitet und hrsg. von Margot Ruben [PT 2647 O_7 A3]

The LBI Library and Archives include many other books and archival collections related to Margarete Susman, including many of her books. A list of them may be found by searching the Online Catalog.

Guide to the Papers of Margarete Susman (1872-1966) 1905-1972 AR 1166
Processed by Dianne Ritchey and LBI Staff
© 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Digitization made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Edition statement
This version was derived from MargareteSusman.xml

Revision Statements

  • June 2015: dao links and digitization information added by Leanora Lange.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States