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Herbert and Kaethe Hirsch Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25699

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the papers of Robin Hirsch and his parents, Herbert and Kaethe. The majority of the collection consists of correspondence, dating from Herbert's time as an artilleryman for the German army in World War I up until his death in 1982. Herbert mostly corresponded with his immediate family and friends. In 1967, Robin relocated to the United States, so later correspondence is mostly between Robin and his parents. Other materials in the collection focus on restitution for Herbert and Kaethe, as well as photographs from Herbert's travels in the 1930s in Europe and Palestine.

Of particular interest in the collection are photographs, newsletters, and other materials related to Jewish rowing clubs (Juedische Ruder Klubs) in Berlin in the 1910s-1930s. Robin also was involved in the downtown theater scene in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s and the collection contains posters and other promotional materials for theatrical performances.


  • 1912-1984


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, German and Dutch.

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 reserving 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

Herbert M. Hirsch was born on January 11, 1898 in Berlin to Bertha Baer Hirsch and Max Hirsch (?-November 26, 1928). He had one younger brother, Georg. In 1913, he took a commercial apprenticeship at the Orenstein & Koppel (O & K) Company. In 1914, he joined the Jewish rowing club, “Ivria.” During World War I, from 1916-1919, he served in the German army as a field artilleryman. After the war, he returned to O & K until 1921, when his father had a heart attack and forced him to take over the family firm, Max Hirsch & Co. Max Hirsch & Co. was a metal works factory and sold bakelite. In 1938, his mother and brother fled to the Netherlands. Bertha died in Bergen-Belsen in 1944, but his brother Georg survived the war. On September 15, 1938, Hirsch travelled to England on business and remained there as a refugee.

He was then interned on the Isle of Man starting on June 27, 1940 until 1941. Herbert married Kaethe Lewald in 1939. In London, Hirsch was chairman of the Hampstead Zion House and the Theodor Herzl Society and involved in the Association of Jewish Refugees. Herbert Hirsch died on October 28, 1982 in London.

Kaethe was born on May 1, 1902 in Berlin to Ernst Lewald (July 16, 1866-September 18, 1925) and Luise Felsenthal (December 20, 1877-1943?). Luise was deported in March 1943 and died in the Holocaust. Kaethe had a sister, Herta, who married Werner Eichwald and fled to Argentina. Kaethe married Joachim Lothar Sachs in 1924 and divorced him in 1928. In Berlin, she worked as a book binder and craftsman. After moving to England in 1939, she married Herbert and had two children, Robin, born in 1942 and Barbara, born in 1944. Kaethe died in June 1990 in London.

Robin Hirsch attended Oriel College at Oxford University from 1961-1964. He was a lecturer Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum in 1966 and briefly worked at the Sheffield Playhouse. In 1967, he received Fulbright and English Speaking Union Fellowship scholarships and began a doctorate at Pennsylvania State University. He received his Ph.D. in theater and literature in 1969 and moved to New York. He married Nancy Volkman in 1972. In July 1977, he opened the Cornelia Street Café with Charles McKenna and Raphaela Pivetta. In addition to running the Café, he also founded the New Works Project, a group devoted to the development of new theater productions. He married his second wife Leona Jaglom in 1984.


3.25 Linear Feet (3 record cartons and 1 rolled poster box)


This collection contains the family papers of Robin Hirsch, owner of the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village, and child of German Jewish refugees, Herbert and Kaethe Hirsch. The collection is mostly made up of correspondence and photographs, dating from the 1910s-1980s, documenting Herbert's life in Berlin (especially his involvement in the Jewish rowing club "Ivria"), time as a World War I artilleryman, and refugee in London during World War II. Post-World War II materials in the collection mostly consist of Kaethe's restitution documents, correspondence between Robin and his parents, and material pertaining to Robin's academic and artistic pursuits.

Related Material

A copy of Robin Hirsch's autobiography, Last Dance at the Hotel Kempinski can be found in the LBI library, call number DS 135 E6 H57 1995.

Separated Material

Medals from World War I have been separated to the LBI Arts and Objects collection.

A Voice-O-Graph phonograph from Herbert to Kaethe Hirsch from 1951 was separated to the A/V collection

Das Glueck by Rene Schickele, Dispersion and Resettlement: The Story of the Jews from Central Europe, Aspects of Anglo-Jewish Life, 1656-1956: A Tercentenary Brochure, and Rudolf Schoenheimer und der Tracer-Technik bei Stoffwechseluntersuchungen dissertation were separated to the Library collection


Digitization of this collection is ongoing. Box 1 is currently available online.

Processing Information

In 2016, the collection was surveyed by Sophia Stolf. During the survey, materials were rehoused and objects were separated to the Arts and Objects collection. In 2017, the collection was arranged and described by Nicole Greenhouse. Envelopes were discarded and photographs were rehoused. Additionally, Robin Hirsch donated a 1-folder collection of family materials (AR 6836), which was incorporated into this collection as Box 2, Folder 9.

Guide to the Herbert and Kaethe Hirsch Family Collection 1912-1984 AR 25699
Processed by Nicole Greenhouse
© 2009
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