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Adolf Schwersenz Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25615

Scope and Content Note

The Albert Schwersenz Family Collection holds official and personal documents pertaining to Adolf, Klara and Susan Svarson as well as professional documents and sheet music of Adolf Schwersenz. It includes correspondence, photographs, sheet music, scrapbooks, articles, brochures and flyers, clippings, financial records and notebooks.

Personal and official documents relating to the family members will be found in Series I. They include correspondence, curricula vitae, restitution documents, work and death certificates, obituaries, immigration documents, an essay by Susan and photographs of Adolf Schwersenz.

Adolf Schwersenz's professional documents are held in Series II with newspaper clippings pertaining to his work as a cantor, brochures and flyers among others.

Series III includes handwritten und published sheet music with religious songs, which Adolf used for his work as a cantor.


  • 1895-1969
  • Majority of material found within 1937-1951


Language of Materials

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

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

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

Adolf Schwersenz (who used the name Ralph Svarson in America) was born in Berlin, Germany in 1899 and died in 1959 in the United States. His parents were the tailor Simon Schwersenz and his wife Caecilie (née Aron). After attending Andreas-Realgymnasium (high school) Adolf was trained as a salesman in Strickgarn- und Strumpffabrik und Grosshandlung der Fa. A. & B. Elkisch in Berlin. During World War I he was called up for military service and continued working in the same factory after the war. Adolf started his musical training at the Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik (State University for Music) in Berlin and received singing lessons by Professor Ludwig Mantler. After Adolf finished his studies in 1923, he worked for the Berliner Kammeroper (Berlin Chamber Opera) and was employed as a stand tenor (Gastspieltenor) and concert singer in Germany and Czechoslovakia. He appeared under the name Adi Patti. Between 1934 and 1941 he worked as a cantor for the Jewish Community (Jüdische Gemeinde) in Berlin in various synagogues. The Gestapo forced Adolf to do compulsory labor and Adolf hid from them together with his wife Klara Elisabeth Schwersenz (née Gerlach) and daughter Susanne from 1943 to 1945. Later he assisted in re-establishing the Jewish Community (Jüdische Gemeinde) in Berlin Tiergarten at Synagoge Levetzowstraße. In the following two years Adolf worked in different institutions as a cantor and teacher. He immigrated with his family to New York in 1947 where he worked as a cantor, including for the congregation "Habonim" in New York. Later the family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Adolf Schwersenz's wife Klara Elisabeth Schwersenz (née Gerlach), who changed her name to Claire Svarson after their immigration, was born in Berlin in 1899. Her parents were the management assistant Hermann Gerlach and his wife Anna (née Seibt). Klara attended the Kaufmaennische Handelsschule (Commercial Business School) and started in 1915 to work for the factory Paul Pniower as a clerk and later as a manager. In 1934 the factory was taken over by the factory Gerhard Govers. Due to anti-Semitic reasons, the new factory's boss dismissed Klara in 1936. Later she worked at the German factory Paul Pniower as the manager of the sales and purchasing department. In 1944 she was forced to give up her job and do compulsory labor at the factories Huebner & Co. and Behala. Klara converted to Judaism in 1931 when she married Adolf and received the second name Ruth in this context. In 1947 she immigrated to America with her family. She lived in Massachusetts and Arizona.

Adolf Schwersenz's daughter Susanne was born in Berlin in 1936. As Jewish schools were closed, Susanne could not attend any school until the end of the war when she was nine. In the United States she changed her name to Susan Svarson. She attended high school and went to Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts to become a journalist.

Adolf Schwersenz's mother Caecilie was deported to the concentration camp Theresienstadt in 1942. She was killed in the Auschwitz extermination camp.


1.0 Linear Feet


This collection includes personal and official documents of the Adolf Schwersenz family, including his professional work as a cantor, mainly during his time in Berlin. It contains sheet music used by Adolf Schwersenz, as well as newspaper clippings and letters.

Separated Material

Gramophone records – 78 and 33 1/3 rpm – have been removed to the LBI Audiovisual collection. Three books were removed to the LBI Library.

Processing Information

The official, personal and professional documents were arranged by person, type and chronologically. The music sheets were arranged by type when identified.

Guide to the Papers of the Adolf Schwersenz Family 1895-1969 AR 25615
Processed by Adrijana Blatnik
© 2016
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from AdolfSchwersenzFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • June 2016:: dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States