Guide to the Papers of Nelly Sachs (1891-1970)
1891-1992 (bulk 1954-1967)
AR 3991

Processed by Ilse Turnheim

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2004 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 2002 by Dianne Oummia. October 2004. Description is in English.
2010-03-23  encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl January 2006. Entities removed from EAD finding aid.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Nelly Sachs
Title: Nelly Sachs Collection
Dates: 1891-1992
Dates: bulk 1954-1967
Abstract: This collection documents the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Nelly Sachs. It includes material such as personal correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, photos, and copies and translations of her work.
Languages: The collection is in German, English, Swedish, Spanish, French, Hebrew, and Dutch.
Quantity: 1 linear foot
Accession number: AR 3991
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Nelly Sachs was born as Leonie Sachs, on December 10, 1891, in the Tiergarten section of Berlin. She grew up as the only child of the manufacturer William Sachs and Margarete Sachs, née Karger, in comfortable circumstances. Her first exposure to German literature was in her father’s library. She received private lessons for several years, until she began attending the private girls’ school Aubert in 1903. Her greatest wish at this point in her life was to become a dancer.

In 1908 Sachs completed school. She began writing to the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf, whose writing she admired, when she was 15 years old, and her first published work Legenden und Erzählungen (Legends and Stories) was written in a similar fashion as Lagerlöf’s. During this time, some of her poetry was published in several publications, much of it written in the Romantic style. Her father, with whom she was very close, died in 1930, after a long illness.

After the Nazis rose to power in Germany Sachs was only allowed to write for Jewish newspapers. She was picked up by the Gestapo several times. Near the end of 1937 she was arrested with a close friend who was active in the Resistance. Nelly never saw her friend again, whose identity she never revealed. He was deported to a concentration camp where he later died. It was during the 1930s that Sachs began to develop an interest in Jewish mysticism, which would later be reflected in her writing.

It was through the work of friends that Nelly Sachs was finally able to escape Germany. A friend of hers, Gudrun Harlan, was able to contact the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlof. Selma Lagerlöf, with the aid of the Swedish royal family, assisted Nelly Sachs in acquiring a visa for Sweden, shortly after receiving deportation orders for a work camp. Nelly Sachs and her mother took one of the last flights to Sweden and arrived on May 16, 1940 in Stockholm. Not yet fluent in Swedish, Nelly Sachs began translating Swedish poetry in addition to working on her own writing.

In 1943 the first reports reached Sweden of the concentration camps, and Nelly Sachs discovered that her friend had been a victim of this terror. With the exception of her mother, who had fled with her to Sweden, all of her family members and many friends were also lost in the Holocaust. Out of this period came her work In den Wohnungen des Todes (In the Habitations of Death), published in 1947, with a series of poems entitled "Gebete für den toten Bräutigam," followed by Sternverdunklung (Eclipse of Stars) in 1949. Shortly thereafter came her well-known play Eli, ein Mysterienspiel vom Leiden Israels which would later be made into a radio play in West Germany. Three years later her mother died.

In 1952 Nelly Sachs received Swedish citizenship.

Although Sachs was a well-known translator of Swedish poetry, it was some time before publishers in Germany were prepared to publish her works. She was not noticed until some of her poems were published in the magazine Texte und Zeichen in 1956. In 1957 her book Und niemand weiß weiter (And No One Knows How to Go On) was published, and in 1959 Flucht und Verwandlung (Flight and Metamorphosis). A visit to Germany brought Sachs great trauma. After returning to Sweden, Sachs suffered a nervous breakdown and spent 1960-1963 in a psychiatric hospital caused by fears which stemmed from her life in Germany during the Nazi period. During this time she wrote her work Noch feiert Tod das Leben, published in 1961.

Nelly Sachs received many awards for her work. In 1957 she became a member of the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung in Darmstadt. The following year she was the first winner of the Lyricist's Prize of the Swedish Writers' Union (Schwedischen Schriftstellersverband). Sachs won the Meersburger Droste-Preis for female poets in 1960. In 1961 she became a member in the Hamburg free academy for art. That same year the city of Dortmund established a Nelly Sachs Prize, named after its first winner. In 1963 Nelly Sachs became a member of the Bavarian academy of arts. In 1965 she received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Nelly Sachs reached her high point when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1966, together with the Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon. Finally, in 1967 Nelly Sachs received honorary citizenship from the city of her birth, Berlin. During the same year her work O, die Schornsteine (O, the Chimneys) was published.

Nelly Sachs died on May 12, 1970 in Stockholm, where she was buried in the Jewish cemetery.


December 10, 1891 Nelly (Leonie) Sachs born in Berlin
1921 Legenden und Erzählungen
1930 William Sachs dies
1940 Nelly and Margarete Sachs flee Berlin, arrive in Stockholm, Sweden
1947 In den Wohnungen des Todes
1949 Sternverdunklung
1951 Eli, ein Mysterienspiel vom Leiden Israels
1952 Nelly Sachs receives Swedish citizenship
1954? Margarete Sachs dies
1957 Und niemand weiß weiter
Member of Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung, Darmstadt
1958 Received Swedish Lyricist's Prize
1959 Flucht und Verwandlung
1960 Received Droste-Prize from city of Meersburg
1961 Fahrt ins Staublose
Received Culture Prize of the city of Dortmund
Noch feiert Tod das Leben
1962 Zeichen im Sand
1964 Glühende Rätsel
1965 Späte Gedichte
Received Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
1966 Die Suchenende
Received Nobel Prize for literature, shared with S.Y. Agnon
1970 Verzauberungen
May 12, 1970 Nelly Sachs dies in Stockholm
1971 Suche nach Lebenden
1971 Teile dich Nacht

Some information for biographical note from: Wall, Renate. Lexikon deutschsprachiger Schriftstellerinnen im Exil, 1933-1945, Band II. Freiburg im Breisgau, Kore, 1995.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection portrays the work of the poet Nelly Sachs. Much of the collection grew out of an exhibition of her works by the Leo Baeck Institute in April 1967. It contains copies of Nelly Sachs's correspondence, writing, newspaper clippings about her and her works. One focus of the collection is on the Nobel Prize in literature Sachs received in 1966.

Several series contain documents pertaining to Nelly Sachs's writing. The first of these is Series III: Writings and Translations by Nelly Sachs. This series holds copies of her writing, as well as translations of her poems. Newspaper clippings found in Series V contain articles about and reviews of her writing. Radio programs and essays concerning Nelly Sachs, which will be found in Series VI, also discuss her work.

Information on the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Nelly Sachs will also be found in many areas of the collection. Much information on this topic will be found in Series I: Personal Documents, which holds documents on the Nobel Prize and the ceremony in which it was given to Nelly Sachs, as well as information on other awards she received. This material includes photos of the Prize itself, programs of the events, and copies of speeches given at the ceremony. Many clippings from Series V also mention the Nobel Prize being granted to Nelly Sachs. Finally Series VIII: Addenda contains a broadcast address on the Nobel Prize.

Correspondence is located in two series of the collection. Series II contains Nelly Sachs's personal correspondence, whereas correspondence concerning the Leo Baeck Institute’s 1967 exhibition on Nelly Sachs will be found in Series IV.

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This collection is divided into 8 series:

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Access and Use

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

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Separated Material

Photos have been removed to the Photo Collection. Audio cassettes have been removed to the A/V Collection.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Nelly Sachs Collection; AR 3991; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Other Finding Aids

A detailed item-level inventory of this collection is available at the Leo Baeck Institute. Roman numerals in the container list refer to the item description of this inventory.

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Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection. Roman numerals in parentheses refer to the item-level inventory available at the Leo Baeck Institute.


Series I: Personal Documents, 1891,, 1956-1967

This series is in German, Swedish, and English.
ca. 0.165 linear foot


Scope and Content:

Series I is mainly comprised of documents, which focus on prizes and honors won by Nelly Sachs. In addition, there is also one folder that holds her birth certificate and a photo of her birthplace in Berlin. Most of the documents found here are photocopies. Prominent among these documents is the information on the Nobel Prize in literature she received in 1966. Material concerning the Nobel Prize includes a press release, copies of speeches given at the ceremony and a program and memorandum concerning the events. There are also a few photos of the Nobel Prize itself on cardboard backing.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 (II.1-2) Birth Certificate and Birthplace Photo 1891, 1967
1 2 (II.3-8) Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung, Darmstadt 1957, 1966
1 3 (II.8a) Lyricist’s Prize, Sweden 1958
1 4 (II.9) Droste-Prize of the city of Meersburg 1960
1 5 (II.10-14) Culture Prize of the city of Dortmund 1956-1962
1 6 (II.15-19) Peace Prize of the German Book Trade 1965-1966
1 7 (II.20-29) Nobel Prize 1966-1967
1 8 (II.31-34) Nelly Sachs Gymnasium, Neuss 1963-1967
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Series II: Correspondence, 1954-1967

This series is in German.
ca. 0.165 linear foot

Alphabetical. Chronological within each folder.

Scope and Content:

This series contains correspondence between Nelly Sachs and others, much of it personal. Some of the correspondence is related to the publishing of her works, such as the correspondence between Sachs and the Deutsche Verlagsanstalt. Sachs discusses her poetry with many of her correspondents. The correspondence between Nelly Sachs and her close friend Walter Berendsohn includes a copy of a letter discussing her childhood and relationship with her father, as well as a letter detailing her life during the 1930s in Germany, and her fear of the Gestapo. Letters to several friends, such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Vera Lachmann mention Sachs's illness. Mention is made by her of the exhibition in her honor to take place at the Leo Baeck Institute in correspondence with Erika Guetermann as well as with Max Kreutzberger.

Box Folder Title Date
1 9 (III.2) Berendsohn, Walter n.d., 1954-1961
1 10 (III.3) Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1959-1960
1 11 (III.4) Enzensberger, Hans Magnus 1966
1 12 (III.5) Guetermann, Erika 1967
1 13 (III.13) Henssen, Dorothee 1966-1967
1 14 (III.6) Lachmann, Vera 1966
1 15 (III.1) Leo Baeck Institute 1966-1967
1 16 (III.7) Pergament, Moses 1954-1959
1 17 (III.8) Schwebell, Gertrude C. 1961
1 18 (III.9) Schwedhelm, Karl n.d., 1958-1966
1 19 (III.10) Steffens, Walter 1967
1 20 (III.11) Tau, Max 1947
1 21 (III.12) Unseld, Siegfried n.d., 1962
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Series III: Writings and Translations by Nelly Sachs,  1921,, 1965-1966

This series is in German, English, and Spanish.
1 folder
Scope and Content:

Series III holds documents pertaining to Nelly Sachs writing. Much of it is comprised of translations of Nelly Sachs's work, or parts of her work. Well-known poems or works of hers featured here include "Glühende Rätsel," translations of In den Wohnungen des Todes, and "Abram im Salz." A copy of a page of Eli and a book cover for a Spanish version of Eli (La Pasión de Israel) are also available.

Box Folder Title Date
1 22 (IV) Writings and Translations by Nelly Sachs n.d., 1921, 1965-1966
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Series IV: Leo Baeck Institute Exhibition April 1967, 1966-1967

This series is in German and English.
2 folders
Scope and Content:

Material pertaining to the Leo Baeck Institute Exhibition in April 1967 will be found in this series. It includes such items as invitations to the event and reception, and a program and catalog for the exhibition. Telegrams by New York City Mayor John Lindsay and Congressman Jacob K. Javitts are also located here, as are some photos of the exhibition. Annoncements of the exhibition are also included from local newspapers as well as German ones, in both English and German.

Much of the correspondence found in Series IV is from individuals who knew Nelly Sachs such as Paul Celan and Walter A. Berendsohn, as well as from institutions such as the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung. It concerns details of the exhibit, including discussions on the acquiring and returning of items used in the exhibit, copyright and permissions information, and mail arrangements. Photocopies of some items included in the exhibition are also available.

Box Folder Title Date
1 23 (I.a) LBI Exhibition April 1967 1967
1 24 (I.b) LBI Exhibition April 1967 – Correspondence 1966-1967
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Series V: Newspaper and Magazine Clippings about Nelly Sachs,  1936-1972

This series is in German, English, Swedish, French, Hebrew, Dutch, and Spanish.
0.25 linear foot + 2 folders

By country. Chronological within country.

Scope and Content:

The newspaper clippings found in this series cover numerous topics. The most prominent topics found among the clippings are biographical information on Nelly Sachs and the awarding of the Nobel Prize to her in 1966. Other topics frequently found among the clippings include reviews of her works or of translations of her works.

Box Folder Title Date
1 25 (V.a) Germany 1936-1971
1 26 (V.b) England 1962-1970
Box Folder Title Date
2 1 (V.c) Israel 1959-1966
2 2 (V.d) Sweden 1947-1966
2 3 (V.e) Switzerland 1962-1972
2 4 (V.f) U.S.A. 1948-1972
2 5 (V.g) France, Netherlands, Yugoslavia 1966
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Series VI: Writings about Nelly Sachs,  1957-1967

This series is in German.
ca. 0.25 linear foot
Scope and Content:

This series consists of radio lectures and other writing about Nelly Sachs. Radio lectures consist mainly of documentaries about Nelly Sachs and her writings, most of which were produced by Berlin radio stations. One interview of Nelly Sachs focuses on her 75th birthday. In addition to the documentaries, there are 2 German transcripts of her play Eli, one broadcast by Süddeutscher Rundfunk, the other by ARD Norddeutscher Rundfunk. There is also an English version of the play by the British Broadcasting Company. Other writings found in this series include essays and lectures about her writing as well as theater programs for productions of Nelly Sachs’ play Eli. Essays include three by Walter A. Berendsohn, a literary historian and friend of Nelly Sachs.

Box Folder Title Date
2 6 (VI.b) Radio Programs 1958-1965
2 7 (VI.c) Writings and Theater Programs about Nelly Sachs 1957-1967
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Series VII: Photos,  1940,, 1966

1 folder
Scope and Content:

This series holds a few duplicates of photos. Most photos in this collection have been removed to the photo collection. The duplicates found here include photos of Nelly Sachs and of her meeting King Gustaf Adolf of Sweden.

Box Folder Title Date
2 8 Duplicates 1940, 1966
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Series VIII: Addenda,  1966-1980, 1988, 1992

This series is in German.
3 folders
Scope and Content:

Addenda consists of various items added to the collection. The first folder holds a broadcast address concerning the Nobel Prize given to Nelly Sachs in 1966 as well as information on theater pieces about Nelly Sachs. This series also contains documents pertaining to an International Interdisciplinary Symposium on Nelly Sachs and photos of a performance of Eli by a school in Berlin.

Box Folder Title Date
2 9 Addenda – Broadcast Address and Theater Pieces 1966-1980
2 10 Addenda – International Interdisciplinary Symposium 1992
2 11 Addenda - “Eli” Performance by Rudolf-Steiner-Schule in Berlin – Photos 1988
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