Guide to the Franz Werfel Family Collection
Undated, 1925-1947, bulk 1940-1944

AR 6225

Processed by Kevin Schlottmann

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305

Email: lbaeck@lbi.cjh.org

URL: http://www.lbi.org

© 2011 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Kevin Schlottmann in June 2011. Description is in English.
March 2012 Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Rieser, Marianne
Title: Franz Werfel Family Collection
Dates:undated, 1925-1947
Dates:bulk 1940-1944
Abstract: This collection consists primarily of Werfel family correspondence from 1940-1947. Letters and telegraphs mainly document Franz and Alma Werfel's escape from France to the United States, and the efforts of Franz's sisters Marianne Rieser and Hanna Fuchs-Robettin to help their parents escape Europe by way of France and Portugal. Additional correspondence concerns Ferdinand Rieser's work at the Zurich Schaupielhaus, and the collection also contains a typescript of the Marianne Rieser play "Your Problem Please."
Languages: This collection is in German and English, with some French.
Quantity: 0.5 linear feet
Identification: AR 6225
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Author Franz Werfel (1890-1945) was born in Prague to the glove merchant Rudolph Werfel. He had two sisters, playwright Marianne Amalie Rieser (1899-1965) and Hanna Fuchs-Robettin (1896-1964). Werfel was educated in Prague, and from 1915 to 1917 he served in the Austrian army on the Russian front. After the war he settled in Vienna and worked as a full-time writer. His novels were especially popular in England and in the United States. In Vienna he met Alma Mahler-Gropius (1879-1964), the widow of the composer Gustav Mahler. At that time she was married to the architect Walter Gropius. She divorced Gropius and went to live with Werfel; they were married in 1929. The Werfels lived in Austria until 1938, when the Anschluss forced them into exile. After travelling from France to Spain, they settled in the United States in 1940. Franz Werfel died in Beverly Hills, California, on August 26, 1945, in the middle of his work, correcting galley proof of his last book of verse. Alma Mahler Werfel died in New York in 1964.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection consists primarily of Werfel family correspondence from 1940-1947, and also contains some correspondence concerning Ferdinand Rieser's work at the Zurich Playhouse (Schaupielhaus Zürich).

The Werfel family correspondence from 1940 to 1947 documents Franz and Alma Werfel's escape from France to the United States, as well as the efforts of the family, primarily Franz's sisters, to help their parents escape Europe. Rudolph and Albine Werfel had reached Bergerac, France, by 1940, and with the help of Varian Fry, Albine managed to obtain the necessary Portuguese transit visas, boat tickets, and American visas to travel to New York. Rudolph Werfel was already in ill health at the beginning of the journey and died in France. Other topics in the correspondence include the war situation and family matters such as health, children, and jobs. These documents probably originated with Franz Werfel's sister Marianne Amalie Rieser and her husband Ferdinand.

This collection contains a few autograph letters from Franz Werfel, to Marianne Rieser and his parents; these are found in folder 7.

The collection also contains materials from the professional lives of Marianne and Ferdinand Rieser. Ferdinand was the first director of the Zurich Playhouse (Schauspielhaus Zürich), from 1929-1938, and he remained involved in its affairs even as he and his family immigrated to New York. The correspondence in this collection is primarily about the employment lawsuits of one Schauspielhaus employee, Hedwig Lipski. It also addresses general administrative matters. Also included in this collection is a typescript of Marianne Rieser's English-language play "Your Problem Please," as well as a few clippings of her poetry.

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Arrangement

This collection is arranged into two series.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is 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.

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

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Related Material

LBI holds archival material related to the correspondents in this collection, including the Alma Mahler-Werfel Collection (AR 1663) and the Franz Werfel Collection (AR 2756). The LBI Archives and Library also hold additional material about Franz Werfel.

The University of Pennsylvania (Mahler-Werfel Papers) and UCLA (Franz Werfel Papers) hold related collections.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Franz Werfel Family Collection; AR 6225; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Processing Information

This collection was rehoused in acid-free folders. Acid-free paper was placed around the telegrams and other discolored items.

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Container List

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.

 

Series I: Personal Werfel Family Correspondence, undated, 1925-1947, bulk 1940-1944

This series is in German and English, with some French.
7 folders.
Arrangement:

Chronological. Autograph Franz Werfel letters in separate folder.

Scope and Content:

This series consists of Werfel family correspondence from 1940 to 1947. Letters and telegraphs mainly document the efforts of Franz and Alma Werfel to escape France and travel to the United States, and Franz's sisters attempts to help their parents escape Europe. Rudolph and Albine Werfel had reached Bergerac, France, by 1940, and with the help of Varian Fry, Albine managed to obtain the necessary Portuguese transit visas, boat tickets, and American visas to travel to New York. Rudolph Werfel was already in ill health at the beginning of the journey and died in France.

Other topics in the correspondence include concerns about the global situation in the early 1940s and musings about the post-war period, some notes on Marianne's work by Franz, some discussion of the legal situation of the family's manufacturing firm Werfel & Boehm, and family matters such as health, children, and jobs. These documents probably originated with Franz Werfel's sister Marianne Amalie Rieser (1899-1965) (nicknamed Mizzerl, Mizzinka, or Mizzi) and her husband Ferdinand Rieser (1886-1947). This series contains typed copies of their outgoing correspondence. The primary correspondents are Marianne's sister Hanna Fuchs-Robettin (1896-1964) (nicknamed Mopinka) and her husband Herbert Fuchs-Robettin, their mother Albine Werfel, and Franz's wife Alma Mahler Werfel (1879-1964). Other family correspondents include the Rieser's daughter Marguerite Perkins (nicknamed Mucki) (1925-1965), and Fuchs-Robettin children Munzo and Dorothea (nicknamed Dodo). Additional correspondents include Varian Fry, Stephen Wise of the World Jewish Congress, Mrs. Clarence Day (Peggy), and various government officials and diplomats. This series contains a few autograph letters from Franz Werfel, to Marianne Rieser and his parents; these are found in folder 7.

BoxFolderTitleDate
11Family correspondence1940 January – 1940 July
12Family correspondence1940 August – 1940 December
13Family correspondence1941 January – 1941 May
14Family correspondence1941 June – 1941 December
15Family correspondence1942-1944
16Family correspondenceUndated, 1945-1947
17Werfel, Franz, autograph lettersUndated, 1925-1944
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Series II: Professional Materials, Marianne and Ferdinand Rieser, undated, 1939-1947

This series is in German and English.
4 folders.
Arrangement:

Correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content:

This series contains materials from the professional lives of Marianne and Ferdinand Rieser. Ferdinand was the first director of the Zurich Playhouse (Schauspielhaus Zürich), from 1929-1938, and he remained involved in its affairs even as he and his family immigrated to New York. The correspondence in this series is primarily about the employment lawsuits of one Schauspielhaus employee, Hedwig Lipski. It also addresses general administrative matters. This series also contains a typescript of Marianne Rieser's English-language play "Your Problem Please," as well as a few clippings of her German poetry.

BoxFolderTitleDate
18Schauspielhaus Zuerich correspondence1939-1940
19Schauspielhaus Zuerich correspondenceUndated, 1941-1947
110"Your Problem Please" typescript1944
111Marianne Rieser poems and clippings1942-1943
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