Guide to the Papers of Erich Seligmann (1880-1954)

AR 4104 / MF 1074

Processed by Dianne Ritchey and LBI Staff

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2010 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey in April 2010. Description is in English.
November 2010: Microfilm inventory added. September 2011: Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Seligmann, Erich, 1880-1954
Title: Erich Seligmann Collection
Dates:bulk 1931-1948
Abstract: The Erich Seligmann Collection documents the noteworthy events in the life of this bacteriologist and hygienist, holding material on both his personal and professional life. The material focuses on the events of the 1930s and 1940s, including the loss of his position in Berlin, his immigration to the United States and World War II. The collection consists of diaries, a family history, professional documentation, a small amount of correspondence and a few family trees.
Languages: The collection is in German and English, with a small amount of Latin and Spanish.
Quantity: 0.75 linear foot.
Identification: AR 4104
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Erich Seligmann was born on November 2, 1880 in Berlin. In 1904 he received his medical degree from the University of Heidelberg. His career began with the position of assistant bacteriologist from 1904-1907 at Berlin's Institute for Infectious Diseases (later the Robert Koch Institute) where he worked under such medical luminaries as Robert Koch (who was the first to isolate anthrax, tuberculosis and cholera), Georg Gaffky (who identified the typhoid bacillus) and Bernhard Proskauer.

In 1907 Seligmann entered the public health service, following Proskauer to the newly-founded Investigative Office for Hygenic and Commercial Purposes (Untersuchungsamt für hygienische und gewerbliche Zwecke), later part of the Central Health Office (Hauptgesundheitsamt) of Berlin, where in 1918 he became head of the department of bacteriology and hygiene. During World War I Seligmann served as a captain in the medical corps and chief of the bacteriological laboratories of the army. In 1927 he became the director of the scientific institutes of the Central Health Office (Hauptgesundheitsamt) and deputy health commissioner for the city of Berlin. These laboratories were the largest investigators of bacteriological samples for contagious diseases in Germany. Seligmann's responsibilities here centered on disinfection, vaccination, immunization, supervision of the water and milk supply as well as of the public baths and general sanitation. From 1919 until 1933 Seligmann also taught as a professor for infectious diseases at the Berlin Academy for Social Hygiene. Additionally, he served as an advisor to the Reich and the League of Nations in matters of public health and hygiene. In 1929 he traveled to the United States to conduct research in the control of contagious diseases and public baths.

After 1933, due to official German policies, Seligmann was dismissed from his post as director of the Hauptgesundheitsamt. He then became director of the newly organized Board of Health of the Berlin Jewish Community and president of the Jewish Hospital of Berlin. He was also advisor to the Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland for public health and social care.

In 1939 Seligmann immigrated to the United States via England, where he received the position of assistant professor of public health at Columbia University. In 1941 he became chief bacteriologist at Beth Israel Hospital and director of Beth Israel's Salmonella Center.

He died in New York on January 1, 1954. Over his lifetime, Erich Seligman produced more than two hundred articles in bacteriology and related fields such as epidemiology, immunology, general and social hygiene and public health education. He was especially known for his work in diphtheria and salmonella research. In addition to his scholarly papers he wrote articles for popular newspapers and magazines and gave lectures on the radio in matters of public health.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection records some of the significant personal and professional events in the life of the bacteriologist and hygienist Erich Seligmann. Among his papers are detailed handwritten personal narratives consisting of diaries and a family history. In addition, this collection holds documentation of his professional work that includes certificates and diplomas, curricula vitae, and some correspondence. Other material pertains to the Seligmann family.

Details of Erich Seligmann's personal life will be found in Series I and, to a lesser extent, in Series III. In Series I are four diaries, which largely focus on events of the 1930s and 1940s. Similar in nature to the diaries is the family history (Familiengeschichte) of Series III. Although this work begins with the Seligmann family, much of its content appears to relate to events in Erich Seligmann's own life. Further biographical material on him will be found among the obituaries and other articles of Series I, while a short typed manuscript in Series III focuses on the history of the Seligmann family.

Series II focuses on the professional life of Erich Seligmann, especially on the loss of his position as head of the Central Health Office (Hauptgesundheitsamt) in Berlin and his immigration to the United States. Among the papers are many certificates, diplomas and similar documents attesting to his work in Berlin and to membership in American medical organizations. Included are copies of his medical licenses. Of particular interest may be his letters to the Berlin mayor's (Oberbürgermeister's) office protesting his dismissal from public service in 1933.

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The collection is arranged in three series:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Collection is microfilmed (MF 1074).

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

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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

One book by Erich Seligmann is available in the LBI Library:

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Separated Material

Two fabric banners with wedding poems (Tischlieder) were removed to the Arts and Objects Collection.

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Custodial History

The collection was donated by Ruth Frank, daughter of Erich Seligmann.

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The collection is on two reels of microfilm (MF 1074):

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Erich Seligmann Collection; AR 4104; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Processing Information

This collection was reprocessed in preparation of the EAD finding aid and eventual microfilming. At this time the addenda (AR 4104a) was integrated with the single overfilled folder that comprised the original collection (AR 4104). Item-level lists of the contents of the collection prior to reprocessing are available.

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Other Finding Aid

Item-level lists of the contents of the collection prior to reprocessing are available.

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Container List

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Personal, 1908-1960

This series is in German.
0.17 linear foot.

Alphabetical and numberical.

Scope and Content:

Series I is comprised of the personal papers of Erich Seligmann, including his diaries (Tagebücher) and biographical articles on him, primarily obituaries.

The diaries largely pertain to the 1930s and 1940s. The earliest entries of the first available diary, Diary II, are sporadic, with some gaps between entries spanning years. Later entries in the diaries are much more frequent. Diary entries include longer pieces, with reflections on life and mention of scientific developments and world events. Occasionally, clippings are pasted to the pages of diaries. Other entries mention significant personal events, with references to Erich Seligmann's wife and children or some of his professional activities. Major battles of World War II are also frequently encountered among the pages of the diaries. Entries in the last diary mention the Korean War and a 1950 trip to Europe, where Seligmann visited his son in Spain.

11Diary II1908-1938
12Diary III1938-1941
13Diary IV1941-1943
14Diary V1943-1953, 1960
15Obituaries and Biographical Articles1930-1954
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Series II: Professional, 1904-1954

This series is in German and English.
0.33 linear foot.


Scope and Content:

Series II is comprised of papers that relate to Erich Seligmann's professional life. Included are numerous certificates and attestations to his professional activities, correspondence, curricula vitae and lists of his scholarly publications and other related papers.

The initial folder of Series II contains papers that pertain to Seligmann's professional positions in Germany. Among these papers are official notifications from the mayor's office of Berlin informing Seligmann of his dismissal from public office as head of the scientific institutes of the Central Health Office and his eventual forced retirement. Seligmann's protest of his 1933 dismissal will be found in the folder of his correspondence to the mayor's office. Other documents in the first folder include his German medical license, promotion to the head of the bacteriological department of Berlin's health office in 1918 and to the title of professor in 1919, evidence of his service in World War I, and a telegram from Columbia University offering him a position in the United States.

Papers pertaining to Erich Seligmann's immigration and eventual employment in New York include a related certificates, letters of recommendation, his American medical license and professional membership certificates. Among the letters of recommendation are those attesting to his service for the Berlin Jewish community, including a few signed by Leo Baeck. Several of his American professional certificates, including his medical license, are rolled up and located in box 2 for preservation reasons.

A small amount of material in this series focuses on Seligmann's extensive written work. This includes a list of his scholarly articles and one folder of his writings. These writings only include two offprints of his work; the remainder of the folder holds brief biographies of other colleagues as well as one biography of Seligmann himself. Of related interest is an index, apparently produced in March 1937, that lists doctors and scientists in Germany whose lectures promoted the development of Jewish doctors.

16Certificates, Notifications, and Official Papers1904-1939
17Certificates – Immigration1938-1947
Box TitleDate
OS 134 Certificates – Medical Diploma1904
21Certificates – Rolled1946-1948
18Correspondence – Berlin Oberbürgermeister's Office1933
19Curricula Vitaeundated, 1938, 1954
110Index of Doctors and ScientistsMarch 1937
111Letters of Recommendation1931-1939
22Medical Licenses – Rolled1949
112Published Works – List1953?
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Series III: Seligmann Family, 1812-1946, 1982

This series is in German and English.
0.25 linear foot.

Alphabetical and numerical.

Scope and Content:

This series holds papers relating to the Seligmann family in general. The bulk of this material consists of Erich Seligmann's extensive handwritten narrative of his family history. While the family history is primarily comprised of the handwritten narrative, it also includes a family tree, some notes and photographs of family members. Much of the family history appears to pertain to Erich Seligmann's own life. Other items in this series include an English manuscript on the history of the family and a legal diploma for Erich Seligmann's son.

114Family History I (pages 1-58)1812-1899, 1931-1932
115Family History II (pages 59-86)1931?-1932?
116Family History III (pages 87-118)1931?-1932?
117Family History IV (pages 119-150)1931?-1932?
118Family History V (pages 151-182)1931?-1932?
119Family History VI (pages 183-214)1931?-1932?
120Family History VII (pages 215-242)1931?-1932?
121Family History VIII (pages 243-276)1904-1946, 1982
122Manuscript – Historical and Biographical Notes of the Seelig, Selig and Seligman Family1939
23Rolf Seligmann – Doctoral Diploma – Rolled1933
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