Guide to the Papers of Kate and Herman Hoerlin
1932-1983, 2003-2013

AR 25540

Processed by Dianne Ritchey

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2013 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey on December 4, 2013. Description is in English.
March 2014: Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Hoerlin, Bettina, 1939-
Title: Kate and Herman Hoerlin Collection
Dates:bulk 1934-1955
Abstract: The bulk of the Kate and Herman Hoerlin Collection consists of the personal correspondence between Kate Tietz Schmid (later Hoerlin) and Herman Hoerlin in prewar Germany, 1934-1938. In addition are documents pertaining to Kate Schmid's insistence of reparations from the Third Reich for the wrongful murder of her first husband Willi Schmid and to the complexities of Kate Hoerlin's classification as a Mischling under the Nuremberg Laws, including how this factored into Kate and Hermann Hoerlin's efforts to wed when a Jewish/ Aryan marriage was forbidden. Other professional and official documents are included.
Languages: The collection is in German and English with a small amount of French.
Quantity: 1 linear foot.
Identification: AR 25540
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Käte (also Kaethe) Tietz was born Jewish and converted to Catholicism when marrying the music critic Willi Schmid (Wilhelm Eduard Schmid) in 1921. The couple had three children, Duscha, Hedwig and Thomas. In 1934 Willi Schmid was murdered by Nazis during the Night of the Long Knives ("Röhm Putsch") in a case of mistaken identity. Prior to his death Willi Schmid had been working, along with his wife, as press liaison for the ill-fated 1934 German Nanga Parbat Expedition; following his death Käte Schmid had sole responsibility for this role. It led to her coming into contact with and becoming close to the world-record holding mountaineer and physicist Hermann Hoerlin.

Over the next four years Käte Schmid advocated for reparations for the death of her first husband and was supported in this process by Fritz Wiedemann, first adjutant of Adolf Hitler. Later, she and Hermann Hoerlin used such connections to receive permission to marry in Germany – as a "Mischling" under the Nuremberg Laws, a marriage with the "Aryan" Hoerlin was rarely allowed, especially by the time they married in Berlin on July 12, 1938. On August 9, 1938 they left Germany on the S.S. Columbus for the United States, where Hermann Hoerlin had secured a position in Binghamton, New York with the firm Agfa Ansco, an American subsidiary of I.G. Farben. The following year they had a daughter, Bettina. During World War II Hermann Hoerlin aided the war effort by providing the U.S. Army with his mountaineering maps of the Alps, including the Berechtesgarden area. In 1944 the Hoerlins became American citizens, and altered the spelling of their first names.

In 1953 Herman Hoerlin accepted a position as a group leader at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico. His research focused on the environmental effects and detection of high altitude nuclear testing. In 1963 he testified before the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy on his research. They later moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Herman Hoerlin died in 1983; Kate Hoerlin in 1985.

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Scope and Content Note

The Kate and Herman Hoerlin Collection documents the lives of this couple. The core of the collection consists of a copious amount of their letters to each other during their courtship, coinciding with the rise of Nazism; other documentation includes research correspondence and copies of official documents relating to their story as well as correspondence and other papers from their lives in the United States. The collection follows the original order established by Bettina Hoerlin; her detailed inventory is present in Series IV as is a seven-page description of the collection ("The Tietz/ Schmid/ Hoerlin Story") interspersed with biographical details that give an overview of the couple's lives. The collection culminated in the creation of Bettina Hoerlin's book, Steps of Courage: My Parents' Journey from Germany to America.

The first series of the collection contains the correspondence of Kate Schmid and Herman Hoerlin with each other. It includes about five hundred love letters between Kate Schmid and Herman Hoerlin (always referred to as Hoerlin) during their four year courtship, focusing on their relationship but also including details of their work and their efforts to receive permission to marry. Among many other topics mentioned in the letters are the growth of National Socialism in German society and its effects upon their lives, including Kate Schmid's classification as a Mischling and her many trips to Berlin to meet with government and Nazi Party officials regarding her status, permission to marry, and reparations for the death of her first husband Willi Schmid. Kate Schmid's friendships with other leading figures in cultural, intellectual and industrial circles of the time are referenced in the letters, among them Oswald Spengler, Karl Vossler, Peter Doerffler, Oswald Bumke, August Bostroem, Paul Reusch, Curt and Karl Haniel, Felix Hausdorff, William Furtwaengler and Pablo Casals. A smaller number of Hermann Hoerlin's letters to Kate Schmid are also present; they mention other well-known German mountain climbers and Nazi attempts to take over the 240,000 member German Austrian Alpine Club. Included in this series is a bound booklet with preliminary translations of the letters, a brief preface, accompanying notes, and a list of significant individuals. A few letters in this series are from others to Kate or Herman.

Series II: Research Initiatives contains Bettina Hoerlin's accumulated archival research. Included is her own research correspondence with organizations and other researchers as well as copies of official correspondence from German government officials relating to the marriage of Kate Schmid and Herman Hoerlin, the death of Willi Schmid and reparations for his murder.

The third series holds documentation of Kate and Herman Hoerlin's lives in the United States. Much of this material relates to Herman Hoerlin's professional career, such as his time at Agfa Ansco in Binghamton, his search for other employment and his years at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Documentation of his wartime life includes objections about Nazi sympathizers employed at Agfa Ansco and resistance to working with these individuals, his aid to the U.S. Army by providing mountaineering maps of the Alps, and restrictions placed upon the family as "enemy aliens." This series also holds personal correspondence with Kate and Herman Hoerlin, information on Kate Hoerlin's pension from her first husband, and one folder pertaining to her musical interests, including notes on time spent with cellist Pablo Casals.

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The collection is arranged in four series based on its original order:

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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.

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 "Reserve" 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

The papers of this collection were used in the creation of the book Steps of Courage: My Parents' Journey from Nazi Germany to America, by Bettina Hoerlin (AuthorHouse: 2011; second edition 2012). The Leo Baeck Institute Library holds a copy of this book. In the book, Bettina Hoerlin describes her discovering at age 14 her Jewish background. Further information on this book may be found at The German translation of this book, titled Courage: Im Schatten des Nanga Parbat 1934, Die wahre Geschichte des Bergsteigers Hermann Hoerlin und einer lebensgefaehrlichen Liebe, is due to be published in March 2014 (Tyrolia Verlag).

Various materials by Herman (Hermann) Hoerlin may be found at the archives of the German Alpine Club (Historisches Alpenarchive der Alpenvereine in Deutschland, Österreich und Südtirol). Such items include correspondence, including of the 1939 Andes Expedition of Hans Kinzl and the 1934 Nanga Parbat Expedition, manuscripts and an extensive photographic collection of Hoerlin's first ascents to the Alps, Himalayas and Andes. This archive also contains correspondence of Kate (Käthe) Schmid regarding the Nanga Parbat expedition and photographs of her and Willi (Wilhelm) Schmid.

Regarding Kate Hoerlin’s connection to Fritz Wiedemann, Hitler's personal adjutant and subsequently German Consul to San Francisco (1939-1941), references can be found in the Yale University archives (Sir William Wiseman Papers, MS 666). This archive focuses on Wiedemann's clandestine anti-Hitler activities in 1940, his post-war detention in Nuremberg and his subsequent exoneration from criminal charges.

Some correspondence between skier Hannes Schneider, the so-called Father of Modern Skiing, and Herman Hoerlin are located at the New England Ski Museum.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Kate and Herman Hoerlin Collection; AR 25540; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Processing Information

The collection was found with original order established by Bettina Hoerlin; during processing this order was retained with the arrangement of the online finding aid following the collection's accompanying inventory. This finding aid's description was written with the assistance of extensive editorial comments by Bettina Hoerlin. Some details from the "Tietz/ Schmid/ Hoerlin Story," written by Bettina Hoerlin and found in Series IV, have been integrated into the collection's scope and content notes and formed the basis for the collection's biographical note.

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Other Finding Aid

Included with this collection was both a detailed (partially item-level) eighteen-page inventory and a seven-page description of the collection with biographical information, both by Bettina Hoerlin. These materials have been retained in the collection and form Series IV.

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Container List

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Letters Written in Germany, 1932-1938, 2008

This series is in German and English.
0.55 linear feet.

Original order.

Scope and Content:

Series I holds the private letters of Kate Schmid and Herman Hoerlin, with the majority of letters from Kate to Herman Hoerlin (who is always called "Hoerlin" by her). A few letters of other individuals to the couple are also included in this series. The series begins with a booklet of translations of their letters. The booklet includes a list of significant individuals in the letters, a preface with an overview of their story, and notes regarding notable events, both historical and personal. Text with significant details are marked in bold. The remainder of the series consists of the original letters. All of the letters in folders 2-9 have been numbered and placed in chronological order; letters left undated have estimated dates.

The letters of Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin in folders 2-9 were written frequently and cover numerous topics, but center around the developing relationship between Kate Schmid and Herman Hoerlin. The earliest letters mention the death of Willi Schmid (called "Pitsch") as well as Kate Schmid's role as press liaison of the Nanga Parbat expedition and subsequently assisting in the development of a best-selling book about the expedition (Deutsche am Nanga Parbat by Fritz Bechtold: 1934). The letters also describe her initiative to publish a post-mortem collection of Willi Schmid's musical criticisms, writing and poetry (Unwollendente Symphonie: 1935), with an introduction by Oswald Spengler. Many letters provide details of Kate Schmid's life, living situation, or the activities of her children. Other letters show Fritz Wiedemann's endeavors to mitigate various problems (reparations, marriage permission, emigration) as well as her many trips to Berlin to meet with him and other key members of the Third Reich, such as Rudolf Hess, Heinrich Himmler and Franz Schlegelberger. Also recorded is Kate Schmid's 1937 move to Salzburg (hoping to escape Nazism). Folder 9 includes a copy of the couple's permission to marry. A few letters from friends or family members will also be found among this correspondence. Folder 10 holds similar letters and postcards added to the series after completion of the booklet in folder 1.

The final two folders of this series contain letters by Herman Hoerlin to Kate Schmid. As with Kate Schmid's letters, his include a few from other individuals, such as a 1932 letter from his sister. This correspondence also largely focuses on Hermann and Kate's relationship, although many include details of his work and travels in addition to his opposition to the nazification of German mountaineering.

11Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin – Booklet of Translations and Excerpts2008
12Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin1933 December, 1934 August-1934 December
13Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin1935 January-1935 June
14Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin1935 July-1935 December
15Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin1936 January-1936 July
16Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin1936 August-1936 December
17Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin1937 January-1937 June
18Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin1937 July-December
19Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin1938 January-1938 June
110Kate Schmid to Herman Hoerlin – Additional Correspondence1937-1938
21Herman Hoerlin to Kate Schmid1932 September, 1934 September-December
22Herman Hoerlin to Kate Schmid1935-1938
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Series II: Research Initiatives, 1933-1938, 2006-2012

This series is in German and English.
0.1 linear feet.

Original order.

Scope and Content:

This series predominantly consists of material about Kate and Herman Hoerlin's lives collected from Berlin archives. The first folder holds recent correspondence of Bettina Hoerlin with M.M. Warburg & Co., Busso von Alvensleben and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This correspondence respectively discusses possible aid given to Kate and Herman Hoerlin in their immigration by M.M. Warburg & Co., Kate Hoerlin's descent from the Alvensleben family, and her classification as a "Mischling."

Three folders contain copies of documentation from Berlin Archives; folders 2/5 and 2/6 include a list of the photocopied documents in chronological order. These include research on the murder of Willi Schmid and a copy of Kate and Herman Hoerlin's marriage license as well as extensive emails with German historian Dr. Jana Leichsenring that describe the complexity of Kate Hoerlin's classification as a "Mischling" and its impact on her seeking to marry an "Aryan." The final folder of Berlin archival documents (folder 2/6) largely consists of copies of correspondence with Fritz Wiedemann concerning Kate and Herman Hoerlin's marriage; one letter indicates that Hermann Hoerlin was working in the American branch of the I.G. Filmfabrik.

The final folder of this series holds original documents related to the marriage of Kate and Herman Hoerlin. These include an extract from the Hoerlin family register, correspondence between Herman Hoerlin and Fritz Wiedemann, and organizational correspondence regarding the application for permission to marry, including letters from Dr. Kurt Blome, Hitler's deputy health minister and arbiter on Jewish classification. Also included is a letter of employment for Herman Hoerlin from Agfa Ansco.

23Bettina Hoerlin – Inquiries2006-2012
24Berlin Archives – Murder of Willi Schmid2006-2009
25Berlin Archives – Compensation for Murder of Willi Schmid1934-1935, 2012
26Berlin Archives – Permission to Marry and Leave Germany1937-1938, 2006-2012
27Correspondence and Documents – Permission to Marry and Emigrate1933-1938
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Series III: Letters and Documentation in the United States, 1938-1983, 2003-2013

This series is in English and German, with a small amount of French.
0.3 linear feet.

Original order.

Scope and Content:

Series III contains the papers of Herman and Kate Hoerlin during their lives in the United States. Much of the series focuses on Herman Hoerlin's professional career; other subjects include their lives during World War II, and reparations for the death of Willi Schmid.

A little over half of this series pertains to the Hoerlins' lives during World War II. Included is one folder of correspondence relating to his employment at Agfa Ansco in Binghamton, New York; letters discuss his consideration of leaving the company due to some members of the management's pro-Nazi attitudes as well as mention an investigation of such individuals. Another folder relates to restrictions on the family's bank account and cameras during the war. One folder of correspondence relates to Herman Hoerlin's assistance with the war effort by providing maps of the Alps and information on key industrial sites (I.G. Farben factories) for reconnaissance use by the American military. Political action letters of Herman Hoerlin pertain to various causes, including the couple's membership in and wartime criticism of the American Civil Liberties Union, he postwar situation in Poland and later, the election of John F. Kennedy. Among the papers of Herman Hoerlin's employment search in folder 15 is a detailed résumé of his professional life. The Los Alamos folder sums up Herman Hoerlin's thirty years as a physicist for the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories and includes the text of a government interrogation in 1954 of Hoerlin regarding links to America's left-wing, including membership in the American Civil Liberties Union and friendships with author Jon Struther and singer/ activist Paul Robeson. The folder also holds recommendations for Hoerlin's admission as a fellow to the American Physical Society, obituaries and an article about him, and a copy of his report, United States High-Altitude Test Experiences: A Review Emphasizing the Impact on the Environment, along with Congressional testimony on its findings. .

Several folders relate to Kate Hoerlin or to her first husband, Willi Schmid. Although some of the wartime and postwar correspondence (folder 2/13) is by Herman Hoerlin, the majority are letters between Kate Hoerlin and others. It includes 1938-1946 letters from Kate Hoerlin to Regina Ullmann in Switzerland, with some description of the family's life in Binghamton and mention of the fate of others they had known in Europe. Several letters in this folder also relate to potential aid of others in immigrating or finding employment. Folder 15, which pertains to the payments of Willi Schmid's pension after his death, consists largely of legal correspondence with lawyers on this matter. Folder 17 contains material on two events related to Kate Hoerlin's musical interests and friendships: a visit to Prades, France for the Pablo Casals Festival in 1953 and arranging for the Budapest String Quartet to perform at Los Alamos in 1956. This folder also contains typed notes of Kate Hoerlin's observations about Casals and the Perpignan Festival orchestra.

The first folder of this series (2/8) contains a few letters by or about Fritz Wiedemann, as well as a typed transcript of a 1946 account from the William Wisemann Archives at Yale University about him and Kate Hoerlin's defense of him.

28Fritz Wiedemann – Correspondence and Post-War Account1940-1941, 2012
29Herman Hoerlin - Binghamton Agfa Ansco1942-1943
210Wartime Restrictions of Enemy Aliens – Bank Account and Property1942-1943, 1949
211Herman Hoerlin - Maps for War Strategies1943
212American Citizenship Applications and Certificates1943-1944
213Wartime and Post-War Correspondence – with Others1938-1951
214Herman Hoerlin – Political Action Letters1942-1960
215Willi Schmid Reparations – Pension Payments1934-1956
216Herman Hoerlin – Employment Search and Departure from Ansco1952-1953
217Kate Hoerlin – Musical Life – Pablo Casals and Budapest String Quartet1949-1966
218Herman Hoerlin – Los Alamos1954-1983, 2003
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Series IV: Collection Information, 2013

This series is in English.
0.05 linear feet.
Scope and Content:

This small series holds one folder of material on the collection. Included is Bettina Hoerlin's detailed inventory, which is item-level in parts and which provided the arrangement for this finding aid. In addition there is a seven-page biographical essay on Kate and Herman Hoerlin by Bettina Hoerlin with comments on pertinent documents in the collection.

219Inventory and the Tietz/ Schmid/ Hoerlin Story2013 March
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