Guide to the Papers of Paul Steiner (1913-1996)

AR 25208

Processed by Miriam Schulz

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



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

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Steiner, Paul, 1913-1996
Title: Paul Steiner Collection
Dates:bulk 1933-1945
Abstract: This collection comprises Paul Steiner's diaries and notebooks compiled in 1926-1945. It prominently features manuscripts of his writing, which consists of essays with philosophical or political content, short stories, plays and poetry. In addition, the collection holds drafts of letters to Thomas Mann and a few issues of the 'Kulturelle Schriftenreihe des Free Austrian Movement' (Cultural Series of the Free Austrian Movement).
Languages: The collection is in German and English.
Quantity: 1 linear foot.
Identification: AR 25208
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Paul Steiner was born in 1913 in Vienna. He aspired to be a freelance writer and philosopher in his early twenties and was an acquaintance of the famous Austrian philosopher Egon Friedell. However, he returned to school to receive his Matura (high school diploma) in 1936 to then take a different path and study law. He finished his studies in January 1938 while working on his poetic writings on the side. Additionally, whilst studying law, he worked for the publishing house of the newspaper Moderne Welt in Vienna to support his mother and himself.

In November 1938, he managed to get a visa for America. In January 1939 he visited his mother in Brussels. After a short stay in London in February 1939 he immigrated via New York City to Akron, Ohio where he arrived in March 1939. In July 1941, he moved to New York City, where he rented a room from Marianne Esberg's family. He married Marianne on February 14, 1942. Their son Tommy was born in May 1943. His mother committed suicide shortly before she was meant to be deported into a concentration camp. Steiner, however, managed to get an American visa for his brother Franz.

Paul Steiner became the head of the American subsidiary of Adprint, a British publisher, called Chanticleer Press. In 1952, when the British company wanted to sell the subsidiary, Paul Steiner bought Chanticleer Press. He died in 1996.

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Scope and Content Note

The Paul Steiner Collection is arranged in three series and includes diaries, notebooks with philosophical and political essays, poems and plays and four issues of the Kulturelle Schriftenreihe des Free Austrian Movement. There are also two drafts of letters addressed to Thomas Mann to be found in the collection.

The collection documents the personal and intellectual life of Paul Steiner in the years from 1926 until 1945 with a gross of material originated in the years from 1933 until 1946.

Series I consists of several diaries written by Paul Steiner in the time from 1926 until 1945. Beginning to be written as traditional diaries talking about school days and everyday life, growing up, Steiner's diaries additionally progress to become a harbor for his philosophical and political thoughts. These are subsequently incorporated in his philosophical and political essay in a theoretically fully developed form (to be found in Series II). A leitmotif that pervades throughout his diaries is his feeling of loneliness.

Steiner's philosophical and political essays, short stories, poems and plays are to be found in Series II. He is deeply rooted in the German culture and mainly influenced by Nietzsche, Friedell and later Thomas Mann. Loneliness and despair of the world he lives in are the central themes for his philosophical and artistic writings.

In Series III can be found four issues of the Kulturelle Schriftenreihe des Free Austrian Movements. The Free Austrian Movement was founded by Austrians who found refuge in Great Britain during World War II. It functioned as the umbrella organization of all Austrian exile organizations in Great Britain.

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The collection is divided into three series in the following manner:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

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 "Reserve" button.

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

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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

See also Paul Steiner’s memoirs (ME 938) and the Marianne Steiner Collection (AR 10443). The memoirs are digitized and may be viewed online.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Paul Steiner Collection; AR 25208; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Processing Information

Whilst reprocessing the collection, folders were renamed and the collection was rearranged into three series separating Paul Steiner's diaries, writings and four issues of the Kulturelle Schriftenreihe des Free Austrian Movement (London, 1944-1946?).

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Container List

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Diaries, 1926-1945

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


Scope and Content:

This first series consists of Paul Steiner's 8 diaries that he wrote in the time from 1926 until 1945, especially in the years 1933-1945.

Whereas the first diary 1 (Folder 1) written by 13-year-old Steiner focuses on school days and everyday life, in his second diary (Folder 2) he starts to talk about his apparent bad luck with women, contemplating and philosophizing about the nature of women and men and their role in society. His feeling of loneliness is prominent.

Complaining about his loneliness lasts through diary 3 (Folder 3) as well. However, diary 3 steps outside of the traditional purpose of a diary, as Steiner also starts to use it as a sketchbook for philosophical thoughts and poetic writings. He was highly influenced by Nietzsche's philosophy, felt a strong connection to Richard Wagner and the Austrian writer and historian Egon Friedell. He philosophized about the nature of human beings and of love and criticized the primness of Socialism in every given form and especially Marxism. Consequently, he firmly believed in the individuality of every human being, where again the Nietzschean, existentialistic influence can be seen.

Diary 4 (Folder 4) is comparable to diary 3: Steiner either laments about women and his loneliness or discusses cultural or philosophical topics. As he summarizes himself, he is a Wagnerian in his heart, a Friedellian in his head, but a Nitzschean as a whole. He saw himself as a philosopher and poet, but simultaneously he frequently doubted himself and his talents in these areas. Nietzsche, however, was the mastermind and climax of philosophy for him. After having a correspondence with Egon Friedell for some time, Steiner noted a 5 hour visit at Friedell's house.

In the fifth diary (Folder 5) he noted another meeting with Friedell, where they discussed the similarities between National Socialism and Socialism. He also noted that he performed his work Totenlied, a critical examination of his time, in front of an audience for the first time. The Totenlied is a prominent subject in his diaries until 1945, and he wrote about its developments and improvements in each diary (drafts can be found in Series II). Steiner went in and out of self-praise and self-doubts.

Steiner started studying law (Folder 6). In this diary, he becomes more vocal about the political situation regarding the Jews and the pressures he was facing. He interpreted these developments as a test by God and was highly critical of Zionism. Jews were supposed to suffer and to be role models for humankind. In 1937 he still believed that in the end the Jewish people will be the 'winner', but in 1938 he becomes increasingly pessimistic about the fate of the Jewish people. He started to read and admire Thomas Mann, whom he wrote a letter to, though never sent. There are also a lot of poems to be found in-between the diary entries.

With the increasing dangers for Jews in Austria, Steiner was determined to emigrate and struggled to get a visa. He had mixed feelings about the ideals of National Socialism as he felt a deep admiration for Hitler and his strength and highly connected to most of his goals except, of course, the question of the Jews. Regretting it from a Jewish nationalist perspective, he still admitted that a speech by Goebbels around April 1938 captured him immensely, as it was in complete accordance to his own ideology. He especially appreciate its social aspects, its love for discipline and its fanatical idealistic Weltanschauung apparently equated his idea of life and leadership. As a consequence, he noted, it is twice as hard for him that the Nazis hated the Jews. Furthermore, as he managed to get out of Austria, first to Brussels, then London, New York and finally Akron, Ohio, he still felt attached to and unable to separate himself from German culture (Folder 7).

The last two diaries (Folders 8 and 9) were written in Akron and New York City. They are most importantly about his worries and struggle to get visas for his mother in Belgium and his brother Franz who was interned in a concentration camp in France. He managed to get an American visa for Franz in December 1941. His mother committed suicide shortly before she was supposed to be deported. He met his wife Marianne Esberg in 1942. Their son Tommy was born in 1943.

11Diary 11926 April 2 – 1927 February 25
12Diary 21933 October 12 – 1934 September 7
13Diary 31934 November 13 – 1935 May 6
14Diary 41934 September 8 – 1936 January 24
15Diary 51936 January 27 – 1936 October 28
16Diary 61936 November 6 – 1938 February 1
17Diary 71938 February 2 – 1939 April 18
18Diary 81939 June 10 – 1941 March 26
19Diary 91941 March 29 – 1945 July 24
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Series II: Writings, 1934-1941

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


Scope and Content:

In Series II one can find the artistic, philosophical side of Paul Steiner. His notebooks frequently cover more than just one theme, subject or genre. One can find a mixture of poems, essays and plays in most of Steiner’s notebooks.

In notebook 1 (Folder 10), he developed a philosophical theory which was based on the notion of loneliness. In essence, every individual is not part of a society but on his own and caring for oneself is of the highest importance. Therefore, the biblical commandment of 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' is not realizable. However, escaping one's loneliness is the central motive of every human action in life. He discussed other ideas like Nietzsche's will to power, Freud's concepts of sexuality, Schopenhauer's will to live and Marx's idea of individual motivation.

In Folder 12 one can find notebook 3 with a few essays. In the essay "Der ewige Kreis" he discusses the uniformity and repetition of philosophical thinking, i.e. the interconnection of different philosophers and their thinking. Every new philosophical theory is in essence only a modification of previous theories. His goal was to develop a theory unconnected to any other philosophical theory: Human beings are purely egoistic and essentially unique. History cannot repeat itself because every event is unique just like the person who is responsible for the event.

Notebook 6 (Folder 15) consists of two drafts of the short story Der dumme Augustin (Stupid Augustin), proverbs, poems, a play and study notes. Der dumme Augustin is the protagonist in different stories that are either parables of the 1930s or about human characteristics like vanity. According to Steiner's diaries, the 'Augustin' stories were autobiographically influenced. Overall the poems have a pessimistic tone. In notebook 7 (Folder 16) one can find another short story where the 'stupid Augustin' is the protagonist. This story is called Die Geschichte von den schlechten Menschen (The story of the bad people) and Augustin here stands for the Jewish role of the pariah. He is hated by everyone from the beginning of his life without doing anything wrong. He is made responsible for the plague and everything that goes wrong in the life of the others. One day, God/ the devil appears and speaks to him. He sent the plague as retaliation because Augustin is his chosen one. He gives him the power to control the plague. Because of that power, the king wants to kill Augustin. He, in return, decides to bring back the plague to kill everyone including himself. In notebook 10 (Folder 19) you can find a new version of Der dumme Augustin. There is also another short story called Bettler Namenlos (Anonymous Beggar).

In the same notebook a letter addressed to Thomas Mann written on July 31, 1937 can be found. A second draft is found in Folder 23.

In notebook 9 (Folder 18), there is an essay about the 'Jewish Question' and Zionism. He is highly critical about Palestine as the Jewish Homeland and rather thinks of Australia as a Jewish colony. He already prophesizes the possibility of total destruction of the Jewish people and wants every Jew to wake up and leave Europe.

There are several notebooks which consist entirely or in part of drafts of his play Praxiteles which according to his diaries presumably is also called Das Totenlied (Folder 11; Folder 13; Folder 14; Folder 16; Folder 21). It is a classical drama with iambic verses in 2 acts which focuses on the 1930s and 1940s and prophesizes the destruction of humankind. Steiner worked on this piece for almost 10 years and while the actual situation in Europe worsens his drama gets more and more pessimistic as well.

110Notebook 1 - Notes and essays/ Theory of Loneliness as the essence of human existence1935 February 8 – 1935 May 4
111Notebook 2 - Play ‘Praxiteles’1935 November
112Notebook 3 – ‘Der ewige Kreis’1935
113Notebook 4 - Play ‘Praxiteles’, poems1936 June - August
114Notebook 5 - Play ‘Praxiteles’1936
115Notebook 6 - Proverbs, notes, ‘Der dumme Augustin’1937 May 11 – 1937 December 24
116Notebook 7 - drafts (Entwuerfe) - ‘Die Geschichte von den schlechten Menschen’, Letter to Thomas Mann ‘Praxiteles’1937 July – December
117Notebook 8 - study notes, story draft1937 March 12 - 1937 March 13
118Notebook 9 - ‘Praxiteles”, poems, Essay to the ‘Question of the Jews’1938 June 26
119Notebook 10 - short stories and essays, loose letter of brother1938 April - 1938 May
120Notebook 11- short story and play, papers1939
121Notebook 12 - untitled play, presumably ‘Praxiteles’undated
122Notebook 13 - Latin grammar study notesundated
123Notebook 14 - Letter to Thomas Mann and notes undated
124Loose papersundated
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Series III: Free Austrian Movement, London, 1944-1946

This series is in German.
0.1 linear feet.


Scope and Content:

This series consists of four issues of the Kulturelle Schriftenreihe des Free Austrian Movement. The Free Austrian Movement was founded by Austrians who found refuge in Great Britain during World War II. It functioned as the umbrella organization of all Austrian exile organizations in Great Britain.

125Free Austrian Movements1944-1946?
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