Guide to the Papers of Leon Szalet (1892-1958), 1914-1996
 
AR 10587 / MF 944

Processed by Johanna Schlicht

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: http://www.lbi.org/ask

URL: http://www.lbi.org

© 2005  Leo Baeck Institute
Finding aid was encoded by Johanna Schlicht on July 20, 2005. Description is in English.
January 2009. Microfilm inventory added. June 2017. dao links added.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Szalet, Leon, 1892-1958
Title: Leon Szalet Collection
Dates:1914-1996
Abstract: The collection documents the life and various interests of Leon Szalet (Chaim Jehudah Leon Chalette), an engineer/architect from Berlin, who immigrated to the United States via Shanghai. It holds the manuscript of his book , which is based on his experiences in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, as well as correspondence and legal documents regarding the publication and reviews. Also included are letters Szalet sent to and received from his daughter in Sachsenhausen. Another important part of the collection consists of materials related to Leon Szalet's patented design of prefabricated steel-houses. His involvement in real estate in Berlin is documented as well. The collection also contains Szalet's correspondence as well as a few personal documents.
Languages: The collection is in German, English, Yiddish, Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Russian.
Quantity: 2 linear feet
Identification: AR 10587
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Leon Szalet was born on April 9th 1892 in Zelechow (Poland). As a boy he moved with his parents to Warsaw where he attended and finished school and later set himself up in business. In 1921 he moved to Berlin and became active in the real estate business. With his friend Georg Breslauer, an architect, he developed a design for prefabricated houses made of steel in 1926. They applied for patents, which were granted in several important industrial countries. Model houses based on this design were shown at the Olympia building exhibition (with the cooperation of the British Steelwork Association) in London in 1936. The outbreak of the war interrupted the work.

On September 13, 1939 Leon Szalet was taken prisoner by the Gestapo and sent to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. On May 7th 1940 he was released and escaped to the Far East via Italy on the SS Conte Verde (the last ship to leave for Asia before the outbreak of the war). He came to Shanghai and remained there until October 1941 when he was granted an immigration visa to the United States. He entered the US on October 23, 1941 in San Francisco.

In the US, Leon Szalet tried to renew his contacts in order to reestablish his business. He demanded reparations for the loss of properties in Berlin and was able to reclaim a building. In 1957 he travelled through Europe (Austria, France, Britain, Germany). Health problems forced him to stay in sanatoriums in Austria and England.

Leon Szalet died in Berlin on March 2, 1958.

Leon Szalet had a daugther, Gitla-Matla Szalet (Madleine Lejwa-Chalette), who was born in Paris in 1914, while here parents were visiting there. In 1947, she married Arthur Lejwa, a Polish biochemist. The couple opened a gallery in Manhattan and became successful art dealers in the 1950s. Following her husband's death in 1972, Gitla-Matla Szalet closed the Galerie Chalette, but contined working as an art consultant to collectors and museums. She died in 1996.

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Scope and Contents

The collection documents the life and various interests of Leon Szalet. A significant part of the collection is related to his memoirs entitled Experiment 'E', which were published by Didier Publishers in 1945. In his memoirs, Leon Szalet describes his imprisonment in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which lasted almost 8 months. Included in the collection is the original manuscript (Series I) as well as legal documents (Series IV) and correspondence with his publishers and other persons involved in the publication of his book (Series V, Subseries 1). Newspaper and journal reviews of his book as well as clippings and radio interviews can also be found in the collection (Series III). In addition, there are letters Leon Szalet sent to and received from his daughter in Sachsenhausen (Series V, Subseries 3) and a manuscript written by his daughter Gitla-Matla Szalet, which describes his imprisonment, his liberation and their subsequent emigration in detail (Series I).

In the 1920s Szalet was very much engaged in developing a patent with George Breslauer for prefabricated steel-houses. Series IV holds the copies of these patents in addition to legal and business correspondence concerning the steel-houses. There are also architectural measurements/calculations, architectural plans, concrete descriptions of the invention, writings on the exploitation of the steel houses, blue print copies and a manuscript on steel-house building. Articles and brochures concerning houses in general and steel-houses in particular can be found as well.

Series VII deals with the real estate properties of Marie Faszyniak (later Fried) in Berlin, which Leon Szalet represented. It contains legal and business correspondence as well as rent calculations, architectural plans of some properties and legal documents.

The collection also contains a few personal documents and autobiographical notes by Leon Szalet (Series 1) and newspaper clippings he collected on various topics (Series VIII). There are also a few photographs depicting Leon Szalet, models of his steel-houses, and inmates of concentration camps (Series IX).

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged in ten 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.

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
email: lbaeck@lbi.cjh.org

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Access Points

This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

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

Related Material

In 1946, Leon Szalet donated regulations of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and a map of all concentration camps in Germany to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The materials can be found in the YIVO archives in the following collections: Territorial Collection: RG 116 Germany II, 1933-1945, folder 8.8 and the Map Collection: RG 109, Part II.

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Microfilm

The collection is on four reels of microfilm (MF 944):

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Leon Szalet Collection; AR 10587; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.Follow the links to access the digitized materials.

 

Series I: Personal documents, 1914-1958

This series is in German, English, Russian and Polish.
2 folders
Arrangement:

Chronological

Scope and Content:

This series contains autobiographical writings by Leon Szalet as well as a manuscript by his daughter Gitla-Matla Szalet about him. Enclosed are also legal documents such as a notarized copy of his birth certificate, his death certificate, a copy of the British Alien Order, a registration certificate of the US Government, and a document presumably stating his release form the Russian Army in 1914.

BoxFolderTitleDate
11Biographical informationundated
12Documents1914-1958
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Series II: Manuscripts, 1943-1948

This series is in German, English and Yiddish.
11 folders
Arrangement:

Topical

Scope and Content:

The series encompasses seven manuscripts, plus various pages of poetry. The series is divided in two subseries.

Subseries 1: Leon Szalet, 1943-1948

This series is in German, English and Yiddish.
Scope and Content:

Subseries 1 consists of manuscripts written by Leon Szalet; including his main work Experiment 'E', a report about his imprisonment in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The first version of his book Kein Frieden den Frevlern is also included in this subseries. Two of his writings are proposals: a memorandum on the possible destruction of the Industrial Center of Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen to the Polish Prime minister, and a description of his suggestion for a Victory Lottery.

BoxFolderTitleDate
13Experiment "E" (German original)undated
14Experiment "E" (German, pp. 1-340)undated
15Experiment "E" (German, pp. 341-594)undated
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
16Experiment "E" (English, photocopy of second prining)1945
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
17Experiment "E" (English, photocopy of second prining)1945
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
18Memorandum1943
19Poetryundated, 1946, 1948
110No Peace unto the Wickedundated
111Victory Lotteryundated

Subseries 2: Others, 1946

This subseries is in German and English.
Scope and Content:

The second subseries holds the radio script of Chronicle of the Dead based on Szalet's writings and an essay and letter by Franz Böhm discussing the anti-Semitic atmosphere in Germany titled Die Gegenwart: Der Antisemitismus und die Deutschen; Eine deutsche Aufgabe. Offener Brief and die Antisemiten unter uns.

BoxFolderTitleDate
112Chronicle of the Dead (radio script)1946
113Franz Böhm: letter and essayundated
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
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Series III: Reviews, 1946-1956

This series is in German, English and Yiddish.
9 folders
Arrangement:

Chronological

Scope and Content:

Reviews regarding Szalet's book Experiment 'E' in newspapers, journals as well as radio shows are included in this series. It also holds notes and copies of interviews with Leon Szalet and articles on him. In addition to the reviews, a book outlet and a leaflet of Didier publishers is included.

BoxFolderTitleDate
114Newspaper reviews1946
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
115Reviews in journals1946
116Radio review1946
117Article on Leon Szalet1946
118Radio interview1956
119Interviewundated
120Undated reviewundated
121Book outletundated
122Didier publishers leafletundated
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Series IV: Contracts and copyright, 1945-1947

This series is in English.
2 folders
Arrangement:

Chronological

Scope and Content:

This series holds the contract between Leon Szalet and Didier Publishers regarding the publication of his memoir and the 1947 Didier Publishers copyright agreement for Experiment 'E'. Also included is a writ of summons concerning the lawsuit Leon Szalet filed against John P. Didier. The Library of Congress Certificate of Copyright Registration from 1946 and Gitla-Matla Szalet's renewed application for copyright in 1995 are included as well.

BoxFolderTitleDate
123Didier publishers1945
124Copyright1947
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Series V: Correspondence, 1934-1994

This series is in English, German and Yiddish.
28 folders
Arrangement:

Topical

Scope and Content:

Leon Szalet's correspondence contains letters dealing with the publication of his memoirs, correspondence related to his involvement with steel-houses, and family correspondence.

Subseries 1: Professional correspondence, 1943-1957

This subseries is in English, German and Yiddish.
Scope and Content:

This subseries encompasses the correspondence regarding the publication and reception of his book Experiment 'E'. The professional correspondence contains letters to publishing houses and other institutions, to prominent individuals such as Pearl S. Buck, and Gitla-Matla Szalet's correspondence with various people and institutions, especially the Polish Embasy, concerning her father's memoir. Gitla-Matla Szalet also contacted Metro-Goldwyn-Meyers Pictures hoping to release a major picture based on her father's manuscript. The correspondence with the US Government is mainly with the Office of War Information and the Office of the United States Chief of Counsel in regard to using Leon Szalet's memoir as evidence at the Nuremberg trials.

A) Institutions

BoxFolderTitleDate
125Publishing houses1943-1957
126US government1943-1957

B) Individuals

BoxFolderTitleDate
127Buck, Pearl S.1944, 1945
128Haitner, David1946

C) Szalet, Gitla-Matla

BoxFolderTitleDate
129Creel, George1943
130Governmental institutions1943
131Lochner, Louis1942-1944
132Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer Pictures1944-1946
133General1943, 1994

Subseries 2: Houses, 1934-1949

This subseries is in German, English, and Polish.
Scope and Content:

This subseries holds Leon Szalet's correspondence regarding steel-houses, the acquisition of a patent for prefabricated all steel houses and the tracking of patent information after World War II. The business letters cover the period before and after the Second World War. The individuals and organizations found in correspondence include engineers, lawyers, the British Steelwork Association and other governmental institutions. The Samuel Hochstein correspondence is not addressed to Leon Szalet but was forwarded to him by Mr. Hochstein.

BoxFolderTitleDate
134Bruemmer, Adolf1946, 1947
135General1934-1938
136General1945, 1946
137Hochstein, Samuel1945-1947
138Patent letters1935-1949

Subseries 3: Family, 1939-1957

This series is in German, English and Yiddish.
Scope and Content:

This series encompasses the letters Leon Szalet was allowed to send to his daughter Gitla-Matla Szalet while imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. She writes in detail about emigration plans, while his letters are brief, censored notes, which do not provide any details about his life in Sachsenhausen.

Also included is the correspondence between him and his daughter written during his time in Europe in 1957 and letters that he exchanged with his son-in-law Arthur Lejwa. Some of the letters are written on the subject of business such the acquisition of paintings for their Galerie (Galerie Chalette), whereas others have private character.

BoxFolderTitleDate
139Gitla-Matla Szalet1939, 1940
140Gitla-Matla Szalet1957
141Arthur Lejwa1957

Subseries 4: General, 1936-1956

This series is in German, English and Yiddish.
Scope and Content:

This subseries holds Leon Szalet's correspondence with various institutions and politicans. He sent letters to the Berlin Senate, Willy Brandt, different broadcasting companies, the Juedische Gemeinde Berlin, the RIAS, the Treasury Department of the United States, and Harry S. Truman. These letters include suggestions and ideas, such as using television as a means of spreading Democracy, and the Sixth War Loan. The letters to the Berlin Senate and Willy Brandt comment on the reactions and attitudes of German politicians towards National Socialism. The letter by Theodor Heuss is a thank-you note for Szalet's book and addresses the topic of reparation. Also included in this subseries is a letter from YIVO thanking Leon Szalet for his donation of the regulations of Sachsenhausen Concentration camp and the map of Concentration camps in Germany.

BoxFolderTitleDate
21Berlin senate1956
22Brandt, Willy1956
23Broadcasting companies1949
24Heuss, Theodor1954
25Juedische Gemeinde Berlin1956
26RIAS1956
27Treasury Department1944
28Truman, Harry S.1948, 1953
29YIVO1946
210Miscellaneous lettersundated, 1936, 1946, 1949

Subseries 5: Various, 1946, 1951

This series is in English.
Scope and Content:

This subseries consists of letters from Adolf Brümmer to Salomon Granett, requesting information on Leon Szalet's well being and mentioning the building patents of the steel houses. The other letters are written on behalf of Arthur Lejwa, Leon Szalet's son in law.

BoxFolderTitleDate
211Bruemmer, Adolf and Trade Union Courier1946, 1951
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Series VI: Steel houses, 1933-1942

This series is in German, English, Hungarian, French and Czech.
10 folders
Arrangement:

Topical

Scope and Content:

This series contains four subseries related to Leon Szalet's interest in steel-houses. The first subseries holds materials related to the patent; the second encompasses the supporting documents, such as the description of the project and the invention; subseries 3 holds the architectural plans and calculations and the last subseries contains financial documents.

Subseries 1: Patent, 1933-1939

This series is in German, English, Hungarian, French and Czech.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains copies of the patents Leon Szalet and Georg Breslauer received for their invention; the patents were issued in Great Britain, France, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary. The legal documents include the legal contracts and authorizations between the parties of the patent, and the legal transfer of the patent to Leon Szalet. The financial documents deal with loan issues.

BoxFolderTitleDate
212Patents1935, 1936
213Legal documents1933-1936, 1939
214Financial documents1935, 1936, 1938

Subseries 2: Supporting documents, undated

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

This subseries contains the supporting documents for the patents, such as the description of the Project B-SM and the blue print copies, additional descriptions of the steel-house invention, and the manuscripts Exploitation of all-steel houses and Steel house building.

BoxFolderTitleDate
215Description of project B-SM and blue print copiesundated
216Steel house descriptions of inventionundated
217Exploitation of all-steel housesundated
218Steel house buildingundated

Subseries 3: Architectural plans and calculations, undated

This series is in German.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains the architectural plans and calculations for the steel house construction.

BoxFolderTitleDate
219Plansundated
220Calculationsundated

Subseries 4: Financial documents, 1935

This series is in Hungarian and German.
Scope and Content:

This subseries consists of a list of financial documents, mainly bills, regarding materials for the construction of houses.

BoxFolderTitleDate
221Financial documents1935
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Series VII: Real estate Berlin, 1923-1962

This series is in German and Yiddish.
5 folders
Arrangement:

Topical

Scope and Content:

Both before and after World War II Leon Szalet was involved in the real estate market in Berlin. He represented the properties of Marie Faszyniak (later Fried). This series holds legal documents, such as hearings in court in Berlin, and Marie Faszyniak affidavit; financial documents, correspondence, including letters by Leon Szalet, Gluecksohn and Gitla-Matla Szalet, as well as letter fragments and section plans, which includes architectural plans of the building in Berlin.

BoxFolderTitleDate
222Legal documentsundated, 1923-1928, 1937-1939, 1953
223Power of attorney1952, 1956, 1958
224Financial documentsundated, 1955-1957
225Correspondence1952-1962
226Plans1929
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Series VIII: Newspaper articles, 1935-1956

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

Chronological

Scope and Content:

This series holds newspaper articles on various topics collected by Leon Szalet, such as World War II, houses and other issues. There are also three complete issues from 1947 of The Answer. An American weekly dedicated to the struggle for Hebrew national liberation and the independence of Palestine.

Restrictions:

This series is not digitized due to copyright.

BoxFolderTitleDate
227World War II1940, 1945, 1946, 1949, 1954
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
228The Answer1947
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
229Housesundated, 1935, 1936, 1945, 1947-1949, 1954, 1955
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
230Miscellaneousundated, 1945, 1949, 1954, 1956
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
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Series IX: Photos, 1956

3 folders
Arrangement:

Topical

Scope and Content:

This series includes photographs, negatives and copies of photographs of Leon Szalet, of houses and models of houses, and of prisoners of Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

BoxFolderTitleDate
231Personalundated
232House models and plansundated, 1956
233Housesundated, 1956
234Sachsenhausenundated
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Series X: Miscellaneous material, 1946-2004

This series is in English.
7 folders
Arrangement:

Alphabetical

Scope and Content:

This series holds diverse material such as an issue of The Light, a copy of the manuscript of the Summary of the Report of the War Claims Commission, brochures on houses, random notes by Szalet and recent newspaper clippings about Gitla-Matla Szalet and the Chalette Galerie, as well as clippings about the Gedenkstätte Sachsenhausen and Bugdet Bureau information. Also included is a photograph of Gitla-Matla Szalet's student identification card from University of Berlin.

BoxFolderTitleDate
235Brochures for Housesundated, 1946
236Budget Bureau information1947
237Clippings1954-1962, 1996, 2004
  

Not digitized due to copyright

 
238The Light1946
239Notesundated
240Student identification card, University of Berlin1934
241Summary report of the War Claims Commissionundated, 1950
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