Guide to the Letters of Kurt Riezler
1914-1948, 2010

AR 25484

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

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

URL: http://www.lbi.org

© 2015 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey on February 13, 2015. Description is in English.
March 2015: Links to digital objects added in Container List. October 2015: Replaced Folder 1 with modified version.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Riezler, Kurt, 1882-1955
Title: Kurt Riezler Letters
Dates:1914-1948
Dates:2010
Dates:bulk 1914-1915
Abstract: The Kurt Riezler Letters hold the correspondence of the diplomat Kurt Riezler with his fiancée Kaethe Liebermann as well as a few letters with other individuals, most notably her father, the painter Max Liebermann. Prominent in the correspondence is the discussion of the first months of World War I and the conditions in Moscow in 1918. Later letters consist of conversations with other family members.
Languages: The collection is in German with a small amount of English.
Quantity: 0.25 linear feet.
Identification: AR 25484
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
Return to the Top of Page

Biographical Note

Kurt Riezler was born in Munich on February 11, 1882. After writing works on classical Greek economics, he became a foreign affairs writer for the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung in 1906. The following October he was hired by the Foreign Office Press Chief, where he attracted the notice of Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, eventually becoming his advisor. In August 1914 Riezler joined the chancellor at the German headquarters in Luxemburg. He worked for the chancellor for several years, most notably drafting the September Program, a plan outlining Germany's postwar plans. On May 11, 1915 he married Kaethe Liebermann, daughter of the impressionist painter Max Liebermann. After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles Riezler left the foreign office. He spent one year as President Friedrich Ebert's chief of staff.

In 1928 Riezler became provost of the University of Frankfurt until his dismissal in 1933. In December 1938 he immigrated to the United States out of concern for his Jewish wife and their daughter, Maria. There he joined the New School for Social Research as a professor of philosophy. After Kaethe’s death, Riezler returned to Europe in 1953, where he died in Munich in 1955.

Return to the Top of Page

Scope and Content Note

The Kurt Riezler Letters hold the correspondence of the diplomat Kurt Riezler with his fiancée Kaethe Liebermann as well as a few letters with other individuals, most notably her father, the painter Max Liebermann. Prominent in the correspondence is the discussion of the first months of World War I and the conditions in Moscow in 1918. Later letters consist of conversations with other family members.

The first folder of the collection contains an essay by Guenther Roth with descriptions of the letters in the collection along with some biographical information on Kurt and Kaethe Riezler that place the letters in their historical context.

Letters from Kurt Riezler to his fiancée Kaethe Liebermann include both information on the First World War and the politics surrounding it as well as comment on the developing relationship between the couple. Often Kurt Riezler addressed Kaethe as "my black kitty," a play on her name and her black hair. Since Kurt Riezler worked with the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, the letters hold many details of the war, information on his activities and whereabouts, and opinions on its outcome. Most of the letters from 1914 mention politics, military activities or the work of the chancellor, additionally providing Riezler's opinions on the beginning of the war, such as his certainty that Germany would easily prevail over England. On September 2, 1914 he mentions a visit to a battlefield in France where a town was utterly destroyed. In a letter of October 10, 1914 he suggested that the war might even be over by spring. His letters from December 1914 mention the Christmas celebration by the troops, and especially depict the soldiers’ dour mood. These letters also addressed Kaethe's concerns about their future wedding, with Riezler repeatedly assuring her that a church wedding was not necessary to him. Some letters mention Mischel, a black cat Riezler may have given her. Some letters mention their common artistic interests.

By January 1915 the tone of Riezler's letters had edged somewhat more pessimistic than the tone of several months prior. Letters in January mention a New Year's visit by the Kaiser to his troops. Several later letters reference troop movements on the Eastern front, such as the actions of the Austrians in Serbia or Croatia, and future worries about the plans of the Russians. Some letters mention interactions with other political figures or advisors to the German Chancellor, such as August von Trott zu Sulz. Military actions such as the U-boat blockade of England are also mentioned. In April 1915, Kurt Riezler suggests to Kaethe that they marry as soon as possible.

One folder holds letters from Kurt Riezler in Moscow to Kaethe Liebermann. These letters describe the city and its changed circumstances after the Bolshevik Revolution. Riezler commented on the collapse of the city bourgeoisie and observed the rich and the nobility begging on the street, but also attended the opera, ballet, and theatre while there. While in Moscow he often sent packages to Kaethe of goods such as coffee, tea, furs, and soap.

The folder "Later letters and Frankfurt Materials" contains documentation and a few family letters. Documentation consists of a brief biography of him when he became provost at the University of Frankfurt as well as a eulogy for the artist Max Scheler. Two family letters date from the 1940s. A 1942 letter from to Kurt and Kaethe Riezler to Friedel (Frederic) Jeffrey largely concerns Kaethe's mother, who had remained in Berlin. Even though she had a lifelong permit to visit Switzerland and Sweden, she was unable to leave Germany. Another letter from Kurt Riezler in Italy in 1948 to his niece Marianne (Marandl) Jeffrey contains family news and also mentions the introduction of the new German mark in West Germany.

The final folder of this collection holds letters from the artist Max Liebermann, Kaethe's father, to Kurt Rietzler. These letters have been transcribed and primarily relate to art. Topics discussed in these letters include the artworks of the ancient world, discussion of the theories of Wilhelm Ostwald, and the artwork of Franz Krueger and its acquisition.

Return to the Top of Page

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in one series in original order.

Return to the Top of Page

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

Return to the Top of Page

Access Points

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

Related Material

The collection is part of the Christopher Jeffrey Collection (AR 25348).

Related is also the Frieda Lawrence Collection (AR 25485).

The LBI Library additionally holds the publication, Kurt Riezler, 1882-1955 (B 3323 R62 S8).

The LBI Archives includes the Max Liebermann Collection (AR 847), while the LBI Library holds a number of books on this painter.

Return to the Top of Page

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Kurt Riezler Letters; AR 25484; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

Return to the Top of Page

Container List

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.

 

Kurt Riezler Letters, 1914-1948, 2010

The collection is in German with a small amount of English.
0.25 linear feet.
Arrangement:

Original order.

BoxFolderTitleDate
11Essay by Guenther Roth2010
12Kurt Riezler to Kaethe Liebermann1914 March-1914 September
13Kurt Riezler to Kaethe Liebermann1914 October
14Kurt Riezler to Kaethe Liebermann1914 November
15Kurt Riezler to Kaethe Liebermann1914 December
16Kurt Riezler to Kaethe Liebermann1915 January, 1915 April-May
17Kurt Riezler to Kaethe Liebermann – Letters from Moscow1918
18Later letters and Frankfurt Materials1922-1928, 1942-1948
19Max Liebermann to Walter Riezler1915-1922
Return to the Top of Page