Guide to the Papers of Josef Kastein (1890-1946) and Shulamith Kastein (1894-1983)

AR 7227

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 January 2010. Description is in English.
December 2015: dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Kastein, Shulamith
Title: Josef Kastein and Shulamith Kastein Collection
Dates:bulk 1935-1946
Abstract: This collection documents the literary life of the writer Josef Kastein, born Julius Katzenstein. His literary work and his biographical details are the main features of the collection, which includes some of his manuscripts and personal correspondence with Shulamith Kastein. Other materials include the correspondence of Shulamith Kastein with publishers and individuals researching her husband's life and articles and clippings about him.
Languages: The collection is in German and English.
Quantity: 0.5 linear foot.
Identification: AR 7227
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Julius Katzenstein was born on October 6, 1890 in Bremen, the son of Manus Katzenstein and his wife Karoline Katzenstein née Aschenberg. He had a younger brother, Leopold. In 1911 he began studying law at the University of Munich, where he became a member of a student Zionist movement. He continued his legal studies at universties in Freiburg im Breisgau, Berlin, and Göttingen, with his first trip to Palestine taken during this time, in 1913. In 1916 he returned to Palestine with Ilse Mengers, who would later become his first wife. After completing his studies he worked as a lawyer in his hometown, Bremen. In 1919 his eldest son was born; a second would follow in 1921.

In addition to his legal work Julius Katzenstein also began to write under the name Josef Kastein. His first pieces were some poetry and the play Arbeiter, about Eastern European Jews, which was published in 1921. In 1922 his first novel Die Brücke was published. In 1926 he and his first wife separated, but he continued to write; in the following year he produced the novels Melchior and Pik Adam.

In 1928 Kastein gave up his legal career, left Bremen, and settled in Switzerland, first in Ascona and then later in Moscia, where he was a neighbor of the popular biographer Emil Ludwig. At this time he began to contribute to publications as well as continue to write longer works. In 1932 he resettled Palestine, first in Tel Aviv and then later in Haifa, where he would remain for the rest of his life. These years in Palestine proved to be his most prolific, and he produced a number of works during this time. To supplement his income Josef Kastein also gave lectures and taught Hebrew. It was also at this time that he met his second wife Shulamith Kastein, born as Margarethe Vogl.

Josef Kastein died in Haifa on June 13, 1946.

Published Works

1918Logos und Pan
1921Arbeiter: eine dramatische Szene
1922Die Brücke
1927Melchior, ein hanseatischer Kaufmannsroman
Pik Adam
1930Sabbatai Zwi: der Messias von Ismir
1931Uriel da Costa: Tragödie der Gesinnung
1931-1938Eine Geschichte der Juden
1934Süsskind von Trimberg oder die Tragödie der Heimatlosigkeit
1935Juden in Deutschland
Theodor Herzl, das Erlebnis des jüdischen Menschen
Jüdische Neuorientierung
1936Das Geschichtserlebnis der Juden
Herodes, die Geschichte eines fremden Königs
1937Jerusalem, die Geschichte eines Landes
1938Jeremias, der Bericht von Schicksal einer Idee
1942Eine pälastinenische Novelle
1947Wege und Irrwege: drei Essays zur Kultur der Gegenwart
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Scope and Content Note

The Josef Kastein and Shulamith Kastein Collection primarily details the life and literary work of the author Josef Kastein. Born as Julius Katzenstein, nearly every document in this collection refers to the author as Josef Kastein, including his own letters, and so it is by this name that he is referenced in this finding aid. The collection primarily consists of correspondence and typed manuscripts, but also includes some clippings and articles on Josef Kastein, and a very few photographs.

Josef Kastein's writing is the dominant subject of this collection. Papers related to this topic include those of Series II, which holds manuscripts of some of his published and unpublished works, both fiction and non-fiction. Most of the manuscripts appertain to Jewish motifs, with two works focusing on Theodor Herzl (Das neue Pantheon) and Stefan Zweig (Das Schicksal des Stefan Zweig). Although most of these are in German, his untitled children's story was translated into English by Shulamith Kastein and given the title Michael and the Book. Kastein's writings are also frequently mentioned in his letters to Shulamith Kastein, in Series I, where he discusses his progress on various pieces as well as giving his opinion on themes mentioned in the works. Others' opinions on Josef Kastein's writing will be found among the correspondence to Shulamith Kastein from the biographers Alfred Dreyer and Friedrich Gläbe and in the published articles on him, found in Series III.

Another prominent topic in this collection is the biographical information on Josef Kastein, which may be found in nearly every series of the collection. Series I: Correspondence contains a great deal of information on his later life in Haifa, with details on his residence, employment and health. These letters additionally include descriptions of life in 1930s and 1940s Palestine, with mention of the turmoil in the development of the nation. Letters to Shulamith Kastein from Alfred Dreyer and Friedrich Gläbe also hold some biographical information on Josef Kastein; Alfred Dreyer's biographical sketches in Series III provide further details.

Some items have been removed from this collection, including some photographs and an audiocassette of a radio interview with Alfred Dreyer on Josef Kastein. These will be found in the LBI Photograph Collection and Audiovisual Collection, respectively.

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The collection is arranged in four series as follows:

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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

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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 LBI Library has a number of books by Josef Kastein. In addition, a biography (offprint) written by Alfred Dreyer is also available, "Josef Kastein, ein jüdischer Schriftsteller (1890-1946)" [PT 2621 A88 Z6].

Josef Kastein's memoirs of his early life, entitled Mosaiken, are also available at the LBI [ME 354].

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Separated Material

An audiocassette containing a radio interview with Alfred Dreyer speaking on Josef Kastein was removed from folder 1/18 and placed in the Audiovisual Collection. Some photographs have been removed to the Photograph Collection; a list of these is present in the abovementioned folder.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Josef Kastein and Shulamith Kastein Collection; AR 7227; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Processing Information

During preparation of the EAD finding aid the collection was reorganized to gather folders with similar material together to create series and to provide miscellaneous folders with more precise titles. Description was also added to the finding aid at this time.

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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: Correspondence, 1935-1988

This series is in German, with a very small amount of English.
0.2 linear foot.


Scope and Content:

Series I contains the correspondence of Josef and Shulamith Kastein. Most of the correspondence is from Josef Kastein in Palesine to Shulamith Kastein in New York, from Shulamith Kastein to publishers of her husband's work, and from researchers of her husband to Shulamith Kastein.

Four folders contain personal letters from Josef Kastein to his future wife Shulamith, including letters from 1935 to 1945. His life in Haifa is often mentioned, with discussion of his daily activities and significant events in Palestine as well as his deteriorating health. Josef Kastein also frequently brings up his writing, disclosing problems or difficulties with certain works, his progress on various novels, especially Herodes, and his opinions on his own writing. The letters additionally mention the manuscripts he sent to Shulamith and his instructions to her in regards to finding publishers for his works in New York. His correspondence from 1941 frequently mentions his intention to immigrate to the United States, a decision that he ultimately abandoned due to health concerns. A letter from 1946 to Shulamith from Josef Kastein's sons informs her of her husband's death in Palestine.

Shulamith Kastein's correspondence consists of letters with publishers concerning her husband's work as well as with individuals who were researching his life, especially Alfred Dreyer, who was working on a biography. The initial folder of Shulamith Kastein's correspondence primarily holds letters with publishers. Many of these letters report on the publisher's rejection of various works, but there are also receipts for payments, a copy of a contract for Josef Kastein's History of the Jews, and a few obituaries for him. Correspondence between researchers and herself consist of letters from Alfred Dreyer and Friedrich Gläbe. The letters of Alfred Dreyer, who had worked with Josef Kastein when he was still a lawyer in Bremen, are extensive and update Shulamith Kastein on his work. He also often requests information from her such as biographical details and her reminiscences of Josef Kastein's opinions on certain subjects. This folder additionally includes a few letters of publishers from the early 1940s and a copy of a brief autobiography by Josef Kastein. The final folder of Shulamith Kastein's correspondence is with researcher Friedrich Gläbe. A letter from this individual in 1972 gives his opinion on Josef Kastein's disappointment with the more practical Zionism that developed in Palestine in opposition to earlier forms of Zionism, as evidenced in Kastein's political articles in newspapers.

11Correspondence – Josef Kasteinundated
12Correspondence – Josef Kastein1935-1936
13Correspondence – Josef Kastein1937-1946
14Correspondence – Josef Kastein – Poetryundated, 1935-1936
15Correspondence – Shulamith Kastein1940-1947
16Correspondence – Shulamith Kastein – From Alfred Dreyer1975-1988
17Correspondence – Shulamith Kastein – From Friedrich Gläbe1972-1973
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Series II: Manuscripts, undated, 1943

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

Alphabetical and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series is comprised of typewritten manuscripts of Josef Kastein's writings, three of which do not appear to have been published. Series II includes both fiction and non-fiction pieces.

Fictional works by Josef Kastein include those of the first three folders of the series. Erster Teil einer Utopie describes the world in 1995, with people of the late twentieth century interested in the promotion of civilization, nature, and world peace. Michael and the Book, in both an English and an untitled German version of the same tale, is a children's story that concerns a boy who has no interest in reading until he goes on his own adventure.

The remaining works of this series are non-fiction and philosophical. Das neue Pantheon discusses the importance of intellectuals in the development of modern Jewish culture, with specific emphasis on the contributions of Theodor Herzl. On Being a Jew, despite having an English title, is written in German and is a piece intended for non-Jews. It mentions the Jewish problem and the psychological relationship of the Jewish individual to the rest of society. The final manuscript of this series, Das Schicksal des Stefan Zweig, is a shorter piece, a philosophical consideration of the events in Stefan Zweig's life and what drove him to leave his homeland and eventually commit suicide, with emphasis on Zweig's feeling of homelessness.

18Erster Teil einer Utopieundated
19Michael and the Book: An Israeli Fairy-Tale – English Versionundated
110[Michael and the Book: An Israeli Fairy-Tale] – German Version (untitled)undated
111Das neue Pantheonundated
112On Being a Jew1943
113Das Schicksal des Stefan Zweigundated
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Series III: Material about Josef Kastein, 1956-1980

This series is in German.
0.1 linear foot.


Scope and Content:

Series III holds documents with biographical information on Josef Kastein. Most of the material in this series are articles on him.

Two folders hold more detailed biographies on Josef Kastein. The first folder of biographical sketches include an excerpt of a radio interview and a copy of Josef Kastein's one-page autobiography. It also includes the text of a 1938 lecture at WIZO in Tel Aviv that discusses the settlement of Palestine, but which was originally located with the biographical sketches found in the remainder of the folder. Alfred Dreyer's biographies of Kastein include shorter entries for several biographical encyclopedias as well as the text of a leture he gave at the Gesellschaft für christlich-jüdische Zusammenarbeit in Bremen. This folder also includes Dreyer's bibliography of books and archival material on Kastein and several versions of biographies on him.

This series additionally contains some newspaper clippings on Josef Kastein, including one by Friedrich Gläbe and one that mentions the connection between Alfred Dreyer and Kastein. The final folder of this series holds a program listing from Radio Bremen depicting an interview with Alfred Dreyer on Kastein; the audiocassette of this radio program has been removed to the LBI Audiovisual Collection. A few photographs are present in this folder as well, further photographs of Kastein are located in the LBI Photograph Collection.

115Biographical Sketchesundated, 1938
116Biographical Sketches – by Alfred Dreyerundated, 1980
117Clippings on Josef Kastein1956-1977
118Photographs and Publicityundated, 1980
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Series IV: Other Material, undated

This series is in German.
1 folder.
Scope and Content:

Series IV consists of the published text of a play by Alfred Dreyer that does specifically pertain to Josef Kastein, and was mentioned in Dreyer's letters to Shulamith Kastein.

119Playscript by Alfred Dreyer – Gottesdienst in Katakombenundated
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