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Friday, July 1, 2016

Franz Lehman letters and other material, 1943-1949

The ninety-one letters and official documents that make up the Franz Lehman letters and other material collection at Brandeis University’s Robert D. Farber Archives & Special Collections provide a fascinating, touching, and rare personal look at the myriad experiences of Franz Lehman and his family during and after the Second World War. Franz Lehman served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946, first as a Private First Class and then as a Corporal. His German language skills helped to qualify him for service in the American military government that was tasked with administrating a conquered and devastated Germany in the months and years after the war. Lehman’s letters home detail his experiences at Fort Ord, California, in England preparing for Operation Overlord (1944), and during the Allied advance across France, Luxembourg, and finally into western Germany. His letters contain detailed descriptions and opinions on the conduct of American and French military governments in postwar Germany. They also address the process of finding and prosecuting members of the Nazi party and the efforts of the “Monuments Men” to locate documents, art, and cultural artifacts in the ruins of Germany. His letters, as well as those of his family and friends, also address the Lehman family’s quest to help their relative, Franz’s Aunt Hedi, who was held captive at the German concentration camp Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia.


Lehman’s attempts to help his aunt are evidence of a lesser-known but no doubt common experience for Jewish families during and after the Second World War. On July 19, 1944, Lehman received a letter from the “Help the Deportees Committee” of the British Jewish charity Union of Self-Aid Organisations for Relief and Rescue of German and Austrian Nazi Victims. The letter informed Lehman that it was impossible to send money to Theresienstadt, as Lehman had apparently attempted to do, due to an agreement between the Portuguese and German governments. That agreement also stipulated the types of parcels that could be sent to the camp, and required written evidence that the person to be helped was in fact in the camp.[1] This red tape was an additional humiliation imposed by a Nazi regime that by then was in terminal decline, and once that regime was defeated Lehman himself set out to try to find and help his aunt. His visit to Theresienstadt (which took him through Munich, Ulm, and Nuremberg) appears to have been fruitless and he concludes a July 4, 1945 letter about the trip by saying: “But unfortunately of aunt Hedi, nothing can I report yet. That I have to move now the next few days is also unfortunately [sic] for her, if to Neustadt, she wanted to come.”[2]


Also of interest is Lehman’s account of his military unit’s travels across France and Luxembourg and into Germany, as well as his account of the setting up of the American military government in Gau Westmark, a region of Germany that included portions of the contemporary states of Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate. Lehman reflects at length on the situations of the French, Luxembourgish, and German peoples in the wake of the war, on the social displacement caused by collaboration and postwar purges of those who collaborated with the German occupations of France and Luxembourg, and on the situation of Jewish, Russian, and other displaced persons in postwar Europe.


The U.S. Third Army’s advance across Europe initially took Lehman to France and Luxembourg. On January 18, 1945, shortly after his arrival in Luxembourg, Lehman had the chance to compare his impressions of the two countries. “The French remind me now of when I had to read De Bello Gallico. In it Caesar said about the French that they were “cupido rerum novarum,” hungry for changes, and maybe that makes them the advance guards of all things pleasant and good to live for. Here in the funny little concoction of a country [Luxembourg], their motto is “Mir wolle Beiwe wat mir sin,” [“I want to remain what I am”] the veritable glue that ties them down from ever changing.”[3] If Lehman was struck by the austerity and conservatism of Luxembourg’s culture, he was more pleased by their treatment of those accused of collaboration, which he compared favorably to the purge then occurring in France. In a January 23, 1945 letter he notes the “realistic” manner in which the Luxembourgish dealt with suspects, which included “no public shavings of women’s heads like in France.”[4]


Upon arriving in postwar Germany, Lehman’s letters begin to describe the process of putting in place a U.S. military government and the army’s efforts at bringing former Nazis and war criminals to justice. His descriptions of his own work in the military government and the conditions in postwar Germany are richly detailed and contain many insights and observations. The U.S. military government headquarters were set up in what Lehman describes as the “palace” of former Gauleiter Joseph Bürckel. Lehman writes of how some Germans would approach the occupiers to ask for help or offer services at the beginning of the occupation, insisting that they had been opposed to Nazism all along and speaking in “a sort of petulant tone and so “bieder” [respectable] it burns me up [so] that I just turn them out.”[5]


Lehman was struck by the sheer quantity of files kept by the Nazi administration, stating that “there are records, files and what not to float a battleship in.” Lehman’s work put him in close contact with the German population, as well as with Displaced Persons (probably former forced laborers) from throughout Hitler’s fallen European empire. He writes that he and two other soldiers were responsible for moving these files with the help of twenty-five “Poles, Russians, Italians and French” from a nearby Displaced Persons camp.[6] In addition to dealing with the human consequences of Nazi policy, the U.S. military government sought out qualified Germans to administer the region. In an April 24, 1945 letter, Lehman describes some of these characters. One was a famous history professor who had a lot to say about the history of Germany, and whom Lehman described as “the ideological dreamer.” “Another much more refreshing type was a tall slightly stooped young doctor with glowing eyes and a tremendous forehead and a young voice that could vibrate over the weariness of the figure that we had considered as the new potential leader,” Lehman writes, noting the contrast between generations. He stresses the difficult circumstances facing these men as they try to create a functioning German government while still “having to lean on our [the U.S. military government’s] power and our good will.”[7]


Lehman’s letters show his efforts to come to terms with the harm that Nazism and the war had done to German culture and social life. In a May 10, 1945 letter addressing the end of the war in Europe two days earlier, Lehman has this to say about the effects of Nazi propaganda: “Germany has not only lost the war, it has lost its future and its past ceased to exist since 1933. […] But now, even the German language was made a servant to diabolical double talk that one cannot use the language without being conscious of all of its devious misconceptions that have been created by the Nazi language that was further coaxed and cultured in the steamy plants of the Propaganda Ministry. I cannot conceive an indigenous German government that could issue its ordinances or a German paper talking about things that would mean just what it says.”[8]


Lehman’s letters contain detailed and critical reflections on many aspects of the occupation, including several interesting observations regarding the behavior of the United States’ French allies. He criticized the French authorities harshly for their “noncompliance with orders given by Eisenhower, strife and continuous confiscations of civilian goods” as well as rapes by French troops and his sense that the French lacked a consistent policy toward Germany.[9] His concerns intensified in July 1945 when the French took over the occupation of the former Westmark from the Americans. On July 16, 1945, he complained that the French were replacing the German administration chosen by the Americans with a government that would be a “rubber stamp” for their military government, and France was angling to annex the Saarland on the basis of “historical and racial points.”[10]


Franz Lehman’s letters are full of information, emotion, wit, and insight, and will be an invaluable source for those seeking to understand the experience of American soldiers in Europe during the Second World War, the experience of American Jews during that time, and the processes of military occupation, Denazification, and reconstruction in early postwar Germany. This collection provides a striking and deeply personal glimpse into one man’s unique and unusually broad experience of World War II and its aftermath.



Click here for the Finding Aid to the Franz Lehman letters and other material collection


Notes
1. Franz Lehman to family, 25 December 1944, Box 1, Folder 38, Franz Lehman letters and other material collection.
2. Franz Lehman to family, 4 July 1945, Box 1, Folder 70, Lehman collection.
3. Franz Lehman to family, 18 January 1945, Box 1, Folder 40, Lehman collection.
4. Franz Lehman to family, 23 January 1945, Box 1, Folder 44, Lehman collection.
5. Franz Lehman to family, 11 April 1945, Box 1, Folder 57, Lehman collection.
6. Franz Lehman to family, 3 April 1945, Box 1, Folder 55, Lehman collection.
7. Franz Lehman to family, 24 April 1945, Box 1, Folder 59, Lehman collection.
8. Franz Lehman to family, 10 May 1945, Box 1, Folder 61, Lehman collection.
9. Franz Lehman to family, 31 May 1945, Box 1, Folder 64, Lehman collection.
10. Franz Lehman to family, 16 July 1945, Box 1, Folder 72, Lehman collection.


description by Drew Flanagan, Archives & Special Collections Assistant and PhD candidate in History

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Burmese Palm Leaf Manuscripts

The Brandeis Archives and Special Collections Department is fortunate to own two 19th-century Burmese Buddhist texts, handwritten on palm leaves. Donated by Philip Pinsof, these make up part of the department’s Rare, Non-Western Manuscripts collection. The language of both manuscripts is Burmese but the exact dates and origins of the manuscripts are unknown. The more complete of the two manuscripts in Brandeis’s collection (#38) is composed of, literally, sixty-six leaves – rectangular, dried, cut, and smoked Palmyra palm leaves, or peisa – on which, using ink, a scribe has copied what is most likely a Buddhist text. The handwriting is beautifully clear, with little decorative flourish. The leaves measure roughly 5 cm wide by 50 cm long, and the manuscript is bound on each side with a wooden board. The edges of the two protective boards have been painted in red and maroon, and the edges of the manuscript leaves themselves have been gilded. The whole piece is held closed with two fabric cords which pierce the leaves and wood at either end, and allow the reader to open the manuscript like a fan. The second manuscript, #39, is a fragment of 25 palm leaves, tied with fabric cords threaded through the leaves, but without the protective boards. This is believed to be a Buddhist history of priests.

The use of palm leaves as material for manuscripts has a long tradition, dating to the pre-paper era - it is believed they were being used as far back as 5 CE. Likely having originated in India, palm-leaf manuscripts have appeared throughout South and Southeast Asia. It is believed that the initial durability and toughness of palm leaves made them ideal for Buddhist monks and others to use them as a writing surface, and, “unlike wood and bamboo, palm leaves require a simple manufacturing process of boiling and drying to render them suitable for writing.”(1) Unfortunately, due to the high humidity of the climate in Southeast Asia, palm leaves decay rapidly, and therefore it is rare to find examples of these delicately constructed manuscripts that are more than 200 years old. In fact, it was common practice to copy the manuscripts to new palm leaves as the old ones weakened and began to disintegrate. This practice only came to an end relatively recently, in the 19th century, with the advent of industrial-scale printing presses.(2) Most of the older examples which have been preserved are generally those that were carried by Buddhist missionaries to Central Asia, where a colder, drier climate – one less destructive to the materials – was prevalent. The earliest surviving palm-leaf manuscript dates to 9th century Nepal, and the most recent examples to be found date (like Brandeis’s manuscripts) to the 19th century.

Some scholars believe that the physical nature of the palm leaves was actually a central factor in the development of rounded scripts in Southeast Asia. Rounded writing would have been easier to copy onto leaves without causing damage to the writing surface, while more angular scripts were likely to split the leaf. (2) As well, the shape of the palm leaf itself was copied and can be seen in manuscripts made from a wide variety of materials, such as birch-bark (India), cotton cloth (Burma), and copper-plate charters (South and South-east Asia). “After the introduction of paper to India by the Muslims in the early 13th century, certain types of manuscripts retained the characteristic oblong shape of palm-leaf manuscripts and even the blank space in the text, originally left by the scribe to provide room for the cord; this became a focal point for decoration.”(3) Compared to the more ornamental Kammavaca palm manuscript (generally used for formal monastic ceremonies), the palm leaf manuscript is rather plain, yet still beautiful in its own way. Brandeis’s two palm-leaf manuscripts are available to all visitors to be viewed by appointment.


Notes:
(1) and (4) Ward, Gerald W. R., (editor). The Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2008, p. 356.
(2) Wikipedia. Palm-leaf Manuscript. Accessed June 6, 2016.
(3) Steever, Sanford “Tamil Writing;” Kuipers & McDermott, “Insular Southeast Asian Scripts,” in Daniels and Bright, eds., The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press, New York: 1996, p. 426, 480.


Description by Max Close, recent History graduate and former Archives & Special Collections assistant.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Brandeis Special Collections on the Internet Archive - Part II in an occasional series

We at Brandeis University Archives & Special Collections are dedicated to the preservation of the materials within our collecting remit. We are equally dedicated to making these materials freely and widely accessible. One of the ways we have been expanding this accessibility is by making many of our materials available online. As a member of the Boston Library Consortium, Brandeis University participates in the Open Content Alliance (OCA) project, which digitizes public-domain works from around the world. These digitized items are then made available on the Internet Archive (IA) ("a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more") where they are beautifully presented, free, and openly accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This occasional series will highlight some of the 1,836 (and growing) valuable, unique, and highly requested research materials owned by Brandeis and scanned through the OCA project.




Isaac Leeser. Sefer Torat ha-Elohim/The Law of God. First edition. 1845.

Isaac Leeser was a nineteenth-century American Jewish leader and the leader of Philadelphia’s Sephardic synagogue Mikveh Israel. In addition to publishing many textbooks for children and translating the Sephardic prayer book, Leeser founded the first American rabbinical school and the newspaper The Occidental. In 1845 he published the first Jewish translation of the Bible in the United States. Leeser’s work was based primarily on German Jewish translations and on traditional Jewish Bible scholarship, while aiming to make its style as close to the King James translation as possible. The Leeser translation soon became widely accepted and remained the standard Jewish translation until the publication of the Jewish Publication Society translation in 1917. In 1996 the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee (now known as the Brandeis National Committee) donated a copy of Leeser’s 1845 translation of the Five Books of Moses, Torat ha-Elohim / The Law of God, to the Library. The Law of God was the millionth book added to the Brandeis Libraries' collection in 1996. We thought it fitting that this volume would mark our one thousandth contribution to the Internet Archive.


Click here to view this work on the Internet Archive.





Clarence Cook. Art and Artists of our Time. 1888.

Art and Artists of our Time is a six-volume set written by the distinguished nineteenth century critic Clarence Cook. Cook (1828-1900), considered to be the first professional art critic in the United States, was editor of the Pre-Raphaelite journal The New Path and longtime art critic for the New York Tribune. The six volumes of Art and Artists of our Time are profusely illustrated with engravings that reproduce the works of the most admired artists of the period (the book was published in 1888) and present a revealing glimpse into contemporary artistic taste, with its emphasis on aesthetics and morality over formalism.


Click here to view this work on the Internet Archive.





Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. First edition. 1847.

The first edition of Jane Eyre, published on October 16th, 1847, sold out within a few months, which was unprecedented at the time. A first edition of this book is extremely rare, because most copies of this edition were read to pieces. A second edition was published in January, 1848, and the third edition in April of 1848. The three-volume format was a popular one for novels at the time of publication.


Click here to view this work on the Internet Archive.





The History of the Boston Theatre, 1854-1901.
Compiled with the assistance of Quincy Kilby. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1908. xv, 550 p. illus., ports. 26 cm.

The History of the Boston Theatre is a four-volume set describing and illustrating the productions mounted by theater companies in Boston, season by season, between 1854 and 1901. The copy in the Brandeis collection, digitized and available on the Internet Archive, is unique: bound in with the existing pages are portraits of actors (many with original inscriptions), theater programs, theater reviews clipped from journals, and hand-written correspondence, making the set even richer for research. Some of the correspondence, programs, portraits, and signatures tipped in to the Brandeis set after it was published indicate that the additional materials might have been added by Wilmot Evans, a prominent Boston banker and politician. The set was given to Brandeis by Mr. and Mrs. Herman A. Mintz; Herman Mintz was a Boston attorney and founding partner of the prominent law firm Mintz Levin. Mr. Mintz had a special interest in Boston theater.


Click here to view the History of the Boston Theatre on the Internet Archive website


Monday, April 4, 2016

Langston Hughes treasures in Special Collections

James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, columnist, war journalist, leader of the Harlem Renaissance, and one of the early innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry. Born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, MO, Hughes was a prolific writer whose works are regularly anthologized. He authored vast amounts of poetry, short stories, novels, operas, non-fiction essays and books, plays, and children’s literature. Over his lifetime Hughes served as an archivist of the beauty, struggle, and pain of his own domestic struggles as well as those of the Negro (to use the language of his time) in post-Emancipation America, and those struggling in the wars abroad. With his words, he was able to embody the complexity of revolution and its attendant hope and despair. In a time when the circumstance of his being born a black man in a virulently racist country lent a precarity to his own existence, much of Hughes’s work was propaganda for the furthering of the mental, emotional, and physical freedom of Negros. Langston Hughes died on May 22, 1967 in New York City, NY.(1)


In addition to the many of Hughes’s works which can be found in the library’s general collection, Brandeis University’s Special Collections proudly counts among its holdings a signed, first edition (second printing) of The Weary Blues (Hughes’s first published collection of poetry), a Spanish Civil War publication called Romancero de los Voluntarios de la Libertad, in which Hughes’s poem Song of Spain appears, I Hear the People Singing: Selected Poems of Walt Whitman, for which Hughes wrote the introductory essay "The Ceaseless Rings of Walt Whitman," and Braithwaite's Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1926 and Yearbook of American Poetry, which features several of Hughes’s poems. As well, the Carl Van Vechten Photographs collection contains several photographic portraits of Hughes taken by his close friend, Van Vechten.


“I would liken you
To a night without stars
Were it not for your eyes.
I would liken you
To a sleep without dreams
Were it not for your songs.”
--­­­ Ardella

First published in 1926, this poem (which can be found in The Weary Blues) gets to the heart of Hughes's work and to one of his main goals in writing: to create a language with which to express the beauty he saw in the world. Ardella also illustrates Hughes’s commitment to pro­Black (pro­Negro) politics. In this poem, Hughes addresses the social reality of Blackness being associated with darkness, despair, and a profound hopelessness and in comparison, offers a new ideology of beauty as blackness’s sole attribute.


Hughes was invested in the uplifting of oppressed people, especially those of African descent. He served as an activist poet and journalist in the Spanish Civil War. During this war, Hughes continued in his tradition of uplifting the marginalized through his moving language. He writes:


“Flamenco is the song of Spain:
Gypsies, guitars, dancing,
Death and love and heartbreak,
To a heel tap, and whirl of fingers
On three strings
Flamenco is the song of Spain”
-- Song of Spain

The juxtaposed imagery of dancing, death, and heartbreak in this poem creates a portrait of a wartime existence too complicated to be seen as one-dimensional: Hughes illustrates the complexity of struggling with the realities of war while also maintaining joy and light in the midst of darkness. This contradiction echoes Hughes’s own complicated existence, having been born to a white father and a black mother in a time so close to the period of slavery.


Hughes’s artistic and political agendas were not mutually exclusive and it is fascinating to hone in on those aspects of Hughes’s work that render it Jazz Poetry. Rebecca Gross writes: “Hughes felt that jazz poetry could be a uniquely African American literary form, distinctive among the venerable—and very white—poetic canon. When he wrote about jazz, Hughes often incorporated syncopated rhythms, jive language, or looser phrasing to mimic the improvisatory nature of jazz; in other poems, his verse reads like the lyrics of a blues song. The result was as close as you could get to spelling out jazz.”(2) Here, Gross not only illuminates the music in Hughes’ work but also its political and racial subtext. This video of Hughes reciting The Weary Blues, with a backing jazz band, gives a sense of the rhythm inherent in many of Hughes's works.

Emulating the grammar of a song by one of the great jazz musicians, Hughes writes:


“Does a jazz band ever sob?
They say a jazz­band’s gay
Yet as the vulgar dancers whirled
And the wan night wore away,
One said she heard the jazz band sob
When the little dawn was grey”
-- Cabaret

Scholars and lovers of poetry, music, language, and history will find great food for thought in the Hughes treasures held in Special Collections. These materials are open to the public and we welcome all who are interested to come and see these special and rare editions of the works of this great thinker, poet, social activist, and wordsmith.



Notes:
1. Langston Hughes, Wikipedia entry.

2. Gross, Rebecca. "Jazz Poetry & Langston Hughes." April 11, 2014.


Description by Kesi Kmt, undergraduate student in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Archives & Special Collections assistant.