Supported by funding from Arts Council England, the Library was able to undertake cataloguing and digitisation of three exceptionally rich and extensive collections of family papers in order to make them available in perpetuity for researchers. The first of these, the Rosenberg Collection, spans 20 boxes of documents and photographs and pertains to the Rosenbergs of Posen and later Berlin, an assimilated Jewish family, whose survivors became refugees from Nazism.

Both Felix Rosenberg (1865-1923) and his son Ludwig Rosenberg (1898-1954) were classically trained scholars and Francophiles who taught languages at the Köllnisches Gymnasium and Französisches Gymnasium, Berlin, respectively. Ludwig went on to teach for a term at Bunce Court school in Kent and then for the remainder of his life German and French at Dartington Hall school in Devon. Ludwig’s daughter, Gabriele Foti née Rosenberg, the donor of the collection, was a pupil at Dartington Hall.

Photograph of Gabriele Foti née Rosenberg, dated spring 1941. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
Photograph of Felix Rosenberg, c.1910s. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.

Felix, who was a classical philologist, published a number of articles in various scholarly journals which are preserved as part of the collection. In addition and of particular interest is a set of correspondence from Felix to his family when he was an itinerant scholar and teacher in Berlin, Heidelberg and Munich and on various excursions to Strasbourg, Frankfurt am Main and Geneva between the years 1883-1902. This treasure trove of letters, replete with humorous anecdotes and astute observations, documents the cultural, social and familial interests of a middle class assimilated Jew in the last decades of the 19th century.

Photograph of Ludwig Rosenberg, c.1920s, with a class of pupils at Köllnisches Gymnasium and Französisches Gymnasium, Berlin. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
Page 1 from Ludwig Rosenberg’s 1942 memoir ‘The Story of My Life’. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.

His son, Ludwig Rosenberg, the principal protagonist, like many German Jews fought for Germany during the First World War. There are copious amounts of family correspondence documenting this period as well as a memoir which goes into the details of his First World War exploits. Ludwig’s traumatic experience of war inclined him towards pacifism and a desire to be reconciled with the French people. To that end he pursued his French studies and during most of the 1920s taught at schools in France. There is considerable correspondence, much of it in French, with colleagues and friends from this period, showing insights into Ludwig’s political views and cultural interests.

Felix Rosenberg, a student in Heidelberg, writes to his family in Berlin, 17 April 1883. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.

Whilst neither father nor son were observant, never far from the surface, however, is a preoccupation with their Jewish identity. Whilst it is clear that Felix is not practising, there are numerous references in his correspondence to the way his Jewishness impacts his life. When applying for a job at a Jewish Gymnasium where most of the pupils but few of the teachers were Jewish, he comments that this is the first time his Konfession was no obstacle to the application process. He observed that he was attracted to secular Jewish women. He describes eating kosher food at the Seligsohns where they spoke the Muttersprache. He recounts with great joy these regular meetings: ‘You cannot hardly believe what a pleasure it is once a month to be with these educated (Jewish) people’ and how it reminds him of his youth sitting at the shabbes table.

When Felix died prematurely in a tragic road accident he was a member of the Jewish Liberal community.