- Correspondence, documents, printed articles, news clippings, documenting the experiences of chemical engineer Ernst Berl, following his removal from the faculty of the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt, and his immigration to the United States in 1933. Included is correspondence with other emigre academics from Austria and Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, correspondence concerning attempts to help others immigrate from Austria and Germany and obtain academic positions in the United States, as well as materials documenting Berl's efforts to help persecuted Jews in Darmstadt with scholarship funds he had collected there.
Much of the correspondence in Berl’s papers is from fellow scientists in exile from Germany or Austria, with whom Berl stayed in contact during the decade and a half after leaving Germany. Berl often exchanged news about Germany with them, and in the latter years, sought information about what had happened to family members who had remained in Austria or Czechoslovakia after German occupation. An extensive file of correspondence with longtime friend Max Isler contains many comments about the state of Germany and Europe during the war and in its immediate aftermath. A small file of correspondence with James Conant is mostly social, and pertains to the attendance of Berl’s son, Herbert, at Harvard University, but also concerns the controversy surrounding an alumni honor being presented to Hitler aide Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl in 1934. Several files of correspondence relate to attempts of German and Austrian scientists to emigrate from Europe, in particular after the annexation of Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia by the Germans in 1938, when several sought Berl’s help in finding a faculty position at a university in the United States. Several files from Berl’s son, Herbert, are also included, as the younger Berl was an attorney who although primarily active in the area of patent law, also tried to help would-be émigrés, as is documented in these files.
Biographical materials include several articles written by or about Berl, as well as obituaries after his death in 1946. Financial records include files on German taxes paid by Berl, primarily on royalties from a chemistry textbook that the Springer Verlag had published in Germany in the 1920s, and from which German authorities continued to demand tax payments in the years following Berl’s exile from Germany. In addition, a file on the “Berl Fond” documents how a scholarship fund that Berl had established at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt was later used to aid local Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis in the mid-1930s, and especially those whose businesses were seized by the Nazis.
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Herb Berl
- Collection Creator
- Ernst Berl
Ernst Berl (1877-1946) was born in Freudenthal, in a part of Upper Silesia that then belonged to Austria (present-day Czech Republic). In 1894, he began studies at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna, and graduated in 1898 as a chemical engineer. Following military service, he returned to academia, earning a doctorate at the University of Zurich in 1901. Initially he served as a lecturer in chemical technology at that same university, but then began working in industry, helping developing synthetic fabrics. At the outbreak of World War I, he returned to Austria and worked for the government, developing explosives and chemical weapons. Following the war, he took an appointment as a professor of chemical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt, Germany, where he remained on the faculty until 1933, when the Nazis gained power in Germany, and Jewish faculty members were forced out of their positions. Berl and his family moved to the United States that same year, when he was offered a position on the faculty of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, where he remained until his retirement in 1945. During those decades, however, he was active as an inventor, patenting dozens of products for use in the chemical engineering, such as the Berl saddle, used in distillation devices.