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Guide to the Papers of Herman Bernstein, (1876-1935), 1899-1935  RG 713

Processed by David Wolfson, Geulah Schulsinger, and Francesca Pitaro

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
Email: archives@yivo.cjh.org
URL: http://www.yivo.org

© November 2003. YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. All rights reserved

Machine-readable finding aid created by Faige Lederman and Francesca Pitaro as MS Word file in November 2002. Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey Oummia in November 2003. EAD findng aid customized in Archon in 2014. Description is in English.

Collection Overview

Title: Guide to the Papers of Herman Bernstein, (1876-1935), 1899-1935  RG 713

ID: RG 713 FA

Creator: Bernstein, Herman (1876-1935)

Extent: 32.75 Linear Feet


The best way to access the collection is with the detailed index available at YIVO's reference desk in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History. Please also see the description of the index.

The physical arrangement of the papers corresponds to the following six groupings:

Languages: English, Yiddish, Russian, German, Polish, French


This collection contains the papers of the journalist, author, translator, and diplomat Herman Bernstein. It documents his work on behalf of Eastern European and Russian Jews and holds correspondence, memos, writings and translations by Herman Bernstein, writings by others, contracts, clippings, printed matter, and photographs.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Herman Bernstein Papers (ca. 1899-1935) include correspondence, memos, writings and translations by Herman Bernstein, writings by others, contracts, clippings, printed matter, ephemera, and photographs. This collection documents the life and career of Herman Bernstein and touches on many of his pursuits, including journalism, philanthropy, diplomacy, theater, and advocacy for Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe. In his work Bernstein was in contact with many prominent statesmen, literary figures, philanthropists, and leaders of the Jewish community in the United States.

The Bernstein papers are arranged physically into seven series, six of which are chronological, with the remaining series consisting of addenda. The first five series are made up largely of correspondence and some personal papers from the time period represented in each series. Each series contains at least four subseries: correspondence from individuals; correspondence from organizations; personal, and subjects. Series IV, however, has only three subseries. Series II has an additional two categories: The Day, the newspaper which Herman Bernstein edited, and subjects. Series III has a fifth subseries concerning the Ford Libel Suit as well as a sixth on subjects. Series V contains a subseries concerning Albania in addition to the four other subseries. The last series, Series VI: Mostly Undated, is comprised largely of manuscripts of writings and translations by Herman Bernstein and others. Series VI also contains newspaper clippings, undated personal documents, photographs, and plays.

Bernstein’s journalistic work is represented by his writings, his interviews, and by organizational files for various papers which published his work or where he served as editor. Among the publications represented are The American Hebrew, The Day, The Jewish Tribune, The New York Herald, and The New York Times. Correspondence includes information on editorial policy, letters from readers, and financial arrangements. Also included are copies of Bernstein’s articles and interviews which may include manuscript, typescript, and printed copies. Many of the interviews do not include transcripts, but only Bernstein’s narrative of the interview. Several files of dispatches from Russia, many of which may be found in Series VI, Subseries 7, include his writings on Lenin, Andreyev, Kerensky, the Tsarina Alexandra (wife of Nicholas II), and the changes wrought by the Revolution. Most of the articles and dispatches are undated, and their date and place of publication are not noted. Some of the articles that can be found in the clippings files (Series VI, Subseries 15), which are arranged alphabetically, include the actual newsprint copies of Bernstein’s articles. His work appeared in many New York and U.S. papers in addition to those listed above. Bernstein also corresponded regularly with publishers and magazines regarding the publication of his writings and translations. These include The Century Magazine, the Associated Press, Harper & Bros., Alfred A. Knopf, Macmillan, and The Independent.

The collection includes a significant amount of material relating to Bernstein’s theatrical work. In addition to writing his own plays and translating works from Russian and German, a large amount of which are located in Series VI, Subseries 17, Bernstein often served as the agent for playwrights whose works he translated. He corresponded regularly with playwrights, actors, agents, theater companies, publishers, and producers. Among the noted playwrights represented (by correspondence and scripts) are Leonid Andreyev, Georg Erastov, Ossip Dymow, Nicolas Evreinoff, Rudolf Lothar, Luigi Pirandello (1 letter), Arthur Schnitzler, George Bernard Shaw (1 note), and Leo Urvantzov. Other correspondents relevant to his theatrical work include Nina Caraciollo, Feodor Chaliapin, Morris Gest, Jacob Gordin, Bertha Kalich, Alla Nazimova, Max Rabinoff, and Maurice Schwartz. Organizations represented include: Brady and Wiman, the Theatre Guild, Radiant Productions, and the Yiddish Art Theatre. The collection also includes programs, reviews, and some photographs of theatrical productions and personalities.

Bernstein’s involvement in the American Jewish community is documented by his work with organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Relief Committee, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the Jewish National Fund, Joint Distribution Committee, ORT (Obschestvo Rasprostraneniia Truda sredi Evreev, the Society for Spreading Work Among Jews), and the Zionist Organization of America. In his work with these organizations Bernstein corresponded with prominent political, philanthropic and communal society leaders including Cyrus Adler, Joseph Barondess, Bernard Baruch, Jacob Billikopf, Josephus Daniels, Adolph Lewishohn, Louis Marshall, Jacob Schiff, Nathan Straus, and Stephen Wise. Correspondence with these organizations and individuals is located chronologically in Series I through V. Some organizational papers include minutes and reports.

Materials relating to Bernstein’s tenure as the Minister to Albania are located in Series V, Subseries 6, and include official letters and invitations, general correspondence and correspondence with other legations, reports, clippings, press releases, and writings including King Zog’s story as told to Herman Bernstein. Photographs from Bernstein's time in Albania will be found in Series VI: Subseries 16.

The scope of Bernstein’s many pursuits is reflected in his correspondence. Other prominent correspondents are Shalom Aleichem, Auguste Rodin, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William G. McAdoo.

Family papers include correspondence, photographs and miscellaneous materials. The earliest letters in the collection are letters from Herman Bernstein (in Russian and English) to Sophie Friedman, written in 1896 and located in Series I. The collection also includes letters from Bernstein’s children, and from his brother, Harry Bernstein.

This collection holds photographs, which will be found in Subseries 16 of Series VI, that portray Bernstein's work and travels, including photos related to his theatrical work, such as production photos and photos of performers. Of particular interest to researchers may be photos acquired during Bernstien's tenure as ambassador to Albania. These include photos of King Zog and other government officials, of offical functions, and of an archeological excavation in the city of Butrinto. The collection also contains personal photos, including portraits and family images. Photos of American and French soldiers from World War I will also be found in this subseries, as well as images of Bernstein's trip to Siberia under the auspices of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Users of this collection should be aware that there this collection has an index. Information on this index may be found here.

Historical Note

Herman Bernstein, journalist, author, translator, diplomat, and advocate for the rights of the Jews of Eastern Europe, was born in Neustadt-Schwerwindt on the Russo-German border on September 21, 1876. He was the son of David and Marie (Elsohn) Bernstein. In 1893 Bernstein emigrated to the United States where he completed his education. He was married to Sophie Friedman on December 31, 1901.

Bernstein’s journalistic career began in 1900 when his first stories were published. He was a contributor to the New York Evening Post, The Nation, The Independent and Ainslee’s Magazine. He was a founder and editor of The Day (1914-1916) and an editor of The Jewish Tribune (1924-1926; 1930), and an editor of the Jewish Daily Bulletin (1933-1934). As a special correspondent to the New York Times, Bernstein traveled to Europe in 1908, 1909, 1911 and 1912. On these visits he interviewed many prominent individuals of the day and his dispatches and articles were widely read in the U.S. Bernstein also went to Europe in 1915 to study the conditions of Jews in the war zones. He went to Russia in 1917 to report on the Revolution for the New York Herald, which also sent him to Japan and Siberia with the American Expeditionary Forces. His work for the Herald extended to his coverage of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. In the 1920s Bernstein wrote for the New York American and the Brooklyn Eagle, often reporting from Europe and writing frequently about Russia. One of Bernstein’s journalistic coups was his publication of the so-called “Willie-Nicky” correspondence between Wilhelm II and Nicholas II, which he discovered in Russia in 1917. These secret telegrams between the Kaiser and the Tsar during the years 1904-1907 revealed, according to Bernstein, how “Both talked for peace and plotted against it.” The telegrams were first published in the Herald.

Many of Bernstein’s interviews, including those with Henri Bergson, Hall Caine, Albert Einstein, Havelock Ellis, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Max Nordau, Auguste Rodin, Romain Rolland, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, Leo Tolstoy, Chaim Weizmann, Count Sergius Witte, Woodrow Wilson, and Israel Zangwill, were later published in three volumes: Celebrities of Our Time (1924), With Master Minds, and The Road to Peace (1926).

Bernstein’s literary work included translations of short stories and plays by Gorky, Tolstoy, Andreyev, Lothar, Urvantzov, Schnitzler, Asch, Chekov, and Turgenev. Bernstein’s own writings include a book of verse, The Flight of Time (1899), a book of short stories, In the Gates of Israel (1902), and a novel, Contrite Hearts (1905). He also wrote his own plays including The Mandarin and The Right to Kill which were presented on Broadway.

Bernstein was also known for his efforts to expose anti-Semitism in the United States and elsewhere. He won a retraction from Henry Ford after suing him for libel for anti-Semitic statements Ford had published in the Dearborn Independent. In 1921 Bernstein’s book, The History of a Lie, exposed the fraudulent origins of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” His 1935 work The Truth about the Protocols of Zion was released to combat a renewed interest in the Protocols coinciding with the rise of anti-Semitism in pre-war Europe. Throughout his career Bernstein researched and wrote about the conditions of Jews in Europe, reporting on pogroms in Poland and Russia, and the effects of the Revolution on Russia’s Jews. Bernstein worked with organizations such as ORT, the Central Relief Committee, the American Jewish Relief Committee, and the Joint Distribution Committee to improve conditions for Jews in Europe. He also served as secretary of the American Jewish Committee, as an officer of the Zionist Organization of America, and as a member of various committees of HIAS. Politically he advocated for liberal immigration policies and was a member of the Democratic National Committee and worked to elect Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Bernstein also supported the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and wrote about the politics of the Middle East and the settlement of Palestine.

Bernstein met Herbert Hoover at the Paris Peace Conference and supported his bid for the presidency in 1928. In 1930 Hoover appointed Bernstein as the United States minister to Albania, a position he held until 1933. During this appointment, he worked on negotiation and extradition treaties between the U.S. and Albania, and received an award from King Zog for his service to Albania, the Grand Cordon of the Order of Skanderberg.

Herman Bernstein died in Sheffield, Massachusetts on August 31, 1935. He was survived by his wife Sophie and three daughters, Violet Bernstein Willheim, Hilda Bernstein Gitlin, and Dorothy Bernstein Nash, as well as a son, David.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers by appointment with a YIVO archivist.

Use Restrictions: There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact: Chief Archivist, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011 email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Acquisition Method: The Herman Bernstein Papers were donated to YIVO by David Bernstein, Adele Bernstein, and Ann Weissman.

Preferred Citation: Published citations should take the following form:Identification of item, date (if known); YIVO Archives; Herman Bernstein Papers; RG 713; box number; folder number.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

Series 1: Series I, 1896-1917,
Series 2: Series II, 1913-1916,
Series 3: Series III, 1917-1924,
Series 4: Series IV, 1920-1930,
Series 5: Series V, 1930-1935,
Series 6: Series VI: Mostly Undated, , 1898-1935,
Series 7: Series VII: Addenda, 1915-1956,

Series VII: Addenda
Addenda is comprised of items added to the collection after it was first arranged. It includes correspondence, plays, legal records, and clippings. Folders labeled "Interrogations" include transcripts of legal records pertaining to the the Henry Ford trial. Some of the clippings concern Russia and the “Willy-Nicky” correspondence between Wilhelm II and Nicholas II. Several folders contain documents related to the Bernstein family, including correspondence between Herman and Sophie Bernstein and a school paper by Violet Bernstein.
: Supplementary Listings
n.d., 1915-1935
Box 69
Folder 1030: Assorted Correspondence
Folder 1031: Materials on Henry Ford
Folder 1032: Lothar, Rudolph: Correspondence
Folder 1033: Miscellaneous Correspondence
Folder 1034: Henry Ford’s WWI Peace Expedition
Folder 1035: Reports by American Army Staff
Folder 1036: Manuscripts by Herman Bernstein
Folder 1037: Letters From Celebrities-Typescripts
Folder 1038: Russian Letters to Herman Bernstein and Letters From Celebrities
Folder 1039: Plays – Adaptations
Folder 1040: Plays
Folder 1041: Plays
: Addendum
n.d., 1910-1956
Box 70 (1 of 4)
Folder 1: Interrogations B (Augustin Laurent Boudet)
Folder 2: Interrogations G (Grigori Viacheslavovich Glinka)
Folder 3: Interrogations K (Igor Alexandrovich Krivoshein, Eugene Konstantinovich Klimovitch)
Folder 4: Interrogations L (Alexander Sergeevich Loukomsky, A. Lepelletier)
Folder 5: Interrogations M (Exakoustodian Makharoblidze)
Folder 6: Interrogations O (Vladimir Grigorievich Orlov)
Folder 7: Interrogations S (Paul Shatilof)
Folder 8: Interrogations V (Father Vladimir Vostokov)
Folder 9: Interrogations W (Baron Peter Wrangel)
Folder 10: Interrogations Y (Nicolai Patrovich Yakimov)
Folder 9: Interrogations W (Baron Peter Wrangel)
Folder 10: Interrogations Y (Nicolai Patrovich Yakimov)
Box 71 (2 of 4)
Folder 1: Clippings by Bernstein – Russia (various newspapers)
Folder 2: Clippings by Bernstein – “Willy-Nicky” and Miscellaneous ( New York Herald)
Folder 3: Clippings by Bernstein – Russia (Various Newspapers)
Folder 4: Clippings by Bernstein (Brooklyn Eagle)
Folder 5: Yeshiva University: Einstein Reception Committee
Folder 6: Three Days in the Village by Tolstoy, Translated by Bernstein
Folder 7: New York Herald – Bernstein Dispatches from Paris
Folder 8: Printed Address by Nathan Straus Opening the American Jewish Congress (Multiple Copies) (21 May 1922); “Peace Not War” by Henry Ford (Reprint from Detroit Free Press); Letter from Herman Bernstein to William Gaynor (24 June 1913); Printed Proposal for The Jewish Magazine; The National Conference on Community Centers and Related Problems - Pamphlet (1916)
Box 72 (3 of 4)
Folder 1: Miscellaneous Correspondence, Herman and Sophie Bernstein
Folder 2: Miscellaneous Correspondence, Herman and Sophie Bernstein
Folder 3: Notes and Writings by Bernstein
Folder 4: Writings by Others
Folder 5: Clippings
Folder 6: Miscellaneous Papers
Box 73 (4 of 4)
Folder 1: Correspondence
Folder 2: Miscellaneous Papers
Folder 3: Draft of Bernstein Inventory
Folder 3: David Bernstein Papers
n.d., 1912-1934
Box 74
Folder 1: 1 Letter to David Bernstein
Folder 2: 1 Letter (1912) and 1 Telegram (1928) to Herman Bernstein
1912, 1928
Folder 3: 5 Photos of Herman Bernstein (Alone and with Others)
Folder 4: Violet Bernstein’s School Paper – “Textile Notes”
Folder 5: Leather Slipcase Initialed “HB”

Browse by Series:

Series 1: Series I, 1896-1917,
Series 2: Series II, 1913-1916,
Series 3: Series III, 1917-1924,
Series 4: Series IV, 1920-1930,
Series 5: Series V, 1930-1935,
Series 6: Series VI: Mostly Undated, , 1898-1935,
Series 7: Series VII: Addenda, 1915-1956,
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