Libraries Partner with Stahl Center and Foreign Languages & Literature for Herman Weil Collection

photo of Herman Weil
Image from The Ivy 1955 Yearbook, Wisconsin State College, Milwaukee.

This past fall, the UWM Archives acquired a box of letters and documents belonging to Herman Weil (1905-1995), a former UWM professor and founder of the Honors College. Weil was a Holocaust survivor and many of the letters in this collection relate to his prolonged attempt to have his in-laws transferred out of the Nazi death camps.

A native of Alsace-Lorraine, Weil earned a doctor of psychology degree at the University of Marburg in Germany, and worked with the prominent philosopher-theologian Martin Buber in Frankfurt. He was briefly imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1938 and emigrated to the United States after his release.

Weil joined the Milwaukee State Teachers College, a predecessor of UWM, in 1943. He was the first chair of the UWM Psychology Department, and served as the first director of the Honors College. He specialized in the psychology of prejudice, and was well known for his work in intergroup relations and human rights. He retired from UWM in 1976 and was awarded an honorary doctor of public service degree from the university in 1986. A leader in the Milwaukee Jewish community, Weil also received the Interfaith Award of the Milwaukee B’nai B’rith Council and the Wisconsin Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

The Archives already owned scrapbooks covering his UWM career. This new donation focuses on his personal life–his letters (one a typewritten note from Albert Einstein) and several documents from the Nazi regime including Weil’s identification card from Buchenwald.

Digital Collections has completed digitization of 400 of his letters written in German to his family members. The next step is translation of the letters by students in the Foreign Languages and Literature program, which are being organized and funded by the UWM Stahl Center for Jewish Studies.

“We are very excited about this acquisition,” says Derek Webb, head of the UWM Archives, “and thrilled as well to be collaborating with Rachel Baum at the Stahl Center and UWM language students in creating a digital collection that will facilitate other projects and uses of the Herman Weil Collection.”