Julius Berstl papers
The Correspondence series covers both Julius Berstl's personal and professional life. Personal Correspondence covers letters to and from Julius Berstl that were not specifically related to the business side of writing or theater. His correspondence ranges from fellow writers, to actors and people from the theater, to close friends. Professional Correspondence includes letters to and from Julius Berstl that specifically relate to the business side of writing or theater. His correspondence ranges from publishers, to theaters, to film production companies, and more.
The Personal and Biographical Documents series features documents written about Berstl's life, sometimes in honor of his birthday. There are also a number of documents that Berstl had collected from his own past and from that of his family, including school records and information regarding the theater careers of his parents.
The Theater Memorabilia and Reviews series includes play advertisement posters, clipping and reviews of plays by Berstl, programs from his productions, correspondence on theater related topics, and much more.
Lastly, the Literary Journals series features the few literary journals that Berstl had saved over the years, often because he or a friend of his was mentioned.
- 1858 - 2010
- Majority of material found within 1901 - 1975
- Berstl, Julius (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
12.43 Linear Feet (29 boxes)
Julius Berstl was born on 1883 August 6 in Bernburg, Germany to a theatrical family. On 1883 September 11, he was baptized in the Lutheran church (Schlosskirche St. Aegidien, Bernburg). Julius and his father only obtained German citizenship in 1898, even though the family had lived there since Julius' birth. His father, Norbert Berstl (Austrian), and his mother, Franziska Schreiner, were both actors and later directors in the 1870s-1890s. His mother had also come from a theatrical family, and her own mother and father had been actors and directors in German theater during the 1850s and 1860s.
In 1890, he began school in Berlin. From 1892-1902, he attended the Kaiser Wilhelm II Realschule in Gottingen and the Oberrealschule in Kassel. It was there that he first began to write poetry, short stories, and plays, often engaging in student-run productions. It was during this period that he first began to seriously explore the world of theater and writing. He studied German and English literature at the Georg August-Universitat in Gottingen for two semesters, and then at the Universitat Leipzig from April 1903 until March 1908. His first published novel, "Der Phantast" debuted in 1905, and he continuously wrote plays and poetry throughout his academic career. Upon graduation, he became the dramaturg, or literary advisor, of the renowned Barnowsky Theaters in Berlin from 1909-1924. Julius' father passed away on 1913 November 10 at the age of 55. He was married on 1914 April 2 to Hedwig Dorothea Lisbeth (Elizabeth) Koch, a theater actress (born on 1890 February 10), and on 1914 November 11 their only child, Norbert Berstl, was born.
In the midst of World War I, Berstl took leave from his job in the theater from 1916-1918 to fight in the German army, but returned when the war was over. His brother Willi also fought in World War I, and was a prisoner of war in Great Britain until around 1919. In 1921/1922, Berstl published what would become one of his more famous plays, "Der lasterhafte Herr Tschu" ("Chu the Sinner"), which was also performed by the Barnowsky theater company. From 1924-1936, Berstl worked as dramaturg for the Berlin Gustav Kiepenheuer Theaters. During this period, Berstl wrote one of his most well-known plays: "Dover-Calais." This was an especially productive period in Berstl's career, with "Dover-Calais" finding popularity internationally; it was even made into a film. In 1930, Berstl published a study of the theater world that he knew well, entitled "25 Jahre Berliner Theater und Victor Barnowsky."
But with the rise of Hitler and the increasing restrictions on the creative arts, Berstl's musical comedy "Pech muss man haben" was banned by the Nazis in 1933 after they came to power. In that same year, Berstl himself was banned from working as a writer (and as a translator of English plays) due to his half Jewish heritage. In 1935, the Reichsschrifttumskammer (the Reich's Board of Professional Writers) banned him from employment entirely. Along with his wife and son, he emigrated to London, where he was supported by the Society of Friends (Quakers) when he didn't have a work permit. As a German citizen, he was placed in an internment camp for three months in 1940 as World War II was just beginning. His son, Norbert, was placed in a refugee camp in Canada (near Toronto) for a little over two years. For a period of time directly following his emigration, Julius worked on producing an English version of "Dover-Calais," working with popular English children's author Eleanor Farjeon. In 1943 he became a scriptwriter for the London BBC, for which he wrote over 60 radio dramas, mostly with Biblical themes that reappear later in his novels. While in England, Berstl also worked as a German/English translator, writing German versions of plays by authors like Noel Coward, Jean Copard, St. John Ervine, Aimee Stuart, and Archibald Norman Menzies. He retired from his work at the BBC in 1951 and moved to New York City, where he began to write novels in earnest. During this period, he wrote novels based upon the life of St. Paul, an imaginary memoir of Edmund Kean, and an autobiographical tale of his life in the theater. He received U.S. citizenship in 1960. According to Julius Berstl, his wife told him that after she died he should move to Santa Barbara; after she passed away in 1964, he kept with her wishes and moved. He lived in Santa Barbara, continuously sending in new manuscripts to publishers and coming up with business ideas, until he too passed away on 1975 December 8 at the age of 92. His son, Norbert, also moved to Santa Barbara, and eventually moved into his father's apartment after he had died. Norbert himself passed away on 2010 January 24, exactly 95 years to the day after he had been baptized as a baby in Berlin.
- Authors, German -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Berstl, Julius -- Archives
- British Broadcasting Corporation -- Correspondence
- Busoni, Ferruccio -- Correspondence
- Ewers, Hanns Heinz -- Correspondence
- Farjeon, Eleanor -- Correspondence
- Felix Bloch Erben (Firm) -- Correspondence
- Georg Marton Verlag (Firm) -- Correspondence
- German literature -- Archival resources
- Goudge, Elizabeth -- Correspondence
- Johst, Hanns -- Correspondence
- Magazines (periodicals)
- Mierendorff, Marta -- Correspondence
- Niese, Hansi -- Correspondence
- Theater -- Germany -- 19th century -- Archival resources
- Theater -- Germany -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Tillich, Paul -- Correspondence
- Von Wolowski, Kurt -- Correspondence
- Walter, Fried -- Correspondence
- Wicclair, Walter -- Correspondence
- Wied, Gustav -- Correspondence
- Finding aid for the Julius Berstl papers
- Emily Hodgkins
- 2013 November
- Description rules
- 2016 March: Another box of materials added and the notes updated and expanded by Emily Hodgkins
Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository
Doheny Memorial Library 206
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