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Jacobsohn Collection on Germany between the Wars

Identifier: 0080

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Scope and Contents

Collection consists of the print newspapers, pamphlets, and other ephemera gathered by Dr. Leo Jacobsohn (1881-1944) throughout the time he spent living in Berlin from 1909 to 1938, with materials primarily from 1914-1933.Overall, Jacobsohn's collections reflect German officialdom, shortages, inflation, and the rise of National Socialism from the perspective of a well-connected doctor in Germany's cultural, political, and social center.

Newspapers and newspaper clippings are a major part of Jacobsohn's collection, and together they compose the first series. Ranging from pre-World War I to pre-World War II, they highlight both historically important dates (like the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) and more "average" days during this period of constant change. The newspapers tend to be from Berlin, because that is where Dr. Jacobsohn lived, but there are also papers from the front that were published by soldiers, humorous newspapers, papers published through a political party, and many other kinds. The newspapers are organized by title in alphabetical order and then by date in the case that there were numerous issues of one title. The original organization is only partly known but may have been more thematic and generally chronological.

The second series is Political Handbills, Ephemera, and Election Materials. The series has then been organized into three subseries: organizational materials, political ephemera, and election materials. The majority of the material within these three subseries is ephemeral in nature; they are flyers, pamphlets, and other forms of temporary/short-term information about current events. Election materials are the most specific, pertaining to political activities during election campaigns. While the campaign dates vary depending on where the material is from, the main focus of this subseries is the 1919 elections. Maintained in their original folder divisions whenever possible, the materials about elections are split predominantly by party. Political ephemera, the second subseries, is broader, encompassing particularly party politics regardless of a specific race. The ephemera is very wide-ranging in both subject and medium, and includes extensive amounts of handbills, notices, and cards. The materials here were separated first by type and then by theme/event. Lastly, the most general subseries is Organization Materials. This includes the same kinds of handbills and notices that were found in the other two subseries, but for organizations that were not directly "political" or engaged in the party/election system. This includes materials from charities and business associations as well as special governmental organizations. These are grouped by organization.

The Books and Pamphlets series consists of a thematically varied group of materials. They were originally found separated from the other more ephemeral items, and often are bound more durably, either as books or as more substantial pamphlets. They are often political, and many relate to issues and concerns surrounding Germany's involvement in World War I. While entirely unordered originally, they have been organized chronologically, with undated items grouped together.

The series Personal and Official Documents brings together materials such as governmental forms and slightly more personal items such as Dr. Jacobsohn's school records. When brought together, these materials not only exhibit the state of German officialdom in the period but give an idea of what it meant to be a German citizen during that time.

Print Materials seems like a very generic designation, but this series, split into two different time periods, are also divided by the amount and type of materials that Jacobsohn was amassing. In the 1809-1903 section, there are markedly less documents, and those included are more of a cultural focus. Considering that these materials date in part from before Jacobsohn was born, they seem to not belong to the rest of the collection in the same conscious way.

On the other hand, the print materials from 1903-1938 are not only more socio-political in nature, but they also are focused on both World War I and World War II as they include materials leading up to, in the midst of, and descending from both events. The subseries are divided into different aspects of life in Germany during and around the World War I era. The first subseries is regarding Rationing and Welfare and is perhaps the strongest aspect of Jacobsohn's collection. During the war years and then through 1920, Jacobsohn accumulated a nearly complete collection of ration cards of all types, as well as posters and notices regarding the rationing program. But one of the most unique elements is his collection of rationing appeals. As a doctor in one of the well-known hospitals in Berlin, he was on a team in charge of allotting extra ration cards for those who required them for medical or special reasons. He kept many, if not all, of the letters, mostly in alphabetical order by last name, but in a single box. For archival purposes, the letters have been separated into folders, but kept in their alphabetical order, with indecipherable names collected together. The next subseries is Medical Materials, which includes work by both Jacobsohn and his other colleagues on purely medical subject material. This also includes some documents in relation to hospitals. The next subseries is War Bond Materials. Jacobsohn had made scrapbooks that assembled ephemeral print concerning each of the first through ninth German war bond campaigns during World War I, which have been archived as is. The last subseries relates to ephemera and official items regarding the German Home Guard during World War I. Also included in this section is the subseries entitled Posters; these are posters that have been separated and encased in mylar as examples of many of the different types of posters Jacobsohn collected.

Maps, Photographs, and Picture Postcards is the last series, and contains mostly visual materials from around the time of World War I. Jacobsohn had a number of battlefield maps with annotations and other notes, in addition to aerial photographs that have been similarly marked. There are some more traditional political-style maps from the period as well. In addition, there are a number of photographs as well as photograph albums, with topics ranging from soldiers on the front or in internment camps, to more personal snapshots and postcards.

Separated from the other sections is a special item, a painted Sperry Mills American Indian brand flour sack. This is the type of sack that was used to ship flour in bulk. However, it has been decorated and painted completely, including Belgian and American flags. When the Americans were not yet officially in World War I, future president Herbert Hoover spearheaded a mission to provide flour for Belgian and French citizens affected by the war. To show their gratitude, many of those who received the flour would send the empty flour sacks back either decorated, embroidered, or made into other creative items (such as a jacket, or pillow). While there is no description of how Leo Jacobsohn may have acquired such a sack (outside of documents indicating that he likely was in Belgium and/or France for part of World War I), it is most likely originally from this exchange.


  • Creation: 1813-1940
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1914-1933


Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

Finding aid description and metadata are licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Department of Special Collections at Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical note

Dr. Leo Jacobsohn was born in Putzig, a small town in the state of Prussia in the former German Empire (modern day Puck, Poland), on 1881 May 21/22 to Dr. Eugen (?) Jacobsohn and his wife, Franziska Jacobsohn (?). He received his degree as a Doctor of Medicine in 1905 from the University of Freiburg. By 1907, he had moved to back to Prussia (to the city of Danzig, modern day GdaƄsk, Poland), just south from where he was born. He was able to visit New York and central Brazil that same year. In 1909, he moved to the Charlottenburg district of Berlin. By 1914, he was on staff at the Moabit Hospital in Berlin and simultaneously worked to develop a private practice in the city for internal medicine and neuropsychiatry, which eventually became his focus after the war ended in 1918.

One of Jacobsohn's main hobbies was collecting print ephemera, and he began a collection of newspaper clippings in the months leading up to World War I. Because he maintained close connections with important members of Germany's civil and military circles through his practices, Jacobsohn was eventually able to expand his collection of print extensively, incorporating items that were not available to the general public. Working in the health commission of Berlin during World War I, Jacobsohn also amassed a comprehensive ration card collection.

After World War I ended, Jacobsohn continued to collect posters, newspapers, pamphlets, and flyers; he eventually gathered a huge variety of materials regarding the post-war German revolution of 1918-1919. He remained at the Moabit Hospital until 1920, at which time he stayed in Berlin but decided to pursue his private practice as well as lecturing and writing. The politically charged atmosphere of the Weimar period that followed World War I (1919-1933) inspired Jacobsohn to gather a wide range of political propaganda and ephemera from the German political parties of the time, including the Communists (KPD), National Socialists (Nazis, NSDAP), Social Democrats (SPD/USPD), the Center (Zentrum), Democrats (DDP), and numerous other, smaller parties. What resulted is a fascinating picture of German politics leading up to and including the rise of Hitler.

Once Hitler came to power in 1933, Jacobsohn all but stopped saving ephemera; very little was added to his collection between 1933-1938. In 1938, Jacobsohn left Berlin and his practice behind for Los Angeles, where he worked with the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital until he died in 1944.


25.41 Linear Feet (32 boxes and 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Collection consists of the print newspapers, pamphlets, and other ephemera gathered by Dr. Leo Jacobsohn (1881-1944) throughout the time he spent living in Berlin from 1909 to 1938, with materials primarily from 1914-1933.Overall, Jacobsohn's collections reflect German officialdom, shortages, inflation, and the rise of National Socialism from the perspective of a well-connected doctor in Germany's cultural, political, and social center.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Initial donation of materials in 1997.

Finding aid for the Jacobsohn collection on Germany between the Wars
Emily Hodgkins
2015 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2019 May: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include the 1939 April issue of Arbeitertum: Amtliches Organ Der Deutsche Arbeitsfront
  • 2022 April: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include posters added to the collection from accrual no. 2022-022.
  • 2022 August: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub: created new container record (listed under "Unprocessed material") after finding an unprocessed box during Grand Archives stacks shelf-reading.
  • 2023 May: Finding Aid updated by Marissa Chavez and Sarah Jardini for History Associates Incorporated: added missing box to inventory

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States