Alice, Leonie and Mieze:

Three Women's Biographies between Bohemianism and Exile

Project duration: 01/02/2022 - 31/12/2022

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Sabine Toppe

Project staff: Filiz Gisa Çakır

Since there is no legacy from Alice Salomon herself, the donations from the descendants of our namesake, the ASA (Alice Salomon Archive) received in May 2021, are particularly exciting. The family legacy includes letters, photos, manuscripts and diaries with a focus on the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century. The picture of Solomon's close relatives emerging from the documents is a complex one. In addition, the estate not only provides a glimpse into Berlin's Bohemian community and lifestyle in the first third of the 20th century, but also documents the National Socialist seizure of power from the perspective of family members: murders, expulsion from Germany, life in exile as well as activities in the resistance.

In our project, we will initially focus on three key documents in the new collection:

1. The diaries of Leonie Hepner, m. Cahn comprise eight volumes, written in the years 1913-1920. The young woman's records recount her Berlin years, during which she briefly worked at Solomon's Social Women's School and then devoted herself to vocal studies. Her Berlin contacts included such figures as the artist Jussuf Abbo, the violinist Bronislaw Huberman, and the soprano singer Adelheit Armhold. After marrying a Swiss, she moved to Zurich in 1924 and later to London.

2. Maria Hepner's autobiography "Memoirs of a 90-year-old", which she wrote in the mid-1980s, documents her life, including her time in Berlin, when she was active in Solomon's Women's School, as was her sister. After studying with the graphologists Ludwig Klages, Max Pulver and Robert Saudek, she established her own graphological institute in Berlin - still renowned today as the developer of the "Hepner Writing Test" for children. In 1933, Hepner fled from the Gestapo to her sister Leonie in Switzerland, with whom she lived in Zurich and later in London until the end of her life.

3. Felix Hepner's family history provides extensive contextual material on family relationships. It provides information about the family, places of residence, professions, and possessions. It also contains numerous photographs, including previously unknown shots of Alice Salomon in the circle of her relatives.

Leonie and Mieze have an important role in the compilation and preservation of this extraordinary family collection, which the two brought from Germany to Switzerland and from there to London, where it was kept in the family's possession until it was handed over to the archive.

After digitizing these key documents, selected passages will be transcribed and translated into English. In this way, they will not only be viewable and explorable regardless of time and place, but also across language barriers.

Funding: Stiftung Preußische Seehandlung

Keywords: women's biographies, diaries, key documents, Hapner, Alice Salomon.

Project website