Herbert A. Fierst papers

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2006.8.1
  • 1996.A.0294
1 Jan 1922 - 31 Dec 2004
Level of Description
  • English
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium




Biographical History

Herbert A. Fierst (1914-2005) was born in New York City to Harry P. and Miriam Fierst. He traveled in Europe on a Harvard scholarship following college and spent some time in Nazi Germany before returning to the States to study law and join the army. He worked in the legal department of the Supreme Headquarters for the Allied Expeditionary Forces in London until he was recalled to the United States at the end of 1944 to serve in the Civil Affairs Division at the Pentagon. He became Special Assistant to General John H. Hilldring, Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas, in 1946 and worked on the issue of displaced persons through 1949. In 1946 he received an Army Commendation Ribbon from General Eisenhower and a Legion of Merit Award from General Hilldring.

Archival History

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Funding Note: The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Herbert Fierst donated a copy of his 1972 memoir A View of the Jewish Problem from the Pentagon and State Department, 1945-1948 to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1996. Edith Fierst donated the remainder of the Herbert Fierst papers, including a second copy of the memoir, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006. The accession formerly cataloged as 1996.A.0294 has been incorporated into this collection.

Scope and Content

The Herbert A. Fierst papers consist of biographical materials, displaced persons files, photographs, subject files, writings, speeches, and interviews primarily documenting Fierst’s work on displaced persons issues at the Pentagon and State Department in the 1940s and the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 signed by Harry S. Truman. The collection also includes a diary Herbert kept while traveling in Germany in 1935 and 1936, writings and speeches about Nazi Germany and postwar displaced persons issues, McCarthy‐era investigations into Fierst and his colleagues, and materials relating to Herbert’s family. Biographical materials include biographical statements and resumes documenting the careers of Herbert and Edith Fierst, a family history by Herbert’s mother, and records documenting Herbert’s time at Camp Modin and at Mount Vernon High School, the Fierst family’s trips to Palestine/Israel in 1927 and 1970 for Herbert’s Bar‐Mitzvah and later to volunteer on a kibbutz, and Herbert’s award of the Sheldon Prize Fellowship that allowed him to travel to Germany in the mid‐1930s. Displaced persons files consist of correspondence, reports, and clippings documenting the Pentagon’s and the State Department’s handling of issues regarding displaced persons in Europe following World War II. This series includes files on six of the seven advisers on Jewish affairs to the US military (Judge Simon Rifkind, Rabbi Philip Bernstein, Judge Louis E. Levinthal, William Haber, Harry Greenstein, and Abraham Hyman), governmental agencies and non‐governmental organizations also working with displaced persons, and the visa cases of Izak and Mania Kenig, family members of a friend of Herbert. Photographs depict Herbert Fierst visiting Palestine as a child, as a young man in the military, in government service at the Pentagon and at the State Department, and in the oval office during a bill signing by Harry S. Truman, presumably the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. This folder also includes a signed photograph of Chaim Weizman, a copy print of Herbert’s parents, and a photocopy of a photograph of a little boy. Subject files consist of materials related to loans and donations by Herbert to historical societies and museums; Nazi propaganda Herbert collected during the Nazi period; materials related to Chaim Weizman, President Truman, and David McCullough’s biography of Truman; a copy of David Bernard Sachar’s thesis about David K. Niles; a file on the United Nations; and Herbert’s answers to McCarthy and House Un‐American Activities Committee security charges. Materials include correspondence, transcripts, printed materials, and legal agreements. Writings, speeches, and interviews include a copy of the diary Herbert kept while traveling in Germany in 1935 and 1936; a transcript of an interview with Fierst about displaced persons broadcast on NBC in the 1940s; transcripts of oral history interviews with Herbert; and drafts and copies of Herbert’s book, A View of the Jewish Problem from the Pentagon and State Department, 1945‐1948, about his work with displaced persons issues in the 1940s, the effect of the Harrison report on his work, issues regarding border controls in the American occupied zones, and his work with Civil Affairs division Chief of State General John Hilldring at the State Department. The series also includes correspondence, programs, and drafts of speeches by Herbert related to various speaking engagements; the first page of a play Herbert wrote in high school; other writings by Herbert about Europe, Israel, and the American economy; and drafts of Herbert’s family history book, A Special Bond: True Story of an American Jewish Family in Times of Crisis, Drawn from the Letters and Diaries of Miriam Fierst, Harry P. Fierst, and Herbert A. Fierst. This series further includes an audiocassette recording of an interview in which Sam and Sophy Perlman discuss the childhood of Herbert’s father, Harry P. Fierst.

System of Arrangement

The Herbert A. Fierst papers are arranged as five series: I. Biographical materials, approximately 1922-1998, II. Displaced persons files, 1946-1996, III. Photographs, approximately 1927-1948, IV. Subject files, 1935-2004, V. Writings, speeches, and interviews, approximately 1930-2002

Conditions Governing Reproduction

Copyright Holder: Herbert A. Fierst


Corporate Bodies



This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.