Richard Weilheimer papers

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2007.336.1
1 Jan 1908 - 31 Dec 1998
Level of Description
  • German
  • French
  • English
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium


oversize boxes

book enclosure





Biographical History

Richard Weilheimer was born November 21, 1931 in Ludwigshafen, Germany. His parents, Maximilian (Max) Weilheimer (who was secretary of the Jewish Community) and Lilly Wetzler Weilheimer (a former kindergarten teacher and accomplished violinist) married in 1930. Their youngest son Ernst was born in Mannheim on December 11, 1935. Max and Lilly both came from large families. The family was considered upper middle class and active in the Jewish community. They observed Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. When the German schools were closed to Jewish students, Richard attended the Jewish school, where his maternal uncle Edgar taught. Richard was also home schooled by his grandfather Salomon Wetzler. The evening of Kristallnacht, the Weilheimers were woken by loud noises. A group of thugs entered the courtyard of their building, and then their apartment. They arrested Max, who was sent to the Dachau concentration camp the next day. Lilly took Richard and Ernst to the nearby apartment of Max’s brothers Sigmund and Ludwig, only to discover that they too had been arrested. She then headed to the synagogue where her father was the Cantor, and they found it up in flames. They then returned to their apartment and discovered it had been looted. They took some clothing and went to Lilly’s parent’s apartment. Salomon too had been arrested and sent to Dachau. The Wetzler’s neighbor, a Catholic woman, took in Lilly and the boys and hid them in her attic, providing them with food as well as shelter. A week later, Salomon returned home, and Lilly felt it was safe for them to come out of hiding. Five weeks later, Max returned home as well, having been released in part for his service in the German Army during WWI. After the British and French declared war on Germany, Allied bombers frequently targeted Ludwigshafen, due to its industrial production for the German war effort. The family would seek refuge in the cellar during the bombings, but were restricted to a steel cage that was used for storage and designated for Jews only. During one bombing raid, the family was locked in the cage for three days. On October 22, 1940, the family was rounded up with the other Jews living in Ludwigshafen, each being able to take just one suitcase. Salomon stayed behind, because he was in the hospital with bladder cancer, however Lilly’s mother went with them. They were first taken to Mannheim, where they were reunited with other extended family members. After a three day train ride, they arrived in Vichy France, where they were met by members of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC or Quakers), who provided them with food and water. The Weilheimers and others were then taken to Camp de Gurs. Conditions in the camp were poor, and Lilly wrote to her siblings in the United States, continuing their attempts to get visas to join them in the U.S. The Quakers in Toulouse sent social workers to the camp and provided the internees with food and warm clothing. The Quakers made arrangements in conjunction with OSE to transfer 50 children from the camp and send them to an orphanage in Aspet. Lilly was sick, and conditions in the camp were poor, so Lilly and Max lobbied for their children to be placed on the list. Eventually 48 children, including Richard and Ernst, were sent to La Maison des Pupilles. It was the last time that any of the children would see their parents. Upon arrival at the orphanage, the children were quarantined for 30 days. Due to language barriers between the German Jewish children and French administration of the orphanage, the Quakers sent Alice Resch to be their translator and advocate. 9½ year old Richard was assigned the responsibility of being shepherd to the orphanage’s flock of sheep. The children were in contact with their parents, via letters and packages. They attended school, and even had Jewish teachers from neighboring villages who led religious classes and conducted Friday night Shabbat services.

Archival History

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Richard Weilheimer

Richard Weilheimer donated the Richard Weilheimer papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007.

Scope and Content

The Richard Weilheimer papers include biographical materials, correspondence, a watercolor booklet hand-made in Gurs, and photographic materials documenting the Weilheimer, Wetzler, and Stern families from Ludwigshafen and Mannheim, Germany. Documents reflect the families’ prewar lives in Germany, their deportation to the Gurs concentration camp in southern France in 1940, Richard and Ernst Weilheimer’s relocation to a children’s home and immigration to the United States in 1942, Kurt and Nelly Stern’s earlier immigration to the United States in 1937, and the memorialization of their family members killed in the Holocaust. Biographical materials include identification papers and birth, vaccination, marriage, registration, and death certificates documenting the Weilheimer family as well as memorials and funeral speeches created upon Lilly’s death at Gurs. Some of the documents are accompanied by notes or labels created by Richard Weilheimer. Correspondence primarily consists of letters and postcards exchanged among Weilheimer, Wetzler, and Stern family members and their friends. Early correspondence documents Kurt and Nelly Stern’s courtship and marriage in Germany. Wartime correspondence documents life in Germany, southern France, and the internment camps at Gurs, Les Milles, and Recebedou. Alice Resch Synnestedt’s 1997 and 1998 letters retrace her memories of the German children in Aspet. The handmade watercolor booklet was created by Eva Liebhold (1921-1942). Eva was born September 12, 1921 in Mannheim to Michael and Fanny Liebhold. She was evacuated with her family to Gurs in October 1940, deported via Drancy to Auschwitz in August 1942, and killed. Her booklet depicts scenes of daily life in the camp at Gurs. Photographic materials include loose family photographs; copy prints of liberated concentration camp prisoners; a baby book containing photographs of Richard Weilheimer and information about his childhood; a Weilheimer family album containing prewar pictures of the family; and a Weilheimer, Wetzler, and Stern memorial album containing family photographs, original wartime tracing documents, and memorials to lost family members. Many of the loose family photographs are accompanied by captions created by Richard Weilheimer.

System of Arrangement

The Richard Weilheimer papers are arranged in four series: Series 1: Biographical materials, 1908-1942 Series 2: Correspondence, 1931-1998 (bulk 1931-1942) Series 3: Handmade watercolor booklet, circa 1940 Series 4: Photographic materials, circa 1910-1980


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.