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Hilfsfond records


Held at: German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library [Contact Us]611 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19123

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Hilfsfond, or Relief Fund, of Philadelphia, was a charity founded on 5 August 1914, about a week after the start of the First World War, with the aim of helping the widows and orphans of German and Austrian-Hungarian soldiers killed in the war. The meeting on that day was called by Joseph Schlenz and Ewald Grobel, and held at Deutsches Haus, at 1643 N. Broad Street. Charles J. Hexamer was elected as president; Ewald Grobel as secretary; and Herman Heyl as treasurer. The officers were all members of the German Society of Pennsylvania. The president, Charles Hexamer, was simultaneously president of the German Society, as well as president of the National German-American Alliance (NGAA). Hexamer, as well as John Tjarks, the chair of the NGAA, both gave speeches at the first meeting.

At the second meeting of the Hilfsfond, on 9 August 1914, Antonie Ehrlich was named as chairperson of a women's committee; the latter became known as the Frauen-Hilfsfond (see separate collection, the Frauen-Hilfsfond records). Ehrlich was at that time president of the Women's Auxiliary of the German Society of Pennsylvania, and many members of the Frauen-Hilfsfond also belonged to the Women's Auxiliary.

The most frequent venue for meetings of the Hilfsfond was the hall of the German Society of Pennsylvania, at 611 Spring Garden Street (at that time known as the northwest corner of Marshall and Spring Garden Streets). Another venue for meetings was the hall of the Deutsch-Römisch-Katholischer Volksfestverein, at 1213 Randolph Street, Philadelphia, where the Hilfsfond met steadily from November 1919 to January 1921.

In its early existence the Hilfsfond appears to have been a small group, but no exact membership numbers are reported in the minutes. In the course of time a membership committee was formed, responsible for recruiting new members, and regularly reported on the number of new applications and sometimes on total membership. In April 1917 the committee reports 41 new members in that month, for a total membership of 180. In June 1918 there were 252 members. In January 1920 the membership committee reports a total of 1270 members for the year 1919. In January 1922 the minutes record the intention to print 1000 membership cards for male members. However, in April 1922, the membership committee reports 43 new members for the past month, and a total of only 361 members.

By August 1916 the Hilfsfond had raised approximately $98,000, for civilian relief in Germany and Austria-Hungary. The following individuals and organizations received the money and were responsible for further channeling it to the appropriate relief efforts overseas: the Deutsche Hilfskasse National-Komitee, or National Relief Fund Committee, of the NGAA; the Philadelphia office of the Berlin Deutschwehr; the German Red Cross (Rotes Kreuz); and the Swiss and Austro-Hungarian consuls in Philadelphia. By far most of the money, more than $80,000, was given over to the relief fund (Hilfskasse) of the NGAA, through the chairperson John Tjarks, who was based in Baltimore, Md.

A small part of the total monies (about $8,700, or 8%) was collected under the rubric "Quarter Club" at the hall of the German Society, in 1915 to 1916. Members of the club apparently contributed a quarter per week to a collection box. The Quarter Club continued into the 1920s.

In summer to fall 1916, about $350 was given for the support of a physicians' expedition to Germany and Austria-Hungary. In December 1916, an additional $4,000 was given to the physicians' expedition.

A special collection was taken up at Christmas time 1916 for the benefit of German and Austrian prisoners of war in Siberia. Nearly $3,000 was collected, and through the mediation of the American Red Cross, a shipment of 15,000 pieces of warm clothing and blankets, together with other items such as soap, bandages, safety pins, buttons, and sewing needles, was sent overseas.

The Hilfsfond typically published reports of its activities, including donor lists in the newspaper Philadelphia Gazette.

In the spring of 1916 the Hilfsfond joined forces with the Philadelphia Deutschwehr, another charitable association with similar aims, in organizing a charity bazaar, which took place from 21 April to 1 May. In October 1916 a subcommittee of the Hilfsfond, including Pastor Georg von Bosse and F. W. Haussmann, met with a representative of the Deutschwehr, F. W. Liedtke. The subcommittee produced a report, read at the Hilfsfond meeting of 13 October, that recommended a merger of the two organizations. The proposed name for the merged society was the German-American Charity Association of Pennsylvania, a rubric which had already been used on the program of the 1916 bazaar. Another proposed name was the Allgemeiner Deutscher Hilfsausschüss. It is unclear whether any concrete steps toward a formal union of the two organizations were taken.

The program for the charity bazaar of 1916 includes two articles highlighting German-American history and identity. Although not explicitly stated, one of the concerns of the group appears to have been to promote a positive image of German Americans in the midst of negative ideas fostered by the war news and war propaganda. At the second meeting of the Hilfsfond, 9 August 1914, the minutes report that Charles Hexamer shared with the members that he was sending a sharply worded protest note to all the English newspapers in Philadelphia in order to put an end to "lying reports" (Lügenberichte).

After the entry of the United States into the war, in April 1917, the Hilfsfond concentrated its charitable efforts on German prisoners of war interned in the United States and Canada. In May 1917 a letter was sent to the mayor of Philadelphia, making a proposal that the Hilfsfond minister to unemployed German men in the city by providing meals, lodging, and travel expenses to jobs outside the city. The mayor responded with a letter saying that the proposal would be considered by the Home Defence Committee. Around the same time a legal committee was formed, to assist German men with legal advice, especially with respect to obtaining proper permits.

After the end of the war, the Hilfsfond devoted itself to humanitarian relief in Germany, with a special focus on helping children. The motto of the organization at this time was taken from a poem by Goethe: "Edel sei der Mensch, hilfreich und gut" (Noble be man, helpful and good"); the motto is used in the program for a bazaar held in 1920, and in January 1922 it appears on a design for a membership card made by Henry Hoffmann, presented at a Hilfsfond meeting in January 1922.

The first ship carrying relief shipments sponsored by the Hilfsfond sailed to Hamburg in August 1919. In January 1921, the board of directors of the Hilfsfond reported that, in view of the high costs of transport, it had made a decision to send all of its aid via the American Friends' Service Committee, which assumed the cost of transport, allowing the Hilfsfond to increase its contributions. The Hilfsfond also worked together with the AFSC to raise money for the benefit of German children, sometimes under the rubric United Relief Committee.

Surviving ephemera testify to at least three fundraising events in 1922. In January 1922 the Hilfsfond and other German-American relief organizations in Philadelphia joined together to sponsor a concert of children's choirs in the hall of the Turngemeinde, to raise money for a proposed new children's convalescent or recreational home (Kindererholungsheim) in Solling bei Dassel, in the district of Hanover. In June 1922, the Hilfsfond's Deutsche Pfingstfest, or Pentecost festival, in the Schuetzenpark, was organized to raise money for the feeding of children in Germany. Finally, the Hilfsfond participated in the planning of the German Day celebration that year, which took place on 6 October, in the Schuetzenpark, under the rubric Grand Autumn and Charity Festival, with the proceeds for the benefit of children in Germany.

The idea to organize festivities in honor of German Day was proposed at a meeting of the Hilfsfond in July 1922, with the suggestion being that the group work together with the German Society of Pennsylvania. This proposal was accepted by the German Society, and the event took place under the auspices of both organizations. The Hilfsfond apparently also participated in the planning of German Day festivities in 1923 and 1924. However, in a souvenir program that survives for German Day 1924 the celebration is described as taking place solely under the auspices of the German Society, and the Hilfsfond is not mentioned, athough the American Friends Service Committee is singled out for a special tribute as the leader in the relief efforts to feed children in Germany.

The extant minutes of the Hilfsfond end in April 1925, when a benefit concert was being planned, scheduled to take place on the 22nd of that month. Henry Hoffmann was president at that time. In 1927, Hoffmann kept records for a charitable event offered by the Philadelphia Committee of an organization known as Hilfswerk für die deutschen Kinder in den vom Deutschen Reich und Österreich abgetrennten Provinzen (later called, in English, Relief for German Children of the Lost Provinces of Germany and Austria; see separate collection, Ms. Coll. 29). Those records refer to German-American contributions to the Hilfswerk having begun three years prior. Possibly the Philadelphia Committee of the Hilfswerk was a successor organization to the present organization Hilfsfond.


Bazaar for the benefit of the widows, orphans and Red Cross of the Central Powers of Europe by the German-American Charity Association of Pennsylvania, under the auspices of the "Hilfsfond" and "Deutschwehr," Philadelphia, Pa., Convention Hall, April 24th-May 1st 1916. Philadelphia: Trades Union News Publishing Co., 1916. GAC pamphlet AE 2028

Bosse, Georg von. "Das Liebeswerk in Philadelphia," in: Grosses Wohltaetigkeits-Konzert, Philadelphia, 1922. Program published on the occasion of a benefit concert for the Kindererholungsheim im Solling bei Dassel. GAC pamphlet AE 2027

Deutscher Tag souvenir program : celebration of the 241st anniversary of the landing of the first German settlers in America, under the auspices of the German Society of Pennsylvania, founded December 26, 1764, 1924. GAC pamphlet AE 10.19

Heinrici, Max. "Das Hilfswerk Philadelphia." Jahrbuch der Deutschamerikaner für das Jahr 1918. Chicago: Verlag der German Yearbook Publishing Co., 1918. P. 251-261. GAC AZ 66

"Hilfsfond," in: Souvenir-Programm für den Wohltätigkeits-Basar zum Besten der notleidenden in Deutschland und Oesterreich-Ungarn. Philadelphia: Heymann Printing House, 1920. GAC pamphlet AE 2029

The records of the Hilfsfond include minute books from the founding of the organization in August 1914 until April 1925, with a separate volume of minutes kept by the executive committee in charge of a charitable bazaar held in spring 1916. Although the exact date of the Hilfsfond's dissolution is unknown, no evidence could be found of further activities after 1925, so that the minutes probably represent the complete record. The collection also includes treasurer's records from the term of the organization's first treasurer, Herman Heyl, who served from the founding until September 1916. These papers are almost completely intact and portray a detailed picture of the fundraising accomplished, the participants, and the donors, as well as the disbursements made. The records include not only the treasurer's typed reports but also the backup documentation, that is, the original collection lists and cover notes to the treasurer from the numerous individuals and organizations who sent in donations; that material gives an impression of the spectrum of German Americans who participated. For the period after 1916, some financial data is found in the minute books, but the collection does not contain all the detailed records of donors, as in the earlier period. The Hilfsfond apparently published reports of its activities in the newspaper on a regular basis, usually, its seems, in the Philadelphia Gazette, and one could search there for additional details about the group's activities after 1916. Frederick W. Haussmann took over as treasurer after Heyl, in December 1916, and served until around 1925. A scrapbook that Haussmann kept (cataloged as a separate collection) contains clippings that document the Hilfsfond's activities from June 1920 to June 1925; Haussmann's scrapbook is an invaluable supplement to the present records.

In addition to the minute books and treasurer's records, the collection also contains ephemera, including appeal letters used by the Hilfsfond in soliciting donations; and the program and as well as a souvenir from the charity bazaar held in 1916. Two clippings are also both from 1916. Additional programs related to events sponsored by the Hilfsfond are separately cataloged (see the references in the history note, above).

The treasurer's records of the Hilfsfond were the gift of Herman Heyl or his family.

Records kept by Herman Heyl related to the raising of funds for the celebration of German Day 1924 are being considered part of the German Society of Pennsylvania Records, since it appears that he served as the treasurer of the Executive Committee for German Day on behalf of the German Society, and not in any capacity related to the Hilfsfond. Heyl was treasurer of the German Society from 1915 to 1929.

German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Violet Lutz
Finding Aid Date
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from the Max Kade Foundation, as part of the grant project "Retrieval and Cataloging of the German-American Experience, 1918-1960."
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the German Society of Pennsylvania with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.

Collection Inventory

Minute book, 5 August 1914 – 28 October 1919. Bound volume, 152 p. Accompanied by one folder of items that had been laid or pinned in; among those are letters from Thomas B. Smith, mayor of Phladelphia, and the Nordöstlicher Sängerbund von Amerika. The recording secretaries were Ewald Grobel, 1914-1918; and C. A. Hausser, 1919, with Ewald Kalshoff substituting for Hausser at several meetings.
Box 1
Minute book, Charity Bazaar Executive Committee, 10 December 1915 – 19 January 1917. Bound volume, 118 p. Accompanied by one folder of items that had been laid in at back, including a list of the names and addresses of the heads of 42 subcommittees. Recording secretary was Ewald Grobel.
Box 1
Minute book, 4 November 1919 – 7 April 1925. Bound volume, 186 p. Accompanied by one folder of items that had been laid in. Recording secretary C. A. Hausser. Includes minutes of two meetings, in 1924, of a different organization, theater society (Theaterverein), also taken by Hausser.
Box 2

Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Konsulat (Philadelphia, Pa.). 2 items, 1915 November 27, December 3.
Folder 1
Deutschwehr Berlin. 1 item, 1915 November 18. Written by C. Ebert, Secretary.
Folder 2
Kolonialkriegerdank. 1 item, 1916 March 13. Written by Carl Boschartz, Secretary.
Folder 3
Longstrek [?], Mrs. Howard. 2 items, 1915 [?]. Chair of "German Committee"; letterhead "ADL.".
Folder 4
National German-American Alliance. 14 items, October 1915 - June 1916. Written by John Tjarks, Chair, located in Baltimore, Md.
Folder 5
Vuilleumier, Charles. Swiss consul, Philadelphia. 1 item, 1915 November 17. Addressed to the United Singers of Philadelphia (=Vereinigte Sänger von Philadelphia).
Folder 6
Miscellaneous notes of Herman Heyl related to contributions, August 1914, undated.
Folder 7
Scope and Contents note

The treasurer's lists are typed reports prepared by the treasurer, numbered 1 to 6, 6a, 7 to 75, with List 37 missing, and List 36 incomplete. The treasurer prepared a report, or "list," on average once a week, but with occasionally a lapse of up to twelve days, and in one instance an entire month. The reports itemize donations to the Hilfsfond (names of individual donors and amounts donated), grouped according to the individual or organization responsible for collecting a given series of donations. See Subseries II.D for the original collection lists that document the activities of the parties responsible for collecting. It should be noted that the 75 "lists" comprising the treasurer's reports represent the treasurer's own groupings, based on the order in which he received the donations, and compiled the data; the treasurer's list numbers are distinct from the numbers on the collection lists in subseries II.D.

The treasurer's summary report, at the end of this series (Folder 27) gives an overview of the individual reports, with list number, dates covered, and total amount; lists deposits held at banks; and reports on how and when the funds were disbursed.

Treasurer's lists 1 to 75.
Folder 8-26
Treasurer's summary report for lists 1-75.
Folder 27
Scope and Contents note

The collection lists (Sammellisten), and the other correspondence regarding contributions (without list number) included in this subseries, all comprise the original documentation that the treasurer, Herman Heyl, used in compiling his reports (see subseries II.C, above). The collection lists are numbered from 1 to 1402, with gaps. These numbers are handwritten on pre-printed forms that were given out to individuals and groups who were designated as authorized to collect funds on behalf of the Hilfsfond. These collection lists were, in turn, handed in to the treasurer, along with the monies collected. It should be noted that the treasurer's reports do not reference the collection list numbers but only the names of the collectors. For the most part, the collection lists are arranged simply by list number; however, sets of multiple lists that relate to a single organization or individual have been kept together and organized alphabetically by name. Also by name, at the end of this subseries, are lists and correspondence that record submission of donations to the treasurer but do not reference a collection list number.

Collection lists by number, 1 to 1402.
Folder 28-44
Central Verband und Orden der Veteranen und Krieger der Deutschen Armee, headquartered at John Kesel's Militärhalle, NE corner of 3rd and Buttonwood Streets, Philadelphia.
Folder 45
Distrikt-Committee (Brewerytown), chaired by John Ruegenberg.
Folder 46
Various German churches.
Folder 47
A to D.
Folder 48
F to K.
Folder 49
P to S.
Folder 50
T to W.
Folder 51
Various German churches.
Folder 52
Women's Auxiliary of the German Society of Pennsylvania.
Folder 53
Other correspondents, A to G.
Folder 54
Other correspondents, H to L.
Folder 55
Other correspondents, M to R.
Folder 56
Other correspondents, S to W.
Folder 57
Miscellaneous or unidentified correspondents.
Folder 58
Scope and Contents note

Treasurer's records related to a special fund created in December 1915 to January 1916, to provide warm clothing, blankets, and various other items to German and Austrian prisoners of war in Siberia.

Herman Heyl treasurer records. Bound volume, 31 pages. Caption title: 1915 Weihnachtsfond für die Kriegsgefanenen in Sibirien. Handwritten lists of individual donors and amounts, sometimes with addresses, and with some references to the collection list numbers (see Box 7). Accompanied by a folder of loose items that had been laid in or pinned in, including receipts for expenses and shipping receipts.
Box 6
Collection lists, 1 to 626.
Folder 59-66
Contributions correspondence with no collection list number.
Folder 67-68
Herman Heyl typed treasurer's reports. Includes four individual donor lists for the Fund for prisoners of war in Siberia, with names and amounts, and a summary report itemizing goods donated and expenses. (Box 8).
Folder 69
Quarter Club treasurer's reports, 1st to 3rd deposit, 1915 May 3 to 1916 August 29 (Box 8).
Folder 70-72
Scope and Contents note

The Quarter Club receipts form a part of total receipts of the Hilfsfond, documented in the Hilfsfond treasurer's reports, Subseries II.C. The records for each of the three deposits (Ablieferungen) include the treasurer's handwritten list of donations; his typed list; receipts for expenses; and the final report.

Fund for physicians' expedition to Germany and Austria Hungary, August 1916 (Box 8).
Folder 73
Scope and Contents note

Consists of bank receipts and signed acknowledgment from Hilfsfond president Louis H. Schmidt, for $350 raised. This contribution for the Physicians' expedition is reported in the Treasurer's summary report for the Hilfsfond (see Folder 27).

Scope and Contents note

This series includes programs and other ephemera related to events sponsored by the Hilfsfond, or in which it participated; appeal letters that were distributed to publicize the organization's activities; honorary membership certificate prototypes; clippings; and a few published brochures believed to have been collected by the Hilfsfond.

Ephemera, clipping, ca. 1914-1924. Includes appeal letters, fliers, a collection list form, a clipping, and a form letter to the Quarter Club membership. One item circa 1924 is a membership card for Henry Hoffmann, president of the Hilfsfond, signed by him, labeled: Expires January 1st 1925. The card bears a design similar to the one in prototypes designed by Hoffmann (see Box 9, Folder 81) but with the motto: "Der Heimat Not schaff ich Brot".
Folder 74
Souvenir program, Bazaar for the benefit of the widows and orphans and Red Cross of the Central Powers of Europe ... under the auspices of the "Hilfsfond" and "Deutschwehr", 1916.
Folder 75
Physical Description

Clipping about the above bazaar, Public Ledger, Philadelphia, 1916 April 25.
Folder 76
Ephemera related to the Hilfsfond's participation in relief efforts under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee, 1920-1923. 7 items. Includes letterhead and appeal letters under the following rubrics: United Relief Committee for Starving Women and Children of Central Europe (1920); $3,000,000 Campaign: German Child Feeding (1921-1922); Philadelphia Central Committee for the Relief of German and Austrian Children (1923).
Folder 77
Publication: Work of the American Red Cross: report by the War Council of appropriations and activities from the outbreak of War to November 1, 1917 (Washington, D.C., 1917).
Folder 78
Publication: World shipping data: report on European mission, by Edward N. Hurley (Washington, D.C., 1919).
Folder 79

Ephemera, 1915-1916, 1922. Includes: German Dramatic Performance for the Benefit of The German and Austrian Red Cross and the German Local Relief Fund, Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 1915 January 14; Program, Deutsches Pfingstfest ... zum Besten der Drei Millionen Dollar-Sammlung für die Deutsche Kinderspeisung, Philadelphia, 1922 June 5; clipping: Philadelphia Gazette, 1916 January 31 ("Kaiser's Dank"; "Für Sibirien"); and newsletter of the German Red Cross, Blätter des Deutschen Roten Kreuzes, ca. Jan. 1922 ("Wiederaufbauarbeit an Kindern").
Folder 80
Hilfsfond honorary membership certificate (blank), ca. Jan. 1922. Designed by Henry Hoffmann. Illustrated (angel with children, ocean, ship), with motto: Edel sei der Mensch, hilfreich und gut; and poem by Lotta L. Leser. See Box 8, Folder 74, for a card-size version of the membership card circa 1924, with a similar design but different motto.
Folder 81
Hilfsfond honorary membership certificate (blank), mounted, ca. Jan. 1922. Same design as the certificate above.
Folder 82

Souvenir, Philadelphia Bazaar, 1916. Plaque (9-1/4 x 7-3/4") with sculptural relief of liberty bell and green branches, painted gold and green; with lettering: Gruesse Sammlung gewidmet dem Koeniglichen Museum, Berlin, Philadelphia Bazar, 1916.

Prospectus for Berliner Tageblatt foreign edition ( Wochen-Ausgabe für Ausland and Uebersee), October 1920; unidentified item: printed copy of handwritten tables (numbered I and II) giving data about German relief organizations abroad, in the United States and Europe, undated.
Box GAC Oversize Box 2

Print, Suggest