Gertrude Weaver Refugee Correspondence
Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. 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
Gertrude Weaver graduated from Swarthmore College in 1938 with degrees in German and History. She spent her junior year (1936-1937) in Munich and earned a Masters' degree in teaching from Columbia University in 1939. She then began teaching German at Chester High School, Delaware Co., Pa., where she and her students sent relief packages to families in Western Europe struggling to survive in impoverished post-World War II Europe. In addition to her career at Chester High School, Weaver also worked in the Newark School District, at Penn State College, and the Shandong College of Oceanography in China. She took additional classes at the University of Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania. Weaver was killed in a car accident in 1998.
For more information on the Bergas family, see Fighting Fascism And Surviving Buchenwald: The Life and Memoir of Hans Bergas by Bension Varon (2015).
This collection contains Weaver's correspondence with the recipients of her post WWII aid, as well as records of the logistics (sending receipts, package contents) of the operation. The majority of the correspondence follows the Bergas, a family of German refugees living in Montauban, France. Hans Bergas resisted the Nazis during their rise to power, and for his political activism was imprisoned and later sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. Though he was eventually liberated and reunited with his family, he remained an invalid as a result of brutal conditions and torture. Because he was bedridden, Bergas had ample time to correspond with Weaver and her students. He wrote an extensive account of his resistance to fascism and his experience in Buchenwald which he sent to Chester High School in segments. Weaver eventually attempted to have Hans Bergas' memoir published in Readers' Digest Magazine, but it was rejected. For a while, Weaver reportedly used this memoir in the place of textbooks in her classes.
Weaver developed strong and lasting relationships with the families to whom she sent aid, often corresponding with them during school vacations and holidays, demonstrating that for her it was more than a class project. She made an effort to find other families in need of aid, taking suggestions from those she was in contact with for other families in need, and either corresponded with them directly or put them in contact with another Americans or groups of Americans interested in relief work. In addition to her Bergas correspondence, this collection contains lengthy correspondence with the Kluth, Kühn, and Rollinger families.
The collection is organized into the following series as received:
- Gertrude Weaver's Correspondence and Log of Mailings
- Memoir and Correspondence from Hans Bergas and his Family
- Other Correspondence
This collection was originally given to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection by Anna Janney DeArmond and was delivered by John Beer in 1999; Gertrude Weaver lived for many years with Anna Janney DeArmond, Class of 1932, and then at the Cokesbury Retirement Community. The collection was transferred to the Swarthmore College Archives in 1999. It is related to the SCPC DG45 Wilhelm Sollman papers.
Accession number: SCA 1999.014.
When transferred to Friends Historical Library, some letters and records were loose in folders and others had been placed into display binders (probably by Weaver). The papers that were loose have been organized by family and placed in chronological order. The non-archival binders were dismantled with the exception of a small binder containing correspondence and photographs of the Luxemburg families which has been preserved as compiled by Weaver; the folders preserve Weaver's methods of classification. Some of the letters have been translated into English, and some have been transcribed. There are many more letters from the recipients than copies of the letters Weaver sent overseas.
- Buchenwald (Concentration Camp) -- History
- World War, 1939-1945 -- France
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, French
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, German
- Concentration camp inmates -- Biography
- Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
- Finding Aid Author
- FHL staff
- Finding Aid Date
- Use Restrictions
Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Friends Historical Library 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 by the reader.
Some English, some German. To Kluth family, Bergas family, and Eddie Ginsburg.Physical Description
In original order. Includes contents of packages, dates sent (usually), sending receipts, and cost of products.Physical Description
Letters from the Bergas family, German refugees living in Montauban, France. All are originals, in German or French; some are translated.Physical Description
All originals, not translated.Physical Description
Removed from binder.Physical Description
Incomplete sections, typed in German and English.Physical Description
Complete memoir, typed in English with corrections written in in pen. Includes hand-drawn map, labeled in English.Physical Description
Hand-written in German.Physical Description
Hand-copied. On large piece of cardboard, labeled in English.Physical Description
Only record of correspondence with this person, two letters. One letter in German, one partially in English, partially in German.Physical Description
All originals, not translated.Physical Description
Binder of correspondence with Kühn and Rollinger families. Kept in original binder, in original order. Originals and some translationsPhysical Description
Two letters. Originals, in German.Physical Description
Includes copies of French government documents (in French), a letter from Hans Bergas to Genosse Sollman, newspaper clipping about Weaver's packages, and guidelines for sending packages by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.Physical Description