The Philipp Manes Collection
The Philipp Manes Collection of documents and writings provides valuable insight into the artistic and intellectual endeavours of internees held in the Theresienstadt Ghetto, revealing a determination to continue as robust a cultural life as possible in the face of lethal threat and constant persecution.
Philipp Manes (1875-1944) belonged to an assimilated German Jewish family, and was a prolific writer with a lifelong habit of keeping records of his experiences. Having dissolved his furrier business in the aftermath of the November Pogrom in 1938, Manes and his wife Gertrud were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in July 1942. Conditions and facilities in the ghetto, while undeniably dismal, were marginally better than those in the camps. This allowed a cultural life to develop. Manes would become an integral part of this community.
Shortly after arrival, Manes took charge of the Theresienstadt’s ‘Orientation Service,’ designed to help acclimatise bewildered new arrivals. The service soon broadened its original remit, and grew to include the so-called ‘Manes Group,’ which curated a lecture series of what turned out to be over 500 events. As well as lectures from prominent internee-scholars, there were also musical events, and readings from theatrical works. In addition to this, Manes also maintained his habit of keeping reflective records. This writing came to include nine notebooks and includes descriptions of daily life and interviews with prominent figures in the ghetto, interspersed with accounts of transports leaving for Auschwitz. These notebooks are held in our collections, along with three notebooks filled with poems, letters, and drawings by Manes’ co-internees, paying tribute to him and the cultural events he organised.
The final notebook breaks off mid sentence. On October 28, 1944, Philipp and Gertrud Manes were sent to Auschwitz in one of the last transports to leave Theresienstadt. However, his richly detailed account of life in the Theresienstadt ghetto survived the war and was sent to his daughter Eva, who eventually deposited it in The Wiener Library in 1995. An English language translation of Manes' writings, 'As if it were Life', was published in 2009.