Margaret Mynatt and Yvonne Kapp Papers

Scope and Content

Papers of Margaret Mynatt and Yvonne Kapp, comprising:

articles, mainly by or about Bertolt Brecht (1952-1982), with associated correspondence; Margaret Mynatt's correspondence with Walter Benjamin [photocopies]; Yvonne Kapp's correspondence with Helene Brecht-Weigel and the Bertolt Brecht Archiv, Berlin; correspondence of Mynatt and Kapp with Phyllis Rosner, Elisabeth Hauptmann and Ilse Warnber [sister of Elisabeth Hauptmann].

Papers of Yvonne Kapp, including minutes and papers of the Czech Refugee Trust Fund, [1938-1940]; correspondence, including letters written under the pseudonym Yvonne Cloud (1939-1941); hand-written copies of poems on the Communist Party; refugee papers selected by Dr Charmian Brinson (1997); 3 volumes of press cuttings on the 'Internment Crisis', (July-September 1940); obituaries of Kapp from The Independent, The Times and The Guardian, (1999).

Papers of Margaret Mynatt includes copies of Mynatt’s letters from London to Walter Benjamin in Paris dating from the mid-1930s; correspondence with Emmy Koenen; obituary of Wilhelm Koenen (1963); correspondence and papers on the death of Elisabeth Hauptmann (1973); photographs of Elisabeth Hauptmann; papers relating to Mynatt's father, John Charles Mynatt (Giovanni Minotti) (1903-1966); photographs of Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel, and personal photographs of well-known actresses at the time, Carole Neher and Roma Bahn; theatre and concert programmes from the Berliner Ensemble, (1955-1967), and for productions of Brecht's works in London, (1963-1989).

Administrative / Biographical History

Yvonne Kapp was born Yvonne Mayer in 1903 into an affluent German-Jewish family in Londond and was educated at King's College London. She married the artist, Edmond Kapp in 1922, and joined Communist Party of Great Britain in 1936, following a visit to the Soviet Union. After working with Basque and Jewish refugees in 1937-1938, she was appointed Assistant to the director of the British Committee to Refugees from Czechoslovakia, which shortly afterwards (in 1939) became the Czech Refugee Trust Fund. She was dismissed from her post by the Home Office in 1940 because of allegations that she was a member of the Communist Party, though she denied this at the time; following her dismissal, she wrote, together with her friend and former colleague at the Trust Fund, Margaret Mynatt, the pamphlet British Policy and the Refugees, but no publisher could be found for it until 1997. Kapp worked as Research Officer for the Amalgamated Engineering Union from 1941-1946 and for the Medical Research Council between 1947 and 1953, undertaking field work in the East End of London. She was an editor and translator for Lawrence and Wishart (publishers) between 1953 and 1957 and also published four novels under the pseudonym Yvonne Cloud, including Nobody Asked You in 1932 and The Houses in Between in 1938. Her biography of Eleanor Marx (2 vols 1972, 1976) was hailed as a masterpiece by historian Eric Hobsbawn. She died in 1999.

Margaret Mynatt was born in Vienna in 1907, the daughter of a British musician, John Charles Mynatt (who was known professionally as Giovanni Carlo Minotti). She grew up in poverty and moved in 1929 to Berlin, where she joined the Communist Party. She worked as a journalist for a number of Communist newspapers and joined the circle around Bertolt Brecht. She was a close friend of the writer Elisabeth Hauptmann and assisted in the creation of 'St Joan of the Stockyards' and other plays. Mynatt left Germany in 1933 following the Reichstag fire, fleeing first to Prague, then to Paris and and finally settling in London. She worked for the Relief Committee for the Victims of German Fascism in 1938 before becoming Head of Tribunals for the Czech Refugee Trust Fund, where she met Yvonne Kapp, who became her life-long partner. She was dismissed (with Yvonne Kapp) by the Foreign Office in 1940 due to their (then alleged) membership of the Communist Party. They subsequently wrote the pamphlet British Policy and the Refugees, but no publishers would accept it and it was only published in 1997. Mynatt stayed in the UK after the war, making her career in journalism and publishing. She was Head of Reuters Soviet Monitor, 1951-1951; Manager of Central Books, 1951-1966 and a director of the publishers Lawrence and Wishart, 1966-1977. At the time of her death in February 1977 she was editor-in-chief of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels. Her funeral oration was given by the historian Eric Hobsbawm.


The records in this archive have been ordered into the following series: MYK 1: Joint correspondence of Yvonne Kapp and Margaret Mynatt (with and concerning Walter Benjamin, Elisabeth Hauptmann, Helen Brecht-Weigel and Phylis Rosner); MYK 2: Papers of Margaret Mynatt; MYK 3: Papers of Yvonne Kapp; MYK 4: Photographic material; MYK 5: Translations of works by Bertolt Brecht and related records; MYK 6: Talks, articles and other material on Bertolt Brecht and his work; MYK 7: Publications containing work by Bertolt Brecht; MYK 8: Theatre and concert programmes.

Access Information

Open. At least 48 hours' notice is required for research visits.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Betty Lewis, 2000.


This archive forms one of the Exile Studies collections acquired through the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies at the Institute for Modern Languages Research.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued online (click on the "contains" icon below). A pdf copy is attached to this description.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Special Collections Reading Room staff, who will need a minimum of 48 hours to process requests. Some of the material in this collection is still in copyright; responsibility for gaining permission to use such material rests with the user.

Appraisal Information

Copies of 'Arbeitskreis Bertolt Brecht: Mitteilungen and Diskussionen' (Nr. 18; 20; 21; 26; 27; 28; 29; 30) dated 1964-1965, and an offprint of an article by John Willett, 'Die Kuenste in der Emigration', from G. Hirschfeld, Exil in Grossbritannien: zur Emigration aus dem nationalsozialistischen Deutschland (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1983), have been transferred to the Germanic Studies Library.

Duplicate photocopies of a letter from Yvonne Kapp to Malcolm Delevingne dated 7 March 1941 (see MYK 3/1/100) and of the following three published articles have been destroyed: Charmian Brinson and Marian Malet, 'Rudolf Olden in England', in 'Zwischenwelt 4: Literatur und Kultur des Exiles in Grossbritannien', ed. by Siglinde Bolbecher and others (Vienna: Theodor Kramer Gesellschaft, 1995), previously in MYK/box2/9; Charmian Brinson and Marian Malet, 'Rudolf Olden: Alerting the English', in 'Between Two Languages: German-speaking Exiles in Great Britain', ed. by William Abbey and others (Stuttgart: Verlag Hans-Dieter Heinz, 1995), previously in MYK/box2/8; and Paul Weindling, 'The Contribution of Central European Jews to Medical Science and Practice in Britain, the 1930s-1950s', in 'Second Chance: two centuries of German-speaking Jews in the United Kingdom', ed. by Werner E. Mosse (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1991), previously in MYK/box2/6.

Related Material

The Trades Union Congress Library at the University of North London holds papers of Yvonne Kapp, relating to her work for the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU), 1941-1946. Some other correspondence and papers of Kapp are held at the Women's Library, London.