Documents relating to Bernhard Weiss

Scope and Content

This collection consists of material relating to Bernhard Weiss, a German Jewish lawyer and former Chief of the Berlin Criminal Police and Vice President of the Berlin police during the Weimar Republic. Included are correspondence relating to the filming of two German documentary tv programmes, press cuttings and articles relating to Bernhard Weiss. Also included are application form of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), his biography written by his daughter Hilde Horton, and some post-war copy correspondence addressed to Bernhard Weiss.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bernhard Weiss (1880-1951) was born in Berlin as the son of a wholesale grain merchant. He grew up in a well-to-do liberal Jewish family. His mother died in 1892 aged 33. Bernhard had five siblings, two of whom died before Hitler came to power. His younger brothers escaped the Holocaust. Adolf emigrated to America and Franz and Conrad emigrated to China.

Bernhard Weiss studied law at Berlin, Munich, Freiburg and Wuerzburg and became a successful lawyer and judge in Berlin. He served in the Bavarian Medical Company during the First World War and received the Iron Cross. Weiss was a board member of the reform rabbinical seminary in Berlin and a member of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger Jüdischen Glaubens. In 1918 Weiss was appointed Deputy Chief of the Berlin Criminal Police (Kriminalpolizei Berlin) and became its head in 1925. He was appointed Vice President of the entire Berlin police force in 1927 fighting crime from opponents of the system including the Nazi party. Whilst in office, Weiss was the target of a constant campaign of vilification organised by Joseph Goebbels. Following the 'Prussian Coup' in 1932, Bernhard Weiss was dismissed from office. Shortly after Hitler came to power in January 1933, the SA broke into the home of Bernhard Weiss but the family was warned. Their daughter, Hilde, was sent to Hamburg to her mother's relatives. Weiss and his wife fled to Prague with the help of the Jewish Congregation in Berlin. At the end of 1933, he received a letter from Mrs H Franklin, sister of Hon Lily Montague, inviting his family to stay with her in London.

Unable to practice law in England he started working for a printing company in 1935. In September 1939 he was arrested and interned at Butlins Holiday Camp in Clacton but released after two months. His wife was in Nice, France, when war broke out. Unable to return to England she went to New York where she stayed during the war.

In 1946 Weiss developed cancer which delayed his much requested visit to Berlin. He was offered a post as Advisor on police matters by the Mayor of Berlin, Ernst Reuter. He finally visited Berlin in 1949 and was warmly welcomed by former colleagues, friends and the media. He regained his German citizenship and died shortly after in London in 1951.



Conditions Governing Access

See Wiener Library access conditions at:

Acquisition Information

Donated by Hilde Horton



Related Material

See also Photo Archive (2008/26) and Video Archive (Weiss contra Goebbels). Also: Dietz Behring, 'Kampf um Namen: Bernhard Weiss gegen Joseph Goebbels' (X4a(2) Ber); Joachim Rott, 'Bernhard Weiss: 1880 Berlin - 1951 London: Polizeivizepräsident in Berlin: preussischer Jude, kämpferischer Demokrat' (S3b Rot)

Geographical Names