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Leo W. and Ruth Newman Schwarz papers

Identifier: RG99.0173

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Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection are the personal papers of Leo W. Schwarz, who, as Director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in 1946-1947, oversaw the rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced persons following World War II. Schwarz later held the position of Visiting Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Iowa's School of Religion.

The largest grouping of materials in the collection relates to Schwarz's own writings and the several anthologies he edited. This series is further divided into work that is substantially original to Schwarz and collected research/contributions from other authors. The former includes draft and final manuscripts, manuscripts edits, notes, book chapters, interview transcripts, book ideas, and publication records. The latter includes primarily short stories and anthology contributions from other named authors.

The collection also includes documents pertaining to Schwarz's academic work, both as a student and as a professor, lecturer, and presenter. These documents take the form of syllabi, reading lists, course schedules, assignments, presentations, transcripts of lectures given, class ntoes, and a draft of Schwarz's dissertation.

Of particular note are the records dealing with Schwarz's time as Director of the JDC. While not as extensive as other series in this collection, these materials will be of interest to scholars of the Jewish diaspora and the history of displaced persons in the aftermath of World War II. They includ eoperational records, correspondence, maps, receipts, trail records, newspaper and other periodical clippings, and government reports.

Subjects include a projected biography of Harry A. Wolfson, a Harvard professor; Jewish displaced persons in Germany; Jewish studies; Jewish youth in South Africa; the relationship of psychiatry and religion; Ruth N. Schwarz's work with Jewish children in France at the end of World War II; teaching at the University of Iowa and elsewhere; and World War II military service at Etampes, France.

Collection materials include the Congress Bi-Weekly, Menorah Journal, Unzer Weg, and other periodicals. Correspondents include Ralph Marcus, Cecil Roth, Ruth N. Schwarz, and Harry A. Wolfson.


  • Creation: 1921 - 1972

Biographical / Historical

Leo Walder Schwarz was born in New York City in 1906. He distinguished himself as a high school athlete and winner of the Gold Medal for Excellence in History and Literature at Twonsend Harris Hall. He attended Harvard University, where he specialized in Classical and Semitic Literatures and Religious Philosophy. Among his mentors was Professor Harry A. Wolfson, about whom Schwarz would later write a biography (Wolfson of Harvard, published posthumously in 1978). While still a student, Schwarz edited the Avukah Annual and Young Judean magazines.

Schwarz first received national attention for the publication, in 1935, of the Jewish Caravan. This collection of stories would become a classic of Jewish literature and be reprinted 15 times during Schwarz's lifetime. He was also the editor of Equality magazine and the Menorah Journal. In all, Schwarz would publish 14 books, collections, and anthologies.

During World War II, Schwarz served in Patton's 3rd Army, where he recieved a battlefield commission in the Normandy campaign. Following the war, he was named director of the American Jewish Joint Distrubution Committee (JDC), which was tasked with the resettlement and repatriation of displaced persons. From 1946 to 1947, Schwarz transformed the JDC from providing basic necessities of life to assisting displaced Jews with emigration, rehabilitation, and psychological counseling. He wrote three books about this period, The Root and the Bough (1949), The Redeemers (1953), and Refugees in Germany Today (1953).

Schwarz traveled widely, aiding the (New York-based) American Friends of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and serving as a liasion between American universities and that institution from 1948 to 1949. Having long supported student and Zionist groups in South Africa, Schwarz traveled there in 1960 to teach for a year at the University of Stellenbosch. From 1960-1962 and again from 1965-1966, Schwarz was a Visiting Professor of Judaic Studies at The University of Iowa's School of Religion. He was appointed Professor of Religion at Carleeton College for the 1966-1967 school year.

Schwarz recieved Hadassah's Myrtle Wreath Achievement Award in 1967. He died shortly thereafter, on December 1st, 1967, following a prolonged illness, at Veterans Hospital in New York. His funeral was held on December 4th.

Schwarz was survived by his wife of many years, Ruth Newman Schwarz. She was a partner in many of her husband's post-war activities and arranged for the donation of this collection to The University of Iowa following his death. Ruth Schwarz died in 1989.

In addition to the works mentioned above, Schwarz wrote or edited Three Translations (1933), Zionism and Palestine (1934), A Golden Treasury of Jewish Literature (1937), Memoirs of My People (1943), Great Ages and Ideas of the Jewish People, Feast of Leviathan (1956), Psychiatry and Religious Experience (1958), The Menorah Treasury (1964), and Human Values in Jewish Literature (1965). In addtion to these, he authored more than 150 papers, articles, and reviews. he died while working on the first volume of a one-man translation of the Hebrew Bible.


19.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials






Processing Information

U Unprocessed

  • Jewelry receipt for Ruth Schwarz - undated.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2017 May: Notes written by Christopher Taylor.
  • 2024 February: Finding aid written by Rachel Poppen.
  • 2024 April: Collection title changed from "Leo W. Schwarz papers" to "Leo W. and Ruth Newman Schwarz papers"

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242