Alfred G. Meyer Papers: circa 1860-1998 (bulk 1930s-1970s)
Summary Information
Title: Alfred G. Meyer Papers
Creator: Meyer, Alfred G.
Inclusive dates: circa 1860-1998
Bulk dates: 1930s-1970s
Extent: 3 linear feet
Abstract:
Professor of political science at Michigan State University and at the University of Michigan; director of the U-M Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies; specialist in communist ideology and the Soviet political system. The collection is composed of four series. The personal series consists of biographical information including autobiography detailing flight of his family from Nazi Germany, his education, and his academic career; the series also contains files relating to his education and to the history of his family; including extensive family correspondence, partially in German, primarily in the period of 1924-1945. The other, smaller, series in the collection pertain to his career and to his writings.
Call number: 0049 Aa 2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid prepared by: Riva Pollard, 2000 Michelle Sweetser, 2002

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was the gift of Stefan Meyer and was accessioned in August 1999 and May 2002. Donor No. 8864.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see: http://bentley.umich.edu/research/duplication/.

Copyright:

Copyright restrictions apply to all unpublished writings. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., Alfred G. Meyer Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Biography

Alfred George Meyer was born on February 5, 1920, in Bielefeld, Germany, the second of three sons born to parents Gustav and Therese (Melchior) Meyer. After a thwarted attempt by his parents to leave Nazi Germany in 1937, Meyer in 1939 escaped from Bielefeld to the United States, days before the start of World War II. Earlier that year his younger brother Hajo had gained passage to the Netherlands with a transport of Jewish children, and his older brother Rolf had gone to Manchester, England as an indentured laborer. Alfred was sent to live with friends of the family in Santa Ana, California, where he worked as a stenographer until joining the United States Army in 1941. Meyer's parents remained in Bielefeld, and were ultimately killed at Auschwitz. Meyer served with the United States Army from 1941 to 1945, fighting overseas in Germany with the 29th Infantry Division and eventually serving in the intelligence division as a prisoner-of-war interrogation officer, for which he received a Bronze Star Medal. In 1944 Meyer was sent by the Army to Harvard University to complete a study of Russian; after the war he returned to Harvard, receiving an AM in Slavic Languages and Literature in 1946 and a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1950.

Meyer began what was to become a long and distinguished career in teaching and scholarship as a teaching fellow in Government at Harvard, 1949-1950. He subsequently served as a research fellow at Harvard's Russian Research Center, 1950-1953, where he was assistant to the director, 1951-1952, and assistant director, 1952-1953. He then joined the faculty of the University of Washington as an acting assistant professor, 1953-1955, and subsequently became director of the research program on the history of the Communist party at Columbia University, 1955-1957. From there Meyer went to Michigan State University, where he joined the Political Science department as an associate professor, 1957-1960, and professor, 1960-1966. In 1966 he came to the University of Michigan, where as a professor of political science he taught courses in political theory, European intellectual history, communist ideology, and Soviet affairs. He was director of the University's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, 1969-1972, and associate director from 1983 until his retirement in 1990.

Meyer published extensively throughout his career, and became an international authority on the subjects of communist ideology, the Soviet political system, and the linkages between feminism and socialism. His books include The Incompatible Allies: A Memoir-History of German-Soviet Relations with Gustav Hilger (1953), Marxism: The Unity of Theory and Practice (1954, 1970) (translated into Spanish and Korean), Leninism (1957, 1986) (translated into French and Korean), Communism (1960, 1963, 1985), The Soviet Political System (1965), and The Feminism and Socialism of Lily Braun (1986). Meyer was editor of Women, State and Party in Eastern Europe with Sharon Wolchik (1986) and editor and translator of Lily Braun, Selected Writings on Feminism and Socialism (1987). Meyer published innumerable articles and reviews in American and European journals such as Current History, Osteuropa, World Politics, Le Monde Diplomatique, Centennial Review, Slavic Review, Soviet Union, and Russian Review, while contributing also to many encyclopedia and volumes of collected essays.

The great regard in which Meyer was held as a scholar and as a teacher is evidenced by the many honors and awards he received thought the years. At Harvard he received a Thayer Fellowship, 1946-1947, and a Fellowship in Slavic Studies from the Hoover Institution, 1947-1948. He received a Ford Foundation Area Studies Fellowship in 1954, a USSR travel grant in 1958, and was a Guggenheim fellow, 1963-1964. At Michigan State University he received the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1963, and at the University of Michigan he was awarded the Amoco Good Teaching Award in 1977 and the Sinclair Award for Freshman-Sophomore Counseling in 1979. Considering his role as teacher to be foremost in importance, Meyer was extremely popular with his students, and in 1986 was listed as "Best Professor" at the University of Michigan in Lisa Birnbach's College Book. Meyer's national distinction was recognized by his appointment to the Board of Trustees of the National Council for Soviet & East European Studies, membership on the Board of Editors of Studies in Comparative Communism and Comparative Studies in Society and History, and his appointment to the Board of Directors of the Association of Women in Slavic Studies. In 1991 Meyer was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany.

Meyer died of heart failure on April 22, 1998, at age 78. He is survived by his brother Hajo, living in the Netherlands, his wife Eva, of Ann Arbor, and his two children, Stefan, of Ann Arbor, and Vera, of Malden, Massachusetts.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Alfred G. Meyer Papers richly document both Meyer's personal and family history and his professional career, while providing considerable insight into the effects of Nazism and World War II on a German-Jewish family. The collection is arranged into four series: Personal (ca. 1860-1998); Professional (1956-1997); Writings (1952-1998); and Audio-Visual (1998).

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.


  • United States -- Emigration and immigration.
  • Germany -- Emigration and immigration.
  • Refugees, Jewish -- United States.
  • Refugees, Jewish -- Germany.
  • United States -- Emigration and immigration.
  • Germany -- Emigration and immigration.
  • Refugees, Jewish -- United States.
  • Refugees, Jewish -- Germany.
  • Videocassettes.
  • Meyer, Alfred G.
  • Myers family.
  • University of Michigan. Dept. of Political Science.
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
  • Meyer, Alfred G.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
 
Personal [series]

The Personal series spans 1.25 linear feet and is the largest and richest series of the collection. It is divided into several subseries: Biographical, Education, Family, World War II, and Miscellaneous.

 
Biographical [subseries]

The "Biographical" subseries contains Meyer's curriculum vitae as of 1989 (including a list of publications), obituaries and other miscellaneous biographical sketches, and Meyer's memorial service program, as well as a complete draft (as well as draft fragments and publication correspondence) of an unpublished autobiography completed by Meyer in 1997. In this autobiography Meyer discusses in detail his hometown of Bielefeld, Germany, his family background, a brief history of Jews leading up to their circumstances in Nazi Germany, the politics leading up to the events of World War II in Germany, his flight to the United States, his experiences in the Army, his experiences in graduate school and his subsequent experiences as a professor and scholar. The 31 scanned photographs used in the autobiography, which show Meyer at various stages throughout his life from age 13 onward, are seen also in a separate folder, where they are described by captions written by Meyer. This subseries also includes Meyer's FBI File, including de-classified military records, and correspondence documenting the several years it took for Meyer to obtain these Files under the Freedom of Information Act.

Box   1  
Obituaries, Articles, and Miscellaneous 1989-1998
Box   1  
Curriculum Vitae 1989
 
Autobiography, unpublished 1997
Box   1  
Full Draft with Scanned Photographs (479 pages)
Box   1  
Draft Fragments and Correspondence (2 folders)
Box   1  
Scanned Photographs with Captions
Box   1  
FBI File and FOIA Request Correspondence 1994-1997
Box   1  
Memorial Service Program August 19, 1998
 
Education [subseries]

The subseries, "Education," within Personal includes grade reports and records from Meyer's Gymnasium in Bielefeld, as well as records and correspondence from his years at Harvard graduate school.

Box   1  
Gymnasium (Primary and Secondary School) Records, Bielefeld, Germany 1926-1938
Box   1  
Harvard Graduate School Records 1943-1947
 
Family [subseries]

The subseries "Family" is extensive. It contains three folders of miscellaneous materials pertaining to Meyer's family history, including narratives written by various family members, correspondence discussing family history, newspaper announcements, and records from Germany. Most, but not all, of this material is in German. Also included in this subseries are many family trees that go back several generations. The majority of this subseries, however, is comprised of correspondence between family members and family friends, from 1916 to 1995. This correspondence is arranged chronologically by year at the folder level and by date (whenever possible) within each folder, most heavily spanning the years 1936 to 1945. Most are handwritten or typed originals or carbon copies, and most writings prior to 1939 are written in German, with the use of English increasing after 1939. Correspondents include Meyer's parents, Dr. Gustav and Therese Meyer, uncle Dr. Max Meyer, cousin Rudolf Meyer, brothers Rolf and Hajo Meyer, family friends Julius and Max Reinhaus, and others, and subjects include updates on employment and living situations, news from relatives, and Meyer's attempts to aid Rudolf Meyer in emigrating to the United States from England. A photocopied memoir written in German by Meyer's grandfather, Julius Melchior, provides additional information about the family's background. Family photographs are included in the series, dating from the mid-19th century to the mid-1970s, including photographs that document the family's service in World War I. Some, but not all, of these photographs are identified.

Box   1  
Family History (3 folders)
Box   1  
Family Trees
 
Correspondence
Box   1  
1916
Box   1  
1917-1931
Box   1  
1934-1935
Box   1  
1936
Box   1  
1937
Box   1  
1938
Box   1  
1939 (2 folders)
Box   1  
1940 (2 folders)
Box   1  
1941
Box   1  
1943-1945
Box   1  
1946-1969
Box   1  
Gustave and Therese Meyer, Final Letters 1943
Box   1  
Miscellaneous and Undated
Box   1  
Dissertation, Gustave Meyer 1900
Box   1  
Memoir, Jacob Melchior circa 1908 (1 volume)
Box   1  
Photographs circa 1860-1976

(scattered dates)

 
World War II [subseries]

The "World War II" subseries includes 1945 newspaper clippings and correspondence, as well as Meyer's military records and certificates.

Box   2  
Newspaper Clippings, Correspondence, and Aerial Photographs 1945
Box   2  
Military Awards, Certificates, and Records 1944-1953
 
Miscellaneous [subseries]

This subseries includes programs from choral performances in which Meyer participated and for which he wrote the program notes. Here also are miscellaneous drawings and cartoons.

Box   2  
Cantata Singers and Mount Desert Chorale, Programs and Program Notes 1985-1993 (2 folders)
Box   2  
Doodles, Cartoons, and Humorous Clippings
 
Professional [series]

The Professional series spans .25 linear feet and contains materials pertaining to Meyer's academic career. The series includes news articles written about Meyer and his work, honors and awards received during his career, including the award received and speech given by Meyer at the presentation to him of a Grand Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany in 1991. Also included is correspondence, primarily with colleagues and students, while at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. These two folders also include correspondence with Vice-President Hubert Humphrey in 1967 over requests by Meyer that his passport be validated for travel to Cuba, and correspondence over a matter occurring at Michigan State University in 1959, in which a colleague linked Meyer to a possible Communist conspiracy on campus. Also included in this series is testimony Meyer made before the U.S. Senate's Disarmament Subcommittee in 1957 as an authority on Soviet affairs, as well as correspondence with Hubert Humphrey, chairman of the Committee. Finally, this series includes materials relating to Meyer's retirement from the University of Michigan, including most notably a significant number of written thanks and detailed remembrances of Meyer's contributions to the university from past and present students and colleagues.

Box   2  
Articles About Meyer 1962-1997
Box   2  
Correspondence 1959-1977 (2 folders)
Box   2  
Disarmament Subcommittee, United States Senate, Testimony and Correspondence 1956-1958
 
Honors
Box   2  
Awards and Certificates 1963-1996
Box   2  
Honor Societies 1965, 1977
Box   2  
Grand Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany, Award and Acceptance Speech April 10, 1991
Box   2  
Retirement Notices, Ceremony, and Thanks/Memories by Students and Colleagues 1989
 
Writings [series]

The Writings series spans 1 linear foot and includes published and unpublished or draft articles, essays and manuscripts by Meyer. The published materials include two folders of journal articles, reviews, and translations, arranged chronologically by publication date, as well as two books published in translation, one in Korean and one, Lenin and Leninism, in French. Also included is one folder of correspondence with colleagues and publishers regarding Meyer's published works. The unpublished or draft materials include four folders of essays and lectures on scholarly and biographical topics as well as on teaching itself, some of which are the draft versions of essays later published, and some of which have never been published. Titles include The Lecture, My Attitude Toward Germany and Being Jewish, and Thoughts About the Evaluation of Freshman Papers. Also included are materials pertaining to an unpublished biography of Friedrich Engels, including a full draft of the biography and correspondence with publishers and colleagues regarding the work. This series also contains unpublished translations done by Meyer of works of Mario Wirz, including one essay, one book-length piece, and correspondence with Wirz and publishers.

 
Published [subseries]
Box   2  
Books, in Translation (2 volumes)
Box   2  
Journal articles, reviews, translations, news articles 1952-1972 (2 folders)
Box   2  
Reviews of Meyer's Publications 1957-1990
Box   2  
Publication Correspondence 1969-1998
 
Unpublished and Draft [subseries]
Box   2  
Essays and Lectures (4 folders)
Box   3  
Friedrich Engels Biography
Box   3  
Draft (545 pages)
Box   3  
Chapter 7, Alternate Draft
Box   3  
Publication Correspondence 1977-1979
 
Translations of the Writings of Mario Wirz
Box   3  
"Interzone: On Life in Neukoln"
Box   3  
"It is Late, I Cannot Breathe: A Nocturnal Report"
Box   3  
Publication Correspondence 1991-1997
 
Audio-Visual [series]

The Audio-Visual series contains a videocassette of Meyer's biographical interview for Steven Spielberg's SHOAH project in 1998.

Box   3  
Videocassette, SHOAH Interview 1998
Additional Descriptive Data
Related Materials

Additional collections of Alfred G. Meyer papers are held by the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, NY and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.