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Heinrich Brüning personal archive and Brüning family archive


Heinrich Brüning (1885-1970) was Chancellor of Germany from March 1930 until May 1932. After losing political power in Germany, Nazi threats pushed him to leave the country and he became an academic. From 1939 to1952 he was Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Government in the Graduate School of Public Administration at Harvard, and he later held an appointment as Professor of Political Science at the University of Cologne from 1951 to 1956. The Heinrich Brüning personal archive and Brüning family archive primarily documents the personal, professional, and political life of Heinrich Brüning from his chancellorship of Germany (1930-1932) during the Weimar Republic through his academic career at Harvard and the University of Cologne. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence and subject files, dating from approximately 1910 to 1960, from when Heinrich Brüning was a university student through his early years of retirement in Vermont. This collection also includes significant material from Brüning’s siblings Hermann Brüning and Maria Brüning, as well as from Heinrich Brüning’s longtime secretary and later literary executor Claire Nix.


  • 1773, 1850-1985 (inclusive), 1910-1960 (bulk)

Researcher Access

Open for research with the following exceptions: Medical and student records in this collection are closed for research from 80 years from the date of creation. Legal records are closed for 50 years from the date of creation. Specific restrictions are noted in the inventory.


36 cubic feet (100 boxes)
The Heinrich Brüning personal archive and Brüning family archive primarily documents the personal, professional, and political life of Heinrich Brüning. The bulk of this material dates from approximately 1910 to 1960, from when Heinrich Brüning was a university student through his early years in retirement in Vermont. The collection records Brüning’s political career during the Weimar Republic and his activities in exile, as well as his academic career at Harvard and the University of Cologne. This collection also includes significant material from Brüning’s siblings Hermann Brüning and Maria Brüning, as well as from Heinrich Brüning’s longtime secretary and later literary executor Claire Nix.

Material in this collection that predates the First World War includes family documents related to estates, wills, and genealogical research. Among these documents is one that dates back to the 18th century and several from the mid-19th century. This prewar material also includes Hermann Brüning’s early correspondence from Belgium where he trained as a priest and from England where he worked, as well as between various members of the Brüning family when they were traveling or living for a time away from Münster. Heinrich Brüning’s prewar material includes a number of his reading notes as a student in Strasbourg and in Bonn, and several drafts of his doctoral dissertation.

The First World War is reflected in this collection chiefly through correspondence between Heinrich Brüning as a soldier on the Western front and his mother at home in Münster. Heinrich Brüning’s 1918 war diary also documents the last year of the war. Material from the early 1920s in the collection is primarily that of Hermann Brüning, including correspondence and publicity related to the Catholic relief work for Central Europe that he promoted among American Catholics. Heinrich Brüning’s early political career as a Catholic trade union official is not as well documented in this collection with little correspondence and only some transcriptions of Brüning’s articles in Der Deutsche from the early 1920s. Similarly, traces of Brüning’s work as a member of the Reichstag between 1924 and 1929 are limited, except for a few photographs dating to this period.

More extensive material related to Brüning’s political career begins with letters congratulating him on becoming the leader of the Center Party in the Reichstag, as well as general letters from the public and friends marking several important moments as German chancellor. Material from Brüning’s period as chancellor includes his personal pocket diary from 1930 (available online), the Tageszettel (official daily records of Brüning’s appointments and events in the chancellery), and one folder of official correspondence including a letter from President Paul von Hindenburg and other key German politicians.

There is little extant correspondence for the period after Brüning’s dismissal as chancellor in 1932 and him entering exile in 1934 except from his pocket diaries. These pocket diaries continue through many of his years in exile and the early postwar years and are a good source for researchers interested in Brüning’s various engagements.

During Brüning’s years in exile, he kept up extensive correspondence with friends and exiled former German colleagues living in Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. In particular, Brüning maintained extensive correspondence with his British host Mona Anderson, Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, and his sister Maria Brüning, although Heinrich and Maria Brüning often refrained from referring to the other by name or wrote in a basic code to protect them in case their letters were intercepted.

This collection includes many of Brüning’s public lectures and speeches in the United States, and significant course-related material from his period as a professor at Harvard. Among this material is correspondence with his colleagues at Harvard and other German émigrés in the United States. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Brüning was particularly active in trying to aid German refugees including the Hilferding, Breitscheid, Müller-Biermann, and Strasser families, who he knew from his years as a politician in Germany.

After the end of the war when Brüning continued to teach at Harvard and visited occupied Germany on occasion, he wrote some for German publications, and that material, as well as responses in the press is contained in this collection. In addition, many of Brüning’s old colleagues and friends in Germany, now awaiting denazification trials or interned in prisoner of war camps, appealed to Brüning for letters of support for them, requests he often granted. That correspondence is also present, as is material related to Brüning’s move to Cologne in the early 1950s and his taking up a professorship there.

Much of this collection contains correspondence that can be found in various series, often grouped alphabetically or chronologically. Some of this correspondence has been separated as material that was deemed of particular importance for writing Brüning’s memoirs. The largest single set of material in this collection is actually related to providing the background for his memoirs. A large number of news clippings and newspapers, dating from the end of the First World War, are included in the collection and were used to provide the historical background that informed writing the memoirs. Various drafts of Brüning’s memoirs can also be found in the collection.

In correspondence in this collection and in his posthumously published Memoiren, 1918-1934, Heinrich Brüning refers his own archive, noting that papers he stored at the home of his former Vice-Chancellor Hermann Dietrich were destroyed when the Soviet soldiers quartered in the house after the war used them as kindling for their fires. Brüning also mentions burning documents when he lived in Lowell House after the United States entered the war against Nazi Germany. Brüning also wrote about the Tageszettel being smuggled out of Germany to him in exile during the early years of the Third Reich. In addition to the historical accidents that left gaps in this collection and Brüning’s own tendency to destroy documents he saw as problematic, his longtime secretary Claire Nix was the final curator of this collection before it was turned over to the Harvard University Archives. Much of the order in this collection is attributed to her and relates to her method of filing materials, intended for streamlining her research used in writing Brüning’s memoirs and biography. Another important curator of a much smaller part of the collection is Maria Brüning, Heinrich Brüning’s sister. Her handwriting is found on folder titles relating to Brüning family history and these documents would appear to have been grouped by her. The majority of this collection is in German and English, although other languages such as French and Latin are also present. Much of the handwritten material in German is in older German script, and Heinrich Brüning often wrote short notes—such as those in his pocket diaries—in his own idiosyncratic shorthand. This shorthand is so difficult to read that when Claire Nix reviewed some of the material in the 1980s she had to find German parliamentary stenographers to transcribe it and even they found it particularly difficult. Claire Nix also occasionally used American shorthand on some of the materials in the collection that she drafted.

Historical note on Heinrich Brüning and the Brüning family

Heinrich Brüning was Chancellor of Germany from March 30, 1930, until May 30, 1932. From 1937 to 1952, he was affiliated with Harvard University, first as a visiting lecturer and resident of Lowell House, and then as Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Government.

Born November 26, 1885, in Münster, Germany, Heinrich Aloysius Maria Elisabeth Brüning was the youngest son of Friedrich Wilhelm Brüning (1827-1887) and Bernardine Brüning (née Beringhoff) (1846-1924). The Brüning family’s conservative Catholic roots in Westphalia went back several generations. When Heinrich Brüning was born, Friedrich Wilhelm Brüning owned a successful wine and liquor shop, having previously taken over his father’s vinegar factory in Münster.

Heinrich Brüning’s father died when he was only a year old, leaving Heinrich, his older sister Maria (1880-1955), and his older brother Hermann Joseph (1876-1924) fatherless, in the care of their devoted and devout mother Bernardine. Hermann was ordained to the priesthood, joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (the Picpus Fathers), studied in Leuven, Belgium, and later worked as a priest in Lancashire in England. Maria worked as a social worker in Münster, after several years living in the homes of various relatives and friends, including the Duruflé family in northern France.

Heinrich Brüning attended the Gymnasium Paulinum in Münster, completing his secondary education with his Abitur in 1904. He then began university study in law in Munich, although he left after only a semester. He subsequently studied philosophy, history, German, and political science in Strasbourg before starting graduate studies in Bonn, researching in Great Britain and spending time with his brother Hermann during his studies. Brüning’s doctoral thesis "Die finanzielle, wirtschaftliche und gesetzliche Lage der englischen Privateisenbahnen unter Berücksichtigung der Frage ihrer Verstaatlichung“ (The financial, economic and legal status of English private railroads considering the question of their nationalization) was supervised by the economist Heinrich Dietzel, and Brüning earned his doctorate in 1915.

The First World War brought a number of changes to the Brüning family. The entire family’s correspondence with friends and their own relatives in France quickly became impossible. After the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, Hermann Brüning was interned briefly as an enemy national. The Catholic hierarchy secured Hermann Brüning’s transfer to a diocese in the United States, and correspondence with his family in Münster remained possible via neutral Holland until the United States entered the war. Heinrich Brüning volunteered for military service in the German army, and despite his frail physical health and short-sightedness, he joined Infanterieregiment Graf Werder Nr. 30 and later transferred to MG Scharfschützen Abt.12. During the war, he was quickly promoted as an officer, was wounded several times, and was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery.

When the First World War ended, Hermann Brüning found himself in the United States as the representative of the Catholic bishops, working to promote awareness and raise funds for Catholic relief efforts in Central Europe. Hermann Brüning’s work in the United States earned the endorsement of the Pope, and Pius XI named him a domestic prelate. Hermann Brüning’s Catholic relief work came to an abrupt end with his death in 1924, only a few months before his mother Bernardine died. Unlike his brother Hermann who worked for the Catholic Church abroad, Heinrich Brüning entered Catholic politics in interwar Germany. In 1918, Heinrich Brüning moved to Berlin, where he eventually worked as an assistant to Adam Stegerwald, then the Prussian welfare minister and a Catholic trade union leader. Brüning moved in 1920 to a leadership role in Stegerwald’s non-socialist trade union, the Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund. From Brüning’s position in the union, he worked closely with the union newspaper Der Deutsche, editing it for several years. Brüning entered parliamentary politics when he won a seat in 1924 representing Breslau for the Catholic Center Party, over time becoming close and well acquainted with his Silesian constituents. In the Reichstag Brüning made a name for himself as a financial and tax expert, working across party lines crafting solutions to practical economic issues. Although a newcomer to leadership in the Center Party, in December 1929, Brüning was unanimously elected leader of his party’s group in the Reichstag.

When a broad parliamentary coalition collapsed in late March 1930, German President Paul von Hindenburg intervened to create a cabinet that excluded the socialists. Brüning was appointed chancellor leading this minority government. Brüning’s first cabinet confronted a dire economic situation not only due to the world economic crisis but also a result of particular German issues related to reparations payments and bank instability. A desire to cut costs and pursue deflationary policies shaped Brüning’s entire period in office. Because of his government’s lack of a majority in the Reichstag, the cabinet was often forced to rely on the president’s powers under article 48 of the Weimar Constitution to issue emergency decrees in lieu of legislation. When one of these decrees was overturned by the Reichstag in 1930, the parliament was dissolved and a new election was called.

The elections of 1930 marked a radical break in the history of the Weimar Republic. Support for the radical Nazi and Communist parties surged, and together they won almost a third of the Reichstag’s seats. This forced an informal alliance between the socialists and Brüning’s government in which the socialists tolerated the conservative cabinet to avoid a more right-wing government that incorporated the Nazis. President Hindenburg frequently applied pressure to push the cabinet in a more right-wing direction, and he prompted the October 1931 cabinet reshuffle that led to Brüning taking on the duties of foreign minister. As chancellor, Brüning spearheaded Hindenburg’s reelection campaign, enlisting socialist and Catholic voters to support the elderly field marshal over Adolf Hitler. Only a few months after Hindenburg’s successful reelection, behind-the-scenes political maneuvering led to Hindenburg replacing Brüning with Franz von Papen.

After his dismissal as chancellor, Brüning returned to the Reichstag until the Nazi seizure of power led to the dissolution of political parties and the parliament. During the early years of the Third Reich, Brüning was targeted by the Nazis for political repression, and he fled Germany over the Dutch border into exile in 1934. Brüning’s first years in exile were spent traveling to various western European countries visiting old friends and drafting his memoirs, although he eventually settled semi-permanently in London. While in Great Britain, Brüning embarked on an academic career starting with lectures at Oxford University. In 1936, he was invited to give six lectures at the Lowell Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, which were followed by Brüning’s 1937 Godkin Lecture at Harvard on "The Essentials of Free Government and the Duties of the Citizen." Brüning immigrated to the United States in 1937 and came to Harvard as a visiting lecturer, beginning his long-term residence in Lowell House. In 1939, he was named Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Government in the Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration. During the Second World War, Brüning worked behind the scenes to save friends trapped in Europe and drafting memos on the possibilities for a postwar peace. Brüning also continued work on various drafts of his memoirs, aided by his long-term secretary Claire Nix, who worked for Brüning from his early years at Harvard through the end of his life.

After the Second World War, Heinrich Brüning remained active behind the scenes putting together affidavits and testimony for old colleagues’ denazification trials and corresponding with many friends. Brüning retired from Harvard in 1952, taking up an appointment as Professor of Political Science at University of Cologne. Although there was always speculation about Brüning’s return to politics in West Germany, his greatest postwar political act was a 1954 speech at the Rhein-Ruhr-Klub in Düsseldorf in which he criticized Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s foreign policy. After the subsequent uproar in the press and his sister Maria’s death in 1954, Brüning retired and returned to the United States to live in quiet seclusion in Norwich, Vermont until his death on March 30, 1970. His memoirs, on which he worked from his earliest days in exile in 1934, were published posthumously.


This collection is organized in two sections. The first section consists of the original acquisition of Brüning material as it was organized by archivists. The second section consists of seven accruals each of which remains in the physical order in which it was received.
  1. ___Section I: HUGFP 93
  2. ___Heinrich Brüning’s memoirs, dictated approximately 1934-1936, photocopied 1975
  3. ___Material assembled for the Memoiren, approximately 1936-1957
  4. ___Correspondence and subject files, approximately 1935-1970
  5. ______Alphabetical sequence, A-Z
  6. ______Other correspondence and subject files
  7. ___Other papers, 1930-1970
  8. ___Lectures in America, 1937-1946
  9. ___Papers of Claire Nix, 1947-1982
  10. ___Section II: Accessions
  11. ___Accessions 13046, 13054, and 13073: Drafts of Heinrich Brüning’s memoirs and documents relating to Brüning’s estate
  12. ___Accession 13632: Heinrich Brüning and Brüning family material, approximately 1773, 1850-1970
  13. ___Accession 13634: Heinrich Brüning pocket diaries, correspondence, newsclippings, and publications, 1903-1978
  14. ___Accession 13696: Heinrich Brüning interwar correspondence, 1935-1939
  15. ___Accession 14078: Heinrich Brüning student work, correspondence, and writings, 1923-1985

Acquisition Information

  1. Accession 11983 received June 5, 1990 from Claire Nix .
  2. Accession 13046 received February 13, 1995 from Josef Becker via Ursula Maidl .
  3. Accession 13054 received February 28, 1995 from Josef Becker via Ursula Maidl .
  4. Accession 13073 received April 11, 1995 from Josef Becker via Ursula Maidl .
  5. Accession 13632 received August 14, 1997 from Claire Nix .
  6. Accession 13634 received August 20, 1997 from Claire Nix .
  7. Accession 13696 transferred December 15, 1997 from Widener Library.
  8. Accession 14078 received November 4, 1999 from Claire Nix .

Online Access

Several items from this collection have digitized and are available online. Brüning's 1930 appointment diary, (Accession 13632 Box 15, Folder 2) and twelve audio tapes (Accession 14078 Box 1, Reels 1-12). Links are provided with the item descriptions.

Related Materials

The Harvard University Archives also holds:
  1. Brüning, Heinrich, 1885-1970. Lecture notes for Government 146, approximately 1940 (HUC 8949.234.146)
  2. Brüning, Heinrich, 1885-1970. Lectures and discussions in Government 45, 1938 (HUC 8938.234.45)
  3. Weber, Christoph, editor, Zwischen Hitler und Pius XII : Heinrich Brüning und seine niederländischen Freunde Mgr. Henri Poels, Rector Piet Mommersteeg und Dr. A. J. M. Cornelissen : Briefe und Dokumente (1936-1958) is a related publication of the letters between Heinrich Brüning and leading Dutch Catholics that partly relied on resources in this collection. (HUGFP 93.93)
Related archival collections in Germany include:
  1. At the Bundesarchiv (the German Federal Archives) in Koblenz:
  2. ___Nachlass Heinrich Brüning, N 1575: This collection dates from 1931-1932 and 1946-1951, and it includes material acquired from the collections of Brüning’s lawyer Otto Eulerich, Herta Vollmar, Hermann Josef Unland, and August Winkelmann. This material includes various appointment letters and some correspondence from Brüning’s period as chancellor, as well as Brüning’s letters to Winckelmann, and correspondence between Brüning, Claire Nix, and Hermann Josef Unland.
  3. At the Stadtarchiv Münster:
  4. ___Stadtgeschichtliche Dokumentation: This collection contains photographs, albums, essays, and publications related to Heinrich Brüning.
Several publications by Heinrich Brüning include material from or are referenced extensively in this collection. These include:
  1. Memoiren 1918-1934 (Stuttgart, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1970)
  2. Briefe und Gespräche 1934-1945 (Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1974)
  3. Briefe 1946-1960 (Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1974)
  4. Die Vereinigten Staaten und Europa: ein Vortrag gehalten im Rhein - Ruhr - Klub, Düsseldorf. (Stuttgart, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1954)

References from Section II to Section I (Parenthetical references)

Some folders in Section II have lists of correspondents. Among these lists are parenthetical references. The information in parentheses is a reference to similar material in Section I. For example "G. R. Treviranus (HUGFP 93.10 Box 34)" means that researchers who are interested in G. R. Treviranus might also wish to look at material in HUGFP 93.10 Box 34.
Inventory update This document last updated 2018 October 16.

Processing Information

The complexity of this inventory reflects the processes that contributed to its construction. There were two major phases of work.
  1. Activity in the 1990s: description of initial receipt
  2. ___The collection was initially entitled the "Papers of Heinrich Brüning" and consisted of material received in accession 11983.
  3. ___A typescript inventory describing the collection was produced. Some of the information was provided by Claire Nix.
  4. ___Folders were replaced with acid-free archival folders and folder titles written on the replacement folders. Archivists have noted the inaccuracy of some of these. This activity probably occurred in the early 1990s.
  5. Activity in 2014: addition of later receipts and re-description of initial receipt
  6. ___The typescript inventory was digitized, reformatted, and modestly upgraded by Kate Bowers in April 2014.
  7. ___All accessions received after 1995 (accession numbers 13046, 13054, 13073, 13632, 13634, 13696, and 14078) were analyzed and described by Pforzheimer Fellow James McSpadden in May-August 2014.
  8. ___Mr. McSpadden reviewed the earlier receipt, analyzed the accuracy and efficacy of the inventory, and enhanced the information with better context, more accurate description, and provided translations of selected information.
  9. ___Archivists merged the earliest and later receipts to form a single collection
  10. ___The collection was re-titled "Heinrich Brüning personal archive and Brüning family archive" in order to more accurately reflect the true scope of the collection.
  11. ___Additional rehousing and description for the Heinrich Brüning personal archive and Brüning family archive was completed by Samuel Bauer .
  12. ___Revision and editorial review, including incorporating all new description provided by Mr. McSpadden was done by Jennifer Pelose, Kate Bowers , and Robin McElheny August-September 2014.
Link to catalog
Brüning, Heinrich, 1885-1970. Heinrich Brüning personal archive and Brüning family archive, 1773, 1850-1985 (inclusive), 1910-1960 (bulk) : an inventory
Harvard University Archives

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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