Science and Survival: Digitizing the Papers of Georg and Max Bredig

Science and Survival: Digitizing the Papers of Georg and Max Bredig tells the story of the Bredig family’s struggle to survive the Holocaust.

Funded by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources, the project’s main focus was to catalog, translate, digitize, and make publicly accessible nearly 3,000 letters, photographs, and other documents belonging to Georg and Max Bredig, the German father and son chemists of Jewish descent.

Unlike many other archival collections of Jewish German scientists that were seized and destroyed by the Nazis, the Papers of Georg and Max Bredig miraculously survived. The collection was acquired in 2019 through the generosity of the Walder Foundation.

The Science and Survival project also included an outdoor exhibition that featured large-scale reproductions of letters, postcards, and photos from the collection installed on the façade of the Institute’s building from October 2022 through April 2023.

Featured image: Bredig family, ca. 1910. Science History Institute

About Georg and Max Bredig

Georg Bredig (1868–1944) had a distinguished career in chemistry and as a professor. He held teaching positions at universities throughout northern Europe before being appointed professor for physical chemistry at the Technische Hochschule in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1911. In 1933 the Nazis forbade Jews to hold professional positions. Bredig’s credentials as a scientist were revoked, and he was forced into retirement. In 1938, during Kristallnacht, he was arrested but later released. Bredig fled Germany in 1939 with the assistance of a fellow Jewish chemist, Ernst Cohen. Many of Bredig’s colleagues, friends, and family members were not so lucky. Cohen perished in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Alfred Schnell, a chemist and colleague of Bredig’s son was executed, along with his wife, by Dutch soldiers loyal to the Nazis. They had been in hiding in the Netherlands for years, and their story is now well known. But the fact they were writing letters while in hiding was completely unknown until this collection surfaced.

Like his father, Max Bredig (1902–1977) also trained as a chemist but after witnessing the rising tide of anti-Semitism, he left for the United States in 1937. He immediately set to work getting the rest of his family out of Europe as well as helping others do the same. Georg’s daughter, Marianne, along with her husband, Viktor, spent nine months in the Gurs internment camp in France before finally making it to the U.S. in 1941. After Georg received a letter with an offer of a position from the president of Princeton University in November 1939, Max was finally able to obtain a visa for his father. Georg Bredig came to the United States in 1940. In poor health, he stayed with his son in New York City until his death on April 24, 1944.

Learn More


Papers of Georg and Max Bredig

Collection of photographs, correspondence, and manuscript materials chronicling the life and career of the prominent Jewish German chemist and his son.

Science and Survival street view


Science and Survival

Our outdoor exhibition revealed the harrowing story of the Bredig family’s struggle to escape the Nazi regime.

screenshot of a video clip


Science and Survival Film

Experience our ‘Science and Survival’ outdoor exhibition through a short film.

Group of men in old chemistry lab


Translating and Curating the Papers of Georg and Max Bredig

On March 23, 2023, research curator Jocelyn McDaniel presented the German Society of Pennsylvania’s Günther Finke Memorial Lecture.


‘Jewish Exponent’ Features Institute’s ‘Science and Survival’ Exhibition

Collections staff quoted in article about how the outdoor exhibition gives voice to the Bredig family’s struggle to escape the Nazis.

A typed letter on blue paper


From Peril to Preservation in the Bredig Archives

Chaim Weizmann, Fritz Haber, and a home for Jewish scientists.


Georg Bredig: Scientist, Humanist, and Holocaust Survivor

Restoring the legacy of a physical chemistry pioneer.


Sustaining a Scientific Mission in Exile

The correspondence of Ernst Berl and the Bredig family.


Science History Institute to Debut New Outdoor Exhibition on October 24

‘Science and Survival’ features enlarged reproductions of photographs and telegrams rescued from Nazi-occupied Germany installed on the façade of the Institute’s Old City building.

Man in a labcoat


Varsity Tutors: War, Science, and Survival

Watch our Varsity Tutors virtual class to learn about Jewish scientists whose pursuit of knowledge triumphed over war and persecution.


Escape from Nazi Terror

Chemist Max Bredig’s race to save family and friends from catastrophe.

Old postcard with cursive handwriting in black ink.


‘Kurrent’ Events

Deciphering Old German Script in the Bredig Archives.


Science History Institute Receives CLIR Grant to Digitize Papers of Georg and Max Bredig

Collection smuggled out of Nazi Germany tells story of noted Jewish German scientist’s rise to prominence and the Bredig family’s struggle to survive the Holocaust.

Identification papers from the Bredig archive


Archive Smuggled from Nazi-Era Germany Acquired by the Science History Institute

The collection of Jewish German chemist Georg Bredig documents the early pioneers of physical chemistry in Europe and the struggles of Jews trying to escape the Nazis.


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