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Berstl (Julius) papers
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
    Title: Julius Berstl papers
    creator: Berstl, Julius
    Identifier/Call Number: 0031
    Physical Description: 12.43 Linear Feet 29 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1858-2010
    Date (bulk): bulk
    Abstract: Literary archive of the German emigre author and playwright Julius Berstl (1883-1975). The collection includes typescripts, manuscripts, personal and professional correspondence, personal and biographical documents, theater memorabilia, and a small number of literary journals, both in English and in German. Julius Berstl was born on August 6, 1883 in Bernburg, Germany to a theatrical family. Upon graduation from university, he became the dramaturg, or literary advisor, of the renowned Barnowsky Theaters in Berlin from 1909-1924. From 1924-1936, Berstl worked as dramaturg for the Berlin Gustav Kiepenheuer Theaters. During this period, Berstl wrote two of his most well-known plays: "Chu the Sinner" and "Dover-Calais." But with the rise of Hitler and the increasing restrictions on the creative arts, Berstl emigrated in 1936 to England. In 1943 he became a scriptwriter for the London BBC, for which he wrote over 60 radio dramas. He retired from his work at the BBC in 1951 and moved to New York City, where he began to write novels in earnest. His wife told him that after she died he should move to Santa Barbara; after she passed away in 1964, he kept with her wishes and moved. He lived in Santa Barbara until he passed away in 1975.

    Biographical note

    Julius Berstl was born on 1883 August 6 in Bernburg, Germany to a theatrical family. On 1883 September 11, he was baptized in the Lutheran church (Schlosskirche St. Aegidien, Bernburg). Julius and his father only obtained German citizenship in 1898, even though the family had lived there since Julius' birth. His father, Norbert Berstl (Austrian), and his mother, Franziska Schreiner, were both actors and later directors in the 1870s-1890s. His mother had also come from a theatrical family, and her own mother and father had been actors and directors in German theater during the 1850s and 1860s.
    In 1890, he began school in Berlin. From 1892-1902, he attended the Kaiser Wilhelm II Realschule in Gottingen and the Oberrealschule in Kassel. It was there that he first began to write poetry, short stories, and plays, often engaging in student-run productions. It was during this period that he first began to seriously explore the world of theater and writing. He studied German and English literature at the Georg August-Universitat in Gottingen for two semesters, and then at the Universitat Leipzig from April 1903 until March 1908. His first published novel, "Der Phantast" debuted in 1905, and he continuously wrote plays and poetry throughout his academic career. Upon graduation, he became the dramaturg, or literary advisor, of the renowned Barnowsky Theaters in Berlin from 1909-1924. Julius' father passed away on 1913 November 10 at the age of 55. He was married on 1914 April 2 to Hedwig Dorothea Lisbeth (Elizabeth) Koch, a theater actress (born on 1890 February 10), and on 1914 November 11 their only child, Norbert Berstl, was born.
    In the midst of World War I, Berstl took leave from his job in the theater from 1916-1918 to fight in the German army, but returned when the war was over. His brother Willi also fought in World War I, and was a prisoner of war in Great Britain until around 1919. In 1921/1922, Berstl published what would become one of his more famous plays, "Der lasterhafte Herr Tschu" ("Chu the Sinner"), which was also performed by the Barnowsky theater company. From 1924-1936, Berstl worked as dramaturg for the Berlin Gustav Kiepenheuer Theaters. During this period, Berstl wrote one of his most well-known plays: "Dover-Calais." This was an especially productive period in Berstl's career, with "Dover-Calais" finding popularity internationally; it was even made into a film. In 1930, Berstl published a study of the theater world that he knew well, entitled "25 Jahre Berliner Theater und Victor Barnowsky."
    But with the rise of Hitler and the increasing restrictions on the creative arts, Berstl's musical comedy "Pech muss man haben" was banned by the Nazis in 1933 after they came to power. In that same year, Berstl himself was banned from working as a writer (and as a translator of English plays) due to his half Jewish heritage. In 1935, the Reichsschrifttumskammer (the Reich's Board of Professional Writers) banned him from employment entirely. Along with his wife and son, he emigrated to London, where he was supported by the Society of Friends (Quakers) when he didn't have a work permit. As a German citizen, he was placed in an internment camp for three months in 1940 as World War II was just beginning. His son, Norbert, was placed in a refugee camp in Canada (near Toronto) for a little over two years. For a period of time directly following his emigration, Julius worked on producing an English version of "Dover-Calais," working with popular English children's author Eleanor Farjeon. In 1943 he became a scriptwriter for the London BBC, for which he wrote over 60 radio dramas, mostly with Biblical themes that reappear later in his novels. While in England, Berstl also worked as a German/English translator, writing German versions of plays by authors like Noel Coward, Jean Copard, St. John Ervine, Aimee Stuart, and Archibald Norman Menzies. He retired from his work at the BBC in 1951 and moved to New York City, where he began to write novels in earnest. During this period, he wrote novels based upon the life of St. Paul, an imaginary memoir of Edmund Kean, and an autobiographical tale of his life in the theater. He received U.S. citizenship in 1960. According to Julius Berstl, his wife told him that after she died he should move to Santa Barbara; after she passed away in 1964, he kept with her wishes and moved. He lived in Santa Barbara, continuously sending in new manuscripts to publishers and coming up with business ideas, until he too passed away on 1975 December 8 at the age of 92. His son, Norbert, also moved to Santa Barbara, and eventually moved into his father's apartment after he had died. Norbert himself passed away on 2010 January 24, exactly 95 years to the day after he had been baptized as a baby in Berlin.

    Scope and Contents

    The Julius Berstl papers encompass a variety of documents that represent many of the important aspects of Julius Berstl's life in Germany, Britain, and America. The Writing series features primarily typescripts and manuscripts for Berstl's novels and plays, including handwritten edits and notes. Within this series there are also short form of writing by Berstl, including notes on different writing projects, radio scripts, film scenarios, articles, and poems. Lastly, there are also some of Berstl's German translations of plays as well as reviews and publicity for Berstl's novels and plays.
    The Correspondence series covers both Julius Berstl's personal and professional life. Personal Correspondence covers letters to and from Julius Berstl that were not specifically related to the business side of writing or theater. His correspondence ranges from fellow writers, to actors and people from the theater, to close friends. Professional Correspondence includes letters to and from Julius Berstl that specifically relate to the business side of writing or theater. His correspondence ranges from publishers, to theaters, to film production companies, and more.
    The Personal and Biographical Documents series features documents written about Berstl's life, sometimes in honor of his birthday. There are also a number of documents that Berstl had collected from his own past and from that of his family, including school records and information regarding the theater careers of his parents.
    The Theater Memorabilia and Reviews series includes play advertisement posters, clipping and reviews of plays by Berstl, programs from his productions, correspondence on theater related topics, and much more.
    Lastly, the Literary Journals series features the few literary journals that Berstl had saved over the years, often because he or a friend of his was mentioned.

    Conditions Governing Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

    Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder# or item name], Julius Berstl papers, Collection no. 0031, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

    Acquisition

    Donated by Mr. Berstl in 1975.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Theater -- Germany -- 20th century -- Archival resources
    Manuscripts
    Correspondence
    Scripts
    German literature -- Archival resources
    Typescripts
    Theater -- Germany -- 19th century -- Archival resources
    Authors, German -- 20th century -- Archival resources
    Diaries
    Clippings
    Cookbooks
    Magazines (periodicals)
    Berstl, Julius
    Berstl, Julius -- Archives
    Wicclair, Walter -- Correspondence
    Busoni, Ferruccio -- Correspondence
    Mierendorff, Marta -- Correspondence
    Goudge, Elizabeth -- Correspondence
    Johst, Hanns -- Correspondence
    Tillich, Paul -- Correspondence
    Farjeon, Eleanor -- Correspondence
    Niese, Hansi -- Correspondence
    British Broadcasting Corporation -- Correspondence
    Felix Bloch Erben (Firm) -- Correspondence
    Walter, Fried -- Correspondence
    Georg Marton Verlag (Firm) -- Correspondence
    Wied, Gustav -- Correspondence
    Von Wolowski, Kurt -- Correspondence
    Ewers, Hanns Heinz -- Correspondence