Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Speier (Hermine) papers
6078  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (78.85 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical note
  • Scope and Content
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition

  • Language of Material: Italian
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
    Title: Hermine Speier papers
    creator: Speier, Hermine
    Identifier/Call Number: 6078
    Physical Description: 2.26 Linear Feet 3 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1937-1941
    Abstract: Correspondence of German Jewish archaeologist Dr. Hermine Speier (1898-1989), the first woman employed by the Vatican, who converted to Catholicism and worked under Church protection. The majority of the correspondence is with Speier's lover, Italian airship navigator General Umberto Nobile, who lived in America in exile due to personal conflicts with Mussolini. The collection includes many photographs of Nobile and some of Speier, and a photograph album of Nobile, compiled and dedicated by Ulrich Mundt, an officer in the German Air Force. Speier was an archaeologist who was hired by Pope Pius XI to work in the Vatican Museum's photographic archive after she was fired from her position with the German Archaeological Institute in Rome for being a Jew. Speier converted to Catholicism in 1939. She continued to work for the Vatican Museum until her retirement in 1967. General Umberto Nobile (1885-1978) was an Italian general, airship designer and navigator, and professor of aeronautical science. He is best remembered for his two Arctic expeditions in 1926 and 1928.
    Language of Material: Italian.
    Container: 1
    Container: 2
    Container: 3

    Biographical note

    Dr. Hermine Speier (1898-1989) worked as a director in the German Archaeological Institute in Rome. She was fired from this position in 1934 for being a Jew. Her supervisor and mentor, Ludwig Curtius, recommended her to the Vatican Museum for a job. Although there was no job, Pope Pius XI created a position for her within the Vatican Museum's photographic archives. Speier converted to Catholicism in 1939, and thus severed all ties with her family in Germany. When the Germans accelerated their persecution of Jews in Rome in 1943, Speier was moved to the convent of St. Priscilla, along with other Jewish families. Speier continued to work for the Vatican Museum until her retirement in 1967. She continued her work in the photographic archive, and also worked with archaeologists on Etruscan, Roman, and Greek exhibitions; she also published a number of scholarly works on antiquities.
    General Umberto Nobile (1885-1978) was an Italian general, airship designer and navigator, and professor of aeronautical science. He is best remembered for his two Arctic expeditions. In the first, the Norge in 1926, Nobile was sought out by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen who asked him to pilot one of Nobile's airships over the polar ice cap from Europe to America. Disagreement erupted between Amundsen and Nobile after the flight as to who deserved greater credit. The controversy was exacerbated by Mussolini's government, which publicly endorsed Nobile's role, thus further alienating Amundsen and Nobile. In the second, the Italia, Nobile, who served as both pilot and expedition leader, flew his airship to the Pole and on the way back ran into a storm. The ship crashed onto the ice pack and and 7 crew members died. Six nations got involved in the search and rescue efforts, and after the rescue was completed, Nobile became outspoken in his complaints about the lack of efforts on the part of the Italian government. He eventually resigned from the Air Force in protest (1929). In 1931 he left Italy to work in the Soviet Union, but returned to Italy in 1936 to teach aeronautics. In 1939 he went to the United States to teach at Lewis University in Illinois. He was offered American citizenship when the war broke out, but declined and returned to Rome. After the war, Nobile taught at the University of Naples until his death.

    Scope and Content

    Correspondence (1937-1941) of German Jewish archaeologist Hermine Speier, the first woman employed by the Vatican, who converted to Catholicism, and worked under church protection. The majority of the correspondence is with Speier's lover, Italian airship navigator General Umberto Nobile, who lived in America in exile due to personal conflicts with Mussolini. Speier's letters, in draft form, were all penned while she lived in Geneva and Rome. Also included is a letter from Robert Boehringer, a German industrialist and poet who denounced his German citizenship and became a Swiss citizen at the beginning of the war. The collection includes many photographs of Nobile and some of Speier, as well as a photograph album of Nobile, compiled and dedicated by Ulrich Mundt, an officer in the German Air Force.

    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], Hermine Speier papers, Collection no. 6078, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

    Acquisition

    Purchased from The Bookshop, May 7, 2014.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Jews -- Persecutions -- Italy -- 20th century -- Archival resources
    Jews, German -- Vatican City -- 20th century -- Archival resources
    Vatican City -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
    Correspondence
    Photographs
    Speier, Hermine
    Speier, Hermine -- Archives
    Nobile, Umberto -- Archives
    Pius, Pope, XI -- Archives