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Abel (Theodore F.) papers
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Use
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Alternate Forms Available
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Other Finding Aids

  • Title: Theodore Fred Abel papers
    Date (inclusive): 1930-1988
    Collection Number: 50000
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
    Language of Material: English and German
    Physical Description: 30 manuscript boxes (12.5 Linear Feet)
    Abstract: Diaries, other writings, and printed matter related to sociological theory and world politics. Also includes autobiographical sketches (biograms) by members of the Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiter-Partei relating to their reasons for becoming national socialists, collected by Theodore Abel as research material for his book Why Hitler Came into Power (1938). Digital copies of select records also available at https://digitalcollections.hoover.org. 
    Creator: Abel, Theodore, 1896-1988
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives


    Closed. Microfilm use only. Materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.


    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Materials were acquired by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives in 1950, with increments in March 1986 and most likely 1990.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Theodore Fred Abel papers, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital copies of select records also available at https://digitalcollections.hoover.org. 

    Biographical Note

    1896 Born, Lodz, Poland
    1918-1920 Served in the Polish Army
    1920 Liaison officer, American Young Men's Christian Association
    1920-1923 Studied at University of Warsaw and University of Poznan
    1923 Immigrated to United States
    1925-1929 Taught at the University of Illinois
    1929 Ph.D., Columbia University
    1929-1951 Sociology professor, Columbia University
    1933 Author, Protestant Home Missions to Catholic Immigrants
    1934 Collected autobiographies of followers of Adolf Hitler
    1938 Author, Why Hitler Came to Power
    circa 1939-1941 Served on Herbert Hoover's Commission for Polish Relief
    1951-1967 Professor and chairman, Department of Sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York
    1957-1958 President, Eastern Sociological Society
    1967- Taught at University of Notre Dame, University of Waterloo (Canada), and University of New Mexico
    1969 Received merit award from the Eastern Sociological Society
    1970 Author, The Foundation of Sociological Theory
    1988 Died
    Source: "Abel, Theodore." Robert Bierstedt. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Volume 18. Edited by David L. Sills.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Theodore Abel papers contain diaries, other writings, and printed matter related to sociological theory and world politics. The collection also includes autobiographical sketches (biograms) by members of the Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiter-Partei, relating to their reasons for becoming national socialists, collected by Abel as research material for his book Why Hitler Came into Power: An Answer Based on the Original Life Stories of Six Hundred of His Followers (1938).
    Abel collected the autobiographies of hundreds of followers of Adolf Hitler in 1934 as source material to improve upon the understanding of the Hitler movement. While visiting Germany in the summer of 1933, Abel was struck by the willingness of many Germans to discuss their political experiences. To follow up on this, in June 1934 he announced a prize contest designed to induce Hitler's followers to submit their life stories. He posted this announcement at all local headquarters of the Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiter-Partei and in the party press:
    "400 Marks in Prizes
    For the Best Personal Life History of an Adherent of the Hitler Movement
    Any person, regardless of sex or age, who was a member of the National Socialist party before January 1, 1933, or who was in sympathy with the movement, may participate in this contest.
    Contestants are to give accurate and detailed descriptions of their personal lives, particularly after the World War. Special attention should be given to accounts of family life, education, economic conditions, membership in associations, participation in the Hitler movement, and important experiences, thoughts, and feelings about events and ideas of the post-war period.
    The prizes will be awarded to authors who have submitted the most detailed and trustworthy accounts. Style, spelling, or dramatic story value will not be considered. Completeness and frankness are the sole criteria, so that even the simplest and most undramatic story will receive full consideration.
    The prizes will be awarded as follows:
    First prize . . . . . . 125 marks
    Second prize . . . . 50 marks
    Third prize . . . . . . 25 marks
    Five prizes . . . . . 20 marks each
    Ten prizes . . . . . . 10 marks each
    The prize money is deposited in the German Bank. The contest is organized under the tutelage of the sociology department of Columbia University, whose members will be the final judges. The purpose of the contest is the collection of material on the history of National Socialism, so that the American public may be informed about it on the basis of factual, personal documents.
    The contestants whose contributions are published in part or in full will receive an additional honorarium of two marks per printed page. Manuscripts will not be returned and must be submitted on or before September 1934."
    Abel received 683 manuscripts, the content of which he felt justified the project and the personal expense of paying for the prizes. Of these 683 manuscripts, 48 were written by women and were not considered by Abel for the study published as Why Hitler Came into Power (he planned a separate article about the women's histories). Also excluded from study for the book were a score of biographies of one or two pages that contained very little information.
    The autobiographies, called biograms in this finding aid, contain data on age, occupation, socioeconomic class, education, employment, membership in various associations, place of residence, marital status, military service in World War I, participation in military activities after World War I, first contacts with the National Socialist movement, the main reason for joining the movement, expressions of anti-Semitism, etc. Abel's assessment of the reliability and objectivity of the biograms is included in the introduction to his book, which is also the source of this scope and content note.
    The incremental materials consist of diaries, speeches and writings, course materials, and printed matter. Two of Abel's later diaries can be found in this file, as well as diary transcriptions. The file includes Abel's speeches and writings on sociology, including writings on Verstehen and various book reviews. The course materials include extensive handwritten notes by Abel on topics such as Max Weber and social theory.

    Other Finding Aids

    Machine-readable versions of the majority of the biograms are also available via Harvard Dataverse .

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    National socialism
    Germany -- Politics and government
    World politics -- 20th century
    Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei