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Department receives generous gift in honor of Hilde Bial Neurath

Submitted by Stephanie N. Welch on October 20, 2014 - 9:32am
detail of painting by Edith London
Generous donation brings history, art, and Einstein to UW Germanics

Dear Friends of Germanics:

I wanted to share with you one of the great moments of being chair of Germanics that happened just before the summer. In April 2014, I received an email enquiry by Peter Neurath, son of Dr. Hans Neurath from Vienna, who built the UW Medical School’s biochemistry department in the 1950s and chaired it for 25 years, and Hilde Bial Neurath from Berlin. Peter Neurath was wondering if the German Department was interested in the gift of an oil painting of his mother by renown artist Edith London who also grew up in Berlin and subsequently stayed in touch with the Neuraths when Hans was a professor at Duke University and Edith held a teaching position there and they all lived in Durham, N.C.. Peter was also asking if we were interested in a note that he had in his possession from Albert Einstein expressing condolences to his grandmother about the passing of her husband as well as some photos taken of his family in Berlin before Hitler rose to power. Needless to say, we sat down with Peter, listened to his story, took notes, and looked at the various items, and accepted the donations with great honor. Germanics is blessed with the fact that so many emigrés who left Europe turn to us and out students as worthy recipients of their heritage and we strive to live up to that task.

We are working on a temporary display of the painting, the photos, and the Einstein note in our department for the 2014-2015 school year as we are scheduled to leave Denny Hall for two years in June 2015 while our trusted building is being renovated. Upon return to Denny Hall in 2017, we will establish a permanent exhibit in honor of Hilde Bial in our new quarters. Meanwhile, all items have been digitized and will be available through our website for everyone to look at, the mendary in Suzzallo Library is evaluating the physical condition of the Einstein note and is in the process of reframing it using a UV filtered single light mat for better preservation, and our professor emeritus, Manfred Bansleben, is researching the family history of the Neuraths and Bials for a more comprehensive reconstruction of the story. We hope to display his findings along with some images drawn from family albums on the final exhibit.

This is one of those rare moments where history comes alive and we all can have an inkling about the complex and complicated lives of German and Austrian emigrants to this country, what they left behind, how they rebuilt their lives in a new country, what they passed on to their children, and how their story is being remembered. We in Germanics want to do all we can to preserve the richness of that part of German-American and Austrian-American history and are very thankful that Peter Neurath entrusted us with this task. Please follow to establishment of the Neurath exhibit on our website or come by the office during the new school year to look at the items on display.

Sabine Wilke,
August 2014

Facsimile of Einstein letter
Facsimile of Einstein letter, prepared by the Suzzallo Library.

detail of Einstein letter facsimile
Detail of Einstein's signature on facsimile.

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