The Ernst Harthern archive in the Arbetarrörelsens arkiv och bibliotek (Swedish Labour Movement’s Archive and Library)
Huddinge, Sweden

Below are summaries of the letters from The Ernst Harthern archive in Huddinge, Sweden. They were photographed with permission from the archive and are named according to the following convention: year-month-dayWriterRecipientPage. Click the links to see full letter and its corresponding scans.

Letters in Danish from the Harthern Archive

No date, Gentofte, T.C. Thomsen to Niels Hoyer (Ernst Harthern). Thomas Christian Thomsen, Lili’s brother-in-law, is sending a letter and photo of Einar Wegener to Ernst Harthern. Thomsen asks Harthern to return the photo, as it is the only one he has of Einar. He also asks Harthern to consult with him before sending a transcript of “the manuscript” to Germany.

Letter dated 15 June 1931. To Ernst Harthern. From Sigurd Wegener Thomsen, Lili’s nephew. Sigurd discusses the book, including their agreement about how to write the book and Lili’s progress in writing it. Sigurd would like to help Harthern understand Lili. He writes about Gerda and Einar’s marriage as more of a friendship, that Gerda’s friends have encouraged her to separate entirely from Lili, the dissolution of their marriage, and Lili’s “hysterical scenes” around Gerda. Sigurd reports that Einar planned at one time to commit suicide and that Lili was so vain about her appearance that she “talked about suicide, if she could not artificially look good.” Sigurd writes about Lili and her sister, Christiane Wegener Thomsen, Sigurd’s mother. Lili’s sister is against the surgery, sad to see her brother become vain, and dislikes the name Lili. There are emotional scenes between the siblings around the surgery and about a story that is not explained. Sigurd also describes Lili’s personality: shy when she first arrived but now flirtatious and likes “the stir she causes among the men.” Lili jokes and tickles Sigurd and considers herself a traditional woman who would obey and take care of her husband. Also mentioned: Bé, a nickname for Einar; Thomas Christian Thomsen, Sigurd’s father.

Letter dated 16 June 1931. To Maria Garland, wife of Ernst Harthern. From Lili Ilse Elvenes. Lili asks Garland about sending completed book chapters to Prof. Dr. Kurt Warnekros and expresses appreciation for Harthern’s work on the book. Lili thinks she will have the last big surgery the next day and that she dreams about the “masculinity and beauty” of her doctor. She is frightened about the surgery but is confident she will survive it. She is sending photos. Also mentioned: Johannes and Ulla Poulson.

Letter dated 24 July 1931. To Maria Garland, wife of Ernst Harthern. From Lili Elbe. Lili asks about Harthern’s work on the book. She says the operation was terrible. No one will give her any information about when she can get up, but they carried her out to the garden on a stretcher to get some sun. She adds a postscript about marrying when she is better. Also mentioned: senior physician Erich Fischer; and “your sweet little mother and son,” which we presume to be Garland’s mother, Selma Nathalia Gad, and Garland’s son.

Letter dated 7 August 1931. To Maria Garland, wife of Ernst Harthern. From Lili Ilse Elvenes. Lili thanks Garland for her letter. She says that the professor [Prof. Dr. Warnekros] thinks the book is good and only has objections about some incorrect scientific matters. Lili has not yet gotten permission to get up, but she is optimistic about being on her feet again soon.

Letter dated 18 August 1931. To Maria Garland, wife of Ernst Harthern. From Lili Ilse Elvenes. The professor [Prof. Dr. Warnekros] likes the beginning of the book and only has a few objections. He thinks the book will create a sensation in Germany. Lili is in despair about her health. Her “most beautiful hope is death” but the professor will not allow it. She wants to revise passages about senior physician Erich Fischer to make sure there is nothing that would offend him. She wishes Garland luck in starting at the Royal Theatre.

1931-12-21ThomsenSWHarthern and loose diary entries
Letter dated 21 December 1931. To Ernst Harthern. From Sigurd Wegener Thomsen, Lili’s nephew. Sigurd says that he is sending what he promised (the two additional pages of loose diary entries), asks that the “yellow thing” be returned at Harthern’s convenience, and offers to provide clarification or further information. He sends holiday greetings to Harthern and his family. Also mentioned: Tradesman Holger Kelstrup R.a.Db.

1921-1922 diary entries were written by Sigurd Wegener Thomsen, Lili’s nephew. Entries are for 25 December 1921, 28 December 1921, 29 December 1921, 3 January [1922], 9 January [1922]. Thomsen writes about the family’s activities, Einar’s birthday, food eaten for dinner, Thomsen’s case of the mumps, and the departure of Einar and Gerda Gottlieb Wegener, Einar’s wife. Thomsen helped his uncle make “low heels” on Christmas, and Einar danced a “French Apache dance” several days later. Also mentioned: Thomas Christian Thomsen, Sigurd’s father; Christiane Wegener Thomsen, Sigurd’s mother; “The Paradise Bird” by Otto Rung; Mrs. Gottlieb (Justine Østerberg Gottlieb), Gerda’s mother.

1924-12 Diary entry, was written by Sigurd Wegener Thomsen, Lili’s nephew. Entry is dated Dec. 1924. Sigurd writes that his father, Thomas Christian Thomsen, told him about Einar’s dressing as a woman, including details of physical suitability, shaving, makeup, and changes in voice. Einar’s own mother visited and did not know him when he was dressed as Lili.

Letters in German from the Harthern Archive

A four-page draft by Ernst Harthern detailing his first meeting with Einar in 1913 and his first meeting with Lili in 1931. The descriptions focus on looks and gendered expressions.

A letter to Maria Garland, Ernst Harthern’s wife, dictated by Lili to someone else since she was too weak to write it herself. It addresses the horrors of the last surgery and the pain she is in following the procedure. She also discusses the order in which the German and Danish editions should be published.

Letter dated 16 November 1931 on Niels Hoyer letterhead. From Ernst Harthern. To “Mr. Director” of the Agence Littéraire Internationale. Harthern proposes a French version of Lili Elbe’s writings, mentioning both the Danish and German publications. Discusses the deal with Hage & Clausen Forlag, the Danish publisher, for printing and royalties. Harthern is clear that this is not a novel. Also mentioned: Professor Warnekros; Lili Elbe.

Letter dated 28 December 1931. From Harry Schumann. To Niels Hoyer (Ernst Harthern). Schumann disputes Harthern’s claim that he does not “offer any advance payments for foreign books” and declares that he has “never gained the German rights to a foreign work, without having given an advance payment when the contract was concluded.” Schumann states that “I am now ready to take over the publishing, provided I receive the appropriate advance payment,” and asks Harthern to send the German manuscript. Also mentioned: Mrs. Diel; Lili Elbe.

Letter dated 30 December 1931 on Niels Hoyer letterhead. From Ernst Harthern. To Harry Schumann. Harthern discusses his decisions and reasoning for the translation processes. He mentions a London publisher seeking international rights to the text. Harthern tells Schumann that he must make a decision by January 7 as to how to proceed with such an offer. Harthern describes edits and aliases used in the Danish edition as the example moving forward in other versions. Harthern explains that he’s received letters from Lili Elbe’s family verifying “the most tragic content of the book” as “100% true.” The Danish publisher wishes to include these letters. Also mentioned: Professor Warnekros; Lili Elbe; Einar Wegener and his alias, Andreas Sparre.

Letter dated 7 January 1932 on Niels Hoyer letterhead. To Harry Schumann, who is named as the owner of the Carl Reissner publishing company. From Ernst Harthern. Harthern thanks Schumann for Schumann’s letter from January 4. Harthern explains that he has attached to this letter a contract signed by both him and Schumann, endowing “the care” of the “German version of my Lili Elbe book” to Schumann’s company. Harthern hopes for the book’s success. Harthern asks multiple questions about what Schumann plans to include in the German edition, making comparisons to the Danish edition. Harthern references a letter he received from Professor Warnekros regarding the book’s success. Magnus Hirschfeld is mentioned as being interested in the book, and Harthern claims he will alert Hirschfeld’s institution of Schumann’s publication. Also mentioned: Mrs. Louise Diel; Einar Wegener; Andreas Sparre, as Einar’s fictionalized character; Werner Kreutz, Warnekros’s fictionalized character; Mr. Professor Dr. Warnekros; Lili Elbe; Gerda Wegener; Grete W., Gerda’s fictionalized character; Dr. Feuchtwanger; Dr. Paquet; Eisenlohr; Lovis Hans Lorenz; Anna Lorenz; Dr. Palitzsch; Bonsels; Zuckmayer; Toller; Thomas Mann; Mr. Sanitatsrat; Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld.

Letter dated 21 January 1932. From Ernst Harthern. To Harry Schumann. Harthern confirms the receipt of Schumann’s signed contract. Harthern disagrees with Schumann’s claims regarding advance payment, mentioned in a previous letter. Harthern discusses the price of the individual book and the amount he is owed for this advance payment. Harthern explains that he must take photos of Einar Wegener’s paintings, for which he expects reimbursement, including any paintings that may be at the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin. Also mentioned: Einar Wegener.

Letter dated 8 February 1932. To Niels Hoyer (Ernst Harthern). From Harry Schumann, head of Carl Reissner Verlag, the German publishing house in Dresden. For the German publication Schumann requests more photographs, especially those from Hirschfeld’s Institute; handwriting samples; and, letters from Lili to Hélène Allatini as well as to family members. He recommends that Hoyer include the incident at the Women’s Clinic where Lili is taken to be an expectant mother and cut the material about the dog. He recommends against a foreword and asks for an introductory commentary instead. He says Andreas would be preferable to Einar. He ends by noting that he has sent two books that he hopes Hoyer might review. Also mentioned: Lili Elbe, Kurt Warnekros, Hélène Allatini, Prince of Eulenburg, Walter Schott.

Letter dated 24 February 1932 on Niels Hoyer letterhead. To Harry Schumann. From Ernst Harthern. Harthern mentions being sick with the flu to explain his delay in writing. Harthern explains that a “large portion” of the manuscript is prepared to print and he will no longer be making edits. He is editing Lili’s letters upon writing the letter, stating that 20 letters from Lili in Dresden to Greta will be included in the revised chapter fourteen. Harthern has included a new page to be added to the manuscript with a letter from Einar Wegener to his brother-in-law. Harthern introduces the possibility of newspaper “pre-prints” in Germany and Austria. Discussion of royalties to be paid to Gerda Wegener. Also mentioned: Andreas Sparre, as Einar’s fictionalized character; Professor Warnekros; Lili’s brother-in-law.

A letter from Herta Heller to Ernst Harthern, proposing to translate the Danish edition into German.

Letter dated 17 March 1932. To Franck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung publishers. From Niels Hoyer (Ernst Harthern). Harthern presents the possibility of his offering another of his books to the recipients, in reference to the Lili Elbe book he describes as a “human document.” Harthern references the success of the multiple editions in Danish, German, English, and French (though the French version appeared in Voilà in 1934). Harthern inquires about the publishers’ interest in translating original copies of Scandinavian works so Harthern can translate them into German. Harthern finishes the letter with an inquiry as to the company’s publishing history in order to “clearly gage the tone and character of your company.” Also mentioned: Knud Rasmussen; I.P. Jacobsen.

Letter dated 24 March 1932 on Niels Hoyer letterhead. To Harry Schumann. From Niels Hoyer (Ernst Harthern). Harthern writes that he has attached the final portions of the Lili Elbe manuscript, which he states is now ready for publication. Harthern mentions being sick with an unspecified heart trouble. Harthern explains the changes and additions he made in the final portion of the manuscript. Harthern discusses which letters he plans to include. He references receiving numerous offers from German publishing companies vying for the Lili Elbe manuscript. Harthern concludes that the book must be published soon, for a low price, and not as a “literary delicacy,” characterizing the book instead as a “confession.”

Letter dated 16 June 1932. To Mr. Heinrich. From Ernst Harthern. Harthern expresses frustration that Mr. Heinrich, who is involved in the manuscript publication, wants to charge a high price for the published book and cut the length by one-third because—according to Harthern—Heinrich wished to include more images rather than emphasizing the narrative itself. Harthern reiterates his belief that the text is a “human document” expressing the person Lili, rather than a “literary delicacy.” Harthern discusses his share of profits and the logistics of edits including the binding material. Also mentioned: Mr. V. Einsendel; Mr. Schumann; Professor Warnekros; Rohwolt Verlag (publishing company); Gabriele Tergit

Letter dated 27 June 1932 on Niels Hoyer letterhead. From Ernst Harthern. To Harry Schumann. Harthern has sent Schumann a complete manuscript. Harthern mentions some unpleasantness dealing with Schumann’s company during Schumann’s absence, apparently over a fee charged by Mr. V. Einsiedel. Harthern requests complete edits by July 15. Harthern discusses the introduction and epilogue materials, including a timeline and description of Lili’s surgeries. Harthern requests descriptions of paintings and images to be included in the text. Harthern requests an answer as to what percentage of the store sales he will receive. Also mentioned: Mr. V. Einsiedel, a prolific book critic; Einar Wegener and his alias, Andreas Sparre; Lili Elbe; Elena; Gerda Wegener.

Letter dated 30 June 1932. From Harry Schumann. To Niels Hoyer (Ernst Harthern). Schumann addresses the brief conflict with Mr. Einsiedel, stating that he regrets his company’s misunderstanding but anticipates that his critique will give the book “some influence.” Schumann assures Harthern that he will have all corrections in a few days time, and approves of the introduction materials Harthern drafted. Schumann claims to have included the images for the text with his letter, marking the ones needing descriptions. Schumann also states being in contact with Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld regarding photos of Lili at the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Schumann requests for Harthern “the translation of the Danish article for my advertisement.” Schumann concludes stating that he will consider changes proposed for the publication contract. Also mentioned: Mr. Einsiedel; Einar Wegener; Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld.

Letter dated 16 July 1932 on Niels Hoyer letterhead. From Ernst Harthern. To Harry Schumann. Harthern describes a logistical error, with Brandstetter not receiving his introduction. Harthern asks what images will be included and when the text will be published. Also mentioned: Lili Elbe.

Letter dated 8 November 1932. To Niels Hoyer (Ernst Harthern). From Harry Schumann. Schumann acknowledges Harthern’s suggestions regarding publication logistics, including price as well as hardcover and paperback editions. Schumann congratulates Harthern on “closing the English deal” for publication of the manuscript.

Letter dated 14 November 1932 on Niels Hoyer letterhead (first of two on this date). From Ernst Harthern. To Maurice Diamond. Harthern mentions that Diamond negotiated the removal of a 5% translation fee. Details discussing the American publication are noted. Harthern describes a handwriting analyst who determined the shift in Lili’s handwriting as she underwent surgery. Harthern claims to be awaiting French and English contracts for publication, to be followed by twelve other unnamed countries. Also mentioned: Jarrolds; Ms. Saunders; Professor Warnekros; Einar Wegener; Martin Guggenheim.

Letter dated 14 November 1932 on Niels Hoyer letterhead (second of two on this date). From Ernst Harthern. To Maurice Diamond. Harthern discusses the details of a contract between himself, Diamond and a third party, Jarrolds (publisher of the British edition), particularly regarding a 5% fee for translation. Harthern states to be awaiting his contract to sign. Harthern requests that Diamond discuss Harthern’s payment percentage with Jarrolds as well. An American publication contract remains uncertain. Harthern sends Diamond photos of Lili to be included in the publication. Also mentioned: Jarrolds; Ms. Sauders; Einar Wegener and his alias, Andreas Sparre; Lili Elbe.

Letter dated 9 January 1933. From Niels Hoyer (Ernst Harthern). To Carl Schrembs. Harthern alludes to questions Schrembs has raised regarding the book, including the true circumstances of Lili’s death. Harthern mentions both long-standing kidney problems as well as heart failure, deferring to Professor Warnekros’s assessment, but outright denies the rumor of her passing from cancer. Harthern states a desire to write a novel based on the Lili Elbe story. He concludes by claiming that the book “will be published in London, New York, Budapest, Paris, Belgrade, etc. in a few months.” Also mentioned: Einar Wegener and his alias, Andreas Sparre; Professor Warnekros; Lili Elbe.

Letter in English from the Harthern Archive

A one-page typed rejection letter on Jonathan Cape Limited letterhead informing C. A. Bang that Jonathan Cape was returning the typescript of Man into Woman. Jonathan Cape had published Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness four years earlier, which resulted in an obscenity trial.