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Bernard Louis Gorfinkle Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-664

Scope and Content Note

The Bernard L. Gorfinkle Papers reflect his family attachment, and his pride in being a member of the U.S. Army, having served his country in World Wars I and II. Though the collection does not preserve the total volume of his papers, its importance goes beyond the individual whose life these papers represent.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying the events in France and in Germany during World War I, when Bernard Gorfinkle served as part of the official U.S. team negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. The papers also highlight his interests and concerns during World War II, when he was reinstated in the Army for active duty.

The collection contains family and official U.S. Army correspondence, legal documents, reports, financial documents, telegrams, newspaper clippings, press releases, handwritten notes, photographs, a scrapbook, pension materials and Supreme Economic Council documents. These documents are primarily in English, with some documents in Hebrew or French.

Dates

  • undated, 1916-1979

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is predominantly in English, with Hebrew, and French.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Biographical Note

A U.S. attorney and community leader, Bernard L. Gorfinkle was born on October 29, 1889 to Harris and Sarah (Miliontaler) Gorfinkle in Boston, Massachusetts. He married Frieda Edinberg on June 7, 1921 and had three children-Herbert, Ruth (later Ruth Gorfinkle Roberts) and Sara.

After graduating from Boston University Law School in 1911, he was admitted to the Massachusetts and Federal Bar the same year and practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts. Upon his discharge from the Army in 1919 he returned to private corporate law practice, and worked in every department of a large bank with legal work, establishing branches and new departments, supervising brokerage houses and businesses of all sorts.

Bernard L. Gorfinkle's military career began in 1913 when he enlisted in the Massachusetts cavalry and served at the Mexican border as a sergeant under General Pershing. Upon the entrance of the U.S. into World War I he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Forces. He participated in seven major battles and was wounded twice at Verdun, and promoted on the battlefield from second lieutenant to Captain Judge Advocate in the 26th Yankee Division. After the Armistice he was assigned to the American Peace Commission as secretary and military aide to Bernard M. Baruch. He was appointed Secretary of the Raw Materials Section of the Supreme Economic Council, and Paris representative of the Rhineland Commission. He was present at the signing of the Versailles Treaty in 1919 as a military aide to President W. Wilson.

Bernard L. Gorfinkle was decorated by the U.S. government, the French government and knighted by the King of Belgium at the close of World War I.

In 1919 he became a member of the Reserve Corps of the Army with the rank of Colonel. After the entrance of the United States in World War II, upon recommendation of President Roosevelt and approval of the U.S. Senate, he was appointed as Field Supervisor of the War Manpower Commissions for New England. In 1962, he was promoted to Brigadier General by Governor John Volpe from Massachusetts.

His wide-ranging interest in Jewish life led him to be co-founder and commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post of Newton, Massachusetts. He also was the founder, first president and honorary president of the Newton Squash and Tennis Club. He served as director of the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Boston Brandeis Club, and was an honorary trustee of Beth Israel Hospital. He was organizer and first president of the New England graduates of Zeta Beta Tan, and past president and administrator of the New Century Club and its students aid fund. He was active in many different local, state and national organizations, such as the Gorfinkle Foundation and the YMHA of France. He served in an executive capacity in many businesses, communal, athletic and social organizations. He was a member of the Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts, American Friends of Hebrew University, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and the American Jewish Historical Society.

References

  1. Material in the collection.
  2. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 5, p. 67 (1941)
  3. Who's Who in World Jewry (1965 and 1972), p. 354
  4. Biographical Encyclopedia of American Jews (1935), p. 191

Chronology

1889
BLG born in Boston, Massachusetts
1906
Graduates from Boston English High School
1911
L.L.B., Boston University Law School
1913
Pvt., Massachusetts Cavalry
1916
Sergeant, Mexican Border Service
1917
Second Lieutenant, American Expeditionary Forces
1918
Promoted in the field to Captain Judge Advocate in the 26th Yankee Division; wounded twice in France
1918
Acting Jewish Chaplain
1918
Trail Judge Advocate
1919
Delegate, American Peace Commission & Commission on Germany
1919
Secretary & Military Aide to Bernard M. Baruch
1919
Secretary of the Raw Materials Section of the Supreme Economic Council
1919
Paris Representative, Rhineland Commission
1919
Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve Corps.
1919
Military Aide to President Woodrow Wilson
1919
Judge Advocate, Maritime Affairs, New York
1921
Marries Frieda Edinberg
1932
State Department Judge Advocate, JWV
1942-1945
New England Field Supervisor, War Manpower Commission
1953-1957
Colonel, military aide to Governor Herter of Massachusetts
1962
Military aide to Governor John Volpe of Massachusetts
1962
Brigadier General, promoted by Governor J. Volpe, Massachusetts
1973
BLG dies
Military Honors
U.S. Service Medal, seven stars (1919)
Purple Heart (1919); Medals of Verdun, Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Le Havre, BelleWoods (1919)
Belgian Order of the Crown (1919)

Extent

1.5 linear feet (3 manuscript boxes, 1 OS folder)

Abstract

Consists of correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, ephemera, documents and a scrapbook compiled by a Boston area lawyer and civic leader who served in the United States Army during both World Wars and was a participant in the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Versailles and the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Sara Gorfinkle in 1992. Additional papers were donated in 1995 (donor unknown).

Processing Information

Processed by Claire B. Farkas. Reprocessed by Stephanie Call.
Title
Guide to the Bernard L. Gorfinkle Papers, P-664
Author
Processed by Claire B. Farkas (1994), reprocessed by Stephanie Call (2007)
Date
2007
Sponsor
Processed by Stephanie Call, Schilder Assistant Archivist, made possible by a grant from the Schilder Family Fund. This collection has been digitized, made possible by a grant from the Trustees u/w of Herman Dana.

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245