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Watercolor painting of a courtyard given to an UNRRA official

Object | Accession Number: 2015.110.2

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    Watercolor painting of a courtyard given to an UNRRA official

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    Brief Narrative
    Watercolor painting of a courtyard in the city of Markgröningen, Germany, painted by artist Richard Kiwit (or Kivit) and gifted to Rachel Greene Rottersman, director of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) Aglasterhausen Children’s Center, in Unterschwarzach, Germany. Markgröningen is a city located 20 kilometers northwest of Stuttgart, and about 60 kilometers south from Aglasterhausen. Richard Kiwit was a well-known Estonian illustrator who moved to Germany in 1944. His daughter, Dagmar Elisabeth Kiwit (later Moder), was a pediatrician, and following the war worked as a Medical Officer at Aglasterhausen Children’s Center. The children’s center opened in October 1945, and employed UNRRA personnel, skilled staff from the displaced persons (DP) population, and local German maintenance workers. The children lived in a structured environment, received classroom instruction, participated in music and arts, enjoyed planned recreation time, and were responsible for regular chores. The UNRRA ceased its DP operations in June 1947. However, the children’s center remained open with the assistance of the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organisation (PCIRO). During Rachel Green Rottersman’s tenure, between September 1945 and February 1948, 1,000 children had been cared for at Aglasterhausen. Of those, approximately one-third were repatriated to their native countries in Europe, 100 were reunited with their parents in Germany, and 350 were sent to the United States and Canada for adoption or foster care.
    creation:  1947
    depiction: Markgröningen (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John Blair Rottersman
    lower right corner, handwritten, paint: R. Kiwit
    Artist: Richard M. Kiwit
    Subject: Richard M. Kiwit
    Original owner: Rachel Greene Rottersman
    Subject: Rachel Greene Rottersman
    Subject: United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA)
    Richard Martin Karl Kiwit (or Kivit, 1888-1981) was born in Tartu, Estonia. In 1904, he began studying art at the Tartu German Artisans Association, and went on to publish illustrations and cartoons. Among his works was a popular series of Estonian children’s books. Richard married Salme Adele Margarete Martin (1891-?), and in 1912, their daughter, Dagmar Elisabeth Kiwit (later Moder 1912-?), was born. In 1944, he immigrated to Germany, where he worked for the publisher, Herba & Schneider, and the Stuttgart and Karlsruhe Museum of Natural History. Dagmar became a pediatrician, and following World War II, worked as a Medical Officer at the Aglasterhausen Children’s Center, run by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).
    Rachel Blair Greene (later Rottersman, 1908-1993) was born in Seattle, Washington, to William (1874-1947) and Ada (nee Prall, 1877-1929) Greene. Rachel had three brothers, George (1907-1979), Robert (1912-1993), and William, Jr. (1917-2012). William was a lawyer, and the family lived in a large home. They employed a housekeeper, and owned a local movie theater. At age 12, Rachel and a friend began helping care for children from a local orphanage, and gave clothing to a classmate whose family had recently immigrated to the United States. When Rachel was 14, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while traveling on the east coast, and Rachel took over as the primary caregiver for her brothers.

    In 1926, Rachel enrolled at the University of Washington in Seattle, and focused on premedical studies at her father’s insistence. During Rachel’s third year, her mother died, leading Rachel to drop out of school. In 1931, Rachel joined a government relief organization, a step that aligned with her teenage dream of becoming a social worker. After multiple federal and state assignments, she resigned in early 1936 and reenrolled at the University of Washington, graduating in December 1936. The following month, she began attending the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. After completing qualifying exams for her Ph.D., Rachel became an assistant professor in social welfare at the University of California, Berkeley.

    In October 1944, Rachel joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). After a few months of training, she sailed for Europe and arrived in England in January 1945. Her first assignment was to aid arrivals as part of Team 18 at a displaced persons (DP) camp in Kirchberg, Germany. Rachel then worked at Baumholder DP camp, where she assisted in the repatriation of over 20,000 refugees to their home countries. She also helped combat a typhoid epidemic in the camp. After the camp was closed, Rachel was assigned to work at a staging center from July to September 1945.

    On September 11, 1945, Rachel became the team director of a children’s home located at an estate just outside the village of Unterschwarzach (now Schwarzach, Germany). The estate, formerly an Evangelical industrial training school called Schwacher Hof, was renamed Aglasterhausen Children’s Center. Rachel spent approximately a month directing the renovation of the estate and hiring personnel, including UNRRA employees, skilled staff from the DP population, and local German maintenance workers. The children’s center opened in October 1945, and by the end of the year housed over 140 children, representing 15 nationalities. Rachel prioritized a structured environment, so the children had classroom instruction, music and arts, planned recreation time, as well as regular chores. In the spring of 1946, the population topped 200 children, repatriation of Polish children began, and 35 children were allowed to immigrate to the United States. Rachel was able to arrange for one of her brothers and his wife to adopt one of the babies from Aglasterhausen.

    In January 1947, Josef Rottersman (1914-2008), a Polish Jew who fled to Russia and served as a dentist for the Russian Army, arrived at Aglasterhausen to offer his services. Although the center already had a dentist, Rachel found a position for him and the pair soon fell in love. They married on May 22, and held a reception at Aglasterhausen. The UNRRA ceased its DP operations in June 1947. However the children’s center remained open with the assistance of the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organisation (PCIRO). After Rachel became pregnant in the fall of 1947, the couple made plans to move to the United States. Rachel resigned from her post on January 15, 1948, and left Germany on February 3, 1948. Josef was able to join her the following month, and changed his name to Joseph. Between September 1945 and February 1948, 1,000 children had been cared for at Aglasterhausen. Of those, approximately one-third were repatriated to their native countries in Europe, 100 were reunited with their parents in Germany, and 350 were sent to the United States and Canada for adoption or foster care. In March 1948, MGM released a film called “The Search,” featuring a children’s home and matron based on Aglasterhausen and Rachel. The film won two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes, amongst other awards and nominations, in 1949.

    Rachel and Joseph moved to Chicago in 1948. There, Rachel worked for aid agencies as a social worker and later became a teacher. Their first child, Helena (b. 1948), died in infancy. They had another child, John (b. 1949), later the following year. Joseph became a naturalized United States citizen in 1950.
    The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was an international relief agency representing 44 nations, but largely dominated by the United States. Founded in 1943, it became part of the United Nations (UN) in 1945, and it largely shut down operations in 1947. Its purpose was to "plan, co-ordinate, administer or arrange for the administration of measures for the relief of victims of war in any area under the control of any of the United Nations through the provision of food, fuel, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities, medical and other essential services." Its staff of civil servants included 12,000 people, with headquarters in New York. Funding came from many nations, and totaled $3.7 billion, of which the United States contributed $2.7 billion; Britain $625 million and Canada $139 million. The Administration of UNRRA at the peak of operations in mid-1946 included five types of offices and missions with a staff totaling nearly 25,000: The Headquarters Office in Washington, The European Regional Office (London), the 29 servicing offices and missions (2 area offices in Cairo and Sydney; 10 liaison offices and missions in Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Trieste; 12 procurement offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and later Peru, Cuba, India, Mexico, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela; 6 offices for procurement of surplus military supplies in Caserta and later Rome, Honolulu, Manila, New Delhi, Paris, Shanghai), the sixteen missions to receiving countries (Albania, Austria, Byelorussia, China, Czechoslovakia, the Dodecanese Islands, Ethiopia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Korea, the Philippines, Poland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia), and the Displaced Persons Operations in Germany.

    UNRRA cooperated closely with dozens of volunteer charitable organizations, who sent hundreds of their own agencies to work alongside UNRRA. In operation only three years, the agency distributed about $4 billion worth of goods, food, medicine, tools, and farm implements at a time of severe global shortages and worldwide transportation difficulties. The recipient nations had been especially hard hit by starvation, dislocation, and political chaos. It played a major role in helping Displaced Persons return to their home countries in Europe in 1945-46. Its UN functions were transferred to several UN agencies, including the International Refugee Organization and the World Health Organization. As an American relief agency, it was largely replaced by the Marshall Plan, which began operations in 1948. [Source: UN Original finding aid of records of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA)]

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Rectangular, watercolor and gouache painting on light cream-colored paper. The painting depicts a courtyard flanked by two buildings with orange-red roofs. On the left is a two-story building with a chimney, a green tree in the foreground, and stack of lumber along the front wall. The front has an open, rectangular doorway in the center with a perpendicular archway to the right, and six, six-paned windows with green shutters. The archway is wide and shallow, connecting the building to a three-story building on the right side of the courtyard. On the building’s left corner is a small porch with a brown roof. Underneath the roof is a brown door with a white, inset window and an open, rectangular window. To the right of the porch is an arched, open doorway beside a drainpipe that extends to the roof. The upper stories have five windows of varying sizes. In front of the porch, there is a blue and white striped lounge chair and a round bird bath on a pedestal base. Visible through the archway is a wheelbarrow and a drooping tree in front of a single-story, brown outbuilding with a red-orange roof. A title is inscribed in the lower left corner, and the artist’s signature is painted into the lower right corner. The back of the painting is heavily discolored and stained, and the upper left corner has remnants of tape, yellowed with age.
    overall: Height: 11.875 inches (30.163 cm) | Width: 13.875 inches (35.243 cm)
    overall : paper, paint, gouache, graphite, adhesive, tape
    lower left corner, handwritten, pencil: Markgröningen

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Kivit, Richard.

    Administrative Notes

    The painting was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2015 by John B. Rottersman, the son of Rachel Greene Rottersman.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 09:52:45
    This page:

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