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Sketch of buildings along a Grecian shoreline drawn by a German Jewish refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2005.546.46

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    Brief Narrative
    Ink drawing of a water view of Chersonesos, Crete, created by Nelly Rossmann in 1934. Nelly's brother Willy Schwabacher was an prominent archeologist. He worked on excavations in Turkey, Italy, and Greece for the German Archaeological Institute and this drawing may be based on photographs from his travels. Nelly was a graphic designer for the Frankfurter Zeitung, a progressive newspaper in Frankfurt, Germany, when Hitler was appointed Chancellor on January 30, 1933. Following the Reichstag Fire in late February, Germany became a police state and anti-Jewish legislation was enacted. Nelly was a Quaker, but she had been born Jewish and in 1935, fired due to a decree that Jews could not work in publishing After the Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938, her parents left for England, but Nelly still had strong pro-German feelings and was not ready to leave. In 1939, she and her son Michael, 9, went to England to visit her family; while they were there, Germany invaded Poland and war broke out. They remained in England and, after the war ended in May 1945, became British citizens.
    Artwork Title
    Blick auf Chersonesos, Crete, 1934
    creation:  1934
    creation: Frankfurt am Main (Germany)
    depiction: Chersonesos (Crete, Greece)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Michael G. Rossmann
    front, center, right side, in black ink : NR / 34.
    Artist: Nelly S. Rossmann
    Subject: Nelly S. Rossmann
    Subject: Willy Schwabacher
    Nelly (Cornelia) Bertha Schwabacher was born on February 14, 1899, in Frankfurt, Germany to Anna Cahn and Heinrich Schwabacher. Her father, a merchant and dealer in rare coins, was from a large, wealthy, prominent Jewish family which had lived in Frankfurt for generations. She had an older brother, William (Willy) Heinrich, born in 1897. The family was assimilated and liberal, and considered themselves Germans. Her maternal grandfather, Adoph E. Cahn, was a prominent coin dealer and the family had been established in the area for generations. On January 30, 1930, Nelly married Alexandre Sasha Rossmann, a member of a wealthy, non-Jewish family from Wiesbaden. Their son, Michael, was born on July 30. Alexandre’s father was a professor and principal of the local Gymnasium. His mother was extremely antisemitic and refused to speak to Nelly. His brother, Bruno, was a dedicated Nazi Party member. Despite the family's anti-Semitism, Nelly and Alexandre's son, Michael, often had enjoyable family visits with his father's family. Nelly and Alexandre divorced in 1933 and Nelly and her son lived with her parents. Her mother looked after the child when Nelly started to work full time as a graphic artist for the Frankfurter Zeitung, a highly respected democratic and intellectual newspaper published since 1866. Around this time, Nelly, a pacifist, became a member of the Society of Quakers.
    On January 30, 1933, Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. By summer, the Nazi dictatorship was firmly established: the civil rights of all Germans were eliminated and anti-Jewish laws had been enacted. Jews were no longer allowed to work in government positions and there were restrictions placed upon their participation in other areas of economic and cultural life in Germany. In 1935, Nelly was fired from Der Zeitung due to a government decree that Jews could not work in the publishing industry. To support her family, she opened a crafts studio where she gave lessons to Jewish children. Michael began school in 1935, attending a Jewish school his first year and then transferring to a public school. As a Mischling [mixed race] boy with a Jewish mother, Michael was frequently mistreated in school. Shortly after the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9-10, 1938, Nelly sent Michael to the Netherlands to attend a Quaker school. He returned to Frankfurt in the summer of 1939 after the school term was finished. He learned that his mother’s parents had left for England to escape the increasing anti-Jewish persecutions. They stayed with Nelly's maternal aunt, who had emigrated there in the early 1930s. Nelly still had strong pro-German feelings and was not ready to leave.
    In July 1939, Nelly and Michael buried the family silverware in the garden and went to England to visit Nelly’s mother. Shortly before Michael was to go back to school in Holland, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. Michael and Nelly remained in England, living with her aunt’s family. Nelly was able to get work as a graphic desiger for Dei Zeitung, a London based German newspaper headed by a former board member of the Frankfurter Zeitung, but life was very difficult during the war. Nelly, Anna, and Michael were able to move into their own flat in North Finchley, but as the Blitz, with its frequent German bombing raids of London, continued, they had to evacuate to Hartfordshire for several months. Nelly also did social work in settlement houses in London’s East End. After the war ended in May 1945, Nellie and Michael stayed in London and became British citizens. Michael received his Ph.D in Chemical Crystallography from the University of Glasgow in 1956 and pursed a career in academia. He married Audrey Pearson, and they immigrated to the United States in by the early 1960s, settling in Lafayette, Indiana. Nelly died in 1957 at the age of 58.
    Willy (William) Heinrich Schwabacher was born on July 22, 1897, in Frankfurt, Germany, to Heinrich, a merchant, and Anna Cahn. He had one sister, Cornelia (Nelly) who was born in 1899. The Schwabachers were a wealthy, prominent, assimilated Jewish family who had lived in Frankfurt for generations. Willy joined the German Army during World War I (1914-1918). After the war, Willy returned to school, where he obtained a doctorate in classical archeology and ancient history. He became an archeologist and a numismatic, specializing in ancient coins. He worked on excavations in Turkey, Italy, and Greece for the German Archaeological Institute. Hitler was elected Chancellor in January 1933. By spring, anti-Jewish legislation had been enacted and Jews were forbidden from participating in many areas of German life. In 1935, Willy lost his position on the excavation team because he was Jewish. He went to Austria, where he joined the Austrian Archaeological Institute. But in March 1938, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany, and anti-Jewish legislation was enacted. Willy left for Great Britain, then in 1939, went to Denmark, where he worked at the National Museum in Copenhagen. In April 1940, Denmark was occupied by Germany. But it was not until August 1943, when the Danish government resigned and the Germans declared martial law, that the persecution and deportations of Jews to concentration camps began to be organized. Information about the impending round-ups leaked out and the Danish people quickly mobilized to deter the German attempts at deportations. Willy was ferried to Sweden by the Danish resistance and he eventually got a position with the National Museum as a keeper of Greek coins. After the war ended in May 1945, he married, Annemie, a German Jewish survivor of Belsen concentration camp. Willy became an internationally known archeologist who received numerous awards for his work in numismatics. He died in 1972 at the age of 75.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Ink drawing with penciled underdrawings on paper depicting a large body of water meeting the shore on the left near a row of single story buildings with 6 tall cypress trees behind them. In the left foreground is a sparsely leaved tree with a twisted trunk. In the far background is a steep cliff overlooking the water. The artist's signature and date are on the right and there is German text on the back.
    overall: Height: 8.875 inches (22.543 cm) | Width: 12.000 inches (30.48 cm)
    overall : paper, ink, graphite
    back, lower left corner, black ink : Blick auf Chersonesos [View of Chersonesos]

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    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Michael G. Rossmann, the son of Nelly Rossmann.
    Record last modified:
    2023-07-10 10:36:20
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