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Collage in two sections of a teacher with students by a German Jewish refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2005.546.106 a-b

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    Brief Narrative
    Multi-colored collage of a teacher with four students on two sheets of cardboard created by Nelly Rossmann. Nelly was a graphic designer for the Frankfurter Zeitung, a progressive newspaper in Frankfurt, Germany, when Hitler was appointed Chancellor on January 30, 1933. Antisemitic legislation soon took away the rights of Jews. Nelly was a Quaker, but she had been born Jewish, and in 1935, she was fired due to a decree that Jews could not work in publishing. Nelly taught children crafts to support her 5 year old son, Michael. 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 her country. In 1939, she and Michael 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, she became a British citizen.
    Artwork Title
    Teacher and students in class
    creation:  1920-1939
    creation: Frankfurt am Main (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Michael G. Rossmann
    Artist: Nelly S. Rossmann
    Subject: Nelly S. Rossmann
    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.

    Physical Details

    English German
    Object Type
    Collage (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    a. One half of a collage depicting a schoolroom with teacher and students made from multicolored construction paper glued to yellow cardboard. On the left is a black chalkboard on a tripod with brown numbers. A male teacher stands to the right with his left hand extended behind him and his right hand pointing in front. His features are in brown, except for a yellow ear and nose. His jacket is green and pants light brown with black dots. On the right is a male student leaning over a brown desk, also done in yellow and brown. His jacket is red with a brown collar and light brown shorts. On the right edge is a brown hand of a student in the corresponding cardboard collage (b). On the reverse has adhesive residue.
    b. One half of a collage depicting a row of 3 students seated at their desks made from multicolored construction paper glued to yellow cardboard. The male student on the left sits at a green desk with his left arm extended in front of him and his right arm behind. His left hand is on the first cardboard collage (a). His feaures are in brown and green. In the center, a black haired female student in a green desk sits at her desk with her face in her hands. The male student on the right is bent over his desk with his left arm extended up and his face down. His arms and torso are green; face, leg and hand are light brown; hair is yellow and pants light brown. The top center has a faint pencilled diagram with text . The reverse has adhesive residue.
    a: Height: 8.875 inches (22.543 cm) | Width: 13.875 inches (35.243 cm)
    b: Height: 8.750 inches (22.225 cm) | Width: 11.625 inches (29.528 cm)
    a : cardboard, construction paper, adhesive
    b : cardboard, construction paper, graphite, adhesive
    b. front, top left, in pencil : B / C
    b. front, top center, in pencil : . . . Ron, L[-?] A, Brown / rot / GELB ROT / ROSA / brown

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The collage was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Michael G. Rossmann, the son of Nelly Rossmann.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:29:01
    This page:

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