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Rothstern family papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2016.186.3

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    Correspondence, identification and citizenship documents, school report cards, letters of reference, photographs, and other items, that primarily document the lives of Irma Rothstern and her son Heinz, of Hamburg, Germany, during the 1910s to 1930s, and then following their forced emigration due to Nazi persecution, in Shanghai, China from 1939 to 1955. Included is a document about the citizenship of Irma's husband, Isidor; and of Heinz's wife, Julia, as well as unidentified family photographs from approximately the 1910s. The bulk of the documents in this collection were used to establish the identities, educational and professional backgrounds, and citizenship of Irma and Heinz.

    The material in the collection is arranged in groupings by family members. The material from Heinz Rothstern largely consists of grade reports from his primary and secondary school in Hamburg in the late 1920s, identification documents from China, and letters of reference, mostly from the period after his return to Europe in the 1950s, but also including one letter from an employer in 1937, saying that he was an exemplary employee but had to be laid off due to the newly-implemented laws that forbade the hiring of Jewish employees in Germany.

    The material from Irma Rothstern includes her 1939 German passport, showing the path that she took tom leave Germany that year for China, various identification cards from the 1950s, including one issued to her in West Germany attesting that she was a refugee, as well as a card issue by the International Refugee Organization in China in 1950, and letters of reference. The latter documents are divided between those provided by employers in pre-war Germany, and those provided by the Jewish Communities in Shanghai and Hamburg, as she prepared to return to Germany in the early 1950s. Also included is a certificate of citizenship from the Republic of Austria, that was given to her in 1959.

    The other Rothstern family members are represented by an identification card issued to Isidor Rothstern in May 1901 in Vienna, and a certificate of residence from the town of Slavkov, in Moravia, issued in 1920 and identifying Rothstern as being a native of that town. On the verso of that document is a stamp and written notation, stating that Rothstern became an Austrian citizen by choice in 1921. The file for Julia Rothstern contains a handwritten text, presumably drafted for a citizenship application in Austria or Germany, following immigration in 1955. In it, Julia notes that she was born in Guangzhou (Canton) as Julia Teng, that she is Catholic, both of her parents are deceased, and that up through the war years, she worked in her father’s textile business, and varying dates are given for her marriage to Heinz.

    Remaining materials include a file of documents, which are unidentified slips of papers with notations on them, including one with the birthday of Heinz and other data about him, a business card—presumably from the parents or other family members of Irma Rothstern—and other material. A folder marked “Chinese documents” contains material that likely date from Shanghai, but at present are unidentified, and the last folder, “photographs and postcards,” consists primarily of images of unidentified friends or family members, although several of the postcards were sent by Irma’s brother, Julius, while he was serving in the German Army during World War I, and a postwar letter to Heinz from Julius, in the form of a card, is also included.
    inclusive:  1901-1960
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
    Collection Creator
    Rothstern family
    Irma Rothstern was born Irma Bernstein on 22 January 1886 in Hamburg. She married Isidor Rothstern (1872-1927), who was a native of Slavkov, in what is now the Czech Republic, and who opted for Austrian citizenship after the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire, in 1920. The Rothsterns had at least one son, Heinz, who was born in Vienna on 29 June 1915. Letters of reference show that Irma Rothstern was employed in a lingerie store in Vienna in 1928-1929, a department store in Hamburg-Wandsbek in 1929, and in a chemical factory in Meerane in Saxony, in 1937. Her son Heinz attended primary and secondary school in Hamburg, but left secondary school (the Talmud Tora Realschule) in 1931 in order to apprentice in a trade, and worked in retail business for the next several years, with a letter of reference from a firm in Vienna in 1938 showing that he had been let go due to the forced layoffs of Jewish employees.

    In February 1939, Irma left Germany via the Brenner Pass into Italy, from which she travelled to China, arriving in Shanghai in March of that same year. Heinz apparently accompanied her, and she and her son lived in the French Concession (1248/17 rue Lafayette) until, by proclamation of the Japanese occupation authorities, they were forced into the ghetto on East Yuhang Road, where they remained until the end of the war, in 1945, returning at that time to their apartment on the rue Lafayette. Unable to immigrate, they remained in China for the next decade, returning to Europe around 1954 or 1955. During their time in China, Heinz married Julia Teng (born 1 May 1913), the daughter of an owner of a textile business. Two documents give differing dates of their wedding, either 1942 or 1954. When Heinz and Julia left China around 1954, she sought Austrian citizenship, based on her husband’s country of birth, and documents in this collection show that Irma also applied for and received Austrian citizenship as well. Letters of reference show that Heinz worked after that point in the hospitality industry, at hotels and restaurants in Vienna and Hamburg.

    Physical Details

    German Chinese
    14 folders
    System of Arrangement
    Files are grouped alphabetically by name of family member, and then alphabetically by document type within those groupings.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Acquired from the Kedem Public Auction House, Ltd. in 2016.
    Funding Note
    The acquisition of this collection was made possible by the Crown Family.
    Record last modified:
    2023-03-27 11:21:33
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