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Wolf-Oppenheimer Family Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 25665

Scope and Content Note

The Wolf-Oppenheimer Collection contains the papers of more than three generations of members of the related Wolf and Oppenheimer families. Much of the focus of the collection is on Hermann and Irene (née Oppenheimer) Wolf and Marlies (née Wolf) and Eugene Plotnik, with the siblings and parents of Hermann and Irene Wolf also prominent in the collection, as are the Wolf family ancestors. The collection includes personal papers, official and educational documents, family correspondence, photographs, family trees, articles as well as personal family writing, and newspaper clippings.

The first series of this collection contains the papers of Hermann and Irene Wolf. The series includes family correspondence, educational records for Hermann Wolf, and many papers that relate to the family's lives in Germany as well as their immigration to the United States. Most of the papers pertain to the family in general or to Hermann Wolf in particular, including material that pertains to his profession as a lawyer in Germany. Among the emigration papers are lists of the family's possessions, which provide evidence of the family's financial and societal standing. Related are photographs of members of Hermann and Irene Wolf and their children, located in Series V, which holds the majority of the collection's photographs.

Series II holds the papers of Marlies (née Wolf) and Eugene (called Gene) Plotnik. About half the series consists of personal correspondence between the couple. Notable as well is a book of short stories about Marlies, written by her childhood nanny, that provides additional hints about the family's life in Germany. This series also holds a small amount of papers that pertain to Marlies's studies at Barnard College and later professional work. Most photographs of Marlies and Eugene Plotnik will also be found in Series V, especially of Marlies as a young girl but also of the couple together. Series IV contains research material and family trees gathered by Marlies Plotnik, with much of these papers pertaining to the family history, information about towns in which the family lived, family graves, or memoirs written by family members.

Papers of the extended members of the Wolf, Oppenheimer, and related families are located in Series III, with the bulk of the material concerning the Wolf side of the family. Series III is divided into two subseries, for the two branches of the family. The family papers in this series are varied, including official documents such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, as well as educational records from schools and universities, professional writings by family members, articles written about family members or which mention them, family correspondence, and papers relating to the finances or estate of family members. Prominent among the many individuals whose papers comprise this series are the lawyer Paul Wolf, Hermann Wolf's brother, and their sister Ella Wolf, a physician. Some material is also available about Johanna Geissmar, Hermann Wolf's second cousin once removed, who was also a physician: she was held in the Gurs concentration camp and died in Auschwitz. Other papers relate to Hermann Wolf's parents, among several others. Documents in Subseries 2 largely consist of papers of Irene Wolf's parents and sister Hilde, accompanying family correspondence, and some family papers. Series V holds photographs of most individuals whose papers are included in Series III.

Dates

  • 1843-2015

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with a small amount of Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

email: lbaeck@lbi.cjh.org

Biographical Note<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Photo of Irene (née Oppenheimer) Wolf and Hermann David Wolf" href="http://digital.cjh.org/webclient/DeliveryManager?pid=4617708" show="embed" title="Photo of Irene (née Oppenheimer) Wolf and Hermann David Wolf"/>

Hermann David Wolf was born on April 28, 1880 in Alzey, Germany, the younger son of the leather merchant Theodor Wolf of Alzey and his wife Caecilie Levintas. Theodor Wolf owned a leather business, Wolf und Söhne, in Alzey. In addition to the family business Theodor Wolf was a prominent member of the community. For twelve years he was deputy mayor (erster Beigeordneter) of Alzey, as well as a long-time member of the Chamber of Commerce and the county council of Alzey-Bingen, a member of the leadership of the Jewish Community for forty years, and he was head of the Jewish Charitable Society and the Jewish War Welfare Society. Theodor Wolf's eldest son was Paul Jakob Wolf, who became a lawyer but died in April 1922 of leukemia. Hermann and Paul had a sister, Ella, who became a physician who was killed in the euthanasia center at Hadamar in 1941. Hermann Wolf studied law at the universities of Giessen, Heidelberg, Munich and Berlin, and in 1908 was admitted to practice law in Germany. He served as an officer in World War I. On March 9, 1920 he married Irene Oppenheimer in Berlin. The couple moved to Darmstadt, where Hermann Wolf had established a legal practice with his partner Dr. Mainzer.

Irene Oppenheimer was the daughter of Max and Mina (née Adler) Oppenheimer. Max Oppenheimer began working for the leather firm Adler & Oppenheimer A.G. in 1883 in their Strasbourg (then Straßburg, Germany) branch as a travelling representative for Württemberg until in October 1892 he was made head of the firm's new branch in Berlin. Adler & Oppenheimer became a success partly because it supplied leather to the German army during World War I. Irene had a younger sister, Hilde (after marriage Hilde Menke), who lived in Jerusalem in the 1930s but later joined her sister in the United States.

Irene and Hermann Wolf had three children in Darmstadt: Paul Theodor (born in 1922 and named for his recently deceased uncle), Ellen (Elfriede) Mathilde (born in 1924), and Marlies (Marie-Luise) Johanna (born in 1927). The family had servants as well as a nanny (Haustochter), Lisbeth Hake, the daughter of Hermann Wolf's orderly in World War I, who remained with the family for sixteen years until Nazi laws made it impossible for her to stay in the household. The Wolf family was well-regarded in Darmstadt, with Hermann Wolf working pro bono for needy clients and helping those in need financially. In December 1936 Hermann and Irene Wolf traveled to New York, where Hermann's cousin, Milton Opton, lived, to determine if the family should move there. Upon their return to Germany they began the process of acquiring American immigration visas.

The Wolf family was finally able to emigrate from Germany to the United States in 1939, traveling via London, where Paul Wolf had been attending boarding school. They crossed the Atlantic on the R.M.S. Queen Mary, and arrived in New York City on February 27, 1939. The family eventually settled into an apartment on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. Mina Oppenheimer eventually joined them there in 1941.

In fall 1945 Marlies Wolf began her studies at Barnard College in Manhattan, where she majored in philosophy. In her sophomore year she met Eugene (called Gene) Plotnik; several months later the couple began dating. They married in March 1950. Eugene Plotnik wrote about television for The Billboard, while Marlies worked as a copywriter. The Plotniks shared a spacious apartment on Central Park West with Marlies's sister, Ellen Wolfson, and her husband, son, and daughter. The Plotniks had two sons, whose surnames were eventually changed to Potter. After nine years the Plotniks and the Wolfsons moved to separate apartments near each other. Marlies Plotnik established a freelance copywriting group and also later wrote a nationally syndicated column with Joy Singer, called Women @ Work. Eugene Plotnik advanced in his career, eventually becoming the creative director of the television department of King Features, which produced cartoons such as Popeye and the animated Beatles. The family later moved to Scarsdale, New York, where the two families once again shared a large home.

Hermann Wolf died in New York City in 1951, his wife Irene in 1972. Their son Paul passed away in 1992, daughter Ellen in 1998, and son-in-law Eugene Plotnik in 2008.

Extent

2 Linear Feet

Abstract

The Wolf-Oppenheimer Collection provides details on the lives, both personal and professional of more than three generations of members of the related Wolf and Oppenheimer families. Most prominently represented among the collection's papers are Hermann and Irene (née Oppenheimer) Wolf and their daughter Marlies (née Wolf) and Eugene Plotnik, but the papers relate to many other family members as well. The collection includes personal papers, official and educational documents, family correspondence, photographs, family trees, articles as well as personal family writing, and newspaper clippings.

Separated Material

A number of memoirs and books were removed to the LBI Memoir Collection or the LBI Library. Photocopies of the title pages and any handwritten dedications on these items were retained in the archival collection.

Three memoirs of family members have been removed to the LBI Memoir Collection:
  1. We came to America : Memoirs of a refugee child by Marlies Wolf Plotnik (ME 1513)
  2. Erinnerungen by Clara Geissmar (ME 181)
  3. My Youth: Memories of Substance and Trivia 1897-1921 by Alice Hochschild
A memoir by an unrelated family with information on the Adler & Oppenheimer firm was also removed to the LBI Memoir Collection: True Hearts: the Memoirs of Werner and Irmgard Treuherz.

A book about family member Johanna Geissmar was removed to the LBI Library: Meine Schwester starb in Auschwitz by Richard Zahlten.

A published memoir by family member Berta Geissmar, with a handwritten dedication by her, was removed to the LBI Library prior to the processing of the archival collection: Musik im Schatten der Politik; Erinnerungen (ML 429 G4 A34 1951).

The published dissertation by Paul Jakob Wolf from 1902 was removed to the LBI Library: Über das schlichte Mobiliarmiteigentum unter dem Rechte des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs für das Deutsche Reich.

Other books were also removed to the LBI Library from this archival collection, including The Sonnets of Shakespeare, given by Eugene Plotnik to Marlies Plotnik in 1981; Denkwürdiges Darmstadt, given by the Wolf's former nanny Lisbeth Lang and her husband; and Großherzog Ernst Ludwig und das Schicksal seines Hauses by Max Wauer.

Several publications were removed from the archival collection to the LBI Library. Three issues of Leipziger Zeitschrift für Deutsches Recht with articles by or about Paul Jakob Wolf were removed, with copies of his articles kept in the archival collection. Two issues of the Barnard College undergraduate magazine, The Bear, were also removed, with photocopies of the covers designed by Marlies Wolf retained in the archival collection. One issue of Barnard, the Barnard College alumnae magazine, was also removed, with a copy retained in the collection of the articles in it written by Marlies and Eugene Plotnik. Other publications removed from the collection include Juden-Deportation aus Darmstadt 1942/43 and WNYC Wavelength, with a copy retained of its article on Kristallnacht.

Several items with audiovisual media were removed to the LBI Audiovisual Collection. Included is an audiocassette from a visit of Lisbeth Lang to Marlies Plotnik in 1969, with discussions of Lisbeth's memories of Marlies's childhood. An accompanying letter from Marlies's childhood boyfriend was removed to folder 1/33. A second item is a DVD of a local television interview, conducted by the town of Greenburgh, New York, of Marlies Wolf Plotnik about her life before and after Hitler. The interview series was titled Lessons Learned from the Holocaust: Then, Now, and Never Again. Finally, there is an interview of Werner Treuherz about the history of the Adler & Oppenheimer Leather Company; the original audiocassette has been transferred onto a CD.

Processing Information

During the processing of the archival collection, it was arranged in five series, based on the major topics observed in the collection, as well as format. Basic preservation actions were also undertaken at this time.

Some items were removed from the collection to appropriate areas of the Leo Baeck Institute's collections. For further details, see Separated Material.

Although the collection did not have evidence of original order, numerous notes by Marlies Wolf Plotnik were located throughout the collection, including on the collection's papers. These notes provide details on family members, topics, or individuals, thereby indicating the significance and context of individual items and their connection to the family.
Title
Guide to the Papers of the Wolf-Oppenheimer Family 1843-2015 AR 25665
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
Date
© 2017
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Wolf-OppenheimerFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • August 10, 2017 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States