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Bernhard Wolff Family Collection

Identifier: AR 5482

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the family of Bernhard Wolff, extending back to his earliest known ancestors, one of whom was the first court Jew of East Frisia, through his grandchildren born in the 1970s in Brazil. The collection focuses almost exclusively on the personal lives of the family members and the history of the Jewish community in Bernhard Wolff’s hometown of Esens, Ostfriesland, Germany.

Series I consists of records related directly to the Wolff family.

Series II contains clippings, photographs, correspondence, and short narratives on the history of the Jewish community in Esens, Germany. Two volumes of these materials were copied and bound together by Bernhard Wolff, while others were donated as loose papers and photographs.

Many of the documents in both series are photocopies, and the photographs are often reprints. The major exception to this is the correspondence, all of which is original and often very fragile.


  • 1881-1991
  • Majority of material found within 1938-1988


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and Portuguese with a few documents in Hebrew, Aramaic, and English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

Biographical Note

This collection documents the family of Bernhard Wolff, extending back to his ancestors from 1646 through his grandchildren.

The Wolff family traces its lineage back to Calman Abrahams, the first court Jew of the Count of East Frisia and the founder of the first synagogue in Aurich (Ostfriesland, Germany).

Bernhard Wolff was born on April 29, 1910 in Esens (Ostfriesland, Germany) to the cattle dealer Karl Wolff (1873-1936) and his wife Flora née Oppenheimer (born 1881). Bernhard had seven siblings, one of whom died as an infant: Alfred (February 27 1903-April 7, 1903), Hanna (alternatively called Johanna, born 1904), Siegfried (born 1906), Arthur (born 1907), Richard (born 1909), Walter (born1911), and Josef (born 1912).

On September 29, 1937, Bernhard married Fanny (alternatively called Anni) Mitau (born December 15, 1907) in Fanny’s hometown Dargun Mecklenburg, Germany. Fanny Mitau’s parents were Hugo Mitau (1866-1938) and Ida née Jacobsohn (1870-1944).

Bernhard and Fanny were able to escape the persecution of the National Socialist regime along with most of their family members between 1938 and 1939. Bernhard and Fanny, Bernhard’s mother Flora, and most of Bernhard’s siblings immigrated to South America, settling in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Bernhard’s brother Arthur immigrated to the United States and settled in New Hampshire.

Fanny’s mother Ida Mitau née Jacobsohn was not able to obtain a visa to emigrate. She perished in the concentration camp at Theresienstadt in 1944.

Bernhard and Fanny settled in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where they had two sons, Claudio Henrique (born March 26, 1942) and Norberto (born October 22, 1947).

Claudio Henrique Wolff and his wife Irene née Herz married on September 9, 1965. Their children were Marcia (1969), Tania (1967), Marcelo (April 6, 1972-April 28, 1972), and Fernando (January 24, 1974).

Norberto Wolff married Mery Pomerancblum (born December 22, 1950) on June 8, 1974. They had two children, Fabiane (born September 21, 1976) and Rafael (born November 28, 1978).


1.25 Linear Feet


This collection documents the family of Bernhard Wolff, extending back to his earliest known ancestor in 1646 through his grandchildren born in the 1970s. Born in Esens (Ostfriesland, Germany), Bernhard escaped National Socialist persecution by emigrating to Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1938, followed shortly thereafter by his wife Fanny née Mitau. His six siblings and mother Flora née Oppenheimer also emigrated, eventually settling in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, or the U.S. The collection contains correspondence, family trees, vital records, official documents, and photographs of family and Jewish historical sites. Also included are a three-volume family chronicle and a two-volume collection of materials on the Jewish community of Esens (Ostfriesland) created by Bernhard Wolff. A unique highlight of the collection is the postcard album belonging to Fanny’s mother Ida Mitau née Jacobsohn, who was not able to escape Germany and perished in Theresienstadt.


The collection was separated into materials relating directly to the Wolff family and those that relate to the history of the Jewish community of Esens, Germany. The family papers were then separated into three subseries according to document type.

Digitization Note

The collection was digitized and made accessible in its entirety.

Related Material

More documents on the history of the Jewish community in East Frisia can be found in the Papers of Max Markreich, held in the LBI Archives.

The personal archive of Bernhard Wolff is located in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This collection and an interview with Bernhard Wolff were cited in Jeffrey Lesser’s book Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question.

Separated Material

The postcard album belonging to Ida Mitau née Jacobsohn has been placed in its own box in the LBI Manuscript Collection, MS 933

Processing Information

Duplicates were removed and folded papers were flattened.

Guide to the Bernhard Wolff Family Collection 1881-1991 (bulk 1938-1988) AR 5482
Processed by Leanora Lange
© 2012
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Processing and digitization made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States