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Rudolf and Victoria Pordes Collection

Identifier: AR 10516

Scope and Content Note

The Rudolf and Victoria Pordes Collection portrays the life and professional work of Rudolf Pordes, the husband of Victoria. Included are papers that document his education in Vienna, immigration to the United States by way of Belgium and France, and his employment in the United States. The collection consists of official papers, correspondence, notes, publications, legal documents and photographs.

Rudolf Pordes's immigration from Vienna to the United States is documented in both Series I and II. Series I includes certificates related to his early childhood in Poland and later life in Vienna. It also has Belgian and French official documents that show his travel through the area as well as a folder on Camp les Milles, where he was interned prior to finding passage to New York. Series II contains his correspondence with his first wife Goldie Senzer during the time of his immigration, when Rudolf was in Europe and she was in New York City, which largely discusses immigration concerns. Further personal documents from Series I continue the tale of his life in New York, including papers from his first years in New York and documenting his divorce from Goldie, leases from residences in New York and documentation of his further education.

Material on Rudolf Pordes's postwar life centers on his professional activities, including his attempt to continue his work as a furrier, establish an export business, and artistic work. Much of Rudolf Pordes's correspondence to his second wife Victoria, in Series II, relates to difficulties with shipping items from Vienna. The bulk of papers on his work as furrier, exporter and artist is located in Series III. This series includes photographs of his artwork and information on exhibits in which he participated, including a posthumous Art Barn exhibit. His work as a furrier is documented with receipts and payments as he attempted to establish himself in New York. Finally, several folders hold lists of items and correspondence with shipping companies that may relate to an attempt to establish an export business for ceramics.


  • Creation: 1912-1985
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1939-1959


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, Polish and French.

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


Biographical Note

Victoria (Zetlin) Russman Pordes was the third of five children of Selig Selikov Zetlin, orginally from Vitebsk, Byelorussia, and Esther Geselevna Zetlin. The Zetlins, probably married in the 1890s, lived in Kursk, Russia. Selig Zetlin was a self-taught chemist who had taught himself German in order to read chemistry books. At the turn of the century he worked for the Russian railway and supported the growing family in style, with a house, coach, and servants. But in 1905, after Japan defeated Russia, there was a pogrom in Kursk, as elsewhere, and as a result Esther Zetlin, pregnant with their fifth child, took the four children and a teenaged niece to Vienna, Austria. Selig Zetlin kept his post, supporting the family, though ever less adequately, from a distance and visiting very occasionally. He gradually went blind, however, and by the 1920s or earlier was unable to work. He probably died in the fall of 1938. Esther Zetlin, also blind, remained in Vienna, was deported to Theresienstadt in September 1942 and died shortly afterward.

Victoria, born 7 April 1903, wanted to be a librarian but could not afford the training and so became a bookkeeper. In Vienna she worked mainly for Jacob Engel, who had a wholesale drygoods business. He had two daughters, Renee (married to Fritz Koerner) and Jeanne (married to N. Goldberg). Victoria Zetlin's marriage to Emil Russmann (she generally dropped the second n) in November 1937 was for citizenship purposes only; they were divorced in May 1938. She was the first to immigrate, in the fall of 1938. At first she packed medicines in jars and bottles at Purepac but she soon began a series of jobs as bookkeeper in advertising agencies. In August 1949 she married Rudolf Pordes, a furrier. They lived first on West 108th Street, then on College Avenue in the Bronx, and finally in Port Jefferson Station, Long Island, where Rudolf Pordes died of heart failure in July 1980. Victoria Pordes soon moved to Isabella House in Washington Heights, where she died of a heart attack in June 1986.

Biographical abstracts about Victoria’s siblings may be found in the manuscript "Victoria (Zetlin) Russman Pordes," MS 852.

Rudolf Pordes was born in Lemberg (today Lviv, Ukraine) on 29 September 1906, one of two children of Jakob (a cantor, born 1884) and Rosa (Heinish) Pordes. According to family lore, Jakob Pordes left the family, moved to Vienna, and lived with a younger mistress. Rosa Heinisch Pordes died when Rudolf Pordes was a boy, his father and sister died in the 1930s. By late 1918 he was in Vienna. He was apprenticed as a furrier in 1921, became journeyman in 1925 and master in 1931, and established his own business in 1929. He also early on showed an interest in photography and art. After the Anschluss he fled to Brussels (July 1938), where he found work as a furrier, and in May 1940, when the Germans invaded Belgium, to France. There he was interned in several camps, and in the last one served as camp photographer. With the help of relatives and his fiancée (and later first wife), Golde Senzer, in New York, he was able to immigrate early in 1942.

In New York he immediately tried to reestablish himself as a furrier. With Victoria Pordes he also tried to start an export business, focusing mainly on ceramics.

As the market for fur garments declined, Rudolf Pordes turned first to photography anmd then to art. Many of his paintings (some reminiscent of Jacksdon Pollock's), and his sculptures and collages, in which he used driftwood, coffee grounds, chicken bones, and other "found objects," were inspired by the atom bomb and Rudolf Poerdes' sense of the disintegration or destruction of the world. He had a one-man show in New York in 1958, and was part of group shows on Cape Cod and on Long Island, where he became an avid gardener and landscaped their yard with sculptures and waterworks. Rudolf and Victoria Pordes had earlier bought a small house in Shirley, Long Island, which in later years they rented out. For the last quarter century or so of his life Rudolf Pordes depended on his wife's salary; she continued to commute to New York into the 1970s. Rudolf died in 1980, Victoria in 1986.


1 Linear Feet


The Rudolf and Victoria Pordes Collection primarily comprises material on the life and work of the furrier and artist Rudolf Pordes. Included is documentation of his immigration from Vienna through Belgium and France to the United States. Material on his professional work is also prevalent. This collection contains correspondence, official papers and certificates, notes, publications, photographs and legal documents.

Other Finding Aid

A previous finding aid exists for the collection; portions of it have been incorporated into the EAD finding aid, including the detailed biographical note. This document, which includes a more detailed history of the lives of Victoria Pordes and the Zeitlin family than present in this EAD finding aid, has been incorporated into the LBI Archives as MS 852, Victoria (Zetlin) Russman Pordes: 1903-1986.

Related Material

See also MS 852, Victoria (Zetlin) Russman Pordes: 1903-1986.

Separated Material

Two exhibition catalogues were removed from the collection, with copies kept of marked pages relevant to the collection.

Processing Information

The collection has been renamed from its previous name, The Eva Steiner Moseley Collection, to the Rudolf and Victoria Pordes Collection.

During processing in preparation of the EAD finding aid similar materials were grouped together to form series.

Guide to the Papers of Rudolf (1906-1980) and Victoria (1903-1986) Pordes 1912-1985 AR 10516
Processed by Dianne Ritchey and LBI Staff
© 2011
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Rudolf_and_VictoriaPordes.xml

Revision Statements

  • November 21, 2013 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States