Skip to main content

Ellis Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25722

Scope and Content Note

The Ellis Family Collection largely focuses on the lives of John (Hans) and Eva (née Steinitz) Ellis, providing material that details some of the most formative events of their lives: their courtship and subsequent marriage, emigration from Germany and then Europe, education, and professions. But the collection also deals with the larger family, including documentation and photographs of multiple branches of the family, primarily the Elias (Ellis), Steinitz (Samuel), Fabian, Mindus, and Eschwege families, as well as families related to them. The collection includes extensive detailed correspondence, immigration paperwork, educational papers, personal papers, official documents, poetry, photographs and photo albums, examples of family members' writing, professional papers, family memorabilia, and other documentation.

Most of the collection centers on the lives of John (Hans) and Eva Ellis. The greater part of Series I and II concentrates on their experiences, with documentation related to their early lives in Berlin and family backgrounds, studies in Brussels, emigration, and later careers. Series I, which contains the collection's correspondence, pertains to most of these subjects. Its first subseries is made up nearly entirely of letters exchanged between the couple prior to their marriage in March 1938. In addition to documenting the couple's evolving relationship it also provides details of John's early years in the United States. The letters in Subseries 2-4 of Series I show their close relationships with family and friends, as well as providing some details on their emigration and later lives. Series II provides further documentation about them. Subseries 1 of Series II not only includes their official papers, but also personal papers, such as their wedding and engagement memorabilia, and personal writing. It also includes eight folders that pertain to John's life and studies in Berlin in Brussels, including documentation regarding his departure from Germany in 1933 and his early intention to go to Palestine. Subseries 2 of Series II contains papers that relate to their education, especially Eva's education in Berlin and Brussels and John's education after retirement. Subseries 3 holds his professional papers related to his work as an engineer.

The collection also pertains to the greater extended family, providing material related to the emigration of John and Eva's parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, showing the family's dissemination not only to New York, but also to locations in South America and to Israel. Family members' immigration is frequently mentioned in the letters they wrote to John and Eva Ellis in Subseries 2 and 3 of Series I, including details and advice from Eva's parents, Moritz and Toni Steinitz, who reached New York before her. Bianka Ellis's detailed and frequent letters to her son and daughter-in-law, in Subseries 3 of Series I, provide many details of other family members' lives in South America in the late 1940s as well as Bianka's impression of the locations she visited. Family members' papers in Subseries 1 of Series II provides further documentation of theirs, including narrative histories about family branches, family trees, and the personal writing of family members. Some photographs of family members will be found in both subseries of Series III, including an album of Steinitz family photographs and individual photos of family members.

In addition to documentation on John and Eva Ellis and their immediate family members, the collection includes material that pertains to the Mindus and Eschwege families, related through John and Eva's son-in-law Howard Mindus. In particular, multiple series provide information about Howard Mindus's mother, Hildegard Eschwege, and her career as a young woman working as a saleswoman aboard the ships of the Holland-America Line. Included is her diary while working aboard the ship S.S. Oceana, in Subseries 1 of Series II, and several photo albums in Series III, including two from her time aboard the Oceana. Some documentation of other Eschwege and Mindus family members are also present in both of these areas of the collection as well, including a number of photographs.


  • 1830-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1941

Language of Materials

The collection is in German, French, English, and a very small amount of Korean

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

Hans Leo Elias was born on November 12, 1912 in Dortmund, the son of businessman Heinrich Elias and his wife Bianka (née Fein). Hans had an older sister, Charlotte (called Lotte). In 1916 the family moved to Düsseldorf, and two years later to the Grünewald district of Berlin; in Berlin Heinrich Elias established a business involved in the trade of machinery and iron products used in the locomotive and construction industries. After graduating from the Grünewald Gymnasium, Hans Elias first studied industrial engineering at the Technical University of Berlin, but after Hitler came to power in 1933 he left Berlin to study in Brussels, where in 1936 he earned a master's degree from the Free University of Brussels (Université Libre de Bruxelles). In Brussels he met Eva Steinitz.

Eva Fränze Steinitz was born June 24, 1914 in Janowitz, Posen, the daughter of Moritz Steinitz and his wife Toni (née Wreszynski), and had two brothers, Wolff and Friedel. Moritz had headed the family grain business along with his brother, and had moved it to Berlin following World War I, but the business ran into difficulties in the late 1920s. After moving to Berlin the family changed their surname from Schmul to Steinitz. Eva Steinitz matriculated from the Hohenzollern-Lyzeum in Berlin in 1933, then attended the Free University of Brussels, where she studied education. In 1936 she received the "Licence en Sciences Pédagogiques" and later passed her oral examinations for a doctorate in education.

After completing his studies in Brussels, Hans Elias left for the United States in 1936. His first job was at a pencil factory in Hoboken, New Jersey. Eva came to New York in 1937, where she joined her family. They had arrived in New York earlier with the assistance of Eva's uncle Benno Samuel, who had already been living in the United States. In January 1939 Heinrich Elias took his own life in Berlin, but Bianka Elias was able to join her son in New York. Charlotte Elias Fabian and her husband Kurt Fabian emigrated to Bolivia, but would later join the rest of the family in New York.

Hans Elias and Eva Steinitz were married on March 31, 1938 by Rabbi Joachim Prinz. They went on to have two children: Raymond, born in 1942, and Myriam, born in 1946. In 1943 and 1944, respectively, Hans and Eva became naturalized American citizens; they then Americanized their names to John and Eva Ellis.

Shortly after his marriage, John Ellis began working in the area of bakery machinery, designing and developing a doughnut-baking machine for use in large bakeries. After World War II broke out he worked at Loewy-Hydropress on building large machines and presses for the production of metal and steel. He also began work in the field of powder metallurgy. In 1947 John founded together with Erwin Loewy and Claus Goetzel a powder metallurgy study and development society under the name Sintercast. They succeeded in developing wear-resistant alloys for the tool industry and control alloys for nuclear power plants. In 1959 the firm was sold to Chromalloy, of which Sintercast became a subsidiary headed by John Ellis for the next twenty years, with frequent trips to Germany and Japan due to licensing agreements. He was later named International Vice President, with his primary role the development of the application, production, and distribution of Sintercast products. He helped establish a subsidiary of Sintercast near Thionville, France for tool production for the European market.

Meanwhile, Eva Ellis continued teaching at Columbia Grammar and the Leonard School while also raising the children. In 1951 she received a Master of Arts from New York University. From 1952-1960 she taught French at Ardsley High School in Ardsley, New York. Beginning in 1963 she taught French and German language and literature courses at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York. She also continued the degree she had begun at the University of Brussels, receiving her doctorate in 1970, becoming a full professor at Mercy College. She also worked as a graduate councilor and later became chair of the Education Department. In November 1986 the College's Honors Student Center was dedicated to her and John in honor of their long connection with Mercy College. A scholarship was named for her, the Eva Ellis Travel Scholarship Fund, to assist honors students in studying abroad. Eva Ellis retired from Mercy College in 1986.

Following his retirement from Sintercast in 1982, John Ellis began studying at Mercy College, to broaden his knowledge in the humanities, especially the areas of history, art history, literature, Italian, and biology. He and Eva traveled to India in 1986.

Eva Ellis died in August 2004 in Florida, John Ellis in New York in October 2009. They had four grandchildren.


3.75 Linear Feet


The Ellis Family Collection consists of the papers of John and Eva Ellis and of many of their related family members. The collection has a particular focus on the education, marriage, and emigration of John (born Hans Elias) and Eva (née Steinitz), with further documentation of the couple's early lives and later professions. In addition, the collection holds a great deal of information on their extended families, with material on the related Elias, Steinitz/ Samuel, Fein, Goldschmidt, Eschwege, Mindus, and related families, including documentation of individual family members and the families in general and their histories. The collection includes extensive family and personal correspondence, official documents and correspondence, personal and professional writing, educational certificates, immigration documentation, photographs and photo albums, family trees and narratives of family history, and other documentation.

Separated Material

A few duplicate photocopies of documents were removed from the collection. Frames were removed from photographs for preservation purposes. A photo album in folder 3/17 was removed due to preservation concerns.

Processing Information

Processing of the archival collection was begun by Samantha Lanevi and completed by Dianne Ritchey. Most correspondence was gathered together to form Series I, however the intermingled correspondence and documentation from Hans Elias's years in Berlin and Brussels was kept together and now forms Subseries 2 of Series II.

Guide to the Papers of the Ellis Family 1830-2009 AR 25722
Processed by Samantha Lanevi and Dianne Ritchey
© 2017
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from EllisFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • January 2019:: 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