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John Peters (Pinkus) Family Papers

Identifier: AR 25520

Scope and Content Note

The largest portion of this collection is made up of family and personal correspondence (Series I). The restitution material (Series III) is also primarily composed of correspondence, but of a more bureaucratic and legal nature. The rest of the collection (Series II) is a mix of artifacts and documents passed down or collected by various family members. Some are beloved mementos, and some are content-rich with historical detail. Other papers have been assembled during the course of genealogical research in the manner of an artificial collection.

Although individual items survive as relics of life in Neustadt, the scope of the collection altogether is more a document of complex family relationships, the displacement of war, and the lives of emigrants in post-war Europe.


  • Creation: 1827-2005
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1938-1990s

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and German, with a small amount of Czech, French, Hebrew, Italian, and Polish.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Biographical Note

The Jewish, German-speaking Pinkus family ran a textile mill in the city of Neustadt in the region of Upper Silesia (today Prudnik, Poland). The factory was called S. Fränkel after founder Samuel Fränkel, who started the business in 1845. It soon became one of the world’s largest producers of fine linens. The Pinkuses married into the Fränkel family by way of two of Samuel’s daughters, and management of the firm fell to son-in-law Joseph Pinkus. The company remained owned and operated by the Fränkel and Pinkus families until the Aryanization policies of the Nazi government forced them out. (The business survives today as Frotex Industries.)

Prior to this, many members of the wealthy family were prominent in the cultural and political life of Neustadt and the surrounding area. Most notable was Max Pinkus (son of Joseph), patron of the arts, philanthropist, and friend of the author and Nobel laureate Gerhart Hauptmann. Max collected a unique library of Silesian literature and local history during his lifetime—most of which was confiscated and scattered during WWII—and provided the inspiration for several of Hauptmann’s fictional characters. Another noteworthy family member was Max’s brother-in-law, Dr. Paul Ehrlich, winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

The two central characters present in this collection come from the following generations: Hans Hubert Pinkus (son of Max) and Howard John Peters (son of Hans). They are the main correspondents found in Series I and appear to be responsible for compiling genealogical materials and preserving the family heirlooms found here.

Hans Hubert Pinkus

Hans Hubert was the last Pinkus director of the firm, 1926 to 1938. A veteran of the First World War (when he spent three years imprisoned as a POW), Hans Hubert was twice married and the father of three by the time he was forced off the board of S. Fränkel. His first marriage, to widowed baroness Elfriede von Vietinghoff-Scheel, produced son John (born Hans Joseph Pinkus) and ended in an amicable divorce. With second wife Elisabeth (Lili) Schottlaender, he had twin daughters: Johanna Hedwig (Jonnie) and Freda Marie (Freddie) Pinkus, born 1927. The family immigrated to the United Kingdom in 1939; Freddie, however, remained in Germany and died in 1940. In the years following World War II, Hans Hubert made ultimately unsuccessful attempts to rebuild the family business elsewhere. With the help of his former secretary, Helene Bauer, he filed a number of restitution claims for damages related to the loss of the company. His genealogical research may have been connected to these prolonged legal struggles or simply the result of personal interest, but he fastidiously maintained his address book (Box 4, Folder 5) and much of the notation in the genealogical index book appears to be in his handwriting (Box 4, Folder 4). After a second divorce, Hans Hubert relocated to Sussex, England. He was married late in life to third wife Charlotte (called Lolle), who survived his death in 1977.

Howard John Roy Peters

Hans Hubert’s son John was born in Neustadt in 1922. He was quite young when his parents divorced, and had Lili Pinkus as a step-mother by the age of five. (His mother Elfriede died when John was eleven.) In addition to his younger half sisters, John was raised with two older step-brothers: Lili’s sons from her previous marriage, Erwin and Richard Schottlaender. John was a teenager attending boarding school abroad when the family decided to emigrate. It seems he traveled separately to the UK, possibly by way of Lili’s mother in Brno, Czechoslovakia, while his Schottlaender brothers ended up in Argentina. Hans Hubert, Lili, and daughter Jonnie settled in Belfast. John joined the British Army shortly thereafter and in the early 1940s officially changed his name to Howard John Roy Peters. He was soon married to another young German-speaking Jewish refugee named Marianne Pollak. (Though she was Czech their two families had been acquainted before the war, since Marianne’s mother was a close friend of Lili Pinkus.) They eventually had three children together, but the eldest died in childhood. After his army service, John worked in the international textile trade (seemingly unrelated to his father’s ventures). He traveled often and spent some years living in Egypt. By the 1960s the family settled in Switzerland. Marianne, who was also known by the nickname Toni (sometimes spelled Tony), worked as a travel guide for tourists. She died in 1983. In the following years, John was active in the British Residents' Association of Switzerland as a regional chairperson. Much of his correspondence with his adult children and extended family is dated from this later period, the mid-1980s through 1990s.

John Peters maintained contact with a wide assortment of extended family, including relatives of Marianne, his late step-mother, and his father’s last wife. The relationships between family members and generations are outlined below.

Simplified Family Tree

Generation 1: Factory founder Samuel Fränkel marries Ernestine (called Esther) Polke, and they have 13 children. (Samuel’s brother Josef marries Esther’s sister Dorothea Polke and they have eight or nine children.)

Generation 2: Two of Samuel and Esther’s daughters marry Pinkus brothers. Rosalie (1840-1913) and Benno Pinkus (1831-1879) are one couple, Auguste and Joseph the other. Joseph Pinkus becomes a partner in the firm.

Generation 3: Benno and Rosalie have four children; one is Dr. Felix Pinkus, a dermatologist. Joseph and Auguste also have four children: daughter Hedwig (1864-1948) marries Paul Ehrlich, and they have two daughters; son Max Pinkus becomes director of the company, marries Hedwig Oberländer, and has three children.

Generation 4 includes Felix’s two children: Luise (married name Grab) and Hermann Karl Benno Pinkus, both doctors as well. Felix ends up in Michigan with son Hermann, who marries another dermatologist (Hilde). Felix's first cousin Max has three children: Alice, Hans Hubert, and Klaus Valentin Pinkus.

Generation 5 of the Benno-Felix branch includes Hermann and Hilde’s son Walter Hensel Pinkus.

Generation 5 of the Joseph-Max branch includes the three children of Hans Hubert Pinkus. With first wife Elfriede von Vietinghoff (née Hess), he has son Hans Joseph Pinkus (later called Howard John Roy Peters). With second wife Lili (Elisabeth von Fischel), he has twin daughters: Johanna Hedwig and Freda Marie Pinkus. Lili Pinkus’ older sons, Erwin and Ricky Schottlaender, are thus related to John's sisters but not to John. Hans Hubert’s third wife, Lolle (Charlotte Aschinger) also has a son, named Peter Margules, who is not a blood relation but counts as a character among the family correspondence.

Generation 6 of the Joseph-Max branch of the family includes the children of John and Marianne Peters: Margaret Dinah (1945-1953), Helen Judith (born 1951), and Anthony David Max Peters (born 1954).


4 Linear Feet (3 one-foot boxes, 1 manuscript box, and 1 index card box)


This collection contains correspondence, family keepsakes, legal records and other papers of the John Peters family, descended from the Pinkus family of Upper Silesia. The family was notable for its large textile factory in Neustadt, Germany (now Prudnik, Poland) and involvement in local culture, politics, and civil life. "Aryanization" forced Hans Hubert Pinkus, John’s father, to emigrate and take his family to the UK in 1939. The John Peters (Pinkus) Family Papers document the lives and the relationships of these men and their families in the decades after WWII, including legal applications for restitution.


The papers are arranged alphabetically and chronologically in three series and three subseries. Many items were already organized in folders or binders according to general date ranges and topics, such as family correspondence versus restitution. The genealogical and general research material had no indication of original order, and is generally arranged, therefore, by format. Loose clippings and unidentified ephemera required some analysis from the archivist to assign subjects or identify creators and family members. (See also Separated Material and Processing Info below.)

Related Material

LBI holds the following related archival collections:

Separated Material

Items were removed to two other locations: LBI’s library collection, and the Art and Objects department. A single, unlabeled reel of quarter-inch audio tape was also separated to LBI's archival A/V collection.

Books and Periodicals

This collection contained about 1 linear foot of published material, which was separated and given to the LBI library. Most was related to Silesian history, the textile industry, or Pinkus family genealogy, as well as broader topics like Jewish history, the Holocaust, World War II, Zionism and kibbutzim, European travel and geography. Some noteworthy items included a set of well-worn off-prints of Churchill’s speeches on the progress of war and circumstances in Germany, and several British Army pamphlets and periodicals. Archival photocopies were made of book title pages with dedications, signatures, or annotations (see Box 5, Folder 2). The publications listed below did not contain dedications but seemed potentially relevant or likely to be of personal value based on age and rarity.

  1. Augsburger Almanach und Stadtchronik. (1952). Augsburg: Hohmann.
  1. Brilling, Bernhard. (1972). Die Jüdischen Gemeinden Mittelschlesiens. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
  1. Dekorative Kunst: illustrierte Zeitschrift für angewandte Kunst (Band XIII). (1905). München: F. Bruckmann. [Pages stamped “S. Fränkel, Neustadt o/S”.]
  1. Dudek, Antoni Kazmierz. (2001). Królewski, cesarski, prymasowski Prudnik: zarys dziejów miasta. Prudnik: Prudnik Las.
  1. Hauptmann, Gerhart. (1881). Liebesfrühling: ein lyrisches Gedicht. N.p.: Salzbrunn.
  1. Müller-Oerlinghausen, Georg. (1928?). Rationalisierung der Textilindustrie.
  1. Requardt, Walter. (1982). Der königlich preußische Kommerzienrat aus Neustadt O.S. Schlesien: Kunst Wissenschaft Volkskunde [quarterly]. Nürnberg: Verlag Nürnberger Presse.
  1. Review of the territorial and auxiliary forces of East Lancashire. (1952?). London: Territorial Magazine.
  1. Schrader, Gerhard. (1937). 100 Jahre Bielefelder Leinen und Tischzeug: zum 1. Januar 1937; das werden der Firma A. W. Kisker, Bielefeld.
  1. Uhlig, Heinrich. (1956). Die Warenhäuser im Dritte Reich. Köln: Westdeutscher Verlag.
  1. Vietinghoff-Scheel, Ottoheinrich von. (1937). Die Veränderung der Staatsaufsicht über die Gemeinden. Berlin-Schöneberg: Brandenburgische Buchdruckerei.
  1. Zappel, Albrecht. (1992). Max Pinkus: der schlesische Unternehmer, seine Schlesierbibliothek, seine Freundschaft mit Gerhart Hauptmann. Leverkusen: A Zappel.

Art and Objects

Delicate artifacts were given to the Art department, including: hand-painted miniature portraits of Alice and Klaus Pinkus, locks of hair, lace and fiber samples, and satin banners printed with the date of Joseph Pinkus and Auguste Fränkel’s wedding in 1856. In addition to the numerous silk and linen samples was a small box of silkworm cocoons labeled “Inländische Cocons aus Japan saamen gezogen.” Another notable item was a small, bi-fold wallet or portfolio with two inner pockets, made of purple velvet with floral embroidery and assumed to belong to Joseph Pinkus. Inside was the inscription “Geschenk zur Confirmation, 1842,” and contents of the pockets are now located in Box 4, Folder 7.

Several art objects, created by Dr. Felix Pinkus, were removed as well. These were in various notebooks and loose-leaf format, mostly undated but estimated to be circa 1930-1940. The earliest, a handmade sketchbook of pencil drawings, is dated 1880. The media include ink, paint, pastels, pencil, and collage, and favored subjects are birds, insects, exotic animals, and copies of Egyptian and Roman decorative art. One large album, entitled Herbarium des F. Pinkus, contains pressed botanical specimens. It is presumed that these items came to be in the possession of John Peters via Hermann Pinkus, since one of the binders was labeled “Hobbies von Vater.”

Processing Information

At the request of the family, these papers were made available to select researchers prior to archival processing, which may have affected the original order of the collection.

Guide to the John Peters (Pinkus) Family Papers 1827-2005 (bulk 1938-2004) AR 25520
Processed by Alyssa Carver
© 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Made possible by the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources through The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support "Illuminating Hidden Collections at the Center for Jewish History"

Revision Statements

  • April 02, 2015 : dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States