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John Kallir Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25081

Scope and Content Note

Scope and Content Note The John Kallir Family Collection contains documents regarding his lifetime, his father, and his ancestors. These documents include interviews, birth certificates, correspondence, family trees, newspaper clippings, photographs, report cards, passports, books, obituaries, documents regarding name change, wills, and marriage certificates. Also included are documents regarding family history and genealogy of the Kallir, Nirenstein, Kohler, and Engel Families. All of the documents listed are photocopies.


  • 1861-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1894-1984


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, and 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


Biographical Note

Otto Nirenstein was born on April 1, 1894 in Vienna. He fought in WWI, after which he founded the publishing firm Verlag Neue Graphik and the publishing house Johannes Presse. He married Franziska Countess von Löwenstein-Scharffeneck in 1922. He developed a keen interest in art from working for his uncle, and in 1923 he founded the Neue Galerie in Vienna, exhibiting many renowned artists such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and Oskar Kokoschka. He also worked with Rikola Verlag, another publishing company. In 1930 he received a doctorate in art history from the University of Vienna.

In 1933 Otto Nirenstein changed his name to Kallir. He financially supported the Austrian chancellor, Kurt Schuschnigg, and was therefore of interest to the Gestapo after the Anschluss in 1938. He then applied for Swiss, Swedish, and American entry visas and left the Neue Galerie in the hands of his secretary, Vita Künstler, who kept the gallery alive. Otto Kallir took his family to Switzerland while he stayed in Paris and opened the Galerie St.Etienne because he had been unable to obtain a work permit. While in Paris, he also published the Österreichishe Post with Franz Werfel, Alma Mahler, Joseph Roth, and Martin Fuchs. In 1939, the Kallir family obtained an American visa and they moved to the US. Otto Kallir then established the Galerie St.Etienne, which became renowned for its German and Austrian expressionism, in New York City. He helped the American folk artist Grandma Moses to obtain national fame and was chairman of the Austrian American League. He worked with Otto von Hapsburg to convince the American attorney general, Francis Biddle, that Austria should be considered an invaded country and therefore Austrian immigrants should face no restrictions in America. He returned to Austria in 1949 and visited with his family for many of the following summers. The Neue Galerie in Vienna was closed in 1973, fifty years after its opening in 1923. Otto Kallir died on November 30, 1978, in New York. Many paintings from his personal collection were donated to the Guggenheim, such as "Knight Errant" by Kokoschka.

Johannes Otto Nirenstein was born on April 23, 1923 to Otto and Fanny Nirenstein. He was raised Catholic as it was his mother’s faith and his father was a non-practicing Jew. He attended the elementary school of the Catholic School in Vienna. He then passed the entrance exam for the Schottengymnasium, where he would remain for five years until it was disbanded by the Nazis and his family emigrated to Switzerland. In 1933 the family officially changed their name to Kallir. After the Anschluss the family emigrated to Switzerland and then to America. In the USA, they stayed with Bob and Alice Jonas, who had previously been married to their uncle and had given them an affidavit. The Kallir family moved to New York City, where John Kallir attended Manhattan College High School and then Manhattan College. He then served in the American Army Medical Corps from 1943-1946. In 1944 he became a US citizen. After continuing his studies at Columbia University, he eventually became the co-founder of Kallir, Philips, Ross, a pharmaceutical advertising agency.


0.5 Linear Feet


The John Kallir Collection contains documents regarding the life of John Kallir, his father Otto Kallir, their ancestors, and genealogical material.

Related Material

  1. Otto Kallir Collection [AR 4666]
  2. Kallir Family Collection [AR 1520]

Processing Information

This collection has been rearranged so that the folders belonging to a series are together and so that the series are ordered based on importance to John Kallir.

Guide to the Papers of the John Kallir Family 1861-1992 AR 25081
Processed by Isabelle Ostertag
© 2012
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from JohnKallirFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • October 24, 2014 : 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