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Werner Cohn Collection

Identifier: AR 10636

Scope and Content Note

The Werner Cohn Collection documents the significant events in the lives of members of the Cohn and related families, especially his mother's family, the Rosenbaums. Among the material in this collection are official documents, correspondence, photographs, notes and notebooks and clippings.

Series I contains papers relating to various members of the Cohn family, but primarily those of Werner Cohn's parents James and Else Cohn. Most prominent among the documents of Series I is the folder of correspondence, which contains many letters from family members – possibly including handwritten letters from her mother and stepfather - to Else Cohn during the 1940s. Other correspondence is from her nephew Dietrich Hanff and his English guardians. Further papers in Series I include a folder of documents from James and Else Cohn's 1920 wedding and copies of professional and educational documents of James Cohn necessary to pursue a medical career in the United States. Notable family events are also documented, such as the wedding of Naumann Rosenbaum and Ella Friedländer and the death of Naumann Rosenbaum. One folder of newspaper clippings include several on the city of Stettin, and a report located in the folder of correspondence includes further details on this city. Other items of note in this series include an unidentified autograph book and some photographs; one of these is of Ella Rieß, Else Cohn's mother.

Restitution correspondence comprises the entirety of Series II, which deals with Else Cohn's efforts to obtain restitution for the loss of her family's property in Stettin. Much of this consists of legal correspondence with various official agencies in Germany, Poland and the United States but some biographical details may be gleaned from it.


  • 1848-1980
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1975


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English and Polish, with a small amount of 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

Else Rosenbaum was born on December 12, 1895 in Stettin, (then in Germany, now Szczecin, Poland), the daughter of the businessman Naumann Rosenbaum and Ella Rosenbaum née Friedländer. She had two sisters Lotte (who married Arthur Perl) and Käthe (who married Alfred Hanff).

Her father, Naumann Rosenbaum, owned the Naumann Rosenbaum Department Store in Stettin until his death in 1911. After his death his widow ran the store until it was "aryanized" by the Nazis. She later married Guido Rieß.

In 1920, Else Rosenbaum married the physician James Cohn from Berlin, where the family later resided. They had a son, Werner, born in 1926. In October 1938 the Cohns immigrated to New York. James Cohn died in February 1940.

In Europe, the Naumann Rosenbaum store in Stettin was bombed during an Allied attack on the city. Ella Rieß was deported; Else Cohn received official notification of her mother's death in 1945. Her sister Käthe and brother-in-law Alfred Hanff perished in the Majdanek concentration camp along with their son Hans-Jürg. The Hanffs' other son Dietrich was sent to England, where he survived the war.

In 1944 Else Cohn became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In New York City she worked as a nurse and eventually came to reside in the neighborhood of Washington Heights. Her son Werner went on to become a sociologist and taught at the University of British Columbia's Department of Anthropology and Sociology. Although many of his published works center on Roma culture (Gypsies), the subject for which he is best known, his writings also concern various other groups and topics, such as Zionists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Chinese culture and Catholics, among many others.


0.5 Linear Feet


The Werner Cohn Collection contains papers of members of the Cohn and related families. Documentation especially focuses on the family's experiences during the 1930s-1940s and the compensation for their losses during this period. The collection encompasses personal correspondence and papers, including official documents of family members, photographs, notes and notebooks, and a few newspaper clippings and other articles. About half the collection consists of restitution correspondence and documentation.


The collection is arranged in two series:

Related Material

Two other archival collections hold material on various family members: the Stettin, now Szczecin, Poland; Jewish Community Collection (AR 3790) and the James Cohn Collection (AR 6607).

A booklet available in the LBI Library also contains material on Ella Rieß, grandmother of Werner Cohn: Gedenkblatt zum 25jaehrigen Amtsjubilaeum der Vorstandsmitglieder, Ella Riess, Else Dobrin [und] Clara Treuenfels; am 30 April 1928 (HQ 1172 I_78 A5).

The University of British Columbia Archives maintains the Werner Cohn fonds.

Separated Material

A book on Luise Kautsky with no notes or other markings was removed from the folder "Newspaper Clippings and Articles" in Series I. This book is already present in the LBI Library, Luise Kautsky zum Gedenken [HX 273 K38].

Processing Information

During processing in preparation of the EAD finding aid in February 2011, folders were given more specific titles and were organized topically and alphabetically. The collection was also provided with a more detailed description of its materials.

Guide to the Papers of Werner Cohn (1926- ) 1848-1980 AR 10636
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 WernerCohn.xml

Revision Statements

  • May 22, 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