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Rose Wegner Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25028

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists mainly of Rose's mother Gertrud Leon's letters to her in the years 1938-1942; other family members' letters are also included. There are about 175 letters, 40 postcards and 20 telegrams including returned mail from Rose to her mother. Bernhard's and Gertrud's planned emigration to Cuba and then the USA is the main topic in the telegrams. In the letters, Gertrud talks a lot about her daily life and what other family members are doing; she also asks about Rose's life and comments on what Rose tells her. The letters from other family members contain similar topics. Concrete acts of the Nazis or events in Germany are not described. However, Gertrud's despair becomes very clear. Code was used in some letters to provide information that German censors would otherwise have expurgated. The more recent correspondence between Peter Leon and Beate Niemann (2002-2003) deals with the past of Beate’s Nazi parents and their connection to the Leons, in whose house Beate was born. All correspondence as described above is located in Series I.

The collection includes also some personal documents of the Rollmann/Koburger-Reiss family (1884-1986), family friends of the Wegner/Leons, located in Series II.


  • 1884-2003
  • Majority of material found within 1937-1942, 2002-2003


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, and Spanish.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Use Restrictions

Must obtain donors' permission to quote from or use correspondence in any form. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Rose Wegner, born in 1909, was the penultimate of Bernhard and Gertrud Leon's five children. Apparently, the family changed their name from Loewy to Leon. Bernhard was the youngest of six children in a family that had long lived in Berlin. He married Gertrud Markwald, whose family was also originally from Berlin. Rose had a sister, Ilse Jeanette, born in 1903, and three brothers, Arno, born in 1905, Heinz, born in 1907, and Gerhard, born in 1911. In Berlin, the Leons belonged to Rabbi Leo Baeck's congregation in Fasanenstrasse. Heinz emigrated to England when he was 18 or 19 years old, in approximately 1926. He would later help his siblings come to England.

On March 31, 1933, Rose went to England and, thereafter, traveled back and forth between England and Germany. In 1936, Rose, who was a professional silversmith, returned to Germany to collect the silver from her workshop. In 1938, Rose married Steven Wegner (born March 14, 1901), another German refugee whom she met in England. Steven had been born Sally but changed it because he disliked that name.

The Leon children attempted to get Bernhard and Gertrud out of Germany. They arranged for a visa to Cuba for their parents (emigration to Britain which was at war with Germany, was obviously not permitted). Bernhard died on April 16th, 1941 of natural causes, aggravated perhaps by political conditions in Germany. The visa process was delayed by the bureaucratic need to resubmit the papers for Gertrud alone. Eventually, the plan for Gertrud to emigrate collapsed and, in 1943, she was deported to Theresienstadt, where she again encountered Rabbi Leo Baeck. On September 10, 1944, Gertrud was deported to Auschwitz and was murdered there. Other relatives were also victims of the Holocaust, including Bernhard's older brother Moritz, who was thrown from stairwell of his fourth story apartment during a raid by the police. Moritz's maid, Grete, who tried to protect him, was stomped to death.

In England, the three Leon brothers served in the British army. Heinz died of cancer in service in North Africa. After the war, Ilse met Leo Baeck again, who informed the family of Gertrud's deportation from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz. Arno returned after the war to Germany with the British Occupation Forces and is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Duesseldorf. Ilse (married to Julius Meyer with her children Daisy and Harald) and Gerhard remained in Britain. Rose and Steven remained in the greater New York metropolitan area, where they raised two children, Bryan (*summer 1939) and Marian. Steven died on May 17, 1968.

In 2002, Beate Niemann approached Peter Leon, Gerhard's son in London, to ask him about his family's past because she was born in 1942 in Gertrud's house at Manfred-von-Richthofen-Str. 125 in Berlin Tempelhof. Her parents had "bought" the house from Gertrud. Niemann's father was SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Bruno Sattler. Niemann tried to find out more about her own and the Leon family. Her story was eventually filmed by the documentary film maker Yoash Tatari (DVD can be found in the LBI's audio-visual collection) and published in 2003 by WDR (West German Broadcasting). Peter Leon forwarded his whole conversation with Beate Niemann to his cousin Marian, Rose’s daughter.


0.75 Linear Feet


This collection consists mainly of correspondence between family members of Rose Wegner, predominantly of her mother Gertrud Leon's letters from Berlin to Rose in New York in the years 1938-1942. The recent correspondence between Peter Leon and Beate Niemann deals with the past of Beate's Nazi parents and their connection to the Leons.

Related Material

Related to this collection is the Brian Wegner Family Collection (AR 6468).

Separated Material

The copy of a film by Yoash Tatari about Beate Niemann (Der gute Vater) has been removed to the LBI audio-visual collection.

Processing Information

Photocopies of the Correspondence were made by the donor and were arranged before the originals were donated. A few photocopies were not on hand as originals and were put into the originals' folders. The other photocopies have been removed.

The existing finding aid of the photocopied collection has been incorporated into this finding aid.

Guide to the Papers of the Rose Wegner Family 1884-2003 AR 25028
Processed by Ulrike Schaefer
© 2011
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from RoseWegnerFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • November 19, 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