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Grace Polk Family Collection Addenda

Identifier: AR 25489

Scope and Content Note

The Grace Polk Family Collection Addenda contains further material on several members of the family, especially Harry Polk (Hans Pollak), Elizabeth Polk (Elisabeth Pollak), and Julius Sofer. More than half the addenda consists of family photographs. Other material includes identification and official papers, educational certificates, employment papers and personal correspondence.

Documentation of Harry Polk's life will be found in both series of the collection. In Series I are his personal, professional and educational papers, including his passport, statements from employers regarding the dates of his employment at banks in Vienna, and mention of his time as a prisoner of war in Russia. The photographs of Series II complement such material, with photographs of his time as a soldier in World War I, a few drawings made by a fellow prisoner or war, and many photographs of Harry Polk with other members of the Pollak family, including his parents and sister as well as photos of his mother's family, the Lichtenstadts. Other photos feature his apartment in Vienna.

Elizabeth Polk also features prominently in this collection. Her papers in Series I contain many attestations regarding her study of gymnastics and dance in Vienna as well as some official and identification documents and a few letters from a friend. Series II holds several photographs of her while performing gymnastics as well as a photograph with her husband Harry Polk, with her father Julius Sofer, and as a child.

A smaller amount of material on Julius Sofer will be found in both series. His papers in Series I primarily pertain to his employment at Waldes & Ko. of Prague or to his death, while his photographs in Series II show him with his wife.


  • 1874-1971


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in German and English, with small amounts of Czech, French and Italian.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Reserve" button.

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<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Photograph of Harry and Elizabeth Polk" href="" show="embed" title="Photograph of Harry and Elizabeth Polk"/>

Grace Diana Polk was born in New York in 1941 to Harry and Elizabeth Polk. Grace's father, Harry, (originally Hans Günther Pollak), was born on May 3, 1894 in Vienna, Austria. His parents were Hugo Pollak (1866-1935) and Thekla Pollak (née Lichtenstadt; 1871-1939). During World War I, Harry served in the Austrian Army and was held as a Prisoner of War in Siberia until 1921. After his release, he worked for the Ephrussi Bank in the Stocks and Bonds Division. In 1936, he married Elizabeth Sofer. The couple left Austria in 1938 for London. Later that same year, they traveled to New York aboard the S.S. President Roosevelt. While in the United States, Harry worked for the Waldes Company in Long Island City, a manufacturer of slide fasteners with branches in Vienna and Prague, until his retirement in 1964. He separated from his wife the same year and began to travel, finally settling in Austria. He remarried in 1974 to Hermine Rubin. Harry Polk died in Vienna on August 24, 1983.

Elizabeth (originally Elisabeth) Sofer was born in Vienna on March 23, 1902 to parents Julius Sofer (1871-1957) and Katharina Skalla Sofer (1864-1944). She worked for her father at the Waldes Koh-i-noor Company in Vienna. Elizabeth was a dancer and a member of several modern dance companies. Like her husband, she first worked for the Waldes branch in New York. In 1957, she began to work as a dance therapist at the Lexington School for the Deaf in New York City, and in 1958 co-founded the National Dance Teacher's Guild. From 1960 to 1982, she was a staff member at the Children's Center for Creative Arts at Adelphi University. She specialized in working with handicapped and emotionally disturbed children. In 1966, she co-founded the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA). Elizabeth was also instrumental in shaping the New York State public school curriculum. She conducted more than fifty teacher workshops in the United States and abroad. After retiring, she worked as a freelance writer with senior citizens and co-founded the Timelines Community to encourage the creativity of elders. In 1995, Elizabeth was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the ADTA and noted as a chief pioneer in the field of dance and movement therapy. She died on October 29, 2001 in New York.

Julius Sofer (Elizabeth Polk's father) was a manufacturers' representative at the Waldes Koh-i-noor Company in Vienna. He was a highly distinguished member of the business community. His connections to the American branch of the Waldes Company helped him to obtain affidavits and visas for the Polks and other members of their family. In 1938, Julius Sofer transferred to the export department of Waldes in Prague and then immigrated to Cuba in 1941. His wife Katharina Sofer stayed behind in Vienna and died there in 1944. Julius finally arrived in the United States in 1943 and lived with the Polk family until his death in 1957.


0.5 Linear Feet


This collection contains additional papers of the Grace Polk Family, notably Harry and Elizabeth Polk and Julius Sofer. Much of the collection consists of family photographs, but also includes various identification, official and educational documentation as well as statements from employers, family correspondence, notes and an essay.

Digitization Note

This collection was digitized and made accessible in its entirety.

Related Material

This collection is an extension of the Grace Polk Family Collection (AR 25104).

Other related material includes Hans Günther Pollak's family portrait and vacation album (ALB 188).

Processing Information

The documents were organized to form series. Photographs were further subdivided into folders based on individual or family. The biographical note was written by Martina Nuetzmann in 2006.

Guide to the Papers of the Grace Polk Family 1874-1971 AR 25489
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Digitization made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.
Edition statement
This version was derived from GracePolkFamilyAddenda.xml

Revision Statements

  • July 2015: dao links and digitization information added by Leanora Lange.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States