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Herta and Egon Wells Family Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 25683

Scope and Content Note

The Herta and Egon Wells Family Collection documents the emigration experience and lives of Herta Wells and her husband Egon in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as providing documentation on the emigration and fates of other family members from Vienna. Much of the collection consists of personal and official correspondence and official documents used in their emigration, along with educational and professional documents, memorabilia, legal correspondence and related documentation, a few family photographs, and newspaper clippings.

The majority of the collection focuses on the lives of Herta and Egon Wells including on their emigration from Vienna. Correspondence of Herta and Egon Wells (mostly sent to them) will be found in Series I. Series I has been divided chronologically by the countries in which the couple lived. The letters and postcards of this series mention Herta and Egon's work at the Anker insurance company, and also include correspondence related to a lawsuit against the company. Series I also includes two folders of correspondence between Egon and Herta Wells prior to their marriage, showing the earliest years of their relationship. Later correspondence in this series dates from the year they lived in Port of Spain, Trinidad and New York. This correspondence includes numerous letters from Herta's sisters Litty and Grete as well as from her father, with much news of others left behind in Vienna and discussion of family members' attempts to emigrate. Many letters from Herta's sister Grete and father clearly depict their dismay at the separation of the family through emigration. Postwar correspondence from New York provides a few details of Herta and Egon's lives in New York but is less comprehensive than the earlier letters, with much of it consisting of their personal correspondence. In addition to the correspondence of Series I, Series II provides the documentation of their emigration, including official documents, emigration paperwork, documentation that established their affidavit of support for an American visa, documents from Trinidad, and memorabilia about the ships on which they traveled from Europe to Trinidad. A smaller amount of documentation about their lives in New York is also present, including professional documents of Egon Wells.

Papers relating to the emigration of Herta's sister Melitta (Litty) and her husband, the antique and art restorer Ernest Kent, are also present in Series I and III. Many of the letters to Herta Wells in Vienna and Trinidad are from her sister Litty, with details of Litty and Ernest's emigration plans and their progression. One folder of correspondence in Series I relates to restitution for the loss of the household property of Ernest Kent's mother, Josefine Käuffler. Series III includes official documents used in their emigration, along with some citizenship and identification papers. The collection's few photographs in Series III include a photograph of Litty as well as a few pages from her childhood friendship album.

The attempted emigration and eventual deportation of Sandor and Grete Guttmann is primarily documented in their abovementioned personal letters sent to Herta Wells and among the papers of Series III. Series III also holds papers of Egon's sister Alice Bolgar, her husband Emmerich Bolgar, and their son Michael Bolgar.

Dates

  • 1879-2014
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1943

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with small amounts of Hungarian 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

email: lbaeck@lbi.cjh.org

Biographical Note

Herta (also spelled Hertha) Guttmann was born on July 24, 1911 in Vienna. She was the daughter of Sandor and Fanny Guttmann, and had two sisters: Grete and Melitta (called Litty). Herta began working for Anker insurance as a clerk in 1927. In September 1937 her mother passed away.

Egon Werberg was born March 6, 1902 in Vienna, the son of Adolf and Bertha Werberg; he had a sister, Alice. He attended the Staats-Gymnasium in Vienna's second district (Staats-Gymnasium in Wien, II). From 1921-1924 he worked at the Allgemeine Verkehrsbank in Vienna, and in 1925 he joined Anker insurance as an accounting clerk. While at Anker insurance, he met Herta Guttmann. In 1932 he took and passed the Austrian real estate exam. Both Egon and Herta lost their positions at Anker insurance in spring 1938. They married in October 1938. After a brief stay in Amsterdam in December 1938, they left for Port of Spain, Trinidad, to wait for their American visas.

Herta and Egon remained in Trinidad for just over a year. Meanwhile, Herta's sister Melitta (Litty) and brother-in-law Ernst Käuffler (later changed to Ernest Kent) emigrated from Vienna to New York City in December 1939. With the financial aid of Egon's cousin, Joseph Markovits, Herta and Egon were granted American visas and arrived in New York by spring 1940, where they first resided in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Queens, New York. They changed their surname to Wells and in the 1940s had a daughter, Nora. In May 1945 both Egon and Herta became American citizens.

Although both Herta and Litty tried various avenues and requested assistance from many individuals, they were unable to aid their father and sister Grete in leaving Austria. Sandor and Grete Guttmann were deported from Vienna to Izbica, Poland on June 5, 1942. Alice Werberg, Egon's sister, had married the Hungarian-born editor Emmerich Bolgar (also spelled Emerich Bolgár or Emerich Bolgar, born Imre Steiner) and they had a son, Michael. Emmerich Bolgar died in 1932 of heart disease. In 1941 Alice and Michael received visas for the United States but did not arrive until 1946.

In New York Egon Wells established himself as a realty and insurance agent. He died in 1964, Herta Wells in 1998.

Extent

1 Linear Feet

Abstract

The Herta and Egon Wells Family Collection centers on the emigration of Herta (née Guttmann) and Egon Wells from Vienna to New York by way of Trinidad, with further documentation on their lives prior to and following emigration. Documents relating to the emigration experiences and attempts of other family members are also present. About half the collection consists of personal correspondence, but it additionally includes official documents, immigration and citizenship documentation, educational and professional documents, memorabilia, legal correspondence, a few family photographs, and newspaper clippings.

Separated Material

A folder of empty envelopes was removed from the collection during archival processing, along with a number of duplicate photocopies of documents and a few empty forms. Copies of entire issues of the publication Radiowelt, of which Emmerich Bolgar was editor, were also removed, with copies of the issues' title pages and publication information retained in the collection.

Processing Information

During the processing of the archival collection, documents were arranged into series by format or family branch. The correspondence of Series I was further divided by location to reflect the order initially observed in the collection.
Title
Guide to the Papers of the Herta and Egon Wells Family 1879-2014 AR 25683
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Dianne Ritchey and Dahlia Japhet
Date
© 2018
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Herta_and_Egon_Wells_Family.xml

Revision Statements

  • August 15, 2018:: dao links added to container list

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States