Skip to main content

Jaffe Family, Posen Collection

Identifier: AR 4037

Scope and Content Note

The Jaffe Family of Posen Collection focuses entirely on the genealogical research of the family conducted by Johanna Jaffé. It includes extensive research correspondence with family members, family trees, and a small amount of documentation accumulated during the research, including a few copies of photographs and some newspaper clippings.

The bulk of this collection consists of Johanna Jaffé's correspondence with her family members regarding her investigation of the family history, located in Series I. Her letters frequently request names, dates and other biographical details of family members as well as seeking reminiscences of older individuals no longer alive and requesting addresses of other family members. Some family news is also exchanged in the letters, but the focus lies with the genealogical research.

Series II holds the final results of Johanna Jaffé's work, her family trees. These trees are extremely lengthy and provide basic biographical data. In addition to life dates, they list areas where family members resided and occasionally more detailed notes.

A small amount of documentation acquired during Johanna Jaffé's research comprises Series III. This material includes some photographs and copies of photographs of various family members encountered in the previously mentioned series. In addition, there are extensive copies of personal letters of the historian Philipp Jaffé.


  • 1832-1986
  • Majority of material found within 1970-1986

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and German.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Box 1 Folder 21 may only be accessed on site at the Lillian Goldman Reading Room, as it contains extensive correspondence relating to the donation of the collection.

Access Information

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

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

The Jaffe (sometimes spelled Jaffé) family derived from the Posen (now Poznań) and Miloslaw regions of present-day Poland. Included among its members was Rabbi Mordecai Jaffe, known for his works Levush Malkhut or the Levushim, which interpreted the Jewish laws. Another noteworthy member of the family was the historian Philipp Jaffé.

Johanna ("Hanni") Eva Jaffé was born in Posen (now Poznań, Poland). She grew up in a well-to-do family; her father owned the family wood wholesale business, and her mother Alice came from a bankers' family from Warsaw. Soon after Johanna's birth, her father relocated his business to Berlin. She had a younger sister, Hilde, with whom she was very close.

In 1919, Johanna Jaffé completed her schooling at Berlin's Auguste Victoria Schule, continuing on to study medicine at the universities of Berlin and Freiburg before she had to break off her education due to illness. Eventually, she pursued a secretarial course and then assisted at her father's firm. In 1924, Johanna Jaffé went to the suburb of Dachau near Munich to attend a home economics course given at "Die große Moosschwaige," the home of the Swedish artist Carl Olaf Petersen and his wife Elly and a meeting place of many authors and artists. Elly Petersen taught the course, and the Petersens became close friends of Johanna's. Following the course, Johanna Jaffé began working at the Israelitische Jugendhilfe in Munich, later becoming principal of the institution. From 1928 to 1930, she traveled to several cities in Europe while studying modern foreign languages, but during semester breaks she always returned to Dachau where she assisted Elly Petersen in writing her "yellow books" on topics such as gardening and homemaking. Finally Johanna Jaffé broke off her studies and made Dachau her home. There the Petersens became her employers, where she assisted them in their literary work.

After Kristallnacht in November 1938, Johanna Jaffé turned her attention to emigrating from Germany. In April 1939, she went to England as a domestic servant. Ultimately, she settled near Cheltenham in the region of Cotswolds, where she opened a teashop. During the Holocaust, Johanna lost her mother Alice Jaffé, who was deported to Theresienstadt; Johanna’s sister Hilde Tittel committed suicide after facing deportation and the loss of her youngest son Rolf following the death of her non-Jewish husband in an accident. Johanna Jaffé succeeded in bringing her orphaned nephew Klaus to England in 1948. With Johanna’s help, he was able to secure a scholarship to attend Oxford University where he earned a PhD in Physics before moving to the U.S. in 1960.

In 1983, Johanna Jaffé visited Berlin on the invitation of the city's mayor. Although Elly Petersen asked her to return to Dachau, she never did. In her later years, she spent much of her time in genealogical research, documenting the descent of various branches of the Jaffé/ Jaffe family from Mordecai Jaffe of Posen as well as tracing the spread of the family, with family members in Germany, England, the United States and Israel.

Much of the information in this biographical note derived from material in the book Before Sunrise by Hans Holzhaider, translated by Johanna Jaffé.


1.25 Linear Feet


This collection documents the genealogy of the Jaffe family that originated in Posen (now Poznań, Poland), as researched by Johanna Jaffé. It includes a large amount of genealogical correspondence, family trees, some photographs and a few clippings.

Related Material

The LBI Library contains the book Before Sunrise, by Hans Holzhaider and translated by Johanna Jaffé [DS 135 G4 D28 H612]. This book contains extensive details on the events of Johanna Jaffé's life.

Guide to the Papers of the Jaffé Family of Posen 1832-1986 AR 4037
Processed by Dianne Ritchey and Eva Englander
© 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from JaffeFamily_Posen.xml

Revision Statements

  • November 28, 2011 : 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