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Kornstein-Rosenthal Family Collection

Identifier: AR 6280

Scope and Content Note

The Kornstein-Rosenthal Collection comprises papers of several members of the Kornstein and related families. Most prominent among these are Adolf (Adolph) Kornstein and his wife, Suse (Susan), on whom the bulk of the collection focuses. Other family members who feature heavily in this collection are their parents, Jakob and Alwine Kornstein and Julian and Margarete Rosenthal, as well as Suse Kornstein's uncle Robert Naumann. This collection primarily pertains to the family member's daily lives, especially during the 1920s through the 1940s in Germany, although attention is also given to Adolf and Suse's professional development from medical students in Germany to practicing physicians in Brooklyn. Most of the collection constitutes extensive family correspondence. Other papers include educational and professional documentation of Adolf and Suse Kornstein, some official papers of family members, essays and research material of Robert Naumann, and some photographs and genealogical material. In addition, a detailed manuscript on the lives of Adolf and Suse by their daughter is also present, which is based on various documents in this collection.

The personal correspondence of this collection will be found in Series I. Correspondence in this series includes both letters between Adolf and Suse Kornstein and from family members to them. Subseries 1 of Series I, which holds the letters exchanged between Adolf and Suse, mainly comprises letters they exchanged prior to their marriage. Many of these letters date from their time studying medicine at separate universities. While these letters largely detail their personal relationship to each other, they also provide a glimpse of the life of Jewish students in Germany in the early 1930s; some letters express their concerns about the changes within the country although most relate news of their activities. Subseries 2 of Series I contains the personal correspondence of other family members to Adolf and Suse. Letters in this subseries prior to 1934 are to and from Kornstein family members and Adolf. Noteworthy are those that pertain to Adolf and Jakob Kornstein's visit to New York City in 1924-1925 as well as Adolf's extended stay there. Such letters often provide his impressions of New York City and American culture, as well as chronicling his experiences as a student in an American high school. Letters after 1934 are from members of the Rosenthal family, primarily Julian and Margarete Rosenthal, to their daughter Suse and Adolf in Brooklyn. This correspondence relates their news from Germany, with some mention of the changing political scene and the developing stresses upon the Jewish community in Breslau and its effects upon them, notably in the later years of the correspondence.

Related to the correspondence of Series I are the documents of Series II, which predominantly consist of copies and translations of Adolf and Suse Kornstein's educational documentation from Germany, used in their acquisition of American medical licenses. Other papers in Series II include some other official papers and texts from Kornstein family celebrations. Additionally related to the family correspondence is the manuscript Gretel's Moon by Roslyn Tanzman, located in Series IV. This exhaustive composition uses much of the material in the collection, but especially the family correspondence, to document the lives of Suse and Adolf Kornstein. Gretel's Moon includes many excerpts of the correspondence of Series I, translated into English, although some are presented in edited form. The narrative of the manuscript is woven around the correspondence in order to place the letters in their historical and biographical context; later portions of Adolf and Suse's lives are described by the author in memoir fashion based upon her own memories. The text includes the addition of photographs and a family tree within it; similar documents are also located in Series IV.

Aside from the extensive material on Adolf and Suse Kornstein, this collection also encompasses some material on Robert Naumann, the brother of Margarete Rosenthal, who owned a stationery shop in the town of Liegnitz until he was forced to sell it in 1938, when he immigrated to the United States by way of Cuba. Material on Robert Naumann will be found in Series III. Many of these papers consist of his writing, primarily essays on German history, such as the historical development of German culture and alternate resolutions to World War II. Some of his other compositions pertain to family members, such as his essay "Unser Goethe," which describes the significance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to members of his family.


  • 1861-1988
  • Majority of material found within 1924-1941


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Use Restrictions

Copyright and literary property rights retained by donor. For more information, contact:

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


Biographical Note

Adolf Kornstein was born in Breslau in 1908, the son of Jacob Kornstein and his wife Alwine Kornstein née Schacher. Jakob Kornstein was originally from a small Galician village called Budzanow (now Budaniv, Ukraine), and was the last child of his parents to remain in Germany; by the 1920s his seven siblings had immigrated to Brooklyn, New York. But Jakob stayed and settled in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland), where his wife had established a shop that sold clothing accessories like hats, gloves and furs. It was here that Adolf and his younger sister Ilse grew up. Following the growing depression and inflation in Germany during the early 1920s, in 1924 Jakob and Adolf traveled to New York City to visit their relatives and assess the economic situation there.

The time in New York had an impact on Adolf Kornstein, who remained there with his relatives until 1927. While his father returned to his mother and sister in Breslau, Adolf learned English and American ways and attended the Manual Training High School in Brooklyn, from which he graduated in 1926. During his time in America, Adolf came to the decision to study medicine rather than working in business like most of his relatives. Following his graduation from high school he began taking pre-medical courses at the City University of New York, but returned to Breslau in the fall of that year due to the wishes of his father. After passing his Abitur in Breslau in 1928, Adolf began his German medical studies at the University of Freiburg. There he met a fellow medical student, Suse Rosenthal.

Suse Rosenthal was born and raised in Breslau in 1909, the daughter of Julian and Margarete Rosenthal née Naumann. The Naumann family originally came from Liegnitz (now Legnica, Poland), and it was there that Suse Rosenthal's grandmother Clara resided along with her uncle Robert, who had a stationery shop there.

In early 1934 Adolf Kornstein and Suse Rosenthal were married, and at the beginning of April they left for the United States along with Adolf's mother Alwine, his father Jakob having died during the previous year. The following year Suse made a trip back to Germany. By 1936 she and Adolf had opened a practice together in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where they also lived with Alwine Kornstein. After various delays, the Rosenthals finally immigrated to the United States via Spain in the summer of 1941. Upon their arrival, they too resided in the apartment of their children and grandchildren. Adolf and Suse Kornstein had three children: James (1937), Roslyn (1940) and Mark (1949). Nearby was also Adolf's sister, Ilse, who had married an American, Manuel Schwartz, in 1931. Margarete Rosenthal died in 1943, Alwine Schacher in 1947, and Julian Rosenthal in 1954.

Adolf and Suse Kornstein Americanized their names as Adolph and Susan; their sons had their surname changed to Korsten. Their daughter Roslyn married Daniel Tanzman.


2 Linear Feet


The Kornstein-Rosenthal Collection documents the most notable events in the lives of members of the Kornstein and related families, especially of Adolf and Suse Kornstein. Prominent in this collection is the comprehensive family correspondence, providing a view of the daily events of family members for nearly two decades. In addition, the collection contains a detailed narrative based on these letters. Other material includes educational and official papers, some compositions of family members, family trees and other genealogical information and photographs.


The collection is on six reels of microfilm:

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/7
  2. Reel 2: 1/8 - 1/17
  3. Reel 3: 1/18 - 1/23
  4. Reel 4: 1/24 - 1/28
  5. Reel 5: 2/1 - 2/14
  6. Reel 6: 3/1 - 3/12

Processing Information

During processing of the archival collection in December 2010, the collection was slightly rearranged. Folders with material of similar content were gathered together to form series, with the initial overfilled folder of photocopied documents divided into several folders and moved to Series IV. One large folder of correspondence of Adolf and Suse Kornstein was divided into two folders and given its own subseries within Series I. One folder of later correspondence was placed at the end of the correspondence series, following the arrangement indicated in the correspondence index. Some folders of correspondence that were overfilled were divided into multiple folders.

Guide to the Papers of the Kornstein-Rosenthal Family 1861-1988 AR 6280 / MF 1106
Processed by Dianne Ritchey and LBI Staff
© 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from KornsteinRosenthalFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • June 2011.: Microfilm inventory added.
  • January 2012.: Collection name changed from Korsten-Tanzman Family to Kornstein-Rosenthal Family.
  • April 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