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Paul Collin Manuscripts Collection

Identifier: AR 25557

Scope and Contents

The collection contains manuscripts of Paul Collin in English, including two autobiographical narrations in the form of typescripts; and four completed books (copies of typescripts, in binders) that he distributed to friends. There is also a small binder of recipes handwritten in German, along with some recipes on loose notes, and a few items of miscellaneous correspondence, including one photograph. Also included is a tribute to him on his 90th birthday and an obituary.

The autobiographical narrations in Folders 1 and 2 were both written sometime before Collin completed his full-length autobiography "The Story of an Average Man," in 1968; he had started to write the latter book (which is not included in the collection) in 1963-1964, but then broke off work and set it aside, and did not return to it for four years, finally completing it in March-April 1968. The manuscript "From Kolin 1757 to Collin 1964" (Folder 2), which also carries the title "The Life of an Average Man" as a heading preceding Chapter 1, dates from sometime in the interim period, between 1964 and early 1968. In this manuscript Collin tells the story of his family, beginning with his great-grandfather, Feist ben David, and continuing up to his own childhood and adult life in Frankfurt am Main, breaking off around the time that his father died, in 1925.

The manuscript "Looking Back to 1900" (Folder 1) was written sometime earlier (he refers to it on p. 16 of "From Kolin 1757 to Collin 1964"). It concerns what he describes as a turning point in his adult life, when, at the age of 19, he was sent by the company where he was employed on a trip to Italy as a traveling salesman.

The following four manuscripts (Folders 3-6) are copies of finished works of which Collin distributed copies to friends.

"Some More Reminiscences and a few ideas of my own" (Folder 3) concerns Collin's school days at Frankfurt's Philanthropin, an elementary school and Realschule (secondary school); and gives details about the rabbis and synagogues in Frankfurt. It also contains chapters devoted to his reflections on various other topics, including inflation; Communism in Russia; and Red China.

"My Third Book" (Folder 4) also covers a variety of topics, with the two most substantial chapters concerning a history of the American labor movement; and immigration. The latter consists of an overview of the history of immigration in the United States, combined with a personal account of immigration, including the Collin family's experiences of the Nazi era in Germany; his and his wife's immigration to the United States (via England); and their early years in this country as they struggled to establish themselves.

In "A Review of a Century, 1870-1970" (Folder 5) Collin gives his own synthesized history of the century, beginning with a chronological narrative ("World Affairs," p. 1-102), with a special focus on German history; and continuing with 30 shorter chapters on diverse topics, including the telephone; Albert Einstein; Sigmund Freud; the space age; television; computers; U.S. presidents of the last 30 years; the war in Vietnam; and Israel.

"A Collection of 150 Jokes" (Folder 6) is a collection of jokes in both German and English, with an introduction on the general topic of Jewish jokes.

The collection also contains a recipe book (Folder 7), consisting of a small loose-leaf binder of handwritten recipes in German, with an index at the back. It is accompanied by some recipes on loose notes, along with a few items of correspondence (Folder 8), including a postcard photograph of a couple—evidently Paul and Nelly Collin—which was found inside an envelope postmarked 1939, addressed to someone in New York; and a letter from Paul and Nelly Collin to their sister-in-law Martha Collin (the wife of Paul's brother Friedrich), dated 1962.

Finally, the tribute and obituary (Folder 9) consist of a Bulletin of the Jewish Council of 1933 dedicated to Collin on his 90th birthday, in 1971; and the text of a memorial piece about him, composed by the Jewish Council of 1933 after his death. With the latter materials is also is a "eulogy" that Collin penned for himself toward the end of his life.


  • undated, 1925
  • 1939
  • 1962-1976
  • Majority of material found within , 1962-1976


Language of Materials

The collection is in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection.

Biographical Note

Paul Collin was born on 17 June 1881 in Frankfurt am Main, the youngest son of merchant Simon Collin (born circa 1840; died 1925) and his wife Johanna Collin (née Bergmann). He had three siblings: Julius (born 1870), Marie (born 1872), and Friedrich (born 1876).

Collin's paternal great-grandfather migrated from the small town of Kolin, in the Kingdom of Bohemia (today in the Czech Republic; about 60 km. east of Prague), to the city of Offenbach (in Hesse-Darmstadt) around 1780. His father Simon was born and raised in Offenbach, and spent the first part of his adult life there; and Paul's three siblings were all born there. Simon Collin made his living in Offenbach as a portefeuiller (manufacturer of wallets and briefcases). In the years following the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71) he lost his business, and subsequently moved with his family to Frankfurt am Main, where he and his wife ran a general store at Baugraben 14.

In Frankfurt, the family at first lived in an apartment above their store; later they moved to an apartment in the eastern part of the city (Ostend). Paul Collin finished school before the age of 15 and began working as an apprentice at a wholesale millinery company; shortly later, when he was 15 years old, his mother died.

At the age of 19, Collin, after learning to read and speak Italian in night school, was sent to Italy as a representative of the company where he was employed; it was his first trip outside of Frankfurt. After that he traveled extensively in his business career. He made trips to Italy over the next ten years, and also visited other cities in Germany, and cities abroad including Paris, Prague, Budapest and Trieste. In 1906 Paul Collin was a co-founder, along with his brothers Julius and Friedrich, of Collin & Co., an export business. In subsequent years the countries he visited on business included Spain, Portugal, Romania, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Russia.

Paul Collin married Nelly Kaufmann (1889-1981) in Frankfurt am Main on 3 January 1915; she was also a native of Frankfurt. Paul and Nelly Collin had two daughters, Gertrud (Gerda; born 1915) and Hildegard (Hilde; born 1917).

In July 1916 Paul Collin was drafted into the German Army. Since he was proficient in several languages (French, Italian, English, Spanish, and Romanian), he was posted in Frankfurt as a translator at the Office of Mail Supervision, and served there for the duration of the war.

During the war, around 1915, Collin & Co. switched from export to domestic business, and also from the lace business to veils and nets. After the war and through the period of the hyperinflation of 1922-1923, the company started to manufacture veils and, besides selling to customers in Germany, exported to England, Holland, and the Scandinavian countries; during these years Paul Collin traveled on business to Holland, Denmark, and Sweden. Once the German currency was stabilized in the mid 1920s, the Collins' export business came to an end and, at the same time, with a shift in fashion, the demand for veils fell, leaving them with stock that they could not utilize; in the face of these difficulties, they struggled to keep the company afloat and were forced to reduce their staff.

In 1939, the Collin family business was confiscated by the Nazis. Paul and Nelly Collin emigrated to England in early 1939. By that time both of their daughters had already emigrated to the United States. Gertrude Collin Rau and her husband Siegfried Rau (whom she had married in Frankfurt in 1937) arrived in New York in February 1937 and settled in San Francisco, California, where her sister, Hilda Collin, joined them in October 1938. Hilda married Paul Richards in San Francisco in 1941.

Paul and Nelly Collin immigrated to the United States in April 1940, sailing to New York from England; they subsequently joined their daughters in San Francisco.

Paul's sister Marie and his brother Friedrich also came to the United States; both settled with their spouses in New York City. Marie and her husband, Joseph Gundersheim, had two children, Max and Paul. Friedrich and his wife Martha (née Hitz), who had married in Offenbach in 1908 and later lived in Frankfurt, arrived in New York in April 1940; they had two daughters, Jeanette (Hansi) and Elizabeth (Lisl). Paul's other brother, Julius, and his wife Henriette (Henny; née Beyfuss), both perished in the Holocaust; they were last residing in Frankfurt, and were deported from there in 1941.

In the United States, Paul Collin became a salesman and eventually started his own business selling hairnets, scarves and headgear made by his wife Nelly.

For over 25 years Collins was a member of the Jewish Council of 1933 (incorporated in 1946), a charitable organization formed by German-Jewish émigrés in San Francisco, which assisted refugees abroad and newcomers in the United States, and sponsored cultural events and activities. He served as the corresponding secretary and for many years was a co-worker on the monthly bulletin. He was also responsible for initiating a cooperative fund to provide death benefits for members (Sterbekasse).

In 1963-1964, around the time of his retirement, Paul Collin started work on an autobiography, and eventually completed it in March-April 1968. He distributed the book, entitled "The Story of an Average Man," to friends, in return for charitable donations to the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. (Today, his autobiography is by several libraries around the world.) After that, he wrote four more books that he distributed in the same way.

Paul Collins died in San Francisco on 5 June 1976; his wife Nelly died there in 19841.


0.5 Linear Feet : (1 box)


The collection mainly comprises manuscripts of Paul Collin in English, including two autobiographical narrations in the form of typescripts; and four completed books (copies of typescripts, in binders) that he distributed to friends. Three of the books convey a mixture of personal reminiscences and ruminations on various historical, social and political topics; one is a collection of jokes, in both German and English. There is also a small binder of recipes handwritten in German, along with some recipes on loose notes, and a few items of miscellaneous correspondence, including one photograph. Also included are a tribute and an obituary for Collin that were published in bulletins of the Jewish Council of 1933 (San Francisco), of which he was a longtime member.


The collection is arranged in a single series, with the manuscripts in roughly chronological order, followed by the recipe book and related items, then the tribute/obituary articles.

Related Materials

See also another manuscript by Paul Collin, "Geschichte der Freimaurer Loge zum Frankfurter Adler in Frankfurt am Main" (MS 659; MSF 63), held by the Leo Baeck Institute.

Separated Materials

Printed material related to recipes, in German and English, circa 1930-1951, can be found in the Paul Collin Clippings Collection, AR 25557 C.

Processing Information

The materials as received had no file titles or arrangement. They have been placed in acid-free folders, with the manuscripts arranged roughly chronologically, and the other materials at the end.

Guide to the Paul Collin Manuscripts Collection
Processed by Violet Lutz
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States