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Julius Sofer Collection

Identifier: AR 26018

Scope and Contents

The collection holds two texts about the life of Julius Sofer who worked for the Koh-i-noor button business in Vienna and Prague, as well as several pocket calendars used as diaries by him and his daughter Lisl. Their entries describe the people they met and their daily business. The entries from Lisl provide a glimpse into her preparation to emigrate as well as the start of her new life, as she called it, in the late summer of 1938.

The first three folders contain biographical material about Julius Sofer. Folder 1/1 holds a short biography of Julius Sofer which is part of the book “The boy who wore white stockings,” which tells the story of Peter Pollak, the son of Lilia Sofer and grandson of Julius. Folder 1/2 contains the transcription of Julius Sofer’s memoirs. They consist of a detailed story about his growing up in the small village Frideck, Moravia (Frýdek, Czech Republic) with a focus on his work at several businesses in Vienna. He joined the Koh-i-noor business in 1902. Folder 1/3 holds the death announcement of Julius Sofer, which was published in the newspaper Aufbau on February 1st, 1957.

Folder 1/4 contains empty envelopes which were sent from Vienna to New York during the 1940s. Most of them are addressed to Elizabeth Polk. They all have the censor stamps of the Nazi regime on them. The letters can be found in the Grace Polk Family collection addenda, AR 25489. Additionally, the folder includes a message written in 1946 to Julius Sofer regarding the transport of the belongings of Katharina Sofer in 1940.

Folder 1/5 holds some documents related to the S.S. President Roosevelt which traveled from Hamburg to New York in 1938. Hans-Gunther Pollak and his wife Elizabeth (Sofer) were onboard. Included are a list of passengers and the menu of the Gala dinner, as well as a deck plan.

Folder 1/6 holds two saving books from Harry George and Elizabeth Polk. They show the initial deposit of $4,340.- which was transferred from a Swiss account by Julius Sofer to each of his children. The entries show that it was used to cover large expenses, but also some larger withdrawals, which were probably used to pay for affidavits and later for a down payment for a house. Moreover, it includes the membership card for the Humanitas Lodge (Free Mason Lodge) of Julius Sofer and two printed address books of members of the club including Julius Sofer.

Folder 1/7 holds two address books. One includes many names from all over Europe but also notes from presumably Julius Sofer’s work around 1900. The other one was used in New York.

Three folders hold pocket calendars that were used as diaries. Folder 1/8 holds three pocket calendars. One was used by Julius Sofer, and two are from Lisl. The notes in the 1936 calendar describe the weekly meetings of Misses Sofer and Mister Pollak (Lisl’s later husband Hans-Gunther Pollak / Harry Polk) as well as their engagement in October. Folder 1/9 holds four pocket calendars that were used as diaries in 1938 and 1939. According to notes two of them were used by Lisl. She wrote about her immigration to New York under the title “start of a new life” in the calendar for 1938. Folder 1/10 holds two pocket calendars that were used as diaries by Julius Sofer in 1941 and 1944 containing aphorisms and addresses. The diary from 1944 also shows his finances from 1946 to 1948.


  • 1901-2011


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

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:

Biographical Note

Julius Sofer (1871-1957) was born in Frideck in Silesia and moved to Vienna when he was fifteen years old. He did an apprenticeship in the clothing industry and became a clerk in 1888. Later, he was an importer and wholesaler in the garment trade and became friends with Heinrich Waldes who owned the button business Koh-i-noor. Waldes offered Julius distribution rights in Austria/Hungary, which gave him a good income.

Julius and Katharina (Kaethe) von Skalla (1864-1944) became a couple even though she seemed to still have another lover named Toni. Kaethe and her mother were openly anti-Semitic and she refused to marry him for many years because he was Jewish. Nonetheless, they had three children together: Lilia (1896-1994), Elizabeth (Lisl, 1902-2001), and Felicitas (Litzi, 1908-1996). Elizabeth was married to Harry Polk (né Hans-Günther Pollak) 1936-1964.

Julius left Europe for Cuba in 1941 and emigrated to the United States in 1943, following Lisl who had already left with her husband in 1938 onboard the S.S. President Roosevelt. Julius’s wife Katharina stayed behind and died in Vienna in 1944.


0.5 Linear Feet

1 Folders (1 oversized folder in a shared oversized box)


The collection holds documents related to Julius Sofer including his memoirs as well as pocket calendars, which were used as diaries by Julius Sofer and his daughter Lisl in the late 1930s and early 1940s.


The collection is arranged in a single series: Series I: Julius Sofer, 1901-2011

Related Materials

The Julius Sofer Collection is an addendum to the Grace Polk Family Collection (AR 25489), which holds additional materials related to Julius Sofer and his family, including the letters from the empty envelopes in folder 1/4 of this collection.

Processing Information

The material was left in the original order.

Guide to the Papers of Julius Sofer
Processed by Mareike Hennies
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