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Lila and Leo Marx Collection

Identifier: AR 25690

Scope and Content Note

The Lila and Leo Marx Collection documents the lives of this couple, with a focus on their early lives in Germany, their first years in New York City, and their pursuit of restitution for their losses under Nazi Germany. Information on their families is also present. The collection consists of a large amount of restitution correspondence; family correspondence; official, educational, and employment documents; a chronology and narrative of the lives of Lila and Leo Marx and their families; and a few photographic postcards. The collection was organized by its donor and has been kept in this original order during the processing of the archival collection.

Most of the information about Lila and Leo Marx and their families will be found in Series I. It includes the narrative that is both a chronology and history about them and their families and a commentary on the papers of this collection. It was written with the use of other documents in this collection. Series I additionally contains Lila and Leo Marx's official, educational, and employment documents, some photographic postcards that show other family members, emigration documentation and correspondence, and family correspondence. All the correspondence in this series has been translated into English.

The remaining two series of the collection largely focus on the family's financial matters. Restitution correspondence will be found in Series II, primarily for restitution claims submitted by Lila Marx but also including one folder regarding claims for Leo and Siegfried Marx. Series III contains correspondence relating to Lila and Leo Marx's German social security payments.


  • 1901-2012
  • Majority of material found within 1956-1982

Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Leo Marx was born on August 11, 1918 in Reichenbach (alternately spelled Reischenbach), a small town in Hesse, Germany. Leo was the middle son of Nathan Marx and his wife Karolina (called Lina) née May; his elder brother was Ludwig and his younger brother Siegfried (called Siggy). At the age of 13 Leo left home for an apprenticeship and later employment at the Bruckmann Hardware Store in Karlsruhe.

Lieselotte (also spelled Liselotte, called Lilo, and later, Lila) Baum was the daughter of Hilda Baum, and was born in Strasbourg (then Strassburg, Germany) on February 4, 1915. After Lila's birth Hilda Baum returned to her hometown of Nonnenweier in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. There in 1922 she married Joseph Weil; Lila took her stepfather's surname. Lila worked as an apprentice from 1929-1932 at Roth-Haendle Tobacco Company in Lahr, Germany; from 1932-1934 she was a staff clerk there until she lost her position due to being Jewish. While in Lahr she also studied at a business college, where she learned English. On March 1, 1934 she began working as a bookkeeper and clerk at Klein & Kullmann, an iron tubing wholesale firm.

Leo Marx and Lila Weil met in 1934 while they were both working in Karlsruhe. Sometime in 1936 or 1937 they became engaged. On April 22, 1937 Leo Marx left Germany for New York City on the ship S.S. Washington, where his brother Siegfried (Siggy) already lived. Leo first lived with maternal relatives, the Mays. Lila emigrated to New York on June 16, 1937, also sailing on the S.S. Washington. In New York City she first lived with distant cousins.

In New York, Leo first worked as a door-to-door advertisement distributor for a carpet cleaning company, then as a dishwasher. Then his brother Siggy, who worked on the assembly line of I. Miller Shoes in Queens, found a position for Leo as a pieceworker on the assembly line. Leo remained with I. Miller for five years. Lila Weil was first employed at a lampshade assembly line in New Jersey, and then as domestic help. She then found a position as a secretary with a German firm in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, but was fired on her first day for being Jewish. Afterward she found a position as a bookkeeper with a German-Jewish firm in New York City's diamond district.

On October 2, 1937 Leo Marx and Lila Weil were married by Rabbi Max Koppel. By 1938 Leo, Lila, and Siggy shared an apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. By October 1939 Leo and Lila had their own apartment in the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx. From November 1939-March 1940 Leo and Lila went to Dallas, Texas with the help of a Jewish resettlement agency, where Leo hoped to open his own hardware store. However, due to the cultural and linguistic differences and a lack of funds the plan did not work out and they returned to New York, where both were able to regain their former jobs. Siggy and Leo began taking night courses at a trade school in refrigeration. By April 1, 1940 Leo and Lila lived again in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

On March 4, 1940, Leo and Siggy's mother and elder brother, Karoline and Ludwig Marx, arrived in New York; Nathan Marx had died in 1931. Although Ludwig briefly worked at a storage facility for the Museum of the American Indian, during the early 1940s he was hospitalized for mental illness as a result of his experiences in forced labor for the Nazis in Germany; he remained hospitalized until his death in 1984. Lila's family members in Germany never came to America: by September 1939 her parents had been evicted from their home in Nonnenweier and gone to Berlin, along with her grandmother, Pauline Baum; in December 1940 Lila's half-brother Robert Weil had joined them there. Pauline Baum died in Berlin in 1942. In March 1943 Robert Weil was sent to Auschwitz and Lila's parents to Theresienstadt. In 1944 Hilda and Joseph Weil were also deported to Auschwitz.

Siggy, Leo, and Lila Marx became American citizens in 1944; at this time Lila officially changed her name from Liselotte to Lila. That same year Leo and Siggy launched Lema Refrigeration Sales and Service – a business for the repair and reconditioning of old refrigerators for apartment buildings in Upper Manhattan. Lila left her position to do the bookkeeping for the new business, while Siggy's wife Johanna conducted the secretarial work. Leo and Siggy did the repairs, pick-ups, and deliveries of refrigerators. In 1945 the family, including both brothers, their wives, and Karolina Marx moved into a two-family home in the nearby Kingsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx; in 1948 they moved Lema Refrigeration there as well. In 1948 the couples had new, separate houses built; in 1945 Siggy and Johanna had a daughter and Leo and Lila a son, followed by a second son in 1950.

Siggy and Johanna retired from the family business in 1976 and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, and Lema Refrigeration closed. In 1979 Leo and Lila followed them to Scottdale, but in 1985 went to Berkeley, California, where their son and his family lived. Johanna Marx died in 1986, Siggy in 2011. Leo Marx passed away in 2001 in Berkeley, Lila in 2008 in Pasadena, California.


1 Linear Feet


The Lila and Leo Marx Collection contains the papers of this couple, with documentation about their early lives in Germany and the effects on their lives by Nazi persecution, their subsequent emigration, and the fates of their family members. Much of the collection focuses on their restitution claims and financial situation. The collection consists of a large amount of restitution correspondence; family correspondence; official, educational, and employment documents; a chronology and narrative of the lives of Lila and Leo Marx and their families; and a few photographic postcards.

Other Finding Aid

The first folder of the collection includes the inventory of the collection written by its donor, including a description of the collection's contents.

Processing Information

This collection was given organization by its donor and has retained its original order. During processing its folders were assigned series based on this order.

Guide to the Papers of Lila and Leo Marx 1901-2012 AR 25690
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2019
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Lila_Marx_and_Leo_Marx.xml

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States