Guide to the Papers of Leo Abraham (1902-1980)

AR 25425 / MF 1116

Processed by Nicole Greenhouse and Dianne Ritchey

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2011 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey in April 2011. Description is in English.
July 2011. New box of addenda added to finding aid. August 2011. Microfilm information added. March 2012 Links to digital objects added in Container List. July 2012. Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Abraham, Leo, 1902-1980
Title: Leo Abraham Collection
Dates:bulk 1938-1942
Abstract: The Leo Abraham Collection documents the immigration of Leo Abraham to the United States on the eve of World War II. The collection contains mostly personal papers and correspondence to his family who he attempted to get clearance to immigrate as well. After 1945, most of the papers in the collection are related to restitution for his loss of property.
Languages: The collection is in German, English, and French.
Quantity: 0.75 linear ft.
Identification: AR 25425
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Leo Abraham was born in Altenkirchen, Germany on October 27, 1902. Altenkirchen contained a small Jewish community, in which Abraham held an active role. He married Else Marx, and they had two children, Berta (Bertl) and Hannalore. By 1933, Abraham realized the threat of Nazism and prepared his family for immigration to Palestine. They received the visas, but due to a car accident in 1937, Abraham was unable to travel until after the visas expired. On Kristallnacht, Abraham was rounded up and sent to Dachau, but returned to his family two weeks later. In 1938, he was forced to sell his property at half its value and continued attempting to get clearance to emigrate out of Germany. In 1939 he and his family moved to Cologne, where Abraham was able to immigrate to England and stay at the Kitchener Camp from August 1939 to March 1940. In March 1940, Abraham immigrated to the United States. From that point, Abraham worked to get his family out of Germany, but it was unsuccessful, and his wife and two daughters were first deported to Riga and then farther East, where they were murdered in early 1942. After the war, Abraham married his second wife Ida Reiner until his death on August 14, 1980.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection holds the papers of Leo Abraham and his second wife from 1938 to 1983. It includes personal correspondences from friends and family, photographs, letters of restitution, and emigration documentation.

Series I holds mostly personal documents of Abraham, including letters he saved from family and friends. It also holds other personal documents belonging to Abraham and his second wife Ida, including birthday cards, his will, his passport, an inventory journal from his business, and a list of Jews from Altenkirchen and Westerwald.

Series II includes documentation pertaining to Abraham's immigration to the United States and attempts to get clearance for his family to emigrate out of Germany. It includes applications, affidavits, correspondence, and responses back from the American consulate.

Series III consists of Abraham's documentation of his efforts to collect restitution. The papers discuss requests to the French occupying forces and German government for restitution for his loss of property and health. These are mostly legal documents, correspondences with his lawyer Paul Hirsch or documented evidence pertaining to what he lost during the war and receipts of money compensated to Abraham from the Bezirkamt für Wiedergutmachung (Regional Office for Restitution) in Koblenz.

Series IV is composed of addenda added to the collection after it was first processed. Divided into two subseries, the first contains correspondence that augments the letters of Series I as well as correspondence between Leo Abraham and his cousin, who assisted him in his immigration attempts and is featured in the immigration documentation of Series II. Finally, the first subseries also holds some correspondence on the hearing loss of Leo Abraham's second wife Ida and his efforts in procuring financial support for her after she became disabled. The second subseries of Series IV holds documentation related to Leo Abraham's restitution claims of Series III. Series IV also includes two photographs of his first wife Else Abraham and their daughters.

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This collection contains three series:

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Access and Use

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 "Request" button.

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

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

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page


The collection is one reel of microfilm (MF 1116).

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Leo Abraham Collection; AR 25425; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Processing Information

The collection has been reordered and split into three series pertaining to the types of documents. Items were kept in the original order of their respective folders, but the folders were reordered to reflect the new arrangement. Folders were also renumbered to accurately reflect their location. Some large, overfilled folders had their contents further separated by topic for preservation purposes.

In July 2011 a second box of addenda was added to the collection, comprising Series IV.

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Container List

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Personal, 1938-1983

This series is in German and English.
0.25 linear feet

Arranged by folder title.

Scope and Content:

This series is composed of mostly the personal documents of Abraham, which include correspondences, his German passport, family photographs, his wife Ida's birthday cards from 1983, an inventory journal from his store, and his will.

The letters come from mostly family and friends, the bulk of which are letters he received from his wife and two daughters from 1939-1941. These letters discuss the daily activities of the family and their preparations and attempts to emigrate. Other letters of this time period come from other relatives and members of the Altenkirchen Jewish community. After the war, Abraham received letters from friends and family who survived and he began reconnecting with the Altenkirchen Jewish community.

The execution of his will and marriage certificate to Ida Reiner are also contained in this series. Abraham also began documenting a list of Jews from the Altenkirchen and Westerwald communities and what happened to them. Abraham's high school diploma and an unofficial obituary are in this series.

14Estate of Leo Abraham1947, 1980
18Birthday Cards1983
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Series II: Emigration, 1938-1940, 1977

This series is in German and English.
0.125 linear feet.

Arranged by folder title.

Scope and Content:

This series is made up of Abraham's papers concerning his and his family's attempts to emigrate from Germany. Abraham attempted many different ways of getting his family out of Germany; he applied to the Argentinean consulate and the American consulate. Eventually he made his way out of Germany by himself, and stayed in a refugee camp. Some of the papers include his applications and registrations to the German, British, and American governments to emigrate. Affidavits and letters of recommendation from employers are also in the series, to vouch that Abraham and family were able to be supported in the United States. The papers from 1940-1941 are mostly between him and his sponsor and lawyer David Landau, discussing his wife and daughters' emigration. The documents received by Landau or Abraham from the consulate in Germany are mostly refusals or requests for more documentation.

110Emigration1938-1940, 1977
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Series III: Restitution, 1947-1977

This series is in German, English, and French.
0.125 linear feet.

Arranged by folder title.

Scope and Content:

Series III contains documents pertaining to Abraham's requests for restitution from Germany after World War II. The documents are mostly applications from Abraham to either the French occupying government or to the German government. Abraham sued the German government on multiple accounts, after the war he had a nervous breakdown and filed for compensation. There are many letters from doctors claiming that he suffered traumatically after the war due to the loss of his wife and daughters. He also filed for restitution due to his property being forced to sell at half its value. There are also documents to the bank in Cologne, to attempt to get back his money from a savings account.

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Series IV: Addenda, 1939-1978

This series is in German and English.
0.25 linear ft.

Divided into two subseries:

Scope and Content:

Series IV comprises papers that were added to the collection after it was initially processed. Prominent in this series is the correspondence and documentation of Leo Abraham's attempts to secure visas for his family members, found in Subseries 1, and documentation of the effects of his failed efforts in Subseries 2. In addition, Subseries 1 contains several folders that relate to his attempt to receive funds for his second wife Ida after she had lost her hearing. Two photographs of his first wife and their children are included in Subseries 2.

Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1940-1969, 1978

This subseries is in German and English.
0.15 linear ft.


Scope and Content:

This subseries holds correspondence of Leo Abraham. The initial four folders relate to his attempts to bring his first wife and children to the United States, while the remaining folders pertain to his efforts to receive retirement and disability funds for his second wife after she became hard of hearing.

The letters in this subseries from the early 1940s complement similar letters found in Series I and the emigration documentation of Series II. This correspondence further documents Leo Abraham's desperate but failed attempts to bring his wife Else and daughters Berta and Hannelore out of Nazi Germany before they were deported and ultimately killed in a camp near Riga, Latvia. The first two folders hold appeals to various individuals in his quest to find further financial support for his visa application. Other letters in these folders convey news from friends or family members, although the topic of his family's immigration is the prevailing theme. Letters from his wife also primarily concern questions and concerns about the visas as well as Else Abraham's updates on her activities. His daughters' letters express their hopes to be reunited with him and display their growing command of English. A communication from the Red Cross in December 1943 conveys news of Else Abraham's departure to an unknown location. David Landau, a cousin of Leo Abraham's, was the main provider for his family members' affidavit of support for their visas; his letters contain advice as well as updates on the visa applications.

The later correspondence of this series relates to Leo Abraham's struggle to receive early retirement benefits for his second wife Ida Reiner Abraham after she had become hard of hearing and unable to work. These letters consist of numerous discussions with her union, the Millinery Workers Union, as well as with various city agencies and a congressman. The appeal was ultimately denied.

23Else, Berta and Hannelore Abraham1940-1941, 1943
24Correspondence – David Landau1940-1941
25Ida Reiner Abraham Pension Claim1954-1969, 1978
26Ida Reiner Abraham Pension Claim – Congressman Abraham Multer1959
27Ida Reiner Abraham – Hearing and Social Security1961-1962

Subseries 2: Other Papers, 1939, 1957-1977

This subseries is in German and English.
0.1 linear ft.


Scope and Content:

Subseries 2 comprises two folders. The first contains some papers that had been without a folder upon initial processing of the collection, while the second was self-titled the "Personal Report of Leo Abraham." The loose papers consisted of an insurance form for the German government and a large photo of Leo Abraham's first wife Else and daughters. The personal report consists of a collection of papers likely used for Leo Abraham's restitution efforts, similar to material found in Series III of the collection. Such papers include copies of diagnoses by doctors attesting that his experiences in Germany and after his immigration, especially his failure to assist his family in emigrating, have permanently affected his life. Some financial and tax documentation are enclosed as well, along with a snapshot of Leo Abraham with Else, Berta and Hannelore Abraham.

28Loose Papers1939, 1977
29Personal Report1957-1971
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