Guide to the John Peters (Pinkus) Family Papers
(bulk 1938-2004)

AR 25520

Processed by Alyssa Carver

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2013  Leo Baeck Institute
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Alyssa Carver in February 2013. Description is in English.
April 02, 2015  dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Peters family
Creator: Pinkus family
Title: John Peters (Pinkus) Family Papers
Dates:undated, 1827-2005
Dates:bulk 1938-1990s
Abstract: This collection contains correspondence, family keepsakes, legal records and other papers of the John Peters family, descended from the Pinkus family of Upper Silesia. The family was notable for its large textile factory in Neustadt, Germany (now Prudnik, Poland) and involvement in local culture, politics, and civil life. "Aryanization" forced Hans Hubert Pinkus, John’s father, to emigrate and take his family to the UK in 1939. The John Peters (Pinkus) Family Papers document the lives and the relationships of these men and their families in the decades after WWII, including legal applications for restitution.
Languages: The collection is in English and German, with a small amount of Czech, French, Hebrew, Italian, and Polish.
Quantity: 4 linear feet (3 one-foot boxes, 1 manuscript box, and 1 index card box)
Identification: AR 25520
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
Return to the Top of Page

Biographical Note

The Jewish, German-speaking Pinkus family ran a textile mill in the city of Neustadt in the region of Upper Silesia (today Prudnik, Poland). The factory was called S. Fränkel after founder Samuel Fränkel, who started the business in 1845. It soon became one of the world’s largest producers of fine linens. The Pinkuses married into the Fränkel family by way of two of Samuel’s daughters, and management of the firm fell to son-in-law Joseph Pinkus. The company remained owned and operated by the Fränkel and Pinkus families until the Aryanization policies of the Nazi government forced them out. (The business survives today as Frotex Industries.)

Prior to this, many members of the wealthy family were prominent in the cultural and political life of Neustadt and the surrounding area. Most notable was Max Pinkus (son of Joseph), patron of the arts, philanthropist, and friend of the author and Nobel laureate Gerhart Hauptmann. Max collected a unique library of Silesian literature and local history during his lifetime—most of which was confiscated and scattered during WWII—and provided the inspiration for several of Hauptmann’s fictional characters. Another noteworthy family member was Max’s brother-in-law, Dr. Paul Ehrlich, winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

The two central characters present in this collection come from the following generations: Hans Hubert Pinkus (son of Max) and Howard John Peters (son of Hans). They are the main correspondents found in Series I and appear to be responsible for compiling genealogical materials and preserving the family heirlooms found here.

Hans Hubert Pinkus

Hans Hubert was the last Pinkus director of the firm, 1926 to 1938. A veteran of the First World War (when he spent three years imprisoned as a POW), Hans Hubert was twice married and the father of three by the time he was forced off the board of S. Fränkel. His first marriage, to widowed baroness Elfriede von Vietinghoff-Scheel, produced son John (born Hans Joseph Pinkus) and ended in an amicable divorce. With second wife Elisabeth (Lili) Schottlaender, he had twin daughters: Johanna Hedwig (Jonnie) and Freda Marie (Freddie) Pinkus, born 1927. The family immigrated to the United Kingdom in 1939; Freddie, however, remained in Germany and died in 1940. In the years following World War II, Hans Hubert made ultimately unsuccessful attempts to rebuild the family business elsewhere. With the help of his former secretary, Helene Bauer, he filed a number of restitution claims for damages related to the loss of the company. His genealogical research may have been connected to these prolonged legal struggles or simply the result of personal interest, but he fastidiously maintained his address book (Box 4, Folder 5) and much of the notation in the genealogical index book appears to be in his handwriting (Box 4, Folder 4). After a second divorce, Hans Hubert relocated to Sussex, England. He was married late in life to third wife Charlotte (called Lolle), who survived his death in 1977.

Howard John Roy Peters

Hans Hubert’s son John was born in Neustadt in 1922. He was quite young when his parents divorced, and had Lili Pinkus as a step-mother by the age of five. (His mother Elfriede died when John was eleven.) In addition to his younger half sisters, John was raised with two older step-brothers: Lili’s sons from her previous marriage, Erwin and Richard Schottlaender. John was a teenager attending boarding school abroad when the family decided to emigrate. It seems he traveled separately to the UK, possibly by way of Lili’s mother in Brno, Czechoslovakia, while his Schottlaender brothers ended up in Argentina. Hans Hubert, Lili, and daughter Jonnie settled in Belfast. John joined the British Army shortly thereafter and in the early 1940s officially changed his name to Howard John Roy Peters. He was soon married to another young German-speaking Jewish refugee named Marianne Pollak. (Though she was Czech their two families had been acquainted before the war, since Marianne’s mother was a close friend of Lili Pinkus.) They eventually had three children together, but the eldest died in childhood. After his army service, John worked in the international textile trade (seemingly unrelated to his father’s ventures). He traveled often and spent some years living in Egypt. By the 1960s the family settled in Switzerland. Marianne, who was also known by the nickname Toni (sometimes spelled Tony), worked as a travel guide for tourists. She died in 1983. In the following years, John was active in the British Residents' Association of Switzerland as a regional chairperson. Much of his correspondence with his adult children and extended family is dated from this later period, the mid-1980s through 1990s.

John Peters maintained contact with a wide assortment of extended family, including relatives of Marianne, his late step-mother, and his father’s last wife. The relationships between family members and generations are outlined below.

Simplified Family Tree

Generation 1: Factory founder Samuel Fränkel marries Ernestine (called Esther) Polke, and they have 13 children. (Samuel’s brother Josef marries Esther’s sister Dorothea Polke and they have eight or nine children.)

Generation 2: Two of Samuel and Esther’s daughters marry Pinkus brothers. Rosalie (1840-1913) and Benno Pinkus (1831-1879) are one couple, Auguste and Joseph the other. Joseph Pinkus becomes a partner in the firm.

Generation 3: Benno and Rosalie have four children; one is Dr. Felix Pinkus, a dermatologist. Joseph and Auguste also have four children: daughter Hedwig (1864-1948) marries Paul Ehrlich, and they have two daughters; son Max Pinkus becomes director of the company, marries Hedwig Oberländer, and has three children.

Generation 4 includes Felix’s two children: Luise (married name Grab) and Hermann Karl Benno Pinkus, both doctors as well. Felix ends up in Michigan with son Hermann, who marries another dermatologist (Hilde). Felix's first cousin Max has three children: Alice, Hans Hubert, and Klaus Valentin Pinkus.

Generation 5 of the Benno-Felix branch includes Hermann and Hilde’s son Walter Hensel Pinkus.

Generation 5 of the Joseph-Max branch includes the three children of Hans Hubert Pinkus. With first wife Elfriede von Vietinghoff (née Hess), he has son Hans Joseph Pinkus (later called Howard John Roy Peters). With second wife Lili (Elisabeth von Fischel), he has twin daughters: Johanna Hedwig and Freda Marie Pinkus. Lili Pinkus’ older sons, Erwin and Ricky Schottlaender, are thus related to John's sisters but not to John. Hans Hubert’s third wife, Lolle (Charlotte Aschinger) also has a son, named Peter Margules, who is not a blood relation but counts as a character among the family correspondence.

Generation 6 of the Joseph-Max branch of the family includes the children of John and Marianne Peters: Margaret Dinah (1945-1953), Helen Judith (born 1951), and Anthony David Max Peters (born 1954).

Return to the Top of Page

Scope and Content Note

The largest portion of this collection is made up of family and personal correspondence (Series I). The restitution material (Series III) is also primarily composed of correspondence, but of a more bureaucratic and legal nature. The rest of the collection (Series II) is a mix of artifacts and documents passed down or collected by various family members. Some are beloved mementos, and some are content-rich with historical detail. Other papers have been assembled during the course of genealogical research in the manner of an artificial collection.

Although individual items survive as relics of life in Neustadt, the scope of the collection altogether is more a document of complex family relationships, the displacement of war, and the lives of emigrants in post-war Europe.

Return to the Top of Page


The papers are arranged alphabetically and chronologically in three series and three subseries. Many items were already organized in folders or binders according to general date ranges and topics, such as family correspondence versus restitution. The genealogical and general research material had no indication of original order, and is generally arranged, therefore, by format. Loose clippings and unidentified ephemera required some analysis from the archivist to assign subjects or identify creators and family members. (See also Separated Material and Processing Info below.)

Return to the Top of Page

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers.

Access Information

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

Return to the Top of Page

Access Points

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

Related Material

LBI holds the following related archival collections:

Return to the Top of Page

Separated Material

Items were removed to two other locations: LBI’s library collection, and the Art and Objects department. A single, unlabeled reel of quarter-inch audio tape was also separated to LBI's archival A/V collection.

Books and Periodicals

This collection contained about 1 linear foot of published material, which was separated and given to the LBI library. Most was related to Silesian history, the textile industry, or Pinkus family genealogy, as well as broader topics like Jewish history, the Holocaust, World War II, Zionism and kibbutzim, European travel and geography. Some noteworthy items included a set of well-worn off-prints of Churchill’s speeches on the progress of war and circumstances in Germany, and several British Army pamphlets and periodicals. Archival photocopies were made of book title pages with dedications, signatures, or annotations (see Box 5, Folder 2). The publications listed below did not contain dedications but seemed potentially relevant or likely to be of personal value based on age and rarity.

Art and Objects

Delicate artifacts were given to the Art department, including: hand-painted miniature portraits of Alice and Klaus Pinkus, locks of hair, lace and fiber samples, and satin banners printed with the date of Joseph Pinkus and Auguste Fränkel’s wedding in 1856. In addition to the numerous silk and linen samples was a small box of silkworm cocoons labeled “Inländische Cocons aus Japan saamen gezogen.” Another notable item was a small, bi-fold wallet or portfolio with two inner pockets, made of purple velvet with floral embroidery and assumed to belong to Joseph Pinkus. Inside was the inscription “Geschenk zur Confirmation, 1842,” and contents of the pockets are now located in Box 4, Folder 7.

Several art objects, created by Dr. Felix Pinkus, were removed as well. These were in various notebooks and loose-leaf format, mostly undated but estimated to be circa 1930-1940. The earliest, a handmade sketchbook of pencil drawings, is dated 1880. The media include ink, paint, pastels, pencil, and collage, and favored subjects are birds, insects, exotic animals, and copies of Egyptian and Roman decorative art. One large album, entitled Herbarium des F. Pinkus, contains pressed botanical specimens. It is presumed that these items came to be in the possession of John Peters via Hermann Pinkus, since one of the binders was labeled “Hobbies von Vater.”

Return to the Top of Page

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); John Peters (Pinkus) Family Papers; AR 25520; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

Return to the Top of Page

Processing Information

At the request of the family, these papers were made available to select researchers prior to archival processing, which may have affected the original order of the collection.

Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Correspondence, undated, 1856-2004

In English, German, and a bit of Czech.
Boxes 1-2. 1.75 linear feet.

Items are arranged chronologically within folders, and folders are alphabetically arranged. Most of the correspondence is grouped in pairs with contributions from both individuals. Hans Pinkus and John Peters both seem to have written correspondence mainly by typewriter, so carbon copies of letters and replies are filed together. In the case of folder titles listing a single name, that person is either the recipient or subject of the correspondence within, not the creator.

Scope and Content:

Between individual family members, the nature of the correspondence ranges from deeply personal to mundane. “Extended family” correspondence is slightly different (particularly after 1977), in that much of it seems concerned with genealogy and establishing connections between far-flung branches of the family. A somewhat unexpected topic that appears in letters between John and his father is philately (especially plating). New acquisitions, appraisals and potential trades of Hans Hubert’s stamp collection are frequently discussed.

Thirty years of correspondence between Helene Bauer (called “Bü”) and Hans Hubert Pinkus form a significant portion of this series. Hers is the largest non-family-member contribution to the collection. Within their exchange of letters are a number of biographical details regarding Hans Hubert’s life, as well as discussions of the business in Neustadt that are relevant to the restitution issues addressed in Series III.

The oldest items in this series are the letters from Joseph Pinkus to his fiancée and (later) wife Auguste. These were bundled and tied with pink ribbon, and kept in a small box with pieces of lace, a dried floral garland, and the wedding banners listed above (in Separated Materials.) One of the letters includes greetings from a young Max Pinkus to his mother.

There are almost equal amounts of German and English throughout the correspondence, with the older individuals and earlier dates tending towards German.

A note about names: The family correspondence contains many nicknames. “Mucki” and “Pucki” refer to Lili and Hans Hubert Pinkus. Marianne’s nickname “Toni” seems to have been invented by John around 1950, was used intermittently at first, and eventually became dominant. Even before his name change, “Hans Joseph” appears very rarely in reference to John. Instead, the childhood nickname “Pipo” is used most often in letters from immediate family, and in early correspondence with Marianne.

11Condolences (death of Marianne Peters) 1983-1984
12Fränkel, Auguste -- Joseph Pinkus undated, 1856
13Haas, Max -- reference letters 1938
1 4 Hans Hubert Pinkus' declining health 1976
15Peters, Helen -- John Peters and family 1962-1972
16Peters, Helen -- John Peters and family 1973-1982
17Peters, Helen -- John Peters and family 1983-1994
18Peters, John -- B. Brilling 1977
19Peters, John -- extended family 1945-1975
110Peters, John -- extended family 1977-1981
111Peters, John -- extended family 1982
112Peters, John -- extended family 1983-1984
113Peters, John -- extended family 1985-1986
114Peters, John -- extended family 1995-2004
115Peters, John -- Schottlaender brothers 1938-1945
116Peters, John -- Walter Requardt 1982
117Peters, Marianne -- John Peters 1941
118Peters, Marianne -- John Peters 1942
119Peters, Marianne -- John Peters 1943-1945
120Peters, Marianne -- John Peters 1946-1950
121Peters, Marianne -- John Peters 1951-1955
122Peters, Marianne -- John Peters 1956-1958
123Peters, Marianne -- John Peters 1959-1974
124Pinkus, Elfriede 1920-1926
125Pinkus, Felix 1932-1943
126Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- Helene Bauer 1947-1953
127Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- Helene Bauer 1954-1955
21Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- Helene Bauer 1956-1959
22Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- Helene Bauer 1960-1964
23Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- Helene Bauer 1965-1968
24Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- Helene Bauer 1969-1972
25Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- Helene Bauer 1973-1976
26Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- John Peters 1938-1942
27Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- John Peters 1943-1949
28Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- John Peters 1950-1954
29Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- John Peters 1955-1959
210Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- John Peters 1960-1965
211Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- John Peters 1966-1970
212Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- John Peters 1971-1974
213Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- John Peters 1975-1976
214Pinkus, Hans Hubert -- pre-war 1920-1934
215Pinkus, Jonnie -- John Peters 1954-1986
216Pinkus, Lili -- John Peters 1938-1944
217Pinkus, Lili -- John Peters 1945-1951
218Pinkus, Lili -- John Peters 1952-1964
219Pinkus, Lili -- John Peters 1965-1970
220Pinkus, Lolle -- Helene Bauer 1977
221Pinkus, Lolle -- John Peters 1977-1981
222Pollak family -- Marianne Peters 1938-1945
223Pollak, Margit -- John Peters 1938-1939
Return to the Top of Page

Series II: Genealogy and History, undated, 1827-2005

In English and German, with some Czech, French, Hebrew, Italian, and Polish.
Boxes 2-4. 1.8 linear feet.

Series II is arranged in three subseries, corresponding to material types and formats.

Scope and Content:

The material collected in this series includes academic articles, family mementos and ephemera, genealogical research files, manuscripts, official documents and records, and a number of items removed from the pages of books listed above in Separated Material. The contents vary widely in terms of date, origin, and character, providing irregular historical coverage. Assuming that older items were handed down to John Peters by his father, researchers should note that Hans Hubert Pinkus made a separate, large donation of papers to LBI and consult that collection as well (AR 7030; see also letter from John Peters, February 5, 1982; Box 1; Folder 11).

Subseries 1: Index Cards, undated

Box 3. 0.5 linear feet.

Arrangement is alphabetical. There are no folders.

Scope and Content:

Each index card has a name and a numeric code indicating the "Stamm" or branch of family the person belonged to. Spaces for birth dates, spouse names, and other notes are present but not filled in for every card. Several styles of handwriting and typing appear, and there are duplicate cards for some individuals. The amount of alphabetical dividers that were included would seem to indicate the cards were once organized in separate sets, but the processing archivist could not determine their original order. The largest quantities of surnames are Bremer, Gradenwitz, and Pinkus so it seems probable that there were at least three separate family trees with a number of overlapping members.

Box TitleDate
3   Genealogical index cards, A - Z undated

Subseries 2: Family Heirlooms and History, undated, 1827-2004

Boxes 2 and 4. 1 linear foot.

Arrangement is alphabetical and chronological.

Scope and Content:

Many items in this subseries were culled from other parts of the collection or found between pages of books, except for the “Mementos” (Box 4, Folders 16-17) which had been assembled in a large three-ring binder. An illustrated album belonging to Ernestine Fränkel from about 1827 is the oldest dated item in the collection. One of the collection’s more curious items is nearly as old: the “diary” removed from Joseph Pinkus’s embroidered pocketbook (Box 4, Folder 7). These tightly folded loose-leaf pages seem to record the time deviation for a mechanical clock or watch over many years. Also enigmatic are the undated résumé (Box 4, Folder 21) and poems (Box 4, Folder 25) removed from separated titles by Vietinghoff and Hauptmann respectively. The folder of “official documents” contains a mix of original and copied records pertaining to birth and citizenship for Max, Felix, and Hans Hubert Pinkus, and for John Peters. Books on the histories of the Bremer and Oliven families are self-published works by distant Fränkel and Schottlaender relatives. The origins of a printed 364-page marriage history index (Box 4, Folder 14) are unknown, but the entries include a number of errors. The undated genealogical index in Box 4, Folder 4 is composed of photocopied, hand-written notebook pages that have been rebound and annotated by more than one contributor.

224Bremer Family History 1995
225Charlotte Singer -- articles, histories, memoirs 1932-1945
226Dinah Peters family tree undated
227Elfriede von Vietinghoff -- death certificate and inquiries 1933-1989
228Ernestine Fränkel friendship book 1827-1829
41Felix Pinkus -- biography, memoir, notes undated, 1941
42Felix Pinkus -- photos and postcards c. 1930s
43Franziska Klust - death certificate and will 1951-1965
44Genealogical index book (Fränkel, Pinkus and related families) undated
45Hans Hubert Pinkus -- address book undated
46Hans Hubert Pinkus -- will and estate arrangements 1977-1979
47Joseph Pinkus -- diary pages 1854-1874
48Joseph Pinkus Trauer Album 1909-1958
49Luise Grab (Pinkus) - will 1998
410Marianne Peters -- dress patterns and notes undated, 1961-1962
411Marianne Peters -- dressmaking notebooks undated
412Marianne Peters -- funeral and estate arrangements 1982-1984
413Marianne Peters -- tour group report 1978-1979
414Marriage history index (Fränkel, Bremer, Deutsch and Pinkus families)c. 1980s
415Max Pinkus accounting notebooks 1888-1901
416Mementos and souvenirs 1942-1956
417Mementos and souvenirs 1957-1983
418Miscellaneous genealogy - obituaries and ephemera undated, 1913-2004
419My Family History by Klaus Oliven 2002
420Official documents and vital records 1913-1950
421Ottoheinrich von Vietinghoff-Scheel - curriculum vitae [1949]
422Photographs -- family [1900-1950s]
423Photographs -- family [1970-1990s]
424Photographs -- Prudnik (Neustadt) 1990s
425Poems and miscellany removed from Liebesfrühling (Hauptmann and Tucholsky) undated, 1942-1962
426S. Fränkel company ephemera undated, [1930]
427S. Fränkel, unidentified notebooks undated, 1863-1870
428Der Zwiebel-Finzlich, hand-illustrated by J. M. Avenarius 1950

Subseries 3: Reference and Research Material, undated, 1902-2005

Boxes 4-5. 0.3 linear feet.

Arranged alphabetically.

Scope and Content:

This subseries contains published and non-unique material types that relate to Pinkus family history or, more broadly, to the city of Neustadt (Prudnik). Bulletins of the British Residents’ Association are the exception to this rule and have been retained because of John Peters’s contributions to the organization and its publications. There are two folders of photocopied title pages (Box 5, Folders 2-3). The first of these was created by the archivist when separating library materials, while the second folder is composed of copies found already in the collection.

429Antologia poezji o Ziemi Prudnickiej (book) 2002
430Articles and chapters undated, 1927-1994
431British Residents' Association of Switzerland (bulletins) 1996-2005
432Clippings -- Max Pinkus and Gerhart Hauptmann undated, 1946-2002
433Clippings and ephemera -- Pinkus relatives, Silesian history undated, 1936-2004
434Ex libris copies undated, 2004
435Festschrift -- 70 Geburtstag Max Hirsch (copied book) 1902
436Geschichte der Stadt Zülz (copied book) 1926
437International Fraenkel and Pinkus registries undated
438Map of Neustadt / Prudnik (German and Polish) 1996
439Nasze, Prudnickie Związki Europą (book) 2002
51Neustädter Heimatsbrief (full issues) 1956, 1977-1978
52Separated titles and inscriptions undated, 1934-2001
53Title page copies undated
54Unser Oberschlesien (newspaper) 1960
Return to the Top of Page

Series III: Restitution, undated, 1934-1979

In German, some English.
Box 5. 0.45 linear feet.

Arranged alphabetically and chronologically.

Scope and Content:

The correspondence in this series had been kept in binders separate from the general family correspondence, although letters between family members are included here (Box 5, Folder 5). John Peters and Hans Hubert Pinkus are the main individual correspondents, while the correspondent lawyers, government officials, and bank representatives number somewhere between ten and twenty. Hans Hubert seems to have been the main instigator of the restitution process, although claims were made for his children and other family members as well. The processing archivist did not divide the letters into separate folders for individual recipients or claimants since so much of the correspondence was conducted between various lawyers mailing numerous carbon copies to all the involved parties. Multi-page forms and documents were weeded from the legal correspondence and placed in their own folders in order to be more easily identified.

A large quantity of this material was created in 1976, prior to Hans Hubert Pinkus’s death. Correspondence from the following years consists mainly of John Peters finishing up his father’s outstanding paperwork.

The S. Fränkel documents (Box 5, Folder 13) contain financial statements and information about the transfer of the firm and family properties during the forced Aryanization process. Other business details covered in the correspondence between Hans Hubert and his sometime secretary Helene Bauer (Series I) may be related as well.

55Correspondence (family and personal) 1965-1976
56Correspondence (lawyers and officials) 1947-1952
57Correspondence (lawyers and officials) 1956-1963
58Correspondence (lawyers and officials) 1964-1966
59Correspondence (lawyers and officials) 1967-1970
510Correspondence (lawyers and officials) 1972-1975
511Correspondence (lawyers and officials) 1976
512Correspondence (lawyers and officials) 1977-1979
513Documents (S. Fränkel company) 1934-1942
514Documents and forms 1947-1958
515Documents and forms 1963-1976
516Newspaper clippings undated, 1956-1961
Return to the Top of Page