Great Great Grandparents’ Marriage Certificate. Berlin. 1891.

Over 120 years old, this fragile document is remarkable. The fact that my great great grandparents marriage certificate was able to survive two world wars, a transatlantic journey, and 70 years of moves and spring cleanings is unfathomable.

To think of all the possessions Henriette owned and her decision to save these specific documents…

Work Permit for Jews in Holland. 1942

This identification booklet, issued by the Jewish Community in Amsterdam, dictated that my grandfather was employed as a shoemaker for the Jewish community. I believe this was on the documents my grandfather had to perpetually carry around. My grandfather told me that because he was designated as a “shoemaker for the Jewish community” it kept him off the deportation list.

This is also one of the only photos taken during German occupation/Holocaust. There is something both equally sad and eerie looking at this picture. He had already lost his brother, and his expression is so overtly solemn I cannot help but immediately feel a sense of loss.

Happy Birthday Letter to Oscar. 1931

Both Gerd and Hans Jürgen spent a year attending an international school in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Henriette saved every letter written by both of her sons during their stay in Switzerland. In this letter Gerd is wishing his father a happy birthday. My grandfather (pictured in the upper left) always described his father as stern, almost emotionless. This letter, along with the hundreds of other letters, really starts to alter my perception of Oscar. My hope, after intensive translation, is to construct a more accurate portrait of Oscar and Henriette.


Thanks to all who have visited. I am really excited about digging deeper into this project.  My next step is play around with different story types/lengths for the pictures.

I will also add a biography section and family tree to help with the connection between all the different family members.

Suggestions are much appreciated!


Oscar’s Building Plan featured in Architectural Journal, 1915.

This was the first published (that I found) project of Oscar’s. Published in Deutsche Konkurrenzen Vereinigt mit Architektur Konkurrenzen, a journal about architectural competitions(?), Oscar’s plan shows an apartment building complex of sorts. Evidently Oscar submitted this proposal for consideration in the competition. 

Henriette’s parent’s apartment in Berlin

This beautiful and ornate apartment belonged to Henriette’s parents, Mr and Mrs. Ignartz Cohn. Among the materials found were nearly a hundred letters written between Henriette and her Parents.

From what I gather Henriette came from a well-established family. Would love to know where this building was actually located.

REISEPASS–Deutsches Reich

The Following are from my great great grandmother’s (on my father’s maternal side) Reisepass. Notice the stamped “J”. It is in impeccable condition. Still trying to determine the lineage on that side of the family.

Oscar’s Building featured in German Magazine, Die Herren-Mode 1930

Fast forward 26 years and Oscar found his building featured in a full page spread in Die Herren-Mode (Men’s Fashion). The magazine featured Unger Department Store, a newly built (and quite modern looking) establishment in Hamburg, Germany.

Unger is still in business today and from what I gather from google maps, it looks like it’s housed in the same exact building. Located at Neuer Wall 35, 20354 Hamburg, Germany

Edit: I reached out to the PR team at Unger, and they explained that the above building was destroyed during WWII.

Oscar, During Construction. 1904.

Close up:

Oscar is the furthest Left

Oscar was a prominent architect in Germany. Oscar was only 18 at the time of this photo. This was probably taken during his training or apprenticeship. This project looks more like a restoration/renovation than a new project.

Within 15 years, Oscar was having his designs published in German architectural journals. Oscar specialized in Department stores.

Oscar and Henriette’s Marriage Contract (German/Hebrew) 1920

(click the photo to enlarge)

Not since the tombstones of the very first von Halles have I found a document in Hebrew.

The von Halle side was seemingly lax on religion. There are no records of belonging to a synagogue. Henriette’s side, however, was more religious. This contract is evidence of such piety. The wedding was located in Berlin, Henriette’s hometown.

My grandfather never mentioned attending temple as a child. In fact, it was not until after the Holocaust that my grandfather truly found his faith. Not once, in any interview or personal interaction with him, did my grandfather say he put faith in God. The only time he mentioned saying prayers was at the insistance of his deeply devout Christian harborers while in hiding.

Gerd and his Classmates. Hamburg, Germany

It’s hard to look at this picture without smiling. This photo is undated, however, if I were to guess, I would say this was taken in the late 1920s. Just a few years later, this type of interaction, Jew and Gentile, would be forbidden by the German government.

Speaking of race, I find it quite difficult to differentiate the Jews and non-Jews. I mean, clearly, there are some toe-headed kids in the photo, but nonetheless I find it difficult. Would be extremely interesting if someone, somewhere had this exact photo of their grandparent or parent.

My grandfather is located under the arrow, drawn by someone at the time.

Women Sail for the Geneva Alliance

Marjorie Shuler Charles, my grandfather’s aunt by marriage, was a women’s suffragist and colleagues with many other famous suffragists. This picture was taken prior to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Geneva, Switzerland.

From Left to right: Rear row: Miss Jane Manners, Miss A. Robinson, Miss Constance Drexel, Miss Marjorie Shuler*, and Miss Emma Nast

Front Row: Miss Helen Ring RobinsonMiss Carrie Chapman Catt, Mrs. Josephus Daniels, Mrs. James W. Alger.

Marjorie was a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and tried numerous times to help my grandfather’s family escape Europe.

Oscar in WWI Uniform. 1915.

Oscar in his World War I German Uniform. On the back is a postcard written to his parents, Sophie and Seigmund von Halle (translation to come).

This is one of my favorite photos (to date). My great grandfather was evidently proud of his time in the German army. He saved numerous photos and materials from World War I, including his Military identification forms, which will be scanned soon. His father. Seigmund, served under Otto von Bismark. Henriette’s relatives even fought for German Liberation from Napoleon.

Oscar’s brother, Manfred von Halle, lost his arm during WWI. You can see a photo of him recovering in the hospital in the materials section of my thesis.

The Brothers, Amsterdam Approximately 1934

Hans Jürgen was born on May 7th, 1921. My grandfather on December 2nd, 1922.

Gerd always described his brother as his protector and hero. I think this pictures captures that feeling more than anything I have seen. While only a year and a half apart, the difference in size is unnoticeable. I had yet to see a “tweenage” photo of just the two brothers.

My grandfather credits his brother for saving his life. While being held by the Nazis in 1941, his brother told him to tell the Nazis he suffered from Tuberculosis. This incredibly brazen suggestion eventually saved Gerd from deportation to Mauthausen, where, ultimately, Hans Jürgen (along with the other 225 boys rounded up in Amsterdam) was murdered on September 27th, 1941.

Family Photo, Hamburg, Germany. Approximately 1931

My first blog entry. Although this choice might seem mundane (compared to the materials that will follow), this picture was one of the first photos I pulled from the newly discovered box. While writing and compiling materials for my thesis, there was a huge gap between my grandfather’s childhood in Germany and the few years leading up to the German invasion of Holland. This photo stuck out because it was one of the few family photographs I had ever seen of Gerd (my grandfather), Hans Jürgen, Henriette, and Oscar. My knowledge of their family life comes from a few sentences across three taped interviews. I knew that Oscar was stern, Henriette was caring and anxious, and Hans Jürgen was athletic and popular. That was it. These new photographs, along with more than 1000 letters between Oscar, Henriette, Hans Jürgen, and Gerd spanning nearly 20 years will help me reconstruct a more accurate and insightful picture of their family life. Particularly interesting will be the letters between Oscar and Henriette before they were married.

From Left to Right: Gerd, Henriette, two friends or relatives I have yet to identify, Oscar, and Hans Jürgen.