Title: Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection
Collection number: 050
Werner von Boltenstern
15 negative and print boxes; 1 legal size archival document box
Loyola Marymount University. Library. Department of Archives and Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90045-2659
Abstract: The Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection consists of negatives and photographs of Shanghai,
China, in the later 1930s and 1940s. Especially valuable are the images of Jewish refugees from Nazi-ruled Europe living in
Languages represented in the collection:
Materials in the Department of Archives and Special Collections may be subject to copyright. Unless explicitly stated otherwise,
Loyola Marymount University does not claim ownership of the copyright of any materials in its collections. The user or publisher
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for infringement of copyright or of publication rights held by the original author or artists or his/her heirs, assigns, or
[Identification of item], Box and Sleeve number, Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection, 050,
Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.
Gift of Werner von Boltenstern, probably in 1967. Accession number: 1997.6
Dr. Errol Stevens, at unknown date, housed and arranged the Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection.
Work-study student Kristy Forsyth wrote a brief description of the collection in the early 2000s. Melanie Hubbard wrote an
overview of the collection in 2013, as well as creating a spreadsheet of the box and folder list.
Werner von Boltenstern Biography
Werner von Boltenstern (1904-1978) was born in Berlin, Germany, and supposedly earned two doctorates. He also developed a
keen interest in photography and postcards. A world traveler beginning in 1929, von Boltenstern, as suggested by his occupation
of photographer, is probably responsible for the photographs and negatives in the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Collection. He is,
at least, responsible for collecting them.
Von Boltenstern moved to the United States by 1950 (Southern California). Von Boltenstern was also a keen collector of postcards,
and his passion for them was realized here. He became the program director of the Southern California Postcard Club and authored
numerous pieces on postcards, including the pamphlet "An Introduction to Postcard Collecting," a fine guide to this pursuit.
His own collecting was prodigious, as evidenced by his million postcard collection, which he donated to Loyola Marymount University
in 1967, where it is now the "
Werner von Boltenstern Postcard Collection
An Outline of the History of the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Community
Home to Sephardic Jews since the nineteenth century, and to Ashkenazi Jews after the Russian Revolution, Shanghai made a logical
landing point for German Jews and other European Jews fleeing the persecution of Nazi Germany of the 1930s, especially since
no visas were required for admittance. After the brutality of the infamous
Kristallnacht of 1938, Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria fled to Shanghai; their number there reached 17,000. Most Jews settled
in the Hongkew area of the International Settlement (the area of Shanghai exclusively for foreigners, especially British and
American, and which had legal autonomy). They earned their living through running small cottage industries and small businesses,
and through various professions and trades, eg, doctor or teacher. Yeshivas provided strong reinforcement of Jewish culture,
religion, and heritage. The large number of refugees meant that charity was essential at least for their initial support in
Shanghai, and international Jewish organizations assisted ably in this.
China's war with Japan meant the latter's takeover of Shanghai by 1937, and after Japan went to war with the United States
in 1941, the Japanese military took over the International Settlement, ending its autonomy. Japanese authorities considered
the foreign Jews of Shanghai stateless, and in 1943, for reasons of security, forced them into an area of the International
Settlement that became their ghetto. Mobility and economic life were restricted there—"shond khay" (a shame of a life) is
how the ghetto was described in Yiddish. There was no genocide, though, for Japanese authorities would not hand over the Jews
to German officials.
Japan's defeat in 1945 meant the liberation of the ghetto, which gradually lost its Jewish residents as they left for Israel
after its founding in 1948 or fled the Communist takeover of Shanghai in the Chinese civil war in 1949, often choosing Israel.
Thus, the Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection documents photographically one of the more important
Jewish refugee communities established by Jews after fleeing the Holocaust. This visual record establishes the collection
as a fundamental source for the history of this community, as well as an indirect memorial to these victims of Nazi Germany.
Much of the information in this essay comes from:
This collection consists of 621 negatives and 166 photographs documenting Jewish refugee life in Shanghai from 1937 through
1949, as well as life in general in Shanghai. The collection chiefly contains negatives, which come in different mediums and
formats: gelatin dry plate, cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate, sheet film, and roll film from 35mm to 3.5 inches x 4.25
inches. The photographs are all black and white and are no larger than 4 inches x 5 inches.
Information on individual negatives and photographs is printed on the archival sleeves in which the items are now stored.
This includes dates and captions that describe the subject of the negative or photograph. The source of this information
is uncertain, but probably came from the information recorded on the original storage container of a photograph or a negative.
Sleeves have been renumbered; the old numbering system is in parentheses, both on the sleeve itself as well as the entry for
an image in the box and folder list. Items should be cited by sleeve number that is not in parentheses.
The collection contains images of Chinese life: examples include the photographs of a sports rally for schoolchildren in
Shanghai (Box 1a), the railroad station (Box 1b), Chinese theater (Box 8), and glassblowing (Box 2a).
Of the 787 images in the collection, 435 concern Jewish life in Shanghai, making this collection a critical source for the
study of one of the more important (and unexpected) faces of Jewish refugee life during the Holocaust. 324 are negatives on
acetate; forty-five are photographs; and sixty-six are negatives on glass. Examples of subjects of the images include the
following. Box 3, Sleeve 1, contains a negative of the "Tabarin," apparently a nightclub that a Felix Wolf ran and perhaps
named after the famous Paris nightclub. The same box also contains numerous negatives of Jewish kindergarten schoolchildren,
while Box 4 contains street scenes of the area where Jewish refugees lived. Box 5c contains photographs of personal documents
of Jewish refugees ranging from a possible German immigration document to a medical diploma.
In March 2015, the negatives and photographs in Box 8 were discovered, and then processed. They were originally stored in
numbered, onion-skin like sleeves, which were placed in letter envelopes. The envelopes and the sleeves contained the date
and a description of the subject of the photograph and negative. These envelopes cum sleeves with their numbering may have
been part of a filing system. The photographs and negatives were removed from the sleeves and envelopes, which were then photocopied
to preserve the original source of the information. The photocopies are found in the folders in which the photographs and
negatives are stored. The numbers assigned on the sleeves are also recoreded in the box and folder entries, and the date
and description in the entry in the box and folder list are also taken from that found on the envelopes and sleeves.
This collection probably came to Loyola University (now Loyola Marymount University) in 1967, when German expatriate Werner
von Boltenstern (1904-1978) donated his million postcard collection to the university. Von Boltenstern was a world traveler,
who documented his travels by photography. His official personal records, eg, his passport and Chinese identity card, establish
that he was in Shanghai in the late 1930s and the 1940s, and that his occupation was that of photographer. This evidence suggests
that he most likely took these photographs.
Responsible for much of the information in this collection description is Melanie Hubbard, Digital Scholarship Librarian at
the William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.
On-Line Digital Collection
The contents of the Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection have been digitized and are now
. As "crowdsourcing' makes identification of some of the photographs more complete, this information will be added to the
appropriate entry in the box and folder list.
The photographs and negatives in this collection are arranged by subject, eg, the materials on the College St. Jeanne d'Arc,
are found in the same box or boxes.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Jewish refugees -- China -- Shanghai -- History -- 20th century
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
World War, 1939-1945 -- Refugees -- China -- Shanghai
Jewish ghettos -- China -- Shanghai -- History -- 20th century -- sources
City and town life -- China -- Shanghai
Photography -- China -- Shanghai
The photographs and negatives of the Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection have been digitized
and can be viewed by selecting the following title: