A little known story from Cologne: the photographer John D. Ship / Hans Schiff

john d. schiff:  fundraising article for the "Israelitisches Kinderheim Köln", 1930er. c/o leo baeck institut new york
john d. schiff: fundraising article for the "Israelitisches Kinderheim Köln", 1930er. c/o leo baeck institut new york

Hans Schiff (ship) was born in Cologne in 1907, his parents - Sophie "Sulka" Hammerschlag and David "Fritz" Schiff - came from London and Kassel, respectively. Hans began his education in his father's company, the "Advertising calendar factory Schiff & comp." in Cologne, Bismarckstraße, continuing in the publishing house of Samuel Lucas in Elberfeld.

Through Ernst Sander, the son of photographer August Sander, he became interested in photography, and from 1933 on, with the idea of finding work as a photographer abroad in the case of emigration, he was a student of August Sander.

Ship earned a living as a traveling representative for his father's company and began to take pictures for the worker-illustrated-newspaper and for Jewish institutions like the Israelite Asylum & Hospital in Ehrenfeld and the Jewish cultural alliance. Dismissed from profession in 1938, he emigrated in 1939 with his wife, the surgeon Trude Löwenstein, who had been deprived of her approbation, via England to the US (his parents fled to South Africa, the sisters Irmgard and Edith also to the US), Trude worked here i.a. at Mount Sinai hospital, Hans / John as a freelance photographer and both helped fellow German Jews to leave Europe.

John Schiff is mainly known for his impressive portraits of prominent emigrants and artists - from Klemperer, Einstein and Mehring to Warhol, Oldenburg or Duchamp. He died in 1976 in New York.

His estate in the Leo Baeck institute in NY is also partly online accessible - in case someone wants to dig through a correspondence that exemplifies the year-long degrading negotiations with lawyers and compensation authorities after the war. The collection shows the original documents about what Jews had to pay in terms of Reich flight tax,

“Judenabgabe”, and more before – and if at all – they were allowed to leave their home country. (The screenshots of the pictures included are also part of the Leo Baeck collection)


by Yu Jessler