Manuscript Collection 1: Dr. Stephen Laufer Papers

Posted on August 6th, 2015 by

Dr. Stephen (Schulim) Laufer (1894-1983) Papers


MS 1



The Dr. Stephen Laufer Papers were donated by Dr. Stephen Laufer and Mrs. Wilma Laufer Gabbay, a longtime resident of Baltimore, as 1983.5.  The collection was processed by Dr. Laufer, Mrs. Gabbay and Anne Turkos in 1982. Further information was added in 2003 by Robin Waldman with the assistance of Wilma Gabbay.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures. 



Dr. Stephen Laufer was born in Bolechow in East Galicia on January 6, 1894, the first son and second child of Israel and Golda (Diengott) Laufer. He attended school in Bolechow until the age of twelve and then left for the neighboring town of Stryj to continue his education, as at that time Bolechow did not have a gymnasium. When World War I broke out in 1914, the Laufer family moved to Budapest, and Stephen obtained work in a leather factory. As he had only completed the seventh grade of gymnasium, he petitioned to take the examinations for the eighth grade and the matura. He successfully did this in 1915, returning to Stryj for the tests.

Stephen (Schulim) Laufer, far right, with friends David Kreppel and Abraham Hruszowski.  The three boys were in the same fourth year high school class in Stryj, Pland, 1910-1911. JMM 1983.5.6

Stephen (Schulim) Laufer, far right, with friends David Kreppel and Abraham Hruszowski. The three boys were in the same fourth year high school class in Stryj, Poland, 1910-1911. JMM 1983.5.6

In 1915 Laufer registered with the Austro-Hungarian authorities and was found fit for army service; he was exempted, however, on the basis of necessary work. In 1918 all exemptions were cancelled and he was drafted into the army but peace was declared before he saw combat.

After the war, Stephen’s family returned to Bolechow and he decided to continue his education in Vienna in 1918. He earned a degree in agricultural engineering and also a doctorate in agricultural chemistry at the Hochschule fur Bodenkultur in 1922. For one year he served as the director of an orphanage farm in Stanislawow, then as a teacher of science in a Jewish gymnasium in Kalisch, Poland, from 1923-1925.

Black and white copy print of the Streifer family from left to right:  Henry Streifer, Joseph Streifer, Miriam Streifer, Aron Streifer, Wolf Streifer, and Ann Streifer, 1902-1905.

Streifer family from left to right: Henry Streifer, Joseph Streifer, Miriam Streifer, Aron Streifer, Wolf Streifer, and Ann Streifer, 1902-1905.

In 1920 Laufer married Anna (Chana) Streifer, daughter of Wolf and Miriam (Pomerantz) Streifer, also of Bolechow. They had three children: Ruth, born in 1923, who married Jerome Morton; Irma, born in 1935, who married Jack Katz; and Irma’s twin, Wilma, who married Albert Gabbay.

Dr. Laufer had been active in the Zionist movement as a teenager. In fact his studies were designed to prepare him for work in Palestine. In September 1925, he left for Haifa with his wife, daughter and mother-in-law. While in Palestine they had no luck finding permanent employment. When their money ran out, the family decided to move to America as relatives of the Streifers were already living there. In February 1929 they sailed on the Alesia, a French ship, from Haifa to Providence, Rhode Island. They lived briefly in Jersey City and Brooklyn and the Bronx for several years, and then bought a home in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, in the summer of 1942, where they lived until 1982.

Dr. Laufer’s first position in the United States was as a chemist for Schwarz Laboratories, a consultant for the brewing industry. He stayed with the company for 46 years, retiring in 1975. He advanced to director of research, director of laboratories, and vice-president. He was in charge of the United States Brewers Academy, which was run by Schwarz Laboratories. Dr. Laufer published closed to 100 articles in the fields of food and fermentation. In 1936 he was honored with the Cincinnati Achievement Award of the Master Brewers Association of America. He is listed in American Men and Women of Science. Dr. Laufer died on October 4, 1983, in New York.



The Laufer Papers consist primarily of reminiscences, miscellaneous documents from his years spent in East Galicia, World War I money, receipts and correspondence. Also included are publications pertaining to the brewing industry.

The reminiscences written by Dr. Laufer cover his early years in Bolechow and Stryj until the outbreak of World War I. A cousin of Mrs. Laufer’s, Frymka Brawer-Pordes, wrote a recollection in German about a school excursion also prior to 1914. This is an amplified version of a chapter in Memorial Book for the Martyrs of Bolechow.

Dr. Laufer’s strong interest in Zionism is represented by receipts for contributions made to various organizations and correspondence. The letters (written in German and Hebrew) are regarding possible employment in Palestine during the years 1922-1928.

Reminisces  of Stephen Laufer, written 1977-78.

Reminisces of Stephen Laufer, written 1977-78.

The papers are divided into three series.

Series I. East Galicia, consists of Dr. Laufer’s and Mrs. Brawer-Pordes’ reminiscences as well as the Bolechow memorial book. Also included are report cards from high school in Stryj; miscellaneous documents pertaining to school, army and citizenship in Polish and German; and Ukranian and Austrian money. Each category is arranged chronologically.

Series II. Palestine, contains receipts for contributions to Zionist organizations, letters from facilities in Palestine regarding employment, handbills concerning the opening of Dr. Laufer’s school in Haifa, and the plan of the ship Alesia. The arrangement in each category is chronological. 

Series III. United States, consists of some of Dr. Laufer’s publications, a bound monograph and several articles.

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The Jewish Legion of World War I

Posted on November 15th, 2012 by

After 36 hours continuous journey we arrived in this town [Trudo, Nova Scotia,Canada] and I gladly jumped into a bath tub and after that I feel almost like new born and start my diary on the most adventurous event of my life: the campaign in Palestine. Ferdinand Breth, October 12, 1918, pg. 1. [MS 53, 2000.50.19]

Herman Carliner, seated in Jewish Legion uniform, Palestine, 1918. Courtesy Rita Miller and Elaine Carliner Millstone. 1996.80.5a

I think that most people’s knowledge of World War I is centered on the battlefields of France or maybe the cold Western Front. But World War I was fought in other places as well, including Israel, then Palestine.

This is a subject I am just beginning to understand, but what I’ve learned this about the fighting in what was then Palestine: Germany and the Ottoman Empire were allies. The Ottoman Empire at that time controlled a region that includedPalestine. Germany and Britain both desired control over the Middle East, and Palestine was a key region for that control. The British established the Jewish Legion to fight the Ottoman Empire (and the Germans) in Palestine. The battalions formed by the British consisted of Jews from all over the world: Britain, Palestine, America, Australia, etc.

Legionnaires standing at attention. Courtesy of Paulyne R. Hyman. 1998.35.11

We have very little in the museum related to the Jewish Legion, but we are lucky enough to have a few pictures and the diaries of Ferdinand Breth who joined the Jewish Legion with many others from the US and travelled to Palestine. The following are pictures of various soldiers in the Jewish Legion and excerpts from Breth’s diaries. Breth actually reached the Middle East after the armistice went into effect so he and his fellow recruits didn’t see any military action. But Breth wrote in detail about his comrades (including one Ethiopian Jew), camp life, and the Jewish communities he visited while abroad.

Louis Brandeis and Harry Friedenwald passing between two soldiers. Courtesy of Hanan Sibel. 1992.154.18

The most interesting persons of the Boston Bunch were 5 Christian Syrians, who joined the Jewish Legion because they want to free their homeland Palestine from the Turks. Pg. 14, October 16, 1918. [MS 53, 2009.50.19]

Jewish Legion soldiers in their daily dress at their camp, n.d. Courtesy of Hanan Sibel. 1992.154.4

As leader we now get a recruiting sergeant Rodman, who in some nondescript uniform was taken by most of us for real sergeant. He was a Hebrew teacher inBaltimoreand knew Sonneborn. Pg. 15 October 16, 1918 [MS 53, 2009.50.19]

Michael Margolis, Jewish Legion, c. 1918. Courtesy of Aaron and Dorothy Margolis. 1994.193.71ab

We crossed the Suez Canal on a pontoon bridge and then marched about a mile thru the camp, till we finally came to the tents destined for us. Next morning we were full of wonder about our new station. The camp is the biggest we ever saw, as far as the eyes could see the dessert sand is dotted with white tents.? Everywhere we see soldiers of all branches and of all nationalities. The camp is now used for demobilization and they arrive here by thousands soldiers from Palestine, Mesopotamiaand other places and are sent from here home. There are here Indian soldiers with big Khaki Turbans, long hair and long beards, Sundanese and other African troops, Australians, Scotch and many other troops. Also we about hundred Legionnaires, from the 38th Batailon [sic], which saw action in Palestine. They are mostly Egyptian and Algerian Jews…speaking Arabic and French, but we found also some American Boys among them, which told us the story of Palestine Campaign. Pg. 150-151, January 1919 [MS 53, 2009.50.19]

Jewish Legionnaires marching along a road lined with people and under suspended American, Israeli, and British flags, n.d. Courtesy of Paulyne R. Hyman. 1998.35.12.3

At about 3pm we arrived in Rafa, the first station inPalestine. We were in land of our dreams and many times before I was thinking what a wonderful moment it will be, when our Legion will reach the Palestinian ground. I expected that our boys will lose their heads in enthusiasm, that we will smile on our knees and kiss the land for which liberation we were willing to sacrifice our lives, but nothing like this happened. The Russian Jew is not a sentimentalist and the crossing of Palestineboundary, did not interrupt the quarelling [sic] of our bunch or the poker game of the other. We even did not sing Hatikwah, and as soon as the train stopped most of us were running to the cantine [sic] to buy cakes or cans of preserved pineapples. Pg. 159 January 1919 [MS 53, 2009.50.19]

The Palestine Legion, in Haifa on Shabbos, on Shul parade. Man with head down is Colonel Samuels, Simon Sibel’s former colonel. Courtesy of Hanan Sibel. 1992.154.2

Soldiers in front of their tents, n.d. Courtesy of Paulyne R. Hyman 1998.35.12.1

By the summer of 1919 Breth’s father was very ill and he asked to leave the service.

The repatriation papers I wrote about last night, came to-day and I may leave Palestine next week. It came so suddenly that I hardly can adjust my mind to it. Leave Palestine and maybe for ever, and still I have accomplished so little. It appears to me like deserting my post and even when I assure myself that I will come back, it cannot quiet my mind. I may come back, but so many things may happen. Pg. 16, August 24, 1919 [MS 53, 2009.50.20]

Funeral ceremony, n.d. Courtesy of Hanan Sibel. 1992.154.40

Jewish Legion veterans reunion, c. 1950 Identified are Abraham Shapiro, third from left in back row, William Braiterman, fourth from left in back row, and Julius Sussman, third from left in front row. Courtesy of Erich and Thelma Oppenheim. 1994.38.5

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