Annemie and Helmuth Wolff Foundation
While making an exhibition of photographs of the Amsterdam harbor in 2002, photo historian Simon B. Kool was astonished by the high quality photos he found of an unknown Mrs. Wolff. After a search he discovered the archive of Helmuth and Annemie Wolff containing 50.000 pictures, in the care of Monica Kaltenschnee, granddaughter of a neighbor and friend of Annemie, and her heir. In 2008 he discovered in this legacy, a box with 100 photo rolls with portraits of individual clients, made from January till October 1943 and the receipt book with their names.
In 2011 the Foundation Annemie and Helmuth Wolff was established with the aim to gather resources for Simon Kool’s research, the preservation of the photos, exhibitions and the publication of a book. In the same year, research was started to identify the persons on the 1943-photos, which also means making contact with the kin of the portrayed persons, or the portrayed persons – babies and children in 1943 - themselves. They are mostly very glad to be reunited with lost photos from 1943. In return they tell their stories. By now 325 of the total of 440 portrayed persons are identified and contacted. Research is still in progress.
Simon B. Kool has now prepared a book and an exhibition about the Wolffs. The exhibition represents the life and exile story of Annemie and Helmuth and shows examples of the whole range of their photographic material. It will be held from March to Septembet 2017, at the National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam.
In the mean time the research on the 1943-photos has led to smaller and specialized exhibitions. In 2013 Jacqueline Shelton from San Francisco, whose father was portrayed by Annemie in July 1943, visited the Foundation in Amsterdam. Back home she organized an exhibit of some 25 photos and stories from 1943 in San Francisco, which opened in the Goethe Institute in January 2015. The exhibition has travelled to Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Chicago.
In the spring of 2015, an exhibition was held in the street where Annemie has lived. It was made in cooperation with an educational project of school children interviewing persons who had been a child during the war in the same neighborhood. During the summer, this exhibition was on display at the memorial site of Westerbork, the Dutch transit camp.
March 2017: exhibition at the National Holocaust Museum
Almost Lost in History Rediscovering the Photography of Annemie and Helmuth Wolff
From March 27th through September 2017, in the Dutch National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam
The National Holocaust Museum opened its doors in May 2016, in a former school on the Plantage Middenlaan, across the street from the Hollandsche Schouwburg. The museum will host the retrospective on the life and work of the photographers Helmuth and Annemie Wolff, covering their life and Helmuths work before they fled from Munich in 1933; the life and the photographic oeuvre they built in the seven years between arriving in the Netherlands and the outbreak of World War II; the war period and portraits taken in 1943; and Annemie Wolff-Koller’s post-war work.
Annemie and Helmuth
In 1933 the Jewish architect Helmuth Wolff and his non-Jewish wife Annemie Wolff-Koller fled their hometown of Munich, and headed for Amsterdam. In Amsterdam they started a new life as photographers. They established a photo studio in their third floor apartment in the "Rivierenbuurt", a new quarter in the South of Amsterdam where a lot of refugees from Germany settled. They made publicity photographs for Schiphol Airport as well as the city of Amsterdam, especially the Amsterdam harbor. They also ventured into travel photography with photos of Morocco for instance, and the Paris World Exhibit of 1937. In 1937 they started a magazine about the new 135-format photography and in 1939 they helped organize a very successful exposition in Amsterdam with pictures made by the magazine subscribers.
When the Nazis entered Holland in May 1940 the couple tried to commit suicide, which Annemie survived. In 1943 she started taking portraits, mostly in her studio though sometimes in the open air. She began a receipt book, noting her clients, with name, address, which photo roll their photo was on, and what they paid her. She also worked for the Dutch resistance and helped her Jewish neighbors in many ways. After the war she worked for the Amsterdam harbor, again, and other industrial clients. She was responsible for most of their publicity photos. She worked as a photographer until she was 65 years old, then retired. Annemie died February 2th, 1994.
Sometime after 1953, she destroyed all the photo rolls containing the portraits she took from 1943 onwards, except those of the first nine months of 1943. She knew many of her clients of those days had not survived the Second World War. However, after the war she never spoke about her life during that time.