Saturday, 22 September 2018

9/M: Anna Schiff: Correspondence 1932–1946

It must have been in 1969 or 1970 that my half great uncle Cavaliere Umberto Schiff gave me photocopies of various items concerning Wilhelm Schiff and his work and family, that he had accumulated, and these I have included in my book on the Schiff family. [See here] This was the first link in a chain that has grown hugely over the years. The papers included a biographical account written by one of his daughters, almost certainly Guglielmina, known as Mince Sciffi. It was she who presented a small sculpture by him of Mefistofele to the Trieste museums, and who also bequeathed to my great uncle the gold cameo stick pin and letter from the king of Italy. Later and more recent researches by myself discovered the name of his wife - Anna Viduich (or almost certainly Vidulich) - and even a photograph of one of his schoolmistress daughters with her class of girls. The Vidulich family appear to have been one of the Italian-speaking families of what is now Slovenia and Croatia, in the area known as Istria, and in particular to have been associated with the island and town of Lussinpiccolo. However I have so far been unable to establish Anna's parentage. Most of the Itlian-speaking population left the island when it became part of Yugoslavia in 1947.



From the Italian official gazette showing the change of Sofia's Schiff's surname as part of the italianisation process encouraged by the Fascist régime.



I was aware that Mince Sciffi lived in Piazza Cornelia Romana in Trieste at the end of her life, as she wrote from that her address to my zio Umberto, but nothing more. But this week in the box of old family paper that came to me from my cousin Nicholas Bull there was one folder that proved a revelation. It bears the title "Anna Schiff Fund 1931". I was initially intrigued as to who this Anna Schiff might be, a very elderly relation living in Trieste in the 1930s. I did not think it could be the sculptor's widow. He had died so long ago, in 1891, aged 53, leaving his younger wife with two daughters, aged 13 and 10, but a perusal of the papers quickly made it clear that it was indeed she. 

Her story bears an initial resemblance to that of Augusta Schiff, her husband's half sister, who was also left as a destitute young widow of a sculptor, and whose moving story was revealed to me less than a year ago by my cousin her descendant Michele Vettori. There appears to have been a big difference though, in that Anna Schiff received financial support from many members of her husband's family. Surprisingly, this help came initially from a member of the Wollheim family. But which one? The obvious candidate was Joseph Wollheim, brother in law of Guglielmo's father Samson's brother Leopold Schiff, who had married Johanna Wollheim, but Josef Wollheim and Guglielmo Schiff both died in 1891. Anna Schiff in her letters to her distant English cousins makes it clear that her pension was paid by her husband's Hamburg and Berlin cousins, and also paid by Sir Ernest Schiff, also her husband's cousin, who died in 1918, after which the pension was paid by Sir Ernest's nephews and nieces, children of his brothers Charles and Alfred.The pension was paid, it seems, right up until the declaration of war, certainly until the spring of 1939, by which time there were already sanctions on Italy as a result of the invasion of Ethiopia.

In her letter to Sydney Schiff Anna explained, in her answer to his request, how she was the widow of Wilhelm (or Guglielmo) Schiff, but I suspect Sydney was none the wiser for the information she supplied.

I do not know when Anna Schiff died, nor her sick daughter Sofia, but certainly Guglielmina was still alive in 1966, when she would have been 86. I have written to the cemetery authorities in Trieste to try and ascertain the dates of the deaths of Anna and her daughter Guglielmina (Mince) and Sofia.



The Contents of the "Anna Schiff Fund" file

Cheques/Receipts for £5 monthly countersigned by Anna Schiff drawn on Sydney Schiff and A.G. Schiff & Co 1932–1939. Not in correct date order. 

I believe the file was started by Sydney Schiff and eventually handed to his younger cousin Charles Schiff Burch, as Sydney was increasing suffering from ill health and indeed died in 1944 before the end of the war. The documents are mostly in order of their most recent date, which of course is how they were originally filed.


The transfer of the responsibility for the Anna Schiff Fund by Sydney to Charles.
Sydney was aware of his failing health and one of his last acts recorded in this correspondence is the transfer of responsibility to his younger cousin Charles Schiff Burch.


Letter from Anna Schiff to Sydney Schiff thanking him for her pension. 1931.




Letter from Anna to Sydney thanking him and the family for her pension. 1937.




Letter from Anna to Sydney thanking the family for her pension. 1929.




Letter from Sydney Schiff to the British Consul in Trieste requesting information about Anna Schiff.  1937.



letter from the British Consul in Trieste to Sydney Schiff. 1937.

Letter from Anna to Sydney explaining why letters had not been received by him. 1937.







Letter from Sydney to Anna requesting details of their relationship. 1937.

Letter from Sydney to Consul in Trieste asking for his letter to be translated from Italian. 1937.

The translation of Anna Schiff's letter, showing how the wider Schiff family in Hamburg and berlin also supported her. 1937.

Letter from Sydney to Anna. 1937.

Letter from Sydney to the Consul asking for Sydney's letter to Anna to be translated. 1937.

Letter from Consul to Sydney confirming letter translated. 1937.

Letter from Anna to Sydney thanking him; translated into English. 1937.

Letter in English from Anna to Sydney. 1938.

Letter from Sydney to Anna explaining that his cousin Charles will take responsibility for pension. 1939.

Note to Sydney (presumably).

Note by Sydney reminding himself to write to Anna about the change.


Letter Sydney to his cousin Charles about the pension. 1939.

Letter from Sydney to the bank advising of change. 1939.

letter of thanks from Anna to Sydney. 1939.

Letter from Sydney to Consul in Trieste requesting Sydney's letter to Anna should be translated. 1939.

Confirmation by the Consul that the letter to Anna has been translated. 1939.

Letter to Consul in Trieste requesting letter to Anna be translated. 1939.

Sydney's letter to bank requesting payments to Anna and to Consul. 1939.

Sydneys action notes re Anna Schiff Fund transfer.

Letter from Sydney to Bank concerning means of payment of pension. 1931.

Letter from bank to Sydney confirming change in payment method. 1931.

Letter from Banca Commerciale Italiana to Sydney. 1931.

Making arrangements for the pension to be paid. 1931.


Confirmation to Sidney by bank of pension payment arrangements. 1931.

Further enquiries by Sydney to ascertain how to transfer the payments to Trieste. 1931.

The letter to Sydney's secretary confirming which Italian bank in Trieste will act to receive the payments. 1931.


letter from Sydney (but in Violet's handwriting) to his cousin Charles repayments by Charles's sisters to Anna's pension, and also mentioning payments to Richard Nöhring. 1931.



Letter to Sydney from Charles confirming that his sisters will pay. 1931

Sydney to the bank manager concerning payments and receipts for pension. 1931.

Bank manager to Sydney re paymentys and Italian bank. 1931.

Letter to Sydney from A.G. Schiff & Co. re new arrangements for paying the pension. 1931.

Sydney to his cousin Charles re new arrangements for payment of pension. 1931.

Sydney to his sister Rose concerning the new payment arrangements. 1931.

Sydney to Mr Barrow of A.G. Schiff & Co. re updated arrangements for collection and payment. 1931.

Charles to Sydney re payments, his sisters' payments, and possible claim by Richard Nöhring. 1931?


Bank to Sydney re transfer of funds. 1931.

Bank to Sydney confirming receipt of cheque from Charles. 1931.

Bank to Sydney advising that account low on funds. 1931.

Sydney to Charles advising of letter from Anna. 1932.

Banmk advising Sydney that making payment from his private account as insufficient funds. 1933.

Bank to Sydney advising using personal account as insufficient funds. 1933.

Sydney to Charles re Charles's sisters' non-payments. 1933.


Sydney to Charles re Richard Nöhring. 1935.



Bank to Sydney advising use of private funds for pension. 1934.

Sydney to Bank re cheque from three female cousins. 1935.

Sydney to Charles re his sisters' contributions, Richard and Martha Nöhring, and old valet Cornelius. 1933.
Charles to Sydney re Richard Nöhring, and Cornelius. 1935.



Sydney to Charles re sisters' non-payments, and arrival of Richard Nöhring, and Jewish persecution. 1933.

Bank to Sydney concerning shortage of funds. 1933.

Charles to Sydney with his sisters' cheques, and Richard Nöhring. 1935.


Sydney to Charles, re sisters' non-payments, Richard Nöhring and his move to Abinger Manor. 1935.

Letter from Sydney Schiff reporting that his cousin Charles will assume responsibility for the Anna Schiff Pension from 1st January 1939. 1938.

Some Further Items from the Archive concerning Anna Schiff

Charles Burch to his sisters re Anna Schiff Pension. 1940.

Charles Burch to Sidney Schiff confirming that his sisters will contribute to the Anna Schiff Pension. 1931.

Sydney Schiff to Charles Burch re his sister's contribution. 1931.


Sydney Schiff to Charles Burch re his sisters' non-payment to Anna Schiff Pension; aldo Richard Nöhring and his leaving Germany. 1933.

Sydney Schiff to Charles Burch re his sisters' payments to the Anna Schiff Pension. 1933.

Letter from bank to Sydney Schiff to say Pension Fund depleted. 1933.


Letter to Charles Burch from his sister apologising for non-payment to Pension Fund. 1931.

New bank for Anna Schiff Pension Fund. 1931.

Letter from Sydney to Charles to accompany thank you letter from Anna Schiff. 1932.

Anna Schiff to Sydney Schiff thanking for financial support. 1932.

Letter from Guglielmina Sciffi to Charles Burch. 1946.




Letter from catherine Storrs to her brother Charles Burch advising how to inform Guglielmina that no further support. 1946.



Sydney Schiff to Charles Burch re Anna Schiff Pension Fund but also informing them that George Wächter, so of Sydney's sister Marie. was very ill in the Dordogne. He died in 1945 just after the end of the war. Surprisingly i recently discovered that he was married to Placida Martins, a Brazilian. 1940.





Sydney Schiff to Charles Burch concerning Anna Schiff: following Italy's declaration of war money could no longer be transmitted to her. 1940.


Somehow out of sequence is this letter from Anna Schiff to Sydney Schiff. 1939.

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