Rachel Greene Rottersman papers

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2015.110.1
1 Jan 1936 - 31 Dec 2015, 1 Jan 1944 - 31 Dec 1949
Level of Description
  • English
  • German
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium




Biographical History

Rachel Blair Greene (later Rottersman, 1908-1993) was born in Seattle, Washington, to William (1874-1947) and Ada (nee Prall, 1877-1929) Greene. Rachel had three brothers, George (1907-1979), Robert (1912-1993), and William, Jr. (1917-2012). William was a lawyer, and the family lived in a large home. They employed a housekeeper, and owned a local movie theater. At age 12, Rachel and a friend began helping care for children from a local orphanage, and gave clothing to a classmate whose family had recently immigrated to the United States. When Rachel was 14, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while traveling on the east coast, and Rachel took over as the primary caregiver for her brothers. In 1926, Rachel enrolled at the University of Washington in Seattle, and focused on premedical studies at her father’s insistence. During Rachel’s third year, her mother died, leading Rachel to drop out of school. In 1931, Rachel joined a government relief organization, a step that aligned with her teenage dream of becoming a social worker. After multiple federal and state assignments, she resigned in early 1936 and reenrolled at the University of Washington, graduating in December 1936. The following month, she began attending the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. After completing qualifying exams for her Ph.D., Rachel became an assistant professor in social welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. In October 1944, Rachel joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). After a few months of training, she sailed for Europe and arrived in England in January 1945. Her first assignment was to aid arrivals as part of Team 18 at a displaced persons (DP) camp in Kirchberg, Germany. Rachel then worked at Baumholder DP camp, where she assisted in the repatriation of over 20,000 refugees to their home countries. She also helped combat a typhoid epidemic in the camp. After the camp was closed, Rachel was assigned to work at a staging center from July to September 1945. On September 11, 1945, Rachel became the team director of a children’s home located at an estate just outside the village of Unterschwarzach (now Schwarzach, Germany). The estate, formerly an Evangelical industrial training school called Schwacher Hof, was renamed Aglasterhausen Children’s Center. Rachel spent approximately a month directing the renovation of the estate and hiring personnel, including UNRRA employees, skilled staff from the DP population, and local German maintenance workers. The children’s center opened in October 1945, and by the end of the year housed over 140 children, representing 15 nationalities. Rachel prioritized a structured environment, so the children had classroom instruction, music and arts, planned recreation time, as well as regular chores. In the spring of 1946, the population topped 200 children, repatriation of Polish children began, and 35 children were allowed to immigrate to the United States. Rachel was able to arrange for one of her brothers and his wife to adopt one of the babies from Aglasterhausen. In January 1947, Josef Rottersman (1914-2008), a Polish Jew who fled to Russia and served as a dentist for the Russian Army, arrived at Aglasterhausen to offer his services. Although the center already had a dentist, Rachel found a position for him and the pair soon fell in love. They married on May 22, and held a reception at Aglasterhausen. The UNRRA ceased its DP operations in June 1947. However the children’s center remained open with the assistance of the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organisation (PCIRO). After Rachel became pregnant in the fall of 1947, the couple made plans to move to the United States. Rachel resigned from her post on January 15, 1948, and left Germany on February 3, 1948. Josef was able to join her the following month, and changed his name to Joseph. Between September 1945 and February 1948, 1,000 children had been cared for at Aglasterhausen. Of those, approximately one-third were repatriated to their native countries in Europe, 100 were reunited with their parents in Germany, and 350 were sent to the United States and Canada for adoption or foster care. In March 1948, MGM released a film called “The Search,” featuring a children’s home and matron based on Aglasterhausen and Rachel. The film won two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes, amongst other awards and nominations, in 1949. Rachel and Joseph moved to Chicago in 1948. There, Rachel worked for aid agencies as a social worker and later became a teacher. Their first child, Helena (b. 1948), died in infancy. They had another child, John (b. 1949), later the following year. Joseph became a naturalized United States citizen in 1950.

Archival History

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John Blair Rottersman

Funding Note: The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

John Blair Rottersman, Rachel Greene Rottersman’s son, donated the Rachel Greene Rottersman papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2015.

Scope and Content

The Rachel Greene Rottersman papers consist of biographical materials about Rottersman’s UNRRA career; correspondence and reports about the children’s home at Aglasterhausen; notes and drafts for the memoirs Rottersman never completed; photographs of children and employees at Aglasterhausen; and printed materials about UNRRA’s work with displaced children. Biographical materials include student records, UNRRA and IRO (International Relief Organization) personnel records, and resumes for Rachel Rottersman and immigration application paperwork for Joseph Rottersman. This series also includes biographies of Rachel Rottersman prepared by Tommy Thompson and John Blair Rottersman. Correspondence consists of postwar letters documenting Rottersman’s work with UNRRA, displaced children, and the Aglasterhausen home as well as follow up correspondence from later decades with former Aglasterhausen staff and children. Postwar correspondence includes a copy of Rottersman’s “diary,” which was actually periodic correspondence without specific addressee that describes Rottersman’s life in Germany, work with UNRRA, and the Aglasterhausen children’s home in great detail. It appears as though these “diary” letters were intended to be circulated among Rottersman’s family and friends. Postwar correspondence also includes Rottersman’s letters to her father, which often duplicate the “diary” letters but intersperse personal correspondence, replies to his letters, and gratitude for the packages he sent her. Her father’s letters are included in the correspondence series, contain his advice, and document their differences of opinion. Postwar correspondence with other family members, friends, coworkers, and displaced children document the children’s pasts, hopes for the future, and immigration journeys and relay Rottersman’s family and Aglasterhausen news and requests for supplies. Postwar correspondence also includes a handful of letters documenting the UNRRA and Aglasterhausen business of taking care of children’s health, planning for their futures, and managing staffing and supplies. Follow up correspondence from later decades documents Rottersman’s efforts to maintain contact with former Aglasterhausen children and staff and describes family news, memories about the Aglasterhausen years, and Rottersman’s project to write a book about her experiences. This series also includes a few hand illustrated cards. The memoirs series primarily consists of drafts of chapters or scenes Rachel Rottersman apparently intended to include in her memoirs, a project she never completed. Some of the chapters have identifiable titles, while others correspond more closely to entries from her “diary” correspondence. This series also includes correspondence and commentary from reviewers of preliminary chapters as well as notes for additional scenes. Photographs primarily depict children, staff, buildings, and countryside around the Aglasterhausen center. Most of the photographs of Rachel and Joseph Rottersman have been separated into distinct folders. This series also includes a handful of photographs form the Baumholder Assembly Center for Displaced Persons and a photograph from the Kirchberg Assembly Center. Printed materials include clippings about Rachel Rottersman, displaced persons, unaccompanied children, Lebensborn children, the Lidice massacre, 1946 and 1947 journeys of the Marine Flasher and Marine Marlin that carried Aglasterhausen children to the United States, and the movie “The Search”; full or partial issues of newspapers such as UNRRA DP News, UNRRA Team News, and Nasza Gazeta; copies of military and displaced person newsletters including The Port Hole and Homeward Bound; and published reports about Aglasterhausen and displaced and unaccompanied children. This series also includes picture postcards from England, France, and Germany. The reports series includes individualized reports about Aglasterhausen children, name lists of Aglasterhausen children and staff, Aglasterhausen policies and procedures, narratives and UNRRA reports about the experiences of displaced and unaccompanied children, court records related to United States of America vs. Ulrich Greifelt, et al (Lebensborn case), and additional reports related to Lebensborn children.

System of Arrangement

The Rachel Greene Rottersman papers are arranged as six series: I. Biographical materials, 1936-2015 (bulk 1936-1948), II. Correspondence, 1944-1990, III. Memoirs, approximately 1977-1982, IV. Photographic materials, approximately 1945-1949, V. Printed materials, 1937-1993, and VI. Reports, approximately 1940-1966

Conditions Governing Reproduction

Copyright Holder: Mr. John B. Rottersman


Corporate Bodies



This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.