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Ernst N. Schaeffer

  • Given name:
  • Middle name:
  • Last name:
  • Alternative names:

    Ernst Schaeffer, E.N. Schaeffer, Ernst Schäffer, later Ernest Norbert Schaeffer and Ernest N. (Norbert/Nathan) Shaffer

  • Date of Birth:
  • Place of Birth:
    Breslau ()
  • Date of Death:
  • Place of Death:
    Bonn (DE)
  • Profession:
    EditorJournalistNewspaper CorrespondentPhotojournalistRadio ModeratorTour Guide
  • Introduction:

    In exile Ernst Schaeffer diversified his journalistic practice and developed an understanding of Bombay through walking the city streets, taking on street-level-photography and photojournalism.

    Word Count: 24

  • Signature Image:
    Portrait of Ernest N. Shaffer, around 1965. (© Shaffer 1971; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).
  • Content:

    Exiled in Bombay, the former Ullstein business editor and Berliner Zeitung am Mittag’s deputy editor-in-chief Ernst Schaeffer was forced to diversify his journalistic activities to generate income. He became an English and German tour and travel guide for Thomas Cook, translated German film scripts to English for Bhavnani film studios, gave educational talks on All India Radio, and, as a self-taught photographer, started his “Individual Photo Studio” (Shaffer 1971, 48) in his Colaba living room, specializing in portrait photography.

    The autodidact Schaeffer “threw himself into the specialist literature and began to work systematically with the camera.” (Shaffer 1971, 45f.) After some practice he learned to work with large format cameras and familiarized himself with a wide range of lenses and lights. By February 1936 he had developed his photographic skills to the point of being able to hold an exhibition: In collaboration with the Afga Photo Company headed by Albrecht von Leyden, he presented his photos in a Rolleiflex Exhibition in the Taj Mahal Hotel (The Times of India, 6 February 1936, 1), demonstrating “[t]he value of the small camera for taking pictures.” (The Times of India, 6 February 1936, 16). The success of the exhibition might have germinated the idea of publishing the photographic travel guide Pictorial Bombay and supported his search for a publishing house, which he found in the New Book Co. Pvt. Ltd. in the Kitab Mahal, owned by the Taraporevala family. Pictorial Bombay is an unusual example of a guidebook written from an exilic perspective, offering insights into both how Schaeffer grasped the colonial city and how he contributed to developing Bombay as a tourist destination by exploring it through walking and street-level-photography.

    Continuing to draw on his international network, Schaeffer combined journalism with photography to establish himself internationally as a photojournalist. With the support of his former Ullstein colleagues, in Bombay Schaeffer received assignments for the New York City-based Black Star photo agency and Life magazine. His networks in India – including members of Indian and British Indian political and economic elites, leaders of the Indian independence movement, Indian royal families and members of Bombay’s avant-garde art circles like Mulk Raj Anand and Anil de Silva and Walter Kaufmann – enabled him to present English-speaking, international audiences with images from India that they were unlikely to have seen before, like the photos of  a Maharaja’s wedding in Bhopal that were published in Life magazine in June 1939. Locally he engaged himself in Bombay’s Jewish exile and relief networks, and became a founding member of the Jewish Relief Association.

    For his journalistic work Schaeffer travelled widely in India. In Bhavnagar in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat he applied his self-taught photographic skills to document the renovation and expansion of the Nilambagh Place by his German architect friend Philipp Kanoffsky (born 1886). His anecdote about Kanoffsky coming to Baroda and later to Bhavnagar (Shaffer 1971, p. 35ff) together with many more stories are collected in his autobiographical account Ein Emigrant entdeckt Indien [An Emigrant Discovers India] from 1971.

    The Second World War interrupted transcontinental transport, communication and the import of photography supplies. Tourism vanished, as did Schaeffer’s other sources of income. Having just received British citizenship, career-wise Schaeffer survived as a print production manager for an American advertisement company for the next three and a half years. In October 1943 Ernst Schaeffer became the assistant manager of Oxford University Press, eventually working there for twelve years before returning to freelance journalism. Schaeffer’s connection to India remained long after he left the subcontinent in the early 1960s for Germany; he contributed, for example, to setting up the Südasien (South Asia) department of Deutsche Welle (see Shaffer 1971).

    Word Count: 600

  • Media:
    Photo Studio Ernst Schaeffer's logo and address (© Antiquariat Gerhard Gruber (Heilbronn); All rights reserved).
    Portrait of Maharaja Raol Sir Shri Krishna Kumarsinhji Bhavsinhji KCSI (1912–1965), the last ruling Maharaja of Bhavnagar State by Ernst Schaeffer, around 1935 (© Antiquariat Gerhard Gruber (Heilbronn); All rights reserved).
    Ernst Schaeffer’s photographic documentation of the renovation and expansion of Nilambagh Palace in Bhavnagar, mid 1930s (© Antiquariat Gerhard Gruber (Heilbronn); All rights reserved).
    Ernst Schaeffer, Juhu (Pictorial Bombay, p. 54; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).
    Cover of Ernest N. Shaffer’s autobiography Ein Emigrant entdeckt Indien (Photo: Margit Franz 2021).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anonymous. “Schäffer, Ernst (1892–1978) .” Kalliope-Verbund, Accessed 30 June 2021.

    Franz, Margit. Gateway India: Deutschsprachiges Exil in Indien zwischen britischer Kolonialherrschaft, Maharadschas und Gandhi. CLIO, 2015.

    Franz, Margit and Rachel Lee, “An Exile’s Guide: Ernst Schaeffer’s Pictorial Bombay and the Construction of Bombay’s Touristscape.” Urban Exile: Theories, Methods, Research Practices, edited by Burcu Dogramaci et al., Intellect Ltd., forthcoming 2022.

    Ganor, Sheer and Rebekka Grossmann, “Displacement in Stills: German-Jewish Photographers on the Move.” Migrant Knowledge, May 14, 2021, Accessed 24 July 2021.

    Krishnamoorthy, Kaushalya. India and the Exile Experience as Mirrored in the Writings of Jewish Exiles and Indian Writers. Doctoral thesis, Wayne State University, 2003. ResearchGate, Accessed 20 March 2021.

    Reiter, Andrea. “Diaspora und Hybridität: Der Exilant als Mittler.” Diaspora – Exil als Krisenerfahrung. Jüdische Bilanzen und Perspektiven (Zwischenwelt Jahrbuch, 10), edited by Armin Eidherr et al., Drava Verlag, 2006, pp. 36–51.

    Roth, Helene “‘First Pictures’: New York through the Lens of Emigrated European Photographers in the 1930s and 1940s.” Contact Zones: Photography, Migration and Cultural Encounters in the United States, edited by Justin Carville and Sigrid Lien, Leuven University Press, 2021, pp. 111–132.

    Schaeffer, E.N. Pictorial Bombay. New Book Co., [1936].

    Schaeffer, Ernst Nathan. “Feast in Bhopal. A Marriage Unites Two of India’s Leading Muslims.” Life, 19 June 1939, pp. 44–48.

    Schaeffer, Ernest N. “Emigrantenleben in Indien.” Aufbau, vol. 7, no. 18, 2 March 1941, p. 7.

    Shaffer, Ernest N. Ein Emigrant entdeckt Indien. Verlag Information und Wissen, 1971.

    Voigt, Johannes H. “Die Emigration von Juden aus Mitteleuropa nach Indien während der Verfolgung durch das NS-Regime.” Wechselwirkungen, Jahrbuch aus Lehre und Forschung der Universität Stuttgart, 1991, pp. 83–95.

    Word Count: 275

  • Archives and Sources:

    Private Archive Margit Franz, Sinabelkirchen

    The Times of India [Mumbai] Archive on ProQuest, via Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Accessed 30 June 2021.

    Word Count: 23

  • Acknowledgements:

    Word Count: 6

  • Author:
    Margit Franz; Rachel Lee
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Cleave House, Katau Road, Colaba, Bombay (Cleave House
    90, Wode House Road, Colaba Causeway, Colaba Mumbai, Maharashtra 400005, India)

  • Metropolis:
  • Margit Franz; Rachel Lee. "Ernst N. Schaeffer." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 23-09-2021.
  • Pictorial Bombay

    The guidebook Pictorial Bombay is a light-hearted portrayal of Bombay and its inhabitants as seen by an outsider, the German emigrant Ernst Schaeffer, through photos and texts in 1936.

    Word Count: 28

    Front cover of Pictorial Bombay (Photo: Margit Franz 2021).
    Ernst Schaeffer, Sugar Cane Juice Presser (Pictorial Bombay, p. 27; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).Ernst Schaeffer, Null Bazaar (Pictorial Bombay, p. 31; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).Ernst Schaeffer, View from the Jogeshwari Caves (Pictorial Bombay, p. 60; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).Ernst Schaeffer, Apollo Bunder (Pictorial Bombay, p. 73; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).Ernst Schaeffer, Mumbadevi Temple (Pictorial Bombay, p. 38; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).
    New Book Co.
    Publishing HouseBook Shop

    This bookstore was a hub for Bombay's creatives and intellectuals.

    Word Count: 10

    Advertisement for the New Book Co., 1936 (Private Collection Rachel Lee).
    Advertisement for Taraporevala's, 1936 (Private Collection Rachel Lee).
    Mulk Raj Anand
    WriterPhilosopherArt PatronCultural Critic

    As a global socialist and modernist, Mulk Raj Anand sought and shaped opportunities for intellectual exchanges between Asia and Europe.

    Word Count: 20

    Mulk Raj Anand by Howard Coster, half-plate film negative, 1930s (© National Portrait Gallery, London).
    Paperback cover of Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand Preface by E.M., 34pp., Forster, Bombay: Kutub-Popular, around 1953 (© Kutub-Popular).Mulk Raj Anand in his late years at Taraporevala Mansion. 25 Cuffe Parade. Photograph: Dolly Sahiar (reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India/ Taken from Garimella 2005, 9).
    Walter Kaufmann

    The 12-year exile in Bombay shaped Walter Kaufmann’s life and work; his signature tune for All India Radio is played till today.

    Word Count: 23

    Cover page of the author’s book The Music that Still Rings at Dawn, Every Dawn: Walter Kaufmann in India, 1934−1946, Goethe Institute Bombay, 2013 (Courtesy of Walter Kaufmann Archives, William & Gayle Cook Music Library, Indiana University, Bloomington).
    Rewa House, Off Warden Road (Bhulabhai Desai Road), Breach Candy, Mumbai (Opposite Cadbury House), where Walter Kaufmann lived in Bombay (Photo: Amrit Gangar, 2013).Charni Road East, Opera House, Girgaon, Mumbai (Photo: Amrit Gangar, 2013).
    Black Star Agency
    Photo Agency

    The German émigrés Kurt S(z)afranski, Ern(e)st Mayer and Kurt Kornfeld founded Black Star in 1936. The photo agency established was a well-run networking institution in New York.

    Word Count: 31

    Letterhead of Black Star (Black Star Archive. Ryerson Image Center, Photo: Helene Roth).
    Logo and Stamp of Black Star Photo Agency (Photo: Helene Roth, 2019).Description of Black Star in a photographic guide (Ahlers, Arvel W.. Where & how to sell your pictures. Photography Publishing Corp., 1953, p. 45).Werner Wolff, K.S. Safranski’s Class in Pictorial Journalism, 1950 (New School for Research Archive, Photograph Collection © Steven Wolff).Facade and entrance of the Graybar Building on Lexington Avenue (Photo: Helene Roth, 2018).Cover of Selling Your Pictures by Kurt Safranski (Ziff Davis Publishing Company, 1940).Black Star contract by Fred Stein, April 1, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).Announcement of "Pictorial Journalism. Photographs as a Language and their special Problems" course by Kurt Safranski at the New School for Social Research, Spring 1949 (© The New School Archives and Special Collection, The New School, New York).Letterhead with the logo and address of Black Star (© Fred Stein Archive).
    New York
    Jewish Relief Association Bombay
    Relief Organisation

    In 1934, the first refugees from National Socialism founded a Jewish aid association in Bombay called the Jewish Relief Association (JRA) to help refugees in financial and other difficulties.

    Word Count: 28

    Letter from the Jewish Relief Association confirming active membership to Joe Schimmel during his years in India (© Private Archive Joe Schimmel, Cape Town).
    JRA announcement of the release of Victor von Leyden from internment on 5 October, 1939 (© Private Archive Flora Veit-Wild, Berlin).Memorial plaque for Alfred W. Rosenfeld at the Chinchpokli Jewish cemetery in Mumbai, 2010 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).
    The Leydens: Sculpture, Paintings, Cartoons

    In 1948 Albrecht and Rudi von Leyden sold their personal works of art in order to set up an “Artists' Aid Fund”, which became an institution in the following years.

    Word Count: 29

    Folder for the Leyden exhibition in May 1948, front and back (© Private Archive Flora Veit-Wild, Berlin; All Rights Reserved).
    Folder (inside) for the Leyden exhibition in May 1948 with the titles of the exhibits (© Private Archive Flora Veit-Wild, Berlin; All Rights Reserved).The four exhibiting artists: Luise and Victor Ernst von Leyden (front), Rudolf and Albrecht von Leyden (with glasses) (back) (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).The opening was well attended: in front the Elephant, woodcarving by Victor Ernst von Leyden (far left), who is sitting under his sculpture in conversation with a gentleman, his wife Luise (with a headscarf, from behind) sitting in the same row. Käthe Langhammer moves to the far right in the photo; the group at the back in front of the oil paintings by Albrecht von Leyden (from left): Kekoo Gandhy, Walter Langhammer (from behind), Khorshed Gandhy in conversation with two unknown women (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).Rudolf von Leyden´s Denley caricatures on display and for sale (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).The financial person behind the project: Albrecht “Lolly” von Leyden, an enthusiastic amateur painter, self-portrait from later years, n.d. (painting currently lost; Photo: Margit Franz, 2004; All Rights Reserved).Main entrance to Ador House, the exhibition venue in the salon of the Bombay Art Society, 2018 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).Ador House, exhibition venue in the Bombay Art Society Salon, 2018 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).