Mendelssohn, Eleonora von, 1900-1951

Variant names

Hide Profile

Eleonora von Mendelssohn was born in Berlin, Germany on December 1, 1900. She was the daughter of Robert von Mendelssohn and Giulietta Gordigiani. Her father, an amateur cellist, was a descendant of Moses Mendelssohn, of whose line the famous composer, Felix Mendelssohn was a part. Robert and his brother Franz controlled the Mendelssohn Bank during the early decades of the 20th century.

Ms. Mendelssohn was named for the celebrated actress, Eleanora Duse, and like her namesake became an actress herself, despite her parents' objections. She joined the company of Max Reinhardt and made her stage debut in 1921 as Jessica in “The Merchant of Venice”. She was married three times - first, to Edwin Fischer, the Swiss pianist; second, to Jedre Jessinski, an Hungarian aristocrat; and last, to Martin Kosleck, a Hollywood actor and a fellow German emigre.

Eleonora von Mendelssohn was the first of the Mendelssohn family to leave Germany when Hitler came to power. Moving to Austria, however, proved to be equally unwise since she was politically outspoken and belonged to a branch of the family that retained its Judaism the longest. In 1938 she left Austria and emigrated to the United States. Settling in New York with her brother, Francesco, Eleonora soon began aiding other refugees.

After perfecting her English, she appeared on the New York stage in a number of plays including: “Flight to the West”, “The Russian People”, “The Secret Room”, “Daughters of Atreus” and “The Madwoman of Chaillot”. Her one major Broadway success was her role in “Flight to the West” where she played a Jewish woman fleeing Germany. She counted among her friends an array of notables from the international artistic community. Among them were Alexander Woolcott, Arturo Toscanini, Noel Coward, Thornton Wilder and Helen Hayes.

Tragedy seemed a part of her life. The dissolution of her family fortune, her brother's frail mental health and her own endless search for fame were aspects of a life compounded by Hitler's rise to power and her displacement from her homeland. In 1951, again tragedy struck when her husband, Martin Kosleck, fell from their apartment window and was severely injured. A few weeks later, Ms. Mendelssohn was found dead in bed from an overdose of sleeping pills. She died January 24, 1951 in New York City.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Eleonora von Mendelssohn papers New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Elisabeth Fraser papers, 1920-1999 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn George Hoyningen-Huene papers Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Lerman, Leo, 1914-1994. Leo Lerman papers, 1893-1995 [Bulk Dates: 1937-1994]. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Leo Lerman Papers, 1893-2012, [Bulk Dates: 1937-1994] Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Alexander Woollcott correspondence, ca. 1856-1943 (inclusive), 1920-1943 (bulk). Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bassermann, Albert. person
associatedWith Bassermann, Else person
associatedWith Bassermann, Else. person
associatedWith Bernoulli, C. (Christoph) person
associatedWith Coward, Noel, 1899-1973. person
associatedWith Coward, Violet person
associatedWith Coward, Violet. person
associatedWith Dieterle, Charlotte. person
associatedWith Dieterle, William, 1893-1972. person
associatedWith Eichner, Anita person
associatedWith Eichner, Anita. person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955. person
associatedWith Forster, Rudolf, 1884-1968. person
associatedWith Fraser, Elisabeth person
associatedWith Furtwängler, Wilhelm, 1867-1954. person
associatedWith Furtwängler, Wilhelm, 1886-1954 person
associatedWith Horst, 1906-1999. person
associatedWith Hoyningen-Huene, George, 1900-1968 person
associatedWith Hutschnecker, Arnold A., 1898- person
associatedWith Kosleck, Alice person
associatedWith Kosleck, Alice. person
associatedWith Kosleck, Martin, 1904-1994. person
associatedWith Lerman, Leo, 1914-1994. person
memberOf Mendelssohn (Family : Mendelssohn, Moses, 1729-1786) family
sibling of Mendelssohn, Francesco von person
childOf Mendelssohn, Giulietta. person
childOf Mendelssohn, Robert person
associatedWith Reinhardt, Gottfried person
associatedWith Reinhardt, Gottfried. person
associatedWith Reinhardt, Max. person
associatedWith Reinhardt, Max 1873-1943 person
associatedWith Toscanini, Arturo, 1867-1957. person
associatedWith Twardowski, Hans von person
associatedWith Twardowski, Hans von. person
associatedWith Viertel, Berthold person
associatedWith Viertel, Berthold. person
associatedWith Viertel, Salka. person
correspondedWith Woollcott, Alexander, 1887-1943 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York City NY US
Berlin 16 DE
Jews, German
Jewish actors
Jewish refugees
Jewish refugees
Jews in the motion picture industry


Birth 1900-01-12

Death 1951







Ark ID: w6gv6dzk

SNAC ID: 87662417