Faces of Berlin: Else ‘Yva’ Ernestine Neuländer-Simon

As part of our redesign in 2014, the hotel’s architect Jan Kleihues, designed the ‘Faces of Berlin’. This concept celebrates some of Berlin’s most beloved personalities in feature walls through the hotel and every month we present the background on some of these personalities.

Previously we profiled Marlene Dietrich, and former heavyweight champion of the world Max Schmeling.  We also learned about the life of playwright, poet and theatre director Bertolt Brecht as well as the life and times of ‘Iron Gustav’ and his extraordinary journey from Berlin to Paris and back. Next we paid homage to Berlin’s adorable unofficial mascot – the polar bear Knut and we featured German actress, singer and writer Hildegard Knef. We brought you a man considered to be one of the fathers of modern architecture – Walter Gropius and followed that with a profile on internationally renowned ballet teacher, choreographer and dancer, Tatjana Gsovsky. This month we bring you German fashion photographer Yva.


Eva photographing sculptor Hugo Lederer © Bundesarchiv

Born in Berlin in 1900, Else Neuländer was the youngest of nine children and came from a Jewish middle class family – her mother was a milliner and her father a merchant. In her early 20’s Else opened her first photography studio at Friedrich-Wilhelm-Straße 17. With Weimar Berlin in full swing, she quickly established a clientele and became known for her innovate fashion and portrait photography shoots. Her focus was on fashion and advertising but she also had a passion for photographing still nudes and property.

Adopting the professional name Yva, her work was featured in many of the most prestigious and glamorous print publications of the time such as German, Vogue, Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung and Münchner Illustrierte Presse. Her first solo exhibition was held at Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf in 1927 and in 1929 she began working consistently for the Ullstein publishing house. Ullstein’s publications were swamped with orders and Yva’s studio became a busy hub for some of the most exquisite fashion shoots of the era. She worked busily through the next few years, relocated her studio to Bleibtreustraße 17, and participated in grand international events such as the 1st Biennale Internazionale d’Arte Fotografica in Rome in 1932 and The Modern Spirit in Photography Exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, London in 1933. In 1934 she had another change of address and would move to her third and final studio location at Schlüterstraße 45.



Her professional output was dramatically impacted upon in 1933 as the Berufsverbot policy was enforced upon her by the NSDAP due to her Jewish status. She married Alfred Simon in 1934 who quickly took over the studio on her behalf and soon after, a close friend Charlotte Weidler was put in place to take care of its operations.

Things settled down and photographic history was made in 1936 when a 16 year old boy called Helmut presented at the studio to become Yva’s apprentice. That boy went on to become one of Germany’s and the world’s most esteemed fashion photographers – Helmut Newton.

Their time together would be short-lived however as Yva was completed banished from her studio in 1938 and went on to work in the radiology department at a Jewish hospital in Wedding. For Yva and Alfred, this was the beginning of the end. Just 4 years later the two were arrested and deported to Poland. The details of their final weeks are unclear, however it seems they were deported to Majdanek and then transferred to Sobibor extermination  camp where they were murdered on arrival. Yva’s official date of death is listed as 31st December 1944.

Stolperstein Yva © Wikipedia

Eva’s Stolperstein at Schlüterstrasse 45

In Berlin her memory is kept alive with a Stolperstein in front of her former apartment at Schlüterstraße 45. The apartment was left untouched for some time, before the Hotel Bogota moved into the building. The hotel displayed many of Yva’s original works on the fourth floor until it was also forced to close in 2013. Yva’s photographs can be seen at the Berlinische Galerie as part of their New Vision and New Objectivity collection.








Melinda Barlow is an Australian freelance writer and editor, based in Berlin since 2012. Melinda works with print and online media and has a natural curiosity that informs her work. She is passionate about travel and great content. She loves to write most about the world, its people and why we all do what we do.