Fonds KOF - Sandy Koffler Papers

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Sandy Koffler Papers


  • 1948-1988 (Creation)

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4 boxes

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Biographical history

Sandy Koffler was born on the 24th of October 1916 in New York, in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn. He is the son of immigrants originally from the town of Chernivtsi, in Bucovina, Romania (now a city in western Ukraine). His father, Berl Koffler, was a well-known rabbi in the city. After attending the City College of New York, Sandy won a scholarship to study at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1940, he studied in Bordeaux.

Passionate about French culture and language, he attempted to stay in France at any cost, but the advance of the Germans caused him to turn his sights to the United States, departing via Marseille. During a stopover in Portugal, Sandy learned Portugese. Back in New York, he became a part-time columnist for the weekly magazine America and also learned printmaking techniques. He attended seminars by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss with whom he became friends. He found work in the American army at the Office of War Information, a US government information agency, which used modern mass-propaganda methods to disseminate pacifist ideas. Sent to Morocco, he worked as a correspondent and information director for Voice of America radio and developed a round-the-clock programme of world news broadcasts. He was then sent to Italy to set up a newsletter to inform people of the advance of the Allies and to promote peace. It was called Corriere di Roma, Corriere di Venezia, Corriere Veneto or Corriere dell’Emilia, depending on the city or region from where it was published.

After the war, Sandy returned to France and became interested in a new international organization, UNESCO. The Organization published a two-page monthly, The Monitor, for which Sandy worked from the 24th of October 1947. Less than a month later, on the 19th of November, he submitted to Harold Kaplan, the first Director of UNESCO’s Bureau of Public Information, a proposal for a journal, including a plan for its editorial line and periodicity, an outline of its different sections, the number of columns on a page, the length of the articles, and the typeface. In 1948, the UNESCO Courier was thus born as a popular monthly to keep the public informed of UNESCO’s activities and to foster discussion and discourse about its ideas and ideals. The first issue of the UNESCO Courier, for which he became chief editor, was published in February 1948. In 1954, the magazine’s format was changed to include colour illustration – setting new standards at the time.

Sandy worked hard to develop the magazine, and especially to establish editions in various languages, totaling 15 in February 1977 by the time he retired. Koffler wrote: “The work of UNESCO is so varied, its programme includes such a vast number of vitally important subjects in all the fields of education, science and culture, that it should be no difficulty at all to gather lively, interesting articles.” The magazine was intended for an “enlightened” public, and received its greatest readership through schools, colleges, and universities. Sandy Koffler set out the principal themes of the Courier as: the impact of science on human life, racial problems, arts and culture, human rights, history and archaeology, cultural differences and conflicts between peoples.

In 1977, Koffler retired early but maintained a link to the UNESCO Courier editorial board. In his retirement, he continued to live in Paris and to study the Chinese language, which he had begun to learn during the 1960s. He would learn five dialects while being a life-long student of Chinese culture, whose rich history and philosophy he admired. During that time, he befriended François Cheng, a member of the French Academy.


Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Documents transferred to the UNESCO Archives by Aurélia Dausse, the granddaughter of Sandy Koffler, 23 June 2020.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The fonds consists of official, semi-official, and private correspondence of Sandy Koffler (1916-2002), founder and editor-in-chief of the UNESCO Courier from 1948-1977.

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  • Chinese
  • English
  • French
  • German

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