Walking in Their Footsteps

About two months ago we did a crazy thing.  We drove five and a half hours from western Massachusetts to Philadelphia and spent just 24 hours in the City of Brotherly Love before turning around and returning home.

So how did this crazy thing happen? I had received an email from my third cousin Jan Sluizer. Her great-grandmother Elizabeth Cohen was the sister of my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen.  We are both the great-great-granddaughters of Jacob Cohen and the three-time great-granddaughters of Hart Levy Cohen.  Jan lives now in California, but she grew up in Philadelphia and was coming east for a high school reunion.  She wanted to know if we could get together.

For several years I have wanted to visit Philadelphia—the place where my earliest American ancestors came in the 1840s, the place where my father was born and raised. Of course, I’d been to Philadelphia many times growing up to visit my grandmother and my aunt.  But I’d never seen where my ancestors lived or were buried. I’d never even seen the places where my father had lived. In fact, I’d never seen Independence Hall or the other historic sights in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, City Hall

I knew that to do everything I wanted to do, I’d need more than 24 hours. But it has been a hectic fall with far too many weekends away from home.  The most we could do was get there on Saturday and leave on Sunday. And to top it off, a major storm was predicted for Sunday, meaning we’d have to hit the road even earlier than we had once hoped.

It was indeed crazy. But I am so glad we did it.

In the hours we had on Saturday, I managed to accomplish a few of the things I’d wanted to do. First, we took a tour of all the places where my Philadelphia ancestors had lived, starting with my great-great-grandparents Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs and my three-times great-grandparents John Nusbaum and Jeanette Dreyfuss all the way to the last place my father lived in Philadelphia before moving to New York and marrying my mother in 1951.  Here in the order in which my family occupied these places (though not in the order we saw them) are my photographs from that day.

Jacob Cohen lived for many years at 136 South Street. His pawnshop was nearby. And this is where he and my great-great-grandmother Sarah Jacobs raised their thirteen children, including my great-grandfather Emanuel.  I do not think these are the same buildings that were there in the in the mid=19th century, but this is the street where they lived.

136 South Street, where Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs raised their children

South Street, looking towards the river

For decades the Cohens lived in this neighborhood where many of the German Jewish immigrants lived.

But my other early-arriving ancestor John Nusbaum lived on the north side of Philadelphia during this same period at 433 Vine Street and 455 York Street. We drove down these streets, but again the buildings that were there in the era are long gone, and I didn’t take any photographs here. It was mostly warehouse buildings and abandoned or run-down buildings.

Since my Nusbaum ancestor was a successful merchant, I imagine that in his time this area was quite desirable, in fact more desirable than area south of the city where the Cohens lived.  Today, however, the South Street neighborhood is quite chic and inhabited by young professionals and clearly more desirable than the neighborhood where the Nusbaums lived.

Although my great-great-grandparents Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum lived almost their whole married life in Santa Fe, their last years were spent in Philadelphia at 1606 Diamond Street. Bernard died in 1903, and Frances in 1905.  During that same period Bernard’s daughter Eva Seligman Cohen, my great-grandmother, and my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen were also living on Diamond Street. That neighborhood is also in North Philadelphia.  Here is a Google Streetview of that street today. I don’t think these were the buildings that were there in the early 1900s, but I am not sure.

I had better luck as I moved further into the 20th century.  In 1920 Emanuel Cohen and Eva Seligman Cohen, my great-grandparents, were living on Green Street close to what is now the downtown district of Philadelphia.  It is a lovely tree-lined street with cafes and historic brick townhouses in what is clearly a gentrified neighborhood. I wonder what it was like when my great-grandparents and my grandfather John Cohen lived there in 1920.

2116 Green Street—where in 1920 my great-grandparents Emanuel and Eva Seligman Cohen lived as well as my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen

We did not have time to get to the West Oak Lane neighborhood in North Philadelphia where my father lived with his parents in 1930 at 6625 North 17th Street, so that’s on my list for when we return.But here is a Google Streetview shot of that street:

6600 block of North 17th Street, Philadelphia

I did find the apartment building where my father and aunt were living with their grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen in 1939 when she died. It is in the downtown area of Philadelphia and still called the Westbury Apartments.

Westbury Apartments on 15th Street where my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen lived with my father and aunt in 1939

In 1940, my father, aunt, and grandmother were living in North Philadelphia at 106 Venango Street.  That building is no longer there unfortunately.  It is now a commercial area with warehouses and factory-like buildings.

But In 1950 they were living on North 21st Street in this building—another lovely tree-lined street not far from the center of the city.

North 21 Street in Philadelphia where my father, aunt, and grandmother lived in 1950

136 North 21st Street, my father’s home in 1950

Touring the city this way was enlightening because it provided some insights into the patterns of gentrification and how they have changed since 1850.  My ancestors for the most part started in the southern part of the city and as they moved up the economic ladder, they moved north of the city to an area that was newer, less crowded, and more “gentrified.” But today that pattern has reversed. Young professionals want to live close to downtown and have returned to the neighborhoods closest to the center of the city like Green Street and South Street.  The neighborhoods around Venango Street and Diamond Street were long ago abandoned by those moving out to the suburbs in the post-World War II period and are now depressed sections of the city.

After a visit to the National Museum of American Jewish History and the Liberty Bell and a walk along Market Street, we met Jan for dinner in the area known as Rittenhouse Square, another gentrified neighborhood with lots of boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Meeting Jan was a delight. We had long ago connected by email when Jan shared all the stories about her father Mervyn Sluizer, Jr., and her grandfather Mervyn, Sr., and the rest of her family. Now we were able to meet face to face, share a meal together, and connect on a deeper level than email allows.

Independence Hall

The Liberty Bell

The following day the rain began, but I was determined to try and see where my ancestors were buried. Our first stop was Mikveh Israel synagogue, where we met Rabbi Albert Gabbai, who took us to the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. Mikveh Israel has been in Philadelphia since before the American Revolution and was where my earliest Cohen ancestors belonged. It was then located about a mile from 136 South Street where Jacob Cohen lived. Although the original building is long, long gone, the synagogue still is in that same neighborhood, now on North 4th Street.  According to the rabbi, it now attracts empty nesters who have moved into downtown Philadelphia. Another example of urban gentrification. Jews who long ago left downtown are now returning in their later years.

Rabbi Gabbai drove us to the Federal Street cemetery, the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, where he patiently and generously guided us with a map to see the gravestones of Jacob and Sarah Cohen as well as the location of Hart Levy Cohen’s grave (his stone has either sunk into the ground or otherwise disappeared).

Federal Street cemetery of Congregation Mikveh Israel

Location of Hart Levy Cohen’s grave. My 3x-great-grandfather

Jacob and Sarah’s grave is marked by one of the largest monuments in the cemetery:

While we walked through the cemetery, I also spotted the stones for Jan’s other great-great-grandparents, Bernard and Margaret Sluizer, and her three-times great-grandmother Jeanette Sluizer. I was very touched when I realized that Bernard and Margaret Sluizer are buried in the plots that abut Jacob and Sarah’s plots.

Grave of Meyer and Margaret Sluizer

I also found a stone for Joseph Jacobs, my 3-times great uncle, brother of Sarah Jacobs Cohen.

Joseph Jacobs, brother of Sarah Jacobs Cohen

Unfortunately, it was pouring by this time, and I could not find any small stones to put on the gravestones to mark my visit, which left me feeling as if I’d let my ancestors down.

After leaving Rabbi Gabbai, we drove north to the two other Philadelphia cemeteries where my ancestors are buried: Mount Sinai and Adath Jeshurun.  Fortunately they are located right next to each other, and I had carefully written down the location of the graves I wanted to visit at Mount Sinai from the records I found on Ancestry. (I did not have that information for Adath Jeshurun, but only a few ancestors are buried there as compared to Mount Sinai.)

Unfortunately, despite my good planning, I had no luck. There was no office and no one at the cemetery; there was no map posted of the cemetery. And there were no obvious markings in the cemetery identifying sections or plots. And it was pouring.

My ever-patient husband sat in the car and drove slowly around as I walked up and down the drives and walkways with an umbrella and in my orthopedic boot,[1] looking for Cohens, Nusbaums, Katzensteins, Schoenthals, and Seligmans.  This was the only one I could find for any of my known relatives:

Simon Schoenthal and family at Mt Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia

This is the stone for Simon Schoenthal, my great-grandfather’s brother, and his wife Rose Mansbach, who was also related to me by the marriage of her cousin Marum Mansbach to my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein’s sister Hannchen. It also marks the burial place of two of their children, Martin and Harry, as well as Harry’s wife Esther, and their son Norman. I was delighted that I had found this marker, but nevertheless disappointed that I could not find the place where my grandfather John Cohen is buried along with his parents, Emanuel Cohen and Eva Seligman. Nor did I find any of the others I had been hoping to visit.

From there we headed home, leaving Philadelphia exactly 24 hours after we’d arrived. It was a wet and long trip home, but I still was glad we had made this whirlwind visit. I was able to meet Jan, I saw places where my ancestors lived and are buried, and we were introduced to the city where so many of my relatives have lived. It was not enough, so we will have to return. Next time we will need to spend at least 48 hours!

 

[1] I had broken my ankle a few weeks before the trip. It’s better now.

Rosa Abraham Zechermann: A Story for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! Today’s post is in many ways fitting for Hanukkah, the holiday that commemorates the survival of a small number of Jews, the Maccabees, against all odds and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after their victory. It is a story thus about Jewish survival against persecution and the struggle for freedom and so in many ways is the story of Rosa Abraham Zechermann.

Back on October 31, 2017, I wrote about my search for Rosa Abraham, my third cousin, once removed, and the aunt of Fred and Martin Abrahams. Through the amazing connections I made on Facebook, I’d been able to establish that Rosa had married Isidor Zechermann and that both of them had immigrated to Santiago, Chile, to escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s. At the end of that post I mentioned that I was requesting a copy of their naturalization application and other files from the archives in Hesse, hoping to learn more about Rosa and Isidor, including when and where they had married.

I have now received the files, and unfortunately, I still do not have the answer to those last two questions, but the files I received did shed light on Rosa and Isidor and their lives before and during the Nazi era and have helped me narrow down the possible years and places where Rosa and Isidor married.

The file that was described as a naturalization file was actually Isidor and Rosa’s application for repatriation as German citizens. It was filed in 1952. From the notes at the bottom of this letter, we can see that they left Germany together as a married couple on December 13, 1938.

In his letter, Isidor wrote, “We have been living in Santiago de Chile since 1939, but we never applied for the Chilean citizenship because we could not give up the faith one day to become citizens of our German homeland again. Upon request, the local German Consulate confirmed to me that repatriation is possible, and I would be particularly grateful for fulfilling my request.”

After all that they must have experienced and lost during the Nazi era, Isidor and Rosa still considered Germany their homeland and wanted their status as German citizens restored.

The government granted their request, concluding that they were among those who were denied citizenship for political, racial, or religious reasons during the Nazi era:

 

Two years later, Rosa applied for reparations from the German government for damages she suffered during the Nazi era. I am very grateful to Irene Newhouse of the Jekkes group on Facebook for her generous help in translating Rosa’s letter and the government’s response.

Rosa wrote:

Santa Rosa 160 Dep. E.

Vitae curriculum

I had, in Frankfurt/Main, a women’s couture boutique and in the years 1932 to 31 July 1938, earned 600 Marks monthly.

I had to give up my skilled trade, as we, as Jews were victimized by the chicanery of the Nazis and the Gestapo, and the latter forced us to emigrate with threats. Relatives supported us from 1939 to 1942, until I succeeded to wring out a small independence with my needlework.

From the year 1943 to 1946, I earned about 1000 pesos a month, from 1947 to 1952, about 1500 pesos per month.

Since 1952, I’m unable to work due to gout, and am supported by my relations in the USA.

Rosa then requested compensation for her emigration expenses and the loss of her business and of her other assets.

In response the government awarded her 2,830.20 Deutsche marks as reparation for the damages she had suffered.

According to this website, in 1955 there were 4.2 marks to a US dollar, meaning that the award to Rosa was worth in 1955 about $673.  Allowing for inflation, $673 in 1955 would be worth about $6,100 today, according to this calculator. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a very generous award for someone who had been forced to emigrate and sacrifice her business and her home.

Although I did not learn exactly when Rosa married Isidor, it is clear from these papers that they were married before they left Germany and had been living together in Frankfurt at the time of their emigration from Germany.  Also, now that I know that Rosa had a business as a “Damenschneider” in Frankfurt beginning in 1932, I can assume that this is her listing in the 1932 Frankfurt directory:

That means she was married to Isidor as of 1932, probably earlier if she is listed this way in the 1932 directory. But where and when were they married?

Since Isidor’s first wife died on August 23, 1924, Isidor and Rosa must have married between then and 1932. Searching the Frankfurt directories before 1932, I found that Rosa was listed in the 1928 and 1931 directories as Rosa Abraham, not Zechermann, meaning that she must have married Isidor sometime between 1930 and 1932.

I have written to the registry in Frankfurt to see if they can find a marriage record, but it is also possible that Rosa was married in her birthplace, Niederurff. At any rate, I have narrowed down the possible range of years when they must have married.

Beginning in 1933 Isidor and Rosa are listed together, first living on Oberlindau Strasse and then beginning in 1935 at 15 Bohmerstrasse, the address given on their application for repatriation in 1952. Rosa (listed as Rosel) had her shop at 13 Bohmerstrasse. Living down the street were Jakob and Frida Zechermann, who presumably were Isidor’s relatives. Frida was named as Rosa’s representative in her request for reparations. Jakob and Isidor are both identified as “Kaufman,” or merchant. The Erdg indicates that Isidor and Rosa were living on the ground floor, and the T followed by a series of numbers was their telephone number.

1935 Frankfurt directory
Ancestry.com. Germany and Surrounding Areas, Address Books, 1815-1974 [database on-line]

In 1939 there is no separate listing for Rosa, just for Isidor. I assume by that time Rosa had been forced to close her business. And in 1940, neither Isidor nor Rosa is listed, of course, as they had departed for Chile.

Although I am still hoping to find a marriage record for Isidor and Rosa, I am now more satisfied that I have been able to put together a fuller picture of the life of my cousin Rosa Abraham Zechermann. And from Simon in the Jekkes group, I learned that Rosa and Isidor were an active part of the Jewish community in Santiago.  They had struggled and they had survived to enjoy their freedom.

Thank you again to Irene Newhouse for translating Rosa’s reparations papers and also to the members of the German Genealogy group on Facebook for helping me decipher some of the abbreviations in the Frankfurt directories.

And happy Hanukkah to all!

 

 

 

James Seligman: More Items from Wolfgang

When I wrote the recent post about the news articles my cousin Wolfgang had found about our Seligman(n) relatives, I had forgotten that a month earlier Wolfgang had sent me some other items he’d found about our relative, James Seligman—brother of Bernard, my great-great-grandfather, and August, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather. Somehow that earlier email had gotten lost in the mess that is my inbox. My apologies to Wolfgang!

A little more background on James: He was the youngest child of Babette Schoenfeld and Moritz Seligmann, born in about 1853 in Gau-Algesheim. By the time he was 28 in 1881 he had immigrated England where he was a wine merchant in Kilpin, Yorkshire, in conjunction with his brothers August and Hieronymus, who were living in Germany. He took sole control over that business in 1891.

London Gazette, March 20, 1891

In 1887, James married Henrietta Walker Templeton in London. In 1901, they were living in Scotland, but by the 1920s they had returned to England and were living in Birmingham where he remained for the rest of his life.

Henrietta died on October 4, 1928, and a year later in December 1929, James married his second wife Clara Elizabeth Perry. Clara was 45 years younger than James; she was 31 when they married, he was 76. He died just three months after they married on March 11, 1930. Clara remarried two years later and died in 1981. James did not have children with either of his wives.

Wolfgang found an obituary for James in the March 14, 1930 issue of the Birmingham Gazette:

b Birmingham Daily Gazette, March 14, 1930, p. 3

Mr. James Seligman

Death of Birmingham Hotel Expert

The death has occurred at the age of 77 of Mr. James Seligman, of 11 Yately-road, Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Formerly in business in Scotland, where he owned a number of hotels, Mr. Seligman was managing director of the Grand and Midland Hotels, Birmingham, and of the King’s Head Hotel, Sheffield.

He was an expert on all business matters connected with hotel management, and was often consulted by proprietors and managers of hotel establishments in all parts of the country.

He was the sole proprietor of Seligman and Co., wine merchanges, Colmore-row, Birmingham, and although ill in bed, was dealing with business affairs up to within a few hours of his death.

A great lover of music, Mr. Seligman was a regular concert-goer and an enthusiastic supporter of musical societies.

A funeral service will be held at Perry Barr Crematorium on Saturday.

From the obituary, Wolfgang knew where James had lived and captured this photograph of the former residence from Google Maps:

James Seligman residence in Birmingham, England

He also sent me this photograph of the Grand Hotel in Birmingham where James had been the managing director:

Grand Hotel, Colmore Road, Birmingham, England 1894

Interestingly, Wolfgang located an ad for Seligman’s Wine Merchants in the October 30, 1969, Birmingham Daily Post. It was still located on Colmore Row in Birmingham and called Seligman’s almost forty years after James died in 1930.

Birmingham Daily Post, October 30, 1969, p. 3

Thank you again to Wolfgang for sharing these items which shed more light on the personality and life of James Seligman, my three-times great-uncle and Wolfgang’s great-great-uncle.

How Did My Great-Aunt Frieda’s Death Certificate End Up There?

This is a mystery without a solution—yet. Perhaps one of you can help me solve it.

Many months ago I received a message on Ancestry from a member named Dale who told me that she had a stamped and certified copy of the death certificate for my great-aunt Frieda Brotman.  Frieda was my grandmother’s younger sister, and she had been married to Harry Coopersmith for about a year when she died shortly after giving birth to their son Max.  Max had died as well.

Frieda Brotman Coopersmith death cert

 

Dale had been going through her parents’ papers and found not only Frieda’s death certificate, but military records for Frieda’s husband Harry Coopersmith and two photographs that Dale thought might be of Harry. She had seen that I had Frieda and Harry on my Ancestry tree and wondered if I was interested in the papers.

Well, of course, I was more than interested. Dale kindly offered to send me the documents and photographs. And since then we have been trying to figure out why these papers would have been among her parents’ belongings.  Since both of Dale’s parents have passed away, she had no one to ask.

Dale believed that these papers had belonged at one time to her great-aunt Anna Yurdin Haas.  Anna was her father’s mother’s sister. She was born in New York City to Russian immigrant parents in about 1895 and had lived in upper Manhattan as a child; in 1920 when she was 25, she was living with several of her younger siblings in the Bronx, working as a clerk in an office.

Anna Yurdin and family 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Bronx Assembly District 5, Bronx, New York; Roll: T625_1137; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 286

On the 1930 census, Anna reported that she was married to Burton Haas, and they were living at 7035 Broadway in Queens.  Burton Haas came from a whole different class—he grew up on Central Park West in Manhattan; his parents were American born from German and Austrian backgrounds. He went to Dartmouth. He served overseas during World War I, enlisting on June 14, 1917 and being honorably discharged on May 6, 1919.

According to the 1930 census, Anna and Burton had been married about eight years in 1930, meaning they had married in about 1922.  There were no children living with them. Burton was a real estate broker, Anna a cashier for a theater. In 1940 they were still living in Queens at 35-30 73rd Street and had been in the same place in 1935. There were still no children. Burton was still a real estate broker, and Anna was the assistant treasurer of a theater.

Anna Yurdin and Burton Haas on the 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Queens, Queens, New York; Roll: 1590; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0197; FHL microfilm: 2341325

Then things get a little odd. On August 9, 1940, Burton Haas and Anna Yurdin were married in Norfolk, Virginia. At that point they had in fact been living together and holding themselves out as husband and wife for almost twenty years. But perhaps they had never really married until 1940.

Anna Yurdin and Burton Haas marriage record
Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Marriages, 1936-2014; Roll: 101166979

On his World War II draft card in 1942, Burton reported that he had his own business at 62 West 45th Street in Manhattan; they were still living at the same address in Queens. Burton died a year later on July 21, 1943, in Queens.  Anna died in 1983; they are both buried at Linden Hill Jewish cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens. Anna never remarried.

Comparing this to Harry and Frieda’s timeline, I see no overlap. While Anna grew up in upper Manhattan and then lived in the Bronx and finally Queens and Burton also grew up in upper Manhattan and went to college, Harry and Frieda were both born and raised in the Lower East Side.  Harry had served in the US Army from August 31, 1919, until his honorable discharge on September 6, 1922, so he did not overlap in the service at all with Burton Haas.

Harry married Frieda in 1923. Frieda had worked in a sweatshop as a finisher with feathers until she married Harry. They were still living on the Lower East Side in a tenement when she died on May 10, 1924, just days after giving birth to their son Max.

After Frieda died, Harry quickly married again. He married Nettie Lichtenstein sometime in 1924, presumably outside of New York City as no marriage records were located for them. Nettie was a recent immigrant; according to the 1930 census, she had arrived in 1920.  Their first son David was born on June 16, 1925 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Two more sons followed— Lawrence in 1926 and Samuel in 1928, both born in New York. In 1930 Harry and his family were still living in the Lower East Side. Harry was working as a taxi driver.

Harry Coopersmith and family 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1550; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0148; FHL microfilm: 2341285

By 1940, Harry’s family was in pieces.  Nettie was institutionalized at Kings Park State Hospital in Smithtown, Long Island, and the three boys were living in Island Park, Hempstead, Long Island, as boarders (I assume as foster children) with the family of Jacob and Pauline Davis and their sons. I have not found any familial connection between the Davis family and Harry or Nettie. Jacob was in the printing business, and he and Pauline had been living in Island Park since at least 1930. Before that, they had lived in the Bronx and upper Manhattan, nowhere near Harry or Nettie. I have no idea how they ended up with the three Coopersmith boys. Neither one ever lived on the Lower East Side.

Coopersmith sons boarding with David family 1940
Year: 1940; Census Place: Hempstead, Nassau, New York; Roll: T627_2685; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 30-82

Harry does not appear anywhere on the 1940 census and does not resurface on any records until 1945 when military records report that he was still living on the Lower East Side and had enlisted in the New York Guard on April 23, 1945 and had been discharged on June 26, 1946.

Harry Coopersmith New York Guard record
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; Collection: New York, New York Guard Service Cards and Enlistment Records, 1906-1918, 1940-1948; Series: B2000; Film Number: 45

The last records I have for Harry are his veteran’s burial records, showing that he died on January 14, 1956 and was buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. Interestingly, a plot next to Harry was to be reserved for his widow Nettie, who was then residing in Bohemia, New York, also on Long Island. I don’t know if Harry had been living with her at the time of his death.

Given the absence of any overlap in places lived or worked between Harry and Anna Yurdin Haas or Harry and Burton Haas, I have no idea how or why Anna would have come into possession of Harry’s military papers or Frieda’s death certificate.

As for the two photographs, I am not even sure that they are pictures of Harry. I sent them to Harry’s grandson, but he had never met his grandfather and did not have any pictures of him. He sent me a picture of himself, and perhaps there is some slight resemblance, but not enough to determine if the photographs are of Harry Coopersmith.

Harrys grandson

Assuming they are photographs of Harry, they were likely taken in the 1940s, according to Ava Cohn, the expert in photography analysis. That would mean that the person who somehow came to possess these documents knew Harry in the 1940s.  He is in his military uniform in one of the photographs, so that means the photograph was probably taken some time in 1945 to 1946 since that was when Harry was in the New York Guard. At that point Anna Yurdin Haas was a widow, living in Queens, New York. Perhaps she and Harry somehow became friends or lovers.  After all, Harry’s wife Nettie was institutionalized, his sons were in foster care of some kind, and Harry was on his own. That seems like one possible explanation for how these papers ended up in Anna Yurdin’s possession.

The other possibility is that the papers never belonged to Anna Yurdin, but perhaps to Dale’s father Howard Halpern. Dale is not entirely certain that they had belonged to Anna. If they belonged instead to her father, how would he have known Harry?

Howard Halpern was the son of David Halpern and Anna Yurdin’s sister May Yurdin (sometimes identified as Mary). He was born in 1919 in New York and lived in the Bronx in 1920, but by 1925 had moved to Queens, living in the same Jackson Heights neighborhood where his aunt Anna and her husband Burton were living in 1930 and thereafter.  By 1930, however, Howard and his parents and brother had moved to Long Beach, Long Island, and were no longer in Queens. They were still living there in 1940.

Halpern family 1940
Year: 1940; Census Place: Long Beach, Nassau, New York; Roll: T627_2690; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 30-209

Maybe Howard knew one of Harry’s sons. They were a bit younger than Howard, but Howard lived in Long Beach starting in 1930, and Harry’s sons were in Island Park in Hempstead by 1940. The two towns are about a mile apart, as seen on this map.

Howard had a younger brother Alvin, born in 1925, who would have been the same age as David Coopersmith and only a year older than Lawrence and three years older than Samuel.  According to the current Island Park School District webpage, today students in Island Park have a choice of attending two high schools in the area, one of them being Long Beach High School. That might also have been true in the 1940s when the Coopersmith boys and Howard and Alvin Halpern were in high school.

So my second hunch is that Alvin and his brother Howard knew the Coopersmith sons from Long Beach High School or from Hebrew school or some other community sports or activity.

But that doesn’t solve the mystery of why Howard Halpern had Frieda Brotman Coopersmith’s death certificate or Harry’s discharge papers. That the Coopersmith boys had their father’s military discharge papers is somewhat understandable—but why would they have had the death certificate for their father’s first wife, a woman with whom they had no connection at all? And why would Dale’s father Howard have ended up with those papers?

I don’t know. But David Coopersmith named his son Lee Howard Coopersmith—perhaps for his childhood friend Howard Halpern? If he was such a close friend, wouldn’t Dale have heard of him?

As I mentioned above, I have been in touch with one of Harry’s grandsons, but he had no information that shed light on this mystery. I am now trying to contact Harry’s great-granddaughter, who has a tree on Ancestry. Perhaps she will know. At the very least, she might be able to tell me if the photographs are indeed of Harry Coopersmith. But it’s been almost two months, and she has not responded to me.

Let me know your thoughts.

 

Seligman(n)s in the News

One of the great advantages I had when I was researching my Santa Fe Seligman family was the availability of numerous newspaper articles about members of the family. Because my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman and his son Arthur Seligman were both important business and political leaders in Santa Fe, there was extensive coverage of their lives—and not just their business and political lives, but also their personal lives. The news articles gave me great insights into their personalities and the way they were perceived in their communities.

Now my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann has uncovered more articles—not only about the Santa Fe Seligmans but also about their relatives abroad.

My favorite article of those uncovered by Wolfgang is this one, an obituary of my three-times great-grandmother Babette Schoenfeld Seligmann from the February 2, 1899 issue of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Obituary of Babette Schoenfeld Seligmann, Santa Fe New Mexican, February 2, 1899

Death of Mrs. M[oritz] Seligman

Hon. Bernard Seligman received the sad intelligence today, that Mrs. M. Seligman, mother of Bernard and Adolf Seligman, of this city, died at Gau-Algesheim, Germany, January 15, 1899, at the advanced age of 89. She left seven children, two daughters and five sons, all living, in England, Germany and the United States.  Mrs. Seligman was a remarkable women in many ways, she brought up her children to be honorable and valuable citizens, as might be inferred from the honored career of the two sons who have for so long been esteemed members of this community, and who are so widely respected throughout New Mexico.  Mrs. Seligman was a woman of rugged and sterling good sense, and a just, affectionate parent, and the many friends of Messrs. Seligman in this territory will sympathize with them in their loss.

The Sante Fe New Mexican reporter could not have known Babette, so the descriptions must have come from her sons Bernard and Adolf.  They reveal so much about Babette’s personality and how she was perceived and loved by her sons.

Here she is on the far right with two of her sons, James on the left, Adolf on the right, with her granddaughter Anna Oppenheimer in the center and her daughter-in-law Henrietta on the far left. (Sorry, I don’t know the name of the dog.)

Far right, Babette Schoenfeld Seligmann with two of her sons, Jakob/James and Adolf, James’ wife Henrietta, and in the center, granddaughter Anna Oppenheimer.

I thought this little news item that Wolfgang found was also interesting. It is an announcement of the dissolution of a London wine business owned by three of the Seligmann brothers: Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August Seligmann, his younger brother Hieronymus Seligmann, and the youngest sibling, James Seligman.   James, who was born Jakob, was the brother who left Germany for England and Scotland, unlike my great-great-grandfather Bernard and his brother Adolf, who went to New Mexico, or August and Hieronymus, who stayed in Germany.  The notice announced the takeover of the wine business in England by James alone as of the end of July, 1890.

London Gazette, March 20, 1891

I knew that James had been a wine merchant, but was not aware that his brothers were his partners initially. James was ultimately quite successful and, according to my cousin Lotte, owned hotels in Great Britain.

Wolfgang also found a notice in the July 15, 1930 issue of the London Gazette notifying those with possible claims against the estate of James Seligman of his death on March 11, 1930, and outlining what they needed to do to pursue those claims. It’s interesting that a man as successful as James died intestate (i.e., without a will).  The National Provisional Bank Limited and James’ widow Clara had been appointed administrators of his estate.  It was the settlement of James Seligman’s estate and the bank’s search for his heirs that led me to so many other Seligmann relatives.

London Gazette July 15, 1930

Two articles that Wolfgang sent were stories I’d not seen before about my great-uncle Arthur Seligman. The first is a profile of him published in the January 13, 1904, Santa Fe New Mexican (p. 9). The biographical information I have reported elsewhere so I will just quote a few excerpts from this article, written when Arthur was a County Commissioner in Santa Fe.

Describing the current status and success of the Seligman Brother’s mercantile business in Santa Fe, of which Arthur was then a director and secretary-treasurer, the article states, “Model methods, courteous treatment, absolutely fair dealing, and prompt service have characterized the business of the firm since 1856, and are today the mottoes of the two young men [Arthur and his younger brother James L. Seligman] conducting it.”

About Arthur specifically, the article states that he “is very popular in his home city.   [His success in the election as a County Commissioner] is good evidence that he is liked and respected where best known. It is a fact universally acknowledged that he has filled the important position of County Commissioner for the First District, for the past three years with marked ability, constant efficiency, and great benefit to the taxpayers and property owners, and that he has aided greatly in bringing about a very large and gratifying reduction in county expenses since taking office on the first of January, 1901.”

The article then goes on to praise his other roles and accomplishments, concluding by saying, “He is as enterprising, progressive and good a citizen as Santa Fe can boast of.”

Six years later Arthur was elected mayor of Santa Fe and was featured on the front page of the April 6, 1910, issue of the Santa Fe New Mexican. The articles provide a biography and a description of his plans for Santa Fe during his upcoming term as mayor.

Santa Fe New Mexican, April 6, 1910, p. 1

Twenty years later, Arthur would be elected governor of New Mexico. Here he is attending the 1932 Democratic convention in Atlantic City, accompanied by my cousin Marjorie Cohen and my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen, his sister.

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, Cohen and Eva May Seligman Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

Much thanks to my dear cousin Wolfgang for finding and sharing these articles about our relatives.

 

 

 

A Year with the Katzensteins

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, my great-grandmother

When I finish (as much as we ever finish) telling the story of a particular family line, I always have mixed feelings. In some ways I feel a sense of relief—I’ve accomplished my goal. It feels good to know that I’ve covered to the best of my ability the story of my direct ancestors and their descendants in that family as well as the stories of their siblings and their descendants.

But it is also in some ways bittersweet. Each family brings its own color and depth to my family history, and each time I’ve been so fortunate to find living descendants—people who share that history, but know it from a different perspective. As I move away from that story, it feels like leaving a family after a long visit.  You’ve just gotten to know them, and now it’s time to move on. Not that I ever forget, and I always try and stay connected with the cousins I’ve found, but my focus shifts. So it’s a separation, and those are always bittersweet.

I have been studying the Katzenstein family for over a year now, starting with my great-great-grandfather Gerson and his descendants and then on to each of his siblings and their stories. I have found and in some cases met wonderful new cousins—many cousins who descend from Gerson’s sister Rahel and her husband Jacob Katz and who settled in Kentucky and Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Abraham Katz and family c. 1906
courtesy of the Katz family

Jake Katz
Photo found in Stanley Tucker Whitney Houston, Stillwater (Arcadia Publishing 2014), p. 38

There were the descendants of Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach who lived in West Virginia and Maryland. These are all places where I never imagined I had cousins.

Some of those cousins came as children from Germany with their parents to escape Hitler. Some ended up in the US, others in South America, South Africa, and Israel.

Front row: Eva Baumann, Fred Abrahams, Martin Abrahams, Margot Baumann. Courtesy of Martin Abrahams

Other cousins have roots in the US going back to the Civil War. One cousin fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

H.H. Mansbach
Courtesy of John Fazenbaker at FindAGrave
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=85694927&PIpi=56133066

My cousins were mostly merchants, and some were cattle ranchers.  One of my great-grandmother’s brothers lost his wife and child in the Johnstown Flood. Some cousins lived incredibly long lives; some died far too young. Some were wealthy; some were not. And some never made it out of Germany. Far too many were killed by the Nazis. One was still singing at 93, and one was killed by a terrorist when he was in his 30s.

It has been a fascinating and rewarding year for me. I have learned so much about this family and about my Jesberg roots—the town where my great-great-grandfather Gerson grew up and the town he left as a young man with three children in 1856 to come to Philadelphia. My great-grandmother Hilda never saw Jesberg, the town where her father was born and where three of her siblings were born. But I did. I was able to visit Jesberg in May and see where my Katzenstein family had its roots. It was a moving experience that would not have been nearly as meaningful if I hadn’t already spent seven months learning about all those Katzenstein ancestors who lived there.

So it is bittersweet to move on.

I have now written about all eight of my great-grandparents—-Joseph Brotman, Bessie Brod, Moritz Goldschlager, Ghitla Rosenzweig, Emanuel Cohen, Eva Mae Seligman, Isidor Schoenthal, and Hilda Katzenstein. Those are eight of the family names with which I had the most familiarity before I ever started down this path.[1] The names ahead are less familiar—the names of some of my great-great-grandparents—Jacobs, Hamberg, Dreyfuss, Goldschmidt, Schoenfeld, Bernheim, Bernstein, and so on. Which one comes next?

Stay tuned. But first some posts to catch up on a few other matters.

[1] I did not know the birth names of my great-grandmothers Bessie and Ghitla. And I did know one more name—Nusbaum, my father’s middle name and the birth name of my great-great-grandmother Frances Nusbaum Seligman.

An Amazing Treasure

I hope everyone who celebrates had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with gratitude.  This post is about a family heirloom.  It doesn’t belong to me, but it is nevertheless something for which I am grateful because it is part of the legacy of my Katzenstein ancestors. I am just about done writing about the Katzenstein line, but before I move on, I want to share this treasure.

I have referred often on the blog to the work of David Baron, who has done an incredible job of researching the Katzenstein family. David is the husband of Roger Cibella, who is the three-times great-grandson of Gerson Katzenstein, my great-great-grandfather. Roger’s great-great-grandfather was Scholem Joseph Katzenstein, who settled in western Pennsylvania and probably was the one who introduced his little sister Hilda, my great-grandmother, to my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal. And Roger is my third cousin, once removed.

Roger owns a siddur (a Jewish prayer book) that belonged to our mutual ancestor, Gerson Katzenstein. The inner pages of the front and back cover of the siddur contain inscriptions by Gerson marking the births of each of his six children beginning with the birth of Roger’s great-great-grandfather Scholem (with the middle name Abraham here, not Joseph, which I found interesting) in 1848 through the birth of my great-grandmother Hilda in 1863.

Roger and David kindly shared with me images of the inscriptions as well as an image of some of the text of the siddur.  They also sent me a translation of the inscriptions and information about the siddur provided by the scholar, Arthur Lagawier.[1] The information below came from Lagawier’s report to Roger and David:

The book is entitled Beit Rachel v’ Sha’ar Hallel-Ya [House of Rachel and Gate of Praise], and it was edited by Rabbi Naftali ben Isaac Ha Cohen. Rabbi Naftali was born in Ostroh, Ukraine, in 1649 and died in 1719. He married Esther Sheindl, the daughter of Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Zak of Ostroh, and he headed the yeshiva that his father-in-law built for him in that town. After Rabbi Shmuel died, Rabbi Naftali succeeded him as rabbi. Rabbi Naftali and his wife had fourteen children, seven sons and seven daughters.

In 1704 he became the rabbi of Frankfurt, but in 1711, a fire broke out in his home and spread, burning down several hundred homes. Four people died in the fire, and Rabbi Naftali was accused of setting the fire and was put in jail. After he was released, he went to Prague and then Breslau. Rabbi Naftali wrote several books, prayers, and hymns as well as the siddur once owned by Gerson Katzenstein. The prayer book was first published in Amsterdam in 1741, but the one Roger owns is probably a later reprint.

The book includes the daily prayers and those for Shabbat and holidays as well as other holiday readings and commentary on the prayers and other readings.  It also contains the entire book of psalms.

I asked for help on the Tracing the Tribe site in translating the handwritten inscriptions because the translations by Arthur Lagawier did not always read clearly. Thank you so much to Baruch Miller for his work in translating them. I have also included some of the content of Lagawier’s translations.  The inscriptions in the inside of the front cover translate as follows:

For the son later known as S.J. Katzenstein:

My son Shalom Avraham, born on Tuesday night (third day of the week), the 24th of the month of Av, the week of the Torah portion Re’eh, in the year 5608, corresponding to the 23rd of August, 1848. May the Eternal grant my son to learn the Torah, to be married, and to do good deeds throughout his life, amen.  Signed: Gershon Ben Abraham Shalom Ha Cohen, Morah [teacher].

For the second son, known as Jacob:

My son Yakov Solomon, also called Yerkev, on the fifth night of the week, the 2(?) of the first month of Adar, the week of the Torah portion Ki Sisa, in the year 5611, or 1851. He should grow to Torah, the chuppah, and good deeds. Gershon  

For Brendina, the third child:

My daughter Branche, Briencha (Bertha), Born in the month of Kislev in [5]612, according to the non-jewish calendar the year 1853.  May the Eternal grant to her to grow up….Signed: Gershon

(Some parts of these inscriptions were not legible, but one can assume they all followed the formula asking that the children grow up to Torah, chuppah (marriage), and good deeds.)

On the inside of the back cover of the book are the inscriptions for the last three children born to Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt:

For the third son and fourth child, Perry:

My son Pesachya, born Tuesday, the 25th of Av, 5616. He should grow to Torah, the chuppah, and good deeds. August 1856 in Philadelphia. Gershon, son of Avraham Shalom, the righteous kohen.

This is the inscription for their fifth child, Hannah.  Reading this inscription is very sad because Hannah died a week before her seventh birthday in December 1866:

My daughter Henit/Hencha, born on Friday, 17 days in the month of Tevet in [5]619.  May God she grow up strong and do good deeds, get married, amen. Born on December 24th, 1859 in Philadelphia, Signed by  Gershon, son of Avraham Shalom the kohen.

And finally, my great-grandmother Hilda, named for her maternal grandmother Hincka Alexander, wife of Seligmann Goldschmidt:

My daughter Chinke.  Born Monday, three days in Elul, the 17 of September [August] 1863.  May God grant that she will grow up… Signed Gershon, son of Avraham Shalom, the righteous kohen, in Philadelphia.

 

Leah Cohen of the TTT group pointed out that Gerson described himself as “the small”  or ha-Koten in several inscriptions. Leah, Baruch and I could not understand why he referred to himself this way, unless it was a form of modesty.

Someday perhaps I will get to meet Roger and David and hold this treasure in my hands, but for now I am delighted to have the photographs and the knowledge that this siddur is in good hands with Roger and David.

 

 

[1] According to this website, “[Arthur] Lagawier was a frequent lecturer in Judaism at the University of Washington. He taught religious school at Herzl congregation, served as Director of Jewish Education at the Jewish Community Center, and independently founded the Institute of Jewish Studies, where he taught non-profit classes from 1965 to 1969.”

Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander: Mystery Solved!

Back on October 24, 2017, I wrote about Regina Katzenstein, the daughter of Mina Katzenstein and her husband Wolf Katzenstein. Mina Katzenstein was a daughter of Jacob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion and was the niece of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein. Her daughter Regina was thus my paternal grandmother’s first cousin.

Regina married Selig Alexander of Frankenau, and they had seven children, but only four lived to adulthood: Bertha, Rosa, Mina, and Samuel. I learned that Regina, Seligman, and three of their children had escaped to South Africa in the 1930s, but I had no luck finding out what had happened to their oldest daughter Bertha. I knew she had married Julius Simon of Pohl-Goens in 1922, but that was it. I didn’t know whether they had any children or whether they had survived the Holocaust. They just seemed to have disappeared.

I asked Aaron Knappstein if he could help, and he soon sent me this wonderful photograph of Julius Simon taken when he was serving in the German military during World War I. But I’d given up on ever finding out what had happened to Julius and Bertha after 1922.

And then last week Aaron shocked me by emailing me that he had learned what had happened to Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander. Aaron had written to Dr. Dieter Wolf, the head of the museum and archives for the city of Butzbach, Germany, and Dr. Wolf had responded with detailed information about Julius and Bertha. Now I have closure on one of the most perplexing mysteries in my research of the Katzenstein family.

Dr. Wolf relied on a review of documents including address books from Pohl-Goens but primarily on a book written by Werner Reusch in 1998 entitled Wäi the Bimbel noach ean Polgies gehale hoat. Pohl-Göns in the 20th century (Selbstverlag Butzbach-Ebersgöns 1998). [I have no idea what that title means, and neither did Google Translate.  Does anyone?] UPDATE: See the comment from Michael Zorn below. Michael lives in Pohl-Gons and informed me that the title means “When the Steam Train Stopped in Pohl-Gons.” Thank you, Michael.

The book not only includes information about the family of Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander; it includes several photographs of them. Here is one of Julius and Bertha with both Bertha’s parents and Julius’ parents taken in 1923; I believe the young boy was Julius’ nephew.

Back row: Bertha Alexander, Regina Katzenstein Alexander, Selig Alexander, and Julius Simon in 1923 (found at p. 263 of Werner Reusch’s book, Wäi die Bimbel noach ean Polgies gehale hoat. Pohl-Göns im 20. Jahrhundert.  Selbstverlag Butzbach-Ebersgöns 1998

According to Dr. Wolf and Werner Reusch, Bertha and Julius had two children, a daughter Senta, born in 1926, and a son Martin, who died before his first birthday. He was born on September 9, 1928, and died on January 9, 1929; Martin is buried in Pohl-Goens.  According to Werner Reusch, the Simon family was a distinguished family in the town.

When Julius received a warning that he was going to be arrested by the Nazis in early 1936, he and Bertha and Senta left immediately, first going to Frankfurt for a short time and then to Johannesburg, South Africa, where Bertha’s parents and siblings also settled as well as many of Julius’ relatives. This is a photograph from Reusch’s book of Senta, Julius, and Bertha in 1940 in Johannesburg.

Senta Simon, Julius Simon, and Bertha Alexander Simon, 1940 Johannesburg. Found in Werner’s Reusch’s book Wäi die Bimbel noach ean Polgies gehale hoat. Pohl-Göns im 20. Jahrhundert. Selbstverlag Butzbach-Ebersgöns 1998, p. 264

In 1966, Bertha, Julius, and Senta left South Africa and moved to Israel, where they settled in Rehovoth. Julius died there in January 1987; my cousin Bertha Alexander Simon lived to 101, dying in February 1995. Here is a photograph of her celebrating her 100th birthday in Israel.

Bertha Alexander Simon celebrating her 100th birthday in Israel. Found on p, 264 in Werner Reusch’s book, Wäi die Bimbel noach ean Polgies gehale hoat. Pohl-Göns im 20. Jahrhundert. Selbstverlag Butzbach-Ebersgöns 1998

In addition to their daughter Senta, Bertha and Julius were survived by two granddaughters.

Thank you once again to Aaron Knappstein, who has proven time and time again that he is an excellent and persistent researcher and a good friend.

 

 

 

 

Last but Not Least, Levi Katzenstein and His Heroic Great-Grandson, Arye Katzenstein

How painful it must have been for this family to lose a son to terrorism in Germany in 1970 after escaping from the Nazis in Germany less than forty years before.  This is the story of the family of Levi Katzenstein, the youngest child of the nine children of my three-times great-uncle Jakob Katzenstein and his wife Sarchen Lion. With this post I will have covered as best I can at this point the lives of all the descendants of Scholem Katzensten, my 4-times great-grandfather.

In some ways Levi’s story reflects the stories of all his siblings; there are children who died young or who were stillborn. There are children who were killed in the Holocaust. And there are children who escaped from Nazi Germany and whose descendants are alive today in various places in the world. And in this family, there was a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect other people.

Levi was born on May 29, 1851, in Jesberg. He married Jeanette Bendheim on August 13, 1878.  Jeanette was born July 17, 1858, in Friedberg, Germany, daughter of Wolf Bendheim and Johanette Schering or maybe Schwarz (the mother’s birth name is very hard to read; these were the possibilities given by members of the Jekkes group on Facebook. I can’t read it at all.).

Marriage record for Levi Katzenstein

Marriage record of Levi Katzenstein and Jeanette Bendheim Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 924; Laufende Nummer: 546

Levi and Jeanette had six children, four sons and two daughters. Their firstborn was Kathinka, born on November 25, 1879, in Jesberg.

Kathinka Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3810

Then came two sons, Jakob and David. Jakob was born February 25, 1882, six years after the death of his grandfather Jakob for whom he must have been named.

Jakob Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3813

David was born two years later on March 3, 1884.

David Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3815

Sadly, the fourth child did not make it to her first birthday. Sara was born July 14, 1886, and died on May 11, 1887.

Sara Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3885

The last two children were boys. Sally Katzenstein was born on April 10, 1890, and Max Katzenstein was born on May 15, 1893.

Sally Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3821

Max Katzenstein birth record
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3824 Standesamt Jesberg Geburtsnebenregister 1893, S. 29

Thanks to Barbara Greve, I can share this photograph of the house in Jesberg where Levi and Jeanette Katzenstein raised their children:

Home of Levi Katzenstein in Jesberg

Four of the five children of Levi and Jeanette Katzenstein married and had children. Kathinka married Meier Bamberger on August 8, 1905, in Jesberg. Meier was born on June 8, 1878, in Holzheim, Germany, the son of Joseph Bamberger and Settchen Meier.

Kathinka Katzenstein and Meier Bamberger marriage record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3860

Kathinka and Meier Bamberger had one child who survived, a daughter Gertrud born in Holzheim on May 7, 1910, and also had a stillborn child on December 9, 1915.

stillborn child of Kathinka and Meier Bamberger
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 905; Laufende Nummer: 796

Kathinka’s brother Jacob married Auguste Wallach on February 11, 1908, in Oberaula, Germany. Auguste was the daughter of Manus Wallach and Roschen Stern, and she was born on August 7, 1882, in Oberaula.

Marriage record of Jakob Katzenstein and Auguste Wallach
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6351

Jacob and Auguste had one child, a son named Benjamin Willi born in Jesberg on November 18, 1908, according to the research done by Barbara Greve.

David Katzenstein married Gertrude Spier on January 7, 1912 in Merzhausen, Germany. Gertrude, the daughter of Juda Spier and Jeanette Rothschild, was born in Willinghausen, Merzhausen, Germany, on December 10, 1887.

Marriage record of David Katzenstein and Gertrude Spier
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 8870

David and Gertrude had a stillborn baby on October 27, 1912, and then three more children: Heinz (1913), Erich (1919), and Ursula (1923). Here is David Katzenstein’s house, as provided to me by Barbara Greve:

David Katzenstein’s house in Jesberg

The fourth surviving child of Levi and Jeanette was Sally Katzenstein. He married Gretha Nussbaum on December 24, 1913, in Wurda, Germany. She was the daughter of Joseph Nussbaum and Rickchen  Stein, born in Rhina, Germany, on August 5, 1991.

Marriage record of Sally Katzenstein and Gretha Nussbaum
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 907; Laufende Nummer: 6935

Sally and Gretha had two daughters, Elfriede (1914) and Ruth-Rika (1924).

The youngest child of Levi Katzenstein and Jeanette Bendheim was their son Max. Tragically, Max was killed fighting for Germany in World War I on June 4, 1915. According to Barbara Greve’s research, Max served as a musketeer in the Third Company of the 7th Infantry, Regiment No. 142. He was 22 years old. Given what happened to some of his siblings, his sacrifice for Germany is especially tragic.

Max Katzenstein death record
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3913 Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1915, S. 27

Levi and Jeanette Katzenstein had thus already lost two of their children—their daughter Sara and their son Max. Then on May 17, 1921, they lost yet another child, their only other daughter Kathinka Katzenstein Bamberger. She was only 41 years old and left behind her husband Meier and their eleven year old daughter Gertrud.

Kathinka Katzenstein Bamberger death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 905; Laufende Nummer: 797

Meier remarried seven months later on December 23, 1921; his second wife was Zerline Kahn, stepmother to little Gertrud.

After Kathinka’s death, Levi and Jeanette had only their three sons Jakob, David, and Sally surviving as well as their grandchildren. Levi died on April 3, 1929, and Jeanette died a year later on July 22, 1930.

Levi Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3920

Jeanette Bendheim Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3921

They are both buried in Jesberg, as seen in this photograph I took while in Jesberg in May:

Levi Katzenstein and Jeanette Bendheim Katzenstein, Jesberg cemetery

Levi and Jeanette’s remaining family did not get to stay in their ancestral town of Jesberg. According to Barbara Greve, David Katzenstein was forced to sell his home and farm after the Nazis came to power. He and his family left for Palestine in 1934. His brother Jakob left three years later in 1937.

Jakob and David and their families survived the Holocaust and settled in Palestine where, as these documents reveal, they became naturalized citizens.

Naturalization petition and citizenship order in Palestine for David Katzenstein and
Gertrude Spier
http://www.archives.gov.il/en/

Naturalization petition and citizenship order in Palestine for David Katzenstein and Gertrude Spier http://www.archives.gov.il/en/

Palestine Application for Naturalization for Jakob Katzenstein and Auguste Wallach http://www.archives.gov.il/en/

Palestine Citizenship Order for Jakob Katzenstein and Auguste Wallach http://www.archives.gov.il/en/

Their younger brother Sally and his wife Gretha as well as their niece Gertrud Bamberger and her father and stepmother were not as fortunate.  They were all murdered by the Nazis. Gertrud Bamberger, her father Meier Bamberger and stepmother Zerline Kahn Bamberger were deported to the concentration camp at Treblinka on September 30, 1942, where they were killed. (The links are to their entries in the Yad Vashem database.)

The fate of Sally Katzenstein and his wife Greta Nussbaum Katzenstein and their two daughters was described in detail on this website describing the Stolpersteine for the village of Minden, Germany. I will quote from this website, which tells in chilling terms the story of this Katzenstein family:

Sally Katzenstein was a teacher and a preacher. He taught in an Israeli school in Breitenbach, North Hessen, from 1911 and from 1921 until 1934 at the state school in Soest. At both schools he also had the responsibility for teaching four hours each week at a school for further education. In Soest he was [a] preacher to the Synagogue congregation.

Shortly after the National Socialists took over power on the 7th April, 1933, the law for the Reinstatement of the Career Civil Servants was passed. This was to enable the removal of unwanted officials, especially Jews, from governmental posts. Sally Katzstein also fell foul of this law and on 29th March, 1934, lost his occupation as a teacher.

On 1st September, 1935, the family moved to Minden and found a home in Wilhelmstrasse 18. Sally Katzenstein became the local representative for the National Association of Jews in Germany and later preacher to the Synagogue Community. As Jewish children were banned from State schools he held lessons in private rooms.

After the November Pogrom of 1938 Sally Katzenstein was required to pay 1.400 Reichsmark tax on his fortune. These taxes were cynically called ‘Jewish Punishment Tax’. With this money the Jews had to pay for damage that had been done to their property, by others, during the Pogrom.

In 1939 the family tried to emigrate to Palestine but only their daughter, Ruth Rika, was given permission to leave. Her sister, Elfriede, had emigrated in 1936. In 1941 Sally and Gretha submitted an application to emigrate to the USA and permission was granted but then was foiled by the USA entering the war.

In 1941 the Katzensteins were forced to leave their home and to move into the so called Jewish house in Kampstrasse 6, The Jewish community house together with lots of other Jews, in very cramped conditions.

In the spring of 1943 Sally and Gretha Katzenstein were the last Jews living in Minden but they were arrested and taken to Bielefeld and from there were deported to Teresienstadt. From there they were taken separately to Auschwitz where they were both murdered in October 1944.

Fortunately, both of Sally and Gretha’s daughters survived. Elfriede, their older daughter, married to Siegfried Berliner, settled in Palestine, now Israel, where she died on December 8, 2011, according to this obituary. She was 97 years old and had three children.  Her sister Ruth Rika Katzenstein married Harold Rosenberg and settled in Scotland where Ruth was registered as a nurse for many years. I have not yet found a death record for Ruth nor do I know whether she had any children.

There is one final tragic story to tell about the descendants of Levi Katzenstein. As noted above, two of his sons, Jacob and David, immigrated to Palestine in the 1930s. David and his wife Gertrude had three children: Heinz, Erich, and Ursula. Heinz had a son named Arye born in Haifa, Israel, in 1937.

On February 10, 1970, Heinz was seriously injured and Arye was killed during a terrorist attack on a bus that was supposed to take them from the Munich Airport terminal to an El Al jet they were planning to board. The details were described in a September 6, 2015, obituary for Uriel Cohen, an El Al pilot who had tried to stop the attack:

The attack in Germany occurred on February 10, 1970, at 12:50pm. An El Al plane on Flight 435 from Israel had landed at the airport shortly before. Some passengers intended to continue to London, [and] were on their way to a bus that would take them to a connecting flight. A scream was suddenly heard and three young Arab men came from the direction of the transit hall stairs, shouting and running towards the bus, ordering passengers to put their hands up.

The captain tackled the assailants, but they managed to toss two hand grenades at the bus. One of the terrorists pulled out a gun, and another grenade was thrown. Arye Katzenstein of Haifa, 32 at the time, was on the bus with his father and sprinted towards one of the grenades. He used his body to prevent other passengers from being wounded. He died at the scene and his father was severely wounded.

Arye Katzenstein, my fourth cousin, was a hero. His family had left Germany to escape from the Nazis, and almost forty years later he was killed in Germany while trying to protect others from a terrorist attack.

It does make me wonder whether hate will ever end.  It also makes me realize that there will always be good people who will fight that hate and provide us all with hope and inspiration.

 

Pauline, Baruch, and Meier: Heartbreaking Stories

I am now more than half way through the nine children of  my three-times great-uncle Jakob Katzenstein and his wife Sarchen Lion; there are four more to go, and this post will cover three of them: Pauline, Baruch, and Meier. Special thanks to Cathy Meder-Dempsey for her help in translating some of the records in this post.

Sadly, I have very little to report about Pauline. She was born on May 12, 1841, in Jesberg, and died in Jesberg 61 years later on December 27, 1902. She did not marry or have children and presumably lived in Jesberg all her life.

Death record of Pauline Katzenstein
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3900 Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1902, S. 49

As explained to me by Cathy Meder-Dempsey, the marginal notation refers to the fact that Pauline died without an occupation. She is buried in the cemetery in Jesberg, where I took this photograph of her gravestone.

Pauline Katzenstein, daughter of Jacob Katzenstein

I am sorry that I do not know more about her life.

Baruch, the seventh child of Jakob and Sarchen, was born April 30, 1844, in Jesberg, and died there when he was 75 on March 26, 1920.

Baruch Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3915

I also know very little about his life. Although I could not locate a marriage record, it appears that Baruch married Auguste Bertha Schlesinger, according to her death record.  She was born in Gladenbach in 1850 and died in Jesberg on November 2, 1890. She was the daughter of Feitel Schlesinger and Gelle Wolf, according to her death record.

Death record of August Bertha Schlesinger wife of Baruch Katzenstein
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3888

I was able to photograph the headstone for Baruch Katzenstein in Jesberg, but I don’t know where Auguste was buried. She died thirty years before Baruch and before the “new” Jesberg cemetery was being used. She should have been buried at Haarhausen cemetery, where the other Katzenstein family members were buried before Jesberg opened its own cemetery. But there is no record of her burial there on the LAGIS website, nor can I find a record of her burial at any of the other Hesse region Jewish cemeteries. Also, as far as I can tell, she and Baruch did not have any children.

Baruch Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein

Fortunately I have a little more information about Jakob and Sarchen Lion’s eighth child, Meier, but it is a very sad story.  Meier was born April 26, 1849. Sometime before September 1876, he married Auguste Wolf, who was born on October 27, 1851, in Gladenbach, Germany, to Folk Wolf and Ester Stern.

On September 13, 1876, Auguste Wolf Katzenstein gave birth to a son, August Felix Katzenstein.

August Felix Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3807

Six days later, Auguste Wolf Katzenstein died on September 19, 1876, leaving behind her husband Meier and her infant son. She was not yet 25 years old.

August Wolf Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3874

How Meier raised the baby for the next year and half is unknown, but then he married again. On May 19, 1878, he married Bertha Spier, daughter of Moses Spier and Roschen Fackenheim. Bertha was born in Raboldshausen on May 13, 1853.

Marriage record of Meier Katzenstein and Bertha Spier
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3833

Bertha gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son named Julius, on March 18, 1879, in Jesberg.

Birth record of Julius Katzenstein
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3810

A second child was born on July 2, 1880, a daughter named Ida.

Birth record of Ida Katzenstein
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3811 Standesamt Jesberg Geburtsnebenregister 1880, S. 56

Ida only lived ten months; she died on April 1, 1881.

Death record of Ida Katzenstein
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3879 Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1881, S. 26

Her mother Bertha died one week after her baby daughter on April 8, 1881.  She was 27 years old.

Death of Bertha Spier Katzenstein
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3879

It seems too cruel to imagine that in the space of less than five years Meier lost two young wives and a ten-month-old child. He died just three years after Ida and Bertha on September 10, 1884, in Jesberg. He was 35.

Here is his gravestone; unfortunately I did not find it when we were at Haarhausen, so this is from the LAGIS website:

According to the LAGIS website, the inscription reads as follows: “Here lies a righteous man, and upright in all his works, who strove for peace every day of his life. This is Meier, son of Jacob ha-Kohen, from the holy community of Jesberg.”

Meier left behind his two sons, August Felix Katzenstein, who was only eight years old when orphaned, and Julius Katzenstein, his half-brother who was only five years old. Where did these two little boys go after losing both of their parents? Did they go to live with their aunts or uncles who lived in Jesberg or nearby? I don’t know.

In fact, I have no further record for Julius Katzenstein—no marriage record, no death record. I wonder if he was adopted by a relative or another person and took on a new surname. Or did he also die as a child without a recorded death? I don’t know.

As for August Felix Katzenstein, his tragic story has already been told. He married his first cousin, once removed, Rosa Bachenheimer. August Felix was the grandson of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion through their son Meier, and Rosa was their great-granddaughter through their daughter Gelle Katzenstein Ruelf and granddaughter Esther Ruelf Bachenheimer.

August and Rosa had two children: Margaretha Grete Katzenstein (1901) and Hans Peter Katzenstein (1905). All four of them, as well as Margaretha’s husband Rudolf Loewenstein, were deported on April 22, 1942, to a concentration camp in Izbica, Poland, where they were all murdered: RosaAugustMargaretha, Rudolf, and Hans-Jacob. (All links are to their entries in the Yad Vashem database.)

Thus, unless Julius Katzenstein survived, there are no descendants of these three children of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion. Not a single soul alive to pass on the genes and the stories of Pauline, Baruch, or Meier Katzenstein.

That leaves only one more child of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion, their youngest child, Levi. Because he had six children, I will tell his story in a separate post.