Back in late December, a new reader, Candice, left a comment on my blog saying that her grandparents were Rudolph Meyer and Ruth Cohn and that we were related. I love when a new cousin finds my blog and seeks to connect with me.
Candice and I are fifth cousins, once removed, through my Blumenfeld branch. Her grandfather Rudolph was the son of Rebecca Strauss, the grandson of Dusschen Blumenfeld Strauss, the great-grandson of Isaak Blumenfeld I, the great-great-grandson of Moses Blumenfeld I, and the great-great-great-grandson of Abraham Blumenfeld I, my four times great-grandfather. This chart shows Rudolph’s relationship to my father; they were fourth cousins, so Rudolph was my fourth cousin, once removed:
I wrote about Rudolph and his family here, but Candice and her father Albert were able to give me a more complete portrait of Rudolph and his wife Ruth Cohn. I already knew that Rudolph was born in Bonn, Germany, in 1908, and had arrived in the US from Germany in 1937 and settled first in New York City. By 1940 he was living in Albany, New York, and working for Cotrell & Leonard, a manufacturer of graduation caps and gowns.
Rudolph’s son Albert filled in some of the gaps in the story in the obituary he wrote about his father in 1984. Albert wrote in part:
Rudolf Raphael Meyer was born in Bonn, Germany, on March 17, 1908. He was to experience many of the history shaping events which influenced the course of his life and development. As the child of Albert and Rebecca Meyer with his sister Ilse he at the ages through 6-10 went through the trauma of World War I. The war brought hardship to him as did the period following it. The economic chaos of Weimar Germany with its rampant inflation left its mark on him in that no matter how well might do, he felt he never knew if he and his family would have enough just to provide for the basic necessities of life.
As the economic and political situation remained explosive in Germany and with Anti-semitism on the rise, he, his sister, and mother, his father having died, immigrated to the United States. However, life in the new country soon underwent its earthquake also with the coming of the Great Depression and World War II. The Depression only added to his feelings of anxiety regarding economic matters and [he] became a fervent supporter of the new deal with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and then Harry Truman representing the type of leadership he felt a society needed.
During the later years of the 30s he met Ruth Cohn and after a 3 year courtship they were married on August 10, 1941.
Rudolph enlisted in the US Army on September 6, 1943, and successfully petitioned for naturalization three months later in December 1943 from Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he was then stationed. What I did not know was that Rudolph then served overseas in Europe, fighting against the Nazis and the country where he was born.
Candice shared this photograph of her grandfather Rudy (as he was known) in uniform during World War II.
Rudy wrote this poem about his outfit in World War II, the Blue Devils. Obviously, he was a proud American soldier out to defeat his former home country.
What I also had not realized until Candice shared the family story is that Ruth was pregnant when Rudy left for Europe; their son Albert was born while he was abroad, fighting the Nazis. Rudy did not meet his child until after the war was over when Albert was already sixteen months old. Albert addressed this in his 1984 obituary for his father:
[Albert was born] while [Rudolf] was stationed overseas in Italy. The notice of his birth filled him with special joy as can be told by a reading of his letters from the war. As an additional sacrifice he did not get to see his child for another year.
Although the war was difficult and he was certainly not a young man while fighting in both North Africa and Italy for the Allies, his experience in the army gave him great pride. He felt he contributed to the service of his country and had helped to smash the Fascist Beast that had destroyed so many Europeans who could [not] leave and so many of his religious faith.
In fact among the things that gave him pride were his experience as a soldier, his role as a law abiding citizen, a good family provider. His citizenship was marked by regular voting, paying debts, attention by regular public affairs, and occasionally involvement in Democratic Party politics.
Here is a photograph of Albert as a baby taken while his father was away at war:
Ruth wrote this wonderful tribute to her husband, Rudy, whom she considered a “great man.”
A Great Man
My choice for the meaning of the word Great would be important. I write of a great man that I knew many years ago. His name was Rudolph Meyer. Now Rudy had a loving wife, and as is the nature of things, she became pregnant—and Rudy and his wife were very happy.
But then came fears of war from a country across the sea—a country from far away which hundreds of people were fleeing for they were afraid of what might now happen at this time. And Rudy and many of his fellow countrymen had found refuge in this country, the good old USA.
Then came the day when their fears for their country were alas confirmed. Atrocities! Tortures—and then War and Holocausts! Rudy immediately went to enlist. But at the recruitment center, he was told that because of his poor eyesight he would have to be rejected. But Rudy insisted—he must fight against the evil ones were who trying to destroy civilization. So—Rudy went to war!
I was sad. I was pregnant—but I knew in my heart that it was for those qualities in him—great devotion to family and country—that I loved him. And though I was sad—I was proud. My Love was a great man.
I waited—I would go to the grocery store. A pound of butter, if you please. Hey, Lady—don’t you know there’s a war on. Ah,yes—there’s a war on over there!
It is 4 years later—the end of the war. Rudy comes home. He holds in his arms a loving wife and 16 mo. old son. A great man has come home to us.
This was obviously a strong and loving marriage that endured for many years after Rudy returned home. This photograph of Ruth and their son Albert was taken after the war.
As I wrote in my earlier post, Rudy and Ruth moved to the Bronx after the war, and in 1950 they were living in the Bronx, and Rudy was now an accountant for motion pictures distributors. Ruth was an elementary schoolteacher. Rudy’s mother Rebecca and Ruth’s father Benjamin were also living with Rudy and Ruth and their child, and Benjamin was working as a tailor.
I want to express my gratitude to Candice and her father Albert for sharing these stories and photographs about my cousin Rudolph Meyer, a man who truly lived up to his wife Ruth’s description, a great man.