How The Nazis Destroyed My Cousin Moritz Oppenheimer

Last time I shared the documents my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann found at the Wiesbaden archives about our mutual cousin Martha Oppenheimer Florsheimer. Today I want to share the documents Wolfgang found about Martha’s brother Moritz James Oppenheimer. Martha and Moritz were my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen’s first cousins; they were the children of Pauline Seligmann, the sister of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman.

As I’ve previously written, Moritz Oppenheimer was born on June 10, 1879, in Butzbach, Germany. Sometime before 1902, Moritz married Emma Katherina Neuhoff, who was not Jewish. Moritz and Emma had two children: Paula (1902) and Walter (1904). Moritz owned a paper factory in Frankfurt before the war as well as a large and very successful horse stud farm where thoroughbred horses were raised and sold. As his granddaughter Angelika reported to me, Moritz was a member of the board of directors of several companies throughout Germany. He was a very successful and wealthy man.

Emma Neuhoff and Moritz James Oppenheimer
photo courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

Moritz was arrested in the autumn of 1933. His marriage to Emma was dissolved because mixed marriages were not legal under the Nazi regime. Then his assets including his horse farm were confiscated and put into the hands of an administrator, who sold them at far below their market value. According to his son Walter, Moritz had been in good health up to this time, but these actions caused him to become quite ill. After being visited by Gestapo, he reportedly took his own life on May 4, 1941.

Wolfgang found three documents that illustrate just how desperate Moritz’s situation was. I am deeply grateful to Cathy Meder-Dempsey of the blog, Opening Doors in Brick Walls, who translated all three of these documents.

The first is a letter written by Moritz in early 1941 regarding his taxes for the year 1940.

Letter by Moritz James Oppenheimer 1941

Transcribing and translating this letter presented some real challenges because, as you can see, the first several letters of the first word on the left side of the letter were not visible, but somehow Cathy was able to make sense of it all.

Here is her transcription and her translation of the letter:

[…] 10.6.1879 in Butzbach (Hessen)

[…]kenkarte H 0240/39

An das Finanzamt Wiesbaden

Im Jahre 1933 wurde über mein Vermögen das Konkurs

[verfahren] eröffnet (Frankfurt a. Main)

[Ich] besitze weder irgend welches Vermögen noch Wertgegen-

[stande], noch Möbel, Wäsche, etc.

Im Jahre 1934 wurde ich in Folge schwerer Erkrankung,

[…Er]weiterung und Verlagerung, Wasserbildung, Angina pektoris

[…auf]störungen, Kopfbeschwerden etc. nach Bad-Nanheim

[…] Dort war ich bis vergangenes Jahr in ärztlicher

behandlung und Aufsicht.

[…] schwerer Gelenkrheumatismus hinzutrat, kam ich

[ein art]ztliche Verordnung nach Wiesbaden zur Kur.

[Einko]mmen aus irgend welchen Möglichkeiten habe ich

[nicht]. Ich wohne möbliert.

[…]welche Neuanschaffungen habe nicht seit 1933 in Folge

meiner Mittellosigkeit nicht gemacht.

[Meine]Lebensunterhalt sowie Arzt, Apotheke, Zimmer und Kur

hatte ich aus Unterstützungen von ?200 Mk (monatlich)

[nur] von Verwandten gegeben werden.

[Diese] Zuwendungen stammen aus bereits versteuerten

[…]gen, Einkünfte meiner Verwandten.

Nach wie vor bin ich schwer erkrankt

[Meine] Ehe was Mischehe, Frau Arierin. Meine Kinder sind

[…]ft, konfirmiert und gelten nicht als Juden.

[…] ich eine andere Steuerklärung abgeben müssen,

[…] um Zusendung eines Formulares.

Moritz Israel Oppenheimer

Weisbaden

Pagenstecherstrasse 4 (?? Marx)

Zur Abgabe einer (Einkommen) Eink. Erklarung

fur 1940 aufgefordert.

Translation:

To the tax office in Wiesbaden

In 1933, bankruptcy was declared on my assets (Frankfurt a. Main). I have neither assets nor other things of value, furniture, laundry, etc. In 1934, as a result of serious illness, (enlargement and relocation – ??), water retention, angina pectoris, (other) disorders, headache etc. I was sent to Bad-Nanheim. Until last year I was there under medical treatment and supervision. As severe rheumatoid arthritis set in, I received medical orders to take a cure in Wiesbaden. I don’t have any income possibilities and live in a furnished place. No new acquisitions have been made since 1933 as I am penniless. My livelihood as well as doctor, pharmacy, room and spa expenses have been supported with [?] 200 Mk (monthly) from my relatives. This support came from already taxed income of my relatives. I am still seriously ill.

My marriage was a mixed marriage, my wife was Aryan. My children are ____, confirmed and are not considered Jews. [I assume that the word that we cannot see was Mischling.]

I have to file another tax return, and request a form be sent.

Signature and address

Notation in pencil: He was asked to submit a declaration of income for the year 1940.

Cathy thought he was writing to get the correct tax form for someone in his financial position.

Although I had read his son Walter’s description of Moritz’s financial and medical condition, reading this letter written by Moritz himself was just heartbreaking. Here was a man who had found incredible success in business brought down to being very sick and penniless.

The second document I received from Wolfgang was a letter written by Walter Oppenheimer, Moritz’s son.

Letter by Walter Oppenheimer 1941

Cathy translated the typed section, written by Walter, as follows:

In an immediate polite reply to your letter of the 15th of this month that I received only today, I inform you that my father died on May 4th, 1941. Who the legal heirs are now I am not able to tell you as the two children, my sister and I, refused the inheritance in a publicly certified declaration before the local court.

Heil Hitler!

Walter Georg Oppenheimer

I was very disturbed to see that Walter had used “Heil Hitler” in this letter, but Cathy explained that that was to be expected in a letter to officials during Hitler’s reign. Nevertheless, it made the hair on my arms stand to see a relative of mine use that expression.

I wondered why Walter and his sister Paula would have refused the inheritance, and Cathy suggested that it was a means of avoiding taking on their father’s debts since there were apparently no assets to inherit.

The handwritten notes on the bottom of the letter appear to have been made by some official commenting on the status of Moritz’s inheritance, as transcribed and translated by Cathy:

Anfrage beim Amtsgericht Frankfurt am Main

wer Nachlassverwalter ist, und

wer die gesetzlichen Erben sind,

nachdem die Kinder ausgeschlagen

haben.

Translation:

Inquiry to the district court Frankfurt am Main

who is administrator, and who are the legal heirs, after the children refused inheritance.

 

An das Amtsgericht ffm (Frankfurt am Main)

Der fruher dort wohnhaft gewesene Moritz Israel Oppenheimer

geb. am 10.6.1879 ist hier am 4.5.41 verstorben.

Der Sohn des selbend Dr. Walter Georg Oppenheimer ffm. Schumannstr. 47 wohnhaft, hat mitgeteilt daß seine Schwester und er ? haben.

Ich bitte nur ____ von 2 zu 4 Wochen.

Translation

To the district court Frankfurt am Main

Moritz Israel Oppenheimer, who previously lived there, born on June 10, 1879 died here on May 4, 1941. The son of the same, Dr. Walter Georg Oppenheimer, a resident of Frankfurt am Main, Schumannstrasse 47, announced that his sister and he (symbols? probably mean disclaimed inheritance). I only ask ____ from 2 to 4 weeks.

Finally, the third document Wolfgang found in the Wiesbaden archives about Moritz is this handwritten page of notes about Moritz’s “income” for the first few months of 1941 before his death:

Oppenheimer ist am 4.5.41 gestorben.

Eink. 41 wurde geschätzt und wie folgt errechnet: freiwillige zuwandungen seines Sohnes 1940 = 4060 Rm : 12 = 338

von 1.1 – 30.4.41 je 338 Rm = 1352 Rm

                                       4x

./. Sondereingaben 4 x 15   =       60                                                1292

                                                   -60         1432 Rm

angaben des Nachlasspflegers Spring:  Bl. 22

__                                    

Translation

Oppenheimer died on 4.5.41. Income for 1941 was estimated and calculated as follows: voluntary contributions of his son 1940 = 4060 Rm : 12 = 338 per monthfrom 1.1 – 30.4.41 338 Rm = 1352 Rm

                                    4x

./. Special income 4 x 15           – 60

                                                 1292

                                                    -60      1432 Rm 

information from the estate administrator Spring: Bl. 22

I’m not really sure what to make of all the numbers or the value in today’s money. I also have no idea what were the practical consequences of these calculations. Did Moritz (or his estate) owe taxes based on the money he was getting from his son?

What I think I can safely infer from these last two documents is that even after seizing all of the assets of Moritz Oppenheimer and driving him into bankruptcy, poor health, and ultimately suicide, the German government was still looking for some way to collect more money from his family.

Thank you again to Cathy Meder-Dempsey for her hard work in transcribing and translating these difficult to read documents. They add insights into the awful suffering of my cousin Moritz Oppenheimer.

Moritz Oppenheimer

 

 

Seligmann Updates: Martha Oppenheimer Florsheimer

Turning for a bit from the Goldschmidt family, I need to discuss some updates involving the Seligmann family. Some of this information came from my cousin Wolfgang, some from Aaron Knappstein.  In this post I will look at some documents that Wolfgang located about Martha Oppenheimer Florsheimer, and then in the next post some relating to her brother Moritz Oppenheimer.

Martha and Moritz were the children of Pauline Seligmann and Maier Oppenheimer. Pauline was the sister of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman and Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August Seligmann. So Martha and Moritz were my first cousins, three times removed, or the first cousins of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen. I’ve written about them both before.

Martha married Heinrich Florsheimer on September 18, 1902, in Butzbach, Germany. They had two children, Gertrud and Paul. Martha and Heinrich were divorced on April 12, 1913. Martha was sent to the concentration camp at Theriesenstadt on September 2, 1942, and was released from there on July 8, 1945. She returned to Wiesbaden, where she’d been living before the Holocaust, only to learn that both of her children had been murdered by the Nazis, Gertrud at Sobibor and Paul at Majdanek.

The earliest of the new documents that Wolfgang located at the archives in Wiesbaden about Martha was dated March 7, 1940, and appears to be a form Martha submitted to report her assets and expenses. She appears to have reported no assets, and under expenses she reported 78.50 Reich Marks a month (I’m not sure what the 65 refers to) for rent, heat, gas, electricity, and water.

On page 2 of this document, Martha wrote the following note:

Ich werde unterstützt von meiner bis jetzt beschäftigte Tochter und meinem beschäftigt gewesenen Sohn.

Matthias Steinke of the German Genealogy group kindly translated this for me as, “I am supported by my still working daughter and my formerly employed son.”

 

On December 6, 1940, Martha wrote this note in Wiesbaden:

Thank you to the members of the German Genealogy group who worked to decipher this difficult handwriting. This was the translation done by Matthias Steinke:

Wiesbaden, 6th December 40

Kaiser Friedrich Ring 20

I am at the 1st march 1876 in Offenbach/Main born and the wife of the at the 7th January 1921 in Cologne deceased merchant Heinrich Flörsheimer.

My daughter Gertrude Sara Flörsheimer was born at the 24th january 1904 in Gross Gerau. Her at the 12th May 1927 in Wiesbaden happened matrimony with the administrator Fr. Heitmann was at the 10th January 1930 in Wiesbaden divorced. My daughter took her maiden-name back later.

Martha Sara Flörsheimer

I am not sure who this note was written to or for what purpose, except perhaps to register their names and marital status with the officials in Wiesbaden. Or perhaps it was a follow-up to the earlier document seen above.

This typewritten letter is dated March 23, 1943, three years later:

We hereby indicate that the aforementioned Jewish woman has been restricted due to your security order from 9 14 40 to 25 8 42, because she expected the receipt of a larger payment, coming from furniture sales. On 4 9 42, the only entry received the amount of RM 594. Due to the disposition of the Governmental Practitioner Wiesbaden from 27 8 42 I 9-337 / 42, the fortune of this Jewish woman has been confiscated in favor of the Reich. We have therefore transferred the above amount to Finanzkasse Wiesbaden under file number O. 5205/494. Heil Hitler.

I am not sure what all of this means, but I got the gist of this—that all of Martha’s assets had been confiscated by the Nazis.

Aaron Knappstein located Martha’s death record:

One thing of note on these forms is that Martha is identified as a widow, not as a divorcee, even though her marriage record records the divorce:

Martha Oppenheimer marriage and divorce record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 924; Laufende Nummer: 323
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

And interestingly she did not hide her daughter’s status as a divorcee, as seen above. So why hide hers?

Finally, Aaron also sent me a photograph of Heinrich Florsheimer’s headstone, which confirms the date of death reported by his ex-wife Martha in 1940:

These extra documents fill in some of the gaps in Martha’s life. The documents from the Nazi era are particularly poignant. Martha lost so much. Of course, losing her children was the most horrific loss, but she also lost all her property to the Nazis.

 

 

Anna Segher’s The Seventh Cross: A Story of Moral Choices

Back on May 1, I wrote about my cousin Netti Reiling, who under the pseudonym Anna Seghers became a well-known leftist intellectual, activist, and author. I wrote about her best-known book, The Seventh Cross, published both in German and in English while she and her family were living in Mexico in 1942. Two years later it was made into a film starring Spencer Tracy, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and others.

I’ve just finished reading the book. It took me quite a while to read in part because I seem to read in short spurts these days, often when I am sleepy. It also was a difficult book to read—both in terms of the painfulness of the subject matter and in the way it was written. But when I got to the second half, I couldn’t put it down as it turned from a slow-moving set of character studies to a suspenseful escape and chase.

It is an extremely well-written book. Seghers takes you into the minds of her characters so that you see their psychological development as well as their actions. The basic plot is simple: a man named George along with six others escapes from a German prison camp where political prisoners are kept, and the Gestapo and SS chase them down. Various people living in the nearby towns get involved in different ways with the escape and the chase. I won’t spoil the story more than that, but it’s not really the story that is Segher’s dominant focus. Rather, her focus is on how this story affects and, in some ways, reveals and changes the inner thinking and moral choices of the numerous characters.

The structure of the book is what makes it difficult to read at first. Seghers introduces numerous characters without linking them to each other or to the main character, George. Both the number of characters and the fact that the reader has no idea why they matter to the story made the first half of the book a struggle for me. I couldn’t keep the characters straight. Who was Ernst the shepherd and why did I care about him? Why do I care about this boy named Fritz and his girlfriend? What role does Franz have in this whole story? Who are all these various Nazis working at the prison camp? And so on. Perhaps if I’d read the book faster and not just one short segment at a time, I’d more quickly would have seen the forest and not just each individual tree. But at the pace I was reading, I’d forget who Franz or Fritz or Ernst was and have to flip back a few chapters to refresh my memory.

But once I reached the middle of the book and was able to read more quickly, I realized what a brilliant work this is and well worth the struggle to get to know the various characters. Seghers’ ability to get into the heads of the characters and see how they struggle to choose between their own safety and what they know is right is masterful. As you read, you wonder whether Fritz and Franz and all the others will do what’s needed to be done to help George or to save themselves. That’s what makes the book suspenseful. It’s not a typical crime or war story where the suspense lies in finding clues or in watching the bad guys get closer to the good guy while the good guy uses his brain to find a new way to get away. No, the suspense lies inside the minds of the characters and their personal moral codes. Frankly, I still have no idea what role Ernst the shepherd has in the story. Maybe someone who’s read the book will have an explanation. But overall each character does in the end become three-dimensional and integral to the overall story.

One thing that I did find odd about the book is that aside from one very brief mention of the mistreatment of a Jewish man, Seghers does not at all address the Nazi persecution and slaughter of Jews; she does not refer to the Nuremberg Laws or the concentration camps or Kristallnacht. Seghers was, after all, Jewish. Yet she wrote a book about Nazi Germany that is only about political prisoners, not about the way the Nazis treated Jews. Did she do that to reach a broader audience? Or did she perhaps recognize that although ordinary Germans might assist a fellow German who escaped from a camp for political prisoners, they would not have had made the same choices if it had been a Jewish person who’d escaped from a concentration camp?

I’ve not yet seen the film, and unfortunately it’s not available on any streaming service. I could buy a DVD from Amazon, but alas—I no longer have a DVD player. Damn modern technology! Do I invest in a DVD player just to watch one movie? I am debating it. But usually I find that movies based on books are not nearly as good as the books themselves, and it was my cousin Netti’s writing that I was most interested in.

As I wrote about in my post about Netti/Anna, The New York Times review of the movie, which was overall a very positive review, made one unusual comment at the end.1 I will quote it again here:

Without in the least overlooking the bestiality of the Nazi brutes nor the miserable self-surrender of German citizens to their black regime, this film … visions a burning zeal for freedom in some German rebels and a core of decency in common folk. …[T]he basic theme…is that in men—even in Germans—there is an instinct for good that cannot be destroyed.….

The big reservation which this writer holds with regard to this film is that regarding the discretion of its theme at this particular time. Without any question, it creates a human sympathy for the people of a nation with whom we are at war and it tends, as have others, to load Germany’s crimes on Nazi backs. Obviously this film can make sentiment for a “soft” peace. It looks as though we are getting a dandy “thriller” at a pretty high price.

It is true that the book (and apparently the film) portrays many of the characters in ways that reveal their basic morality although it also certainly portrays those who worked at and led the prison camp as inhumane and lacking in moral decency and many of the minor characters as spineless and complicit with the Nazis. But I can understand why in 1944 when the US was fighting Germany in World War II a reviewer might have objected to a film that portrayed any German in a flattering light.

But with the perspective of hindsight, that seems less objectionable. Seghers was at heart an optimist about human nature and perhaps she needed some hope in 1942 that many ordinary Germans would make the right choices and act morally. She had fled from Germany and then from France, seen her husband arrested and then released, and would ultimately learn that her own mother, Hedwig Fuld Reiling, had been murdered by the Nazis. She was not naïve; she was not sympathetic to the Nazis or those who supported their cause or their actions. She was just a human being holding out hope that other human beings would do the right thing. Sadly, not enough of them did. Most Germans were too afraid to resist the Nazis or had been coopted and persuaded to adopt the Nazi cause, and thus far too many people were not saved from their murderous captors.

But Seghers’ point was that when good and brave people do stand up for what is right, evil can be defeated. We need that lesson today in 2020 as much as people did in 1942.

Anna Seghers (Netti Reiling) Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-P1202-317 / Sturm, Horst / CC-BY-SA 3.0 / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Bosley Crowther, “The Seventh Cross, Anti-Nazi Drama, with Spencer Tracy, at Capitol,” The New York Times, September 29, 1944, p. 18. 

Minna Fuld and Her Descendants: New Cousins from Sao Paulo, But A Brick Wall Remains

Back in April, I posted about the dead ends I’d reached in my research of Minna Fuld and her family. To recap, Minna was the daughter of Helene Goldschmidt and Salmon Fuld,  the granddaughter of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt, and the great-granddaughter of Meyer Goldschmidt, who was my four-times great-uncle. Minna was married three times. First, she married Leo Offenstadt in 1894 when she was eighteen, and that marriage ended in divorce in 1904. She and Leo had had one child, Flora, in 1894. Then Minna married Ladislaus Polacovits in 1906, and he died in 1913; Minna had one child with Ladislaus, Liselotte, who was born in 1907. Finally, Minna married Hermann Heinrich Karl Reuss in 1923, with whom she had no children.

The first mystery was about Minna’s whereabouts during the 1930s and 1940s. I knew that her third husband Hermann was listed in the 1940 Frankfurt directory and died in Frankfurt on September 27, 1947. But several unsourced trees reported that Minna died in Tel Aviv on May 3, 1944. So had Minna gone to Palestine alone and died there? Had Hermann gone with her and returned to Germany after the war?

The second mystery was the fate of Minna’s daughter Flora Offenstadt during the Holocaust. Flora Offenstadt married Hermann Durlacher in 1918 and had two children with him, Siegfried Julius Thomas (known as Thomas) Durlacher and Ulla Louise Durlacher. I had records showing that Flora and the two children immigrated to Brazil in 1939, but no records for her husband Hermann or any information about what happened to them after they immigrated.

I also had no luck locating more information about Liselotte, Minna’s younger daughter with her second husband Ladislaus, although I knew she and Ladislaus were living in Palestine/Israel during the 1940s and that their son had married in England.

Having exhausted the usual genealogy tools and newspaper databases and Google, I turned to Tracing the Tribe to see if there was anyone with connections in Brazil who might be able to help me. And I was very, very fortunate that a group member named Jacqueline who is from Sao Paulo volunteered to help me.  She first located a marriage announcement for a son of Siegfried Julius Thomas Durlacher, which can be found here.

Then Jacqueline found a long magazine article, partly in German but mostly in Portuguese, that she summarized for me. According to the article, Thomas Durlacher started a library of German-language books in Atibaia, a town in the countryside outside of Sao Paulo; the library now has ten thousand books, some of which were Thomas’ parents’ books that they took with them out of Germany when they escaped from the Nazis and others were donated by other refugees from Germany. The article also mentioned that Thomas had two sons, one a doctor in Brazil and the other residing in Germany.

And then—the icing on the cake—Jacqueline located those sons and other members of the Durlacher family on Facebook! At that point, I took over and sent messages and friend requests to these descendants of Minna Fuld. And almost immediately two of Thomas Durlacher’s sons responded. They then connected me to their cousin Sergio, the son of Ulla Durlacher (Flora and Hermann’s daughter), who contacted me by email.

Sergio told me that his grandfather Hermann Durlacher was the first member of the family to immigrate to Brazil. When I asked him why Brazil, he explained that it was the destination of the first available ship that Hermann could take.  Hermann and Flora had already sent Thomas to the Netherlands to study; he lived with a wealthy family who were close friends of the family. Flora and her daughter Ulla remained in Germany, and Sergio said that his mother had very painful memories of those years.

Unfortunately, Sergio did not have any information about the fate of Minna Fuld, his great-grandmother, so that mystery remained unsolved.

He provided me with more contacts, however, and one of those contacts who was in fact on Sergio’s father’s side found this document about Minna:

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/73, Description, Piece Number Description: 073: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Reu-Rop, Source Information
Ancestry.com. UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945

I also realized that one of the documents I’d found about Hermann indicated that Minna had immigrated to England:

Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1
Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Ancestry.com. Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947

So Minna was in England in 1940. I then located her on the 1939 England and Wales Register:

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/419G
Enumeration District: APDF, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Registe

Note that she reported that her marital status was married, but Hermann was not living with her in England. That might explain why he was still listed in the 1940 Frankfurt directory. Hermann was not Jewish and may have stayed behind to protect their interests in Germany.  But I could not find any later record for Minna. Since Hermann was a widower when he died in Frankfurt in 1947, Minna must have died sometime between 1940 and 1947, but where and when remains a mystery.

On the other hand, thanks to Jacqueline, I now am in touch with several of Minna’s descendants, my cousins who grew up in Brazil after their parents and grandparents escaped there from Germany in the 1930s. Someday someone will learn what happened to their ancestor Minna.

 

Berthold Goldschmidt Revisited: His Second Family

A year and a half ago I wrote about the tragic life of my cousin Berthold Goldschmidt, who outlived not only his wife Mathilde Freudenstein but six of their seven children. Their only surviving child, their son Siegfried Goldschmidt, was murdered in the Holocaust. I believed that Berthold had only one grandchild, Siegfried’s son Max, who had no children. Thus, I believed that Berthold Goldschmidt had no living descendants.

I’ve received two updates about Berthold’s family since then. In February, my friend in Germany, Julia Drinnenberg, sent me these photographs of two of Berthold and Mathilde’s sons taken during their service in World War I, Leopold, who was killed in the war, and the above-mentioned Siegfried.

Siegfried Goldschmidt

Leopold Goldschmidt

Then back in April, I received an email from David Baron, asking if I wanted to Zoom with a cousin named Rickey Slezak. I had no idea who Rickey was or how she was related to me, but soon discovered that she is a descendant of none other than Berthold Goldschmidt.

How does he have any descendants, you might wonder?

Well, in telling Berthold’s story I totally overlooked the fact that he had remarried after Mathilde’s death and had in fact had six more children with his second wife, Rika Giesberg, Rickey’s namesake. You can imagine how embarrassing this is!

Not that this takes away from the tragedies suffered by Berthold; that is still unimaginable. But Berthold’s story is somewhat softened by the fact that he went on to have a second family. And I was delighted not only to learn about this, but to make the connection to Rickey, my third cousin, once removed. Rickey shared with me an amazing album of old photographs of Berthold’s second family. This post is devoted to their story.

After losing his first wife Mathilde in 1911, Berthold Goldschmidt was left with four surviving children from that marriage: Paul, Leopold, Siegfried, and Hedwig. They were all still teenagers at that time.

On August 25, 1912, Berthold married Rika (sometimes spelled Richa or referred to as Rickchen) Giesberg, daughter of Jonas Giesberg and Henriette Loewenstein, in Trendelburg, Germany. Rika was born in Trendelburg on May 29, 1882, and was little more than ten to fifteen years older than her four stepchildren.

TitelStandesamt Trendelburg Heiratsnebenregister 1912 (HStAMR Best. 909 Nr. 9383)AutorHessisches Staatsarchiv MarburgErscheinungsortTrendelburg

Here are photographs of Berthold and Rika, courtesy of their granddaughter and my cousin, Rickey.

Berthold Goldschmidt, courtesy of the family

Rika Giesberg Goldschmidt, courtesy of the family

Rika and Berthold’s first child together, Walter Goldschmidt, was born in Oberlistingen, Germany, on April 24, 1913.1 A second son Herbert was born on December 20, 1914.2

Three of Berthold’s children from his first marriage died between 1915 and 1916, as discussed here. By 1917, Siegfried was then the only surviving child of the children Berthold had with Mathilde Freudenstein.

After those losses, Berthold and Rika had their first daughter, Hedwig, born June 1, 1918. She presumably was named for Berthold’s deceased daughter Hedwig from his first marriage.3

Here is a photograph of their family in about 1920 before their three youngest children were born:

Berthold and Rika (Rickchen) Goldschmidt and family, c. 1920. Courtesy of the family

Their third son Jacob Julius Goldschmidt (known as Julius) was born on March 17, 1921.4 Albert Goldschmidt was born on September 9, 1924.5 Finally, their sixth and final child Elfriede was born August 17, 1926.6

This is a photograph of their home in Oberlistingen:

Berthold Goldschmidt family home in Oberlistingen. Courtesy of the family

Berthold Goldschmidt died on November 8, 1927. He was survived by his son Siegfried from his first marriage and the six children he had with Rika. Those six children lost their father before they reached adulthood. Their oldest child Walter was just fourteen, and their youngest child Elfriede just a year old. Rika was herself only 45 and left to care for the six children including four who were under ten years old.

Berthold Goldschmidt death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Signatur: 8196
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 [

Rika was not destined to live a long life. She died at the age of 52 in Merxhausen, Germany, on March 1, 1935.7 I wondered why she died in Merxhausen, which is about 35 kilometers from Oberlistingen, and learned that there was a hospital there.

By that time Walter was almost 22, Herbert going on 21, Hedwig was almost seventeen, Julius almost fourteen, and the two youngest were still quite young; Albert was ten, and Elfriede only nine. I wonder who took care of these children, especially the three youngest, after they were orphaned.

Here are some photographs of some of the siblings taken in Germany before their lives changed forever:

Walter Goldschmidt
Courtesy of the family

Hedwig Goldschmidt Courtesy of the family

Julius Goldschmidt
Courtesy of the family

By the time of Rika’s death, the Nazis had taken power in Germany, and the Nuremberg Laws were adopted six months after her death.  It’s thus not surprising that by 1937 her two oldest sons decided to leave for the United States. Herbert left first, arriving in New York on July 30, 1937. According to the ship manifest, he left behind his brother Walter in Oberlistingen and was  going to a cousin, Leighton Steele, in Detroit, Michigan.  Leighton Steele was the son of Hedwig Goldschmidt Steele, a younger sister of Berthold Goldschmidt. Thus, Leighton, who was American-born, was Herbert’s first cousin, but they probably had never met.8

Walter Goldschmidt arrived just a few months after his brother Herbert; he arrived in New York on October 1, 1937. According to the ship manifest, he was heading to New York to a “cousin” named Joseph Guhl and was leaving behind an “uncle,” Salomon Strauss in Frankfurt. Salomon Strauss was married to Jenny Giesberg, Rika Giesberg Goldschmidt’s sister. Joseph Guhl was married to Meta Giesberg, the daughter of Leopold Giesberg, Rika’s brother.9

This photograph is labeled “Leaving for America” and shows Walter in Hamburg:

Courtesy of the family

The next sibling to arrive in the US was the youngest, Elfriede. She was only twelve years old when she arrived on March 24, 1939, and was sailing with her aunt Jenny Giesberg Strauss, her husband Salomon Strauss, and their son Walter. The ship manifest indicates that they all had been living in Frankfurt, so perhaps Elfriede had been taken in by her aunt after Rika died in 1935. They were leaving behind Salomon’s brother Julius and going to his cousin, Max Schoenmann, who lived at 1770 Andrews Avenue in the Bronx. I mention that only because my husband grew up down the block from there at 1940 Andrews Avenue. Small world.10

I don’t know whether or not Herbert ever went to Detroit to see Leighton Steele, but in 1940 both he and Walter were working as waiters for a restaurant in North Castle, New York, where they were both also living, according to the 1940 census.11  My cousin Rickey told me that the restaurant where they worked was a spot that became extremely popular as a music venue during the Big Band era, called Log Cabin Farms. You can see it mentioned on Herbert’s World War II draft registration.

Walter Goldschmidt, World War II draft registration, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Herbert Goldschmidt, World War II draft registration, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

The North Castle Historical Society published an article about the Log Cabin Farms and all the performers who came there; you can find it here. As you can see from this postcard, the restaurant had a seating capacity of 1500!

Meanwhile, their sister Elfriede was living in the Bronx with their aunt Jenny Giesberg Strauss and her family in 1940.12 Rickey told me that her father revered his aunt Jenny, at least in part because of the care she gave to his little sister.

Herbert enlisted in the US military on January 22, 1941, almost a year before Pearl Harbor.13 I don’t know anything specific about his military service, but here is a photograph of him in uniform.

Herbert Goldschmidt/Goldsmith
Courtesy of the family

He applied for a marriage license to marry Lilly Vogel on January 19, 1943, in New York City.14

courtesy of the family

They did not have any children. According to my cousin Rickey, her uncle Herbert died in 1963.

His brother Walter enlisted on January 29, 1943, just ten days after Herbert and Lilly’s wedding.15 According to records his daughter Rickey has, Walter served three years including a year overseas. He was decorated several times, receiving the following medals: American Service Medal; Good Conduct Medal; European African Middle Eastern Service Medal; and a World War II Victory Medal.

On February 12, 1944, Walter married Hilda Weis,16 who was born on October 8, 1922, to Siegfried Weis and Else Scheuer in Gelnhausen, Germany.17 They had one child, my cousin Rickey, the source of all these wonderful photographs. Walter died on October 4, 1991; his widow Hilda died in 2001.18 They are survived by their daughter Rickey as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Hilda Weis and Walter Goldschmidt/Goldsmith
Courtesy of their daughter Rickey

Elfriede married Alvin Kruger Colin with whom she had two children. This is a picture of them taken in March 1948. Given the way they are dressed, I assume this was their wedding day.19

Elfriede Goldschmidt and Al March 1948
Courtesy of the family

Elfriede died on January 6, 2011; she was survived by her children and grandchildren.20

Here is a photograph of the three siblings who made it to the US. I’d guess it was taken sometime after the war.

Courtesy of the family

Unfortunately, two of the other children of Berthold and Rika did not leave Germany and were killed in the Holocaust. According to the Memorial Book for Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 – 1945, Jacob Julius Goldschmidt was sent to Dachau concentration camp on November 10, 1938, after Kristallnacht and was released from Dachau on December 8, 1938. He still, however, did not leave Germany. According to this document, he was living in Munich from February 18, 1940, until April 5, 1942.

UPDATE: Thank you to barb276 for finding more information about Jacob Julius Goldschmidt here. According to this page from the Munich archives, Jacob Julius had moved from Kassel to Munich by January 1, 1936, and was living there until October 26, 1940, when he went to a Hachsharah, a Zionist training camp in Steinhofel, where Jews were trained for life in Palestine/Israel. Unfortunately, Jacob Julius never got there.

Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1
Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Ancestry.com. Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947

He was then deported to Poland and murdered at some unnamed location.

Hedwig Goldschmidt was also murdered by the Nazis. She had married Horst Starsky, who was born on July 10, 1909, in Wingeruppen, Germany. According to the Memorial Book for Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 – 1945, they were living in Berlin, and both were first imprisoned in a Jewish forestry labor camp in Kersdorf-Briesen. They were then deported to Auschwitz on April 19, 1943, where they were killed. As far as I’ve been able to determine, they did not have any children.

The fate of Albert Goldschmidt, Berthold and Rika’s youngest son, is less clear. My cousin Rickey believes that he ended up immigrating to Buenos Aires, Argentina, but I have no documentation showing that. Rickey also believed he married and had a child there, but again, we have no documentation. What we do have is this photograph of Albert apparently taken in front of a restaurant that has a Spanish name, I think—Coveteria Vievo Viena? Google Translate could not make sense of coveteria but translated Vievo Viena as I come Vienna. Possibly a restaurant serving Viennese (or German-style) food?

UPDATE: Thank you to my cousin Susana, who also came from Buenos Aires, for helping me to translate what this says. She said that it says “Confitería Viejo Viena” (Old Vienna tearoom) and would have been a patisserie or tearoom that likely specialized in German/Austrian pastries and cakes.

Courtesy of the family

Thus, Berthold Goldschmidt’s family with his second wife Rika endured a great deal of tragedy just as his family with his first wife Mathilde Freudenstein had. But the record must stand corrected. Berthold Goldschmidt does indeed have living descendants—his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, and even some great-great-grandchildren.  And one of them is my wonderful cousin Rickey who helped me tell and illustrate their family’s story.

 


  1. Walter Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 24 Apr 1913, Birth Place: Oberlistingen, Germany,
    Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  2. Herbert Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 20 Dec 1914, Birth Place: Oberlistingen, Germany, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  3.  Hedwig Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 1 Jun 1918, Birth Place: Oberlistingen, Reference Number: 02010101 oS, Document ID: 70442392, Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1, Ancestry.com. Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 
  4.  Julius Israel Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 17 Mrz 1921 (17 Mar 1921), Birth Place: Oberlingen, Reference Number: 02010101 oS, Document ID: 70126154, Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1, Ancestry.com. Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 
  5. I have no record of Albert’s birth date; this comes from the Goldschmidt family report done by Roger Cibella and David Baron. 
  6.  Elfriede Colin, Social Security Number: 112-16-3514, Birth Date: 17 Aug 1926
    Death Date: 6 Jan 2011, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  7.  Richa Goldschmidt, Maiden Name: Giesberg, Gender: weiblich (Female)
    Age: 52, Birth Date: 29 Mai 1882 (29 May 1882), Death Date: 1 Mrz 1935 (1 Mar 1935)
    Death Place: Merxhausen, Hessen (Hesse), Deutschland (Germany), Civil Registration Office: Merxhausen, Certificate Number: 16, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Signatur: 6991, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 
  8. Herbert Goldschmidt, ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 25; Page Number: 38, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  9. Walter Goldschmidt, ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 8; Page Number: 36, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. Salomon Strauss and Jenny Giesbech [sic], Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1, Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Ancestry.com. Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947. Meta Giesberg, Marriage Date: 30 Apr 1936, Marriage Place: Manhattan, New York, USA, Spouse: Joseph A Guhl, Certificate Number: 11992, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937 
  10. Elfriede Goldschmidt, ship manifest, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 6; Page Number: 8, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  11. Walter Goldschmidt and Herbert Goldschmidt, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: North Castle, Westchester, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02811; Page: 3B and Page 24A, Enumeration District: 60-250, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  12. Elfriede Goldschmidt, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, Bronx, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02497; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 3-1449, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  13. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  14.  Herbert Goldschmidt, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 19 Jan 1943
    Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Lilly Vogel
    License Number: 1202, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 1, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  15. Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 
  16.  Hilda Weis, Gender: Female, Marriage License Date: 10 Feb 1944
    Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA. Spouse: Walter Goldschmidt, License Number: 3826, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 6, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  17. Hilda Goldsmith, [Hildegard Weis], [Hilda Goldschmidt] , Gender: Female,
    Birth Date: 8 Oct 1922, Birth Place: Gelnhausen, Federal Republic of Germany
    Death Date: 18 Sep 2001, Father: Siegfried Weis, Mother: Else Scheuer
    SSN: 085180692, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  18. Name: Walter Goldsmith, Gender: Male, Birth Date: 24 Apr 1913, Death Date: 4 Oct 1991, Claim Date: 6 Mar 1975, SSN: 077165081, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. For Hilda, see Note 17. 
  19.  Elfriede Goldsmith, Marriage License Date: 27 Feb 1948, Marriage License Place: Bronx, New York City, New York, USA, License Number: 1705, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Bronx, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  20. Elfriede Colin, Social Security Number: 112-16-3514, Birth Date: 17 Aug 1926
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 33308, Fort Lauderdale, Broward, Florida, USA, Death Date: 6 Jan 2011, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

Martha Loewenthal Wolff’s Family: An Update from Israel

One of the more elusive Goldschmidt family members to research has been Martha Loewenthal Wolff and her family. Martha was the daughter of Kiele Stern and Abraham Loewenthal, the granddaughter of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern, and my third cousin, twice removed. Thanks to my friend Aaron Knappstein, I now have more information and documents and even photographs of Martha and her family.

Martha was married to Jakob Wolff, as discussed here, and they had three children: Anna, Hans Anton, and Walter. I was missing birth records for all three children, and Aaron was able to locate all of them.

Birth record of Anna Wolff

Birth record of Hans Anton Abraham Wolff

Birth record of Walter Wolff

Martha died in 1930, and I could not find a death record for her until Aaron located it, as I wrote about here.

After Martha’s death and the Nazi takeover of Germany, Jakob Wolff and all three of their children immigrated to Israel, as I wrote about here.

But I did not know what happened to Jakob or his children after their immigration. And then Aaron came through for me again and located Hans Anton Wolff’s son Benjamin in Israel and connected me to him and his daughter Ravid. Now I have firsthand information about Martha’s family as well as photographs, thanks to Ravid Wolff, my fifth cousin, once removed.

First, some photographs of the family taken before they left Germany.

Jacob and Martha Wolff and their first car Courtesy of the Wolff family

Anna Wolff and her mother Martha Loewenthal Wolff Courtesy of the Wolff family

Anna Wolff as a child Courtesy of the Wolff family

Hans Anton and Walter Wolff Courtesy of the Wolff family

Ravid shared with me that her great-grandmother Martha was a very talented artist and sent me this image of a painting that Martha did while traveling with Jakob in what was then Palestine in the 1920s.

Painting by Martha Loewenthal Wolff

According to Ravid, her great-grandparents Martha and Jakob Wolff owned two banks in Frankfurt, Germany, and were quite wealthy. After Martha died from ovarian cancer in 1930, Jakob married Ilse Gruenebaum. When Hitler came to power, Jakob recognized how dangerous he was and, as a Zionist, decided to leave Germany for Israel (then Palestine) before it was too late. He was able to obtain visas to immigrate for a thousand pounds each, an exorbitant amount of money at that time, but had to leave all his other property and possessions behind. All of it including their home in Frankfurt was confiscated by the Nazis and never returned to the family.

Ravid shared two letters with me that show that the requests for restitution of their property in Frankfurt were denied:

Google Translate helped me translate these letters. The one above translates as:

Upon your request of 17 December 1956, we will inform you: The property Leerbachstrasse 36 was registered until 17 September 1937 on:
Banker Jakob Wolff on the ideal half
Instead of his wife Martha Wolff [names of children] for ideal half in undivided community of heirs. [I am not sure what “ideal half” means.]
In the way of the forced auction, this plot of land on 17 9 1937 is given to Frau Therese Ried geb Stromer, [address]. It is still owned by them.
The owner of the Paulsplatz 14 property was the merchant Carl Seitz in Baden near Vienna in 18 1 1923 and the owner of the Paulsplatz 16 property was the Jakob Wolff & Co., Open Trade Company since 18 March 1922.
The current owner of both properties has been the municipal district of Frankfurt since August 10, 1934 bze, October 15, 1935. A piece of land at Paulsplatz 18 does not exist.

The second letter translated as:

The aforementioned property became the property of the City of Frankfurt on the basis of an additional resolution dated 2 4 1935. The compulsory auction had already started in 1932. The JRSO, which had previously asserted claims for reimbursement for the aforementioned property, accepted its application on Feb. 1, 1951. For your further information, we would like to inform you that the city has always contested a claim for reimbursement.
We hope to have served you with the above statements.

As for Martha and Jakob’s three children, Anna, the oldest, was married to Simon Wittekind when she immigrated, and they had two sons, Aharon and Baruch (as they were known in Israel) who were born in Berlin. Simon was a doctor who wanted to move to South Africa, but Anna felt safer in Israel, so she stayed there with her children.

Anna later married Herbert Feige. According to Ravid, Anna hated Germany and suffered great trauma because of what had happened there and unlike her brother Hans Anton refused to reclaim her German citizenship when that right became available to her. Her sons changed their surname to Yardeni (for the Jordan River) to identify with their new homeland. Ravid did not know exactly when Anna died, only that like her mother Martha, she died young and from cancer.

Ravid’s grandfather was Hans Anton Wolff, the second child of Martha Loewenthal and Jakob Wolff.  He married Susana Meseritz, another refugee from Germany, whom he met in Palestine. They had one child, Ravid’s father Benjamin. Hans had a doctorate in chemistry. He died from colon cancer in 1974, and his wife Susana died in 2002.

Walter, the youngest of the siblings, also married in Palestine/Israel. He owned a hotel in Jerusalem for many years. He and his wife Hedy Buller had two children. Walter died in 1968 in Jerusalem, also from cancer.

I am so indebted to Aaron Knappstein for finding the missing records of the Wolff children and even more so for connecting me to my cousin Ravid. And I am very, very grateful to Ravid for sharing her family’s story with me. Ravid, like her great-grandmother Martha and so many others in the extended Goldschmidt family, has a great interest in and great talents in art. Her photography captures in simple and yet complex ways the beauty of the world around us by using unusual perspectives and contrasting light and colors.

The Families of Kiele Stern Loewenthal and Abraham Stern: An Update

My last post provided new information about the descendants of Kiele Stern Loewenthal’s daughter Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher. Today I will look at updates for the family of Kiele Stern Loewenthal’s daughter Helene Loewenthal Schultze and specifically updates for her only child, Elisabeth Auguste Aloysia Schultze, daughter of Helene’s second husband Oskar Schultze. I had several gaps in the story of Elisabeth.

First, I did not have Elisabeth’s birth record, and Aaron Knappstein located it for me:

Elisabeth was born on December 3, 1914, in Coblenz, Germany. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned from this record was that Helene, her mother, was identifying as “ohne,” or without, religion. As I wrote about here, Elisabeth’s mother Helene was born Jewish, but her father Oskar Schultze was Protestant. But both Helene and Elisabeth were included on the 1939 Minority census in Germany.

The notes at the bottom of the record indicate that Elisabeth was married in February 24,1955, in Hamburg and that she died on November 23, 1991 in Bad Krozingen.

That helped Aaron locate Elisabeth’s marriage record and death record. Here is the marriage record.

This document shows that Elisabeth married Ulrich Carl Albert Wilke on February 24, 1955, in Hamburg, Germany. Ulrich was born on August 16, 1906, in Hamburg; his parents were Emil Ludwig Gustav Wilke and Catherine Wilhelmine Frieda Auguste Schreiber. The marriage record states that Ulrich was a bank clerk and that Elisabeth was a merchant. She was 41 when they married, and he was 49. The marriage record indicates that neither had children, and as far as I know, Elisabeth and Ulrich also did not have children. Both Elisabeth and Ulrich reported that they were Lutheran.

In the upper left-hand margin of the marriage record is a note indicating that Elisabeth left the church in 1969. Aaron explained to me that this could have been done to avoid the religion tax or it could have indicated that she was not religious and did not want to pay a tax to support the church.

The second note in the left-hand margin reports that Ulrich died on December 5, 1984.

The third document that Aaron located about Elisabeth Schultze Wilke is a transcription of her death record.

From this document I know that she died in Bad Krozingen on November 23, 1991 and that she identified as “evanglische” (Protestant), so perhaps she had returned to the church between her marriage and her death. Elisabeth was 77 when she died.

Thanks to Aaron Knappstein, I now have a much more complete story of Elisabeth’s life; what’s still missing is the story of where she was and how she managed during the 1940s, and that may remain a mystery as she had no children to carry on her story.

I also have updates that relate to the descendants of Kiele Stern’s brother Abraham Stern and his children. These updates came from Abraham’s great-grandson Rafi Stern, who has previously shared photographs and information about his relatives. This time he sent two documents in German.

The first is a letter written by his uncle Erich Stern to Erich’s brother and Rafi’s father Guenther Stern. Erich and Guenther were the sons of Siegfried Salmon Stern, son of Abraham Stern and Johanna Goldschmidt. I discussed this letter in the earlier post, but now have a scan of the original letter in German. It is the letter Eric wrote describing in the first paragraph what had happened to the family on Kristallnacht. As you can see, it is dated November 13, 1938, just a few days after that nightmarish event throughout Germany.

The remaining two paragraphs are rather vague but appear to concern the family’s property and business and how to protect it from the Nazis.

Thank you for your various letters.
Unfortunately we have very bad news from Frankfurt. Uncle Siegfried, who wanted to go to Palestine with your family on Sunday, was arrested on Friday, as well as Aunt Sittah, Maguerite and Helmuth. Aba had fled and no one knew where. Really horrible conditions. Bickhardts still seem to be undisturbed.

Under these circumstances, I personally think it is more correct if you do not entrust Mr. Goldschmidt with the handling of the matter, since he cannot do the thing in the future. An Aryan lawyer, as I hear, is also not allowed to accept new Jewish customers, but if you turned to Peters, that [problem]would also disappear.  [I assume this means that because the family had previously used Peters, the prohibition against new clients would not apply.] Please write to him immediately. The matter can surely also be processed via the foreign exchange office in Cologne, since we are responsible here. Please let me know about it immediately. I will not enclose the list of assets with you, because maybe it will not be required in Cologne. I am also very reluctant to submit a list of 35 & 38, because I do not know about Eburonenstrasse and have given only very vague information about the general property registration.

As far as the matter of the foreign  papers, Father gave the matter to one of his lawyers (I don’t know his name), who is said to have first-class relationships. I haven’t heard anything yet. Father took it on the condition that if the lawyer got all or part of the papers in my name, we would share them.

Did you hear about the transfer of the proceeds from the sale of Kaiserstrasse to our accounts?
Greeting and kiss. Yours, Erich

Rafi also sent me a memoir written by his great-aunt, Siegfried’s sister Alice Lea Stern Oppenheimer.  It’s 58 pages long and in German, and since my German group is not meeting this summer, I am going to try to read it myself to keep up with my German. I will report back once I’ve accomplished that task.

Thank you again to Aaron Knappstein and to Rafi Stern for helping to tell the stories of these descendants of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern.

 

A Photo Essay of the Family of Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher

Another cousin who found my blog during these pandemic days is my fifth cousin, once removed, Carrie Schwabacher. She is the granddaughter of Gerhard Schwabacher, the great-granddaughter of Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher, great-great-granddaughter of Kiele Stern Loewenthal, three times great granddaughter of Sarah Goldschmidt Stern, and four-times great-granddaughter of Meyer Goldschmidt.

Carrie kindly shared with me these wonderful photographs as well as some heartwarming stories about her family. They start with her great-great-grandmother, Kiele (Caroline) Stern Loewenthal, the daughter of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern, wife of Abraham Loewenthal. I wrote about Kiele here and here.

Kiele Stern Loewenthal.
Courtesy of her family

Here is a lovely photograph of Kiele and Abraham Loewenthal’s daughter, Selma, as a young woman; I see a strong resemblance to her mother.

Selma Loewenthal
Courtesy of her family

Selma married Nathan Schwabacher:

Nathan Schwabacher Courtesy of the Schwabacher family

And they had three children. Their daughter Alice was the oldest:

Alice Schwabacher Courtesy of the Schwabacher family

Alice was followed by Julius Alfred Schwabacher:

Julius Alfred Schwabacher Courtesy of the Schwabacher family

Gerhard Schwabacher, Carrie’s grandfather, was Selma and Nathan’s youngest child:

Gerhard Schwabacher
Courtesy of the family

The two sons look remarkably similar to each other and to their father Nathan.

Alice Schwabacher married David Weinstein (later Wenten) and had one child, Wolfgang, depicted here as a young boy with his dog:

Wolfgang Weinstein and dog

Julius Schwabacher married Margaret Wuertenberg and had one child, Eva Lore, the adorable little girl shown here:

Eva Lore Schwabacher
Courtesy of the family

This photograph of Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher and her brother Julius Loewenthal is undated, but must have been taken before 1936 when Julius left for the United States. Selma died in 1937 in Berlin.

Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher and brother Julius Loewenthal
Courtesy of the family

Here is a closer one of Selma, probably taken around the same time:

The remaining photographs that Carrie shared with me appear to have been taken after the family immigrated to the United States. Their full story has been told here, so I won’t tell it again, but will share these photographs of the Schwabacher family in their new country and some of Carrie’s memories of her extended family.

She has wonderful memories of her grandparents, as she shared with me: “I have such great memories of my grand parents even though they died when I was 7. Christmas was a very special time – like a scene from the Nutcracker. As children, we celebrated Hanukkah, Christmas and Epiphany ( my mom’s side of the family is Russian Orthodox). We got presents for months, or it seemed like it.” She also wrote that her Opa, Gerhard Schwabacher, always gave each of his grandchildren a quarter every time he saw them.

Other holidays were spent with her great-uncle Julius Schwabacher, who became Fred Wenten in the US, and his wife Else in Proctor, Vermont: Fred and Elsa owned an Inn in Proctor Vt. The entire family spent a few holidays there as well. The toasts would go on for so long that someone would finally say “let the children eat their fruit cocktails before they fall asleep”. And then, dinner would start.”

Here’s a photograph of Fred Wenten in the US:

Fred Wenten (born Julius Alfred Schwabacher)
Courtesy of the family

Fred’s daughter Eva Lore was also a favorite of Carrie. Eva Lore married Henry Corton in 1951. Carrie wrote this about them:

“Henry was a fabulous dancer and would sometimes break into buck and wing ( tap dancing) in the kitchen even when he was old. We visited then often when they lived in Jamaica, Queens. We always went out for walks. We met Bella Abzug at the Cloisters in NY. He was very fond of Pavorotti and considered him a “distant cousin“. It got him back stage at the Met many times. Eva and Henri took us to Ringling Bro’s. And Barnum & Bailey Circus and the Ice Capades when we were little. We visited Eva Lore in LaGuna Hills, helped her pack and move to Baltimore, and took her to her first McDonalds meal. The “Apple Strudel “ was her favorite. Apple Pie. Even at 79, she was booking her own travel on her computer. They never had children, but spoiled us.”

Here are some of the photographs of Eva Lore and Henry that Carrie shared with me:

Eva Lore Schwabacher and Henry Corton Courtesy of the family

Eva Lore Schwabacher Corton Courtesy of the family

Eva Lore Schwabacher Corton Courtesy of the family

Eva Lore and Henry Corton Courtesy of the family

Carrie also has warm memories of her great-aunt Alice Schwabacher Weinstein (Wenten in the US):

“We went to visit Tanta Alice for the holidays every year in Washington Heights, NY. I always wanted to take a nap, because I loved the big square Feather pillows on the bed. She always had such great treats for us, German delicacies. She was extremely socially active. Wolf would remark that he had to make an appointment just to visit his mother. We had her 90 th birthday party at window on the worlds – top of the World Trade Center. It was incredible to meet so many people originally named Schwabacher.”

This photograph shows Alice with her son Wolfgang and his wife Ruth.

Alice Schwabacher Wenten Kingsley, Wolfgang Wenten, Ruth Pollinger Wenten
Courtesy of the family

Finally, this is a photograph of the three Schwabacher siblings and their spouses taken in the US:

Arthur Kingsley, Alice Schwabacher Kingsley, Julius (Fred Wenten) Schwabacher, Else Wenten, Alice Ferron Schwabacher, Gerhard Schwabacher
Courtesy of the family

I am extremely grateful to my cousin Carrie for sharing her memories and these photographs. She really has brought to life this strong and loving family who escaped from Germany and started a wonderful new life in the United States.

Hannah and Henry Goldsmith, My Double Cousins: An Update

I have been working on the family of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt, the oldest son of Meyer Goldschmidt, my four-times great-uncle, for months. We have already discussed four of Jacob’s five children: Helene, Regina, Julius, and Mayer/Marcel, and there is one more child to discuss. Then I can move on to Jacob’s sister Malchen and his two younger brothers, Selig and Falk. As you can see, there are still a lot of Goldschmidts to discuss. Given that I started writing about the Goldschmidts almost two and a half years ago, it looks like I will still be writing about them at least until the end of 2020 if not into 2021. That’s more time than I’ve spent on any of my other family lines. Wow.

But before I go on to Jacob Meier Goldschmidt’s youngest child, I need to do some catching up. It seems that the COVID19 pandemic has led many people stuck at home to research their family history. And I’ve heard from quite a few new Goldschmidt/Goldsmith cousins who Googled an ancestor’s name and found my blog. I’ve gotten new photographs, new stories, and new names to add to the family tree. So for the next few weeks, I am going to post this new information and update the posts where I first wrote about the relevant family.

Today’s post is about the families of two of Simon Goldschmidt’s children, the two born in the US, Hannah Goldsmith Benedict and Henry Goldsmith, who were my double cousins as their mother was my three-times great-aunt  Fradchen Schoenthal, my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal’s sister.

First, I want to share some photographs and documents and a story about the family of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, my first cousin, three times removed.  She was born in Baltimore in 1848 and had three sons who survived to adulthood, Jake, Herschel, and Centennial Harry Benedict.

In April, 2020, I heard from Hannah’s great-great-grandson Bruce Velzy, who is also the great-grandson of Jake Benedict; he had found my blog posts about his ancestors and wanted to share some photographs, including this one of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict that I posted earlier and had restored by the Free Photo Restoration group on Facebook.

Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, restored photo. Courtesy of her family

This is Hannah’s husband, Joseph Benedict:

Joseph Benedict, courtesy of Bruce Velzy

Bruce also shared a photograph of Hannah’s three sons. We weren’t completely sure who was who, but since Harry was the youngest, six years younger than Jake, five years younger than Hershel, I think he is the boy in the center.

Sons of Hannah Goldsmith and Joseph Benedict, c. 1890. Courtesy of the family

Bruce also had some very interesting documents, including this application for a Civil War pension filed by Joseph Benedict:

I learned several things from this document—that Joseph and Hannah were married by Rabbi Naumberg on April 17, 1867, in Pittsburgh. Even more important is the fact that Joseph and Hannah had two children who died as infants whom I’d not discovered. Their first child Emily, born October 19, 1868, died just three months later in December, and their fifth child Sydney was born on March 29, 1889, and died two months later in May, 1889. I am so glad I can add them to the family tree and preserve their memory for I am sure they were loved and mourned by their family.

I looked for birth and death certificates for Emily and Sydney, but did not find any. I did, however, find their gravestones on FindAGrave and also a death notice for Sydney on his FindAGrave memorial.

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Emilie Benedict (Oct 1868–Dec 1868), Find a Grave Memorial no. 109102550, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Corey & Douglas Marshall-Steele (contributor 47477063) .

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Sidney G. Benedict (29 Mar 1889–17 May 1889), Find a Grave Memorial no. 90777547, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by DGG (contributor 47020054) .

 

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Sidney G. Benedict (29 Mar 1889–17 May 1889), Find a Grave Memorial no. 90777547, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by DGG (contributor 47020054) .

Death: Benedict—on May 17 at 10 in the evening, Sidney G., youngest son of Joseph and Hannah Benedict. Funeral to be held at the parents’ home, [address], on Sunday, May 19, at 2 in the afternoon. Please no flowers.

(Note that the spelling of their first names on the gravestones and in the death notice is different from that used on the pension application written years later.)

In order for Hannah to receive the Civil War pension benefits as a widow after Joseph died, she had to prove her marriage. The pension application asked for a marriage record, and Joseph had written there was none as no records were kept at the time.

So in 1918 after Joseph died, Hannah applied for widow’s benefits and submitted this affidavit to prove her marriage:

Notice that Julius J. Streng, the witness, was 63 in 1918, meaning that at the time of the wedding in 1867 he would have been only twelve years old. So who was he and why was he at Hannah and Joseph’s wedding?

Well, I found his death certificate, and his mother’s birth name was Jenetta Benedict. I haven’t yet found evidence to prove it, but my hunch is that Jenetta was Joseph Benedict’s sister and that young Julius was his nephew.

UPDATE: My hunch was confirmed when I found Jeanette/Jenetta’s obituary in 1913 and it described Joseph Benedict as her brother.

Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 066001-069000
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967

Bruce also had a copy of Hannah’s death certificate:

Hannah Goldsmith Benedict death certificate

Of course, I love this because it is evidence of my double connection to Hannah as a Goldschmidt and as a Schoenthal.

Bruce shared with me that Joseph and Hannah’s two older sons, his great-grandfather Jake and great-great-uncle Herschel, dropped out of school in ninth grade in order to earn money so that their youngest brother Harry, who was an excellent student, would be able to attend college. Harry, as I wrote about here, ended up graduating from Cornell University as did his two sons Manson and William, and all three became highly successful and brilliant engineers.

In addition, Bruce’s sister Suzanne Midford left this comment on my blog post about her grandmother Helen Benedict Booher, Jake Benedict’s daughter:

My “Grandmommy Booher” was what’s now known as a social worker, one of the professions that grew out of the Jane Addams Hull House movement and the professionalization of women workers who helped to socialize new American immigrants in the 1920s and 30s. One aspect of this was the desire by members of the earlier (and more prosperous) German Jewish immigrant waves to give a leg up to, and help “Americanize” the (mostly poorer) Jewish immigrants from the later eastern European waves. To that end, the new immigrants were taught hygiene, cooking, language, ‘manners’ (American ones anyhow), and comportment. One of my dearest possessions is my grandmother’s bound copy of The Settlement Cookbook, which was a German-Jewish cookbook meant to teach a new immigrant Jewish housewife all the ways she should “be American”, from translating her old world dishes to new world methods and ingredients, to introducing her to “modern” culinary ideas, how to use unfamiliar kitchen implements, how to keep a clean house (by American standards), and a million little details about “life in America”. As a historian, I find it an invaluable window through which to understand my grandmother’s generation and the immigrant assimilations that characterized that period in our national history.

I am so happy that my cousins Suzanne and Bruce, my fourth cousins, once removed, found my blog and so generously shared with me these photographs, documents, and family stories that add new and important dimensions to their personalities and their lives.

One final addition, this one about Hannah Goldsmith Benedict’s sister-in-law, Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith, wife of Henry Goldsmith, Hannah’s brother. This photograph of Sarah was sent to me by my cousin Christian, Sarah and Henry’s great-great-grandson.

The story behind this photograph is that Christian received it in the mail from someone who found it in an antique shop in Portland, Oregon. Given that Sarah lived in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, her entire married life and that, as far as I know, none of her children or grandchildren or other descendants ended up near Oregon, it’s a mystery as to how this photograph traveled all the way to the Pacific Northwest and landed in an antique shop in Portland.

These little windfalls, these gifts, have brightened my days during the dark and scary time we’re living in.

 

Hermann Gutmann Becomes Dennis Goodman: An Oral History, Part II

By the spring of 1940, Hermann Gutmann was seventeen years old and had been in England and separated from his parents since the fall of 1936.  He had completed his secondary education and had been working at a leather factory in Lancashire in the north of England since February 1940 and moved to London that May.1

On July 2, 1940, at 6 am he heard a knock on his door. The police told him to pack his bags and come with them to the police station. He protested, but to no avail, and along with many other German Jewish “enemy aliens,” he was taken to a camp, Huyton Camp, and housed in a tent with other young refugees from Nazi Germany. All those who were under eighteen, including Hermann, were told they were being taken out of England. He again protested and was told by the commanding officer that those leaving England would have the best chance of survival because England was likely to lose the war.

As the internees boarded the HMT Dunera on July 10, 1940, all their personal possessions were taken and never returned. The Jewish internees were placed in the hold in the rear of the ship and kept there by barbed wire fencing. They were only allowed up on the deck for thirty minutes a day for exercise where they were barefooted and often stepping on the broken beer bottles left behind by the guards, whom Hermann described as “football hooligans.” The internees slept on the hard floor and had open toilet stalls that he described as “awful.”  Hermann described the morale of the younger internees as fairly good, but said that those who were older had a much harder time and that there were even a few suicides during their voyage. There were also Nazi and Italian internees on the ship, but they were kept in a different location.

HMT Dunera. Not stated in the AWM record / Public domain

The internees had no idea where they were going until they arrived in Australia on September 6, 1940. Once in Australia, they were sent to New South Wales and housed at the Hay Internment Camp. There were about two thousand internees kept there, many of whom had been successful professionals—doctors, lawyers, professors, and so on. They formed their own government and even printed their own money. Hermann distributed newspapers and even started a Boy Scout group that was officially recognized by the London headquarters of the Boy Scouts.

They lived in huts, about forty to a hut, and conditions were good. Hermann noted several times that as a young man (he was seventeen), he was not as uncomfortable as those who were older, and he didn’t mind some of the living conditions. When asked whether he now resented having been interned during this time, he said no—that he understood it was done without much thought based on fear when the war started and that it was an awful waste of time and money, but that he did not feel any resentment towards the British for their actions.

In the fall of 1941, Hermann volunteered to join the British military as a means of getting out of the internment camp. He left Austrialia on October 13, 1941, and arrived back in England on November 28, 1941, just over a week before Pearl Harbor. He and other Jewish refugees were given no choice as to where to serve and were assigned to the Pioneer Corps, a corps assigned “light engineering tasks [that] included building anti-aircraft emplacements on the Home Front, working on the Mulberry harbours for D-Day, and serving during beach assaults in France and Italy. Pioneers also carried stretchers, built airfields, repaired railways, and moved stores and supplies.”

Pioneer Corps clearing rubble, Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer / Public domain

It was during this time that his commanding officer asked him to change his name to something less German-sounding. Hermann chose the name Dennis John Goodman, his first name for a friend who had been killed in the war and Goodman as an Anglicized version of Gutmann. In the interview, he commented that he now regretted that he never returned to his birth name Hermann Gutmann as it had a very long history in his family.

Dennis was not content being in the Pioneer Corps because he wanted to be fighting the Nazis. In 1943, British policy changed, and Jewish German refugees like Dennis were allowed to serve more directly in combat. Dennis joined a tank unit and was on the beach at Normandy three days after D-Day, that is, on June 9, 1944. He ended up fighting in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and finally in Germany. He was involved in many difficult and dangerous battles, made more dangerous by the fact that the English tanks were outmatched by the German Tiger Tanks they were facing. He experienced some very close encounters with death or capture by the Germans.

The interviewer asked him how he felt when he entered Germany, his country of birth, and fought on German soil. Dennis commented that “by that time I felt more English than German” and that he had no difficulty facing his former countrymen in battle. When the war ended, he was in Berlin for the British Victory Parade on July 21, 1945.

British Victory Parade in Berlin, National Archives and Records Administration / Public domain

By that time he already knew about the concentration camps.  He was given compassionate leave to go to Amsterdam to learn what had happened to his parents and learned of the deportation to and murder at Sobibor. In the interview, Dennis mentioned that at that time he learned that his grandmother had been hidden in the northern part of Holland and had survived.

I checked to see which grandmother, and it had to be his maternal grandmother, Hedwig Goldschmidt, because his paternal grandmother had died in 1932. I have no wartime records for Hedwig after March 15, 1938, when she was a passenger coming to England from Amsterdam.2 I initially thought that meant that she had moved to England at that time, but it appears from Hermann’s information that she had returned to Amsterdam, perhaps after visiting him in England.

Dennis remained in Germany after the war and joined the Review and Interrogation staff in Neuengamme, near Hamburg, where he was involved in interrogating Nazis about war crimes. He was struck by the ordinariness of the people who committed these crimes and their weak excuses for what they did. He also found some of them very arrogant. Several times during the interview, Dennis made the point that it was well known throughout Germany that Jews were being persecuted and that those who afterwards claimed that they hadn’t been aware of what was happening were either lying or repressing what they’d known.

In 1947, Dennis was discharged from the military and returned to England. He married a Polish-born Holocaust survivor after the war and had three children. I don’t know much about his life after the war, but did find several immigration documents from Brazil, starting in 1949, suggesting he might have been involved in international business or perhaps visiting family members who had immigrated to Brazil.

Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965. Original data: “Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965”. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2013.

Dennis John Goodman, born Hermann Gutmann, died in England in 2007. He had lived an extraordinary life, leaving his parents and homeland as a thirteen year old boy, being interned for over a year in Australia as an “enemy alien,” and then fighting valiantly against the Nazis for several years including post-war interrogation of war criminals. His parents had been murdered at Sobibor. He had every right to be an angry, resentful man.

But listening to his voice in the oral history interview, I detected no resentment towards his adopted country, despite the internment. Certainly he harbored anger with the Nazis for what they did to his parents and all the Jews in Europe and continuing bewilderment over the German citizenry’s acquiescence to it all. But I did not come away from the interview thinking of him as bitter or defeated; instead I heard a then 72 year old man who looked back on his life with pride in his ability to endure and succeed against all odds and in his strength and independence even as a young man. His story will stay with me forever.


  1. These facts come almost entirely from the oral history interview of Dennis Goodman, aka Hermann Gutmann, found on the Imperial War Museum website. Some of the dates in this post were found in an article written by his daughter, Naomi Levy, and published in the AJR [Association of Jewish Refugees] Journal of December 2018, on page 11, and found here
  2.  Hedwig Goldschmidt, Arrival Age: 61, Birth Date: abt 1877, Port of Departure: New York, New York, United States, Arrival Date: 15 Mar 1938, Port of Arrival: Plymouth, England, Ports of Voyage: New York, Ship Name: Washington, Shipping Line: United States Line, Official Number: 232210, The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1158, Ancestry.com. UK and Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960