Sometimes it is amazing to me how much information you can get from one document—an obituary, a death certificate, a news article. This time it was a document my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann found in a suitcase. In fact, I learned so much from this document that I have to divide this post into two separate posts to make each a reasonable length.
What Wolfgang found was a list of names of the heirs to the estate of James Seligman, the son of Moritz and Babetta who had moved to England. (I will refer to him as English James Seligman to distinguish him from the US James Seligman, my great-grandmother’s brother.) The document is entitled: “J. Seligman Deceased: Statement as of 1st January 1950 of Nephews and Nieces and their Issue, who may take an interest under the Intestacy in the above Estate.” There are 21 principals named on the document as well as the names of several of the children or relatives of those 21 who might inherit in their place, if the principals were deceased.
I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out who these 21 people were and how they were related to English James and also thus to me. Some of them were very easy to identify. Number 21 was the easiest: Mrs. Eva Cohen of Philadelphia was my great-grandmother. She was deceased by 1950, and unfortunately there was no listing on the document of her heirs, which would have included my father, my aunt, my great-uncle Stanley, and the sons of Maurice Cohen, Buddy and Junior.
Numbers 19 and 20 were also easily identified: Arthur and US James Seligman, my great-grandmother’s brothers and the two other surviving children of Bernard Seligman, English James Seligman’s older brother. For US James Seligman, Morton is listed as his surviving son. For Arthur, there is mention of his “oldest son” (he had only one, Otis), and a note that he had been “Governor of Santa Fe” and might be able to find other relatives. By 1950, however, Arthur and his son Otis were both deceased. (These careless errors made me a bit skeptical of the Bank’s attention to detail.)
I also knew who Numbers 15 and 16 were: Emil and Eugen Seligmann were the sons of Carolina Seligmann, the half-sister of James, Bernard, and the others, and they were the grandsons of Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld. Emil had died from heart disease in 1942, and Eugen had died at Thierenstadt concentration camp in 1942. Emil’s son also died during the Holocaust at Buchenwald in 1945. His daughter Christine was still alive in 1950 when this document was created.
Number 6 is Wolfgang’s grandfather Julius, a son of August Seligmann and grandson of Moritz and Babetta. He was still alive in 1950. Number 7 is Moritz Seligmann, the brother of Julius about whom I wrote here. He had served in World War I for Germany and been awarded the Cross of Honor, but was nevertheless killed during the Holocaust. Number 8 is Franziska or Frances Seligmann Michel, the mother of Fred Michel, about whom I wrote here. She was also the child of August Seligmann and the granddaughter of Moritz and Babetta, and had died in 1933. Her son Fritz (Fred) is also mentioned on the heirs list.
Number 9 is Anna Seligmann Goldmann, the sister of Julius, Moritz, and Franziska and husband of Hugo Goldmann. Anna, Hugo, and their three young children, Ruth, Grete, and Heinz, were all killed in the Holocaust.
The next four people, Numbers 10 through 13, are all from the Oppenheimer family, written about here. Joseph, Martha, and Ella were the children of Paulina Seligmann and Meier Oppenheimer. Paulina was the sister of Bernard, August, and James, and the daughter of Moritz and Babetta Seligmann. Joseph and Ella both died during the Holocaust. Martha survived, but her two children Gertrud and Paul did not. With this document, I now learned that Martha’s married name was Floersheimer, and was able to find Gertrud and Paul in the Yad Vashem database. Gertrud died at an unknown camp in 1942 after being deported on June 10 of that year from Wiesbaden, and her brother Paul died at a camp in Majdanek, Poland, on August 16, 1942.
Emma Oppenheimer, Number 13, I assume was Emma Neuhoff, the widow of Moritz James Oppenheimer, son of Paulina and a brother of Joseph, Martha, and Ella. Moritz Oppenheimer, discussed here, had been a successful business person and horse breeder; he was reported to have committed suicide after being visited by the Gestapo in 1942.
That left me with eight unknowns: Numbers 1 through 5 and Numbers 14, 17 and 18. Some of these I believe I have figured out; others I am not as certain about. For example, Jack Seligmann, Number 1, has to be the son of a brother of James to have the Seligmann surname. I knew he was not the son of Sigmund (never married, lived in the US), Bernard (lived in the US), or Adolph (lived in the US). I assumed I had all the sons of August Seligmann from the records I found and records Wolfgang shared with me. Salomon Seligmann died when he was 21, so I eliminated him. That left only two of James’ brothers: Benjamin, a half-brother, and Hyronimus, a full-brother. I had no records other than birth records for either Benjamin or Hyronimus, and thus, I had no way to determine whether Jack was a son of Benjamin or Hyronimus, but assumed he was the son of one or the other.
Then, while I was trying to puzzle this out, Wolfgang found another document. It was a letter written in 1984 by Elsa Oppenheimer to the National Westminster Bank regarding the estate of English James Seligman. (I think Elsa Oppenheimer was the daughter of Jur Oppenheimer, son of Moritz James Oppenheimer, based on the family tree I received from Wolfgang a few weeks ago.) In her letter to the bank on July 9, 1984, Elsa attempted to correct some errors she felt the bank had made in identifying heirs of English James. She claimed, for example, that the Bank had incorrectly listed Adolph as a son of Moritz and Babetta because she could not locate a birth record for him; she was wrong about that, however, as here is a copy of his birth record, naming Moritz and Babetta as his parents.
Elsa also claimed that she knew of all of the children of Hieronymous Seligmann based on birth records, and that they were Jacob and Auguste, twins born on April 8, 1869; Mathilde, born October 4, 1872; and Rosina Laura, born June 9, 1878. Elsa asserted that Hieronymous did not have daughters named Elizabeth or Johanna.
From this letter, I am assuming that Jack Seligmann, Number 1 on the heirs’ list, was Jacob Seligmann, son of Hieronymous Seligmann and thus a grandson of Moritz and Babetta and a nephew of English James Seligman. His wife Anna is named here as living in Luxembourg as of 1950, so I looked on Yad Vashem and found an entry for a Jacob Seligmann, born on April 8, 1869, married to Anna, a clear match to my Jacob Seligmann. He was killed in Luxembourg in 1941, according to the Yad Vashem site. I don’t know whether Jacob and Anna had had any children.
That brings me to Number 2, Laura Winter. I am assuming that Laura Winter was born Rosina Laura, a daughter of Hieronymous, and married a man named Winter. The document names a Frau Aennie Wiener as her next of kin and states that Laura and her husband also died in Luxembourg, reinforcing my assumption that she and Jacob were siblings. Aennie Wiener is listed as residing at 8409 Talbot Street, Kew Gardens, Long Island.
For a while I didn’t know what had happened to Laura Seligmann Winter or her husband, although they were deceased by 1950 according to the list of heirs. Included, however, in the Ilse and Fritz Michel Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute is one handwritten note that provided some clues. The note has no title, but is just a list of names: Anna Goldmann, Hugo Goldmann, Grete Goldmann, Heinz Goldmann, Ruth Goldmann, Helene Hess [mother of Ilse Hess Michel], Max Michel, Sophie Michel, Moritz Seligmann, Jacob Seligmann, S Winter, Laura Winter, Martha Florsheimer, Paul Florsheimer, Trude Florsheimer.
What can I infer from this list? I know that Ilse and Fred Michel were actively involved in trying to find family members who were missing after the war. I know that the Goldmann family, Helene Hess, Moritz Seligmann, Jacob Seligmann, and Paul and Trude Florsheimer were all killed in the Holocaust. Martha was not, but nevertheless my guess is that these were all people whom Fred and Ilse could not locate after the war. My hunch was that since the Winters were listed as deceased on the list of heirs document that they also were killed in the Holocaust.
I then searched Yad Vashem’s database again, this time for anyone named Winter living in Luxembourg, and found just one listing—for a Samuel Winter. It said he was born on October 27, 1863, in Dusseldorf, Germany, and that he was married to Martha Seligmann. Could Martha Seligmann really be Laura Seligmann? Could there really be two German men with the surname Winter and first initial S living in Luxembourg and married to a woman whose birth name was Seligmann? I thought the odds were slim, so I used the Related Search function on the Yad Vashem database, searching for anyone with the same surname and from the same residence.
This time I got a list of other Winters from Luxembourg, including a Laura Winter. The entry did not have a birth date or birth place for Laura, but it said she was the widow of Samuel and that she had been murdered on August 28, 1940. But the entry for Samuel said he was not deported until April, 1943, and died on April 21, 1943, at Thieresenstadt. So how could Laura have been a widow in 1940? Was this a different Samuel Winter who was really married to a Martha Seligmann? I don’t know.
Fortunately, it was not very difficult to find their daughter, Aennie Wiener since I had her address at 8409 Talbot Avenue in Kew Gardens, a section of Queens in New York City, was listed on the heirs’ document. Searching for her on Ancestry quickly uncovered Anna and Joseph Wiener living at 8409 Talbot Avenue in Queens. Their residence in 1935 had been Mannheim, Germany, and they were now 46 and 58 years old, respectively. Living with them were their daughter Doris Grunewald, her husband Ernst Grunewald, also both German immigrants, and their one year old daughter, Hannah Grunewald, born in New York.
I also was able to find ship manifests for Anna, Doris, and Ernst, all of whom came between 1937 and 1938. Four more who escaped from Nazi Germany. I’ve not yet found any records for any of them after the 1940 census, but I am still looking. I am particularly interested in finding Hannah.
To be continued…