In my last post, I talked about the twisted path I took to find my great-great-uncle Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienfeld. After discovering that their daughter Henriette Schoenthal and her husband Julius Levi had been killed in the Holocaust, I was determined to find out what had happened to Henry Lyons, who was the son of Henriette and Julius Levi and who had filed Pages of Testimony for his parents with Yad Vashem.
I thought that would be easy. After all, I had a name and a specific address from the Pages of Testimony—99-30 59th Avenue, Rego Park, New York. And I did almost immediately find a Public Records listing with his name at that address that provided me with his birthdate, October 17, 1919. But that didn’t tell me much more than what I knew from the Pages of Testimony.
Searching a bit further using the Rego Park address listed on the Pages of Testimony, I found a Pauline Lyons listed at that same address; I assumed that she was Henry’s wife. Having both names made the search a bit easier since Henry Lyons itself is not exactly a unique name. I was able to use their two names together to find that they are both buried at Calverton National Cemetery and that Henry had died on December 18, 1986, and Pauline on November 30, 2007. Henry had served in the US military during World War II, beginning his service on November 28, 1942, and thus was entitled to a military burial. Imagine coming to America as a young man to escape Hitler and then fighting against the country of your birth.
When had he come to the US? Had he and Pauline had children? I wanted to know more. I assumed Henry had arrived in the US sometime in the mid-to late 1930s. I also assumed that he had arrived under the surname Levi, not Lyons. After I wasted a lot of time searching for him under the wrong name, a member of the NYC Genealogy Group found a record for a man named Helmut Levi who had changed his name to Henry Lyons on October 5, 1953, in the city courts in New York.
Armed with the information about what was probably his original name, I was able to find Helmut Levi on the 1940 census, living as a lodger at 204 West 87th Street in NYC and working as a watchmaker. I was pretty certain I had found the right person when I saw on the census record that he had been living in Cologne, Germany, in 1935.
I also then found him on a passenger manifest (see line 26 on each page below):
Helmut Levi had arrived in NYC on February 25, 1939. According to the ship manifest, he was a nineteen year old merchant born and last residing in Cologne, leaving behind his father Julius Levi of Breitstrasse in Cologne and going to his uncle Lee Schoenthal of Washington, Pennsylvania. This was obviously my cousin, the man later known as Henry Lyons.
I also found him on a second passenger manifest dated July 4, 1948, arriving in NYC from Bremerhaven, Germany. Henry had returned to Germany after the war. What a devastating trip that must have been. The photo below shows what his home city of Cologne looked like after Allied bombing during the war. Henry had not only lost his parents, but the place where he had lived as a child and a teenager.
From that 1948 passenger manifest (line 10), I saw that Helmut Levi was then living in Washington, Pennsylvania, where his two uncles, Lee and Meyer, were also living, that is, his mother’s brothers, the two sons of Jakob and Charlotte mentioned in my last post. Like so many Schoenthal relatives before him, Helmut had spent time living in western Pennsylvania. The ship manifest also indicated that by 1948, Helmut had married, although Pauline is not listed as traveling with him.
But I still didn’t know whether Helmut/Henry and Pauline had had children or whether there were other family members I might have missed. I called Calverton National Cemetery, but they had no additional information. I searched in the newspaper databases for articles or obituaries that might reveal more about Henry and Pauline Lyons. At first I limited myself to New York papers, but then I realized that that was too narrow, given that he had once lived in western Pennsylvania. I broadened my search and found this obituary from the January 19, 1989, Pittsburgh Press:
Who was Erna Haas? And was she Henry’s aunt or Pauline’s aunt? And who was Yohana Stern? I had more work to do. I searched for Erna Haas, an unusual enough name, and was very excited to find this ship manifest (see lines 15 and 16):
Erna and her twelve year old son Werner had sailed from Hamburg, Germany on May 4, 1938; Erna was a beautician coming from Cologne. I assumed that therefore her connection would be to Henry, a native of Cologne, not to Pauline, who was American-born. Turning to the second page of the manifest, my hunch was confirmed (again, see lines 15 and 16):
Who was the person she named as living in the place she had left? Her sister, H. Levy of Breitstrasse in Cologne—that is, Henriette Schoenthal Levi, who had lived on that street as seen in the Köln directories in my last post. And who was she going to be with in the US? Her brother, Lee Schoenthal in Washington, Pennsylvania. Erna Haas was another child of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld. She was also my grandmother’s first cousin. And the aunt of Henry Lyons. She was born Erna Schoenthal. I had found a fourth child of Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal.
In 1940, Erna was listed on the census living with her son Werner in Pittsburgh, Erna working in cosmetics sales, Werner in newspaper sales. Erna was a widow, so I assume that her husband Arnold had died in Germany, as I have no record of him in the US. Unfortunately I have not yet found a record for him in Germany either.
But what about Yohana Stern, who had been listed in Erna’s obituary as her sister? I found this obituary for her husband Heinrich while searching for more information about Erna Haas:
And then I located a ship manifest for Johanna Stern and Heinrich Stern (lines 3 and 4):
They had not arrived in the US until June 10, 1947, when they were 66 and 70 years old. Notice that Johanna was born in Cologne, presumably around 1880. How had she and Heinrich survived the Holocaust? The manifest lists them as “stateless” and notes that they had last resided in “Lyon, France” and that their visas had been issued in “Marseille, France.”
The second page indicates that the person they were leaving behind at their last residence was a friend named Henry Kahnweiler of Paris (more on him in my next post) and the person they were going to see in the US was Johanna’s brother Lee Schoenthal of Washington, Pennsylvania. Their final destination was Washington, Pennsylvania. Yohana or Johanna Stern was born Johanna Schoenthal, a fifth child of Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal. Another of my grandmother’s first cousins.
Thus, Jakob and Charlotte had had five children. Their two sons Lee and Meyer had emigrated from Germany long before Hitler came to power; they had both settled near their aunt and uncle in Washington, Pennsylvania. Jakob and Charlotte’s three daughters had stayed behind. One, Henriette, was murdered by the Nazis with her husband Julius Levi at the Chelmno death camp in 1942, but their son Helmut Levi, aka Henry Lyons, left Germany in 1939 and survived. Another daughter, Erna, left Germany with her son Werner in 1938. And finally a third daughter, Johanna, somehow survived the war by going to France, and she and her husband Heinrich Stern came to the US in 1947.
It was a long and twisty road finding these five children, and it was heartbreaking to read of more cousins killed in the Holocaust. But four of those five children survived and came to the US as did two of Jakob and Charlotte’s grandsons, Henry Lyons and Werner Haas. More on the lives of these four children and their descendants in my next post.