The Legacy of Jake Katz: One More Family Rescued and a Remarkable Life

The last child of Meier and Sprinzchen Katz to leave Germany was their son Aron, who had been his younger brother Karl’s partner in the cattle trading business in Jesberg.

The family of Aron Katz and Sara Leiser: rear, Julius, Aron, Jack; front, Sara.
Courtesy of the family of Fred Katz

As noted in an earlier post, Aron’s son Jacob, known as Jack, had left Germany for the US in 1926 and was living with Jake Katz and his family in Stillwater in the 1930s, working in the Katz department store there.

Aron’s son Julius arrived on November 4, 1936, on the same ship as his cousin Moritz Katz, son of Moses Katz’s daughter Lena. Julius listed himself as a cattle trader and said he was headed to his uncle “Jakob” Katz in “Chillwater,” Oklahoma.

Julius Katz manifest, line 6Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5900; Line: 1; Page Number: 146
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,

On February 22, 1939, Aron and his wife Sara finally arrived from Germany. Fred Katz told me that Aron had been quite resistant to leaving Germany, believing like so many others that things would not get too bad. Thank goodness Aron realized how wrong he was before it was too late.  When the war in Europe started just a little over six months later, it became much more difficult for Jews to leave Germany.

Aron and Sara listed their son Jacob (Jack) Katz of Stillwater, Oklahoma, as the person who was receiving them, but handwritten in is the additional notation that they were also going to Aron’s brother Jake at the same address. Aron reported that he was a merchant.

Aron and Sara Katz, ship manifest, lines 4-5, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6291; Line: 1; Page Number: 141
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

In 1940, Aron and Sara were living in Stillwater like so many other members of the extended family.

As mentioned in the post about Walter  and Max Katz, Aron and Sara’s older son Jack Katz was in the US Army during World War II and stationed for some time in Germany. Jack was 31 when he registered for the draft in October, 1940.  He was living in Stillwater and working Katz Department Store there. I don’t know the details of his service other than what was described by Walter, but his draft card indicates that he was discharged on November 2, 1945.

Jack Katz Draft Registration
Page 1 – Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations 15-Oct-1909

After he returned home Jack married Helen Oppenheimer of Jackson, Missouri, on August 18, 1947.

Jack’s brother Julius registered for the draft in October, 1940. At the time he was living in Oklahoma City and listed his employer as Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty was a supermarket chain owned by Sylvan Goldman, the son-in-law of Jake Katz and husband of his daughter Margaret Katz. As I wrote previously, Sylvan and his brother Alfred had married the two daughters of Jake Katz, Margaret and Helen (respectively). The Goldman brothers were in the grocery business together.

The Oklahoma Historical Society website provides this description of the history of the Goldman brothers’ grocery business:

After World War I… [Sylvan and] Alfred opened Goldman Brother’s Wholesale Fruits and Produce in Breckenridge, Texas. Years later, while living in California, Sylvan and Alfred were intrigued by a new type of grocery store that offered all products under one roof—the supermarket. The brothers returned to Oklahoma in order to bring this new way of shopping to their home state. With Sylvan serving as president and Alfred as vice president of Sun Grocery Company, they opened a store on April 3, 1920, at 1403 East Fifteenth Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One year later there were twenty-one Sun Grocery markets throughout the state.

In 1929 Sylvan and Alfred sold the Sun chain to Skaggs-Safeway Stores, and in 1934 Sylvan purchased the faltering Humpty-Dumpty grocery chain. The chain was revived in part due to Goldman’s revolutionary advertising and enlightened personnel policies. His greatest contribution was the shopping cart, invented in 1936 and patented by Goldman. He established the Folding Basket Carrier Company to manufacture his invention. It was just the beginning of a list of creations that revolutionized the grocery industry: the grocery sacker, the folding interoffice basket carrier, and the handy milk bottle rack.

The New York Times described Sylvan’s invention of the shopping cart in Sylvan’s 1984 obituary:

With help from a carpenter and a maintenance man, and with a folding chair as a model, he built the first grocery cart in the mid-1930’s. Shoppers were reluctant to use it, so Mr. Goldman hired people to push loaded carts back and forth in front of a store. He also hired a woman to offer the carts to customers as they entered.  “Sylvan N. Goldman, 86, Dies; Inventor of the Shopping Cart,” The New York Times, November 27, 1984.

After Alfred Goldman died on July 9, 1937, while vacationing in New York City, Sylvan continued the business, and Julius Katz, Aron’s son, was working for him in the Oklahoma City store at the time he registered for the draft in 1940. More information about Sylvan Goldman can be found here, here, here, and in this video:

Julius Katz was still living in Oklahoma City in 1943 when he became a naturalized citizen. He listed his occupation as farming in 1937 when he filed his Declaration of Intent, but the Petition for Naturalization does not reveal what his occupation was at the time.

Julius Katz Declaration of Intent
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship , compiled 1908 – 1932; ARC Number: 731206; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Oklahoma City Declarations of Intention, 1932-1974 (Box 1)
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, Naturalization Records, 1889-1991

Aron Katz died on October 19, 1950. He was seventy-five years old and was buried in Stillwater.

On November 15, 1953, his son Julius married Seena Hana Kaufman in Kansas City, Missouri:

Marriage record of Julius Katz and Seena Kaufman
Ancestry.com. Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.
Original data: Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. Microfilm.

The marriage must not have lasted, however, because two years later in 1955, Seena is listed under her birth name in the Kansas City directory.

Julius died on August 7, 1963.  According to his obituary, his body was discovered at his farm by his brother. The obituary described Julius as a “well-known Payne County farmer and rancher with operations north of Stillwater.”  The only survivors mentioned were his mother and his brother Jack. “Funeral Services Slated  Friday for Julius Katz, Stillwater Newspress, August 8, 1963, p. 8.

Aron’s wife Sarah died three years after her son at age 88 on December 18, 1966. She was survived by her son Jack, who died in Dallas, Texas, on August 27, 1997.  He was 87 years old. Like his father, mother, and brother, he was buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Stillwater.

Thus, all of the children of Meier Katz and Sprinzchen Jungenheim—Jake, Aron, Ike, Regina, and Karl and all their children—ultimately left Germany and settled safely in the United States, almost all of them in Oklahoma. Some came as early as the 1890s, other as late as the 1930s. As for those who came in the 1930s, it is tempting to think that it was a miracle that the entire family survived the Holocaust, but it was probably more a combination of luck, courage, and their own determined efforts and those of their family in America—especially those of Jake Katz—that got them out of Germany in time.

As for Jake Katz himself, recall that by 1930 he had lost his wife Sophia as well as his son Albert Jerome. Thanks to Jake’s great-granddaughter, I now have photographs of Jake and Sophia’s three children, Albert Jerome, Margaret, and Helen:

Albert Jerome Katz in rear, Helen Katz and Margaret “Babe” Katz seated with unknown cousins on laps
Courtesy of the Goldman family

Perhaps some Katz family member can identify the two unknown little cousins? Since we know Albert Jerome died in 1919, I am assuming this photo was taken in about 1918, meaning the two young children were likely born in 1916-1917. I am thinking one might be the daughter of Lester Katz and Mayme Salzenstein, Mildred “Bobbie,” since she was born in January 1916 and was related to Jake and Sophia on both sides, Lester being Jake’s cousin and Mayme being Sophia’s sister.

Here is Jake Katz with all three of his children:

Albert Jerome Katz in rear,
Margaret “Babe” Katz, Jake Katz, and Helen Katz seated
Courtesy of the Goldman family

Family members tell me that after Albert Jerome died, Sophia did not want to continue living in the house where their son had lived, so Jake sold it to a sorority.  After Sophia died, he bought the house back from the sorority. Family members recall his home as a family gathering place where children played hide and seek.  There were frequent Sunday dinners where the extended family would come to visit, and Jake always had either a silver dollar or a Hershey’s kiss for every child. Jake’s great-niece Ester wrote about Jake and his role in saving the family on her blog, It’s All from Hashem in her post Thoughts of a Libra. 

Jake Katz died on July 2, 1968, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He was 94 years old. His obituary made the front page of the Stillwater Newspress (July 3, 1968)[There is one error here; Sophia Salzenstein Katz did not die fifteen years after they were married; she died in 1930.]

Stillwater Newspress, July 3, 1968, p. 1
Jake Katz obituary

Jake Katz was truly a remarkable man. He came to the US as a young teenager, traveling alone. He worked with family members until he was able to strike out on his own, and then he started a department store business that expanded over the years and ultimately supported many members of his extended family. He rescued several of his siblings and their children from Nazi Germany. And he did all of this despite suffering the tragic loss of his son Albert Jerome and the premature death of his wife. He is remembered with great love and admiration by many members of the family who knew him.  It is quite a legacy.

His daughters Margaret and Helen survived him. Margaret died in 1984, followed just a few weeks later by her husband, the grocery store magnate and shopping cart inventor Sylvan Goldman. Helen died in 1999. Jake’s three grandsons also have passed away, but he is survived today by two great-grandchildren.

 

16 thoughts on “The Legacy of Jake Katz: One More Family Rescued and a Remarkable Life

  1. Jake Katz was a great role model for his family. I love the bit about him buying the family home back after his wife had passed away but sparing her feelings while she was alive. Good job he was able to initiate his wider family out of Germany before WW11 took hold in Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Family of Moses Katz, Part I: Markus Katz | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  3. I really love your Jake Katz. What a remarkable man and loving and inspired family member. He really saved an entire branch of your family tree.

    I love that one of the first records listed it as Chillwater. 😉

    And the shopping cart? Awesome! I love the details about how he hired someone to pass out carts and push full carts at the front of the store. It’s funny to think that he had to market such an ingenious invention. And now, the first thing I do when I enter a grocery store is get a cart. He changed my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Fate of the Children of Moses Katz, Part II | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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