Sometimes What You Learn Is Unbearable

As I wrote last time, Gelle Katzenstein, the oldest daughter of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion, married Moses Ruelf of Rauischholzhausen. They had ten children together, six of whom lived full adult lives: Esther, Minna, Bette, Rebecca, Juda, and Pauline. They were my second cousins, twice removed. This post will tell the story of the families of Esther and Bette.

Esther, born May 26, 1857, in Rauischholzhausen, married Sussman Bachenheimer on June 25, 1874. (Schneider, Die Juedischen Familien im ehemaligen Kreise Kirchain,  p. 345.) He was also born in Rauischholzhausen on December 25, 1850. They settled in Kirchhain, Germany. Together Esther and Sussman had four daughters: Helene (1876), Rosa (1877), Bertha (1879), and Minna (1881).

Helene died the day after she was born:

Helene Bachenheimer birth record June 3 1876
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 4977

Helene Bachenheimer death record June 4, 1876
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5061

The other three daughters lived to adulthood, and their parents lived to see all three married with children.

Rosa was born on August 10, 1877, in Kirchhain:

Rosa Bachenheimer birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 4978

According to Matthias Steinke and Doris Strohmenger from the German Genealogy group on Facebook, the language in the left margin indicates that her name, Rosa, was added after the birth record had been recorded. It also indicates that her father’s name was Sussman, not Simon, as indicated on the original record.

Rosa married August Felix Katzenstein on November 20, 1900, in Kirchhain.

Marriage record of Rosa Bachenheimer and August Felix Katzenstein
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5028

August was born April 26, 1849 in Jesberg, the son of Meier Katzenstein and Auguste Wolf.

August Felix Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3807

August was Rosa’s first cousin, once removed. He was the grandson of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion through their son Meier, and Rosa was their great-granddaughter through their daughter Gelle and granddaughter Esther.

August and Rosa had two children: Margaretha Grete Katzenstein (1901) and Hans Peter Katzenstein (1905).

Rosa’s younger sister Bertha was born August 5, 1879, in Kirchhain.

Bertha Bachenheimer birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 4980

She married Josef Weinberg on November 11, 1903. Josef was born in Lauterbach, Germany, on March 4, 1876, the son of Abraham Weinberg and Fanni Simon.

Marriage record of Bertha Bachenheimer and Josef Weinberg
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5031

Bertha and Josef had one child, a daughter named Ruth born on August 28, 1904.

Minna, the youngest daughter of Esther Ruelf and Sussman Bachenheimer, was born on March 5, 1881, in Kirchhain.

Minna Bachenheimer birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 4982

She married Meier Wertheim on March 15, 1906. Meier was born on November 23, 1878, in Hatzbach, Germany, the son of Isaac Wertheim and Bertha Wertheim.

Marriage record of Minna Bachenheimer and Meier Wertheim
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5034

Minna and Meier had five sons born in Hatzbach: Herbert (1906), Kurt (1908), Walter (1915), and Gunther (1924).

Thus, by 1924, Esther Ruelf and Sussman Bachenheimer had six grandchildren, all born and living in the Hesse region of Germany. In the next twenty years their lives were all completely changed.

First, Sussman Bachenheimer died on March 8, 1924, in Kirchhain. He was 73 years old. The marginal comment here reports that his name was legally changed from Simon to Sussman in 1907.

Sussman Bachenheimer death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5109

Then on June 11, 1934, Esther Ruelf Bachenheimer’s daughter Bertha Bachenheimer Weinberg died at age 54; Bertha’s husband Josef Weinberg died just three months later on September 9, 1934. He was 58. They were survived by their daughter Ruth, who was thirty years old when her parents died.

Bertha Bachenheimer Weinberg death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 903_11031

By the time Bertha and Josef died in 1934, the Nazis were in power in Germany, and life had already changed for Jews living there. Some Jews were beginning to leave the country.

On September 23, 1935, Herbert Wertheim, the son of Minna Bachenheimer and Meier Wertheim, left Germany and moved to what was then Palestine, now Israel. Six months later in March, 1936, his younger brother Walter joined him there.

Esther Ruelf Bachenheimer died on August 16, 1936, at age 79. Not long after, her daughter  Minna Bachenheimer Wertheim and her husband Meier left Germany to join their sons in Palestine; they arrived there with their youngest son Gunther on September 10, 1936.

Death of Esther Ruelf Bachenheimer HStAMR Best. 915 Nr. 5121 Standesamt Kirchhain Sterbenebenregister 1936, S. 22

Ruth Weinberg, the daughter of Bertha and Josef Weinberg, also soon left Germany. She and her husband Hugo Schleicher and their daughter arrived in New York City on May 16, 1940. Hugo, who had been a lawyer in Germany, was working in Brooklyn at the Weingarten Agency of Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1942 when he registered for the World War II draft; the family was living in Manhattan.

Hugo Schleicher World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147

Thus, as of 1942, the only child of Esther Ruelf and Sussman Bachenheimer who was still in Germany was Rosa Bachenheimer along with her husband, August Felix Katzenstein, and their two children Margaretha and Hans-Jacob. Why they did not follow the other family members to either Palestine or the US is a mystery and a tragic one.

All four of them, as well as Margaretha’s husband Rudolf Loewenstein, were deported on April 22, 1942, to a concentration camp in Izbica, Poland, where they were murdered. Rosa, August, Margaretha, and Hans-Jacob were all my cousins, since Rose and August were both descendants of Jakob Katzenstein, my great-great-grandfather’s brother. Four more of my family members whose lives were taken by the Nazis. (The links are to their entries in Yad Vashem’s database.)

And heartbreakingly, the list does not end there. Esther Ruelf’s younger sister Bette also had family who were killed in the Holocaust. In fact, Bette has no living descendants.

Bette was born on December 3, 1860 in Rauischholzhausen. On January 26, 1886, she married Gustav Schaumberg of Schweinsburg. He was born in May 1857 to Isaak and Gutroth Schaumberg.

Marriage record of Bette Ruelf and Gustav Schaumberg
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8456

Bette and Gustav had four children born in Schweinsburg: Siegfried (1886), Rosa (1888), Flora (1891), and Selma (1897).

Sigfried Schaumsberg birth record November 16, 1886
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8429

Rosa Schaumberg birth record October 13, 1888
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8431

Flora Schaumberg birth record July 14, 1891
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8434

Selma Schaumberg birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 844

As far as I’ve been able to determine, only Flora ever married. She married David Haas on December 14, 1914.  I cannot find any record indicating that they had had children.

Marriage record of Flora Schaumberg and David Haas
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8484

Sadly, the youngest child of Bette Ruelf and Gustav Schaumberg, Selma, died in Marburg, Germany, on March 3, 1931, when she was only 33 years old:

Selma Schaumberg death record’
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5737

My colleagues Matthias Steinke and Doris Strohmenger at the German Genealogy group helped me translate this record also.  It reads: “The director of the university-hospital here has reported, that the unemployed (without profession being) Selma Schaumberg, 33 years old, residing and born in Schweinsberg, county of Kirchhain, unmarried, in Marburg in the hospital at the 3rd March of the year 1931 past midday at 5:30 is deceased.” There is no cause of death given.

Perhaps Selma was in some ways fortunate. She did not live to suffer under Nazi rule.

Her father Gustav Schaumberg died on July 30, 1938, when he was 81 years old; his wife Bette Ruelf Schaumberg died April 9, 1940; she was 79. They also in some ways may have been fortunate to die when they did, although by the time they did, they must have already experienced much suffering and humiliation by the Nazis.

Bette Ruelf Schaumberg death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8568

But at least they may have died with some hope that their remaining children would survive.

They did not. Siegfried was sent to Dachau Concentration Camp on April 3, 1942; he was then sent to the death camp in Hartheim, Austria on August 12, 1942, where he was killed. (JewishGen volunteers, comp. Germany, Dachau Concentration Camp Records, 1945 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.)

A month later Siegfried’s sisters Rosa and Flora were also deported. They were both sent to Theriesenstadt along with Flora’s husband David Haas. Rosa was then sent to Auschwitz on January 23, 1943, where she was put to death. Flora and her husband David were both sent to Auschwitz on May 16, 1944, where they also were murdered. (The links are to their Yad Vashem entries.)

Thus, not one of the children of Bette Ruelf and Gustav Schaumberg survived the Holocaust.

Can anyone not understand why it is so depressing, frightening, and maddening to see people marching with swastikas in our streets?

 

 

 

35 thoughts on “Sometimes What You Learn Is Unbearable

  1. I cannot imagine! My relatives in Germany were very upset to know the Nazis did this. They knew they were fighting against their Kuhn cousins here in Pa. Most were fighting on the Russian front and survived! They were so glad to know that all their cousins survived the war! On a good note- I found my great grandfather on my mother’s mother’s side! He died in 1938 and is buried at West Laurel Cemetery with his Melloy family! More later! Pat Kuhn

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy, I am not surprised by the current wave of anti-Semitism but I am very upset and alarmed by it. As you know my paternal Great Grandmother Bessie was Orthodox. She remained in the faith until 1951 when she finally converted to Catholicism more for appearances and pressure from my grandfather’s family. In her heart she held many of the principles of Judaism which she passed on to me even though at the time I did not understand but now I do. My father was badly affected by the prejudice he faced as a teenager and young adult. And this was coming from a middle class to upper middle class environment of people who were well educated and successful in business as well as generous to charities and causes they supported. I was advised NEVER to let anyone know about my Grandmother’s background, but if you met her you knew she wasn’t Italian or Christian. And when I did reveal the backgrounds that make up my pedigree I, too, experienced all that my father did. And now we see it today during these rallies that use “freedom of speech” as an excuse for what is really incendiary speech meant to stoke the fires of hate and violence.

    It is good that despite the pain you are feeling you post the history behind the events and provide all the supporting documentation. You have truth and facts on your side and in future years your descendants can use these as examples to rebut the awful anti-Semitism that flares up during times of crisis.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your story makes me sad because the one thing that gives me hope is that when people have “others” in their family, they will learn that no matter what our race or religion, we all are connected. But there are still so many families where the ongoing fears and prejudices cause divisions instead of understanding.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Emily.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, Amy, I understand, completely. And yes, I feel that way, too. Why does the human race have to have “others”? One reason, I think, is this savage instinct that arises in finding a common scapegoat to beat upon and chase out. Reason and truth get swept away.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. As long as we have people suffering, there will always be envy, hatred, and violence. The only way to ensure that hatred ends is to have a world where everyone lives with dignity and at least a decent standard of living. Poverty breeds desperation and anger and depression, and someone always has to be the target for those feelings.

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      • Yes, I agree about economic status. The problem is that this kind of prejudice can covered up by some people very well. It’s impossible to know what parents teach their children behind closed doors. The way to discourage the behavior is by public condemnation and rejection. It has to be so strong to get through that this is not acceptable.

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  3. Makes me very tearful. What a sad, sad post. It must have been so hard for you to work on this research. The subject intersects with a worry I have over the Scheshkos I am starting to research. Not sure there are any DNA matches for my husband for that 1/4 of his heritage. That is very worrisome since they were all in Ukraine/Moldova, where many Jews were killed right there and those that weren’t were all deported to camps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The first time I learned of a relative who had been killed in the Holocaust I was shocked. I never knew my family had suffered any losses. I thought that the shock would fade with later discoveries, but it never has. Each time I have to catch my breath and sigh and sit silently for a bit before I can go on.

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  4. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  5. You are so right. It is unbelievable and unbearable that America is once again dealing with Nazis, this time in our very midst. Our only hope and consolation is that there are far more of us than than there are of them. We must keep up the good fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so sorry to read this but find it so heartwarming that you have not forgotten them and continue to tell their stories. Like you in your early research, I have not found anyone who was murdered. I only hope that never changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When we research our family history we all have to face very difficult findings. I believe this is a given if we search deep enough. Because of the awful events that surrounded your family they had to endure much pain and leaves you in the position of trying to understand what can never be understood.

    As to your question “Can anyone not understand why it is so depressing, frightening, and maddening to see people marching with swastikas in our streets?” I have no real answers. However I will point out the people who countered these marches far out numbered those who waved those symbols of hate. We all have come a long way since the 1930s, and yes I know we have a way to go yet, but we are headed in the right directions.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Despite the ominous title, I read of each family member’s departure from Germany hoping that was the entire family. What a tragedy.

    It was interesting to see the links to Yad Vashem’s database. What an important resource. Do family members also contribute to those profiles (with photos or other documents)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michael. Yes, they do. Family members and others submit what are called Pages of Testimony with information about the deceased. I am not sure about photos and documents as those are not viewable online, but I assume that Yad Vashem has a vast archive of that type of documentation.

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  9. That was a heartbreaking read, Amy. I imagine it was especially painful research and writing for you. I am honored to have read about their lives and as a reader, support your efforts to make sure they are never forgotten. You are doing a powerful and moving work. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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