Rebekka and Regina: Sisters with Intertwined Lives

The last two children of Mina Katzenstein and Wolf Katzenstein were Rebekka and Regina, and because their fates are intertwined in several ways, I will discuss both in this post.

Rebekka was born on August 28, 1865, in Frankenau. Regina was born two years later on September 24, 1867.

Rebekka Katzenstein birth record Arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174

Regina Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 8

Rebekka married her cousin Salomon Schalom Kneibel Katz (apparently known as Kneibel) on April 30, 1889, as discussed previously.

Marriage of Rebekka Katzenstein and Salomon Kneibel Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3844

Two and a half years later, on November 25, 1891, Regina Katzenstein married Selig(mann) Alexander in Frankenau. He was born on September 20, 1861, in Momberg, the son of Joseph Alexander and Fradchen Frank.

Marriage of Regina Katzenstein to Selig Alexander
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Frankenau Heiratsnebenregister 1891 (Hstamr Best. 922 Nr. 3226); Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 922

Rebekka and Salomon Kneibel Katz had four children, three sons and one daughter. Their first child was Berthold; he was born on May 15, 1890, in Jesberg.

Berthold Katz birth record
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3821 Standesamt Jesberg Geburtsnebenregister 1890, S. 36

Then came Rebekka and Salomon’s only daughter, Therese. She was born November 11, 1891, in Jesberg.

Therese Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3822

Two sons followed Therese. Julius was born May 30, 1893, in Jesberg.

Julius Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3824

And Jakob Katz was born April 14, 1895, in Jesberg.

Jakob Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3826

Meanwhile, Regina and her husband Selig Alexander were also having children in the 1890s. Regina gave birth to seven children, but only four survived infancy. The first child, a girl, was stillborn on January 9, 1893.

Stillborn daughter of Regina Katzenstein and Selig Alexander
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6560

Less than a year later, Regina gave birth to Bertha on December 28, 1893, in Momberg.

Bertha Alexander birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6476

Regina and Selig’s third child was Rosa. She was born in Momberg on January 18, 1896.

Rosa Alexander birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6479

Almost two years after Rosa’s birth, on December 22, 1897, Regina gave birth to her fourth child, Mina, named for Regina’s mother Mina Katzenstein, who had died on September 5, 1896.

Mina Alexander birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6480

After giving birth to Mina, Regina and Selig lost two sons in infancy. Little Joseph Alexander lived only thirteen days, dying on January 24, 1902. His brother Manus lived for two months, dying on March 23, 1903.

Joseph Alexander death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6569

Manus Alexander death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6570

The seventh and last child I have for Regina Katzenstein and Selig Alexander was a son named Samuel, born January 1, 1906, according to a source provided by Barbara Greve, Barbara Haendler-Lachmann’s Schicksale der Juden im alten Landkreis Marburg 1933-1945, Hitzeroth, Marburg 1992, p. 125. Without Barbara Greve’s help, I never would have known about this seventh child as there was no available birth record for him online.

Thus, of the seven children born to Regina and Selig Alexander, only Bertha, Rosa, Mina, and Samuel lived to adulthood.

In many ways the two Katzenstein sisters were following similar paths at the same time, Rebekka in Jesberg, Regina in Momberg, fifteen miles apart. Their lives became even more intertwined on August 21, 1923, when Rebekka’s son Jakob married Regina’s daughter Rosa.

Marriage record of Rosa Alexander and Jakob Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6208

That is, Rosa Alexander married her first cousin, Jakob Katz. They had three daughters who were not only sisters but also second cousins to each other. Rebekka and Regina shared granddaughters who were also their great-nieces. Remember also that Rebekka and her husband Salomon Kneibel were also cousins to each other, so Salomon Kneibel was not only his children’s father but also their cousin and the same for Rebekka.

As for Rebekka and Regina’s other children, they made my life easier by marrying outside of the family.

The first to marry was Rebekka’s daughter Therese. On June 16, 1919, she married Hermann Blum, who was born in Kuelsheim on July 7, 1883, son of Abraham and Sophie Blum. I have not been able to identify any children born to Therese and Hermann.

Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3872

Rebekka’s oldest son Berthold married Ida Blumenstiel on January 20, 1920. Ida was the daughter of Hugo Blumenstiel and Bertha Weinberg of Mansbach, Germany. She was born July 9, 1893.

Marriage record of Berthold Katz and Ida Blumenstiel
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Hersfeld, Bad Heiratsnebenregister 1920, Eintrags-Nr. 1 – 78; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 907

Berthold and Ida would have two children born in the 1920s, Senta (1921) and Ludwig (1924).

I have not found any marriage record for Rebekka’s son Julius, and, as discussed above, her son Jakob married his cousin Rosa on August 21, 1923, and they had three daughters.

As for Regina’s children, Bertha Alexander married Julius Simon on June 26, 1922, in Momberg. He was the son of Moses Simon and Fanni Katz and was born in Pohl-Goens on May 29, 1891.

Marriage record of Bertha Alexander and Julius Simon
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6207

I have not been able to locate any record of children born to Bertha and Julius, nor do I have any records for them after their marriage, but I am still looking. Thank you to Aaron Knappstein for finding this photograph of Julius Simon on the Vor dem Holocaust – Fotos zum jüdischen Alltagsleben in Hessen website. According to the website, this was taken in 1916 when Julius was a soldier in the Germany army during World War I.

I am still hoping to locate some records that will reveal what happened to Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander.

Bertha’s younger sister Rosa Alexander married Jakob Katz, as discussed above. The third sister Mina Alexander married Leo Wachenheimer in Momberg on December 25, 1927. Leo was the son of Meier Wachenheimer and Klara Rothschild; he was born on March 23, 1897, in Biebesheim, Germany. Mina and Leo would have two children.

Marriage record of Mina Alexander and Leo Wacheneimer
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6212

According to Barbara Greve, Regina and Seligmann’s only surviving son, Samuel, married Lottie Weiler in July 1933; Lottie was born in Marburg on January 10, 1913, according to the JOWBR. I do not have names for her parents. Samuel and Lottie had one son, Hans-Joseph Alexander, according to Barbara Greve.

Rebekka Katzenstein Katz died in Jesberg on March 2, 1927; she was only 61 years old. Her husband Salomon Scholum Kneibel Katz died two years later on May 2, 1929.  He was 69.

Death record of Rebekka Katzenstein Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3918

Here is the photograph I took in the Jesberg cemetery of Rebekka’s grave long before I knew the whole story of their family; sadly, I do not have a photograph of her husband’s gravestone:

The rest of the families of Rebekka and Regina Katzenstein survived into the Nazi era, and it appears that every single one of them left Germany in time—all of Rebekka and Salomon Kneibel’s children and spouses and grandchildren as well as Regina Katzenstein and Selig Alexander and at least three of their four children and spouses and grandchildren. The only couple I’ve been unable to find in any later record or index are Regina’s daughter Bertha and her husband Julius Simon.

Almost all the rest of the families of Rebekka Katzenstein and her sister Regina Katzenstein ended up in Johannesburg, South Africa. Unfortunately, I don’t have any actual records or documents that reveal when the family arrived there or any other information aside from their deaths and burials.

But I was fortunate to connect with John Leach, a relative by marriage of Leo Wachenheimer, husband of Mina Alexander. From John I learned that Leo had been a cattle dealer in Germany and had also worked in his father’s kosher butcher business. Leo was arrested by the Nazis in 1935 for doing business with a non-Jew; when he was released, he escaped from Germany to South Africa, where he opened a kosher butcher shop. Soon many family members followed him, including his wife Mina and their children, his in-laws Regina and Selig Alexander, his sister-in-law Rosa Alexander Katz and her husband Jakob Katz and their three children, and Jakob Katz’s sister Therese Katz and her husband Hermann Blum and Jakob’s brother Julius Katz. They all appear to have spent the rest of their lives in Johannesburg.

The only descendants of Rebekka or Regina who did not go to South Africa were Rebekka’s son Berthold and his wife Ida and their children, Senta and Ludwig. Instead, they went to the United States. Their daughter Senta arrived first on October 8, 1938, and Berthold, Ida, Ludwig, and Ida’s mother Bertha Blumenstiel arrived on November 25, 1938; they were all going to a cousin, Leo Katzmann in the Bronx:

Senta Katz 1938 passenger manifest
Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6238; Line: 1; Page Number: 176
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Berthold Katz and family passenger manifest
Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6254; Line: 1; Page Number: 68
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

By 1940, they had settled in Philadelphia where Berthold was working as a salesman for a paper bag company and Senta was working as a packer for a children’s dress company. Bertha’s mother-in-law Bertha Blumenstiel was also living with them.

Berthold Katz and family 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T627_3733; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 51-1446

That same year Senta married Julius Idstein, who was also a refugee from Germany. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951)  Julius was born on August 6, 1906, in Bad Homburg, and came to the United States on October 20, 1938. On his World War II draft registration, he reported that he was a partner in business with Berthold Katz, his father-in-law. On Berthold’s registration, he reported that he owned a paper products business. So between his arrival in 1938 and 1942, Berthold had become a business owner in partnership with his son-in-law Julius.

Julius Idstein World War II draft registration
Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations

World War II draft registration for Berthold Katz
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147; Series Number: M1951

Sadly, Berthold’s wife Ida died at age 48 of liver cancer on December 29, 1941.

Ida Blumenstiel Katz death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 109451-112000

Their son Ludwig was in college at Temple College (now Temple University) in Philadelphia in 1942:

Ludwig Katz World War II draft registration
Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations

In 1943, Berthold remarried; his second wife was Betty Nussbaum, and she also was a German native, born in Mansbach on February 4, 1893. She had come to the US in 1925 on her own; her parents stayed behind where her mother died in 1939 and her father died in the Theriesenstadt concentration camp in 1942. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951)

Berthold died from stomach cancer on March 5, 1959; he was 68 years old; his second wife Betty died in 1977:

Berthold Katz death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 026551-029250

Meanwhile, Berthold’s siblings and first cousins and aunt and uncle were all living in South Africa.  His aunt Regina Katzenstein Alexander died on October 14, 1942, and her husband Selig Alexander died on May 5, 1949; they are buried at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg. (JewishGen Online World Burial Registry (JOWBR)). Charmaine Rosenberg of the Johannesburg Chevra Kadisha kindly sent me the following photograph of Regina’s headstone:

Headstone of Regina Katzenstein Alexander

Berthold’s daughter Senta and her husband Julius Idstein had five children. Julius died in 1981, and Senta lived until 2003. She was 82 when she died.

Berthold’s son Ludwig became a nuclear physicist and was a senior scientist for Visidyne, Inc. in Burlington, Massachusetts, when he was killed in a car accident on March 18, 1981. He was 57 years old and was survived by his wife and two children. “Ludwig Katz, Swampscott,” Boston Herald (March 25, 1981), p. 40.

As for the family in South Africa, I have no information other than their dates of death and burial place. All those named below are, like Regina Katzenstein and Selig Alexander, buried at the West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg, and all this information comes from the JOWBR on Jewishgen.org and from Charmaine Rosenberg of the Chevra Kadisha in Johannesburg. I am very grateful to Charmaine for providing me with these photographs of the headstones.

Julius Katz died on November 11, 1958, when he was 65. As far as I know, he never married or had children.

Headstone of Julius Katz

Therese Katz died on September 28, 1964, eight years after her husband Hermann Blum, who died on December 23, 1956. She was 73, he was also 73 when he died. As far as I have been able to determine, they did not have children.

Headstone of Therese Katz Blum and Hermann Blum

Jakob Katz died on August 24, 1974; he was 79. His wife and first cousin Rosa Alexander Katz outlived him by 23 years. She was almost 101 when she died on June 14, 1997.

Headstone of Jakob Katz

Rosa’s sister Mina Alexander Wachenheimer also outlived her husband by many years. Leo Wachenheimer died on January 23, 1969, when he was 72. Mina survived him by over twenty years, dying on December 23, 1989, when she was 92.

Headstone of Mina (Minna) Alexander Wachenheimer

Headstone of Leo Wachenheimer

Samuel Alexander died on June 21, 1989; he was 83. He had outlived his wife Lotte by seventeen years; she died on January 11, 1972, when she was 59.

Overall, the children of both Rebekka and Regina Katzenstein, daughters of Mina Katzenstein and Wolf Katzenstein, were fortunate to escape from Nazi Germany when they did. Perhaps Leo Wachenheimer’s arrest in 1935 was the key that opened the door to the survival of all of them.

 

 

 

 

 

23 thoughts on “Rebekka and Regina: Sisters with Intertwined Lives

  1. The story in your blog today was not the first time I have heard of Jewish families going to South Africa to escape the Nazis. Do you know if this was a go to place for those that were fleeing from Germany? And if so, why? With all the reading and research you have done I figured you would be the person to ask.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It apparently was a place where many Jews immigrated in the 1930s and afterwards (and probably even before). We have good friends whose parents had left Europe for South Africa. There was apparently once a large Jewish community there. I don’t know about now. Our friends and their families mostly left SA because of apartheid.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing how intertwined they were. It is mind boggling to figure out the relationships of people who marry a cousin. I had a high school friend who, after her husband died, married his younger brother. So her kids were both half siblings and cousins.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It looks to me From Salomon Katz’s ,marriage record that his father was not named Kneibel, but rather Kueibel. There definitely is a u-hook there. The other possibility is that it is Kunibel, but Kueibel sounds like a nickname for Jakob while the other is not like anything which I have ever seen. Are there any other records which you have seen for him?.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly increases the risk of passing on any genetic diseases or conditions that the family shares, but since first cousin marriages appear to have been very common in many cultures and apparently are still allowed in some places, I guess the risks were not so high as to make it taboo.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The German death certificates have no cause of death on them, unfortunately. And even on the US records. most of the causes I’ve seen are things like heart disease and cancer that cannot really be attributed to a first cousin marriage. I am thinking more of rare or unusual genetic problems, not common causes of death.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with Amy on this one. Both sides of my family, oddly, have plenty of instances of first cousin marriage in the past (Dad’s isolated Appalachian community and Mom’s German line both before and after emigration to the U.S.) and I’ve not noticed any abnormalities. I think it’s more an issue with genetic diseases, such as hemophilia among European royal families.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was an extremely interesting post Amy. I got so confused with with Rose and Rebecca, I had to make notes to follow along 🙂 The photo pf Julius Simon is wonderful! Have you ever posted a photo (like Julius) on the genealogist restoration FB page ? (to have the huge scratch removed) The people on the page are so nice and do wonderful work to clean up and preserve photo’s. (all volunteer and no charge)

    Liked by 1 person

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