For any of you who have done or are doing research about relatives who were persecuted or killed in the Holocaust, you may want to check out the newly organized database released by the Arolsen Archives in May, 2019. In the press release they issued on May 21, 2019, they wrote:
People from all over the world can now conduct research online to discover thefates of victims of National Socialist persecution: the Arolsen Archives havepublished a new online archive in partnership with the World HolocaustRemembrance Center, Yad Vashem (https://collections.arolsen-archives.org/en/). The database contains a comprehensive collection of documents from concentration camps, including prisoner cards and death notices. The more than 13 million documents featuring information on over 2.2 million people persecuted by the Nazi Regime are part of the UNESCO’s World Documentary Heritage and are a key focus of the collection of the Arolsen Archives. This database is the first of several large collections scheduled to go online in future.
I first learned of this new resource from my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann, who emailed me on May 28, 2019, about new discoveries he’d made by searching the newly updated Arolsen Archives.
This post will be about the first—documents he found about Martha Oppenheimer Floersheimer, the daughter of Pauline Seligmann and Maier Oppenheimer and granddaughter of Moritz Seligmann, my three-times great-grandfather. Pauline was the younger sister of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman and Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August Seligmann. So Martha was Wolfgang’s first cousin, twice removed, and my first cousin, three times removed.
Although I have written about Martha before, since I last wrote about her, additional documents have become available on Ancestry that provide more details of her life before the Holocaust. Martha was born on March 1, 1876, in Offenbach, Germany. She married Heinrich Floersheimer on September 18, 1902, in Butzbach, Germany. Together they had two children: Trude, born January 24, 1904, in Gross-Gerau, Germany,1 and Paul, born August 9, 1906, in Wiesbaden, Germany.2 Martha and Heinrich were divorced in 1913.
From Yad Vashem and other family sources, I’d earlier learned that both Trude and Paul were murdered during the Holocaust. Trude was deported from Frankfurt on June 11, 1942, and sent to the Sobibor concentration camp where she was murdered; she was 38.3 Paul was deported on June 10, 1942, to the concentration camp at Majdanek, Poland, and was murdered there; he was 35.4 As for their mother Martha, she was sent to Thereisenstadt and somehow survived.
What Wolfgang found at the Arolsen Archives website were forms that Martha completed after she was liberated from Thereisenstadt in 1945. These were forms used by the International Refugee Organization to help displaced persons obtain assistance after the war. The first page in Martha’s file is a form she submitted to the International Tracing Service; it’s heartbreaking to read this because it reveals that at the time Martha filled out this form, she still had hope that her two children were still alive.
The second form is a questionnaire that the US Army asked displaced persons to complete. One question was, “Fuehren Sie de Namen irgendwelcher anderer naechster Familienangehoeriger auf, die sich zur Zeit in Deutschland aufhalten.“ In English—List the names of any other family members currently in Germany—and again, Martha listed her two children. Since the form was created on June 1, 1946, this indicates that Martha still believed her children could be alive a year after she was released from Thereisenstadt.
The next two pages of that questionnaire ask numerous questions about Martha’s background. Of most interest here are two responses. One question asks whether she wants to return home, and she responded yes. Another question asked whether she had ever been persecuted for her race, religion, or political views, and she answered yes to race and religion; asked to describe how she was persecuted, Martha wrote that she was sent to Thereisenstadt concentration camp from September 2, 1942 until July 8, 1945.
In February 1948, Martha filled out a third form, this one a Request for Assistance. On this form Martha described herself as a widow and wrote that she had been living back in Wiesbaden since July 1945.
The saddest part of this form is the last page where Martha was asked whether she wanted to remain in Germany, to which she answered yes, and then whether she had any relatives living in Germany. Now her answer was no. By this time she must have learned that her children had been murdered.
I don’t have any other records for Martha after this point, but what I know from my cousin Angelika Oppenheimer and the Seligmann family tree is that Martha continued to live in Wiesbaden until her death on November 16, 1967, when she was 91 years old. That she survived almost three years at Thereisenstadt when she was almost seventy years old and then another twenty-two years in Wiesbaden after losing her children is amazing to me.
But Martha was wrong about one thing when she answered the questionnaire in February, 1948. She did have relatives who survived the war. Our cousin Angelika Oppenheimer, Martha’s great-niece and the granddaughter of Martha’s brother Moritz James Oppenheimer, remembers visiting her in Wiesbaden with her family when she was a child. And Wolfgang’s father and uncle were also still alive and living not far from Wiesbaden. Perhaps in some way Martha found the strength to survive from those family members who remained.
- From the Yad Vashem website at https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11497651&ind=1 ↩
- Paul Floersheimer death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 926; Signatur: 333, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 ↩
- See Note 1, above. ↩
- https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11497658&ind=1 ↩