Escaping from Germany, Part V: Being “Enemy Aliens” in England

Having completed the stories of Sarah Goldschmidt Stern’s daughters Lina and Keile, we now turn to her son, Abraham Stern and his family and what happened to them during the Holocaust. Abraham died in 1925, but was survived by his widow Johanna, who was also his first cousin, and two of their children, Alice and Sittah Sarah, and numerous grandchildren; two of his children had predeceased him, Clementine and Siegfried,  

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Abraham’s widow (and first cousin) Johanna Goldschmidt Stern and their surviving children and grandchildren were still living in Germany. Johanna died on June 2, 1937; she was 69 years old.1

Her gorgeous headstone, matching those of her husband and son, was beautifully translated by a member of Tracing the Tribe. What a lovely and loving inscription.

Johanna Goldschmidt Stern’s gravestone. Courtesy of her great-grandson, Rafi Stern

Here lies buried Mrs Hindla known as Johanna, daughter of Mr Zelig Goldschmidt, wife of Mr Asher Avraham, known as Adolf, Stern, the memory of the righteous is a blessing,
A generous daughter to her parents and a trusted help to her husband,
She was known as a wise woman,

Her heart directed with intelligence and insight,
She educated her children in the paths of faith,
Only good and kindness, she pursued all her life,
Until she rested in peace next to the husband of her youth on 23 Sivan 5697.
May her soul be bound in the bond of life.

This post will tell what happened to the families of two of Abraham and Johanna’s children, Siegfried and Sittah Sarah. The next post will focus on the families of their other two children, Clementine and Alice.

The Children of Siegfried Stern

Siegfried Stern had died in 1921, leaving behind his wife Lea Hirsch and two young sons, Erich (1913) and Gunther (1916). Thanks to Aaron Knappstein, I now have the birth records for Erich and Gunther, and they show that in 1922, their birth records were amended to add their father’s name Siegfried to theirs.

Erich Stern birth record

Gunther Stern birth record

Siegfried’s widow Lea married Ernst Schwarzschild in 1924 and relocated to Cologne with Erich and Gunther where she and Ernst had two additional children.

After Hitler came to power, Lea and Ernst Schwarzschild escaped to England with Erich and Gunther Stern and the two children they had together. According to Gunther’s son Rafi, the family was able to take a fair amount of money out of Germany and first lived in the Golders Green neighborhood of London. In 1939 they were living in Chesham, England, a town about 30 miles northwest of London. Ernst was working as a non-ferrous metals merchant while Lea was engaged in “unpaid domestic duties.”

Ernst and Lea (Hirsch Stern) Schwarzschild, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/2110H, Enumeration District: DVIH, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register

Although not listed on this register, Erich Stern was living with his mother and stepfather in Chesham at some point in 1939 and working as a clerk in a travel agency; like his stepfather Ernst, he was exempted from being interned as an enemy alien.

Ernst Schwarzschild, Enemy Alien Exemption, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/83
Piece Number Description: 083: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Schw-Scu
Ancestry.com. UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945

Erich Stern, Enemy Alien Exemption, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/89
Piece Number Description: 089: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Steinf-Stern
Ancestry.com. UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945

Gunther, however, was not as fortunate. According to his son Rafi, Gunther was unable to obtain a permanent visa to live in England and was forced to go back and forth every three months between Antwerp, where an uncle lived, and England. Fortunately, in 1939 when the war broke out, he was living in England with his mother, stepfather, and brother in Chesham, working as an apprentice to a wood importer, and was initially exempted from internment as an enemy alien.

But as the document below reveals and as his son Rafi reported to me, Gunther was later interned. He spent time at three different internment centers: Preece Heath, Shropshire, and the Isle of Man. He was eventually released because of poor health and found employment with a manufacturing company where he worked for the rest of his career.

Gunther Stern, Enemy Alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/197
Piece Number Description: 197: German Internees Released in UK 1939-1942: Spirg-Stern
Ancestry.com. UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945

Both Erich and Gunther married after the war and had children. Their mother Lea died in 1970 in England.2 Erich died in England in May 2001,3 and his brother Gunther died a year later in June 2002 in Israel, where his son Rafi had immigrated.4

Sittah Sarah Stern and Abraham Mainz and Their Children

Sittah Sarah Stern was married to Abraham Mainz, and they had two children, Marguerite (1913) and Helmut (1918); they were living in Frankfurt in the 1920s.

Like the family of her older brother Siegfried Stern, Sittah Sarah Stern and her husband Abraham Mainz and their children eventually safely immigrated to England, but faced some difficult challenges in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, as reported by a letter written by Erich Stern, Sittah’s nephew, on November 13, 1938, to his brother Gunther:5

Unfortunately we have very bad news from Frankfurt. Uncle Siegfried [Oppenheimer], who wanted to travel to Palestina on Sunday with his family, was arrested on Friday, as well as Aunt Sittah, Marguerite and Helmut [Mainz]. Aba [Abraham Mainz] has fled and no one knows to where. Really horrible conditions.

Where had Abraham gone? And how long were Sittah and her children detained? I don’t know, but I do know that by 1939 they were living in London along with Abraham’s parents. Abraham (also known as Albert) was working as a wool merchant and his daughter Marguerite was a student.

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/235D
Enumeration District: AKAN, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register

Although he is not listed as living with his family on the 1939 register, Helmut Mainz was also in England by 1939, as seen in his Enemy Alien registration form. Like his father, he was a wool merchant and was exempted from internment.

Helmut Mainz, Enemy Alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/58
Piece Number Description: 058: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Ma-Man
Ancestry.com. UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945

Abraham Mainz6 and his daughter Marguerite were also exempted from internment. At the time of her exemption, Marguerite was working as a secretary.

Marguerite Mainz, Enemy Alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/222
Piece Number Description: 222: Dead Index (Wives of Germans etc) 1941-1947: Eastw-Fey
Ancestry.com. UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945

The family was thus all safe and living in England, and Marguerite married Arthur Feuchtwanger in 1944,7 with whom she had three children.

But the family suffered terrible losses soon thereafter. Abraham Albert Mainz died on November 3, 1944; he was 61.8  Less than four months later his wife Sittah Sarah Stern Mainz died on February 26, 1945; she was only 53. Had their lives been cut short by the stress of living through the Nazi era?

Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. Original data: Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England.

The family’s tragedies did not end there. Helmut Mainz married Carla Adler in July 1948,9 and they had three children in the next five years. But then Carla died in July 1957 when she was only thirty years old, leaving behind three very young children and her husband Helmut.10

Within just a few years Helmut had lost both of his parents and his wife. But he lived a full life, dying at the age of 87 in Yorkshire, England, on September 13, 2005.11 His sister Marguerite died March 22, 2001, in Netanya, Israel.12

Headstones for Carla Adler Mainz and Helmut Mainz, Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 02 March 2020), memorial page for Carla Adler Mainz (8 Sep 1926–3 Jul 1957), Find A Grave Memorial no. 185877700, citing United Hebrew Congregation Cemetery, Gildersome, Metropolitan Borough of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England ; Maintained by leedspyeman (contributor 47407284) . Courtesy of Leedspyeman.

The families of Siegfried Stern and of his sister Sittah Sarah Stern Mainz fortunately escaped from Germany to England in time and were not murdered by the Nazis, but were treated as “enemy aliens” by England. Their descendants, including my cousin Rafi who shared so much of his family’s story with me, continue to honor their memories and prove that the Nazis did not prevail.

UPDATE: Steve Mondros from TTT posted this article from the May 17, 1940 London Times that sheds some light on the internment process in England.

Enemy Aliens article London Times May 17, 1940 from Steve Mondros on FB

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Name: Johanna Goldschmidt, Gender: Female, Birth Date: 18 Dec
    Birth Place: Frankfurt Main, Hessen-Nassau, Preussen, Germany, Death Date: 2 Jun 1937, Father: Seelig Goldschmidt. Mother: Cllementine Fuld, FHL Film Number: 342033, Ancestry.com. Germany, Select Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898 
  2. Lea Schwarzschild, Death Age: 78, Birth Date: 10 Apr 1892, Registration Date: Oct 1970, Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-DecRegistration district: Paddington, Inferred County: Greater London, Volume: 5d, Page: 1148, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 5d; Page: 1148, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  3. Erich Stern, Death Age: 88, Birth Date: 29 May 1913, Registration Date: May 2001
    Registration district: Bury, Inferred County: Greater Manchester, Register Number: A54B, District and Subdistrict: 0031A, Entry Number: 283, General Register Office; United Kingdom, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  4. As per Rafi Stern, Gunther’s son. 
  5. Letter made available to me by Rafi Stern, Gunther’s son. 
  6. Abraham Mainz, Enemy Alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/234, Piece Number Description: 234: Dead Index (Wives of Germans etc) 1941-1947: Loeb-Melo, Ancestry.com. UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945 
  7.  Marguerita V Mainz, Registration Date: Jan 1944, Registration Quarter: Jan-Feb-Mar, Registration district: Knaresborough, Inferred County: Yorkshire West Riding
    Spouse: Arthur Fenchtwanger, Volume Number: 9a, Page Number: 229, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 9a; Page: 229, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 
  8.  Abraham A Mainz, Death Age: 61, Birth Date: abt 1883, Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-Dec 1944, Registration district: Knaresborough, Inferred County: Yorkshire West Riding, Volume: 9a, Page: 107, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 9a; Page: 107, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  9.  Helmut Mainz, Registration Quarter: Apr-May-Jun 1948, Registration district: Claro
    Inferred County: Yorkshire West Riding, Spouse: Carla Adler, Volume Number: 2c, Page Number: 320, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 2c; Page: 320, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 
  10.  Carla Mainz, Death Age: 30, Registration Quarter: Jul-Aug-Sep 1957, Registration district: Claro, Inferred County: Yorkshire West Riding, Volume: 2c
    Page: 66, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 2c; Page: 66, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  11.  Helmut Walter S Mainz, Death Age: 87, Birth Date: 23 Apr 1918, Registration Date: Sep 2005, Registration district: North Yorkshire. Inferred County: North Yorkshire,
    Register Number: A9, District and Subdistrict: 650/1A, Entry Number: 265, General Register Office; United Kingdom, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007. 
  12. As per Rafi Stern and a Feuchtwanger family tree he shared with me. 

26 thoughts on “Escaping from Germany, Part V: Being “Enemy Aliens” in England

  1. Hi Amy, I hate the phrase “enemy aliens” as it suggests something to be feared. I guess the phrase caught the era. Where Helmut lived in Yorkshire is a very pleasant area and also Hampstead in London being upmarket too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. At least Great Britain allowed Jewish people to enter the country when many other countries were reluctant to receive them and even send them back under the most tragic circumstances.
    I do like very much the beautiful inscription on Johanna’s tombstone, Amy.
    Best wishes! Peter

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating…how did your relatives gain exemption from internment? What kind of parameters were set? I’m so glad they escaped it.

    BTW, on FindMyPast, Erich is in the Register with his parents. Gunther is likely there too, but his name has been redacted, though with a death certificate, that redaction can be removed.

    Like

    • That’s interesting! I don’t have FindMyPast. Is there a way you can share that with me?

      I guess I need to learn more about the way England handled the internment decisions. I will report back!

      Like

  4. Hi Amy, I am not well read (bird-brain) but the allied forces didn’t enter Germany until 1944 so I guess it was protocol for some people coming into the UK to be Interned. I don’t know what the criteria was though. Seems unjust and unfair.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Did the stress of living in Nazi Germany contribute to the early deaths of Abraham and Sittah? Hard to say…there are some Concentration Camp survivors who managed to go on and live a long life. Although I’m sure that living in an extremely stressful environment dosen’t help at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and that always amazes me. I’ve learned of many who lived to their 90s. But perhaps those individuals were by nature strong and had strong immune systems as shown by their survival. Others, like those who escaped but died shortly afterwards, might never have survived the camps.

      Like

  6. Another eye opening post for me. I hadn’t realized England had ‘enemy aliens’ along with internment for some. The head stone was beautiful. The London times article was a great addition to the post and really shed light on the situation that was faced.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amy, This posting provided valuable information about Jews from Germany living in exile during WWII. Why is it that in school we were never taught that although England was fighting the Axis powers, it interred those who were escaping the persecution in Germany? I never knew Jews were subjected to this treatment in England. This information helps one think about how fear of the Germans caused the government to overlook that the Jews would have no motivation or logical reason to work on behalf of the Axis. I wonder if existing Anti-Semitism was at the root of the interrment?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had learned about this a few years ago when researching a different set of cousins who escaped to England from Germany. Of course, we did the same to Japanese Americans during WW2. I think war and fear bring out our worst instincts. And England also does have a history of anti-Semitism, though many are grateful that at least they took in Jewish refugees. And in some ways they took in more than the US did, proportionately.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, the whole enemy alien things and internment! That article was a nice addition.
    I’m glad the families were able to make it to England although i’m sure things were still varying degrees of difficult for them. And I’ll bet it’s true that the stress could not have been good for their health.
    The headstone is absolutely gorgeous with so much painstaking inscription on it. I found the name a bit confusing, but I think I figured it out.
    By the way, when am I going to get credit for “unpaid domestic duties”?

    Liked by 1 person

      • There were so many names all lined up, and the order seemed a bit odd.
        Yes, I guess we are!!! Although I haven’t seen somebody pick up a dustcloth or push a vacuum yet. Yard work and unloading the DW and telling me where I can find some cat spitup are his best things.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Hebrew names and secular names, father’s name and husband’s name!

        I have no complaints….we’ve been sharing (or not doing) the housekeeping chores.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Escaping from Germany, Part VI: Germany’s Loss, America and Israel’s Gains | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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