Escaping from Germany, Part VI: Germany’s Loss, America and Israel’s Gains

Abraham and Johanna (Goldschmidt) Stern’s daughter Clementine had died in 1919 during the 1918 flu epidemic, survived by her husband Siegfried Oppenheimer and three children: Erika (1909), William Erwin (1912), and Sarah Gabriele (1917). After Clementine’s death, Siegfried married her younger sister Alice Lea, with whom he had five more children, all born in the 1920s. All eight of those children as well as Alice and Siegfried themselves escaped from Germany in the 1930s.

The Children of Clementine Stern and Siegfried Oppenheimer

Siegfried and Clementine’s oldest child, Erika Oppenheimer, first escaped to the Netherlands in 1933, but she immigrated to the United States on July 4, 1938, appropriately enough. Two weeks later she married Paul Fromm in Chicago, Illinois, on July 20, 1938. Paul also had arrived on July 4, 1938, so the two may have met and fallen in love on the ship that brought them to the US. Paul was born in Kitzingen, Germany, on September 28, 1906, into a family with a long tradition as vintners. He had been living in Bingen, Germany, before immigrating. Erika and Paul both filed their naturalization papers on August 26, 1938, less than two months after their arrival.

Erika Oppenheimer Fromm, Declaration of Intent, National Archives at Chicago; Chicago, Illinois; ARC Title: Illinois, Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1991; NAI Number: 593882; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
Description: Petitions for naturalization, v 1185, no 296351-296550, ca 1943-1944
Ancestry.com. Illinois, Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991

Paul Fromm, Declaration of Intent, National Archives at Chicago; Chicago, Illinois; ARC Title: Illinois, Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1991; NAI Number: 593882; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
Description: Petitions for naturalization, v 1185, no 296351-296550, ca 1943-1944
Ancestry.com. Illinois, Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991

The 1940 census reports them living in Chicago, where Paul was the proprietor of a wholesale liquor importation business and Erika a psychologist working in a hospital clinic.1 They would have one child born in 1940.

Both Paul and Erika achieved great success in the US. Paul was a very successful wine merchant, but also made his name as a philanthropist who generously supported the arts, music specifically. He created the Fromm Foundation at Harvard to support musicians and composers and musical events such as Tanglewood and the Aspen Music Festival. John Rockwell, the long-time music critic for the New York Times, described Paul Fromm as “the most active and distinguished private patron of contemporary classical music in the United States.” Paul died on the 49th anniversary of his arrival in the US, July 4, 1987.  He was eighty years old.2

Erika also had a distinguished career. She had received her doctorate in psychology from the University of Frankfurt in 1933 before escaping to the Netherlands. After immigrating to the US in 1938, she became a research assistant in psychiatry at the University of Chicago for a few years and then spent years in practice, eventually returning to the faculty at the University of Chicago in 1961, where she became a scholarly expert in the use of hypnosis. Her obituary described some of her professional accomplishments:3

Dr. Fromm considered hypnosis a valuable analytical tool that, when used by a skilled practitioner, could provide access to a patient’s unconscious conflicts and desires. She said hypnosis could induce an altered state of consciousness involving heightened awareness and focus in approximately 1 in 12 people.

She used hypnosis to treat severely disturbed patients as well as victims of incest and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders. She also advocated self-hypnosis as a path to self-exploration.

In the 1980’s, Dr. Fromm joined the growing field of behavioral medicine, which uses hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback and other techniques to treat physical ailments. Her book ”Hypnosis and Behavioral Medicine,” written with Dr. Daniel P. Brown and published in 1987, presented research supporting those methods in treating allergies, asthma, migraines and hypertension.

Erika Oppenheimer Fromm died on May 25, 2003, in Chicago. She was 93.4

Clementine and Siegfried’s son William Erwin Oppenheimer (often called Erwin) left Germany very early; he arrived in Palestine on November 8, 1933, less than a year after Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. By 1938, when he applied for Palestinian citizenship, he was married to Hannie Halpern, who was also a refugee from Germany. She was born in Frankfurt on September 1, 1914. Erwin was then working as a farmer near Rehovoth.5 According to trees on MyHeritage, he died on April 22, 1963, in Jerusalem. He was only fifty years old.

Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, found at https://www.archives.gov.il/en/archives/#/Archive/0b07170680034dc1/File/0b071706810638e5

As for Clementine and Siegfried’s younger daughter Sarah Gabriele Oppenheimer, known as Gabriele, I am missing some pieces to Gabriele’s story, but it appears from documents that she had been married to a man named Leon Schindel, whom she divorced in Jerusalem on July 28, 1941.6

Among Gabriele’s immigration documents is her original Palestinian passport, issued on December 2, 1937, so she was already a citizen of Palestine by then. She was a professional photographer, according to her passport.

She married a second time in Tel Aviv on September 11, 1942, to Martin Lederman; he was born in Dresden, Germany, on April 13, 1904, and had immigrated to Palestine on March 26, 1940; he had previously been living in Panama. According to his Palestinian naturalization papers, Martin was a publisher.7

Martin and Gabriele did not remain in Palestine, later Israel, for too long after the war ended.  They made several trips to England and the US after the war, and in June 1949, they indicated on the ship manifest taking them from England to the US that their intended future permanent residence was the “USA.”8  Gabriele became a naturalized US citizen on December 20, 1954,9 and Martin on February 14, 1955.10 They were residing in New York City.

Both Martin and Gabriele lived into their eighties. Martin died on July 9, 1991, at 87,11 and Gabriele died on January 11, 2001, at the age of 83.12 As far as I can tell, they did not have any children.

Alice Stern and Siegfried Oppenheimer

I don’t have many documents for what happened to Alice and Siegfried Oppenheimer before they arrived in Palestine in late 1938. But as we saw in my last post, a letter written by Erich Stern, Siegfried Stern’s son, to his brother Gunther Stern in 1938 on November 13, 1938, revealed that Siegfried Oppenheimer was arrested in the aftermath of Kristallnacht just days before his family planned to travel to Palestine.

But eventually Siegfried and Alice and all five of their children made it to Palestine. Alice and Siegfried Oppenheimer arrived with three youngest of those children, and their two oldest children arrived separately around the same time.13 They all became naturalized citizens of Palestine in 1941.

I do not have death records for Alice or Siegfried, but the research of Cibella/Baron indicates that both died in Israel, Siegfried in 1959, Alice in 1986. All but one of their five children also lived the rest of their lives in Israel; the other child immigrated to the US after the war.

Thus, of the eight children of Clementine and Alice Stern, six ended up in Israel, two in the United States. Clementine, Alice, and Siegfried Oppenheimer have many descendants living in both countries. What Germany lost—e.g., a brilliant psychologist, a philanthropist and entrepreneur, and a photographer–were gifts to the countries that took them in.


  1. Erika and Paul Fromm, 1940 US census, Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00929; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 103-268, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  2. “Paul Fromm dies at 80; was Fromm week patron,” The Berkshire Eagle
    Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 07 Jul 1987, Tue • Page 12. “Paul Fromm, Philanthropist,” Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, 06 Jul 1987, Mon • Page 128. Paul Fromm
    Social Security Number: 323-12-0163, Birth Date: 28 Sep 1906, Issue State: Illinois
    Last Residence: 60637, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, Death Date: Jul 1987, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  3. “Erika Fromm, 93, Psychologist and Expert in Use in Hypnosis,” The New York Times, May 30, 2003, Section B, Page 9. 
  4.  Erika Fromm, Social Security Number: 340-32-7862, Birth Date: 23 Dec 1909
    Issue year: 1955-1956, Issue State: Illinois, Last Residence: 60637, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, Death Date: 25 May 2003, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  5. Erwin Oppenheimer, Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, found at https://tinyurl.com/rxv8ox4 
  6. Martin Lederman and Gabriele Oppenheimer Schindel Lederman, Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, found at https://tinyurl.com/tbvdq97 
  7. See footnote 6. 
  8. Martin and Gabriele Lederman, ship manifest, Departure Date: 22 Jun 1949
    Port of Departure: Southampton, England, Destination Port: New York, USA,
    Ancestry.com. UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 
  9. Martin Lederman, Naturalization Date: 14 Feb 1955, Residence: New York, New York, Ancestry.com. New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 
  10. Gabriele Lederman, Naturalization Date: 20 Dec 1954, Residence: New York, New York, Ancestry.com. New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 
  11.  Martin Lederman, Social Security Number: 060-26-6446, Birth Date: 13 Apr 1904
    Death Date: 9 Jul 1991, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  12.  Gabriele Lederman, Social Security Number: 121-54-6243, Birth Date: 20 Jul 1917, Death Date: 11 Jan 2001, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  13. Siegfried and Alice Stern Oppenheimer, Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, at https://tinyurl.com/r7k6qau 

18 thoughts on “Escaping from Germany, Part VI: Germany’s Loss, America and Israel’s Gains

  1. The title and your final line sum it all up and are so true. As always, I’m amazed at the records you are finding. The years from 1940 (last available census) until present are difficult. You manage to find enough to fill in even if you haven’t been able to get all the death records.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Cathy. I have to admit that finding these records as been made so much easier since Ancestry included them in their database within the last couple of years. Before that it meant going through the Hesse archives online.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy, it was good to read that so many of your family were able to escape the horrors of the Nazi death camps. Looking at the first names, such as Paul and Erika, it seems to me that some were only Jewish by race, but may have converted to the Christian faith. Is there any truth to this assumption?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not that I have any awareness of—I believe both remained Jewish, though how religious is a guess. Those were the names in Germany—and not their Hebrew names. I have known Jewish people with both of those names. In fact, my husband has a cousin named Paul and one named Paula. There really is no such thing as a non-Jewish name these days. Except perhaps Christopher or Christian or Christine. I have known Jewish Kathys, Johns, Peters, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As always a wonderful thorough post on the family with great supporting documents to look at. My thoughts perked up with the mention of Tanglewood and memories flooded back. This was a yearly destination growing up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really? How interesting! I never went there as a child but have been there a number of times since moving to western MA in 1983 (but not as often as you’d think since these days we spend much of the summer on the Cape).

      Like

      • We always stayed at a place called Baker Farms in Lanesborough, MA. I can hardly remember a year we didn’t go. Blanket and picnic basket in tow we hit the grass area, spread out and enjoyed. I know I didn’t appreciated it as much then as I do now. What a precious memory 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy, I love the way you concluded this posting. Also, am so happy you got most of the documentation and information to pull these wonderful snapshots of each Oppenheimer’s life. Gabriele was a very pretty woman. I hope you can find out more about her photography career or some examples of her work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so hard for me to do any research about those who ended up in Israel because of the language barrier. (I only know enough Hebrew to follow religious services somewhat.) Of course, she did later end up in the US. I don’t think Gabriele was famous as a photographer, but I can always see what I can find. Thanks, Emily!

      Liked by 1 person

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