Searching for Helene Rapp Lehmann and Her Family: A Genealogy Adventure

Helmina Goldschmidt’s oldest child, her daughter Helene Rapp Lehmann, was harder to trace than her two younger siblings, Arthur and Alice. I knew that Helene, her husband Sally, their daughter Else Berta, and their son Ludwig all eventually ended up in the United States because all four are listed in the Social Security Death Index. But it was hard to find information about their departure from Germany and about their eventual arrival and life in the US and the years in between.

This document from the Arolsen Archives on Ancestry provided the first clues. It shows that Sally Lehmann was a dentist and that Else Berta, daughter of Helene and Sally Lehmann, had immigrated to Palestine.

Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1 Description Reference Code: 02010101 oS Source Information Ancestry.com. Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947

I then found Else’s immigration papers showing that she first entered Palestine on February 21, 1939, when she would have been only seventeen. She became a naturalized citizen of Palestine on June 25, 1941. She was unmarried at that time and a hair dresser. (These papers are located at the Israel Archives website located here.)

I assumed that since Else was so young, the rest of her family might have immigrated to Palestine also around the same time, but I could at first not find any Palestinian immigration papers for her parents Helene and Sally or for her brother Ludwig.

At the same time I was researching them all, I received an email from someone in Israel who had questions about one of my other relatives, and so I asked him for advice about finding more information about those who had left Europe for Israel in the 1930s and 1940s. He recommended that I become a member of IGRA—the Israel Genealogy Research Association. I had seen their website many times before, but had hesitated to spend the money to become a member. This time I bit the bullet and joined.

And I am so glad that I did because a quick search uncovered two records for Sally Lehmann. Sally was listed in a 1940 and a 1946 Tel Aviv directory of doctors, dentists, pharmacists and other medical professionals. Thus, I know now that he had immigrated to Israel by 1940.

In addition, I found a 1948 divorce record for Else Berta Lehman, daughter of Shlomo (Sally), from Leopold Ickelheimer, suggesting that Else was likely still in Israel in 1948.

Finally, the IGRA website had a file indicating that a Ludwig Lehmann had changed his name to Yehuda in April 1936. I couldn’t be certain that this was the same Ludwig Lehmann, but if it was, that would mean that the Lehmann family, or at least Ludwig, was in Palestine as early as 1936.

And then, you know how sometimes you search and search and find nothing, and then you return to the same source days later and suddenly a record appears? That’s what happened here. I returned to the Israel Archives website where the Palestinian immigration records are available, and this time found Sally and Helene (Rapp) Lehmann’s immigration and naturalization. The file revealed that Sally and Helene had first arrived in Palestine on July 4, 1938, and that they became naturalized citizens on June 17, 1941.

Sally Lehmann and Helene Rapp Palestinian immigration file found at https://www.archives.gov.il/en/archives/#/Archive/0b07170680034dc1/File/0b07170680bf6119

However, no one in the Lehmann family remained permanently in Israel. I found a 1955 manifest for a ship sailing from Haifa, Israel, to New York, that lists Sally and Helene Lehmann as passengers and as Israeli citizens.1

I also found one for an Else B. Spitzer, arriving April 24, 1953, that I thought might be Else Berta Lehmann, but wasn’t sure. There was no age or other identifying information, and she was listed as a German citizen, not an Israeli citizen. 2 But then I located this naturalization index card that shows an Else Berta Spitzer with the same birth date as Elsa Berta Lehmann, residing at 550 West 172nd Street in New York City.

Ancestry.com. New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989

I used that address to search for Spitzers in the 1959 New York City directory living at 550 West 172nd Street and found a Kurt Spitzer living at that address, so now I knew that Else’s second husband was Kurt Spitzer.3 I also found his naturalization index card:

Ancestry.com. New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989

Unfortunately I cannot find any records showing Else with Kurt except for these two cards that show that they were living at the same address at the time of their naturalization. I did, however, find a record for Kurt’s enlistment in the US military on October 28, 1942, in New York, showing that he was a barber, beautifician, or manicurist, meaning he and Else were both in the hair dressing field. Kurt was already at that time a US citizen;4 he was born in Wurzburg, Germany, and immigrated to the US in 1925.5

Else’s brother, Sally and Helene’s son Yehuda Ludwig Lehmann, was particularly hard to locate with much certainty, After searching under all possible combinations of his names, I found a manifest with a Yehuda L. Lehmann coming to the US on December 29, 1952, from Cannes, France. He identified himself as divorced and as an Israeli citizen. He was 44 years old, and that would be consistent with the 1908 birth date I have for Ludwig Lehmann.

Yehuda Lehman, passenger manifest, Year: 1952; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 137, Ship or Roll Number: Constitution
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Thus, all the members of Sally and Helene’s family had left Israel for the US in the 1950s. I don’t have much information about their lives after their arrival, although records show that Yehuda married in 1954, was divorced in 1956, and remarried in 1965.  I don’t know whether either Yehuda or Else had children in any of their marriages.

Their mother Helene Rapp Lehman died when she was 82 on September 17, 1969, in New York;6 her husband Sally was 94 when he died three years later in 1972.7 Their son Yehuda Louis Ludwig Lehmann died October 7, 1989, when he was 81.8 And Else Berta Lehmann Spitzer died on March 15, 2008, at age 86.9 According to her listing in the SSDI, her last residence had been in Berlin, Germany.

Thus, Helene Rapp Lehmann was among the fortunate ones who escaped Nazi Germany along with her husband and her children, first to Palestine/Israel, and then to the US. In fact, her siblings Arthur and Alice and their families as well as their mother Helmina Goldschmidt Rapp were also among those who safely escaped. That is quite remarkable.


Having completed the story of the family of Helmina Goldschmidt Rapp, I have now written about all the children of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt and Jettchen Cahn. Next I will turn to Jacob’s younger sister Malchen Goldschmidt, the fourth of the seven children of Meyer Goldschmidt and Lea Katzenstein and their youngest daughter. But first some updates to prior stories.


  1. Sally Lehmann and Helene Lehmann, passenger manifest, Year: 1955; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 149, Ship or Roll Number: Jerusalem, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  2. Else B. Spitzer, passenger manifest, Year: 1953; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 347, Ship or Roll Number: Ryndam, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  3. Manhattan, New York, City Directory, 1959, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  4.  Kurt B Spitzer, Marital status: Single, without dependents (Single), Rank: Private
    Birth Year: 1908, Nativity State or Country: Danzig or Germany, Citizenship: Citizen
    Residence: New York, New York, Education: Grammar school, Civil Occupation: Barbers, beauticians, and manicurists, Enlistment Date: 28 Oct 1942, Enlistment Place: New York City, New York, Service Number: 32610147, Branch: Branch Immaterial – Warrant Officers, USA, Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men), Source: Civil Life
    Height: 66, Weight: 149, National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, USA; Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946; NAID: 1263923; Record Group Title: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789-ca. 2007; Record Group: 64; Box Number: 05392; Reel: 203, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  5. Kurt Spitzer, Born: 1 Feb 1908, Birth Place: Wuerzburg, District: Lower Franconia
    Father: Josef, Mother: Karoline (Lina) nee STRAUSS, Last Residence: New York, NY
    Occupation: Merchant, employee, Naomi Teveth, comp. Germany, Jews in Würzburg, 1900-1945; Kurt Spitzer, ship manifest, Year: 1925; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 197, Ship or Roll Number: Luetzow, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  6. Helene Rap Lehmann, Gender: Female, Birth Date: 25 Aug 1887, Birth Place: Federal Republic of Germany, Claim Date: 21 Mar 1966, Father: Leopold Rapp
    Mother: Hermine[sic] Godschmidt, SSN: 076424080, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  7.  Sally Lehmann, Social Security Number: 057-38-7312, Birth Date: 2 Sep 1877
    Issue Year: 1963, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10474, Bronx, Bronx, New York, USA, Death Date: Feb 1972, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  8. Lou Ludwig Lehman, [Lou L Lehman], Gender: Male, Race: White
    Birth Date: 9 Feb 1908, Birth Place: Frankfort, Federal Republic of Germany
    Death Date: 7 Oct 1989, Father: Sally Lehmann, Mother: Helene Rapp
    SSN: 120280768,nAncestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  9.  Else B. Spitzer, Social Security Number: 109-28-8645, Birth Date: 8 Jan 1922
    Issue Year: 1952-1954, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 702, (U.S. Consulate) Berlin, Germany, Death Date: 15 Mar 2008, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

20 thoughts on “Searching for Helene Rapp Lehmann and Her Family: A Genealogy Adventure

  1. Another success story in your genealogy research, Amy! It is interesting to learn that the state of Palestine used English for their immigration documents and even more intriguing was the fact that Sally Lehmann and his wife became Palestinian citizens but later immigrated to the United States as Israeli citizens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They used English because Palestine was under British control from the 1920s until the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948. And it certainly helped me to have records in English because I never would have been able to read the Hebrew or Arabic on those forms. And I’m not sure how it worked legally, but since Palestine became Israel in 1948, I assume all those who had been granted Palestinian citizenship were automatically turned into Israel citizens. In the 1950s when they immigrated, there was no country called Palestine.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Amazing research and I am so glad you bit the bullet and paid for the site. I was so excited to see that there were pictures of them on their Palestinian Citizen orders. That added to the goldmine of information you have. Enjoyed this posting a lot 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an incredible amount of information! I haven’t done much with my ancestors pre-America but I’ll be sure to remember the Israel Genealogy Research Association – thanks for the tip!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing detective work Amy, well done! At last the Lehmann/Rapp family finally settled in the USA and lived long lives.
    A statement from the British government in 1917 supported the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in Palestine. At that time Palestine was not an independent country, but was a region within the Ottoman empire. The British government was looking ahead to the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of World War 1 and to secure the civil and religious rights of all peoples in Palestine, a homeland for Jewish people and non-Jewish people. This ultimately led to the State of Israel 30 years and another War later.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy, wow. So this organization you joined: how does it help? Does it give you access to indices, files, what? And is it all in Hebrew or does the website translate? Yes, I have a lot of questions about this. I am wondering if it would help me at all with the gardener’s dad’s time in Israel or perhaps other of his relatives when I really get into that project in the future.
    I hope you don’t think this question is offensive (eeks). I am noticing a lot more divorces in your research than I have found in mine from the same time period. Do you think that all the disruption, trauma, moving, etc., contributed to those divorces?

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you want to me to take a look for your FIL, email me the details—names and dates. The site has both files that you can see and indexed records. I don’t really yet have a clear picture of the scope of what is there.

      As for the divorces, I also am surprised to see so many. But I guess people have always been the same—marriage doesn’t always work. Maybe these German Jewish families saw less stigma in divorce and got out if things weren’t working. We Americans are so influenced by Puritan thinking (whether Christian or not) that until the mid-20th century, divorce was considered shameful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, my mom’s family being from generations of Dutch Reformed were pretty straitlaced. And my dad’s family was Catholic. So there you go. haha But I do wonder if having such disrupted lives would contribute to marriage troubles.
        Wow, I would LOVE if you could look up Murray. OK, I will gladly send you the info and just take your time!!! Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Teresa. This was the post I mentioned in my comment on your post! And those records in English were done when Palestine was controlled by England until the state of Israel was formed in 1948.

      Like

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