In March, 2020, I wrote about the family of my cousin Julius Loewenthal, the son of Kiele Stern and Abraham Loewenthal, grandson of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern, and great-grandson of Meyer Goldschmidt, my four-times great-uncle. Julius was married to Elsa Werner, his second cousin, the daughter of Helene Katzenstein, granddaughter of Malchen Goldschmidt, Sarah Goldschmidt’s younger sister.
They had four children: Ruth, born in 1905, Herbert, born in 1907, Hilda, born in 1911, and Karl Werner Loewenthal, born in 1918.
The basic facts of their story were described in detail here: the car accident that killed Ruth Loewenthal and her husband Leonhard Fulda and seriously injured Julius; the escape of Julius and Elsa from Germany; the murder of Ruth and Leonhard’s daughter Margot by the Nazis; Hilda’s marriage and divorce from Max Stern, the founder of the Hartz Mountain Corporation; Herbert Loewenthal’s move to Zurich after first immigrating to New York; and Karl’s departure to England to study at the Leicester Textile School and then serve in the British armed forces during World War II, during which time he changed his name to Garry Warner on the advice of his superior officer in case he was captured by the Nazis.
Since writing that post back in March, I have had the pleasure of connecting with and talking to Garry Warner-Loewenthal’s daughter Joanne, my fifth cousin. She has shared with me the memoir her grandfather Julius Loewenthal wrote in 1940 while the war was still going on and before he learned of the fate of his granddaughter Margot.
Joanne has generously given me permission to share some of the memoir, which was translated from German to English by her father Garry. As always, having the words of someone who lived through these experiences is so much more powerful than the words of a third person like me. In the next set of posts I will share some of the most poignant parts of Julius Loewenthal’s memoir. Today’s post will focus on the early years of Julius’ life in the Jewish community of Frankfurt in the late nineteenth century.
I have made a few editing changes and have selected only portions of the memoir, but have preserved as much as possible the tone and content of the original, including the capitalization of nouns that Garry Warner-Loewenthal preserved when he translated his father’s text.
I saw the light of day on August 24th 1874 in Wiesbaden near Frankfurt in our home on the Orianenstrasse…. When I was one year old, my parents moved back to Frankfurt. My father established a Wine Dealership in Frankfurt. …I had to help there a great deal during my youth. I had to fill bottles, cork them, and seal them, then carry the Wine to the customers.
… Later my dear Grandmother Sara [Goldschmidt] Stern with her Sons Adolf [also known as Abraham] and Mayer moved in with us and we shared a common household. That was an enormous strain and work for my dear mother, especially since she had borne 6 children of whom one died….
When I was 5 ½ years of age I was already sent to school. The school was located near the Synagogue near our House; all this was near as in those days nearly all Jews in Frankfurt lived in this neighborhood of Rechneigraben. In that locality was a Fishmarket on Fridays and before the high holidays you could buy your Lulef and your chickens. Thus, there always was lots of activity and commerce.
The Jewish community was led by the famous and highly respected Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch. I remember with joy this small in stature man with his brilliant eyes….
Selig Goldschmidt was the brother of my grandmother Sara Stern. He lived in Frankfurt during that time. He was a successful and very highly respected merchant. His knowledge of the world was great as were his religious convictions. He assisted Rabbi Hirsch in everything he could and what was necessary for the good of the Jewish community…..Rabbi Hirsch was the leader of a community who counted among its members many learned and wealthy individuals. Before the 1st World War there existed enormous wealth among the families of the Frankfurt congregation and the position of the Jews in Germany was then a respected one….Thus, their businesses were successful and they contributed much to Art and Culture of the country.
I attended the school I was enrolled in for 9 years. It was a very difficult time for me because much was demanded from me and much more than is expected of children today. Even on Sundays we had to go to school. I needed tutoring and for that I visited the house of my teacher Mr. Kauffmann. He was an unpleasant and very strict teacher who managed to rob me of the last sunshine of my youth. We had no free days at all, not even holidays….The results of this was that my health was never good and I became the easy victim of every serious sickness, which was dangerous as in those days little medication existed to combat these illnesses.
….There were always many family affairs. Bar mitzvahs, weddings, etc. never ended and were celebrated with pomp and generosity as befitted the wealth of those families. It was not a rare occasion when 600 or more people were invited to these affairs. It was common for individuals to create their music compositions and write their own theater pieces and present same on these occasions. Costumes were loaned from the Opera and Ballet houses. We children were always encouraged to make speeches during these festivities and after meals. We were encouraged to speak of Torah and general subjects. I write these things because I want to tell my children how happy the German Jews once lived.
The house of Selig Goldschmidt was a central meeting place for the family. Every Friday evening after the Evening meal was always a large reception in his home. During these occasions the family had much fun and for the children there was much activity. On Saturdays the central meeting place for the family was in his brother’s home, Falk Goldschmidt, who was a very humorous and charming individual who always kept everybody laughing and happy.
My Grandmother Sara Stern…lived in my parents’ house….Her brothers and sisters visited often and many many times we sat around our table talking by the light of the candles as gas and electric was not available at the time. I was very good at drawing when I was a child and often presented my drawings of different subjects to my relatives when they came to the house. It needs no mention that the Jewish holidays such as Seder, Succoth and all the others were celebrated with much joy and the strict observance of Jewish religious laws. … Both of our Uncles [Meier and Adolf] were like fathers to us and after my father died at an early age, they became our protectors and supporters until we children were old enough to take over.
…I finished school at the age of 14 and my father sent me to a wholesale jobbing business as an apprentice. It was a very hard apprenticeship. … However, no one got me down. My first task was to bring order into the large inventory of the firm that even my employer praised as was not his custom to praise anyone. I requested a sample case and went out and sold merchandise with good results and much to the amazement of everyone. I made such a good place for myself that later the employer, Mr. Adler, requested that my brother Siegfried also join the firm as an apprentice.
I will end here for now and pick up in the next post with Julius as a young adult, his experience with the cholera epidemic, his marriage, and his life as an adult in Eschwege, Germany, before the rise of the Nazis to power in 1933.
I am so grateful to my cousin Joanne for allowing me to share these excerpts from her grandfather’s memoir. To read about their lives in the late nineteenth century has added such depth and color to my understanding of the lives led by my Goldschmidt family as Jews in Germany during those years.