By 1888, Selig Goldschmidt and his wife Clementine Fuld were living a good life. Their five daughters were all married, and there were numerous grandchildren filling their family’s life with lots of love and shared experiences. Selig’s business was thriving, and as we saw from the excerpts from the Selig Goldschmidt book, Selig was adored not only by his family but also by his community.
And then on March 6, 1888, Selig lost his beloved wife Clementine. She was only 51 years old, and her death was unexpected and sudden.
In a eulogy delivered by Professor A. Sulzbach in honor of Clementine, after extolling her many virtues—her modesty despite her wealth, her commitment to charity and to helping children and others in need, and her compassion, he stated:1
Another comfort to us at this time is the knowledge that her life was a happy one. She was fortunate to live at the side of a beloved husband, highly appreciated by his fellow citizens, among a flourishing group of children who adored her, and she was spared the worries that so frequently disturb the happiness of man.
After loyally fulfilling all her duties, she passed away before life could disappoint her with its grievous and distressing changes. She passed away immediately after one of the greatest Mitzvoth which a woman of middle age, a grandmother, rarely has an opportunity to perform. She had intended to go out, but as an affectionate daughter, did not like to leave the house without wishing her mother a very good night. It was to be her last parting greeting in life. She was then called away.
Her son Meyer also wrote words of praise in his mother’s honor:2
A year before my wedding, occurred the death of my unforgettable and beloved mother who was universally admired. The radiant sun of our happiness changed to deepest darkness. A life full of love, tenderness, unity and harmony of outlook was terminated. For us this was like being hurled from the brightest summit of life into the darkest depth.
Further insight into the character of Clementine Fuld Goldschmidt was provided by her husband Selig’s decision to turn down an offer by their synagogue to dedicate a ner tamid, an eternal light, in Clementine’s memory. Instead, Selig donated 7800 Marks to the synagogue and asked that they establish a scholarship for three students at the high school in Clementine’s name. He wrote:3
In her lifetime, my late wife, with her characteristic modesty, rejected all public expressions of gratitude for her efforts and endeavors. Therefore, it would surely be even now her wish to refuse the distinction intended for her.
This portrait of Clementine appears in the Selig Goldschmidt book:
Less than six months after Clementine’s death, her daughter Recha Goldschmidt Schwarzschild had a third child, born August 30, 1888, in Frankfurt. They named her Clementine for her grandmother, the first of many descendants to be named in her memory.
In August 1888, in a letter that Selig wrote to the children of his daughter Hedwig Goldschmidt Cramer, he described a vacation he was having with his son Meyer Selig, his daughter Helene, her husband Leon, and their son Giacomo in Ostend, Belgium:4
My dearly beloved good Rosa, my good and obedient Max, my good and wild Sally, and my good and beautiful Lena,
My dear good children, I have a strong desire to see you. …It is a pity that you cannot be with us because here in Ostend starts the big ocean where we bathe every day. There is plenty of sand on its shores where children can play nice games. They build houses and castles in the sand, which are later swept away by the water. It is great fun for young children. When I come here again another time, you must come too with your parents.
I loved this letter because it showed that Selig was very much involved in the lives of his married daughters and their children and that despite his loss, he was finding joy with his family.
Just over a year after Clementine’s death, Clementine and Selig’s only son Meyer Selig Goldschmidt was married on March 24, 1889. He married Selma Suzette Cramer, the daughter of Salomon Cramer and Therese Oppenheimer and the first cousin of Hirsch Hermann Cramer, the husband of Meyer’s sister Hedwig. Selma was born on May 24, 1868, in Furth, Germany.
Meyer and Selma moved into Selig’s home at his request. Meyer wrote:5
My father greatly appreciated the spiritual and mental qualities of my beloved wife, while she surrounded him with utmost devotion and childlike admiration and affection….It gave us great joy and satisfaction to see how our dear father revived and once again enjoyed a happy life, almost as he did when our good mother was still with us.
Meyer and Selma’s first child Harry was born on May 24, 1890, in Frankfurt.
Meyer shared this sweet incident that occurred when Harry was a baby. The baby’s room was next to Selig’s room, and concerned that the baby’s crying would disturb Selig’s sleep, Meyer and Selma offered to move him to another room. But Selig refused to let them do it. According to Meyer, Selig’s response was, “If I am awakened at night by the crying of the child, I enjoy listening to it. For me that is the most beautiful music imaginable.”6
Meyer and Selma’s second child Arthur was born on October 3, 1891, in Frankfurt.
Their third child Clementine, obviously another grandchild named for Selig’s wife, was born on October 5, 1893, in Frankfurt.
The extended family suffered another terrible loss when Hedwig Goldschmidt Cramer’s youngest daughter Caroline died on July 16, 1893. She was only seven years old.
Just three months later, Hedwig gave birth to her fifth child, Herbert, born on October 30, 1893. So she was six months pregnant with Herbert when she lost Caroline.
The last-born grandchild of Selig and Clementine Goldschmidt was Meyer and Selma’s daughter Alice, who was born on July 9, 1896, in Frankfurt.
Unfortunately, Selig Goldschmidt did not live to see the birth of his last grandchild Alice. He died six months before on January 13, 1896, in Frankfurt. He was sixty-seven years old and was survived by his six children and eighteen of his twenty grandchildren, Martha Schwarzchild and Caroline Cramer having predeceased him as had his wife Clementine.
Selig Goldschmidt was greatly loved and revered by his children and by his community. The book dedicated to his memory by his son Meyer and then translated and published by his later descendants includes many tributes and obituaries devoted to Selig Goldschmidt. I cannot include them all, but will attempt to provide an overview that reveals why this man was so respected and adored in my next post.
- Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p. 129. ↩
- Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p. 6. ↩
- Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p. 87. ↩
- Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p. 47 ↩
- Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p. 6 ↩
- Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies). p. 7. ↩