Children Orphaned by the 1918 Flu Epidemic: The Family of Clementine Goldschmidt Sondheimer, Part II

In the last post we saw that after Clementine Goldschmidt Sondheimer died in 1918 and then her husband Nathan Sondheimer died in 1933, there were three children left orphaned: Manfred, Erich, and Augusta. They were still just teenagers at the time. But fortunately for them their grandmother Selma Cramer Goldschmidt and their extended family in Frankfurt cared for them as did their stepmother Anna.

All three were able to escape from Nazi Germany in time. We saw that  Augusta ended up in the US in early 1939 and lived with her stepmother Anna and her aunt Selma Ettlinger Oppenheimer until she married Walter Levy in 1942.

As for Augusta’s older brothers, Manfred and Erich, by 1939, they were living in England, according to the 1939 England and Wales Register. The Sondheimer brothers were living in Surrey with a couple named Friedrich and Ruth Hirsch, who were not much older than they were; Friedrich was a metal broker. Manfred was working as the secretary and Erich as a clerk for a company identified as Messrs. Tonerde on their enemy alien registration cards (see images below). That was the same company where their cousin Ernst Bodenheimer was employed.

Manfred and Erich Sondheimer, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/1938C, Enumeration District: DNEA, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register

Manfred married another Frankfurt native, Ruth Blumenthal, on June 16, 1940, in the Hendon district of London; Ruth was born on June 4, 1920, to Samuel Blumenthal and Gutta Spangenthal. She had come to London after finishing school in Germany.1 Their daughter, my fifth cousin Daniela, kindly shared a scan of their marriage registration:

Marriage certificate of Manfred Sondheimer and Ruth Blumenthal

Both Manfred and Erich were eventually interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man. Here is Manfred’s enemy alien registration card showing that he was then living in Surrey and working for Messrs. Tonerde. Although he was originally found to be exempt from internment, he was later interned on the Isle of Man, where he was put in charge of one of the barracks,2 and released on September 8, 1940.

Manfred Sondheimer enemy alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/240
Piece Number Description: 240: Dead Index (Wives of Germans etc) 1941-1947: Siderer-Steppacher, Ancestry.com. UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945

Manfred’s brother Erich Selig Sondheimer also was interned on the Isle of Man. According to his enemy alien registration card, he was living with his brother Manfred in Surrey at the time of  registration and was also working for Messrs. Tonerde. But he also was later sent to the internment camp where he was the chauffeur to the commander of the camp.3 Eric was  released from the camp on September 7, 1940, the day before his brother Manfred.

Erich S Sondheimer enemy alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/240
Piece Number Description: 240: Dead Index (Wives of Germans etc) 1941-1947: Siderer-Steppacher, Ancestry.com. UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945

On September 9, 1940, Ruth and Manfred and Erich all left England for Cuba. They had decided they would go wherever they first got a visa, and although Ruth would have preferred to go to Palestine where her parents and sister were living, the visa for Cuba came through first.4

On the same ship were their cousins Ernst and Clementine (Eisemann) Bodenheimer, who had also been interned on the Isle of Man. According to their daughter Daniela, Ruth and Manfred had a religious wedding ceremony aboard the ship to solemnize the civil ceremony they had had in London in June.5

Ernst and Clementine Bodenheimer, Manfred and Ruth Sondheimer, Erich Sondheimer, ship manifest, Ancestry.com. UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960

On February 17, 1941, Manfred and Ruth arrived in Miami, Florida, from Cuba. Manfred reported that the person they were going to at their destination was Anna Sondheimer in New York City. Manfred stated that he was a merchant who last permanently resided in London. He could speak five languages: German, English, French, Dutch, and Hebrew.

Manfred Sondheimer, Ancestry.com. Miami, Florida, U.S., Index to Alien Arrivals by Airplane, 1930-1942

By the time Manfred filed his declaration of intention to become a US citizen on September 12, 1941, he and Ruth were living in New York City. Manfred listed his occupation as the vice-president/secretary of an importing business.

Manfred Sondheimer, Declaration of Intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, Description: (Roll 630) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 500201-501100), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

On his World War II draft registration, he identified that company as Campro, Inc. Manfred and Ruth had two children born in New York after the war, their son Adrian and their daughter Daniela, who has generously shared so much of her family’s story with me.

Manfred Sondheimer World War 2 draft registration, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Manfred’s marriage to Ruth Blumenthal ended in divorce in 1966, and in 1968, he married another Ruth—Ruth Darmstadter Grunebaum.6 He became the vice-president of the Hugo Neu Company, a business that, as described on its website, “is a privately held company with deep experience in investing, building and managing businesses in recycling, real estate and related industries.” Manfred worked there for fifty years. One of his favorite charities was the Bibleland Museum in Jerusalem, and he worked hard to provide support and to obtain support from others for that institution.7

Manfred died on January 8, 2006, at the age of 91. He was survived by his children and grandchildren as well as his brother Erich. Those descendants have carried on the Goldschmidt commitment to Jewish education as both of Manfred’s children and all of his grandchildren have attended or are attending Jewish day school.8

Instead of going directly to the US from Cuba like his brother Manfred, Erich Sondheimer agreed to stay in Cuba so that another relative, one of his Sondheimer cousins, could leave for the US. Because he was unable to get a visa to the US, Erich ended up living for some years in Ecuador,9 where he married his wife Joan Charlotte Salomon on October 26, 1943. She was born in Berlin on March 31, 1912, to Herman and Gertrud Salomon.10

Erich and Joan immigrated to the US on August 22, 1946, arriving in Miami, Florida. On an information sheet filed with INS upon his arrival, Erich indicated that they were heading to Long Beach, New Jersey, where Anna Sondheimer, his stepmother, was living. (This is probably a mistake and should have been Long Beach, New York, according to Erich’s niece Daniela.) Erich described his occupation as “industrial” and noted that he, like his brother Manfred, was able to read five languages: German, Dutch, French, Spanish, and English.

Erich Sondheimer, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at Miami, Florida; NAI Number: 2788537; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85, Roll Number: 133, Ancestry.com. Florida, U.S., Arriving and Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1898-1963

Erich (later spelled Eric in the US) and Joan settled in New York and made several trips to South America as well as other destinations over the years. They did not have children. Joan died November 22, 2009; she was 97 years old.11 Eric died March 8, 2010, less than four months after Joan. He was 94.12

Eric worked for many years for the Melanol Corporation, an oil trading business, but his niece Daniela said that his real passion was his volunteer work for an organization called Selfhelp Community Services that Selma Ettlinger Sondheimer was also involved in developing.13 Selfhelp describes itself on its website as follows:

Selfhelp Community Services was founded in 1936 to help those fleeing Nazi Germany maintain their independence and dignity as they struggled to forge new lives in America. Today, Selfhelp is one of the largest and most respected not-for-profit human service agencies in the New York metropolitan area, with 46 programs offering services throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and Westchester. Selfhelp provides a broad set of services to more than 20,000 elderly, frail, and vulnerable New Yorkers each year, while remaining the largest provider of comprehensive services to Holocaust survivors in North America.

In a death notice published in The New York Times on March 9, 2010, Selfhelp paid tribute to Eric Sondheimer and his long and dedicated service to their organization:14

Selfhelp Community Services deeply mourns the passing of the esteemed elder statesman of our Board, Eric S. Sondheimer. For over fifty years, Mr. Sondheimer demonstrated an unwavering commitment to Selfhelp’s historic mission of supporting life with dignity to survivors of the Holocaust. His passion for independent living is evidenced by Selfhelp’s six residences, built under his guidance and direction, which house 1,000 seniors. Mr. Sondheimer will be lovingly remembered as a true gentleman whose exceptional kindness and wit was matched only by his insightful wisdom and vision. He left an extraordinary legacy for which he will always be remembered.

Thank you to my fifth cousin Daniela for sharing her family stories and photographs, including these two of her Sondheimer family. First, a photograph of Ruth Blumenthal Sondheimer, Daniela’s mother, Selma Ettlinger Sondheimer, the widow of Nathan Sondheimer’s brother Fritz, and Joan Charlotte Salomon Sondheimer, Erich Sondheimer’s wife:

Ruth Blumenthal Sondheimer, Selma Ettlinger Sondheimer, Joan Charlotte Sondheimer. Courtesy of the family

This last photograph is of four of the Sondheimer siblings and their spouses. It includes Manfred and Eric Sondheimer’s half-siblings, Fred (previously known as Fritz) and Marion. Their sister Augusta had already died when this photo was taken.

Robert Couturier, Joan Charlotte Sondheimer, Fred Sondheimer, Marion Sondheimer Couturier, Ruth Grunenbaum Sondheimer, Manfred Sondheimer, Eric Sondheimer. Courtesy of the family.

Reading about Manfred and Eric and their sister Augusta and how successful and well-loved they all were was reassuring and uplifting. Here were three children who lost their mother as preschoolers and their father as teens and then had to escape from Nazi Germany. Eric and Manfred were both interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man. Both brothers then escaped to Cuba because they couldn’t get into the US as quickly due to visa issues and quotas. And then finally they both settled in New York and lived very long and productive lives.

Once again I am inspired by the resilience of the human spirit and the ability of people to survive terrible losses and displacement and yet go on to find joy and meaning in life.

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Ruth Blumenthal Sondheimer, Gender: Female, Race: White, Birth Date: 4 Jun 1920, Birth Place: Frankfurt, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 27 Oct 1996
    Father: Samuel Blumenthal, Mother: Gutta Spagenthal, SSN: 060405088, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Conversation with Daniela Sondheimer Klein, December 1, 2020. Volume Number: 3a
    Page Number: 2220, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 3a; Page: 2220, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 
  2. Conversation with Daniela Sondheimer Klein, December 1, 2020. 
  3. Ibid. 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Divorce documents provided by Daniela Sondheimer Klein. Ruth Grunebaum
    Gender: Female, Marriage License Date: 1968, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Manfred Sondheimer, License Number: 2434,
    New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  7. Death notices for Manfred Oppenheimer, The New York Times, Jan. 10, 2006, Section C, Page 17. Conversation with Daniela Sondheimer Klein, December 1, 2020. 
  8. Conversation with Daniela Sondheimer Klein, December 1, 2020. Manfred Sondheimer, Social Security Number: 051-18-3476, Birth Date: 27 Oct 1914, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10024, New York, New York, New York, Death Date: 8 Jan 2006, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  9. Conversation with Daniela Sondheimer Klein, December 1, 2020. 
  10. David Baron and Roger Cibella, Goldschmidt Family Report. Joan Charlotte Sondheimer, Birth Date: 31 Mar 1912, Age: 39, Naturalization Date: 25 Feb 1952
    Residence: New York, New York, Title and Location of Court: New York Southern District, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 
  11. Joan Sondheimer, Social Security Number: 094-24-2094, Birth Date: 31 Mar 1912
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10024, New York, New York, New York, Death Date: 22 Nov 2009, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  12.  Eric Sondheimer, Social Security Number: 070-24-6828, Birth Date: 10 Nov 1915
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10024, New York, New York, New York, Death Date: 8 Mar 2010, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  13. Conversation with Daniela Sondheimer Klein, December 1, 2020. 
  14. Death notice for Eric Sondheimer, The New York Times, March 9, 2010. 

12 thoughts on “Children Orphaned by the 1918 Flu Epidemic: The Family of Clementine Goldschmidt Sondheimer, Part II

  1. Hi Amy, the sentence that’s jumped out from the page at me is (referring to the Hugo-Neu company) : Manfred worked there for fifty years. What an inspiration and accolade for the family
    knowing the difficulties they had to face initially.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I asked my mother and uncles/aunts whether they knew the Sondheimers. One aunt said the name was familiar, and thought the Bodenheimers would know them, since Aunt Clementine (my grandfather’s sister) and Uncle Ernst were older than my grandparents and lived in New York (while my mother grew up in Philadelphia.) Your last two posts suggest the Bodenheimers and Sondheimers may indeed have known each other.

    My siblings and I knew the next generation of Bodenheimers better than most of our second cousins, because we ended up living a couple blocks from them. Aunt Clementine lived with her son’s family after Uncle Ernst passed away, and my mother and siblings (alas, not I) would visit her regularly.

    Amy, I believe I emailed you the story of how one Ernst and Clementine Bodenheimers’ children, a rabbi in Israel, was implicated in an international assassination plot. 🙂 https://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2010/s2926113.htm.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just wanted to stand up and applaud Manfred, Eric and Augusta, after reading this, like we were honoring them at some gala for people who have inspired us. Beautiful photo’s. I loved the last one, the family photo. You can’t help but smile with them

    Liked by 1 person

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