Anna Segher’s The Seventh Cross: A Story of Moral Choices

Back on May 1, I wrote about my cousin Netti Reiling, who under the pseudonym Anna Seghers became a well-known leftist intellectual, activist, and author. I wrote about her best-known book, The Seventh Cross, published both in German and in English while she and her family were living in Mexico in 1942. Two years later it was made into a film starring Spencer Tracy, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and others.

I’ve just finished reading the book. It took me quite a while to read in part because I seem to read in short spurts these days, often when I am sleepy. It also was a difficult book to read—both in terms of the painfulness of the subject matter and in the way it was written. But when I got to the second half, I couldn’t put it down as it turned from a slow-moving set of character studies to a suspenseful escape and chase.

It is an extremely well-written book. Seghers takes you into the minds of her characters so that you see their psychological development as well as their actions. The basic plot is simple: a man named George along with six others escapes from a German prison camp where political prisoners are kept, and the Gestapo and SS chase them down. Various people living in the nearby towns get involved in different ways with the escape and the chase. I won’t spoil the story more than that, but it’s not really the story that is Segher’s dominant focus. Rather, her focus is on how this story affects and, in some ways, reveals and changes the inner thinking and moral choices of the numerous characters.

The structure of the book is what makes it difficult to read at first. Seghers introduces numerous characters without linking them to each other or to the main character, George. Both the number of characters and the fact that the reader has no idea why they matter to the story made the first half of the book a struggle for me. I couldn’t keep the characters straight. Who was Ernst the shepherd and why did I care about him? Why do I care about this boy named Fritz and his girlfriend? What role does Franz have in this whole story? Who are all these various Nazis working at the prison camp? And so on. Perhaps if I’d read the book faster and not just one short segment at a time, I’d more quickly would have seen the forest and not just each individual tree. But at the pace I was reading, I’d forget who Franz or Fritz or Ernst was and have to flip back a few chapters to refresh my memory.

But once I reached the middle of the book and was able to read more quickly, I realized what a brilliant work this is and well worth the struggle to get to know the various characters. Seghers’ ability to get into the heads of the characters and see how they struggle to choose between their own safety and what they know is right is masterful. As you read, you wonder whether Fritz and Franz and all the others will do what’s needed to be done to help George or to save themselves. That’s what makes the book suspenseful. It’s not a typical crime or war story where the suspense lies in finding clues or in watching the bad guys get closer to the good guy while the good guy uses his brain to find a new way to get away. No, the suspense lies inside the minds of the characters and their personal moral codes. Frankly, I still have no idea what role Ernst the shepherd has in the story. Maybe someone who’s read the book will have an explanation. But overall each character does in the end become three-dimensional and integral to the overall story.

One thing that I did find odd about the book is that aside from one very brief mention of the mistreatment of a Jewish man, Seghers does not at all address the Nazi persecution and slaughter of Jews; she does not refer to the Nuremberg Laws or the concentration camps or Kristallnacht. Seghers was, after all, Jewish. Yet she wrote a book about Nazi Germany that is only about political prisoners, not about the way the Nazis treated Jews. Did she do that to reach a broader audience? Or did she perhaps recognize that although ordinary Germans might assist a fellow German who escaped from a camp for political prisoners, they would not have had made the same choices if it had been a Jewish person who’d escaped from a concentration camp?

I’ve not yet seen the film, and unfortunately it’s not available on any streaming service. I could buy a DVD from Amazon, but alas—I no longer have a DVD player. Damn modern technology! Do I invest in a DVD player just to watch one movie? I am debating it. But usually I find that movies based on books are not nearly as good as the books themselves, and it was my cousin Netti’s writing that I was most interested in.

As I wrote about in my post about Netti/Anna, The New York Times review of the movie, which was overall a very positive review, made one unusual comment at the end.1 I will quote it again here:

Without in the least overlooking the bestiality of the Nazi brutes nor the miserable self-surrender of German citizens to their black regime, this film … visions a burning zeal for freedom in some German rebels and a core of decency in common folk. …[T]he basic theme…is that in men—even in Germans—there is an instinct for good that cannot be destroyed.….

The big reservation which this writer holds with regard to this film is that regarding the discretion of its theme at this particular time. Without any question, it creates a human sympathy for the people of a nation with whom we are at war and it tends, as have others, to load Germany’s crimes on Nazi backs. Obviously this film can make sentiment for a “soft” peace. It looks as though we are getting a dandy “thriller” at a pretty high price.

It is true that the book (and apparently the film) portrays many of the characters in ways that reveal their basic morality although it also certainly portrays those who worked at and led the prison camp as inhumane and lacking in moral decency and many of the minor characters as spineless and complicit with the Nazis. But I can understand why in 1944 when the US was fighting Germany in World War II a reviewer might have objected to a film that portrayed any German in a flattering light.

But with the perspective of hindsight, that seems less objectionable. Seghers was at heart an optimist about human nature and perhaps she needed some hope in 1942 that many ordinary Germans would make the right choices and act morally. She had fled from Germany and then from France, seen her husband arrested and then released, and would ultimately learn that her own mother, Hedwig Fuld Reiling, had been murdered by the Nazis. She was not naïve; she was not sympathetic to the Nazis or those who supported their cause or their actions. She was just a human being holding out hope that other human beings would do the right thing. Sadly, not enough of them did. Most Germans were too afraid to resist the Nazis or had been coopted and persuaded to adopt the Nazi cause, and thus far too many people were not saved from their murderous captors.

But Seghers’ point was that when good and brave people do stand up for what is right, evil can be defeated. We need that lesson today in 2020 as much as people did in 1942.

Anna Seghers (Netti Reiling) Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-P1202-317 / Sturm, Horst / CC-BY-SA 3.0 / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE (






  1. Bosley Crowther, “The Seventh Cross, Anti-Nazi Drama, with Spencer Tracy, at Capitol,” The New York Times, September 29, 1944, p. 18. 

Minna Fuld and Her Descendants: New Cousins from Sao Paulo, But A Brick Wall Remains

Back in April, I posted about the dead ends I’d reached in my research of Minna Fuld and her family. To recap, Minna was the daughter of Helene Goldschmidt and Salmon Fuld,  the granddaughter of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt, and the great-granddaughter of Meyer Goldschmidt, who was my four-times great-uncle. Minna was married three times. First, she married Leo Offenstadt in 1894 when she was eighteen, and that marriage ended in divorce in 1904. She and Leo had had one child, Flora, in 1894. Then Minna married Ladislaus Polacovits in 1906, and he died in 1913; Minna had one child with Ladislaus, Liselotte, who was born in 1907. Finally, Minna married Hermann Heinrich Karl Reuss in 1923, with whom she had no children.

The first mystery was about Minna’s whereabouts during the 1930s and 1940s. I knew that her third husband Hermann was listed in the 1940 Frankfurt directory and died in Frankfurt on September 27, 1947. But several unsourced trees reported that Minna died in Tel Aviv on May 3, 1944. So had Minna gone to Palestine alone and died there? Had Hermann gone with her and returned to Germany after the war?

The second mystery was the fate of Minna’s daughter Flora Offenstadt during the Holocaust. Flora Offenstadt married Hermann Durlacher in 1918 and had two children with him, Siegfried Julius Thomas (known as Thomas) Durlacher and Ulla Louise Durlacher. I had records showing that Flora and the two children immigrated to Brazil in 1939, but no records for her husband Hermann or any information about what happened to them after they immigrated.

I also had no luck locating more information about Liselotte, Minna’s younger daughter with her second husband Ladislaus, although I knew she and Ladislaus were living in Palestine/Israel during the 1940s and that their son had married in England.

Having exhausted the usual genealogy tools and newspaper databases and Google, I turned to Tracing the Tribe to see if there was anyone with connections in Brazil who might be able to help me. And I was very, very fortunate that a group member named Jacqueline who is from Sao Paulo volunteered to help me.  She first located a marriage announcement for a son of Siegfried Julius Thomas Durlacher, which can be found here.

Then Jacqueline found a long magazine article, partly in German but mostly in Portuguese, that she summarized for me. According to the article, Thomas Durlacher started a library of German-language books in Atibaia, a town in the countryside outside of Sao Paulo; the library now has ten thousand books, some of which were Thomas’ parents’ books that they took with them out of Germany when they escaped from the Nazis and others were donated by other refugees from Germany. The article also mentioned that Thomas had two sons, one a doctor in Brazil and the other residing in Germany.

And then—the icing on the cake—Jacqueline located those sons and other members of the Durlacher family on Facebook! At that point, I took over and sent messages and friend requests to these descendants of Minna Fuld. And almost immediately two of Thomas Durlacher’s sons responded. They then connected me to their cousin Sergio, the son of Ulla Durlacher (Flora and Hermann’s daughter), who contacted me by email.

Sergio told me that his grandfather Hermann Durlacher was the first member of the family to immigrate to Brazil. When I asked him why Brazil, he explained that it was the destination of the first available ship that Hermann could take.  Hermann and Flora had already sent Thomas to the Netherlands to study; he lived with a wealthy family who were close friends of the family. Flora and her daughter Ulla remained in Germany, and Sergio said that his mother had very painful memories of those years.

Unfortunately, Sergio did not have any information about the fate of Minna Fuld, his great-grandmother, so that mystery remained unsolved.

He provided me with more contacts, however, and one of those contacts who was in fact on Sergio’s father’s side found this document about Minna:

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/73, Description, Piece Number Description: 073: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Reu-Rop, Source Information UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945

I also realized that one of the documents I’d found about Hermann indicated that Minna had immigrated to England:

Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees
Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947

So Minna was in England in 1940. I then located her on the 1939 England and Wales Register:

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/419G
Enumeration District: APDF, 1939 England and Wales Registe

Note that she reported that her marital status was married, but Hermann was not living with her in England. That might explain why he was still listed in the 1940 Frankfurt directory. Hermann was not Jewish and may have stayed behind to protect their interests in Germany.  But I could not find any later record for Minna. Since Hermann was a widower when he died in Frankfurt in 1947, Minna must have died sometime between 1940 and 1947, but where and when remains a mystery.

On the other hand, thanks to Jacqueline, I now am in touch with several of Minna’s descendants, my cousins who grew up in Brazil after their parents and grandparents escaped there from Germany in the 1930s. Someday someone will learn what happened to their ancestor Minna.


Berthold Goldschmidt Revisited: His Second Family

A year and a half ago I wrote about the tragic life of my cousin Berthold Goldschmidt, who outlived not only his wife Mathilde Freudenstein but six of their seven children. Their only surviving child, their son Siegfried Goldschmidt, was murdered in the Holocaust. I believed that Berthold had only one grandchild, Siegfried’s son Max, who had no children. Thus, I believed that Berthold Goldschmidt had no living descendants.

I’ve received two updates about Berthold’s family since then. In February, my friend in Germany, Julia Drinnenberg, sent me these photographs of two of Berthold and Mathilde’s sons taken during their service in World War I, Leopold, who was killed in the war, and the above-mentioned Siegfried.

Siegfried Goldschmidt

Leopold Goldschmidt

Then back in April, I received an email from David Baron, asking if I wanted to Zoom with a cousin named Rickey Slezak. I had no idea who Rickey was or how she was related to me, but soon discovered that she is a descendant of none other than Berthold Goldschmidt.

How does he have any descendants, you might wonder?

Well, in telling Berthold’s story I totally overlooked the fact that he had remarried after Mathilde’s death and had in fact had six more children with his second wife, Rika Giesberg, Rickey’s namesake. You can imagine how embarrassing this is!

Not that this takes away from the tragedies suffered by Berthold; that is still unimaginable. But Berthold’s story is somewhat softened by the fact that he went on to have a second family. And I was delighted not only to learn about this, but to make the connection to Rickey, my third cousin, once removed. Rickey shared with me an amazing album of old photographs of Berthold’s second family. This post is devoted to their story.

After losing his first wife Mathilde in 1911, Berthold Goldschmidt was left with four surviving children from that marriage: Paul, Leopold, Siegfried, and Hedwig. They were all still teenagers at that time.

On August 25, 1912, Berthold married Rika (sometimes spelled Richa or referred to as Rickchen) Giesberg, daughter of Jonas Giesberg and Henriette Loewenstein, in Trendelburg, Germany. Rika was born in Trendelburg on May 29, 1882, and was little more than ten to fifteen years older than her four stepchildren.

TitelStandesamt Trendelburg Heiratsnebenregister 1912 (HStAMR Best. 909 Nr. 9383)AutorHessisches Staatsarchiv MarburgErscheinungsortTrendelburg

Here are photographs of Berthold and Rika, courtesy of their granddaughter and my cousin, Rickey.

Berthold Goldschmidt, courtesy of the family

Rika Giesberg Goldschmidt, courtesy of the family

Rika and Berthold’s first child together, Walter Goldschmidt, was born in Oberlistingen, Germany, on April 24, 1913.1 A second son Herbert was born on December 20, 1914.2

Three of Berthold’s children from his first marriage died between 1915 and 1916, as discussed here. By 1917, Siegfried was then the only surviving child of the children Berthold had with Mathilde Freudenstein.

After those losses, Berthold and Rika had their first daughter, Hedwig, born June 1, 1918. She presumably was named for Berthold’s deceased daughter Hedwig from his first marriage.3

Here is a photograph of their family in about 1920 before their three youngest children were born:

Berthold and Rika (Rickchen) Goldschmidt and family, c. 1920. Courtesy of the family

Their third son Jacob Julius Goldschmidt (known as Julius) was born on March 17, 1921.4 Albert Goldschmidt was born on September 9, 1924.5 Finally, their sixth and final child Elfriede was born August 17, 1926.6

This is a photograph of their home in Oberlistingen:

Berthold Goldschmidt family home in Oberlistingen. Courtesy of the family

Berthold Goldschmidt died on November 8, 1927. He was survived by his son Siegfried from his first marriage and the six children he had with Rika. Those six children lost their father before they reached adulthood. Their oldest child Walter was just fourteen, and their youngest child Elfriede just a year old. Rika was herself only 45 and left to care for the six children including four who were under ten years old.

Berthold Goldschmidt death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Signatur: 8196 Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 [

Rika was not destined to live a long life. She died at the age of 52 in Merxhausen, Germany, on March 1, 1935.7 I wondered why she died in Merxhausen, which is about 35 kilometers from Oberlistingen, and learned that there was a hospital there.

By that time Walter was almost 22, Herbert going on 21, Hedwig was almost seventeen, Julius almost fourteen, and the two youngest were still quite young; Albert was ten, and Elfriede only nine. I wonder who took care of these children, especially the three youngest, after they were orphaned.

Here are some photographs of some of the siblings taken in Germany before their lives changed forever:

Walter Goldschmidt
Courtesy of the family

Hedwig Goldschmidt Courtesy of the family

Julius Goldschmidt
Courtesy of the family

By the time of Rika’s death, the Nazis had taken power in Germany, and the Nuremberg Laws were adopted six months after her death.  It’s thus not surprising that by 1937 her two oldest sons decided to leave for the United States. Herbert left first, arriving in New York on July 30, 1937. According to the ship manifest, he left behind his brother Walter in Oberlistingen and was  going to a cousin, Leighton Steele, in Detroit, Michigan.  Leighton Steele was the son of Hedwig Goldschmidt Steele, a younger sister of Berthold Goldschmidt. Thus, Leighton, who was American-born, was Herbert’s first cousin, but they probably had never met.8

Walter Goldschmidt arrived just a few months after his brother Herbert; he arrived in New York on October 1, 1937. According to the ship manifest, he was heading to New York to a “cousin” named Joseph Guhl and was leaving behind an “uncle,” Salomon Strauss in Frankfurt. Salomon Strauss was married to Jenny Giesberg, Rika Giesberg Goldschmidt’s sister. Joseph Guhl was married to Meta Giesberg, the daughter of Leopold Giesberg, Rika’s brother.9

This photograph is labeled “Leaving for America” and shows Walter in Hamburg:

Courtesy of the family

The next sibling to arrive in the US was the youngest, Elfriede. She was only twelve years old when she arrived on March 24, 1939, and was sailing with her aunt Jenny Giesberg Strauss, her husband Salomon Strauss, and their son Walter. The ship manifest indicates that they all had been living in Frankfurt, so perhaps Elfriede had been taken in by her aunt after Rika died in 1935. They were leaving behind Salomon’s brother Julius and going to his cousin, Max Schoenmann, who lived at 1770 Andrews Avenue in the Bronx. I mention that only because my husband grew up down the block from there at 1940 Andrews Avenue. Small world.10

I don’t know whether or not Herbert ever went to Detroit to see Leighton Steele, but in 1940 both he and Walter were working as waiters for a restaurant in North Castle, New York, where they were both also living, according to the 1940 census.11  My cousin Rickey told me that the restaurant where they worked was a spot that became extremely popular as a music venue during the Big Band era, called Log Cabin Farms. You can see it mentioned on Herbert’s World War II draft registration.

Walter Goldschmidt, World War II draft registration, U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Herbert Goldschmidt, World War II draft registration, U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

The North Castle Historical Society published an article about the Log Cabin Farms and all the performers who came there; you can find it here. As you can see from this postcard, the restaurant had a seating capacity of 1500!

Meanwhile, their sister Elfriede was living in the Bronx with their aunt Jenny Giesberg Strauss and her family in 1940.12 Rickey told me that her father revered his aunt Jenny, at least in part because of the care she gave to his little sister.

Herbert enlisted in the US military on January 22, 1941, almost a year before Pearl Harbor.13 I don’t know anything specific about his military service, but here is a photograph of him in uniform.

Herbert Goldschmidt/Goldsmith
Courtesy of the family

He applied for a marriage license to marry Lilly Vogel on January 19, 1943, in New York City.14

courtesy of the family

They did not have any children. According to my cousin Rickey, her uncle Herbert died in 1963.

His brother Walter enlisted on January 29, 1943, just ten days after Herbert and Lilly’s wedding.15 According to records his daughter Rickey has, Walter served three years including a year overseas. He was decorated several times, receiving the following medals: American Service Medal; Good Conduct Medal; European African Middle Eastern Service Medal; and a World War II Victory Medal.

On February 12, 1944, Walter married Hilda Weis,16 who was born on October 8, 1922, to Siegfried Weis and Else Scheuer in Gelnhausen, Germany.17 They had one child, my cousin Rickey, the source of all these wonderful photographs. Walter died on October 4, 1991; his widow Hilda died in 2001.18 They are survived by their daughter Rickey as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Hilda Weis and Walter Goldschmidt/Goldsmith
Courtesy of their daughter Rickey

Elfriede married Alvin Kruger Colin with whom she had two children. This is a picture of them taken in March 1948. Given the way they are dressed, I assume this was their wedding day.19

Elfriede Goldschmidt and Al March 1948
Courtesy of the family

Elfriede died on January 6, 2011; she was survived by her children and grandchildren.20

Here is a photograph of the three siblings who made it to the US. I’d guess it was taken sometime after the war.

Courtesy of the family

Unfortunately, two of the other children of Berthold and Rika did not leave Germany and were killed in the Holocaust. According to the Memorial Book for Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 – 1945, Jacob Julius Goldschmidt was sent to Dachau concentration camp on November 10, 1938, after Kristallnacht and was released from Dachau on December 8, 1938. He still, however, did not leave Germany. According to this document, he was living in Munich from February 18, 1940, until April 5, 1942.

UPDATE: Thank you to barb276 for finding more information about Jacob Julius Goldschmidt here. According to this page from the Munich archives, Jacob Julius had moved from Kassel to Munich by January 1, 1936, and was living there until October 26, 1940, when he went to a Hachsharah, a Zionist training camp in Steinhofel, where Jews were trained for life in Palestine/Israel. Unfortunately, Jacob Julius never got there.

Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees
Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947

He was then deported to Poland and murdered at some unnamed location.

Hedwig Goldschmidt was also murdered by the Nazis. She had married Horst Starsky, who was born on July 10, 1909, in Wingeruppen, Germany. According to the Memorial Book for Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 – 1945, they were living in Berlin, and both were first imprisoned in a Jewish forestry labor camp in Kersdorf-Briesen. They were then deported to Auschwitz on April 19, 1943, where they were killed. As far as I’ve been able to determine, they did not have any children.

The fate of Albert Goldschmidt, Berthold and Rika’s youngest son, is less clear. My cousin Rickey believes that he ended up immigrating to Buenos Aires, Argentina, but I have no documentation showing that. Rickey also believed he married and had a child there, but again, we have no documentation. What we do have is this photograph of Albert apparently taken in front of a restaurant that has a Spanish name, I think—Coveteria Vievo Viena? Google Translate could not make sense of coveteria but translated Vievo Viena as I come Vienna. Possibly a restaurant serving Viennese (or German-style) food?

UPDATE: Thank you to my cousin Susana, who also came from Buenos Aires, for helping me to translate what this says. She said that it says “Confitería Viejo Viena” (Old Vienna tearoom) and would have been a patisserie or tearoom that likely specialized in German/Austrian pastries and cakes.

Courtesy of the family

Thus, Berthold Goldschmidt’s family with his second wife Rika endured a great deal of tragedy just as his family with his first wife Mathilde Freudenstein had. But the record must stand corrected. Berthold Goldschmidt does indeed have living descendants—his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, and even some great-great-grandchildren.  And one of them is my wonderful cousin Rickey who helped me tell and illustrate their family’s story.


  1. Walter Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 24 Apr 1913, Birth Place: Oberlistingen, Germany, U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  2. Herbert Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 20 Dec 1914, Birth Place: Oberlistingen, Germany, U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  3.  Hedwig Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 1 Jun 1918, Birth Place: Oberlistingen, Reference Number: 02010101 oS, Document ID: 70442392, Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees, Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 
  4.  Julius Israel Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 17 Mrz 1921 (17 Mar 1921), Birth Place: Oberlingen, Reference Number: 02010101 oS, Document ID: 70126154, Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees, Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 
  5. I have no record of Albert’s birth date; this comes from the Goldschmidt family report done by Roger Cibella and David Baron. 
  6.  Elfriede Colin, Social Security Number: 112-16-3514, Birth Date: 17 Aug 1926
    Death Date: 6 Jan 2011, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  7.  Richa Goldschmidt, Maiden Name: Giesberg, Gender: weiblich (Female)
    Age: 52, Birth Date: 29 Mai 1882 (29 May 1882), Death Date: 1 Mrz 1935 (1 Mar 1935)
    Death Place: Merxhausen, Hessen (Hesse), Deutschland (Germany), Civil Registration Office: Merxhausen, Certificate Number: 16, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Signatur: 6991, Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 
  8. Herbert Goldschmidt, ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 25; Page Number: 38, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  9. Walter Goldschmidt, ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 8; Page Number: 36, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957. Salomon Strauss and Jenny Giesbech [sic], Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees, Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947. Meta Giesberg, Marriage Date: 30 Apr 1936, Marriage Place: Manhattan, New York, USA, Spouse: Joseph A Guhl, Certificate Number: 11992, New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937 
  10. Elfriede Goldschmidt, ship manifest, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 6; Page Number: 8, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  11. Walter Goldschmidt and Herbert Goldschmidt, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: North Castle, Westchester, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02811; Page: 3B and Page 24A, Enumeration District: 60-250, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  12. Elfriede Goldschmidt, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, Bronx, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02497; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 3-1449, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  13. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  14.  Herbert Goldschmidt, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 19 Jan 1943
    Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Lilly Vogel
    License Number: 1202, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 1, New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  15. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 
  16.  Hilda Weis, Gender: Female, Marriage License Date: 10 Feb 1944
    Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA. Spouse: Walter Goldschmidt, License Number: 3826, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 6, New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  17. Hilda Goldsmith, [Hildegard Weis], [Hilda Goldschmidt] , Gender: Female,
    Birth Date: 8 Oct 1922, Birth Place: Gelnhausen, Federal Republic of Germany
    Death Date: 18 Sep 2001, Father: Siegfried Weis, Mother: Else Scheuer
    SSN: 085180692, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  18. Name: Walter Goldsmith, Gender: Male, Birth Date: 24 Apr 1913, Death Date: 4 Oct 1991, Claim Date: 6 Mar 1975, SSN: 077165081, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. For Hilda, see Note 17. 
  19.  Elfriede Goldsmith, Marriage License Date: 27 Feb 1948, Marriage License Place: Bronx, New York City, New York, USA, License Number: 1705, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Bronx, New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  20. Elfriede Colin, Social Security Number: 112-16-3514, Birth Date: 17 Aug 1926
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 33308, Fort Lauderdale, Broward, Florida, USA, Death Date: 6 Jan 2011, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

Martha Loewenthal Wolff’s Family: An Update from Israel

One of the more elusive Goldschmidt family members to research has been Martha Loewenthal Wolff and her family. Martha was the daughter of Kiele Stern and Abraham Loewenthal, the granddaughter of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern, and my third cousin, twice removed. Thanks to my friend Aaron Knappstein, I now have more information and documents and even photographs of Martha and her family.

Martha was married to Jakob Wolff, as discussed here, and they had three children: Anna, Hans Anton, and Walter. I was missing birth records for all three children, and Aaron was able to locate all of them.

Birth record of Anna Wolff

Birth record of Hans Anton Abraham Wolff

Birth record of Walter Wolff

Martha died in 1930, and I could not find a death record for her until Aaron located it, as I wrote about here.

After Martha’s death and the Nazi takeover of Germany, Jakob Wolff and all three of their children immigrated to Israel, as I wrote about here.

But I did not know what happened to Jakob or his children after their immigration. And then Aaron came through for me again and located Hans Anton Wolff’s son Benjamin in Israel and connected me to him and his daughter Ravid. Now I have firsthand information about Martha’s family as well as photographs, thanks to Ravid Wolff, my fifth cousin, once removed.

First, some photographs of the family taken before they left Germany.

Jacob and Martha Wolff and their first car Courtesy of the Wolff family

Anna Wolff and her mother Martha Loewenthal Wolff Courtesy of the Wolff family

Anna Wolff as a child Courtesy of the Wolff family

Hans Anton and Walter Wolff Courtesy of the Wolff family

Ravid shared with me that her great-grandmother Martha was a very talented artist and sent me this image of a painting that Martha did while traveling with Jakob in what was then Palestine in the 1920s.

Painting by Martha Loewenthal Wolff

According to Ravid, her great-grandparents Martha and Jakob Wolff owned two banks in Frankfurt, Germany, and were quite wealthy. After Martha died from ovarian cancer in 1930, Jakob married Ilse Gruenebaum. When Hitler came to power, Jakob recognized how dangerous he was and, as a Zionist, decided to leave Germany for Israel (then Palestine) before it was too late. He was able to obtain visas to immigrate for a thousand pounds each, an exorbitant amount of money at that time, but had to leave all his other property and possessions behind. All of it including their home in Frankfurt was confiscated by the Nazis and never returned to the family.

Ravid shared two letters with me that show that the requests for restitution of their property in Frankfurt were denied:

Google Translate helped me translate these letters. The one above translates as:

Upon your request of 17 December 1956, we will inform you: The property Leerbachstrasse 36 was registered until 17 September 1937 on:
Banker Jakob Wolff on the ideal half
Instead of his wife Martha Wolff [names of children] for ideal half in undivided community of heirs. [I am not sure what “ideal half” means.]
In the way of the forced auction, this plot of land on 17 9 1937 is given to Frau Therese Ried geb Stromer, [address]. It is still owned by them.
The owner of the Paulsplatz 14 property was the merchant Carl Seitz in Baden near Vienna in 18 1 1923 and the owner of the Paulsplatz 16 property was the Jakob Wolff & Co., Open Trade Company since 18 March 1922.
The current owner of both properties has been the municipal district of Frankfurt since August 10, 1934 bze, October 15, 1935. A piece of land at Paulsplatz 18 does not exist.

The second letter translated as:

The aforementioned property became the property of the City of Frankfurt on the basis of an additional resolution dated 2 4 1935. The compulsory auction had already started in 1932. The JRSO, which had previously asserted claims for reimbursement for the aforementioned property, accepted its application on Feb. 1, 1951. For your further information, we would like to inform you that the city has always contested a claim for reimbursement.
We hope to have served you with the above statements.

As for Martha and Jakob’s three children, Anna, the oldest, was married to Simon Wittekind when she immigrated, and they had two sons, Aharon and Baruch (as they were known in Israel) who were born in Berlin. Simon was a doctor who wanted to move to South Africa, but Anna felt safer in Israel, so she stayed there with her children.

Anna later married Herbert Feige. According to Ravid, Anna hated Germany and suffered great trauma because of what had happened there and unlike her brother Hans Anton refused to reclaim her German citizenship when that right became available to her. Her sons changed their surname to Yardeni (for the Jordan River) to identify with their new homeland. Ravid did not know exactly when Anna died, only that like her mother Martha, she died young and from cancer.

Ravid’s grandfather was Hans Anton Wolff, the second child of Martha Loewenthal and Jakob Wolff.  He married Susana Meseritz, another refugee from Germany, whom he met in Palestine. They had one child, Ravid’s father Benjamin. Hans had a doctorate in chemistry. He died from colon cancer in 1974, and his wife Susana died in 2002.

Walter, the youngest of the siblings, also married in Palestine/Israel. He owned a hotel in Jerusalem for many years. He and his wife Hedy Buller had two children. Walter died in 1968 in Jerusalem, also from cancer.

I am so indebted to Aaron Knappstein for finding the missing records of the Wolff children and even more so for connecting me to my cousin Ravid. And I am very, very grateful to Ravid for sharing her family’s story with me. Ravid, like her great-grandmother Martha and so many others in the extended Goldschmidt family, has a great interest in and great talents in art. Her photography captures in simple and yet complex ways the beauty of the world around us by using unusual perspectives and contrasting light and colors.

The Families of Kiele Stern Loewenthal and Abraham Stern: An Update

My last post provided new information about the descendants of Kiele Stern Loewenthal’s daughter Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher. Today I will look at updates for the family of Kiele Stern Loewenthal’s daughter Helene Loewenthal Schultze and specifically updates for her only child, Elisabeth Auguste Aloysia Schultze, daughter of Helene’s second husband Oskar Schultze. I had several gaps in the story of Elisabeth.

First, I did not have Elisabeth’s birth record, and Aaron Knappstein located it for me:

Elisabeth was born on December 3, 1914, in Coblenz, Germany. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned from this record was that Helene, her mother, was identifying as “ohne,” or without, religion. As I wrote about here, Elisabeth’s mother Helene was born Jewish, but her father Oskar Schultze was Protestant. But both Helene and Elisabeth were included on the 1939 Minority census in Germany.

The notes at the bottom of the record indicate that Elisabeth was married in February 24,1955, in Hamburg and that she died on November 23, 1991 in Bad Krozingen.

That helped Aaron locate Elisabeth’s marriage record and death record. Here is the marriage record.

This document shows that Elisabeth married Ulrich Carl Albert Wilke on February 24, 1955, in Hamburg, Germany. Ulrich was born on August 16, 1906, in Hamburg; his parents were Emil Ludwig Gustav Wilke and Catherine Wilhelmine Frieda Auguste Schreiber. The marriage record states that Ulrich was a bank clerk and that Elisabeth was a merchant. She was 41 when they married, and he was 49. The marriage record indicates that neither had children, and as far as I know, Elisabeth and Ulrich also did not have children. Both Elisabeth and Ulrich reported that they were Lutheran.

In the upper left-hand margin of the marriage record is a note indicating that Elisabeth left the church in 1969. Aaron explained to me that this could have been done to avoid the religion tax or it could have indicated that she was not religious and did not want to pay a tax to support the church.

The second note in the left-hand margin reports that Ulrich died on December 5, 1984.

The third document that Aaron located about Elisabeth Schultze Wilke is a transcription of her death record.

From this document I know that she died in Bad Krozingen on November 23, 1991 and that she identified as “evanglische” (Protestant), so perhaps she had returned to the church between her marriage and her death. Elisabeth was 77 when she died.

Thanks to Aaron Knappstein, I now have a much more complete story of Elisabeth’s life; what’s still missing is the story of where she was and how she managed during the 1940s, and that may remain a mystery as she had no children to carry on her story.

I also have updates that relate to the descendants of Kiele Stern’s brother Abraham Stern and his children. These updates came from Abraham’s great-grandson Rafi Stern, who has previously shared photographs and information about his relatives. This time he sent two documents in German.

The first is a letter written by his uncle Erich Stern to Erich’s brother and Rafi’s father Guenther Stern. Erich and Guenther were the sons of Siegfried Salmon Stern, son of Abraham Stern and Johanna Goldschmidt. I discussed this letter in the earlier post, but now have a scan of the original letter in German. It is the letter Eric wrote describing in the first paragraph what had happened to the family on Kristallnacht. As you can see, it is dated November 13, 1938, just a few days after that nightmarish event throughout Germany.

The remaining two paragraphs are rather vague but appear to concern the family’s property and business and how to protect it from the Nazis.

Thank you for your various letters.
Unfortunately we have very bad news from Frankfurt. Uncle Siegfried, who wanted to go to Palestine with your family on Sunday, was arrested on Friday, as well as Aunt Sittah, Maguerite and Helmuth. Aba had fled and no one knew where. Really horrible conditions. Bickhardts still seem to be undisturbed.

Under these circumstances, I personally think it is more correct if you do not entrust Mr. Goldschmidt with the handling of the matter, since he cannot do the thing in the future. An Aryan lawyer, as I hear, is also not allowed to accept new Jewish customers, but if you turned to Peters, that [problem]would also disappear.  [I assume this means that because the family had previously used Peters, the prohibition against new clients would not apply.] Please write to him immediately. The matter can surely also be processed via the foreign exchange office in Cologne, since we are responsible here. Please let me know about it immediately. I will not enclose the list of assets with you, because maybe it will not be required in Cologne. I am also very reluctant to submit a list of 35 & 38, because I do not know about Eburonenstrasse and have given only very vague information about the general property registration.

As far as the matter of the foreign  papers, Father gave the matter to one of his lawyers (I don’t know his name), who is said to have first-class relationships. I haven’t heard anything yet. Father took it on the condition that if the lawyer got all or part of the papers in my name, we would share them.

Did you hear about the transfer of the proceeds from the sale of Kaiserstrasse to our accounts?
Greeting and kiss. Yours, Erich

Rafi also sent me a memoir written by his great-aunt, Siegfried’s sister Alice Lea Stern Oppenheimer.  It’s 58 pages long and in German, and since my German group is not meeting this summer, I am going to try to read it myself to keep up with my German. I will report back once I’ve accomplished that task.

Thank you again to Aaron Knappstein and to Rafi Stern for helping to tell the stories of these descendants of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern.


A Photo Essay of the Family of Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher

Another cousin who found my blog during these pandemic days is my fifth cousin, once removed, Carrie Schwabacher. She is the granddaughter of Gerhard Schwabacher, the great-granddaughter of Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher, great-great-granddaughter of Kiele Stern Loewenthal, three times great granddaughter of Sarah Goldschmidt Stern, and four-times great-granddaughter of Meyer Goldschmidt.

Carrie kindly shared with me these wonderful photographs as well as some heartwarming stories about her family. They start with her great-great-grandmother, Kiele (Caroline) Stern Loewenthal, the daughter of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern, wife of Abraham Loewenthal. I wrote about Kiele here and here.

Kiele Stern Loewenthal.
Courtesy of her family

Here is a lovely photograph of Kiele and Abraham Loewenthal’s daughter, Selma, as a young woman; I see a strong resemblance to her mother.

Selma Loewenthal
Courtesy of her family

Selma married Nathan Schwabacher:

Nathan Schwabacher Courtesy of the Schwabacher family

And they had three children. Their daughter Alice was the oldest:

Alice Schwabacher Courtesy of the Schwabacher family

Alice was followed by Julius Alfred Schwabacher:

Julius Alfred Schwabacher Courtesy of the Schwabacher family

Gerhard Schwabacher, Carrie’s grandfather, was Selma and Nathan’s youngest child:

Gerhard Schwabacher
Courtesy of the family

The two sons look remarkably similar to each other and to their father Nathan.

Alice Schwabacher married David Weinstein (later Wenten) and had one child, Wolfgang, depicted here as a young boy with his dog:

Wolfgang Weinstein and dog

Julius Schwabacher married Margaret Wuertenberg and had one child, Eva Lore, the adorable little girl shown here:

Eva Lore Schwabacher
Courtesy of the family

This photograph of Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher and her brother Julius Loewenthal is undated, but must have been taken before 1936 when Julius left for the United States. Selma died in 1937 in Berlin.

Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher and brother Julius Loewenthal
Courtesy of the family

Here is a closer one of Selma, probably taken around the same time:

The remaining photographs that Carrie shared with me appear to have been taken after the family immigrated to the United States. Their full story has been told here, so I won’t tell it again, but will share these photographs of the Schwabacher family in their new country and some of Carrie’s memories of her extended family.

She has wonderful memories of her grandparents, as she shared with me: “I have such great memories of my grand parents even though they died when I was 7. Christmas was a very special time – like a scene from the Nutcracker. As children, we celebrated Hanukkah, Christmas and Epiphany ( my mom’s side of the family is Russian Orthodox). We got presents for months, or it seemed like it.” She also wrote that her Opa, Gerhard Schwabacher, always gave each of his grandchildren a quarter every time he saw them.

Other holidays were spent with her great-uncle Julius Schwabacher, who became Fred Wenten in the US, and his wife Else in Proctor, Vermont: Fred and Elsa owned an Inn in Proctor Vt. The entire family spent a few holidays there as well. The toasts would go on for so long that someone would finally say “let the children eat their fruit cocktails before they fall asleep”. And then, dinner would start.”

Here’s a photograph of Fred Wenten in the US:

Fred Wenten (born Julius Alfred Schwabacher)
Courtesy of the family

Fred’s daughter Eva Lore was also a favorite of Carrie. Eva Lore married Henry Corton in 1951. Carrie wrote this about them:

“Henry was a fabulous dancer and would sometimes break into buck and wing ( tap dancing) in the kitchen even when he was old. We visited then often when they lived in Jamaica, Queens. We always went out for walks. We met Bella Abzug at the Cloisters in NY. He was very fond of Pavorotti and considered him a “distant cousin“. It got him back stage at the Met many times. Eva and Henri took us to Ringling Bro’s. And Barnum & Bailey Circus and the Ice Capades when we were little. We visited Eva Lore in LaGuna Hills, helped her pack and move to Baltimore, and took her to her first McDonalds meal. The “Apple Strudel “ was her favorite. Apple Pie. Even at 79, she was booking her own travel on her computer. They never had children, but spoiled us.”

Here are some of the photographs of Eva Lore and Henry that Carrie shared with me:

Eva Lore Schwabacher and Henry Corton Courtesy of the family

Eva Lore Schwabacher Corton Courtesy of the family

Eva Lore Schwabacher Corton Courtesy of the family

Eva Lore and Henry Corton Courtesy of the family

Carrie also has warm memories of her great-aunt Alice Schwabacher Weinstein (Wenten in the US):

“We went to visit Tanta Alice for the holidays every year in Washington Heights, NY. I always wanted to take a nap, because I loved the big square Feather pillows on the bed. She always had such great treats for us, German delicacies. She was extremely socially active. Wolf would remark that he had to make an appointment just to visit his mother. We had her 90 th birthday party at window on the worlds – top of the World Trade Center. It was incredible to meet so many people originally named Schwabacher.”

This photograph shows Alice with her son Wolfgang and his wife Ruth.

Alice Schwabacher Wenten Kingsley, Wolfgang Wenten, Ruth Pollinger Wenten
Courtesy of the family

Finally, this is a photograph of the three Schwabacher siblings and their spouses taken in the US:

Arthur Kingsley, Alice Schwabacher Kingsley, Julius (Fred Wenten) Schwabacher, Else Wenten, Alice Ferron Schwabacher, Gerhard Schwabacher
Courtesy of the family

I am extremely grateful to my cousin Carrie for sharing her memories and these photographs. She really has brought to life this strong and loving family who escaped from Germany and started a wonderful new life in the United States.

Hannah and Henry Goldsmith, My Double Cousins: An Update

I have been working on the family of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt, the oldest son of Meyer Goldschmidt, my four-times great-uncle, for months. We have already discussed four of Jacob’s five children: Helene, Regina, Julius, and Mayer/Marcel, and there is one more child to discuss. Then I can move on to Jacob’s sister Malchen and his two younger brothers, Selig and Falk. As you can see, there are still a lot of Goldschmidts to discuss. Given that I started writing about the Goldschmidts almost two and a half years ago, it looks like I will still be writing about them at least until the end of 2020 if not into 2021. That’s more time than I’ve spent on any of my other family lines. Wow.

But before I go on to Jacob Meier Goldschmidt’s youngest child, I need to do some catching up. It seems that the COVID19 pandemic has led many people stuck at home to research their family history. And I’ve heard from quite a few new Goldschmidt/Goldsmith cousins who Googled an ancestor’s name and found my blog. I’ve gotten new photographs, new stories, and new names to add to the family tree. So for the next few weeks, I am going to post this new information and update the posts where I first wrote about the relevant family.

Today’s post is about the families of two of Simon Goldschmidt’s children, the two born in the US, Hannah Goldsmith Benedict and Henry Goldsmith, who were my double cousins as their mother was my three-times great-aunt  Fradchen Schoenthal, my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal’s sister.

First, I want to share some photographs and documents and a story about the family of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, my first cousin, three times removed.  She was born in Baltimore in 1848 and had three sons who survived to adulthood, Jake, Herschel, and Centennial Harry Benedict.

In April, 2020, I heard from Hannah’s great-great-grandson Bruce Velzy, who is also the great-grandson of Jake Benedict; he had found my blog posts about his ancestors and wanted to share some photographs, including this one of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict that I posted earlier and had restored by the Free Photo Restoration group on Facebook.

Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, restored photo. Courtesy of her family

This is Hannah’s husband, Joseph Benedict:

Joseph Benedict, courtesy of Bruce Velzy

Bruce also shared a photograph of Hannah’s three sons. We weren’t completely sure who was who, but since Harry was the youngest, six years younger than Jake, five years younger than Hershel, I think he is the boy in the center.

Sons of Hannah Goldsmith and Joseph Benedict, c. 1890. Courtesy of the family

Bruce also had some very interesting documents, including this application for a Civil War pension filed by Joseph Benedict:

I learned several things from this document—that Joseph and Hannah were married by Rabbi Naumberg on April 17, 1867, in Pittsburgh. Even more important is the fact that Joseph and Hannah had two children who died as infants whom I’d not discovered. Their first child Emily, born October 19, 1868, died just three months later in December, and their fifth child Sydney was born on March 29, 1889, and died two months later in May, 1889. I am so glad I can add them to the family tree and preserve their memory for I am sure they were loved and mourned by their family.

I looked for birth and death certificates for Emily and Sydney, but did not find any. I did, however, find their gravestones on FindAGrave and also a death notice for Sydney on his FindAGrave memorial.

Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Emilie Benedict (Oct 1868–Dec 1868), Find a Grave Memorial no. 109102550, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Corey & Douglas Marshall-Steele (contributor 47477063) .

Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Sidney G. Benedict (29 Mar 1889–17 May 1889), Find a Grave Memorial no. 90777547, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by DGG (contributor 47020054) .


Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 06 June 2020), memorial page for Sidney G. Benedict (29 Mar 1889–17 May 1889), Find a Grave Memorial no. 90777547, citing Troy Hill Jewish Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by DGG (contributor 47020054) .

Death: Benedict—on May 17 at 10 in the evening, Sidney G., youngest son of Joseph and Hannah Benedict. Funeral to be held at the parents’ home, [address], on Sunday, May 19, at 2 in the afternoon. Please no flowers.

(Note that the spelling of their first names on the gravestones and in the death notice is different from that used on the pension application written years later.)

In order for Hannah to receive the Civil War pension benefits as a widow after Joseph died, she had to prove her marriage. The pension application asked for a marriage record, and Joseph had written there was none as no records were kept at the time.

So in 1918 after Joseph died, Hannah applied for widow’s benefits and submitted this affidavit to prove her marriage:

Notice that Julius J. Streng, the witness, was 63 in 1918, meaning that at the time of the wedding in 1867 he would have been only twelve years old. So who was he and why was he at Hannah and Joseph’s wedding?

Well, I found his death certificate, and his mother’s birth name was Jenetta Benedict. I haven’t yet found evidence to prove it, but my hunch is that Jenetta was Joseph Benedict’s sister and that young Julius was his nephew.

UPDATE: My hunch was confirmed when I found Jeanette/Jenetta’s obituary in 1913 and it described Joseph Benedict as her brother.

Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 066001-069000 Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967

Bruce also had a copy of Hannah’s death certificate:

Hannah Goldsmith Benedict death certificate

Of course, I love this because it is evidence of my double connection to Hannah as a Goldschmidt and as a Schoenthal.

Bruce shared with me that Joseph and Hannah’s two older sons, his great-grandfather Jake and great-great-uncle Herschel, dropped out of school in ninth grade in order to earn money so that their youngest brother Harry, who was an excellent student, would be able to attend college. Harry, as I wrote about here, ended up graduating from Cornell University as did his two sons Manson and William, and all three became highly successful and brilliant engineers.

In addition, Bruce’s sister Suzanne Midford left this comment on my blog post about her grandmother Helen Benedict Booher, Jake Benedict’s daughter:

My “Grandmommy Booher” was what’s now known as a social worker, one of the professions that grew out of the Jane Addams Hull House movement and the professionalization of women workers who helped to socialize new American immigrants in the 1920s and 30s. One aspect of this was the desire by members of the earlier (and more prosperous) German Jewish immigrant waves to give a leg up to, and help “Americanize” the (mostly poorer) Jewish immigrants from the later eastern European waves. To that end, the new immigrants were taught hygiene, cooking, language, ‘manners’ (American ones anyhow), and comportment. One of my dearest possessions is my grandmother’s bound copy of The Settlement Cookbook, which was a German-Jewish cookbook meant to teach a new immigrant Jewish housewife all the ways she should “be American”, from translating her old world dishes to new world methods and ingredients, to introducing her to “modern” culinary ideas, how to use unfamiliar kitchen implements, how to keep a clean house (by American standards), and a million little details about “life in America”. As a historian, I find it an invaluable window through which to understand my grandmother’s generation and the immigrant assimilations that characterized that period in our national history.

I am so happy that my cousins Suzanne and Bruce, my fourth cousins, once removed, found my blog and so generously shared with me these photographs, documents, and family stories that add new and important dimensions to their personalities and their lives.

One final addition, this one about Hannah Goldsmith Benedict’s sister-in-law, Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith, wife of Henry Goldsmith, Hannah’s brother. This photograph of Sarah was sent to me by my cousin Christian, Sarah and Henry’s great-great-grandson.

The story behind this photograph is that Christian received it in the mail from someone who found it in an antique shop in Portland, Oregon. Given that Sarah lived in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, her entire married life and that, as far as I know, none of her children or grandchildren or other descendants ended up near Oregon, it’s a mystery as to how this photograph traveled all the way to the Pacific Northwest and landed in an antique shop in Portland.

These little windfalls, these gifts, have brightened my days during the dark and scary time we’re living in.


Hermann Gutmann Becomes Dennis Goodman: An Oral History, Part II

By the spring of 1940, Hermann Gutmann was seventeen years old and had been in England and separated from his parents since the fall of 1936.  He had completed his secondary education and had been working at a leather factory in Lancashire in the north of England since February 1940 and moved to London that May.1

On July 2, 1940, at 6 am he heard a knock on his door. The police told him to pack his bags and come with them to the police station. He protested, but to no avail, and along with many other German Jewish “enemy aliens,” he was taken to a camp, Huyton Camp, and housed in a tent with other young refugees from Nazi Germany. All those who were under eighteen, including Hermann, were told they were being taken out of England. He again protested and was told by the commanding officer that those leaving England would have the best chance of survival because England was likely to lose the war.

As the internees boarded the HMT Dunera on July 10, 1940, all their personal possessions were taken and never returned. The Jewish internees were placed in the hold in the rear of the ship and kept there by barbed wire fencing. They were only allowed up on the deck for thirty minutes a day for exercise where they were barefooted and often stepping on the broken beer bottles left behind by the guards, whom Hermann described as “football hooligans.” The internees slept on the hard floor and had open toilet stalls that he described as “awful.”  Hermann described the morale of the younger internees as fairly good, but said that those who were older had a much harder time and that there were even a few suicides during their voyage. There were also Nazi and Italian internees on the ship, but they were kept in a different location.

HMT Dunera. Not stated in the AWM record / Public domain

The internees had no idea where they were going until they arrived in Australia on September 6, 1940. Once in Australia, they were sent to New South Wales and housed at the Hay Internment Camp. There were about two thousand internees kept there, many of whom had been successful professionals—doctors, lawyers, professors, and so on. They formed their own government and even printed their own money. Hermann distributed newspapers and even started a Boy Scout group that was officially recognized by the London headquarters of the Boy Scouts.

They lived in huts, about forty to a hut, and conditions were good. Hermann noted several times that as a young man (he was seventeen), he was not as uncomfortable as those who were older, and he didn’t mind some of the living conditions. When asked whether he now resented having been interned during this time, he said no—that he understood it was done without much thought based on fear when the war started and that it was an awful waste of time and money, but that he did not feel any resentment towards the British for their actions.

In the fall of 1941, Hermann volunteered to join the British military as a means of getting out of the internment camp. He left Austrialia on October 13, 1941, and arrived back in England on November 28, 1941, just over a week before Pearl Harbor. He and other Jewish refugees were given no choice as to where to serve and were assigned to the Pioneer Corps, a corps assigned “light engineering tasks [that] included building anti-aircraft emplacements on the Home Front, working on the Mulberry harbours for D-Day, and serving during beach assaults in France and Italy. Pioneers also carried stretchers, built airfields, repaired railways, and moved stores and supplies.”

Pioneer Corps clearing rubble, Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer / Public domain

It was during this time that his commanding officer asked him to change his name to something less German-sounding. Hermann chose the name Dennis John Goodman, his first name for a friend who had been killed in the war and Goodman as an Anglicized version of Gutmann. In the interview, he commented that he now regretted that he never returned to his birth name Hermann Gutmann as it had a very long history in his family.

Dennis was not content being in the Pioneer Corps because he wanted to be fighting the Nazis. In 1943, British policy changed, and Jewish German refugees like Dennis were allowed to serve more directly in combat. Dennis joined a tank unit and was on the beach at Normandy three days after D-Day, that is, on June 9, 1944. He ended up fighting in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and finally in Germany. He was involved in many difficult and dangerous battles, made more dangerous by the fact that the English tanks were outmatched by the German Tiger Tanks they were facing. He experienced some very close encounters with death or capture by the Germans.

The interviewer asked him how he felt when he entered Germany, his country of birth, and fought on German soil. Dennis commented that “by that time I felt more English than German” and that he had no difficulty facing his former countrymen in battle. When the war ended, he was in Berlin for the British Victory Parade on July 21, 1945.

British Victory Parade in Berlin, National Archives and Records Administration / Public domain

By that time he already knew about the concentration camps.  He was given compassionate leave to go to Amsterdam to learn what had happened to his parents and learned of the deportation to and murder at Sobibor. In the interview, Dennis mentioned that at that time he learned that his grandmother had been hidden in the northern part of Holland and had survived.

I checked to see which grandmother, and it had to be his maternal grandmother, Hedwig Goldschmidt, because his paternal grandmother had died in 1932. I have no wartime records for Hedwig after March 15, 1938, when she was a passenger coming to England from Amsterdam.2 I initially thought that meant that she had moved to England at that time, but it appears from Hermann’s information that she had returned to Amsterdam, perhaps after visiting him in England.

Dennis remained in Germany after the war and joined the Review and Interrogation staff in Neuengamme, near Hamburg, where he was involved in interrogating Nazis about war crimes. He was struck by the ordinariness of the people who committed these crimes and their weak excuses for what they did. He also found some of them very arrogant. Several times during the interview, Dennis made the point that it was well known throughout Germany that Jews were being persecuted and that those who afterwards claimed that they hadn’t been aware of what was happening were either lying or repressing what they’d known.

In 1947, Dennis was discharged from the military and returned to England. He married a Polish-born Holocaust survivor after the war and had three children. I don’t know much about his life after the war, but did find several immigration documents from Brazil, starting in 1949, suggesting he might have been involved in international business or perhaps visiting family members who had immigrated to Brazil. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965. Original data: “Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965”. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2013.

Dennis John Goodman, born Hermann Gutmann, died in England in 2007. He had lived an extraordinary life, leaving his parents and homeland as a thirteen year old boy, being interned for over a year in Australia as an “enemy alien,” and then fighting valiantly against the Nazis for several years including post-war interrogation of war criminals. His parents had been murdered at Sobibor. He had every right to be an angry, resentful man.

But listening to his voice in the oral history interview, I detected no resentment towards his adopted country, despite the internment. Certainly he harbored anger with the Nazis for what they did to his parents and all the Jews in Europe and continuing bewilderment over the German citizenry’s acquiescence to it all. But I did not come away from the interview thinking of him as bitter or defeated; instead I heard a then 72 year old man who looked back on his life with pride in his ability to endure and succeed against all odds and in his strength and independence even as a young man. His story will stay with me forever.

  1. These facts come almost entirely from the oral history interview of Dennis Goodman, aka Hermann Gutmann, found on the Imperial War Museum website. Some of the dates in this post were found in an article written by his daughter, Naomi Levy, and published in the AJR [Association of Jewish Refugees] Journal of December 2018, on page 11, and found here
  2.  Hedwig Goldschmidt, Arrival Age: 61, Birth Date: abt 1877, Port of Departure: New York, New York, United States, Arrival Date: 15 Mar 1938, Port of Arrival: Plymouth, England, Ports of Voyage: New York, Ship Name: Washington, Shipping Line: United States Line, Official Number: 232210, The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1158, UK and Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 

Hermann Gutmann, Child Refugee from the Nazis: An Oral History

As we saw last time, my cousin Else Goldschmidt Gutmann, daughter of Marcel Goldschmidt and Hedwig Goldschmidt, was murdered by the Nazis in 1943 at the Sobibor concentration camp along with her husband Siegfried Gutmann. They were, however, survived by their son, Hermann Gutmann. His story is captured in a moving and detailed oral history interview that was recorded for the British Imperial War Museums in 1995 and available online here.

The oral history interview is two hours long, and I listened to it in the course of one afternoon. If anyone has the time and the interest to listen, even if just to the first thirty minutes, it will provide insights into the strength and courage of those who escaped Nazi Germany as children. My words cannot possibly capture the emotion and the personality expressed by this man in retelling his life story fifty to sixty years after these tumultuous events. When you listen, the clarity of his memory, his composure, and his strength come shining through. Despite living in England since 1936, he still had the traces of a German accent. I will try and do justice to his story, but again, if you have time, listen to at least some of this interview.

One other editorial explanation. Hermann Gutmann changed his name in 1943 to Dennis John Goodman. I will refer to him as Hermann in discussing the years before that change and then as Dennis for the years after the name change. I hope that’s not too confusing.

All the facts in this post come directly from the oral history interview with Dennis John Goodman at the Imperial War Museum, Catalogue 15101.

Hermann Gutmann’s father Siegfried Gutmann was from a family of bankers in Stuttgart, and after the Stuttgart bank was taken over by a larger bank, Siegfried moved to Frankfurt to work for a bank in that city where he met and married Else Goldschmidt. Their only child Hermann Gutmann was born in Frankfurt on February 28, 1923. Hermann believed that the economic circumstances experienced in Germany in the 1920s made his parents reluctant to have more than one child. He described his childhood as a happy middle-class childhood in Frankfurt where his family was actively involved in the Jewish community as well as the general community.

Frankfurt, Germany, 1918,Carl Andreas Abt / Public domain

Hermann experienced anti-Semitism as early as 1931 when he was eight years old and saw people carrying anti-Semitic political posters while marching in the streets of Frankfurt. But things grew much worse after 1933 when Hitler was elected Chancellor. Hermann described himself as an outspoken and opinionated boy who fought back when he was attacked by students for being Jewish. When he finished primary school, his parents could no longer send him to a general secondary school because Jews were banned. Instead they sent him to an excellent Jewish day school where he was one of several hundred students.

But by 1936, his parents were concerned that Hermann would not be able to receive a quality education, and they decided that the best thing to do for their son was to send him to boarding school in England. His father spoke to young Hermann, expressing his fears, given how Hitler had perverted Germany and how their non-Jewish friends had drifted away out of fear.  When asked by the oral history interviewer how he felt about leaving his parents and his home, Hermann responded that he “just had to face it.” His acceptance of this reality seemed remarkable to me, especially given that he was only thirteen at the time.

So on October 5, 1936, thirteen year old Hermann Gutmann traveled to England with a family friend who happened also to be heading to England.  When they arrived in London, a relative met him at the station and made sure he boarded the right train to Brighton, where his new school, a Jewish boarding school called Whittinghame College, was located. He described his first year there as very lonely. He knew just a little English when he arrived, and there were only one or two other German students at the school. More German refugees had arrived by the time he left in 1939.

Thank you to the alumni association of Whittinghame College for permission to use these two photographs.

Hermann is probably in this photograph, but I don’t know which young man he is.

Whitinghame College students, 1939

His parents left Germany for Amsterdam in 1937. The interviewer asked him why his parents hadn’t come to England instead of Amsterdam, and he explained that his father had been offered a job in Amsterdam and that his parents believed they would be safe there. He said that no one anticipated in 1937 that Hitler would later invade the Netherlands and deport Jews to concentration camps. Hermann was able to visit his parents in Amsterdam during this time, and he said that although it was a big adjustment for them and especially for his father, whose new job was not in the banking field, they were reasonably happy living there.

Although Hermann said that he did not enjoy the “monastic existence” of the all-boys boarding school, he stated that he received an excellent education and that he even qualified to matriculate at Cambridge University for the fall of 1939, but “events intervened,” that is, the start of World War II. Once the war started, Hermann also was no longer able to visit his parents.

He finished his time at Whittinghame and obtained a job in a leather manufacturing factory in Lancashire, England, where he worked from February, 1940 until May, 1940. He had been in England for more than three years at that point. He had coped with adjusting to a new country, learning a new language, completing his secondary education at a Jewish boarding school, and enduring the long separation from his parents. In the interview, he commented that he had experienced no hostility in England based on his German background and that people had been very friendly.

But his life was about to change in the spring of 1940.

Marcel Goldschmidt’s Children: The Two Who Did Not Survive

Although Marcel Goldschmidt’s widow (and cousin) Hedwig and two of their children escaped safely from Germany and survived the Holocaust, their other two children, Nelly and Else, met tragic fates.

Nelly and Else were the two middle children, and they married brothers. Nelly was married to Moritz Gutmann and Else to Siegfried Gutmann. Each had one child; Nelly’s son was Karl Hermann Gutmann, and Else’s son was Hermann Gutmann; both were named for their paternal grandfather, Hermann Gutmann. Up until the Nazi era, both families were living in Frankfurt. I have no information about Siegfried Gutmann’s occupation, but his brother Moritz was an art dealer like so many of his Goldschmidt in-laws.1

Nelly Goldschmidt Gutmann’s story is particularly heartbreaking because she could have survived had the family made a different decision. On January 13, 1936, Moritz Gutmann arrived in the United States and filed a declaration of intention to become a US citizen two months later. On his declaration he listed his wife Nelly and reported that she was residing in Frankfurt and that their son Karl was living in Holland. Moritz also indicated that his prior residence before entering the US had been Toronto, Canada, and that he had entered the US in Buffalo, New York, but was now residing in New York City.

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
Source Information New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Moritz and Nelly’s son Karl arrived the following year on December 16, 1937 when he was fourteen. On the ship manifest he indicated that he was going to his father in New York and leaving behind his uncle, “S. Gutmann,” i.e. Siegfried Gutmann, in Amsterdam. Thus, by that time Else Goldschmidt and her husband Siegfried Gutmann had also left Germany.2

But where was Else’s Goldschmidt’s sister Nelly Goldschmidt Gutmann, the wife of Moritz Gutmann, mother of Karl Gutmann? She was still in Germany, now in Coblenz, according to the petition for naturalization that Moritz filed on November 21, 1941. She and Moritz had divorced in August, 1940 in Florida.3

Moritz Gutmann petition for naturalization, National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; NAI Title: Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906; NAI Number: 5700802; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
(Roll 1347) Petition No· 390451 – Petition No· 390950, New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Nelly thus never came to live in the US and was still in Germany as late as November 21, 1941, two years after the beginning of World War II. According to the Page of Testimony filed at Yad Vashem by her cousin Regina Blanche Rosenberger, Nelly was living in a mental institution during the war and was killed sometime during the war. She was gassed on a train.

We don’t know all the circumstances surrounding Nelly’s life—why she was institutionalized and when, why her extended family wasn’t able to take her with them when they left Germany, or even where and when she was murdered. But we know that her life ended tragically and violently at the hands of the Nazis.

Fortunately, Nelly was survived by her son Karl, who did escape in time. As noted above, Karl had arrived in 1937 when he was fourteen years old. According to his declaration of intention filed on October 28, 1941, when he was seventeen, Karl was at that time a student at Pennington School, a boy’s college preparatory school in Pennington, New Jersey. (The declaration says Pennsylvania, but that’s incorrect.)

Karl Gutmann 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,  (Roll 638) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 507401-508300), New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Karl enlisted in the US Army on February 11, 1943, and petitioned for naturalization while stationed in Spartanburg, South Carolina.4 In August 1945 he was hospitalized in an unidentified hospital for a non-battle-related injury to his eye caused while cleaning a firearm.5 I could not (yet) find other records of his military service, but I did find him on a Navy transport ship returning from France on April 12, 1946, a year after the war in Europe had ended.6

Interestingly, Karl married Joan C. Fenton just six days after returning from Europe. They were married on April 18, 1946, in New York, and had three children.7  Karl and Joan later divorced, and he married Gisela Bartels in 1974.8 They moved to Florida, where Karl died on February 8, 1995, at the age of 71.9

Thus, although Nelly did not survive the Holocaust, she has descendants who are alive today and living in the United States. I hope that I can connect with them and learn more about their grandmother.

As mentioned above, Nelly’s sister Else Goldschmidt Gutmann did leave Germany before World War II started. She and her husband Siegfried Gutmann were in Amsterdam when their nephew Karl arrived in the US in 1937.  Unfortunately Else and Siegfried were not safe from the Nazis in the Netherlands. At some point after Hitler conquered the Netherlands, they were sent to the camp at Westerbork in the Netherlands and then from there on July 20, 1943, they were deported to the Sobibor concentration camp where they were murdered. These Pages of Testimony and a letter found in their files at Yad Vashem attests to the cruelty of their deaths:

Siegfried was 57 when he was killed, and Else only forty.

But as was the case with Else’s sister Nelly, Else and Siegfried were survived by their son, Hermann Goldschmidt. His story merits separate posts that will come next.

  1. Moritz Gutmann, Declaration of Intent, 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, New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943 
  2. Karl Gutmann, passsenger manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 143, Ship or Roll Number: Statendam, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  3. Moritz Gutmann, Gender: Male, Spouse’s name: Nelly Gutmann, Divorce Date: 1940, Divorce Place: Dade, Florida, USA, Certificate Number: 6976, Florida, Divorce Index, 1927-2001 
  4.  Karl Hermann Gutmann, Gender: Male, Declaration Age: 20, Record Type: Petition
    Birth Date: 4 May 1923, Birth Place: Frankfort On Maim, Germany, Arrival Date: 16 Dec 1937, Arrival Place: New York, NY,Declaration Date: 8 May 1943, Declaration Place: Greenville, South Carolina, USA, Court District: U.S. District Court for the Greenville Division of the Western District of South Carolina. (06/26/1926 – 03/18/1966)
    Petition Number: 2589, The National Archives at Atlanta; Morrow, Georgia, USA; Record Group Title: 21; Record Group Number: Records of District Courts of the United States, South Carolina, Naturalization Records, 1868-1991; U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. 
  5. National Archives and Records Administration; Hospital Admission Card Files, ca. 1970 – ca. 1970; NAI: 570973; Record Group Number: Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775-1994; Record Group Title: 112, U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954 
  6. Karl Gutmann, ship manifest, Year: 1946; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 285, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  7.  Karl H Gutmann, Marriage License Date: 18 Apr 1946, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Joan C Fenton, License Number: 12447, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 18, New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  8. Karl H Gutmann, Marriage License Date: 1974, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Gisela E Bartels, License Number: 23231, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan, New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  9. Karl Gutmann, Birth Date: 4 May 1923, Death Date: 6 Feb 1995, SSN: 067180184 U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010