My Father

With much love and sadness, I share that my father passed away this weekend after 92 years of a life well lived. He was a man of great intellect, incredible curiosity, a passion for art, architecture, and music, and a lifelong commitment to progressive values—peace, justice, and human rights. He loved cats and dogs and the beaches of Cape Cod. But above all else, he was a man who passionately loved his family, especially my mother, whom he adored for 67 years of marriage.

Those of you who follow my blog may have seen the occasional comments my dad left on the blog. He was a devoted reader of the blog and supportive of and fascinated in the family history I was uncovering. He also was a constant source of information about his family and, most importantly, the inspiration for all the research I have done about all my paternal lines (which is probably 80-90% of what I’ve done since I have had much more luck finding information about my father’s side than my mother’s side). I will miss him deeply and will undoubtedly share more about him as time goes on.

For now I am taking a short break from blogging, but I will return soon because I know he would have wanted me to continue telling the stories of his many relatives.

Here are just a few photos.

My father at 9 months old

John Nusbaum Cohen, Jr.

In the Navy

Florence and John Cohen 1951

My father with Nate June 2010

 

My Grandfather’s Notebook: More than Names, Dates, and Addresses

Notebook cover

Among the other treasures that turned up in the shoebox of “old papers” that had belonged to my Aunt Elaine was a Martinson Coffee pocket calendar for the year 1930.  My aunt would have been twelve going on thirteen, my Uncle Maurice ten going on eleven, and my mother not yet born when 1930 began. Here’s a photograph of my grandmother and her three children taken in 1931 when that pocket calendar was still relatively new:

 

Goldschlagers 1931

Goldschlagers 1931

This calendar, however, had to be around for many years as a place where members of the family scribbled notes of all kinds because even my mother eventually made contributions to it. In fact, the most recent entries seem to have been made by my grandmother in 1965 long after my grandfather had died and all her children had married.

Grandpa notebook 1964 notes by Grandma

I don’t know for sure what “Johen” meant, but I wonder if my grandmother was referring to my father, whose name is John Cohen.

It amazes me that my grandparents kept this little book for so long, and I wonder why it became the repository of so many family notes. I can’t imagine how it stayed around and was used by so many members of the family beginning in 1930 up to 1965.  Today that notebook probably would not have lasted a year (well, it wouldn’t exist since we’d use our smartphones and computer calendars instead.)

For example, my grandparents used it not only as a calendar but as an address book.  I already posted two of the pages of addresses in an earlier post:

Grandpa Notebook page 1 addresses Joe Goldfarb Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

Here are a few more:

Grandpa Notebook 4 more addresses Ressler

Leo Ressler was my mother’s first cousin, son of Tillie Brotman Ressler, my grandmother’s sister.  His wife was Mildred Phillips, and the notebook page records both their wedding anniversary and Mildred’s birthday.  Unfortunately there is no year given for the marriage, but Mildred was still single and living with her mother and stepfather in New Haven, Connecticut, on the 1930 census.  She and Leo lived in Hartford during the late 1930s, and so this entry of an address for Bridgeport must have been long after the 1930 date on this calendar. (They were living in Bridgeport as of the 1940 US census.)  Leo and Mildred owned a dress shop in Connecticut for many years before retiring to Florida.  My mother recalls that Mildred was considered high class by my grandparents and that my aunt was invited to come visit them so she could learn some of Mildred’s sophisticated ways.

Leo Ressler

Leo Ressler

(I don’t know who Francis Coen would be— another name to research.)

The next two pages had three addresses for my mother’s uncle, Sam Brotman—my grandmother’s brother.  Apparently he moved around a bit, given all the crossed out addresses the notebook includes for him. (There are two more on the first page, above.) I don’t know very much about Uncle Sam except that he was a cab driver and lived alone all his adult life. Yet all these addresses include a “in care of” reference so perhaps he was living with someone named Weinstein for some period of time and someone named Enzer at other times.

Grandpa Notebook 5 more addresses

Sam Brotman

Sam Brotman

Joe Brotman, the other name on this page, was another of my mother’s first cousins, the son of Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s brother. I have six different Joseph Brotmans in my family tree, including my great-grandfather, but Hyman’s son is the only one who lived in Queens, where he was living when this address was recorded.

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

My grandfather also used the calendar to record birthdays for family members.  There are notes on the dates for his birthday as well as that of my grandmother, my aunt, and my mother.  (The pages for June were torn out, so there is none for my uncle.) My mother was born during 1930, and on the appropriate date my grandfather simply wrote, “My daughter’s birthday, Florence, born—-.”

One of my favorite pages (although very hard to read) is the one where my grandfather apparently listed all his favorite pieces of music.  I know that music was one of his passions, one of the few things he remembered fondly about his childhood in Iasi, Romania:

Grandpa notebook music

I can’t make out the names of most of the pieces, but he has works by Beethoven (whose name he wrote with such a flourish on the opposite page), Brahms, Bizet, and Grieg as well as several others.

He also used the notebook as an account book, and there are many pages where he records his paychecks, his Social Security benefits, and Welfare Fund payments.  My grandfather was active in his union, and I assume that the Welfare Fund was administered by the union.  In addition, he kept a record of people they visited or who visited them and other events.

Grandpa notebook money and visits

The notebook also contains a number of notes my grandfather made about his health and various other matters.  For example, on these pages he not only recorded financial information; he interspersed notes about the times my uncle came home to visit during his military service in World War II  with notes about his own operations and hospitalizations.

Grandpa Notebook 6 notes about Maurice in service

Grandpa notebook page 7 more notes about Maurice and hospital

Again, all of these were obviously written long after 1930 and as late as 1951 when he had surgery for polyps.  He died just six years later on May 3, 1957.

But perhaps the most interesting and entertaining parts of the notebook are those contributed by my aunt, my uncle, and my mother.  There are many pages like this one with a list of names and then what looks like grades.  My mother believes that my aunt used the notebook to play school, listing her classmates and even her brother and herself as the students and then “grading” them in different subjects.

Grandpa Notebook 3 aunt elaine playing school

My aunt also liked to practice writing her name and doodling all over the pages (the top one might have been written by my mother or someone else; I am not sure):

GRandpa notebook Aunt Elaine names earlier

Grandpa notebook Aunt Elaine names 1

These pages were obviously written after my aunt was married as she used her married name (Lehrbaum) and included her husband, my Uncle Phil. The second page also includes my uncle’s wife, my Aunt Lynn, and they weren’t married until 1945, several years after Aunt Elaine had married.  I find it fascinating that even after she was married and out of the house, my aunt still somehow found this notebook a place to scribble.

I found the pages my uncle wrote in 1934 about his adventures shooting at chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits with his friend Blackie both amusing and disturbing.  First, the idea that my uncle was carrying around a real gun at age fifteen is rather horrifying.  Secondly, I always knew my uncle as an animal lover.  He always had a dog (a schnauzer named Schnopsie is the one I remember best), and later on he had several dogs and cats as well as various other animals.  How could he shoot harmless chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits? But when I asked my cousin Beth about this, she said he always liked to shoot, so she was not surprised.

Grandpa notebook 8 maurice hunting notes 1934 Grandpa notebook 9 more hunting Maurice 1934 Grandpa notebook 10 more hunting notes Grandpa notebook 11 hunting notes and final comment in 1939 Grandpa notebook 12 Maurice comment 1939

But it’s amusing also because I can imagine my uncle as a fifteen year old boy having a wild time with his friend Blackie and competing to see who would shoot the most animals that summer.  Below is a photo of my uncle, my aunt, and my mother as well as my grandmother about a year after the summer that my uncle was writing about his hunting adventures.

Goldschlagers 1935

Goldschlagers 1935

I found the note he wrote four and a half years later on February 24, 1939, when he was almost twenty years old particularly touching and revealing:

As I recall it now I have recorded on these last nine pages possibly one of the happiest phases of my life.  As I sit here and look back four and a half years it seems incredible that time could fly by so quickly on the wings of joy and sorrow, (yes, we’ve had our share of sorrows).

What were those sorrows? I don’t know what my uncle was referring to specifically or whether he only meant between 1934 and 1939, but in his lifetime, in 1924 his aunt Frieda had died after childbirth as had her baby; his aunt Tillie had lost her husband Aaron, and his grandmother Bessie had died in May 1934, shortly before he wrote about his hunting adventures.  I also imagine that those Depression years were challenging for my grandparents like they were for so many people.

My uncle also must have liked baseball because he kept a box score from a game in the notebook.  Being a baseball fan, I was determined to figure out not only what teams these were, but what game it was:

Grandpa notebook 15 box score

After studying the names on team listed on top I realized that it was the Detroit Tigers, probably around 1935.  As soon as I saw Greenberg, I knew it had to be Hank Greenberg and thus the Tigers.  After all, how many baseball players have there been named Greenberg?

English: 1934 Goudey baseball card of Henry &q...

English: 1934 Goudey baseball card of Henry “Hank” Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers #62. PD-not-renewed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The team at the bottom took some more digging because my uncle’s spelling was, shall we say creative? But the Deroch was a big clue—I assumed it was Leo Durocher, and once I looked up his career and saw that in 1935 he was playing on the St. Louis Cardinals with a catcher named Bill Delancey, an infielder named Collins and another named Frisch, I knew I had found the right team.

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Leo Duro...

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Leo Durocher of the Cincinnati Reds #147. PD-not-renewed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

But the National League Cardinals wouldn’t have been playing the American League Tigers in 1935 unless they were in the World Series (oh, for the days before endless post-season playoffs and in-season interleague play!).  So this couldn’t be 1935 because the Tigers played the Cubs in the 1935 World Series.  After a bit more research, I concluded that this was a game from the 1934 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers.

Since my uncle recorded the final score of the game he was following (presumably on the radio) as 10-4, it wasn’t hard to find out which game this was from the 1934 World Series: Game 4 on October 6, 1934, at Sportsmen’s Park in St. Louis.  Here is a link to the box score of that game as recorded by the Baseball-Reference website. The Tigers evened the series 2-2 by winning that game and then won Game 5 to go up 3-2 in the Series, but badly lost Games 6 and 7 to lose the Series.  I wonder which team my uncle, a boy from Brooklyn, was rooting for. Perhaps the one with the first Jewish player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Finally, there are a few short notes from my mother, the baby in the family.  Here she wrote about her big brother teasing her:

My brother is such a pest he calls me all sorts [?] of names for instance fatso, horse, baby and so many and I call him names to.”  I guess my uncle was always a tease—he certainly was as an adult also!

Grandpa notebook 14 Florence comment about Maurice

 

I wonder how much later she wrote the comment that follows: “When I look at this now I think it silly.  It is childish.”

When she was eleven, she wrote about a favorite teacher, Mrs. Alice Handelsman, who was “just like a mother” to her class, and her boyfriend Myron.  On his birthday in the calendar, she listed a favorite cousin, Sanford (or Sandy), Leo and Mildred Ressler’s son; my mother to this day talks about what a beautiful little boy he was and how kind he was to my grandmother.

Grandpa Notebook 2 Mom note about teacher

Grandpa notebook 16 Florence comment re Sandy Ressler

 

What a gift this little book from 1930 has turned out to be.  It gives me a snapshot into the childhood of my mother and her siblings and some insights into my grandfather as well.  He was obviously a very careful man when it came to money, recording so painstakingly his income and his expenses. These were the Depression years, and my grandfather worked as a driver for a milk company.   My grandparents were not poverty stricken, but they lived from paycheck to paycheck and for many years lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and then a one bedroom apartment in Parkchester when my mother was a teenager and her siblings were married and out of the house. My grandfather worked the night shift for the milk company, and my mother would share the bed with my grandmother until my grandfather got home in the morning and she got up for school.  But my mother says she never thought of herself as poor because she always had food and clothing and a roof over her head.

We take so much for granted today with our cars and houses and televisions and computers and smartphones. We throw everything away and litter our landfills with our junk.  Our children and grandchildren have iPads and scooters and bikes and more toys and books than all the children in one tenement building in Brooklyn combined had back in the 1930s.  But my mother and her siblings had their imaginations and their friends and their teachers and their families.  And this one little notebook gives us a peak into how they entertained themselves and how they lived together as a family.  It, like my aunt’s baby book, is a real treasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brotman, Goldschlager, and Rosenzweig Update: The Baby Book

As you know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, my Aunt Elaine preceded me as the family historian for my maternal side.  Several times notes she made or information she gave to others has led me to more information.  Her information has almost without exception proven to be accurate.  For example, she provided me—indirectly—with the names of my grandmother Gussie Brotman’s half-siblings, Abraham, David, Sophie, and Max.  She provided me with the clue that the Brotmanville Brotmans were our close relatives.  She told me how my grandparents met each other in Brooklyn.

Well, she has done it again.  This time, however, it was not information or notes that she provided, but rather her baby book, which my cousin found in a shoebox of old papers.  It was partially filled out when my aunt was born on October 14, 1917.  Although most of it is blank, the few pages that were filled provide not only further confirmation of relationships about which I was previously aware, but hints at some new ones.

Elaine 1926

Elaine 1926

Here are the pages of the book that have been filled in:

Aunt Elaine baby book p 1

This is my grandfather’s beautifully florid handwriting.  His daughter, my aunt, also had fancy handwriting like this.

 

Aunt Elaine baby book p 2

My grandmother was never called Grace, always Gussie.  But family lore is that my grandfather’s family thought Grace was more American.

 

Aunt Elaine baby book 3

My two maternal great-grandmothers!

 

Aunt Elaine baby book 4

Who are these people?

Tillie Ressler—my grandmother’s older sister

Mr. and Mrs. H. Brotman—my grandmother’s brother Hymie and his wife Sophie

Rebecca Rosenzweig—my grandfather’s cousin, daughter of his mother’s brother Gustav Rosenzweig

Mr. and Mrs. D. Goldschlager—my grandfather’s brother David and his wife Rebecca

Mrs. and Miss G. Goldschlager—my great-grandmother Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager and her daughter Betty

Mrs. and Miss B. Moskowitz—my great-grandmother Bessie Brotman Moskowitz and her daughter Frieda

The next two are not familiar, but provide new paths to research.  Can anyone help me decipher the names?

UPDATE: The last two must have been friends.  Mr. and Mrs. Leon and Ray Kiok and her mother Mrs. Frances Azeraad.  I found them all living together in Brooklyn, but not near my grandparents. I am not sure where they would have met.  Leon was born in Poland in 1886, and Ray’s parents were born in Spain.

Finally, Mr. and Mrs. M. Brotman: my grandmother’s half-brother Max Brotman and his wife Sophie

On the following page were more names.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Miss E. Shapiro and fiancé—not known yet

Sam Brotman—my grandmother’s younger brother

Mrs. A. Peter and son—I do not know

Mr. and Mrs. A. Brotman—-my grandmother’s half-brother Abraham Brotman and his wife Bessie

Mrs. D. Brotman—Annie nee Salpeter, wife of David Brotman, my grandmother’s half-brother

Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb—more on them below

The next three are not familiar—Mrs. Louis (?) Yassky, Miss Rose Botomick (?), and Mrs. Tsulie (?) Hecht.  As far as I can tell, these were not relatives, but friends.

I just loved seeing all these names.  Names that I have researched and know are my family, but names I’d not seen in something like this, something that makes it clear that these people were all really connected to my grandparents in a personal way.  I know that sounds odd.  These were the siblings, mothers, and cousins.  But since I grew up without hearing many of these names, it still was wonderful to see them all listed as the first visitors to see my aunt as a newborn in 1917.

I also found the list of gifts fascinating.  My grandparents did not have money for silver and silk, but someone was very generous in giving these items to them for their first-born child.

One final page—the inside of the back cover:

Aunt Elaine baby book 6
A. Rosenzweig—-my grandfather’s cousin, Abraham Rosenzweig, Rebecca’s brother.  I have speculated, based again on a story conveyed by notes from my Aunt Elaine, that it was either Abraham or Rebecca or Sarah who was accompanying my grandfather Isadore on Pacific Street in Brooklyn when he first laid eyes on my grandmother and declared he was going to marry her.

Back to Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb.  I asked my mother who they were because in a second old item—a notebook my grandfather used for various purposes that was also used by all three of his children at one time or another[1]—the name Joe Goldfarb appeared twice.  Who were these Goldfarbs?

Grandpa Notebook page 1 addresses Joe Goldfarb

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

(There’s more great stuff on this page—Sam Brotman is my great-uncle Sam, Feuerstein B. is my great-aunt Betty Goldschlager Feuerstein, Leo Ressler is my mother’s first cousin, her Aunt Tillie’s son; Rae Rosenzweig and Lizzie Horowitz are my grandfather’s first cousins, sisters of Abraham and Rebecca. And there is an S. Goldfarb in addition to Joe.)

My mother said all she could remember was that either Julius or his wife was my grandmother Gussie’s first cousin.  I’d never heard the name Goldfarb before, so what did I do? What all genealogy addicts would do.  I immediately started searching.  And the results of that search will be discussed in a later post once I have filled in more gaps in that story.

But for now, I once again can hear my aunt cheering me on, telling me to keep digging and finding the family stories.

elaine and amy 1953

Aunt Elaine and me 1953

 

 

 

 

 

[1] I will share more of that notebook in later posts also.

The Mystery of the Philadelphia Lawyer: Part II

In my last post I wrote about the mystery of my cousin Celina Nusbaum, who had been married to Inglis Cameron, with whom she’d had a son Edward James.  Then she became Sally Carnes, married to Donald Carnes, and her son Edward James also took on the surname Carnes. Celina’s granddaughter Tracy had commented on my blog and helped to fill in some details about Celina. But there was more to learn.  Why did Celina change her name and move to Texas? Who was Donald Carnes, and what had happened to Inglis Cameron?

An old friend of the family had shared his memories with Tracy and her brother, and Tracy sent me the notes she had from that conversation.  Since I cannot prove some of the details alleged in those notes, I need to be careful what I write here, but from that conversation, Tracy understood that her grandfather had gotten into some sort of trouble, had changed his name to Donald Carnes, and had moved the family to Texas to start over.  Celina became Sally Carnes, and Edward James became E.J. Carnes. Tracy said that her mother’s maiden name had been Barnes, and she thought that the family combined Cameron with Barnes to create Carnes as their new name.

Why did they choose Texas as a place to move? On Donald Carnes’ death certificate, it says that Donald was born on December 2, 1884, in “Corsicane [sic], Texas.”

Ancestry.com. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. iArchives, Orem, Utah.

Ancestry.com. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. iArchives, Orem, Utah.

I did some more research into the background of Inglis Cameron and learned that his parents had once lived in Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas. The Camerons had first lived in Philadelphia after marrying, but their second child, Charles Cameron, was born in Corsicana, Texas, in Navarro County in 1879, according to his death certificate; that certificate also identified the full names of the Cameron parents—James Cameron and Mary Elizabeth.

Charles Cameron death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Charles Cameron death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Cameron family is also listed in Navarro County on the 1880 census.

James Cameron and family 1880 census Year: 1880; Census Place: Navarro, Texas; Roll: 1321; Family History Film: 1255321; Page: 314D; Enumeration District: 127

James Cameron and family 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Navarro, Texas; Roll: 1321; Family History Film: 1255321; Page: 314D; Enumeration District: 127

 

The Camerons later returned to Pennsylvania, where Inglis was born on December 2, 1883, according to his World War I draft registration and several census records.

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907636; Draft Board: 17

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907636; Draft Board: 17

 

So Inglis had family ties to Corsicana, Texas.  It seems clear to me that Inglis Cameron became Donald Carnes and that he changed his birth place to Corsicana where his parents had once lived, perhaps to give himself credible Texas roots.  He also kept his birthday (though not the year) the same.  Although I have no official documentation to prove that he changed his name, the circumstantial evidence certainly points that way.

Donald Carnes’ application for a Social Security number seems to support this conclusion as well.  There is an entry in the Social Security Applications and Claims Index on Ancestry.com that indicates that Donald Carnes filed for a Social Security number in October 1940. The SSACI index lists Donald Carnes’ birth place as Corsicana, Texas, and his birth date as December 6, 1884. It lists his parents’ names as James Carnes and Mary Smith. Inglis Cameron’s parents were James and Mary Cameron—coincidence?  I think not.   I have sent for the actual application, but I doubt it will say he was also once known as Inglis Cameron.

Thus, I am convinced that, as the family friend told Tracy, Inglis Cameron became Donald Carnes, that Celina Nusbaum Glessner Cameron became Sally Carnes, and that Edward James Cameron became Edward James Carnes.  But why? What had happened to cause them to change their names and move to Texas?

I was able to find Inglis E.D. Cameron listed as a lawyer in the Philadelphia directory in 1922 and in 1923.  In 1923, he was listed as part of a firm, Cameron & Carey.  In 1925, he was listed in the NYC directory as an attorney, but in the Philadelphia directory, it only listed his residence.  In the 1930 directory, he is not listed at all. (There are no online Philadelphia directories for the years between 1925 and 1930.)

I needed to find a source for news about Philadelphia during the 1920s and 1930s, but the databases to which I subscribe have no Philadelphia papers dated past 1922.  The only online database that has Philadelphia newspapers dated after 1922 is a wonderful free website known as Fulton History or Old Fulton Postcards.  It is run by one man who has scanned and uploaded millions of pages of old newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.  It is not always an easy site to use because you have to be very persistent and creative in searching, and my first time through I had not found anything too helpful.  But after receiving Tracy’s comment on the blog, I was motivated to spend more time learning how to search the Fulton site.

What did I learn? Inglis E.D. Cameron had been a member of a law firm in Philadelphia called Cameron & Carey, as indicated in the 1923 Philadelphia directory; his partner was James T. Carey.  In 1922 they represented a company called United Auto Stores, a chain that sold auto parts and accessories. The company was founded by Edward B.P. Carrier, a young man who was the son of a doctor in Philadelphia and who had been a student at the University of Pennsylvania when he left to start the company.  By 1922, the company had over fifty stores in many states, and Edward “Bud” Carrier was only 28.

In February, 1922, Carrier and others involved in the business of United Auto Stores were sued by stockholders for conspiracy to commit stock fraud; they were allegedly lying to purchasers about the value of the company in order to induce them to buy stock and also profiting by using a shell company as the selling agent of the stock.

Edward P. B. "Bud" Carrier, head of Auto Stores Philadelphia Inquirer, February 25, 1922, p. 1

Edward P. B. “Bud” Carrier, head of Auto Stores
Philadelphia Inquirer, February 25, 1922, p. 1

The story was covered in detail by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and in some of the articles there are references either to Inglis Cameron, his partner James T. Carey, or their firm Cameron & Carey as the counsel to United Auto Stores.  See, e.g., “Gigantic Swindle Seen in Collapse of Auto Stores Co.,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 24, 1922, p. 1, 3 [names Cameron & Carey as counsel and quotes James T. Carey]; “File Court Actions to Save Creditors of Auto Stores Co.,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 25, 1922, pp. 1, 9; “Gay Parties Marked Spending Orgy of Auto Stores Head,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 1922, p. 1; “Auto Stores Chief Denies All Charges of Wild Spending,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 27, 1922, p. 1, 5 [mentions Cameron & Carey as company counsel and Inglis E.D. Cameron specifically as present during questions by reporter]; “Auto Stores Yields Up But $30,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 28, 1922, p. 2; “Auto Stores Head Called Falsifier,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 1, 1922, p. 2; “Receivers Named for Auto Stores,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 2, 1922, p.2; “Hint of US Action Shock to Carrier,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 4, 1922, p. 2.

By March 7, 1922, United Auto Stores was in permanent receivership, and soon thereafter its assets were sold to Gimbel Brothers.  “Special Referee to Probe Crash of Carrier’s Concerns,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1922, pp. 1. 13.

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 14, 1922, p. 14

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 14, 1922, p. 14

The timing of this case unfolding raised some red flags for me.  It was in the spring of 1921 that “thieves” struck Inglis Cameron’s company, Cameo Dress Company, at least three times.  And it was on February  22, 1922, that the newspaper reported that Cameo Dress Company had been damaged by fire.  The first story about the United Auto Stores’ charges appeared in the paper on February 24, 1922, two days later. Could this be just coincidence? Or is there a connection?

In 1925, sixty-four individuals and the corporation itself were indicted on grounds of conspiracy to commit fraud.  Carrier was indicted as well as other officers of the company and a number of individuals who had been involved in the sales of United Auto Stores stock.  Absent, however, from the list of indicted individuals were the names of Inglis E.D. Cameron and James T. Carey.

Auto Stores Indictments 2 10 25 p 2 pt 1

indictments pt 2

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 1925, p. 2

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 1925, p. 2

And then the case disappeared from the papers.  I don’t know what happened with the charges.  Was there a trial? A verdict?  It’s very odd, but so far I have not found answers to those questions. But even before the Auto Stores indictment,  Samuel Safir and Samuel Rosenblatt, two of the first three names listed in the article identifying those who were indicted in the Auto Stores matter, had been charged in another case of stock fraud, this one involving the Altoona Glass Casket Company, a story that made the newspapers throughout the country. E.g., “Glass Casket Co. Promoters Jailed,” Boston Herald, February 2, 1924, p. 4.  Safir and Rosenblatt were ultimately convicted in the casket case.

As for Edward B.P. Carrier, as far as I can tell he was not convicted of any charges.  He married in 1924 and was living on Long Island, New York, in 1930 with his wife and family. He was working as a real estate broker.  In 1942 when he registered for the draft, he was living at the YMCA in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, working for a company called Defense Builders in Pottstown.  He died in Brigantine, New Jersey, in 1957.  Maybe he was just manipulated  by people like Safir and Rosenblatt, who may have been the true masterminds behind the conspiracy.  One other source I read suggested that Carrier himself may have been duped. “United Auto Stores Swindle,” United States Investor, vol. 33, issue 1 (April 1922), pp.749-750 (describing Carrier as a “tool” in the scheme of another).

The notes that Tracy had from the conversation with her father’s old friend suggest that Inglis and his son went to Florida around 1925 to invest in real estate and ended up losing a lot of money, but I have no way of verifying that information.  But Edward James Cameron, Celina’s son and Tracy’s father, would have been only ten years old in 1925.

So what do you think happened between 1925, when Inglis disappeared, and 1940, when he applied for a Social Security card as Donald Carnes?  Was he running from creditors? Was he running from the law?

Or, as I am thinking, was he running from those who were behind the stock fraud conspiracy? Had he been a witness against them, leading to the 1925 indictments?  Had they been trying to intimidate him by subjecting Cameo Dress to theft and fire?  The Federal Witness Protection program did not exist in those days, but perhaps there was some informal way that the government enabled Inglis Cameron and his family to change their names and move from Philadelphia to Houston.

Inglis Cameron, a/k/a Donald Carnes, was killed in a car accident in 1948. He and his wife Sally/Celina were run down by a Houston carpenter named Homer Bertram Poole.  Sally survived.  The driver was indicted for murder by automobile, as described in the following three articles.   I am grateful to Leah, Amanda, and Barb from the Texas Genealogy Network on Facebook for helping to locate these articles about Donald Carnes’ death.

Donald Carnes accident

Sweetwater Reporter, November 7, 1948, p. 3

 

 

 

 

Houston Post, November 7, 1948

Houston Post, November 7, 1948

 

Amarillo Daily New, December 14, 1948, p.7

Amarillo Daily New, December 14, 1948, p.7

Was this just a case of drunk driving? Or was it something more intentional? I don’t know.

Celina/Sally Cameron/Carnes died eighteen years later in 1966.   Edward James Cameron/Carnes died in 1984. This mystery remains largely unsolved.

Thanks to Tracy and her sister Ginger, I now have pictures of my cousin Celina Nusbaum, her husband Inglis Cameron, and their son Edward James Cameron—otherwise known as Sally, Donald, and E.J. Carnes.

Sally, Edward James, and Donald Carnes Courtesy of Tracy Carnes

Sally, Edward James, and Donald Carnes
Courtesy of Tracy Carnes and Ginger Carnes

Celina Nusbaum a/k/a Sally Carnes Courtesy of Tracy and Ginger Carnes

Celina Nusbaum a/k/a Sally Carnes
Courtesy of Tracy and Ginger Carnes

I will continue to look for more information.  But for now, I am interested in what you all think.  How would you fit together all these pieces of the puzzle?  Why did the Cameron family leave Philadelphia, change their names, and move to Houston?

 

 

 

My Great-great-uncle Henry: The Real Man Revealed

This was a major find, a discovery that has greatly inspired me and uplifted me.

I’ve been researching the Schoenthals in depth for quite a while now, and I’ve been so fortunate to find as much as I have about the family both in German and American records.    As I was preparing a post about Henry and Isidore, my great-grandfather, I decided to see if I could find a picture of Henry.  After all, he was a prominent man in Washington, Pennsylvania for many years.  There had to be a picture of him in a newspaper or archive somewhere.  So I tried Google.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find a photograph of Henry.  But what I found was amazing and did in fact give me a better picture of Henry.  The Jacob Radosh Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, had four entries for Schoenthal in its collection: three labeled Henry Schoenthal, one Hilda Schoenthal.   They were titled as papers, a biography, a diary, and a sermon.  I saw this the other evening and was excited, but had no idea how I could see these papers without going to Cincinnati.   So the next morning I called the Marcus Center and spoke to an extremely helpful man there named Joe.  Joe explained that they would scan all the pages of the documents for me for 25 cents a page and email them to me.  There were forty pages in total, and so in less than hour and for only ten dollars, I had the four files in my email.

The folder of Henry’s papers, which date from 1863 to 1866, are in German.  I am going to have to find someone to help me translate them.  But here’s one that confirms Henry’s  (then Heinemann) birth date and place and his father’s name; I think it is a certificate of his training to be a Jewish teacher at the seminary in Cassel, Germany:

Israelitische Lehrerbildungs for Henry Schoenthal Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Israelitische Lehrerbildungs for Henry Schoenthal
Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

 

The biography is a one page biography of Henry Schoenthal written by his daughter Hilda in 1952.  Although much of it was information I already knew, it adds another dimension to this man, making him come to life for me.  I want to look first at the first section of that biography because it will provide greater background to the diary and to the sermon, the remaining two files I received.

Hilda Schoenthal, Biography of Henry Schoenthal dated January 16, 1952. Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Hilda Schoenthal, Biography of Henry Schoenthal dated January 16, 1952. Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

 

Again, although I knew most of the facts reported here, it was wonderful to read it in words written by Henry’s own daughter. I didn’t know how he met his wife or that her father, Meyer Lilienfeld, was a cantor.  And I did not know that Henry was a shochet (kosher butcher) and a chazzan (cantor) as well as a teacher back in Germany.  I wish Hilda had expanded on the political and economic conditions that drove her father to emigrate.  And I found it interesting that Washington was considered somewhat of a center of culture and intellectual activity because of the presence of Washington and Jefferson College in the town. It also gave me a sense of Henry as someone interested in the life of the mind—someone who preferred selling books to students than selling clothing.

 

English: Western side of on the campus of in W...

Western side of McMillan Hall on the campus of Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa. .. Built in 1793, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Wikipedia)

The diary, which starts in 1866 when Henry arrived in America, starts out in German, but after the first several pages, Henry began to write in English and to use script which I can read.  Reading those pages was very moving, and I will share some of them below.  Thanks to my friend Matthias Steinke, I was able to get the initial pages translated into English.

The diary begins on July 10, 1866, just a few weeks after Henry had arrived in New York, and says that he had just arrived in Washington, PA, and was working for his cousin Jacob Goldsmith in his clothing store (for some reason “clothing store” is written in English).

Diary of Henry Schoenthal 1866-1868 Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Diary of Henry Schoenthal 1866-1868
Available at the Marcus Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

By the next day he had written to his parents and sent them three gold dollars.  He did not receive his first letter from his parents until August 9th and immediately responded, sending them ten dollars in “greenbacks.”   On August 16th, he described a visit from the Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Hiester Clymer, and the fanfare surrounding that.  Then there is a long entry about the some criminal activities going on in the town.  Most of the pages in German report on his correspondence with various people back home.

By January 1867, Henry was writing in fluent English.  Just six months in the US, and he was already comfortable with and even preferring to write in English.  I was impressed.  Much of what he continued to write about was his correspondence— naming those to whom he had written and those who had written to him.   This page, with several entries dated in April, 1867, I found particularly interesting.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 9

 

On Tuesday, April 12,  1867, Henry mentioned that he was beginning to give German lessons to some residents of the town.   On these pages, he also mentioned writing letters not only to his “dear parents” and sending them money, but also writing to his uncle Juda Hamberg from Breuna, who was his mother’s older brother, and to Helene and Recha Lilienfeld.  Helene would later become his wife, and there are numerous mentions of correspondence between Henry and the two Lilienfeld sisters.  On this page he also mentioned that he sent the Lilienfeld sisters his pictures.  I sure wish I could see a copy of those pictures.

Of greatest interest to me on this page, however, is Henry’s comment on Monday, April 22, that he went to Pittsburgh “last Friday and stayed there for the first two days of Passover.”  I was touched that Henry was making an effort to hold on to his traditions and heritage while alone without his parents and siblings nearby.  Of his family members already in the US in 1867, the only one likely to have been in Pittsburgh was Simon Goldsmith, widower of Fanny Schoenthal and thus Henry’s uncle by marriage.

Although Henry may have had his heart set on Helene (also called Helen) Lilienfeld, he was not sitting home.  He mentioned at the bottom of this page that in May 1867 he went to a show with a Miss Emma ? and a Mrs. Flora Conner (?) and did not get home until half past eleven.

One of my favorite diary entries also is dated in May 1867:

Henry SChoenthal diary p 10 A

 

Why do I like this entry?  Because it mentions my great-grandfather and by his original name, Isaac.  Henry referred to all his siblings by their original names.  Malchen was Amalie, Hannchen was Hannah.  Selig became Felix.  I also liked that Julius was listed, confirming once again that Julius Schoenthal was a sibling.  I imagine Henry writing all those names and looking at the pictures his “dear parents” had sent to him and being somewhat homesick.

But there was some news to alleviate that homesickness.  He mentioned on the next page that Malchen wanted to come to the United States.  He said that she was “anxious to come to this country and I expect to let her come by next fall.”  This seems to suggest that the decision was up to Henry, not his parents or his sister Malchen.  Was this about money?  Henry often mentioned sending money home to his family.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 10 B

But on June 18, Henry wrote that his sister Malchen and brother Simon “intend to come over here next fall,” so perhaps he really did not have control over their decisions to emigrate.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 11

 

Although Henry was continuing to correspond with “dear Helene” and her sister, he was also exchanging pictures with a Miss Therese Libenfeld in Frankfort and teaching German to several young women in Washington.

On September 9, 1867, Henry reported that he had received a letter from his parents informing him that his brother and sister, Simon and Malchen, had left Bremen on August 17 to sail on the ship SS Watchen.  This is consistent with the ship manifest I found for Simon and Amalie, which has them arriving in New York on September 23, 1867.  The only inconsistency is that the ship manifest record states that the ship was named Wagen, not Watchen.  Close enough.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 13

After that the diary peters out with very few entries between September 1867 and February 1868, the date of the last entry.  My guess is that Henry was busy with his siblings, helping them to adjust to the new country, and perhaps less in need of keeping track of his correspondence.

The very last entry, dated February 24, 1868, records a piece of US history.  Henry wrote: “The House of Representatives just resolved to impeach President Andrew Johnson.”  Unfortunately Henry expressed no opinion or reaction to this occurrence.  Was it upsetting to him? How did he feel about American democracy?  I wish I knew.

Henry Schoenthal diary p 14

 

I loved reading the diary.  Although it is not terribly intimate or revealing in its content, I can imagine this young man in his early 20s sitting down to keep track of everyone from back home with whom he corresponded.  The fact that the diary ends shortly after the arrival of his sister and brother make me think that the diary’s purpose had at that point been served.  Henry now had some of his family with him and no longer needed the ritual of the diary to help him feel connected.

Returning to Hilda’s biography of her father and her description of his life after 1868:

Hilda bio of Henry Schoenthal p 2

I found Hilda’s final paragraph particularly interesting:

HIlda bio of Henry Schoenthal p 3

This was not the image I had of Henry from the documents I’d found or even the newspaper articles.  Henry wasn’t just a successful businessperson.  He was a committed Jew working hard to create and maintain a Jewish community in this small town in western Pennsylvania.  He was still a teacher many years after leaving Trendelburg, Germany, a man interested in books and students and Jewish traditions.  Now I see a whole new dimension to this man who was my great-great-uncle.

The remaining file that I obtained from the Marcus Center was the so-called sermon. For me, this was the most exciting document of all.  The sermon was written by Henry in 1912, three years after he had moved away from Washington to live near his son Lionel in New York City, as mentioned by Hilda.  Henry was by this time almost 70 years old.  From what I can infer, the sermon or speech was to a fraternal organization in Washington given on the occasion of Henry’s return to Washington for a visit.  I will quote the portions I found most touching and most revealing:

Henry Schoenthal 1912 Sermon p 1

He wrote:

I love to come back to Washington to revisit the scenes of my early manhood. For to this place I had come a stranger and you had taken me in.  Here I have spent the greater portion of my years and Washington has been my real home.  To this place I had brought my bride and here my children were born and educated.  Here I made many, many friends and possibly a few enemies.  Here I have lived many happy days and my full share of the other kind.  The latter I have forgotten long ago, the former are ever present in my memory and help to brighten and to make happy the declining days of my years.

Henry Schoenthal 1912 sermon p 2

I do not know whether I shall pass this way again, for the shades of evening are lengthening and the goal may not be very far off.  I gratefully acknowledge that God has been very gracious unto me and that he has blessed me beyond my merits.  He has guided me with a father’s hand to reach and to pass safely the 3 score and ten of which the Psalmist has spoken, and if it should be his holy will to grant me another short space of years, I may even reach the limit of four scores.

Henry Schoenthal Sermon 1912 p 3

Henry Schoenthal 1912 sermon p 4

But whether this should be the last time it is destined for me to have the happiness to meet with you, you may rest assured that I shall always remember this evening, that I shall never forget the courtesy you have shown, the friendship and the fraternal feelings you have extended to me.  And I shall always pray for your happiness and in parting I shall bless you, bless you not in my own words, but the in the words of the High Priest of old when he stood before the assembled multitudes stretching forth his hand and pronouncing the words:

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord cause his light to shine upon you and be gracious unto you!

May the Lord turn his face unto you and grant you peace, now and forever more.  Amen!

I admit that my eyes well up with tears every time I read and re-read these words. I am moved by so much of what he said here: his attachment to Washington, PA, as his home, a place that had welcomed a very young man in 1866 and given him a safe place to settle and work.  He mentioned good times and bad, but overall his memories of this place are filled with love for the people he knew there.  I feel his love for this place and for the people and his joy in being there and the sadness he feels in leaving it and perhaps not being able to return another time.  We all have those feelings about places we have lived–whether it is a childhood home, a college campus, a first apartment.  We move on, but a piece of our heart remains behind.

I am also moved by the beauty of his writing.  It’s hard to believe that English was not his first language, as with my cousin Lotte.  Henry’s writing is so poetic, so evocative.  I read it with wonder.

And then Henry closed with the traditional priestly blessing read even today in Jewish prayer services and used as a blessing on many occasions in Jewish life. A blessing we said to our own daughters on Friday nights when they were children.  A blessing that Jews have said and shared for centuries.  I am moved knowing that my ancestor shared in this tradition as well.

Henry had left the seminary, but that experience had never left him.  He remained, as his daughter said, committed to his heritage and proud of it.  He remained a religious man.

Finding these papers was another one of many highlights in my continuing search for the story of my ancestors.  They inspire me to keep looking for more and to keep telling the stories.  Henry Schoenthal wanted history and traditions to continue, and I want his story to live on as well.

 

 

 

My Aunt Eva’s Magic Suitcases: Another Small World Story

A long time back I mentioned that my father had two suitcases filled with photographs and letters that had belonged to his sister, my aunt, Eva Hilda Cohen.  My aunt had died February 14, 2011, but my father had never gone through the suitcases and wasn’t eager to do so.  Finally this past weekend he agreed to let my brother and me bring the suitcases down from their garage and go through their contents.  I was hoping for some old photographs or letters about my ancestors, and I didn’t find much of that, but there was an amazing small world story that came out of those suitcases. (I will report on the other finds in later posts.)

First, a little bit about my Aunt Eva.  She was born on January 13, 1924, the first child of my paternal grandparents, John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr. and Eva Schoenthal.

Eva Hilda Cohen

Eva Hilda Cohen

My father was born almost three years later.  They were very close as children growing up together.

Eva and John Cohen, Jr.

Eva and John Cohen, Jr.

My father describes his sister as a strong-willed and rebellious child who became a strong-willed and rebellious teenager and adult. She also was a very intelligent woman with many interests. She graduated from Gratz High School in Philadelphia in 1941, where she apparently was known by the nickname “Ave,” and was described as follows in the yearbook: “To Gratz our “Ave” has given services of hours; in almost every field she has displayed her powers.”  From the list of her activities, that inscription seems accurate: drama club, debate club, a cappella choir, and several others.

Aunt Eva yearbook picture

Simon Gratz High School yearbook 1941 Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

During World War II, she served in the United States Navy. She served from February 10, 1944 until February 10, 1946, and was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, for most of her second year of service.  She wrote a letter to her mother in May, 1945, describing her trip by train from Philadelphia to Texas.  I had to chuckle as I read it because it sounded so much like her, describing and naming every person that she met along the way.    She clearly was a hit with the servicemen, frequently being invited to eat and drink and sit with them on that long train.  That ability to befriend new people wherever she went was a skill she maintained throughout her life.

After the war, she completed her education at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  There she also was active socially and academically.

Aunt Eva college yearbook

University of Colorado at Boulder yearbook 1949 Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

After college she became engaged to be married to a man named Karl, but when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Karl broke it off, not wanting to care for someone he thought would be an invalid.

Eva and Karl

Eva and Karl

He sorely underestimated her.  She never married, but her inner strength and her independence held in her good stead for the rest of her life even as her physical challenges became greater.  She worked for the city of Philadelphia until retirement age, and she had a large circle of friends who were devoted to her. She traveled all over the world and was interested in many things and well-informed about current events. She remained devoted to my father, and he to her, her whole life.

Her collected photographs and letters reflected those priorities— the many letters she kept that she had received from my father over the years; lots of photographs of our family, extended and immediate; lots of pictures from her numerous trips and cruises.  And many, many pictures of people who were her friends. The photographs were not at all organized by subject matter or date, so as I went through the photographs with my brother, I sorted them into piles—family, travel, friends.  I wasn’t particularly interested in the last two categories, but I still looked at each photo, hoping to find some of my ancestors or distant cousins mixed in.

Then I found this photograph.  It was a Christmas card with a family photograph, an item for the friends’ pile.  But I looked at it more closely and thought one of the faces looked familiar.  Then I looked at the family’s surname, and I got the chills.  The face was in fact familiar.

Scan0014

 

The little boy in that photograph looked just like the young man who is now engaged to my daughter’s best friend Anna.  I knew that her fiancé Mark was from Philadelphia, and it certainly was possible that my aunt could have known his family.  But nevertheless—what were the odds?  Mark’s parents are at least a generation younger than my aunt.  How in the world would they have known her? It made no sense.  I continued looking through the photographs, and I found five more pictures of Mark’s family, including his parents’ wedding photograph.  Obviously, my aunt knew his family for a long, long time.

I took snapshots of the pictures of Mark’s family with my phone and sent them to Maddy and Anna, asking them if this was Mark’s family. Anna responded that indeed it was his family.  Anna asked Mark what he knew about my aunt, if anything, and he did remember her and said that his father had been a lifeguard at the pool in her building and had met her there.

That made perfect sense to me.  My aunt was an avid swimmer; being in the water gave her the mobility and comfort that she could not find out of the water because of her MS.  As my father wrote in one of his letters to her, she swam in pools and oceans all over the world; she found it liberating.  When she moved into The Philadelphian, one of the large apartment buildings in Philadelphia, one of the great benefits was that there was a pool in the building.  It was there that she made many friends over the years, including Mark’s father and his family.

Scan0016 (2)

I still get the chills thinking about this.  There I was sitting in my parents’ house, sorting through photographs mostly of strangers, and I found a photograph of someone who will now be marrying Anna.  Anna, whom I’ve known since she was born and who has been my daughter Maddy’s best friend since they sat in the sandbox as one year olds at our child care cooperative in 1985.  Anna, who was Maddy’s roommate in Boston for several years—until she met Mark.  Mark, a delightful young man whom we met the first time a few years back when he was helping Maddy and Anna move from one apartment to another and sitting patiently outside the apartment, watching their stuff while they went to rent a truck.  Mark, whose father befriended my aunt years before Mark was even born and who obviously stayed in touch with her over the years as his children grew to adulthood.

I am sure that my aunt would have been thrilled to know that her friend’s son was marrying her great-niece’s best friend.  I am just sorry she is no longer around to hear the story.  It’s the kind of story she would have loved.

Scan0025

 

Old Friends: Braided Forever

My mother has often spoken about how sad she was when her family decided to move from Brooklyn to the Bronx when she was about twelve years old.  There were many reasons she was upset.  For one, she had to leave her dog Sparky behind.  That broke her heart, and she still can’t talk about it without getting emotional.

Sparky 1934

 

But also she had to leave her best friend Beatty behind. Beatty lived in the same four-family house at 1010 Rutland Road in Brooklyn; she lived right down the hall from my mother.  They had been close friends all through childhood, and although they tried to stay in touch after my mother moved, back in the 1940s that was not at all easy.  Phone calls were expensive, and the trip from Brooklyn to Parkchester in the Bronx was a long one, especially for two young girls.  So over time, they lost touch.

Beatty and my mother c. 1940

Beatty and my mother c. 1940

Not too long ago my mother asked me if I could find Beatty.  She knew her first and last name from when she’d last seen her over 70 years earlier, but she had no idea where she was living or whom she might have married.  I tried to find her, but with so little information I had no luck.  If Beatty had married, it was after the last year of the publicly available NYC marriage index (1937).  The only information I could find related to her siblings, who had passed away.

So you can imagine how excited I was to receive a message on the blog last week from Beatty herself.  She was looking for my mother after seeing her pictures and childhood name on the blog.  I contacted Beatty, and I called my mother.  And I gave them each other’s contact information, and now they are reconnected after over 70 years.  I get the chills (and a warm feeling) whenever I think about it.

One of the stories my mother shared with me was about Passover at Beatty’s house.  Her father led the seder in a very serious way, and as many of us know, a traditional seder can get quite long and quite boring, especially for young children.  To keep themselves from misbehaving and talking, my mother and Beatty would braid the fringes on the beautiful tablecloth that adorned the seder table.  When my mother shared this memory with Beatty, she said that she also had shared that story with her children.

The tablecloth still exists, and even more remarkable, the braids made by my mother and her best friend Beatty are still there as well.  Here is the photograph to prove it.

Beatty's tablecloth

Beatty’s tablecloth

tablecloth with braids 2

My mother was once my Girl Scout troop leader, and one of the songs we sang had the lyrics, “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, and the other gold.”  My mother and Beatty certainly know the truth of that message.

My Cousin Lotte’s Story, Part I: A Childhood in Germany during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933)

It has been a true blessing to connect with my cousin Lotte.   Lotte is the daughter of Joseph and Anna (nee Winter) Wiener.  Her mother Anna was the daughter of Rosina Laura Seligmann. Laura was the daughter of Hieronymous Seligmann, brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard and son of Moritz and Babetta Seligmann, my three-times great-grandparents.  Thus, Lotte is my third cousin, once removed.  Her story is a remarkable story.

Relationship_ Amy Cohen to Leonore Lotte Wiener

Lotte was born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1921, and she left Germany with her parents in the late 1930s to escape Hitler and the Nazis.  Her education in Germany was cut short as a result, yet she came to the United States and successfully completed a nursing program in New York City shortly after immigrating.  But I cannot do Lotte’s story justice.  Fortunately, I do not have to because Lotte shared with me her memoirs and much of her other writing as well as some anecdotes she shared by email.  With Lotte’s permission, I am going to share some excerpts from her own writing and some of those anecdotes.

I am also including a link to her memoirs for anyone who wants to read them in their entirety.  You won’t be disappointed.  Lotte’s writing is poetic, evocative, and very moving.  This post will cover Lotte’s early life in Germany; subsequent posts will cover her life once Hitler came to power and then Lotte’s early years adjusting to life in the United States.  (To read Lotte’s memoirs in their entirety, click on My Story Lotte Wiener Furst. Copyright Lotte Wiener Furst 2015. Not to be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of the author.)

Lotte described her maternal grandparents Samuel Oskar Winter and Rosalind Laura Seligmann in these words:

My grandfather, born in Hülchrath, Westphalia, founded and owned a large dry-goods store. He had served his apprenticeship in a similar but larger store in Düsseldorf, having had to leave school at age fourteen because his mother was impoverished. He had a sister who never married, and a brother who later lived in Saarbrücken with his wife and two daughters, where he died quite young of syphilis. My grandfather was small of stature, but had a formidable mind and a keen, dry sense of humor. For quite a few years he served as a trustee of the local synagogue although he was not particularly observant.

My maternal grandmother was one of five siblings. Her family owned a vineyard in Gau-Algesheim, near Bingen, a place where my mother spent part of her childhood and which she always remembered very fondly. My grandmother also had left school at the age of fourteen in order to take care of her mother who was dying of tuberculosis, and to whom she had promised to always fast on Yom Kippur, and to observe Passover, promises she kept very faithfully. She loved poetry and could recite beautifully many of the sometimes very lengthy poems by the beloved German poets Goethe and Schiller. While my mother was growing up, my grandmother kept the books and otherwise assisted in the store. Keeping house was the task of Tante Yettchen, her spinster sister-in-law.

Laura Seligmann Wiener with two of her sisters, Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld and Johanna Seligmann Bielefeld Courtesy of Lotte Furst

Laura Seligmann Winter with two of her sisters, Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld and Johanna Seligmann Bielefeld
Courtesy of Lotte Furst

Samuel and Laura Winter had two children, Lotte’s mother Anna and her uncle Ernst.  Ernst was killed fighting for the Kaiser’s army in World War I:

My mother had one brother, Ernst, one year her junior. At the beginning of World War I he enlisted in the German army along with all of his classmates, much to the horror of his parents. He was killed six weeks later in the first Marne battle. My grandparents never recovered from the shock. I never saw my grandmother in anything but grey or black clothing. My uncle’s room was left untouched, and I was never allowed to enter it. My grandfather lost all his drive for maintaining the business, gave up his large store and became a partner in a much smaller one which was now mostly run by my grandmother’s brother, Uncle Jack, a very distinguished-looking but not very capable gentleman.

(“Uncle Jack” was Laura’s older brother Jacob, about whom I wrote here.)

Ernst Winter Courtesy of Lotte Furst

Ernst Winter
Courtesy of Lotte Furst

How painful it must have been for Samuel and Laura to lose their son and then have the country he fought for betray them less than twenty years later.

As for Lotte’s mother Anna or Aennie, she was afforded a fine education as the daughter of a successful merchant:

My mother’s higher education consisted of a year or two in a finishing school, followed by some time in England where one of my grandmother’s uncles had established his residence. Her stay there was cut short, however, because this uncle, who owned several hotels and was very wealthy, made some unsolicited advances, and she fled in terror. The time spent in England provided her with an excellent chance to learn the language, which turned out to be quite an asset later on. She also was an accomplished pianist. Actually she aspired to become a concert pianist or at least a teacher of piano, but my grandparents felt that to be entirely inappropriate for a young lady of good bourgois upbringing. Their denial made her very unhappy but was mitigated somewhat when she received a beautiful black Bechstein grand piano as a wedding gift.

Samuel, Laura, and Anna Winter and Jakob Seligmann

Samuel, Laura, and Anna Winter and Jakob Seligmann (Laura’s brother) Courtesy of Lotte Furst

The uncle in England referred to above was, of course, James Seligman, born Jakob Seligmann, the younger brother of Hieronymous and Bernard Seligmann, the same James Seligman whose estate created quite a ripple of activity in the family and provided me with all those Westminster Bank family trees.  Lotte also shared with me her own memories of James Seligman.  According to Lotte, “[James] owned one or several hotels in Scotland/England. He lived in one of them. Together with his wife Hedy he visited his family on the continent once. She was a big and very pompous woman. After her death he visited the family again to distribute her belongings. Everybody went out of the way to serve him fancy dinners. My mother hired a caterer and we had “omelet surprise” for dessert. My grandmother Laura made a very simple home-cooked meal which he found the best he’d had. “

James married Claire, his second wife, shortly after his first wife Hedy died.  Claire had been his nurse.  When James died, Claire had the right to the income from his estate for her life; when she died, the principal was distributed to the various heirs found by the Westminster Bank.  According to Lotte, her mother’s estate received $200 in 1985.  I guess I can’t cry too much over the fact that the Westminster Bank failed to find my father and my aunt while doing their investigation since it seems their inheritance would have been about $100 each, if that much.

My heart went out to Lotte’s mother Anna Winter, a young girl with dreams of being a concert pianist, whose dreams were thwarted by society’s limited ideas of what a woman could be back in those times.  Anna married Joseph Wiener in December, 1915.  Joseph was in the Germany army at the time and was a doctor; after completing his service during World War I, he and Anna and their first daughter Doris moved to Mannheim where he established his medical practice.  Lotte was born there a few years later during the years of the Weimar Republic.

Lotte’s description of her childhood home creates a vivid picture:

We lived on the second floor of a six story apartment building. There were two units on each floor. Our living quarters occupied one of these units while my father’s office and the maids’ quarters were situated in the other half. The office consisted of my father’s consultation room and a large waiting area where 20 – 30 chairs were lined up along the four walls, together with a coat rack and a spittoon. Doris and I shared one of the two family bedrooms, while the maids had to sleep in a very small and primitively furnished room, I am ashamed to say. They were not allowed to use our toilet, I am ashamed to say. … In addition to the maids, we had a part-time nanny and, for a few years at least, a part-time chauffeur who was mostly busy driving my father who had to make innumerable house calls. In 1923 or 1924 my parents had bought their first car, a black Benz, which unfortunately came to a sad ending when the chauffeur “borrowed” it for a joy ride and totally crashed it. The car was replaced by a green Buick, the driver was fired, and my father did his own navigating from then on.

****

Originally we had separate stoves in the various rooms, one of them a real pot-belly stove called “Der Amerikaner”. But in approximately 1928 my parents obtained permission to remodel our two apartments, and central heating was installed. The furnace, placed in the kitchen, had a large flat surface on which to keep pots of hot water and to make baked apples at times. It also provided a lot of soot. The noise of one of our maids stoking the fire early in the morning usually woke us up.

The living room featured three wall-to-ceiling bookcase units, separated by two bay windows. There was a wealth of information in those books, and my parents placed no restrictions on our choice of reading material. I devoured almost everything: fiction, classics, history, you name it. But I certainly did not retain most of the material I read. Other furniture included three caned armchairs, a round coffee table with marble top, a green velvet-upholstered sofa, and a large oak desk.

A doorway, equipped with a curtain, led to the dining room half a small step above. For a while Doris and I used this setting to put on some improvised shows. The oak dining room table was large and massive. Other than for dining we used it as an improvised ping-pong table when extended. Of course the proportions were not right, and the ball would bounce off when it hit the extension crack in the middle.

…  My parents’ bedroom had mahogany furniture and yellow wallpaper with green and red intertwined garlands. I would stare at them at the times when I was allowed to lie on Mutti’s bed when I was sick, and I thought they were ugly. Doris’ and my bedroom was not so fancy. It was equipped only with two iron beds, a dresser, a night stand, and a clothes closet.

Between the bedrooms was a bathroom, used only for bathing. We had a separate toilet a little further down the hall and next to the kitchen which featured to a stove, oven, furnace, table and two chairs and an icebox, later replaced by a Frigidaire which was usually kept locked.

By Snapshots Of The Past (Parade Place and Kaufhaus Karlsruhe Baden Germany) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mannheim, Germany  By Snapshots Of The Past (Parade Place and Kaufhaus Karlsruhe Baden Germany) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Lotte also wrote about her parents’ various responsibilities in the household:

My father (Vati) was a very busy general practitioner. He had long office hours and also made numerous house calls every day, frequently to people who lived on the fourth, fifth or sixth floor of walk-up apartments. Elevators were non-existent in the working-class neighborhood where we lived. But he was always home for lunch, the main meal of the day, which was served at 1 PM. Breakfast was not a family affair – Doris and I had rolls with butter and jelly, delivered fresh every morning from the bakery across th street, and a cup of tea before leaving for school which started at 8 AM. During morning recess we had a “second breakfast” consisting of a sandwich which we brought from home. The light evening meal was served at about 7 PM. 

My mother (Mutti) attended to the household: instructing, supervising and hiring and firing the maid(s), and doing the marketing which in itself was a very complicated job. Because many of the nearby merchants were my father’s patients, she had to keep track of with which grocer, which butcher, which baker she had done business last in order to keep all of them happy. Butchers were especially difficult. There were some who had the best and most aged beef, suitable for roasts, and some who carried a poorer quality and therefore were only good for meat that had to be boiled or braised. Sausage came from other sources: regular, ordinary sausage was bought at a nearby store, but kosher sausage with its distinctively different taste came from a Jewish butcher who lived quite a distance away. Vati frequently questioned where the meat came from, and Mutti, quite peeved, would answer “from the fish store”.

In addition to the household chores, Mutti kept my father’s books. At the beginning of each calendar quarter she had to add up all the patients’ slips pertaining to their insurance coverage, and submit them to the local health insurance office and to the few private insurance companies involved. Since Bismarck’s time in the 1880’s Germany had compulsory and comprehensive health insurance laws covering most of the working population. Self-employed and professional people took out their own private insurance. During those busy quarterly events Mutti was extremely nervous and tense. We knew better than asking her any silly questions.

After lunch, Vati usually took a short nap on the living-room sofa, followed, at least in the early years, by a cigar which I helped him light. He then resumed his afternoon office hours while I went back to school or to my music lessons or other activities. At some time during the afternoon I did my homework, never too much of a chore, and practiced my violin music for which I did not need any coaxing because I enjoyed it.

Lotte and her sister spent school vacations visiting Anna’s parents Laura (Seligmann) and Samuel Winter in Neunkirchen:

My grandparents’ (Oma and Opa’s) house had four stories: a large basement with a fruit cellar, a downstairs “salon” and formal dining room with a large veranda which was hardly ever used, another floor with the actual living quarters (living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), and three more bedrooms above that. The rooms were rather small, however. A rarely used dumb waiter connected the kitchen with the downstairs dining room. A mostly unkempt and unplanted  backyard, except for some large clumps of rhubarb, was also featured. The house overlooked a large and frequently used soccer field.

There was not very much to do at the house. I usually accompanied Opa to the store where he spent most of his time. The salesladies and the office help all were very nice. They gave me odds and ends of fancy yarns, remnants of cloth, and various sundries. The secretary let me use the typewriter where, one index finger at a time, I would compose never to be published letters and poems.

Oma meanwhile would be busy with her household chores. Once a week she attended meetings at a housewives’ club, and I would come with her whenever I was visiting. I believe they did some charitable work, but all I know for sure is that they gossiped a lot and always had a big “Kaffeeklatsch”. Every time they saw me, some of these ladies would ask whether I remembered who they were, followed by “my, how you have grown”. The club was the only outside activity Oma allowed herself.

By Daniel Arnold (Photo taken by Daniel Arnold) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Town Gate, Neunkirchen By Daniel Arnold (Photo taken by Daniel Arnold) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Lotte wrote a wonderful description of a day she spent with her Opa, but it is quite long, so I will leave it for those who wish to read her entire memoir.  I do want to include this description of her Oma, Laura Seligmann Winter:

My grandmother, Oma, was a fairly short, fairly plump woman. Her body, always dressed in rather shapeless grey clothes and bulging a bit in the center, did not seem to have any remarkable form of its own. But her oval face was kind and full of expression. Severely myopic, she had protuberant grey eyes. To help her poor eyesight, she used a lorgnette for reading. I don’t recall her ever wearing glasses. She also suffered from rheumatic heart disease, the result of rheumatic fever early in life, which incapacitated her a lot and finally contributed to her death.

To maintain her wavy, well-coiffured hairdo, Oma allowed herself the only luxury I was aware of. Once or twice a month she used the services of a hairdresser who came to her home to wash and set her hair, embellished by the use of a hot iron. She probably coordinated those appointments with the meeting dates of the “Hausfrauenverein” ( housewives’ club), a gathering of mostly Jewish old – or so it seemed to me – women who fairly fell over me when Oma took me along during my visits, exclaiming how I had grown and wondering if I still remembered their names. Whether the club members did anything socially worthwhile I do not know. I suppose they did. But I do know that they gossiped a lot while enjoying afternoon coffee and cake.

Oma’s most remarkable talent was her gift to recite poetry. With only a grade-school education, she had managed to memorize a great many of the famous German poems written in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, noticeably poems by Goethe, her hero, and also by Schiller. A glorified picture of Goethe adorned a wall in her kitchen, leading, to her bemusement, to a question by her milkman who wondered if that handsome man had been her father.

Laura Rosina Winter nee Seligmann

Rosina Laura Seligmann Winter, Lotte’s grandmother

For more on Lotte’s grandparents and their home, read MY GRANDPARENTS HOUSE by Lotte (Copyright Lotte Wiener Furst 2015. Not to be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of the author.)

Lotte, an exceptional student, also wrote about her early school experiences:

From first through fourth grade I attended the Hildaschule, the public school for girls in the district where I lived and about three blocks from our apartment. My first impression of the first grade classroom was that it smelled bad and was very noisy, featuring an enrollment of about 40 anxious little girls. The teacher was very strict – a real no-nonsense person by the name of Mrs. Seltenreich. The slightest kind of misdemeanor was usually punished by a sharp blow with a cane on the poor kid’s outstretched fingers. It required a great deal of courage to oblige her. I must admit that I never was in that predicament since I was a very good little girl. But I had one great shortcoming: From the very beginning my handwriting was very poor. I never earned anything better than a “3″ (on a scale of 1-5) in that course. Later, when we started to write with ink, I did not produce one paper without a smudge or an inkblot. I never could shake that weakness, and only with the advent of the computer did I learn to produce more or less perfect papers without any visible corrections.

Mrs. Seltenreich was replaced by Fräulein Unger from second to fourth grade. She was a very kind, stout elderly lady who really loved teaching, trying some innovative methods, thus commanding respect without the cruelty shown by her predecessor. I had one girlfriend at that time but did not spend much time with her. Once I accompanied her to the Catholic church across the street from the school, and she showed me how to make the sign of the cross and how to kneel, which I did because I did not know any better. When I told my mother, she instructed me never to do that again. I, however, knew hardly anything about my own religion except for the fact that I was Jewish and therefore different.

School hours were during the morning.  In the afternoon I usually went to a park with my nanny during the early school years. There I mostly played by myself or perhaps with one other child, sheltered kid that I was. In school we also had to attend an outdoor playtime session once a week. I did not like it too much because I did not know the games which most of the girls had played frequently. I was rather ignorant in social skills and did not participate very well.

In fourth grade I befriended a girl by the name of Johanna who lived on a river boat which made periodic stops in Mannheim, traveling up the Rhine from Holland. During those stops she attended my school. I proudly presented her to the handicrafts instructor (embroidery, crocheting and knitting were compulsory and part of the curriculum), only to be asked if she was also a Yid (which she was not). My mother was infuriated when I told her about this, so much so that she went to the School Board to complain. After all, we were living in Germany during the time of the democratic Weimar Republic. Discrimination supposedly was not allowed. I never found out if the teacher was reprimanded.

Reading this made me realize how drastically German society changed once Hitler came to power.  Here was Lotte’s mother, a Jewish woman, daring to complain about an anti-Semitic remark made by a teacher.  Just a few years later such anti-Semitism was the official law of the land.

After her early years in the girls’ school, Lotte was one of a small number of girls who were admitted to the almost all-male Karl-Friedrich Gymnasium, where she had to work extra hard and even box some of the boys in order to prove herself and win approval from her teachers. Lotte also spent many hours in the nearby art museum. She loved music and was exposed to music throughout her childhood.  She started taking violin lessons when she was eight years old and had the same teacher for nine years until she and her family emigrated.

Karl-Friedrich-Gymnasium Mannheim

Karl-Friedrich-Gymnasium Mannheim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although her grandmother Laura always fasted on Yom Kippur and observed Passover, as she had promised her mother, Lotte grew up with very little exposure to Judasim.  She wrote:

Prior to the Nazi rise to power I had a very cursory knowledge of the fact that I was Jewish. My parents were totally non‑religious. They agreed with Karl Marx that religion was “the opiate of the masses”. My father even resigned from the Jewish community since he did not see why he should pay the obligatory cultural tax. In school I was listed as “without religious affiliation.” None of the Jewish holidays were observed at our house.

But Lotte’s grandparents and other relatives of her grandmother Laura did provide her with some knowledge and experience with Jewish rituals and holidays:

But at my grandparent’s house I learned a little more about Jewish customs. My grandmother fasted on Yom Kippur. They only ate matzot during Passover. Best of all, they had a blue and white KKL (Jewish National Fund) box on their living room chest. Only pennies were inside, as I found out when I tried to fish out the money with a crochet hook (I always replaced the money, I only did it because 1 was utterly bored and had nothing else to do). But I do remember the outline of Palestine on the box, and I learned that it was the Jewish homeland far away.

Gilabrand at en.wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Gilabrand at en.wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

There also were some more observant relatives in Neunkirchen. One, a cousin of my grandmother, was married to the orthodox owner of a dairy store who did not make much money but beat up his poor wife and his three children every once in a while. I remember their son celebrating his bar‑mitzvah. A lot of complete strangers (to me) were assembled, including a very distinguished‑looking rabbi. Following the ceremony and the lunch people sat around talking and telling jokes. Since the rabbi looked so distinguished with his white beard, I asked him to write a word on a slip of paper as part of a puzzle I wanted to present. Well … The good rabbi told me very kindly that he did not write on schabbes, and that’s how 1 learned one of the basic rules of Judaism.

Lotte told me that the bar mitzvah boy was Heinz Goldmann, son of Anna Seligmann and Hugo Goldmann.  Anna was the daughter of August Seligmann, my three-times great-uncle.  Anna, Hugo, and their children were all killed in the Holocaust.

Overall, Lotte’s description of her childhood suggests that she had a very happy and comfortable childhood: a childhood free of economic or other struggles, a loving family, vacations and trips, school and art and music, and grandparents whom she adored.  All of this would come to what must have been a shocking, heart-wrenching, and tragic end as Lotte entered adolescence and Hitler came to power.

 

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home

We are back from our trip, and I have so much to say that I don’t even know where or how to start.  Traveling to a different place can change your whole view of the world, of your place in the world, and of yourself.  This trip did that in so many different ways.  I have hundreds of photographs to sort and label, a lot of notes to transcribe and ponder, and so many thoughts and memories floating through my head that I need to write them all down before I forget them.  So I can’t just start blogging in detail about the trip right away.  I will certainly report about the parts of the trip that related directly to my own family—the trip to Poland in particular—once I have it all digested.

For now I have these overall thoughts and a few photographs to share.  First, standing in the former Jewish quarters in Prague, Krakow, Budapest, and Vienna, some of which still have several synagogues (a few even still in operation), is a chilling and horrifying experience.  For me, these places that once bustled with Jewish grandparents, mothers, fathers, and children, going to work and going to school and going to shul, were a graphic and vivid reminder of what the world lost in the Holocaust.  Had it not been for the Nazis, these Jewish communities could and likely would still exist, adding to the culture and economy of these places and of the world just as they did for hundreds of years before their Jewish citizens were murdered.

A street in the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow

A street in the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow

Nothing made this more painfully vivid for me than standing in Tarnobrzeg, the town where my Brotman great-grandparents lived, a town that was once 75% Jewish and where not one Jew lives today.  The only signs that there were once Jews there were a small plaque on the library, a building that had once been the synagogue, and a Star of David near the gate to the neglected Jewish cemetery, where only a handful of headstones remain.

gravestone on the ground in the Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg

gravestone on the ground in the Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg

Second, every person, Jewish or not, should visit Terezin and Auschwitz.  I cannot say more.  The places say it all.  You cannot go to these places and not be changed.  No matter what you may have read or seen or heard about the Holocaust, you cannot be prepared for what you experience walking in those places of terror and death.  I have only two photographs of Terezin and no photographs of Auschwitz.  I could not bear to think about taking a photograph while standing where so many were slaughtered.

Terezin

Terezin

Third, I had little idea what life was like under Soviet domination in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary until we met several people who had lived during that era.  We were lucky to have guides in Prague, Poland, and Budapest who had witnessed the changes and were able to describe to us how different life was before and after the Soviets left in the late 1980s, early 1990s.  Today all these places are clearly capitalist, for better in many ways, for worse in others.  Seeing Starbucks and McDonalds and KFC everywhere amidst the old buildings in these gorgeous cities is jolting, but much better than seeing empty store windows and children forced to march at rallies to support the “state.”

Despite all the sadness that we felt as we learned about the past in these places, overall we experienced these cities as places of joyfulness, liveliness, and overall comfort.  Yes, there were beggars and homeless people, especially in Budapest, and I am sure that outside the areas where tourists congregate there is plenty of poverty and misery.  But each of the cities we visited were beautiful places filled with incredible and fascinating architecture, a huge number of cafes and restaurants and bars, museums teeming with people, cobblestone streets crowded with tourists and tour groups, and the sounds of happy, excited people.  There was music everywhere—in the streets, in the churches, and in the concert halls.

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

We had an incredible time.  Our tears and sadness were well-balanced with times of pure joy—climbing the tower to see all of Prague, clapping to Klezmer music in Krakow, walking along the river in Budapest, and eating unbelievable pastries in Vienna.  We heard music in every city, we stood in awe in Gothic cathedrals, we watched people laughing and drinking and eating in the cafes, and we walked and walked and walked until our feet were numb.  We had an incredible time.

Musikverein in Vienna

Musikverein in Vienna

 

 

The Faces of My Past: The Magic of Photography

I received some remarkable photographs from my cousin Suzanne, the daughter of Fred and Ilse Michel.  Fred, as I wrote about here, was the grandson of August Seligmann, who was my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman’s brother.  Fred would have been my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen’s second cousin, making him my second cousin, twice removed.  Suzanne is thus my third cousin, once removed.

Suzanne sent me a number of photographs, including some taken of prints that had hung in her childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  For example, here are two prints of Bingen, Germany, the town where Fred Michel lived and also where our mutual ancestor Moritz Seligmann lived (in Gaulsheim, now part of Bingen) before moving to Gau-Algesheim.  It is also close to where my cousin Wolfgang now lives, and he identified the location and some of the structures depicted therein.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Bingen 3

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

These prints show the city of Bingen’s location at the intersection of the Rhine River and the Nahe River.  According to Wolfgang, the tower in the river is called the Mäuseturm or “tower of mice,” and the church on the hill in the top print is the Rochuskapelle or the chapel on Rochus Hill.  Wolfgang said that his grandfather Julius and his family survived the last part of World War II in the Rochus chapel. Wolfgang told me that much of the city of Bingen was destroyed by British bombers in November, 1944.  The bombs destroyed the apartment whereJulius Seligmann and his wife and sons lived, so they moved to the Rochuskappelle, which the monks had opened for those who had lost their homes and their possessions.

On the reverse of the top print is written, “So that you always think of Bingen and your friends: ???-Kathi-Rainer und Christa Güttler. Bingen, Nov,11, 1974.”  The reverse of the second print says, “The loving Ize and his wife to remember Bingen from Gret and Kath Scharer.”   Based on the captions on these photographs from an album that belonged to Fred Michel, these were close friends.

Courtesy of the family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the family of Fred and Ilse Michel

scharers in album

These prints of Bingen before the war and the photographs of Fred’s friends made me think about what was lost during the war.  Not just all the millions of people who died, but also the landscape, the history, and, for the many who were lucky enough to emigrate, their homeland.  Perhaps these old prints and the pictures of his friends helped keep some of those happier memories alive for Fred Michel.

Here is a photograph of Fred Michel and his mother Franziska Seligmann Michel taken when Fred was a young boy, when he likely could never foresee leaving Germany and moving to a place called Scranton:

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel  Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel
Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Here is a photograph of Franziska’s headstone.  She died four years before Fred left for America.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

I believe these are photographs of Fred as a young man, taken in Munich in 1928, according to the caption:

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Although he is not identified in the photographs above, here is a photograph of Fred with Ilse and his children sometime around 1960, and it appears to be the same man many years later:

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

I was quite excited about these two portraits. I know who is in these photographs because of the inscriptions on the reverse:

August Seligmann

August Seligmann Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Rosa Goldmann Seligmann

Rosa Bergmann Seligmann Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

August was my great-great-granduncle, the brother of Bernard Seligman.  Here is a picture of Bernard, my great-great-grandfather.  Can you see any resemblance between the two brothers?

Bernard Seligman

Bernard Seligman

Rosa’s headstone is the one that was terribly defaced in the Gau-Algesheim cemetery.

closeup of Rosa Seligmann headstone

And here are the portraits that intrigue me the most.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Who are these people?

On the reverse of one of these is the following:

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

By editing and zooming and enlarging the script below the photographer’s information, I was able to see more clearly what was written there:

enhanced snip photo 2

I could decipher Seligmann there as well as von Gau-Algesheim to the right, but I was not able to read the word underneath Seligmann.  I posted the snip of this to the German Genealogy group on Facebook, and two people there confirmed that the word was the German word for “grandfather.”  One of the two also insisted that the name was Schafmann, not Seligmann, but I still am sure that it says Seligmann, and not only because I know that was the family’s name.  What do you think?

So if this man was a Seligmann and a grandfather, who was he?  Since the portrait belonged to Fred Michel, I would have assumed that it was his grandfather, that is, August Seligmann.  But the man in this portrait does not appear to be the same person as the man in the portrait above, which was clearly labeled August Seligmann.  So my thought/hope was that this was the grandfather of Fred’s mother Franzeska, who must have given these old pictures to her only child.  If that is the case, then these two portraits depict my great-great-great-grandparents, Moritz Seligmann and Babetta nee Schonfeld.

But Moritz was born in 1800 and Babetta in 1810.  I wondered whether there would even have been photography portraits like these in their lifetime.  I looked again at the label on the back of the photograph of Moritz and saw that the photographer was Hermann Emden of Frankfort.  I took a chance and googled the name, not expecting anything.  I was quite surprised and happy to get numerous hits for Hermann Emden.  His full name was Hermann Seligmann Emden, and he was a very well-known and successful Jewish photographer and artist.  Here is the entry from the Jewish Encyclopedia for Hermann Seligmann Emden:

German engraver and photographer; born at Frankfort-on-the-Main Oct. 18, 1815; died there Sept. 6, 1875. Early evincing a love for art and unable to afford an academic education, he entered an engraving and lithographic establishment as an apprentice, endeavoring especially to perfect himself in the artistic side of his work. In 1833 he left Frankfort and went to Hersfeld, Darmstadt, and Bonn. His portrait-engraving of Pope Pius IX. and his views of Caub, Bornhofen, and the Maxburg belong to this period. He also turned his attention to photography, then in its infancy, and was one of the first to establish a studio at Frankfort-on-the-Main. He made his reputation as photographer by the work “Der Dom zu Mainz und Seine Denkmäler in 36 Originalphoto-graphien,” to which Lübke refers several times in his “History of Art.” Emden was the first to compose artistic photographic groups (“Die Rastatter Dragoner,” “Die Saarbrücker Ulanen,” etc.), and was also among the first to utilize photography for the study of natural science.

You can see some of his more famous works here.

Once I saw that Emden died in 1875, I was even more certain that these were portraits of Moritz and Babetta Seligmann.  August would have only been 34 when Emden died, and the man in that portrait is quite clearly older than 34.  It has to be his father Moritz. Moritz and Babetta had to be quite comfortable, I would think, having their photographs taken by such a successful photographer.  I also wonder whether Emden was a relative.  Seligmann was a fairly common name, and it was often used as a first name as well as a surname.  But perhaps further research will reveal some familial connection.

But for me what is most important is that I am looking at the faces of my three-times great-grandparents.  I never ever thought that would be possible.