Life of Frieda Bensew Loewenherz, Part III: 1919-1975

By the end of 1918, World War I had ended, and Frieda Bensew and Emanuel Loewenherz had married in Chicago. Soon thereafter there were troubles at KW, the battery company where they had met in 1913:

The man who was heading the company, supposedly an old friend of Manek whom we trusted, in fact idolized, turned out to be an embezzler. Not alone did he cheat the firm out of huge sums, but also my hard earned savings which I had given him, believing his promises of a speedy return. Besides Manek had signed notes for him and it took a long time to pay these off. But it was not the money but the great disappointment in a man, a close associate for years who took such an advantage of us, his true friends.

Manek had a heart to heart talk with Mr. Paepcke, in case this gentleman should harbor any doubt about him, in which case he would resign. But Mr. Paepcke not only expressed his full confidence but made Manek the head of the company, which he built up to a very successful enterprise -earning the respect of all associates and the community. We worked hard and there were many obstacles to overcome, but Manek met the challenge with perseverance. His kindness and generosity knew no bounds as well as his understanding, from the lowest laborer to the chairman of the Board.

KW Battery letterhead. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Thus, as my mother would say, from bad came good. The loss of the money and the betrayal by their friend led to Emanuel’s promotion to president of KW and a long and successful career there.

Frieda and Emanuel’s son Walter was born on August 6, 1920, and when Walter was 20 months old, Frieda took him to Europe to meet her family as well as Emanuel’s family, whom she herself had never met.

Frieda Loewenherz and her infant son Walter, 1920.
Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda and Walter Loewenherz traveling to Europe 1922. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Uncle Julius [Mansbach, who had met her at the ship in Hamburg] took me all the way home to my parents in Melsungen. I can’t describe our emotions, they remain unforgettable! As I write this, more than 48 years later, I am reliving those days and weeks. Alas, the end was sad. My dear, gentle mother passed away, quietly and peacefully. My father, sister and everybody else who knew her said that her desire to see me and baby kept her alive and the fact that this wish was granted her alleviated my pain.

Breine Mansbach Bensew died on May 31, 1922, in Melsungen; she was 77 years old.1

After some weeks in Melsungen mourning with her family, Frieda took Walter to Vienna where she met for the first time Emanuel’s mother Charlotte and brothers Henryk and Josef, Henryk’s wife Rosa and their son Richard, and Josef’s wife Sofie and children Ada and Siegmund. After a wonderful visit with them, she and Walter visited her uncle Julius Mansbach and his wife Frieda (her cousin) and their son Alfred. She then returned to Chicago and her happy life with her husband.

In the years that followed, Frieda and Emanuel settled into family life in Chicago, continuing their trips to Europe and to the West to see family. Here they are in Denver in 1926 with Frieda’s brother Julius Bensev:

Julius Bensev and Loewenherz family in Denver 1926. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

In 1929, they bought a house in Winnetka, Illinois, that would become the long-time family home.

Loewenherz home in Winnetka. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Two months after moving in, Frieda’s cousin Alfred Mansbach, son of her uncle Julius and her cousin Frieda, came from Germany and moved into their home.

Walter was in 4th grade in Greeley School and we sent Alfred, although he was 19 and had finished the “Gymnasium” (High School) in Germany, to New Trier High school for one semester, to get an idea of our schools and help his English. The following year he entered Northwestern University as freshman.

Then in 1932, Emanuel’s nephew Siegmund, Josef’s son, moved into their home:

In 1932 Siegmund came to us from Vienna. By then Alfred had moved to Chicago and was working and also taking courses in air conditioning – an industry in its infancy. Siegmund went to Northwestern University School of Music and also to English classes.

In 1934, the family made another trip to Europe—to France and Italy as well as Vienna. Here are Frieda and Emanuel in Venice:

Frieda and Emanuel Loewenherz in Venice, 1934
Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

But Hitler had taken power in Germany, and there were serious concerns about his intentions.

It was the spring of 1934 and Hitler had been in power in Germany a whole year. Manek was very apprehensive but [his brother] Josef did not think he would ever attack Austria. – How right Manek was – he pleaded then with the folks to get out of the country, to no avail. Grandma Charlotte could not even think of it- at her age. Josef was still convinced that Hitler would leave Austria alone – how the picture changed in a few years.

The family traveled on to Danzig and to Germany:

The next day we were welcomed at the Danzig Station by [Emanuel’s brother] Henryk. There we saw the first Bravo-shirts — I almost felt sick to my stomach. Danzig was already under the influence of Hitler, with Hitler youth, marching and Nazis in the higher echelons – Henryk lived in Oliva which was Polish a short train ride away. We were happy to be together but that cloud of Nazism hung over us like a dark shadow.

Dr. Greg from Cologne came to see us there … to persuade us to come to Cologne and be his guests. I was frank to state that I felt uneasy about it and feared that he might get into difficulties for having Jewish guests. He answered, “Nobody is going to dictate to me whom I can invite.” So we promised to come. -The days passed pleasantly – we did not fathom then that it would be our last visit together– We made a stopover at Berlin and visited my nephew Alfred [Stern, son of Frieda’s sister Roschen] and his wife Rita. It seems all we saw was uniforms and Nazi banners. – We were glad to leave although Cologne was not much better.

Since Frieda mentioned her nephew Alfred but not her sister Roschen, I have to wonder whether Roschen was no longer living by the spring of 1934. It remains the one big unsolved mystery of my Bensew relatives—the fate of Roschen Bensew Stern.

Three years later, Frieda lost her beloved uncle, Julius Mansbach, who had returned with his wife Frieda to the US just a few years before to join their son Alfred in Chicago.

In the spring of 1937 we planned to go to New Orleans for Walter’s Easter vacation. We did sightseeing for 2 days, then a telegram arrived from Alfred that his father had passed away suddenly. The shock was awful – He and Frieda had seen us off at the station and had all kinds of plans for our return. We took the freight train back to Chicago – Frieda [Bensew Mansbach] was numb with grief and I just could not accept the thought never to hear Uncle Julius’ voice again. He was so gay when we left, had all kinds of little packages for me “to open on the train,” he loved surprises – I don’t want to dwell on this sad time.

Meanwhile, things in Europe were getting more and more ominous.

Conditions in Germany were getting worse for the Jews and we made out many affidavits for family members. The first to come was [Emanuel’s nephew] Richard  in July 1937 – he had finished his studies at medical school and was interning in Vienna for a short while before.–He-stayed with us until he got an internship at a hospital in Chicago.

In March 1938, catastrophe struck Austria; Hitler marched into Vienna! The persecution of the Jews cannot be described. Josef together with all the leading members of the community was jailed for weeks. It became imperative to get Siegmund out as quickly as possible, perhaps with Ada. [Josef’s children] [Siegmond arrived in] July… Ada arrived in the U.S. in August. ….

In August 1939 Hitler invaded Poland and occupied it. Luckily, Micha [son of Emanuel’s brother Henryk] who was born in Danzig, could get a visa and he left the end of August. While en route, the war in Poland broke out but he was safe and arrived in New York on Sept. 3.- Manek and Walter met him, a 13 year old [boy] … It was a new experience to have another adolescent in the house and under such circumstances. We knew how hard it was for his parents to part with him and we did everything to make him feel at home. Since he did not speak English, it was fortunate that we could make his adjustment easier by speaking German to him and Walter was a real big brother to him.

Emanuel and Frieda had done everything to rescue the Loewenherz relatives in Europe and had largely succeeded. The children of Josef and Henryk were all safe—Siegmund, Ada, Richard, and Micha (who became Michael in the US).

But tragically they could not rescue Emanuel’s brother Henryk and his wife Rosa:

Many people fled without visas in small boats to Denmark which was so close and Denmark was most hospitable to Jews and hid them from the Nazis. But Henryk wanted to have official permission and our efforts, as well as Josef’s from Vienna were without success. And then came their notice that they were leaving for Cracow- From then on news were scarce, a card now and then. Finally, when we received permission from the British Consulate for a transit visa to England, it did not reach them any more – they had left Cracow- destination unknown.

Emanuel’s other brother Josef and his wife Sofie were still in Vienna, trying to get out. Then in December 1941, the US entered World War II.

Our lives were changed. Manek worked harder as war orders had to be filled, and restrictions in the economic appeared soon, although there was no food shortage. We could not communicate with the folks in Vienna. In January or perhaps later (I am not certain about the exact date) we were at war with Germany too) and the gigantic war machine was in full swing with all the heartaches, anxieties and hopes for an early peace– Everybody worked for the Red Cross- I knitted day and night, helmets, gloves with trigger fingers, scarves, sweaters, etc. ….

Walter knew he was going to be drafted. Meanwhile he continued school, hoping to finish. He had become friends with Bea, also at Northwestern U. in the School of Education. It was not too long until the friendship ripened and the outcome was their engagement after Bea graduated in June. Walter graduated in August. We were happy about it, although we knew that Walter would soon be drafted. It happened in Sept. and he was sent for basic training to Fort Lawton, Oklahoma. … We had, in addition the worry about the folks in Vienna.

Walter and Emanuel Loewenherz c. 1942. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

On top of all this stress, or maybe because of it, Emanuel suffered a serious heart attack in December, 1942. Fortunately he recovered, though he and Frieda could not attend Walter and Bea’s wedding in Oklahoma on March 20, 1943.

One had to accept this too – we were happy and grateful for Manek’s recovery and it was only a short time when Walter was ordered to the Officer’s Training School outside of Washington. Bea rented a room in Washington and did research work on her Master’s thesis. In June Walter was made 2nd Lieut. in G2 (Intelligence) and received a week’s leave which they spent in Winnetka. His first assignment was at the Brooklyn Army Base and they were fortunate to get an apartment there. … As he was specially trained because of his knowledge of German we figured that he would be sent to Europe, but he was sent to the Pacific in October.

Frieda, Emanuel, Bea, and Walter Loewenherz in NY before he was sent to the Pacific. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

The war ended in Europe in April, 1945, and then in the Pacific that August.  It was then that they learned the tragic fate of Emanuel’s brother Henryk and his wife Rosa:

What we dreaded was true – they were sent to the extermination camp.

According to the Yad Vashem database, Henryk and Rosa were murdered at Auschwitz in 1942.

But Frieda was overjoyed to learn that somehow Josef and his wife Sofie had survived the war. (She did not go into details about how they managed to escape from the Nazi death machine.) Josef and Sofie came to the US and were reunited with their children, who were now grown adults.

After the war, life returned to peacetime conditions, and in the years that followed, Frieda and Emanuel were blessed with many grandchildren and a meaningful and joyful life. Walter worked with his father at KW, eventually taking over the company and freeing Emanuel and Frieda with more time to travel in retirement.

Frieda and Emanuel Loewenherz 1962. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda Loewenherz 1963. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda was heartbroken when her beloved Manek died on December 22, 1963.

My world had crumbled and I did not know how to cope with what was left – then I did realize that Manek would want me to go on, as he so often emphasized in our conversations in our happy days. We used to discuss life from every angle and every phase of it and I admired his philosophy and his clear, human outlook. But above all was his deep love which I shared for over 45 years – how many people are that fortunate? And that helps me to go on, it is something precious and all my own.

Frieda did go on and enjoyed her extended family for another twelve years. She died on December 17, 1975, at the age of 89.2 Here is one final photograph of my cousin Frieda, one that I think reflects all her beauty, inside and out:

Frieda Bensew Loewenherz. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Reflecting back on her life after reading this memoir several times now, I continue to be moved to tears and feel goosebumps as I do. Frieda and Emanuel lived an incredible life together.  Theirs was a true love story.

But they were much more than that.  Their love was not limited to love for each other, but for their entire extended family—the Mansbachs, the Bensevs, and the Loewenherzs. They made sure to stay connected to them all despite all the distances and obstacles. And they did what they could to rescue their family members in Europe and opened their home over and over again to those beloved family members. Despite all the evil they saw—the discrimination they personally faced during World War I and the hateful destruction of Jewish life in Europe under the Nazis—they remained positive, life-affirming, and loving.


All excerpts from Frieda Loewenherz’s memoir and all the photographs in this post are published with the permission of Franz Loewenherz, her great-grandson. My deep gratitude to Franz for his generosity.


  1. Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 4684,
    Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 
  2. Ancestry.com. Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 

Life of Frieda Bensew Loewenherz, Part II: 1913-1918

In my last post, I shared some excerpts from my cousin Frieda Bensew Loewenherz’s memoir, covering the years from her childhood in Germany, her immigration to the US in 1907, and her life in the US up through 1912. We left off with Frieda’s decision to take a new job, a decision that changed her life. Here is how she described her new workplace:

It was an importing firm, headed by an Austrian, Dr. Sokal, a brilliant man, Dr. of chemistry. . . . My work was interesting especially since a new project was to be worked out. It entailed the representation of a German firm in Cologne manufacturing accumulation plates for lead batteries and the import of them. I carried on the German correspondence, translating into English formulas, etc. and finally the contract.

But perhaps of more interest to her than her work was the man she met at her new job:

After a few weeks a new member of the firm arrived from Europe where he had been traveling and visiting his family in Leinberg and Vienna, etc. He was an engineer, Mr. Emanuel Loewenherz. Little did I think at our first meeting that I had met my destiny!

For a while their outward relationship was “strictly business,” but it seems that from the beginning their feelings were more personal than that.

In those days there was much more formality. We were both European born and reared and the rules were even more strict. Nobody could help being impressed by Mr. L’s bearings, his impeccable manners and old world politeness. And he was startlingly handsome! He was a graduate of the technical University of Berlin, widely travelled and very cultured as was his background. Before going to Europe he had been for many years with the Western Electric Co., also held important positions in New York. Little me was awed by this cosmopolitan man of the world! Now and then we had little conversations not related to business and I thought that would be as far as it would ever go….

Emanuel Loewenherz. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

And then things changed:

But in the spring of 1914 when I was again planning to see my parents and was given a leave of absence, Mr. L. invited me to dinner as a “”farewell party” at the Bismarck Hotel where he was at home, the owners being his friends. I was so excited I could not eat! The excellent dishes, the wines, ordered by a real connoisseur practically remained untouched by me. But we had a fine evening and I was walking on air!

My friend Clara A. and two other girls who were traveling with me had the usual send off at the station, friends, relatives, a regular delegation. “He” arrived with a great bunch of red roses and created quite a sensation. He was also the only one who did not kiss me goodbye — One of the girls whispered to me: “Frieda, red roses, that means something!” All I answered was “don’t be silly.”  I think I even meant it at that time- I was so unsophisticated! And then, on the boat, there was a special delivery letter awaiting me and a little later, a beautiful fruit basket was delivered to my cabin. I was speechless – Of course, I wrote him a warm letter of thanks, but rather formal – it was the trend of the times.

Frieda then went off and spent the summer of 1914 in Germany with her parents and was pursued by at least two other men. But her summer of family and fun was darkened by the threat of pending war. She wrote:

It was June 28, we were sitting at a table of a sidewalk cafe when suddenly [newspaper] “extras” appeared. We grabbed one — the headline said: “Austrian heir to the throne, Prince Ferdinand and wife, assassinated at Seraguro[Sarajevo]!” The shock was terrific, and we knew at once that this would mean war — there was, of course, hope it could be averted….the war clouds grew darker each day — the German press told us very little and only from their angle. Propaganda against Russia was vicious. And then came partial mobilization – and with it the spy craze, suspicion and all ugliness. The railroad, bridges, etc. were guarded by civilians pressed into service and rumors flew around day and night. On July 28 war started by Austria against Russia was declared and on August 2nd England declared war against Germany–World War I was on! Germans were a war loving people, their enthusiasm was boundless, they thought the war would be over that Christmas and, of course, they would be victorious.

My brother [Julius Bensev] and I had our own thoughts and personal concern: how to get back to America! We had return passage on the Hamburg America Line and the British blockade was tight. Our parents were worried for our sakes — we worried about them. Anxious weeks followed: We spent much time at the railroad station, to watch the mobilization. The military trains, westward and eastward bound, rolled in day and night, only about 15 minutes apart….The local women and young girls would meet the trains offering all kinds of food – this happened at every stop. Meanwhile the young men of my hometown had all left — each knowing where to report to his unit — I waved to many as they rode by, some never to return.

This month of August also brought in the first trains of wounded and prisoners of war. Of course the papers only reported the wonderful victories and, as if it were the most logical thing to do, the invasion of Belgium. There was no radio or TV in those days, and the papers brought only the German version, and only the censored.

At last we got word that it was feasible to reach Holland from where we hoped to get passage to the United States. To say goodbye to our parents was even worse this time under prevailing circumstances and they were very worried about our safety.

After several delays and obstacles, Julius and Frieda were able to board a ship from Amsterdam to New York, crowded with many others seeking to leave Europe.

It took us ten days to reach New York — it is hard to describe my emotions when I saw the statue of Liberty! There were tears of joy and I was not ashamed of mine.

After a visit with her relatives in Philadelphia, Frieda returned home to Chicago and to work and to Emanuel Loewenherz:

I did not do much work the first few days, and I must confess that I was rather excited at seeing “Mr. L” again! As he stated much much later when we had become friends that he was concerned when and how I would be able to get out of Germany. …. Our personal relationship kept growing although still rather formal. It was the trend of times and our upbringing! ….

We eventually addressed each other by our first names but with the prefix “Mr.” and “Miss”: how times have changed — I was so careful not to show my feelings and interpreted his as just being friendly. I blushed so easily in those days! During the day it was, of course, all business but when we went out which we did quite often, to dinner, plays, and concerts, I thrilled at the sight of him — but held myself in check and would not for the world reveal my feelings. I knew he was not indifferent either! His looks and attitude spoke volumes and we became better and more intimate friends.

We had a great many interesting discussions and occasional differences which added spice to our friendship. He later confessed that he led deliberately up to those to tease me and to see how well I could control myself! I had a flair for poetry and often after a particularly stimulating evening I would write a little note in verse to him. And so the years passed, filled also with anxiety about our families in Vienna and Germany.

Emanuel Loewenherz at KW Battery. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

But things became more difficult for Frieda and Emanuel and many, many others when the US entered the war against Germany and Austria in the spring of 1917:

It is impossible for me to describe the conditions here, hatred of the “Huns” or as the French called the Germans “Boches”– The history books have recorded all and I will contain myself to relating personal events. As “enemy aliens” we were both under suspicion. The amateurish American Protective League did in their zeal more harm than good. My room was ransacked while I was at the U.S. Dept. being questioned about my father’s activities, etc. My “Crime” consisted of getting an occasional note from a friend in Denmark who was in touch with my parents and my answers to them relayed by her. Just a few words to know they were alive. Finally I was released and returned to the office.

Manek [Emanuel’s nickname] was even worse off, he was being shadowed and every so often when he came back to the office after a business call he would tell me about the man following him. Finally he went to see Mr. Herman Paepcke who had financed the KW (and where I went every week for the payroll). He was one of the most prominent German-Americans in Chicago, a veteran of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. A very cultured, fine man with whom I had many interesting conversations. In fact he would have liked me to be his secretary but for understandable reasons I wanted to stay with KW. Mr. Paepcke arranged a meeting of a member of the Amer. Protective League with Manek at his office and things were explained in a most satisfactory way. Manek’s feelings were completely against Germany from the start of the war and the suspicions that he was a “spy” ridiculous. Mr. P. ended the interview by saying “aren’t we all Americans?” And: “Mr Loewenherz, you shall not be molested any more” –

Although I had learned about the anti-German discrimination that existed in this country during and after World War I, reading about it from the perspective of someone who experienced it directly—a young woman who had been living in the US for ten years and whose brothers had already become US citizens—was much more disturbing than reading about it in history books.

Despite those dark experiences, Frieda and Emanuel’s romance continued and deepened.

So things went on with us in a more normal way. Of course we did not speak German on the street or public places, only when we were absolutely sure that we could not be overheard. And there were things that we felt we could only express in that language. It became more and more intimate! I knew I was madly in love with him and felt that he was not indifferent. (Anything but — his looks and actions, yes, and his kisses when he took me home after an evening date expressed his feelings only too well). As he told me later he was in love with me long before I had any inkling but was not ready to declare himself. We were both mature people and our friendship was not based on Saturday night dates, we faced every day life in all its aspects together, war having a special meaning. Love can conquer all and it did!

On February 5, 1918, the fifth anniversary of their first meeting at KW, they became engaged to marry, and on May 4, 1918, they were married.

Emanuel and Frieda Loewenherz. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Here is Frieda’s alien registration card dated sometime after she married Emanuel as well as a permit issued to her allowing her to live and work in Chicago but with the restriction that she was prohibited from the water front zone:

Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Emanuel became a US citizen in December, 1918, and as his wife Frieda automatically also became a US citizen. The war had ended a month before, and life returned to normal for the newlyweds.

But life would again become more complicated, as we will see in the final post based on Frieda’s memoir.


All excerpts from Frieda Loewenherz’s memoir and all the photographs in this post are published with the permission of Franz Loewenherz, her great-grandson. My deep gratitude to Franz for his generosity.

The Life of Frieda Bensew Loewenherz, Part I: 1885-1912

In the last post I published before Thanksgiving, I wrote about the two daughters of Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew, Roschen and Frieda. They were my grandmother’s second cousins, my second cousins, twice removed. They were the great-granddaughters of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hinka Alexander, my three-times great-grandparents.

After publishing that post on November 16, I received a wonderful treasure trove of pictures and documents and information from Frieda Bensew’s great-grandson, Franz Loewenherz, my fourth cousin, once removed. Among those shared items was an almost 60 page memoir written by Frieda in 1970 when she was in her eighties (with an addendum written in 1972).

Reading that memoir moved me to tears—not because Frieda had a hard or sad life. To the contrary. She wrote about a life filled primarily with love and happiness—parents who adored her, a marriage filled with deep love, an adoring son and his family, and an extended family that she cared for and about and who cared for and about her. Of course, there were heartbreaking losses and difficult challenges, but throughout her memoir, Frieda’s love of live and her gratitude for all she was given came shining through.

With the permission of her great-grandson Franz, I want to share some of this memoir and also photographs of Frieda, her husband Emanuel Loewenherz, and their son Walter.  Not only is this a touching life story, it has value not only for what it reveals of family history but for its insights into the times in which Frieda lived.

As noted in my earlier post, Frieda was the youngest child of Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew, born February 21, 1886, in Melsungen, Germany.1 Here are two photographs of Frieda as a young child, one with her brothers Max and Heine and one alone:

Heine, Frieda, and Max Bensew, c. 1890. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda Bensew c. 1890. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Her memoir gives a sense of her happy childhood in Melsungen:

[Melsungen] was situated in a valley on the river Fulda, surrounded by beautiful woods. A climb of 15 minutes from my home would take me into the thick of them. Oak, Linden and Pine exuded that spicy fragrance remembered for all time. Of course in the summer when school was out this was my favorite outing. But I had also some duties to perform, not just picnic, and that was berry picking! With my friends I would start out in the morning, provided with sandwiches and a pail. It was blueberry time and our ambition was to come home with a full pail. Sitting under trees in a blueberry patch, with the sun filtering down, bees humming around us, we often had a very extended lunch hour! Our dessert were berries eaten right from the bushes. We had to hurry to finish our work as we had to be home before sundown, picking wild flowers on the way. My mother would be pleased with the crop to be used for cake, preserves and jelly. She was not so pleased with the condition of my white undies, full of squashed blueberry stains!!

Winter’s great recreation was ice skating on the river. The ice was so clear, it looked green and one could see the plant life beneath it, moving according to the current. The surface was like glass and I took many tumbles! In those days there were no snow or skating outfits. I wore woolen petticoats, long knitted black wool stockings, flannel pants. When I got home my petticoats and dress usually would stand out like a ballerina’s lampshade – frozen stiff! My mother would receive me with a warm drink and a piece of black bread after getting into dry clothes and warming myself at the stove. There were many simple pleasures, another sledding down a hill or when my father would take me along in the sleigh drawn by our horse, with hot bricks at our feet. The floor of the sleigh covered thick with straw. When we stopped at a village inn, my father would let me take a sip of his grag!

Frieda Bensew c. 1898
Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda seemed to have a special relationship with her uncle, Julius Mansbach, her mother Breine’s brother who had, like all of Breine’s siblings, immigrated to the United States. But Julius returned to Germany and visited Frieda when she was fourteen years old or in about 1900.

My happiest recollections are, from the time I was 14 when my Uncle Julius, my mother’s youngest brother, came to visit us from America. He took me along on so many day trips to historical places, one of them the famous Wartburg, where Martin Luther was imprisoned and where he translated the Bible. And, of course, it is the setting of Wagner’s opera “Tannhaeuser.” I learned history on authentic grounds. With my uncle I saw my first American circus! Barnum and Bailey, with Buffalo Bill and his wild-west show were touring Germany then and we saw the performance in Kassel. The clowns told their jokes in English, naturally, and my uncle would translate them to me. The three ring performances left me breathless, as did the riding skill of the Indians. This was an unforgettable summer. I was so grateful to my uncle, not alone for providing so many pleasures of various kinds for me but he also was the one who taught me quite a few English expressions and the first rudiments of the language.

Frieda’s ongoing relationship with Julius as well as her uncle Louis Mansbach and grandmother Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach as well as her use of English can be seen in the postcard she sent on September 21, 1902. The photograph is of Frieda and, I believe, her uncle Julius, probably taken while he was visiting the family in Melsungen.

Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Some wonderful people in the Jekkes Engaged Worldwide in Social Networking group on Facebook helped me transcribe and translate the German parts of the card:

On the right side: Dated 21-9-02 (September 21, 1902) from Melsungen:

Dearest Grandmama [Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach] and Uncle Julius [Mansbach],

Unsere Karte von Cassel aus habt Ihr bei dieser Zeit hoffentlich erhalten, morgen ist es wieder ein heisser+ nasser Tag, wo Willi + Heine uns verlassen. Was denkt Ihr vom nebenstehendem Bild? Ist es nicht beautiful? Ende dieser Woche erwarte ich sicher einen grossen Brief von dir, sowie die Ansichtskarte.

(Translated: I hope you have received our card from Cassel by this time. Tomorrow will again be a hot and wet day when Willi + Heine leave us. What do you think of the picture on the other side? Isn’t it beautiful? At the end of the week I expect a long letter from you as well as the picture postcard.)

With best love and kisses, your Fritz

I believe Fritz was Frieda’s nickname.

Underneath Frieda’s message in a different handwriting is this note from her brothers Willi and Heine:

Meine Lieben haltet den Jontef Cholent warm.

Translation: My dears, keep the holiday Cholent warm.

Willi & Heine

I believe that Willi and Heine were sailing to the US, Willi to return having lived in the US since 1885 and Heine coming for the first time: his naturalization card states that he arrived on September 30, 1902.2;I had to smile when I checked and saw that Rosh Hashanah that year started on the next night, October 1. So Willi and Heine must have spent the holidays with the family in Philadelphia. (For those who do not know, cholent is traditional Jewish dish—a stew that usually has meat and vegetables. Here is a typical recipe.)

Along the margin of the right side of the card, Frieda wrote:

Hast du die K. abgeliefert? Wenn nicht, bekommst du keine wieder von mir.

Translation: Did you deliver the K? [card, I assume] If not, you won’t get another from me.

The left side is mostly in English; at the top it says “Best regards to Uncle Louis, Aunt Cora, and Rebecca.” This would be referring to her mother’s brother Louis Mansbach and his family.

Under the picture it says: “Im “Fidelio” war es grossartig [“Fidelio was fabulous]. If you, dear uncle, come again, I will sing the “Arien” [arias] for you. Don’t stay long! Otherwise you are well.” I assume this was directed to her dear uncle Julius Mansbach.

Frieda received a good education at a school in Kassel and had a passion for music and art. And, as she wrote, she wanted to see the world, in particular, America. By the time she was 21 in 1907, all her brothers had immigrated to America, and she also decided to move across the world from her birth place:

It was only natural that I wanted to go to America. Most of our family lived here, from three generations back. My grandparents [Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach] had come to Philadelphia where most of their children lived and some in the west, in Colorado. My mother [Breine] was the only one who remained in Germany as she had a family and my father refused to leave. When the time came for me to investigate, I did so with the promise of my parents that they would follow after I had familiarized myself with my new surroundings. My disappointment was great when my father declared he changed his mind. They did not wish me to return, however, insisting that I had a right to my own life. That is how loving and understanding and unselfish they were.

This paragraph touched me deeply— thinking of Frieda’s courage and determination and her parents’ respect for it. And yet I also could feel how torn both she and they must have been about this separation.

And so, as I wrote before, Frieda left home in 1907 when she was 21 and joined her brothers and other family in the US. First, she settled in Denver where some of her brothers as well other Mansbach cousins were living, and once again she demonstrated her determination and independence:

After a few months of visits with my family in Denver I had acquired quite a vocabulary and felt able to enter an American School of business. There I studied besides English, correspondence, shorthand and light bookkeeping and typing. I knew German shorthand, and the switch was not easy. It required extreme concentration as, in addition, I did not know business language and form either. Well, I made it and kept step with my class, all American born. I finished even ahead of time and got my first job shortly after. And what was the requirement? German shorthand! The irony of it all! 90% of the dictation was in German and 10% in English.

From what I gathered in the memoir and from what I know from the 1910 census, this job was in Chicago, and as we saw, in 1910, Frieda’s brothers Julius, Max, and Heine were also living in Chicago. Frieda wrote about these days as a single young woman in Chicago with great joy—describing activities and trips she took with her friends and also a trip to Philadelphia to see her relatives. This trip probably took place in 1912 because Frieda notes that her cousin Reta Dannenberg was engaged, and Reta was married in December 1912:3

My Aunt Hannah [Mansbach Dannenberg] and Uncle and their three children made our visit of a few days most enjoyable, Rita the oldest was engaged, Arthur a medical student at the U. of Penn. And Katrinka, the youngest, showed us the sights. We had a lot of fun! Then on to New York. My uncle Julius-who was in this country on business from Germany (he had returned there a few years before with his wife, my cousin Frieda on account of her parents’ wishes) entertained us royally.

In this one paragraph I learned three things. First, that Frieda and presumably the other Bensews were very much in touch with their mother’s Mansbach relatives in the US. Secondly, that the Frieda Bensew who married Julius Mansbach was in fact related to this Frieda Bensew and her family (though I still don’t know how). And thirdly, I learned why Julius Mansbach had returned to live in Germany—to satisfy the wishes of his in-laws.

Frieda Bensew as a young woman. Date unknown. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

From New York, Frieda and a friend named Rose sailed to Germany where they spent the summer of 1912. Frieda was delighted to be with her parents and sister Roschen, but the separation at the end of that visit was difficult. Frieda wrote:

And then came the time to say good bye again. It was not easy – My parents were so kind and understanding.They realized that I had outgrown my old environment and that my opportunities for a fuller life were so much better in America, the land which I loved and do to this day. Perhaps, being foreign born, gave me even a deeper appreciation of the freedom and privileges so many seem to take for granted. My parents and I were grateful for the time we spent together and kept up a brave front at parting.

She stopped in Philadelphia on her way home and was invited to stay for her cousin Reta’s wedding that coming December. She had a wonderful long visit there, and then after the wedding she received a letter from her brother Julius about a new job opportunity in Chicago, so she left to start her new job. That decision was life-changing, as we will see in the next post.


All excerpts from Frieda Loewenherz’s memoir and all the photographs in this post are published with the permission of Franz Loewenherz, her great-grandson. My deep gratitude to Franz for his generosity.

 

 


  1.  Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 4574, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 
  2.  “Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-FGS7-2?cc=1838804&wc=M6TM-Q6X%3A165129401 : 20 May 2014), B-524 to B-550 Gustov Joseph > image 983 of 6652; citing NARA microfilm publication M1285 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). 
  3. Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951, Marriage Year: 1912, Marriage License Number: 289763 

The Langer Brothers: Lives Devoted to Photography

Amelia Mansbach and her husband Henry Langer died in the 1920s and were survived by their two sons, my grandmother’s second cousins Joseph and Lester, both of whom were career photographers, Joseph for The Denver Post and Lester as a dark room technician. We saw that in 1930, Joseph was still living in Denver,1 but Lester was living in Kansas City.2 Neither brother was married at that time. Lester was a lodger in what appears to have been a large boarding house in Kansas City, and Joseph was living in a hotel in Denver. This post will look at their lives in more depth.

It was a challenge to learn much more about Lester, the younger of the two brothers. In 1940 he was still living in Kansas City, working as a photographer, and living at the Washington Hotel. According to the census record, he was married, but I found no other indication of a marriage, and he is not listed with another woman named Langer at the Washington Hotel.3 I believe this was an enumerator mistake, or Lester was lying. After all, he had listed his mother as his wife on his World War I draft registration. Lester was still living at the Washington Hotel two years later when he registered for the World War II draft (he was then 58 years old). And he was still working as a photographer—for Guy E. Smith.

Lester Langer, World War II draft registration, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147; Box or Roll Number: 966.  Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

I could find no other information about Lester in his years in Kansas City except for this news story about him being the victim of a robbery in 1930:

“Loot Is His By Priority,” Kansas City Star, March 11, 1930, p. 22

The only other reference I could initially find for Lester was an entry on FindAGrave indicating that he died on March 19, 1960, and was buried at Temple Israel Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.4 I contacted the synagogue affiliated with the cemetery where Lester was buried, and the archivist there told me that there are no other Langers buried there and that Lester was not a member of the congregation. I was not sure where else to look to learn more about Lester and how he ended up being buried in Memphis.

So I  joined the Tennessee Genealogy group on Facebook, and a very helpful member named Shannon located Lester’s death certificate, which opened the doors to the rest of his story.

Lester Langer death certificate, “Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9DL-CF56?cc=1417505&wc=34DM-BZS%3A1580614801 : 15 October 2018), 007552516 > image 33 of 2310; Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.

Lester had died in the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, but was residing at the time of his death in the tiny village of Ridgely, Tennessee, located about 100 miles north of Memphis. Ridgely’s population in 1960 was 1,464. Why was Lester living there? His death certificate indicated that he was still a photographer working as a darkroom technician.

I contacted the local newspaper for Ridgely, The Lake County Banner, and they kindly sent me a copy of Lester’s obituary:

Lake County Banner, March 24, 1960, p. 5

From the obituary I learned that Lester had moved to Ridgely, Tennessee in 1954, just six years before he died, to work with W.L. Glover, a “nationally known livestock photographer,” who had purchased the photography business of Lester’s Kansas City employer, Guy E. Smith (the name mentioned on Lester’s World War II draft registration card) in 1952. The obituary said that Lester had worked for Smith for twenty years, so dating back to 1930 or so, when he was living in Kansas City.

Then I contacted one of W.L. Glover’s sons, Jere, who remembered Lester well and told me that Lester had also spent time in Hollywood where he did photography developing and printing for movie studios. From what I already knew about Lester’s career, I assume that he must have been in Hollywood sometime after 1920, when he was still in Denver, and before 1930, when he was already in Kansas City. Those must have been exciting days in the early years of the movie business. Unfortunately Jere did not have more details as he said that Lester had not talked very much about his Hollywood days.

Jere also told me that Lester “was well liked by everyone in the town. He had a good sense of humor and was a truly nice person.” He thought that Lester was probably the only Jew in the area.  Nevertheless, Lester had held on to his Jewish identity. His funeral was officiated by a rabbi, and he was buried in a Jewish cemetery. I found it particularly touching that a small number of residents of Ridgely, including the Glovers, traveled all the way to Memphis to attend the funeral, as noted in the obituary.

So from knowing almost nothing about Lester, I now have a fairly complete picture of Lester Langer’s life, thanks to the generosity of Shannon from the Tennessee Genealogy group, the Lake County Banner, Temple Israel synagogue in Memphis, and Jere Glover.

Fortunately, it was easier to find information about Lester’s older brother Joseph—largely because Joseph worked for a newspaper. In fact, I was able to find news coverage about Joseph dating back as early as 1899 when he was just twenty years old and won an amateur photography contest with a photograph of the then-governor of Colorado laying the corner stone for a hospital in Denver:

“Joseph Langer Wins The Leslie Prize,” The Denver Post, September 3, 1899, p. 5

Not long after that, Joseph became a staff photographer for The Denver Post. In 1904 he took this photograph:

The Denver Post, January 2, 1904, p. 14

And in 1908 Joseph did this full page layout of photographs of the mayor of Denver, Robert Speer:

The Denver Post, January 19, 1908, p. 46

He also took this photograph of the Denver Post editorial board:

And here is a street photograph he took of a couple hoping to marry:

The Denver Post, July 10, 1909, p. 3

Obviously, these are not very good quality reproductions of the photographs as they are scans of photographs published in old newspapers, but they give a sense of the variety and volume of Joseph’s contribution to the newspaper.

Sometimes Joe Langer was himself the subject of articles, as in this 1911 article written when he broke his leg after slipping on ice. The newspaper wrote of the irony of him injuring himself this way in light of the risks he had taken for his job:

Denver Post, December 20, 1911, p. 7

The strangeness of the ways of fate is here again emphasized.  All newspaperdom familiar with Langer’s record as one of the pluckiest of press photographers and his hair-breadth escapes in the pursuance of his arduous and hazardous vocation, his daring exploits and his proverbial good luck while on perilous ventures—and now a slip and a trifling fall has laid him up in pain for perhaps six weeks!

The article then described some of his feats, including climbing up on the scaffolding on the spire of the new cathedral to get a birds-eye view of Denver and another time climbing up on the tower of a newly completed building, standing in the wind as it swayed, to get another shot of the city.

As noted in an earlier post, Joe served in the armed services intelligence division during World War I. In 1924 the Post published a whole article about Joe, celebrating his 22nd anniversary with the Denver Post:

Denver Post, March 3, 1924, p. 6

This article also heaped high praise on Joe for his work:

“Joe” has been struck by lightning, burned by flashlight powder, his camera has been smashed, he’s been cursed and lauded, rebuffed and welcomed, but he’s never lost his enthusiasm for the press photography fame, and if there is a better newscamera man in the world. The Post hasn’t been able to find him.

… In his twenty two years as The Post’s news photographer, Langer has exposed approximately 90,000 negatives.  If those negatives were placed end to end they would make a glass strip all the way from Denver to Arvada.

The news of Denver, as Langer has seen it thru his cameras, would fill a library. And the most interesting stories, because they are the inside and the most intimate stories of the big happenings of those one score and two years, would far surpass what has been printed.

The article also described some of Joe’s many challenging experiences over the years.

After his mother Amelia died in 1926, Joe retired and began to travel the world.5 In 1930 Joe Langer was one of a number of journalists sailing on the SS Resolute, when this photograph was taken:

Embed from Getty Images

I found one manifest for Joe on the SS Resolute in 1929,6 and Joe also traveled to South America in February 1930 on the SS Samaria,7 and in August he traveled on the SS St. Louis to Hamburg Germany.8 It is thus not surprising that I could not find Joe on the 1930 US census.

While searching on Google for more information about Joseph Langer and for more examples of his photographs, I ran across this image:

Embed from Getty Images

According to the caption with the photograph on the Getty Images website, “JAN 20 1933; Honeymooners are Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Langer of Denver, shown here as they reached New York recently after an eighteen-day cruise of the West Indies. For many years Langer was a photographer on The Denver Post staff. His bride was Miss Bertha Courlander of Denver. Following their wedding here they sailed from New York Dec. 17 on the S.S. Reliance of the Hamburg-American line and spent the holidays sailing the Caribbean sea. (Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images)”

Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate an actual marriage record for Joseph and Bertha or even a newspaper article, despite a search done by the Denver Public Library of issues of the Denver Post for that time period. From the caption, it appears that they were married in Denver shortly before departing on December 17, 1932, for their honeymoon cruise to the West Indies. It also appears that Joe was no longer working for the Denver Post, as the caption described him as someone who “[f]or many years… was a photographer” for the Post. (Emphasis added.)

Joe was 53 in December, 1932, when he married Bertha. She was 36. Bertha was born in Chicago on August 11, 1896, to David Courlander and Tillie Oppenheim. Her father was a dry goods jobber in 1900.9 In 1910, Bertha and her parents and siblings were living in Indianapolis where her father was now a woolens merchant.10 Then in 1920 Bertha was a patient in the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives in Denver. She was 24 and listed her occupation as a stenographer for a lawyer. Bertha was also, however, included in the enumeration of her parents’ household in Detroit in 1920, where she was listed without an occupation. Since both enumerations are dated in January 1920, I am not sure how to reconcile this, but my guess is that her parents included her because they still considered her residence to be with them even if she was a hospital patient elsewhere.11

But Bertha Courlander stayed in Denver. She is listed in the 1922 Denver directory as residing at 1356 Pearl Street, in 1924 at 1440 Washington Street, and in 1928, 1929, and 1930, at the Hotel Cosmopolitan, the same hotel where Joe Langer resided.12 It was probably there that Joe and Bertha met. In 1933 they are listed together in the Denver directory as living at 2737 East 13th Avenue in Denver, and Joe was working as an agent for a steamship company. They later moved to 3535 East 17th Avenue in Denver.13

Sadly, their marriage did not last very long because Joe’s life was cut short on August 29, 1934, when he died from complications after a minor operation. He was 54 years old. The obituary published by his former employer, The Denver Post, filled in some of the remaining gaps in the story of Joseph Langer:

“Death Takes Former Post Photographer,” The Denver Post, August 30, 1934, p. 9

Announcement that “Joe” Langer is dead will be received with sincere regret and sorrow by thousands who knew him during his activities as a newspaper photographer. Until he retired to become a world traveler some eight years ago [1926] he was always at the front with his camera in every important story calling for picturization. No day was too long, no task too difficult to curb his enthusiasm or turn his ambition to be the “unscooped photographer.” The great and humble and all in between were to him “interesting subjects: and his files were a clear pictorial history of the times. ….After the death of his mother in 1926 he decided to see something of the world.
He took a world cruise, carrying the faithful camera along, and on his return headlined many club programs with moving pictures and oral descriptions of places he had visited in far lands.

Joe Langer certainly left his mark on the paper and the city of Denver.

Neither Joseph nor Lester Langer had any children, and thus there are no descendants for them or for their parents, Amelia Mansbach and Henry Langer. The two brothers both had such full and interesting careers in photography, one living in Denver all his life, the other living at times in Hollywood, Kansas City, and finally the small town of Ridgely, Tennessee. I am so glad I was able to learn so much about them and keep the facts of their lives from disappearing into oblivion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Publication Title: Denver, Colorado, City Directory, 1931, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  2. Lester Langer, 1930 US census, Census Place: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0018; FHL microfilm: 2340928. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  3. Lester Langer, 1940 US census, Census Place: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri; Roll: m-t0627-02165; Page: 81A; Enumeration District: 116-13, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census. 
  4. MEMORIAL ID 149610799, Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current. 
  5.  “Death Takes Former Post Photographer,” The Denver Post, August 30, 1934, p. 9 
  6.  The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at San Pedro/Wilmington/Los Angeles, California;NAI Number: 4486355; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85. NARA Roll Number: 021, Ancestry.com. California, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1959 
  7. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4706; Line: 1; Page Number: 193. Ship or Roll Number: Roll 4706,
    Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists 
  8. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4805; Line: 19; Page Number: 14. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  9. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, SSN: 573669492. Courlander household, 1900 census, Census Place: Chicago Ward 9, Cook, Illinois; Page: 10; Enumeration District: 0221; FHL microfilm: 1240253,
    Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  10. Courlander household, 1910 US census, Census Place: Indianapolis Ward 3, Marion, Indiana; Roll: T624_367; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0062; FHL microfilm: 1374380, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  11. Bertha Courlander 1920 US census, Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T625_162; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 244, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census. Courlander household, 1920 US census, Census Place: Detroit Ward 14, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_813; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 428, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  12. Denver City Directories, 1922, 1924, 1928, 1929, 1930, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  13. Denver City Directories, 1933, 1934, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 

How Did I Lose Track of These Photographs?

I was cleaning up some files on my crowded hard drive, and I “discovered” a whole folder of photographs of the Goldschmidt family that had been sent to me by David Baron and Roger Cibella back in December, 2017.  How had I forgotten these? Some of these photographs are of members of the Goldschmidt family I’ve yet to write about and will be posted when I get to those branches (if I don’t forget about them again).

But those below are of the family of Abraham Goldsmith, about whom I’ve written extensively. Julian Reinheimer, my third cousin, once removed, and a direct descendant of Abraham through his daughter Cecelia, also sent me some photographs of Abraham and Cecelia and of some of the family graves in Philadelphia.  I am going to go back and insert these in the original posts about Abraham and his family, but I want to share them in this new post as well.  Thank you to Julian Reinheimer, David Baron, and Roger Cibella for sharing these wonderful photographs with me.

First, two of Abraham himself.

Abraham Goldsmith

Abraham Goldsmith

Then one of his first wife Cecelia Adler, who died in 1874 at age 38:

Cecelia Adler, Abraham Goldsmith’s first wife

This is Abraham’s son Edwin, the inventor, and his family: his wife Jennie Friedberger, older son Henry, daughter Cecile (named for her grandmother, pictured above), and younger son Edwin, Jr. From the ages of the children, I would guess this was taken in about 1910.

Edwin Goldsmith and family

And this is a photograph of Emily Goldsmith Gerson, Abraham and Cecelia’s daughter, who was an author, and who, like her mother, died too young. She was 49 when she died.

Emily Goldsmith Gerson

Finally, photographs of the gravestone for Abraham Goldsmith and those of his two wives, Frances Spanier on the left and Cecelia Adler on the right, as well as their daughter Hilda to the far right.  Behind their shared gravestone you can see the graves of their other children and grandchildren: Rose Goldsmith Stern and her husband Sidney Stern, Cecile Goldsmith Simsohn, and Estelle Goldsmith.

Now I need to go back and add these to my earlier posts.

Finding Buddy and Junior and a New Second Cousin!

I’ve been on a long break from blogging since July 13, and it was wonderful to be with the extended family on our long-loved beach. And although I was not doing much research during this time, a family research discovery fell in my lap.  I made an amazing connection with a second cousin—yes, a SECOND cousin! Someone I had never known about and not found despite years of research.

Actually, my newly discovered second cousin found me—through the blog, of course. Over three and a half years ago I posted this question: Who Is The Little Boy? with the following photographs:

The man on the left is my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen, and the woman next to him is my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen. But I had no idea until last week who that little boy was. He resembled my father as a little boy, but he is not my father.  Here’s a photograph of my father at a similar age:

Doesn’t my dad resemble that little boy?

The little boy appeared in this photograph as well. I thought the man on the right was Stanley Cohen, my father’s uncle, my grandfather’s brother. But who was the man on the left? And who was the little boy?

And here he is again—same little boy with a man I believed might have been my grandfather or my great-uncle Maurice, but I was not sure.

So who was the little boy? The question had been left unanswered for three and a half years. Until last week.

My new cousin responded all these years later by telling me that the little boy was in fact her father—Maurice L. Cohen, Junior.  Maurice, who my father knew as Junior, was my father’s first cousin. He was born in 1917, making him nine years older than my father. Junior had a younger brother Buddy, born in 1922. They had both gone to camp with my father when he was a boy growing up in Philadelphia.  Junior and Buddy and their mother moved to California in around 1938 after their father Maurice L. Cohen Sr.’s death in 1931. My father never saw or heard from his cousins again.

In researching my Cohen family, I had not found anything more about Maurice, Jr., and my father thought he’d never married or had children. Well, it turned out that “Junior” had married and had a daughter, Marcy, who is my second cousin. And Marcy generously shared with me photographs and stories about her father, her uncle Bud, and even a photograph of her grandfather, who died long before she was born.

For one thing, I learned what drew the family to California. Junior had been attending the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania when he received a full scholarship to attend the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California. He decided to take advantage of the scholarship and moved to California to finish his education.  His mother Edna and younger brother Bud followed him to the West Coast (Bud was still in high school at the time), and none of them ever returned to live in Philadelphia again. Edna and Bud settled in Beverly Hills, and Bud eventually attended UCLA and later married. He and his wife Helga lived in Santa Monica and did not have children.

While at the College of the Pacific, Maurice, Jr., met his wife, Laverne “Nicky” Nicolas, who was from San Francisco. After completing college, Maurice served in World War II and then returned to California where he and Nicky settled in Sacramento. Their first child, Ronald Maurice Cohen, was born on June 2, 1943, and died just two and half months later on August 14, 1943. Marcy was born several years later. Maurice, Jr., was a budget analyst for the State of California until his retirement at age 65; he is reputed to have known more about California finances than anyone. He died on March 30, 1988, and his wife Nicky died five years later on May 1, 1993.

Here are some of the wonderful photographs that Marcy shared with me, bringing to life my father’s first cousins and their father Maurice, Sr., my great-uncle. Fortunately my father was with me when I received these photographs last week, and I had the great pleasure of sharing them with him and seeing his face light up with recognition when he saw the faces of Junior and Buddy, faces he had not seen in over 80 years.

Emanuel Philip “Buddy” Cohen, Maurice Cohen, Sr., and Maurice Cohen “Junior.”

My great-uncle Maurice Cohen, Sr.

Buddy and Junior Cohen, c. 1932, my first cousins, once removed.

Maurice L. Cohen, Jr., during World War II, US Navy

Emanuel Philip “Bud” Cohen

Maurice L Cohen, Jr.

Now that I know what Maurice, Sr., looked like, it’s clear to me that he is the man in the third photo above, standing with his son and namesake, Maurice, Jr.  I often express envy of those who have so many photographs of their ancestors and other relatives. And those people often tell me not to give up hope. This experience renewed my hope.

And I cannot tell you how happy I am to have connected with a second cousin after all these years. Thank you, Marcy, for finding me and for telling me who that little boy was!

Break Time

For the next two weeks I will be busy with family—not the ones I research, but the ones who are still here, eating, breathing, and sleeping. Four generations together.

I will be back by August 1, but in the meantime, I will try and keep up with all the other blogs if I get the chance.  It’s hard to find a quiet moment with this crew around!

I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer.  Here are some photos of my favorite beach. No ancestors lived here, but since 1962, I have spent at least a few days each summer somewhere on this beach. I’ve walked many times along the beach, finding sea glass and shells and heart-shaped stones; I’ve sat on this beach many, many hours with my family—first, as a child, then as a mother, and now as a grandmother. I’ve spent hot days in the warm bay waters, tossed in the waves. I’ve watched storms come in across the horizon, turn the water a dark green, and bring the waves crashing against the sea wall. I’ve watched the tide go in and go out, twice a day, every day. I’ve walked two dogs up and down this beach.  I’ve held my husband’s hand on this beach, my children’s hands, my grandsons’ hands.  I may have more happy family memories from times spent here than I have of any other place on earth.

Through the years….(sadly, I seem to have no pictures on the beach itself before my kids were born).

1983

1985

1987

1988

2010

2016

2016

2016

See you in August!

Earliest Memories

Before I return to the other children of my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith, one more post inspired indirectly by his son Milton.

My final post about Milton referred to the comment in his 1957 obituary in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent that Milton remembered when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. I noted that Milton was only four years old at that time. One of my readers commented that he also could remember a traumatic event from when he was four, and another reader shared her first memory from when she was two and a half. That made me think about the first specific event that I can remember in my own life. I have earlier vague memories, but this is the first clear memory of an event.

I was almost three years old at the time, and my family was spending the summer near Mahopac, New York, on a pond called Long Pond. My aunt and uncle were also there, as were my grandparents. We went to Long Pond for three summers when I was very young. My father and my uncle would return to New York City during the week for work and then come back to Long Pond on weekends. I learned to swim at Long Pond, and I mostly have very vague sense-memories of the place, reinforced by photographs and my uncle’s old home movies.

My mother, me and and my aunt summer 1953 at Long Pond

My cousin Jeff, my father, and me, Long Pond 1954

summer 1955 at Long Pond

 

But the one specific event that I remember very clearly from that third summer at Long Pond was the evening I followed my cousin Jeffrey into the woods. Jeff, who was nine that summer, was my childhood idol. He was six years older than I was and the oldest of the first cousins, all of whom adored him. I have written about Jeff before, here and here, for example. He was smart and funny and lovable; he could always make us all laugh.  My entire family was heartbroken when Jeff died from cancer fourteen years ago.

Jeff and me, 1955

That summer at Long Pond, Jeff was friendly with another boy his age whose family was also staying at Long Pond. I can’t remember that boy’s name, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s call him Joe. Joe had a younger brother who was about six. Let’s call him Sam. One evening after dinner, Jeff and Joe decided to take a walk in the woods near our cabins. I wanted to go with them. I remember Jeff very pointedly telling me that I was too little and that I could not come with them. I was hurt and sad and probably made a stink, but Jeff and Joe wandered off, leaving me behind with Sam, Joe’s six year old little brother.

Then Sam said that we could follow Jeff and Joe, and so off I went, just three years old, following a six year old after two nine year olds. (This was in the days before helicopter parenting.) Before too long, I tripped over a log and fell on a sharp piece of glass, cutting my wrist very close to the vein.

I have no real memory of what happened next. Did Jeff coming running back and rescue me? Did my parents hear my screams and coming running to see what happened? All I know is that someone took me to a doctor nearby, who put butterfly clamps on my wound. To this day, I still have a very nasty two-inch scar on my right wrist.

I was never really bothered by the scar, In fact, at times when I was growing up, it helped me differentiate right from left. My mother used to tell me that someday my husband would buy me a wide gold bracelet to cover the scar. But I almost never thought about it as a child, and now I rarely notice it; nor does anyone else.

When I do look at it these days, I feel very fortunate that I avoided what could have been a much more serious injury. But mostly I look at it and remember with love my cousin Jeff. He may only have been nine at the time, but he was right. I was too little to go walking in the woods in the dusky light of summer that evening.

Jeff and me

 

What is your earliest memory? How old were you?

 

Two Photos to Identify—Can You Help?

I am back…sort of! Still working on my first Goldschmidt posts, but before I dive into that matter, I have two wonderful new photographs to share, thanks to my cousin by marriage, Ulrike Michel.

Ulrike is married to my fourth cousin, once removed, Torsten Michel. Torsten and I are both descended from Bernard Schoenfeld and Rosina Goldmann, my fourth great-grandparents; Torsten’s great-great-grandmother Ziborah Schoenfeld was the sister of my three-times great-grandmother Babetta Schoenfeld, wife of Moritz Seligmann, my three-times great-grandfather.

 

I’ve not met Torsten, but when we were in Germany, we spent a day with Ulrike in Heidelberg, as I wrote about here. Ulrike is the family historian in their family, and she and I have been in touch for several years now.

Recently Ulrike found and shared with me two photographs. I am particularly excited by this one that Ulrike believes is Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann:

 

Here is the only confirmed photograph I had of Babetta, and I do see a definite resemblance.  But is it the same woman? Or is it perhaps her sister Ziborah, Torsten’s direct ancestor? What do you think?

The second photo Ulrike sent me is this one.  She believes this could be Franziska Seligmann, granddaughter of Moritz Seligmann and Babetta Schoenfeld and my first cousin, three times removed:

 

Here are the photographs I’d previously found of Franziska:

Franziska Seligmann Michel

 

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

Again, there is a definite resemblance, but is it the same woman? What do you think?

One of the mysteries raised by this photograph is why the Michel family would have had a photograph of Babetta’s granddaughter, who lived from 1875-1933.  Was it simply because she was Ziborah Schoenfeld’s great-niece?

Or was there a second connection to the Michel family? Franziska married Adolf Michel, and I have no information about his background. But Ulrike is now researching to see if Adolf Michel was related to her husband’s Michel relatives. She and Wolfgang are meeting in a few weeks to compare notes and see whether there is an additional overlap between the Seligmanns, Schoenfelds, and Michels.

I’d love your feedback on the photographs. Let me know what you think.

Cousin Jane’s Parents

In my last post I shared the photograph of my second cousin, once removed, Jane Schlesinger Bruner—the woman my father called the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen when he met her the first time when he was a young boy.

Today I received this photograph of Jane’s parents—Sidney and Nan (Levis) Schlesinger.

Sidney and Nan (Levis) Schlesinger

Sidney and Nan (Levis) Schlesinger

I have already written about Sidney and Nan in my earlier posts, but just to recap here. Sidney was the fourth child and third son of Jacob Schlesinger and Brendina Katzenstein, my great-grandmother’s older sister.  He was born in Philadelphia in 1880 and lived his whole life there.  He was a successful furniture salesman.

In 1911, Sidney married Anna Levis, who was known as Nan. Nan was born in Philadelphia in 1886 to William Levis and Caroline Bopp; her father died when she was eleven years old. She had been working as a stenographer in a bolt factory before marrying Sidney.  Sidney and Nan’s daughter Jane was born in 1913.  She was their only child and the only grandchild of Jacob and Brendina Schlesinger.

Sidney died in 1935 when he was 54.  Nan survived him by forty years, dying at age 89 in 1975.  As I wrote earlier, she was the first member of my father’s family to meet my mother after my parents were engaged.

I am once again so grateful to Jane’s granddaughter for sharing this photograph and allowing me to see the faces behind the stories.