My Fifth Cousin Matthew, Ruth Blumenfeld Friedman’s Grandson

Happy 2023, everyone! For today’s post I am updating a post I wrote back in April 2022. Thank you to my cousin Matthew Steinhart for making this post possible.

Back on April 22, 2022, I wrote about the children of Meier Blumenfeld III and Emma Oppenheim and the teamwork it took to locate their three daughters, Gertrud, Ruth (also known as Bertha), and Hanna. Meier, my second cousin, three times removed, was the son of Giedel Blumenfeld, Isaak’s daughter, and her first cousin, once removed, Gerson Blumenfeld I (not to be confused with Giedel’s brother Gerson Blumenfeld II, whose story I just completed.)

Meier and Emma and their family were destroyed by the Holocaust. Of the five of them, only Ruth managed to escape from Germany in time to survive the Holocaust. The others were all murdered by the Nazis.

Ruth immigrated to the US and settled in New York City, where she married Leo Friedman on March 21, 1942, as I wrote about here. Ruth and Leo had two children, and I was recently contacted by one of Ruth and Leo’s grandsons, Matthew Steinhart, son of Eileen Dinah Friedman Steinhart.

Matthew works in video production and is the manager of the video production team at the United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Washington, DC.1 He created three short videos about his search to learn more about his grandparents and their families. With his permission and courtesy of the USHMM, I can provide links to those three videos. They are very touching, and I highly recommend you spend the time watching them.

Matthew also shared some wonderful photographs of his grandmother and her family and generously has allowed me to share them on the blog. He also shared some family stories and other information to fill in some of the holes in the story of Ruth and her family that were left unanswered in my April 22, 2022 post.

One of those unanswered questions involved the fate of Ruth’s sister Gertrud. Yad Vashem reported that she had been killed in the Holocaust, but an Arolsen Archive document indicated that she and two children had left for the US. Which was true? Sadly, Matthew confirmed for me that the Yad Vashem information was accurate. He wrote that “the story I was told of Gertrud was that she and her husband and children intended to leave but Erwin, her husband, had an eye condition which prevented him from emigrating. Gertrud refused to leave without him, and eventually all four were deported to Lodz. All four perished.”2

I also asked Matthew about Ruth’s younger sister Hanna because again there were records that suggested she had escaped the Holocaust because she had a visa for Cuba. But Matthew had to confirm that Hanna was in fact killed in the Holocaust. He wrote that he was told that “she and her husband [Siegfried Levi] took a train to Portugal with the intent to emigrate to Cuba. In fact, Hanna had sent some of her furniture and clothing to Ruth in anticipation for her eventual arrival to the US. Apparently, this train was stopped and turned around to France. Both were put into slave labor camps. Hanna was eventually deported to Auschwitz and died. Her husband survived and emigrated from Luxembourg.”3

Matthew’s grandmother Ruth was sponsored by her aunt Bella Oppenheim Marx, her mother’s sister, and was the only one who was able to leave Germany and get to the US safely.4

Matthew has a large collection of old photographs of the family, but unfortunately, he has been only able to identify the people in a limited number of those photographs. I am sharing only those he could label with certainty. Most of those are of his grandparents, Ruth Blumenfeld and Leo Friedman.

Here are two photographs of Ruth, one as a baby and the other as a toddler.

Ruth Blumenfeld, c. 1920. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Ruth Blumenfeld, c. 1922 Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

These two photos show Ruth as a younger adult, but are undated. They may have been taken in the US since Ruth was nineteen when she immigrated, but they also might have been taken in Germany. We do not know who the woman is on the left in the first photo or who the child is in the second.

Ruth Blumenfeld on right. Date and place unknown. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Ruth Blumenfeld with unknown child. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

The next photograph is of Ruth and Leo with Ruth’s aunt, Bella Oppenheim Marx, the woman who sponsored Ruth when she left Germany in 1940. I am sorry the image is so small.

Bella Oppenheim Marx, Leo Friedman, and Ruth Blumenfeld Friedman. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

This next group of photographs were taken in 1972 when Ruth and Leo visited their respective hometowns in Germany. Unfortunately we cannot identify who the couple is standing with Ruth or where these photos were taken—presumably either Bad Hersfeld, where Ruth grew up, or Crailsheim, Leo’s hometown.

Ruth Blumenfeld and Leo Friedman, 1972, in Germany. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Ruth and Leo in Germany, 1972 Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Ruth with unknown couple, 1972, in Germany. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Speaking of Bad Hersfeld, here is a postcard depicting the town sent to the family of Leo Friedman in Forest Hills, New York, from someone named Minna.. I can’t decipher the date on the postmark, but it must have been written after June 1, 1963, because that is when the US adopted zip codes.

Thank you to Simone Simiot of the GerSIG Facebook group for translating the message on the card; she said that Minna wrote that she had moved and gave her new address. She said it was fine that she moved because Dudenstrasse had become too busy and noisy. She also said that she could have moved in with her son Josef but she doesn’t want to be away/move from her pretty Bad Hersfeld. And she sent regards to Tante Bella—Aunt Bella Oppenheim Marx. I don’t know who Minna is, but if she was a relative, she must have been related to Ruth’s mother.

Since there are so many other photographs that Matthew cannot provide labels for, I have suggested that he contact Ava Cohn a/k/a Sherlock Cohn, the photogenealogist, for help in identifying the people in the other photographs. I hope that he has success doing that.

I am very grateful to my cousin Matthew for sharing his videos, his photographs, and his stories with me. It is always good to be able to have faces to put with the names and answers to questions, but it is especially meaningful to be able to connect with a new cousin who can share all this with me.


  1. Email from Matthew Steinhart, September 24, 2022. 
  2. Email from Matthew Steinhart, October 11, 2022. 
  3. Ibid. 
  4. Ibid. I will be writing more about Bella in an upcoming post. 

Gerson Blumenfeld II, Final Chapter: Katinka Blumenfeld Rosenberg and Her Family

This is the final chapter in the story of the children of Gerson Blumenfeld II, son of Isaak Blumenfeld I. It completes the story of the family of Gerson’s daughter, Katinka Blumenfeld Rosenberg. Thank you to my cousin Michael, Katinka’s grandson, and his uncle, Henry, Katinka’s son, for sharing their family’s story.

Michael shared this adorable photograph of Katinka’s three sons, Guenther, Heinz, and Walter, taken in 1931 when they were still in Germany. Walter was ten, Guenther five, and Henry two years old.

Guenther, Heinz, and Walter Rosenberg, 1931. Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg

Michael also provided me with scans of his grandmother Katinka’s German passport, which included photographs of Katinka and her two younger sons, Guenther and Heinz.

As we saw, the family arrived in the US in early 1940, and when the 1940 US census was taken, Katinka and her husband Emanuel (known primarily as Emil) Rosenberg and their three sons, Walter, Guenther, and Heinz, now Henry, were living in Manhattan, and Emanuel was a salesman for a retail grocery business. Walter, then 19, was a machine operator in a watch factory. Gunter (14) and Henry (11) were in school.

Katinka filed a declaration of intention to become a US citizen on July 5, 1940, as did her husband Emanuel. Their son Walter filed his two weeks later on July 20, 1940.

The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21 Source Information Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21 Source Information Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Walter Rosenberg declaration of intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, (Roll 596) Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 468501-469500), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Walter registered for the draft on February 15, 1942. Although the official records from the National Archives and Records Administration show that Walter enlisted on November 27, 1942,1 his petition for naturalization dated April 21, 1945, states that he joined the US Army on December 5, 1942. His petition was granted, and Walter became a US citizen that day in Alexandria, Louisiana, where he was stationed. Because he knew German, he worked as a translator interrogating German POWs.

Walter Rosenberg, World War II draft registration, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New York City, 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Walter Rosenberg petition for naturalization, National Archives and Records Administration – Southeast Region (Atlanta); Atlanta, GA; Petitions For Naturalization, Compiled 1922-1964; Series Number: 648598; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21 Naturalization Petitions, 1944-1945, Ancestry.com. Louisiana, U.S., Naturalization Records, 1836-2001

On his eighteenth birthday, July 7, 1943, Guenther Rosenberg registered for the draft. He was then working for his cousin, Kurt Simon, son of his aunt Meta Blumenfeld Simon, and living in Wayawanda, New York, where Kurt was also living, as we saw. Guenther entered the US Army on June 28, 1944, and on September 15, 1944, he became a US citizen in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was stationed. He was honorably discharged from the army on November 5, 1944,2 after his foot was injured by a hand grenade.3

Guenther Rosenberg, World War II draft registration, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New York State, 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147 Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Guenther Rosenberg, petition for naturalization, The National Archives at Atlanta; Atlanta, Ga; ARC Title: Petitions For Naturalization, 1880-1975; NAI Number: 2111793; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21
 Jacksonville Petition and Records, Oct 1944 – Jan 1945 (Roll 190), Ancestry.com. Florida, U.S., Naturalization Records, 1847-1995

Henry (now using that name), the youngest son, also registered for the draft shortly after his eighteenth birthday; he filed his registration on August 22, 1946. He was living at home with his parents in New York and was a student. Fortunately, by that time World War II had ended.

Katinka became a citizen on December 6, 1945.

Katinka Blumenfeld Rosenberg certificate of naturalization. Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg

After Walter was discharged from the US army, he returned to New York and opened up a grocery store with his brother Guenther in 1947, located on Broadway at 163rd Street in Washington Heights and  called Rosenberg Brothers Dairy.4

On July 10, 1949, Walter Rosenberg married Margot Scharlack in New York City. They met when she came into his grocery store.5 Margot was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 24, 1924, to Max Scharlack and Recha Hirsch,6 and had immigrated to the US with her family on November 1, 1937.7 In 1940, she and her family were living in San Antonio, Texas, where her father was a bookkeeper for a music store.8

In 1950, Walter and Margot were living in New York City where Walter owned a retail grocery store and Margot was a radio assembler.9 Walter and Margot would have two children, including my cousin Michael.

Michael shared with me these photographs taken in the early 1950s, one of him as a baby with his Uncle Henry and the other with his grandparents Katinka and Emil, and one of his grandparents alone.

Katinka Blumenfeld Rosenberg, Michael Rosenberg, Emil Rosenberg. Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg

Michael Rosenberg and Henry Rosenberg. Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg

Katinka and Emil Rosenberg   Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg

Meanwhile, Katinka, Emanuel (using Emil here), and their other two sons Guenther, here listed as George, and Henry were also living in New York City in 1950, not too far from Walter and Margot. Emil listed his occupation as a shipping clerk for a wholesale grocery store and George reported that he was the proprietor of a retail grocery store, the store he owned with his brother Walter. Henry had no occupation listed.

Emil Rosenberg and family, 1950 US census, United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: New York, New York, New York; Roll: 3572; Sheet Number: 7; Enumeration District: 31-2292, Ancestry.com. 1950 United States Federal Census

On June 17, 1951, Guenther/George married Lottie Rosenthal in Napa, California.10 She was the daughter of Frederick Rosenthal and Bella Lorch and was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 8, 1929.11 She came with her parents to New York on November 11, 1937,12 but then sailed from New York to San Francisco, California, on November 27, 1937, arriving there on December 13, 1937.13 Lottie and her parents settled in Napa, California, where her father worked as a power machine operator in a garment factory in 1940.14

According to Lottie’s obituary, “[i]n 1950, she traveled to New York City to visit family, and, in turn, met her future husband, George. Married in 1951, they continued in the family business of Rosenthal’s Fresh Ranch Eggs, which later changed to the Rosenthal’s Dried Fruit and Nut business, which is now known as Napa Nuts. In 1953, both Lottie and George along with several other families co-founded Congregation Beth Shalom, where she was an active member for more than 50 years.” George and Lottie had two children born in the 1950s.15

Henry Rosenberg married Victoria Hammerschlag in 1963. Victoria was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1937, after her parents immigrated there from Germany. Victoria is the second cousin, once removed, of Vera Hammerschlag, who later married Milton Hamburger, Henry’s first cousin, once removed. Henry and Victoria have three children, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.16

A year after Henry married Victoria, Emil Rosenberg died at age 79 on August 1, 1964.17 Katinka survived her husband by less than three years; she died on April 19, 1967, at the age of 75.18

Photo courtesy of Michael Rosenberg

Their son Guenther/George also did not live to see his eightieth birthday. He died on October 27, 1998, in Napa, California; he was only seventy-three.19 Fortunately, both of his brothers have had greater longevity. Walter Rosenberg was 94 when he died on November 28, 2014, in New York.20 And Henry Rosenberg, with whom I had the great pleasure of speaking, is still alive and well at 94.

Thank you again to my cousins Michael Rosenberg and Henry Rosenberg for sharing their stories, memories, and photographs.

That completes the story of Gerson Blumenfeld II and his family. Tomorrow morning I will be participating in a Blumenfeld Hanukkah Zoom with some of Gerson’s descendants as well as many descendants of other Blumenfeld ancestors. I will be sure to report on that next week.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

 

 


  1. Walter J Rosenberg, Race: White, Marital Status: Single, with dependents (Single)
    Rank: Private, Birth Year: 1920, Nativity State or Country: Danzig or Germany, Citizenship: Not Yet a Citizen, Residence: New York, New York, Education: 2 years of high school, Civil Occupation: Semiskilled occupations in manufacture of clocks, watches, jewelry, and articles of precious metals, Enlistment Date: 27 Nov 1942
    Enlistment Place: New York City, New York, Service Number: 32645393, Branch: Branch Immaterial – Warrant Officers, USA, Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
    Source: Civil Life, Height: 66, Weight: 114, National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, USA; Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946; NAID: 1263923; Record Group Title: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789-ca. 2007; Record Group: 64; Box Number: 05442; Reel: 208, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  2. Guenther G Rosenberg, Race: White, Marital Status: Single, without dependents (Single), Rank: Private, Birth Year: 1925, Nativity State or Country: Danzig or Germany
    Citizenship: Not Yet a Citizen, Residence: New York, New York, Education: 2 years of high school, Civil Occupation: Skilled occupations in the manufacture of miscellaneous products, Enlistment Date: 28 Jun 1944, Enlistment Place: Camp Upton Yaphank, New York, Service Number: 42138415, Branch: No branch assignment, Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men), Source: Civil Life, National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, USA; Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946; NAID: 1263923; Record Group Title: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789-ca. 2007; Record Group: 64; Box Number: 15088; Reel: 20, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  3. Email from Michael Rosenberg, November 30, 2022. 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Ibid. See also Walter J Rosenberg, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 5 Jul 1949, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse:
    Margot Scharlack, License Number: 18136, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 26, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  6. Margot Scharlack, [Margot Rosenberg], Gender: Female, Race: White, Birth Date: 24 May 1924, Birth Place: Frankfurt, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 3 Apr 2005, Father: Max Scharlack Mother: Recha Hirsch, SSN: 461261953, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. 
  7. Margot Scharlack, ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 15; Page Number: 81, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  8. Scharlack family, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: San Antonio, Bexar, Texas; Roll: m-t0627-04206; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 259-149, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  9. Walter Rosenberg, 1950 US census, United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: New York, New York, New York; Roll: 3572; Sheet Number: 71; Enumeration District: 31-2291, Ancestry.com. 1950 United States Federal Census 
  10. Guenther G Rosenberg, Gender: Male, Estimated Birth Year: abt 1926
    Age: 25, Marriage Date: 17 Jun 1951, Marriage Place: Napa, California, USA
    Spouse: Lottie Rosenthal Spouse Age: 22, Ancestry.com. California, U.S., Marriage Index, 1949-1959. 
  11. Napa Valley Register (August 19, 2014) , obit for Lottie Rosenberg, GenealogyBank.com (https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/obituaries/obit/14FD71AE3A70B180-14FD71AE3A70B180 : accessed 2 December 2022) 
  12. Rosenthal family, ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 15; Page Number: 171, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  13. Rosenthal family, ship manifest, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving At San Francisco, California; NAI Number: 4498993; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85, Ancestry.com. California, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1959 
  14. Rosenthal family, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Napa, Napa, California; Roll: m-t0627-00269; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 28-12A, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  15. See Note 11, supra. 
  16. Phone conversation with Henry Rosenberg on October 30, 2022. Email from Michael Rosenberg, November 30, 2022. 
  17.  Emanuel Rosenberg, Social Security Number: 092-16-4853, Birth Date: 29 Jun 1885 Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Death Date: Aug 1964, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  18. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/236669638/katinka-rosenberg: accessed 02 December 2022), memorial page for Katinka Rosenberg (1891–1967), Find a Grave Memorial ID 236669638, citing Cedar Park Cemetery, Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA; Maintained by dalya d (contributor 46972551) . (Headstone has date.) 
  19. Guenther Rosenberg, [George G Rosenberg], [George Rosenberg], Gender: Male
    Race: White, Birth Date: 7 Jul 1925, Birth Place: Frankfurt MA, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 27 Oct 1998, Father: Emil Rosenberg Mother:  Katinka Blumenfeld, SSN: 093129735, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  20. Information from Michael Rosenberg, email dated December 21, 2022. 

Gerson Blumenfeld II: His Surviving Son Friedrich and His Family in America, Keeping Tradition Alive

I have been very fortunate to connect with four more Blumenfeld cousins, Steven, Milton, Alan, and Debbie, four of the grandchildren of Friedrich Blumenfeld, the last surviving son of Gerson Blumenfeld II. Alan has generously shared with me some wonderful family photographs, including the first I’ve seen of Gerson Blumenfeld II, Alan’s great-grandfather.

Gerson Blumenfeld II. Courtesy of his family.

Alan also shared these photos of his grandparents Friedrich and Lina and their two children, Gretel and Guenther (later spelled Gunter).

Fritz Blumenfeld as a young man. Courtesy of the family.

Lina Neuhas and Fritz Blumenfeld at their wedding, October 26, 1921. Courtesy of the family

Guenther and Gretel Blumenfeld, c. 1928 Courtesy of the family

Friedrich (also known as Fritz) and his wife Lina and their two children Gretel and Guenther were safely in the US by 1939 and were living in the Bronx, according to the declaration of intention to become US citizens that Friedrich filed that year.

Friedrich Blumenfeld Declaration of Intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21 Roll 567) Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 444001-444900), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Alan also shared this photograph of his father Guenther’s immigration card:

Guenther Blumenfeld immigration card, 1939. Courtesy of the family

By 1941 when Gretel filed her own declaration of intention, the family was living in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. Gretel was then eighteen and working as an “operator.” According to her sons, she was working for a company manufacturing army blankets.1

Gretel Blumenfeld Declaration of Intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21 (Roll 622) Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 492901-493800), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Her brother Gunter (now using that spelling) registered for the draft on February 23, 1944; they were still living in Washington Heights, and he was a high school student at that time and had just turned eighteen. He enlisted in the US Army on January 30, 1945, and served until August 28, 1946.2

Gunter Blumenfeld, World War II draft registration, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New York City, 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Alan shared this photograph of his father Gunter in uniform during World War II:

Gunter Blumenfeld, c. 1945. Courtesy of the family

Gretel Blumenfeld married Joseph Hamburger on January 18, 1946.3 Joseph was born in Heuttengesass, Germany, on February 4, 1915, son of Simon Hamburger and Bertha Adler,4 and had immigrated to the US on April 2, 1936.5 According to his sons Steven and Milton, Joseph would have left earlier, but had to wait until he was twenty-one to leave without his parents’ consent; he had wanted to leave three years earlier when the Nazis prohibited Jews from being butchers, Joseph’s livelihood, but his parents refused. Gretel and Joseph met before the war, but waited to marry until after he came back from serving in World War II.6

In 1950, they were living in New York City, and Joseph was the owner of a kosher butcher shop. Gretel and Joseph had three children.

Joseph Hamburger 1950 US census, United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: New York, New York, New York; Roll: 3572; Sheet Number: 71; Enumeration District: 31-2292, Ancestry.com. 1950 United States Federal Census

Gretel’s parents Friedrich and Lina and her brother Gunter were also living in New York City in 1950, and Friedrich was working as merchandise distributor for a clothing manufacturer. Gunter was working as a television mechanic.

Friedrich Blumenfeld 1950 US census, United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: New York, New York, New York; Roll: 3572; Sheet Number: 73; Enumeration District: 31-2289, Ancestry.com. 1950 United States Federal Census

Gunter took out a marriage license to marry Hilde Hes on August 14, 1951.7 Hilde was born on April 8, 1931, in Bremen, Germany, and immigrated with her parents Paul Hes and Gertrude Wolff on September 14, 1939.8 Gunter and Hilde would have two children.

The extended family all lived close by in Washington Heights and were very close; Debbie and Alan lived in the same apartment building as their grandparents Fritz and Lina and saw them all the time, including regular shabbat dinners. Debbie shared that Lina was an excellent cook, and she has many warm memories of growing up with her cousins and other relatives.9

Alan shared this photo of Friedrich and Lina at the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1971:

Lina Neuhaus and Friedrich Blumenfeld, 1971. Courtesy of the family

Friedrich and Lina and their two children all lived relatively long lives and remained in New York City for the rest of their lives. Friedrich was 88 when he died in New York on November 14, 1977.10

Fritz Blumenfeld death notice, Aufbau, November 25, 1977, p. 28, found at https://archive.org/details/aufbau431977germ/page/n677/mode/1up?view=theater

Lina died three years later on December 15, 1980. She was 86. 11

Lina Blumenfeld death notice , Aufbau, Jan 2 1981, p. 24, found at https://archive.org/details/aufbau471981germ/page/n11/mode/1up?view=theater

Gretel Blumenfeld Hamburger died on July 25, 2008, when she was 85;12 her husband Joseph had predeceased her, dying on December 18, 2004, when he was 89.13  Gunter Blumenfeld died on July 16, 2010; he was 84.14

Perhaps some of my favorite photographs of those shared by Alan are these three that show the Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) that had been rescued by Friedrich Blumenfeld during Kristallnacht while the Momberg synagogue was burning and then safely brought to the US from Momberg by the family.15 The photographs were taken at Alan’s son’s bar mitzvah and show Gunter, Alan, and his son Sandy honoring that Sefer Torah during the bar mitzvah service.

c. 2008 Courtesy of the family

c. 2008 Courtesy of the family

c. 2008 Courtesy of the family

Friedrich and Lina are survived by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. I was privileged to connect with four of their five grandchildren—Steven, Milton, Alan, and Debbie (and will be talking to the fifth, Kenny, soon during a Blumenfeld family zoom).  Thank you all for sharing  these fabulous photographs and your stories with me and for keeping alive the memories, traditions, and legacy of your family.


  1. Zoom call with Steven Hamburger and Milton Hamburger, November 10, 2022. 
  2. Gunter Blumenfeld, Race White, Marital Status Single, without dependents (Single)
    Rank Private, Birth Year 1926, Nativity State or Country Danzig or Germany, Citizenship Not Yet a Citizen, Residence New York, New York, Education 3 years of high school, Enlistment Date 30 Jan 1945, Enlistment Place New York City, New York, Service Number 42205064, Branch No branch assignment, Component Selectees (Enlisted Men), Source Civil Life, Height 80, Weight 995 [??], National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, USA; Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946; NAID: 1263923; Record Group Title: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789-ca. 2007; Record Group: 64; Box Number: 15188; Reel: 30, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  3. Gretel Blumenfeld, Gender: Female, Marriage License Date: 18 Jan 1946, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse:
    Joseph Hamburger License Number: 2005, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 3, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  4. Joseph Hamburger, Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 4 Feb 1915, Birth Place: Huettengesae, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 18 Dec 2004, Father:
    Simon Hamburger, Mother: Bertha Adler, SSN: 077073405, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  5. Joseph Hamburger, passenger manifest, Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 20; Page Number: 39, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  6. See Note 1, supra. 
  7. Gunter Blumenfeld, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 1951, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Hilde M. Hes, License Number: 21506, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  8. Paul Hes, Declaration of Intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, Roll 569) Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 445801-446600), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943 
  9. Email from Debbie Salamon, December 7, 2022. 
  10. Friederich Blumenfeld, Social Security Number: 065-12-8954, Birth Date: 7 Dec 1888, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10033, New York, New York, New York, USA, Death Date: Nov 1977, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  11. Lina Blumenfeld, Social Security Number: 119-18-7181, Birth Date: 19 Sep 1894, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10033, New York, New York, New York, USA, Death Date: Dec 1980, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  12. Gretel Hamburger, Social Security Number: 081-12-7517, Birth Date: 21 Aug 1922, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10040, New York, New York, New York, Death Date: 28 Jul 2008, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  13. Joseph Hamburger, Social Security Number: 077-07-3405, Birth Date: 4 Feb 1915, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10040, New York, New York, New York, USA, Death Date: 18 Dec 2004, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  14. Gunter Blumenfeld, Social Security Number: 081-20-7923, Birth Date: 22 Feb 1926, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10040, New York, New York, New York, Death Date: 16 Jul 2010, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  15. Email from Alan Blumenfeld, December 6, 2022. 

Gerson Blumenfeld II’s Descendants in America: Meta Blumenfeld Simon And Her Family

As I wrote about here, three of the children of Gerson Blumenfeld II safely made it out of Germany and to the US with their spouses and children by 1940. This post will discuss Meta Blumenfeld Simon and her family.

Meta Blumenfeld Simon and her husband Albert and their three children were living in New York City in 1940, as we saw, and Albert and their two sons Kurt and Josef were working as butchers. Kurt listed Hebrew National, the kosher meat producer, as his employer on his October 29, 1940, World War II draft registration. His residential addresses are crossed out several times so it’s hard to know where he was living, but his father Albert was living in New York City at that time.

Kurt Simon, World War II draft registration, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New York City, 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Kurt’s brother Josef Simon registered for the draft on October 31, 1940, and was living in Hartford, Connecticut at that time. He enlisted in the US Army on January 20, 1942, and served until July 2, 1945.1

 

Joseph Simon World War II draft registration, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New York City, 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

The first of Meta and Albert’s children to marry was their youngest, their daughter Grete. She married Edward Erwin Spanier on July 6, 1943, in Middletown, New York. Edward, the son of Adolf Spanier and Amalie Marx, was born on November 29, 1910, in Enger, Germany. He had immigrated to the US on September 24, 1938.2 When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was residing in Hartford, Connecticut.3 In 1945 Grete and Edward were living in Hartford, and Edward was working as a salesman.4

In 1950, they were still living in Hartford, now with Grete’s parents Meta and Albert. Edward was the manager of a retail dry goods store. Albert reported no occupation; he was seventy and probably retired. Grete and Edward would have two children.

Simon and Spanier household, 1950 US census, United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut; Roll: 669; Sheet Number: 9; Enumeration District: 10-86
Ancestry.com. 1950 United States Federal Census

On December 23, 1944, Meta and Albert’s son Kurt took out a marriage license in Brooklyn, New York, to marry Ida Geld. I cannot locate an actual marriage record, but presumably Kurt and Ida were married soon thereafter. Ida was the daughter of Samuel Geld and Rosa Richman and was born in Vienna, Austria, on November 2, 1923.5 In 1950, Ida and Kurt were living in Wayawanda in Orange County, New York, where Kurt was a farmer. Kurt and Ida had three children.

Kurt Simon 1950 US census, United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: Wawayanda, Orange, New York; Roll: 6054; Sheet Number: 19; Enumeration District: 36-199
Enumeration District: 36-199; Description: Wawayanda town, Ancestry.com. 1950 United States Federal Census

Josef, now spelling his name Joseph, took out a license to marry Ilse Meier on September 19, 1945, in New York, New York, and presumably married her sometime soon thereafter.6 Ilsa was born in Germany on March 9, 1924, to Ludwig Meier and Julia Rosenbusch.7 In 1950 Joseph and Ilse were living in New York City where Joseph was now the owner of a retail butcher shop. They had two children born in the 1940s.

Joseph Simon 1950 US census, United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: New York, New York, New York; Roll: 4547; Sheet Number: 9; Enumeration District: 31-1732, Ancestry.com. 1950 United States Federal Census

Kurt Simon’s life was cut short on June 28, 1969; he was only 54 years old when he died in Middletown, New York, where he lived. He was survived by his wife Ida and his three children as well as his parents and his siblings Joseph and Grete.8 His father did not survive him by too long; Albert Simon died on September 22, 1970, in Hartford, Connecticut. He was ninety years old.9

Meta Blumenfeld Simon outlived her husband by thirteen years. She was 99 years old when she died in Hartford on October 21, 1983.10 She was survived by her other two children, Joseph, who died in Tamarac, Florida, on October 31, 2001, at 85,11 and Grete, who had a long life like both her parents. Grete was 93 when she died on February 28, 2013, in Hartford, Connecticut.12 Meta and Albert are also survived by their grandchildren and other descendants.

 


  1. Joseph Simon, WWII Army Enlistment Records, The National Archives, Publisher date 1939-1945, United States of America, found at https://www.fold3.com/record/86070891/joseph-simon-wwii-army-enlistment-records?xid=1945&_gl=1*he93sx*_ga*MTkxNjYyODAyMS4xNjM2NjM5MDk1*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MTY2OTY0ODU1Ny40NjAuMS4xNjY5NjQ4ODg4LjM4LjAuMA..&_ga=2.40570274.144956320.1669498294-1916628021.1636639095 
  2. Edward Erwin Spanier, Petition for Naturalization, National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Petitions and Records For Naturalization, 10/1911-9/1991; NAI Number: 615479; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: Rg 21, Vol 173-175, Petition No 40240,  17 April 1944, Ancestry.com. Connecticut, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1790-1996. Edward’s parents names were derived from obituaries of his mother Amalia and brothers Werner and Albert. 
  3. Erwin Edward Spanier, World War II draft registration, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Connecticut, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 392, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  4.  Hartford, Connecticut, City Directory, 1945, Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 
  5. Kurt Simon, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 23 Dec 1944, Marriage License Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Ida Geld License Number: 18137, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Brooklyn, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. Ida Geld [Ida Simon] [Ida Shaff] Gender: Female Race: White Birth Date: 2 Nov 1923 Birth Place: Vienna, Austria Death Date: 16 Apr 2000 Father: Samuel Geld Mother: Rosa Richman SSN: 088121203, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. 
  6. Joseph Simon, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 19 Sep 1945, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Ilse Meier, License Number: 24430, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 35, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  7. Ilse Meier, [llse Meier Simon] [Ilse Simon] Gender: Female Race: White Birth Date: 9 Mar 1924, Birth Place: Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 20 Jul 2006, Father: Ludwig Meier, Mother: Julia Rosenbusch, SSN: 084184274, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  8. Kurt Simon, Gender: Male, Birth Date: 10 Nov 1914, Death Date: Jun 1969, Claim Date: 17 Jul 1969, SSN: 131102677, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007; “Kurt Simon,” Hartford Courant, June 29, 1969, p. 5. 
  9. Albert Simon, Social Security Number: 069-12-9618, Birth Date: 17 Nov 1879
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 06112, Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death Date: Sep 1970, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014; Albert Simon, Gender: Male, Race: White
    Marital Status: Married, Birth Date: abt 1880, Residence: Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, Death Date: 22 Sep 1970, Death Place: West Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, Age: 90 Years, Spouse: Meta, State File #: 19060, Connecticut Department of Health. Connecticut Death Index, 1949-2012 
  10. Meta Simon, Race: White, Occupation: HOUSEWIFE, Industry: AT HOME, Marital Status: Widowed, Birth Date: 30 Aug 1884, Birth Place: Non-Western Hemisphere, Address: 68 PARSONS, West Hartford, Connecticut, Death Date: 21 Oct 1983, Death Place: Hartford, Connecticut, Age: 99 Years, Spouse: Alber, Father’s Surname: Blumenthal [sic]. State File #: 20862, Connecticut Department of Health. Connecticut Death Index, 1949-2012 
  11. Josef Simon, [Joe Simon], Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 26 Oct 1916
    Birth Place: Hermanuskin, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 30 Oct 2001
    Father: Albert Simon, Mother: Meta Blumenfeld, SSN: 116034007, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  12.  Grete Spanier, Social Security Number: 072-12-8420, Birth Date: 23 Dec 1919
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Death Date: 28 Feb 2013, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

Sitta Blumenfeld Spier and Her Daughter Gisela—A Story of Survival and Hope in the Midst of Despair and Death

Although three of the four surviving children of Gerson Blumenfeld II—Friedrich, Katinka, and Mina/Meta—and all their children escaped from Germany to the US and avoided being murdered by the Nazis, the fourth surviving child, Sitta Blumenfeld Spier, and her husband Siegfried Spier and their two children Manfred and Gisela were not as fortunate. As explained by Gisela’s son Simeon Spier in the eulogy he wrote for his mother, “[Siegfried] tried frantically to get the family out of Germany but since he was a wounded veteran from World War I – he had been awarded the Iron Cross for bravery and still had a bullet lodged in his lung – he was considered a health risk and emigration to other countries was not possible.”1

What a cruel irony—because he was wounded fighting for Germany, Siegfried could not escape German persecution twenty years later.

Sitta, Siegfried, Manfred, and Gisela were all deported to the concentration camp at Theriesenstadt on September 7, 1942.2 Manfred was sixteen and Gisela thirteen at that time. Gisela was “allowed” to participate as an athlete in games filmed by the Nazis for propaganda purposes—to show how “humanely” the camp prisoners were being treated.3 You can read more about the propaganda film created by the Nazis and see a clip from it here.

By October, 1944, all four members of Sitta’s family had been transported from Theriesenstadt to Auschwitz where Sitta and Siegfried were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Manfred was transferred several days later to the Dachau concentration where he died from starvation and typhus on April 18, 1945, just a few weeks before Germany surrendered and the war in Europe ended. He was nineteen years old.4

Manfred Spier Page of Testimony at Yad Vashem, found at https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=1879134&ind=1

The only member of Sitta’s family to survive was her daughter Gisela. She was sent from Auschwitz on October 12, 1944,5 to the concentration camp in Flossenburg, Germany, a camp where prisoners worked as slave labor to build fighter planes and other equipment for the German military. The US Holocaust Museum and Memorial  provided this description of conditions at Flossenburg:

The conditions under which the camp authorities forced the prisoners to work and the absence of even rudimentary medical care facilitated the spread of disease, including dysentery and typhus. In addition to the dreadful living conditions, the prisoners suffered beatings and arbitrary punishments.

About 30,000 people died there, but somehow Gisela survived.

On April 29, 1945, as the Allied forces were approaching Flossenburg, the Nazis began to evacuate the camp and transport the prisoners elsewhere. Gisela was transferred from Flossenburg to the Mauthausen concentration camp,6 where she was liberated by the Allies on May 5, 1945. She was sixteen years old and weighed 46 pounds when she was freed.7

In his eulogy for his mother, Gisela’s son Simeon Spier wrote this description of Gisela’s life after she was liberated in May, 1945.8

She travelled with a friend she met in a displaced persons camp to Paris.  They were on one of the first trains to arrive in Paris at Gare de l’Est after the war’s end and were mobbed by frantic people looking for word of loved ones.  It was at that time she realized she had survived an atrocity of epic proportions.

She searched for her brother through refugee organizations.  She found out he had died of hunger and exhaustion at Dachau.  She saw 2 men on the streets of Paris wearing Magen David.  She asked them why they were wearing Stars of David now that the war was over. They told her they were part of a brigade building the Jewish state in Palestine.  They told her if she wanted to go to Palestine there was a boat leaving from the port of Marseille in several days.

With no family left, she set off to Marseille and boarded the ship, the Mataroa, to Palestine.  Since Jewish immigration to Palestine was illegal under the British Mandate, she was detained by the British army upon reaching Palestine.  She was imprisoned in Atlit ….  The Jewish underground broke her free from Atlit.  Her name was changed to escape British authorities.  She became Yael Blumenfeld – Gisela to Gazella to Yaela to Yael.  Blumenfeld for her mother’s maiden name.  She said when she became Yael Blumenfeld, she finally felt free.

She lived in the youth village of Ben Shemen, joined the Palmach army and fought in the Israeli War of Independence.  She was a decorated veteran of the 1948 war.

In 1950, Gisela came to New York with the help of her mother’s siblings and then got a job in Montreal as a secretary for a synagogue. She met her husband Israel Cohen in Canada, where they were married in 1956.9

Gisela and Israel had three children, each named for one of Gisela’s family members who had been killed in the Holocaust— a daughter Sitta, named in memory of Gisela’s mother Sitta Blumenfeld Spier, a son Simeon, named in memory of Gisela’s father Siegfried Spier, and a daughter Michall, named in memory of Gisela’s brother Manfred. The family lived in Montreal and later in Toronto.10

Once her children were grown, Gisela devoted a great deal of her time and energy to Holocaust education, including regularly traveling back to Momberg and other towns in Germany, to educate German children about what had happened to her family and many other Jewish families.11

Here is a very moving video of Gisela produced by the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto as part of Gisela’s efforts to provide education about the Holocaust. I highly recommend you watch this eight-minute interview so that you can see and hear this remarkable woman.

Gisela died on February 19, 2016, in Toronto. She was 87 years old and had endured and experienced so much. Simeon ended his eulogy for his mother Gisela in words that bring tears to my eyes each time I re-read them.12

My mother was overwhelmed by the good fortune her life had brought her after suffering such unbearable loss early in life.  As her life neared its end, she became at peace with herself having lived a full life bearing witness to history’s most brutal atrocity.

Death, to her meant two things. She would be re-united with her family and the ability to have a real grave with a tombstone – something her family never had.  She had always mourned that according to Jewish tradition, a son must say Kaddish at the grave of his parents and that no one had been able to say Kaddish for her parents and brother.  Today, we will go to the cemetery and say Kaddish at her grave – for her, her mother, father, and brother.  And for this, we are all very happy.

Gisela Spier Cohen was survived by her three children and her grandchildren. Her life exemplified courage and persistence and hope against all odds. I feel so moved and honored to be able to share her story and that of her family.

Special thanks to my cousin Simeon Spier for allowing me to quote extensively from the beautiful eulogy he wrote for his mother.

 

 


  1. “In Loving Memory of Yael Gisela Spier Cohen,” by Simeon Spier, published February 28, 2016, found here
  2. See the entries at Yad Vashem at the links in the text. 
  3. Obituary for Gisela Spier Cohen in Oberhesslische Press, March 23, 2016, found at https://www.op-marburg.de/Landkreis/Ostkreis/Zeitzeugin-verstirbt-fern-ihres-Geburtsortes 
  4. Manfred Spier, Nationality: German or Austrian, Birth Date: 29 Nov 1925, Birth Place: Momberg, Prior Residence: Momberg, Street Address: Marburg a. d. L, Arrival Date: 10 Oct 1944, Arrival Country: Germany, Death Date: 18 Apr 1945, Prisoner Number: 115317, Arrival Notes: 10 Oct 1944 from Auschwitz, Disposition Notes: died 18 Apr 1945, Description: prisoner German or Austrian Jew, Page: 5440/Bg.
    Original Notes (desc. / arr. / dis.): Sch. DR. J./ 10 Oct 1944 v. Au./ gest. 18 Apr 1945, JewishGen volunteers, comp. Germany, Dachau Concentration Camp Records, 1945 
  5. Gizela Spier, Nationality: German, Born: 29 Nov 1928, Prisoner Number: 54367
    Classification: Jew, Arrival: 12 Oct 1944, Record Source: Reel 2, Image #: 269, Page #: 1000, JewishGen Volunteers. Germany, Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Records, 1938-1945 
  6. Gisela Spier, Date of Birth: 29 Nov 1928, Nationality: German. Prisoner Number: 54,367, Category: Jew, Town/Camp: Freiberg, Factory: Hildebrandt, Transferred from (camp name): Auschwitz, Date transferred: 12 Oct 1944, Transferred to (camp name): Mauthausen, Date transferred: 29 Apr 1945, Ancestry.com. Germany, Women in Flossenbürg Branch Camps (Hans Brenner Book Lists), 1944-1945 
  7. See Note 1, supra. 
  8. See Note 1, supra. 
  9. See Note 1, infra. 
  10. See Note 1, supra. 
  11. See Note 1, supra. See also Note 3, supra. 
  12. See Note 1, supra. 

Gerson Blumenfeld II, Part IV: Leaving Germany

Three of the four surviving children of Gerson Blumenfeld II made it out of Germany in time to escape from the Nazis.

The family of Mina Blumenfeld Simon were the first descendants of Gerson Blumenfeld II to leave Germany. Mina’s son Josef arrived in New York on February 5, 1937. He listed his occupation as a butcher and his prior residence as Wetzlar, a town near Hermannstein where he was born.

Josef Simon ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 10; Page Number: 35, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Ancestry.com

His brother Kurt arrived eight months later on October 1, 1937; he listed his occupation as a merchant and last residence as Wetzlar.

Kurt Simon ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 3; Page Number: 38, Ship or Roll Number: New York, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

The rest of the family—Albert, Mina, and Grete—arrived the following year on August 18, 1938. They also had been living in Wetzlar where Albert was a merchant.

Albert Meta Grete Simon passenger manifest, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 12; Page Number: 8, Ship or Roll Number: Washington
Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Mina had officially changed her name from Mina Blumenfeld Simon to Meta Simon by the time she filed her Declaration of Intention to become a US citizen on January 24, 1939.

Meta Blumenfeld Simon declaration of intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, (Roll 549) Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 427401-428300), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

The family was reunited and living together as of the 1940 US census. They were living in New York City, and Albert and his two sons Kurt and Joseph (as spelled here) were working as butchers.

Albert Simon and family 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02670; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 31-1895, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

Friedrich Blumenfeld and his family, including his mother Berta Alexander Blumenfeld, were the next family members to arrive in the US. They left shortly after Kristallnacht.

I had the great pleasure of Zooming with two of Friedrich’s grandsons last week, Steven and Milton, and they shared with me a story about their grandmother Berta’s reaction to Kristallnacht. Apparently when the Nazis came around to arrest Jewish men in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, Berta was so angry that she took the medals awarded to the family in honor of  Moritz and Isaak, the two sons who died fighting for Germany in World War I, and threw them at the Nazi soldiers, yelling that she had lost two sons already. According to the family, the soldiers backed off and left the family alone. Soon thereafter the family was able to get visas to leave Germany.1

Friedrich, Berta, and their two children arrived in the US on January 13, 1939. Friedrich’s occupation on the ship manifest is listed as shoe manufacturing, but his grandsons told me he was actually a dry goods salesman in Momberg.

Friedrich Blumenfeld and family passenger manifest, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 23; Page Number: 150, Ship or Roll Number: Hansa
Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

I cannot locate them on the 1940 census, but on October 16, 1939, they were all living together in the Bronx, according to Friedrich’s Declaration of Intention filed on that date. Friedrich was unemployed at that time.

Friedrich Blumenfeld declaration of intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21,  (Roll 567) Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 444001-444900), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Katinka Blumenfeld Rosenberg was the last of the children of Gerson Blumenfeld II to escape Nazi Germany in time. Their departure was delayed because, as I learned from Katinka’s son Heinz/Henry, after Kristallnacht, Katinka’s husband Emanuel and son Walter were taken to Buchenwald where Walter spent two months and Emanuel spent five weeks. After they were released in early 1939, the family was determined to leave, but it was very difficult to find a sponsor to help them get permission to immigrate to the US. Finally a stranger from Texas who was not even related to the family came forward with an affidavit and sponsored the family. They took a train to Italy and sailed to the US from Genoa. As Henry and I discussed during our conversation, it is somewhat miraculous that they were to get out of Germany after World War II had started since for so many the borders closed after September 1, 1939.2

Katinka, her husband Emanuel Rosenberg, and their three sons Walter, Guenter, and Heinz arrived in New York on February 1, 1940. Emanuel listed his occupation as a trader, and Momberg was their last residence.

Emanuel Rosenberg and family passenger manifest, Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 6; Page Number: 37, Ship or Roll Number: Conte Di Savoia, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Henry said they at first lived with cousins in the Bronx, but soon moved to Washington Heights in Manhattan where so many German Jewish refugees settled in the 1930s and 1940s. Henry quickly learned English and soon was able to not only catch up with his classmates but to excel in school.3

When the 1940 US census was taken a few months after their arrival, the Rosenbergs were all living in New York City. Emanuel was working in a grocery store, and Walter was a machine operator in a watch factory.

Emanuel Rosenberg and family 1940 US census,Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02670; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 31-1887, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

Thus, Mina, Friedrich, and Katinka and their families were able to escape to the US in time and survived the Holocaust.

Tragically, the youngest child of Gerson Blumenfeld II, Sitta Blumenfeld Spier, did not leave Germany in time to escape the Holocaust.  Her family’s story in my next post.


I will be taking next week off to be with my family, who are coming to visit for Thanksgiving. Have a great Thanksgiving to all my US readers!

 

 


  1. Zoom with Steven Hamburger and Milton Hamburger, November 10, 2022. 
  2. Phone conversation with Henry Rosenberg, October 30, 2022 
  3. See Note 2, supra. 

Gerson Blumenfeld II, Part III: The Nazis Come to Momberg

As we saw, Gerson Blumenfeld II died on July 29, 1919, in the aftermath of losing two of his sons—Moritz and Isaak—during their service to Germany in World War I. He was survived by his wife Berta, one remaining son Friedrich, and his three daughters, Mina, Katinka, and Sida, as well as Mina’s husband Albert Simon, and their children.

Fortunately, the family continued to grow after the war. Katinka married Emanuel Emil Rosenberg on November 7, 1919. Emanuel was born on June 19, 1885, in Rosenthal, Germany, to Joseph Rosenberg and Fanni Stiebel. He was also the nephew of Mendel Rosenberg, who was married to Katinka’s aunt Rebecca Blumenfeld, her father Gerson’s sister.

Katinka Blumenfeld marriage to Emanuel Rosenberg, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6204, Year Range: 1919, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Katinka and Emanuel had three sons: Walter, born in Frankfurt, Germany, on October 17, 1920;1 Guenther, born in Frankfurt on July 7, 1925;2 and Heinz, born in 1928.3

Katinka’s older brother Friedrich married Lina Neuhaus on October 26, 1921, in Braach, Germany. She was born on September 19, 1894, in Braach (sometimes listed as Baumbach, which is less than two miles from Braach) to Samuel Neuhaus and Bertha Wallach.

Siegmund Friedrich Blumenfeld marriage to Lina Neuhaus, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 907; Laufende Nummer: 510, Year Range: 1921, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Friedrich and Lina had two children: Gretel was born August 21, 1922, in Momberg,4 and Gunter was born on February 22, 1926, in Momberg.5

Sida Blumenfeld, the youngest child of Gerson II and Berta, married Siegfried Spier on December 29, 1924, in Momberg. Her name is spelled Sitta on the marriage record, and I will use that spelling going forward. Siegfried was also a native of Momberg; he was born there on May 14, 1887, to Michael Spier and Veilchen Nussbaum. He was the owner of a matza factory.6

Sitta Blumenfeld marriage to Siegfried Spier, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6209, Year Range: 1924, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Sitta and Siegfried had two children, Manfred, born on November 29, 1925, in Momberg,7 and Gisela, born exactly four years later on November 29, 1929.8

Gisela’s son Simeon Spier wrote this beautiful description of his mother’s family’s life in Momberg before the Nazis came to power in the 1930s.9

Momberg was like a storybook village of gingerbread cookies and green rolling hills.  Her family had lived there since the 17th century.  Her father, Siegfried Spier, owned a matza factory started by her great grandfather.  Her mother, Sida, was a deeply religious woman.   Her paternal grandmother lived in her house and her maternal grandmother lived across the street.  It was a world of German folk songs and Jewish religion.  She played soccer with her brother and cousins, attended the village school and went to the tiny village shul on Shabbos.

I also had the great pleasure of speaking to Katinka’s son Heinz (now Henry) Rosenberg just a week or so ago. He also spent his early childhood years in Momberg. He pointed out that since Gisela’s father Siegfried Spier owned a matza factory that employed many of the town’s residents, even after Hitler first came to power in 1933, no one bothered the Jews in Momberg at first because they were grateful to have jobs in the factory.10

That idyllic life would soon come to an end with Kristallnacht in November, 1938. Simeon Spier described what happened in Momberg to his mother and her family:11

On the 9th of November 1938 her world was destroyed by the Nazis during the Kristallnacht. The synagogue was burned down and the men were taken to concentration camps. Her brother’s Bar Mitzvah could not take place later that month as there was not a minyan of 10 adult Jewish men in the village. This saddened her all her life since her brother had been practicing his parsha and haftorah for months. She too knew the words and could recite them the rest of her life.

Jews were kicked out of the village school and Gisela and her brother were sent to an orphanage in Frankfurt. There, away from her family at 10 years old she would spend countless hours in the school’s gymnasium on the horizontal bar. Her love of sports helped her escape what was happening. She lived on Pfingsfeid Strasse near the zoo. Jews were not allowed in the zoo so all she could see was the head of the giraffe. She was forced to wear a yellow star.

Heinz/Henry Rosenberg also was unable to go to school for two years and still clearly remembers seeing the destruction of the Momberg synagogue on Kristallnacht. He shared with me the moving story of his family’s rescue of a Torah scroll that had belonged to his grandfather Gerson Blumenfeld and had been damaged during the violence of Kristallnacht. They brought that scroll with them to the US, and Henry read from it at his bar mitzvah in 1941 as did his grandson over seventy years later.

Fortunately, like that Torah scroll, almost all of Gerson Blumenfeld’s children and grandchildren got out of Germany in time and survived the Holocaust. Almost all.


  1. Walter Joseph Rosenberg, Gender: Male, Petition Age: 24, Birth Date: 17 Oct 1920
    Birth Place: Frankfurt, Germany, Record Type: Naturalization Petition, Petition Number: 1788, National Archives and Records Administration – Southeast Region (Atlanta); Atlanta, GA; Petitions For Naturalization, Compiled 1922-1964; Series Number: 648598; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21, Ancestry.com. Louisiana, U.S., Naturalization Records, 1836-2001 
  2. Guenther Rosenberg, [George G Rosenberg], [George Rosenberg], Gender: Male
    Race: White, Birth Date: 7 Jul 1925, Birth Place: Frankfurt MA, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 27 Oct 1998. Father: Emil Rosenberg. Mother: Katinka Blumenfeld, SSN: 093129735, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  3. Heinz, Record Type: Naturalization Declaration., Birth Date: — 1928, Birth Place: Frankfurt, Germany, Court: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Father: Emanuel Rosenberg, Box Number: 338, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, Source Information
    Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943. Because Heinz/Henry is still living, I am not disclosing his exact birth date. 
  4. Gretel Blumenfeld, [Grethe Blumenfeld], Gender: Female, Race: White, Declaration Age: 18, Record Type: Naturalization Declaration, Birth Date: 21 Aug 1922
    Birth Place: Momberg, Germany, Court: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Declaration Number: 493628, Box Number: 366, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention For Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943 
  5. Gunter Blumenfeld, Petition Age: 19, Record Type: Naturalization Petition, Birth Date: 22 Feb 1926, Birth Place: Momberg, Germany, Departure Place: Momberg, Germany, Petition Place: Augusta, Augusta-Richmond, Georgia, USA, Ship: Hansa
    Description: Augusta Naturalization Petitions 9/1943-12/1953 (Box 2), National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; ARC Title: Petitions For Naturalization, Compiled 1909 – 1970; ARC Number: 2143321; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21, Ancestry.com. Georgia, U.S., Naturalization Records, 1794-1993 
  6. “In Loving Memory of Yael Gisela Spier Cohen,” by Simeon Spier, published February 28, 2016, found here
  7. Manfred Spier, Nationality German or Austrian, Birth Date 29 Nov 1925, Birth Place Momberg, Prior Residence Momberg, Street Address Marburg a. d. L., Arrival Date 10 Oct 1944, Arrival Country Germany, Death Date 18 Apr 1945, Prisoner Number 115317
    Arrival Notes 10 Oct 1944 from Auschwitz, Disposition Notes died 18 Apr 1945, Description prisoner German or Austrian Jew, Page 5440/Bg., Original Notes (desc. / arr. / dis.) Sch. DR. J./ 10 Oct 1944 v. Au./ gest. 18 Apr 1945, JewishGen volunteers, comp. Germany, Dachau Concentration Camp Records, 1945 
  8. Giesela Sara Spier, Gender: weiblich (Female), Nationality: Deutsch Juden, Record Type: Inventory, Birth Date: 29 Nov 1928, Birth Place: Momberg, Last Residence: Momberg, Residence Place: Momberg, Marburg an der Lahn
    Notes: Inventories of personal estates of foreigners and especially German Jews
    Reference Number: 02010103 oS, Document ID: 85950815, Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.3, Ancestry.com. Free Access: Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 
  9. See Note 6, supra. 
  10. Phone conversation with Henry Rosenberg, October 30, 2022. 
  11. See Note 6, supra. 

Gerson Blumenfeld II, Part II: Two Sons Killed in World War I Fighting for Germany

In the summer of 1914 after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, the countries of Europe and of the wider world declared war on each other based on mutual protection agreements those countries had previously formed. On one side were the Central Powers including Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Turkey; on the other side were the Allies, including France, England, Italy, Russia, Japan, and later the US.

The three sons of Gerson Blumenfeld II and his wife Berta Alexander—Moritz, Friedrich, and Isaak—all served in the German army for the Central Powers. But only one of those sons came home alive.

Moritz, their oldest son, was killed on the Eastern Front of the War in Niedzieliska, Poland, on December 11, 1914, according to his German death record.1 The report of his death came from the commander of his reserve infantry unit, as indicated on the death record, and stated that he’d been shot in the abdomen.2

Moritz Blumenfeld, Death Age: 27, Birth Date: abt 1887, Death Date: 11. Dez 1914 (11 Dec 1914)
Death Place: Momberg, Hessen (Hesse), Deutschland (Germany), Civil Registration Office: Momberg, Father: Gerson Blumenfeld, Mother: Bertha Blumenfeld, Certificate Number: 1, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 6225; Laufende Nummer: 915, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Niedzieliska was a small village about 42 miles east of Krakow. During the summer and into the fall of 1914, the Russians were successfully fighting the German and Austrian troops in that general area, winning an important battle in Lemberg (now Lviv) in the late summer of 1914 and then moving west and capturing Przemysl in the spring of 1915.

I am very grateful to Eric Feinstein of the GerSIG Facebook group for providing me with access to a description of the battle of Niedzieliska from a book entitled (as translated) Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 83: edited from official and private war diaries by Hans Wahrenburg, published in 1924 by Stalling Verlag in Berlin. Eric pointed me to page 42 which describes the Niedzieliska battle, and I used DeepL to translate it, though some of the references are not clear.

At 12:12, II and III Battalions will be moved out of the forward line during the morning and III Battalion will be housed and fed at Niedzieliska. At 1.30 a.m. the II Battalion also follows there, while at the same time the III Battalion from the eastern exit of the Dorsel is deployed for another assault against the Russian position at the windmill Wszeliwn in the subsection of the 49 RJB.

Heavy flank fire from the right initially hampered the advance of the companies and only after the arrival of II Battalion on the obstructed right wing did the assault proceed briskly, especially since the enemy apparently had little artillery, but was able to bring the assault to a halt with even more intense infantry and M.C. fire.

Exhausting effort! 4 o’clock in the morning the position on the Wszelimn-Dsief road was taken by assault, during which, among others, the leader of 12 Company, Captain a D Rudel, and by roughing up the enemy MC Sergeant Emilius and Muss. Cohn 11 Compagnie, Ref. Zinf. Kriegsfreim. Ludwig and Ref. harms 12th Compagnie and Ref. Deja quite particularly distinguish.

About 1500 prisoners and 12 MC find the spoils of the day. I Battalion advanced as a division reserve to the west exit of Niedzieliska, but failed to enter.

It was sometime during this battle that Moritz Blumenfeld II, oldest child of Gerson Blumenfeld II and Berta Alexander, was mortally wounded.

His younger brother Isaak was killed on the Western Front. Although I do not have a death certificate for Isaak, I have information from the lists of German casualties located on Ancestry and elsewhere. Isaak died in a field hospital in Sainghin-en-Weppes in the north of France on January 8, 1915, after being seriously wounded. He was only 21 at the time.

Isaack Blumenfeld, Residence Year: 1914, Residence Country: Deutschland (Germany)
List Date: 30. Jan 1915 (30 Jan 1915), List Number: 0345, Volume: 1915_VII, Ancestry.com. Germany, World War I Casualty Lists, 1914-1919

Isaack Blumenfeld Residence Year: 1914 Residence Country: Deutschland (Germany) List Date: 20. Jan 1915 (20 Jan 1915) List Number: 0331 Volume: 1915_VII, Ancestry.com. Germany, World War I Casualty Lists, 1914-1919

Like Niedzieska where Moritz was killed, Sainghin was just a small village with no obvious strategic importance, but it was located in the region of France where during this time period, thousands of soldiers on both sides were killed during trench warfare where the two sides were essentially deadlocked, going back and forth slaughtering each other’s young soldiers and others.

This UK website on World War I described it in these terms:

By the end of 1914 the battles of movement in the first weeks of the war had been  brought to a halt. The fierce defence of strategic landmarks by the Allied forces resulted in a situation which became one of deadlock. Carefully selecting the most favourable high ground the Imperial German Army began the construction of a strong defensive line from early in 1915.

The consolidation of the Front Lines consisted of trenches, wire defences, mined dugouts and deep bunkers, reinforced concrete emplacements and selected strongpoints, usually a reinforced farm, in an Intermediate, Second and Third defensive line. Gradually the building and digging was carried on on both sides of the wire along a distance of approximately 450 miles, creating a more or less continous line of trenches separating the warring belligerents along the length of The Western Front.

In 1915, 1916 and 1917 both sides made attempts to break the deadlock with major battle offensives. The characteristics of siege warfare which developed on the Western Front in these three years created conditions never witnessed before. Instead of expecting to achieve objectives at a considerable distance from the start of an offensive, the type of trench warfare fighting created a situation where attacks were carried out in phases with short distance objectives and usually following a bombardment of enemy trench lines beforehand. This strategy led to prolonged periods of fighting with success counted in gains hundreds of yards rather than miles. The human cost of casualties and dead in such a grinding type of siege warfare would be recorded in the thousands in the space of a single day.

Isaak Blumenfeld, Gerson II and Berta’s youngest son, was killed during the early days of this period of warfare, less than a month after the death of his brother Moritz.

A January 29, 1914 article in the Frankfurter Israelitisches Familienblatt reported, “The G. Blumenfeld family was hit by a heavy loss. Two hopeful sons both suffered heroic deaths for their fatherland. Both stood out from the enemy with their outstanding bravery honored, the eldest carried a seriously wounded man out of the most terrible shell fire at great risk to his life. The youngest last stood as a teacher in Petershagen on the Weser.”

The deaths of Moritz and Isaak left Gerson and Berta with just one surviving son, their middle son Friedrich. But Friedrich also served in the German armed forces. His great-nephew Michael Rosenberg shared with me Friedrich’s military record, including translations of the information on each page done by Richard Bloomfield.

As translated by Richard, this record indicates that Friedrich began his military service for Germany on August 24, 1915, just months after the deaths of both of his brothers. He was transferred to the homeland and away from the front in January 1917, perhaps because the family had already lost Isaak and Moritz. Friedrich was discharged from service on December 26, 1918, six weeks after the war ended, and came home alive.

His father Gerson Blumenfeld II, however, died in Momberg on July 29, 1919, just seven months after Friedrich returned home. Although Gerson was 66 and thus was not particularly young for that era when he died, I nevertheless wonder whether losing two of this three sons in some way hastened his death.

One might have thought that sacrificing two sons to the cause of Germany in World War I would have somehow kept the rest of this family safe from the Nazis, but it was not to be, as we will see.


  1. At least one secondary source reports that his death occurred on December 12, 1914, but I am relying on his actual death record. See the list of Jewish World War I casualties for Germany at http://denkmalprojekt.org/verlustlisten/rjf_orte_m_wk1.htm 
  2. Thank you to the members of the GerSIG: German Jewish Genealogy Special Interest Group on Facebook for transcribing and translating this record. 

Gerson Blumenfeld II, Part I: Two Marriages, Three Daughters, Three Sons

As I turn to the next child of Isaak Blumenfeld and Gelle Straus, Gerson Blumenfeld, I am fortunate to have not only the support and research of Richard Bloomfield, whose work I’ve already noted numerous times on the blog, but also of a direct descendant of Gerson Blumenfeld, his great-grandson Michael Rosenberg. Michael and I have been in touch for quite a while, and he also, like Richard, has been helpful to me in researching other aspects of the Blumenfeld family tree. But now I have finally reached Michael’s direct line, and I am excited that I will be able to work with him and learn from him.

Gerson Blumenfeld, the son of Isaak and Gelle, will be referred to as Gerson Blumenfeld II on my tree and on the blog; his first cousin, once removed, also named Gerson Blumenfeld I, was married to Giedel Blumenfeld, daughter of Isaak and Gelle and sister of Gerson II, as I wrote about here.

Gerson II was born on April 29, 1853, in Momberg, Germany.

Geburtsregister der Juden von Momberg (Neustadt) 1850-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 608)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, WiesbadenErscheinungsjahr1850-1874, p. 4

On August 23, 1883, he married Mina Katz, daughter of Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz. Mina was born on June 7, 1860, in Jesberg, Germany.

Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3838
Year Range: 1883, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

As soon as I saw that Mina was born in Jesberg and was a Katz, I figured she must also be related to me. Mina is my third cousin, three times removed, and is descended from my five-times great-grandfather Schalum Katz of Jesberg through his son Salomon Katz. So both Mina and Gerson II were my cousins, but they were not related to each other as far as I have been able to determine.

 

Gerson II and Mina had a daughter born in Momberg on August 30, 1884, and tragically Mina died the following day, presumably from complications from childbirth. She was only twenty-four years old. Their one-day old infant was named for her mother Mina.

Mina Blumenfeld birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6467, Year Range: 1884, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Mina Katz Blumenfeld death record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 6551; Laufende Nummer: 915, Year Range: 1884
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Gerson II remarried two years later on June 2, 1886. His second wife was Berta Alexander. She was born on November 16, 1859, and was the daughter of Joseph Alexander and Fradchen Frank, and like Gerson II’s first wife, Berta was also my cousin, specifically my second cousin, three times removed. Berta was the great-granddaughter of Abraham Katz Blumenfeld and Geitel Katz, my four-times great-grandparents. She also was a second cousin to her husband Gerson II, who was also a great-grandchild of Abraham Katz Blumenfeld.

Gerson Blumenfeld marriage to Berta Alexander, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6496, Year Range: 1886, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Thus, all the children of Gerson II and Berta were not just siblings, but also each other’s third cousins. And the descendants of Gerson II and Mina were my double cousins since I was related to both of them. Oy vey! No wonder I can’t sort out my DNA matches…

But onto the children of Gerson II and Berta. Their first child Moritz was born on March 16, 1887, in Momberg, Germany.

Moritz Blumenfeld II birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6470, Year Range: 1887, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Their second child, Siegmond Friedrich “Fritz” Blumenfeld, was born on December 7, 1888, in Momberg, Germany.

Siegmund Friedrich Blumenfeld birth record,Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6471, Year Range: 1888, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Katinka, their third child and oldest daughter, was born in Momberg on July 30, 1891.

Katinka Blumenfeld birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6474, Year Range: 1891, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Isaak Blumenfeld (labeled III on my tree) was born September 24, 1893, in Momberg.

Isaak Blumenfeld III birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6476, Year Range: 1893, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

The fifth and youngest child of Gerson II and Berta was their daughter Sida (sometimes spelled Sitta), born in Momberg on July 26, 1896.

Birth record for Sida Blumenfeld, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6479, Year Range: 1896, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Mina Blumenfeld, Gerson II’s daughter with his wife Mina Katz, married Albert Simon on October 31, 1910, in Momberg. Albert was the son of Joseph Simon and Guste Aumann, and he was born on November 17, 1879, in Hermannstein, Germany.

Mina Blumenfeld marriage to Albert Simon, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6195, Year Range: 1910, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Mina and Albert had four children.

UPDATE: I just located a death record for a fifth child of Mina and Albert born before Julius. That child, a son named Dedo, died on January 16, 1912, in Hermannstein. He was only a day old.

Dedo Simon death record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 4342; Laufende Nummer: 911
Description
Year Range: 1912
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Their second child, Julius, was born in 1913 and died when he was only two years old on May 31, 1915.

Julius Simon death record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 4345; Laufende Nummer: 911, Year Range: 1915
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Mina and Albert’s third child Kurt was born on November 10, 1914.1 Their fourth son Joseph was born on October 26, 1916.2 And their fifth child and only daughter Grete was born December 23, 1919.3 Fortunately, these three children all survived to adulthood.

My cousin Michael shared with me this beautiful photograph taken before World War I of Gerson II and Berta with their five children as well as Gerson’s daughter Mina from his first marriage.

Gerson and Berta Blumenfeld and their children c. 1911

From left to right in the back row, they are Isaak, Fritz, Mina, Katinka, Moritz, and Sida. Berta and Gerson are seated in front of them, and the family dog lies at their feet. How can I not love a family that includes their dog in the family portrait?

 


  1. Kurt Simon, Gender: Male, Birth Date: 10 Nov 1914, Death Date: Jun 1969, Claim Date: 17 Jul 1969, SSN: 131102677, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  2. Josef Simon, [Joe Simon], Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 26 Oct 1916
    Birth Place: Hermanuskin, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 30 Oct 2001
    Father: Albert Simon, Mother: Meta Blumenfeld, SSN: 116034007, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. 
  3.  National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Petitions and Records For Naturalization, 10/1911-9/1991; NAI Number: 615479; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: Rg 21, Description: Vol173-175, Petition No 40197, Paul Saban, 24 Mar 1944 – Petition No 407321, Sophie Bursack, 16 June 1944, Ancestry.com. Connecticut, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1790-1996 

Meier Blumenfeld IIB, Part II: His Three Surviving Children Were All Murdered in the Holocaust

Meier Blumenfeld IIB, who died in 1922, and his wife Sarchen, who died in 1930, were survived by three of their five children: Moses Blumenfeld III and his wife Sarah Rothschild and their son Julius; Hermann Blumenfeld III and his wife Elsa Drucker and their three children, Eric, Hilde, and Liselotte; and Rosa Blumenfeld and her husband Julius Hess. As of 1933 when Hitler came to power, they were all living in Germany.

Tragically, all three of Meier IIB and Sarchen’s children were murdered in the Holocaust. Moses IIB and Sarah were deported to the Litzmannstadt Ghetto in Lodz on October 20, 1941, and died sometime thereafter. Fortunately, their son Julius escaped to Argentina in 1936. I don’t know what happened to Julius afterwards, but at least he managed to avoid the fate of his parents.1

Moses IIB’s sister Rosa and her husband Julius Hess were also both killed by the Nazis. They were deported on June 11, 1942, from Frankfurt either to the Sobibor death camp and/or to the camp at Majdanek, where they were murdered.2

Hermann Blumenfeld III and his wife Elsa were also murdered by the Nazis, as were their daughter Hilde and her family, despite the fact that they all had left Nazi Germany. Hilde had immigrated to Amsterdam in March 1934, and she had married Julius Seelig on April 28, 1937, in Amsterdam. Julius was born in Reichensachen, Germany, on December 10, 1908, to Joseph Seelig and Paula Wallach. Hilde and Julius had one child, a daughter Hanna born in Amsterdam on October 12, 1938. Julius and Hilde were divorced on June 9, 1942, and Julius soon remarried another woman, Margot Pauline Aharon, in July 1942.

Here are the Amsterdam registration cards for Hilde, Julius, and Hanna that report this information:

Amsterdam City Archives, Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 78
Municipality : Amsterdam, Period : 1939-1960, found at https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/deeds/98533418-6d7f-56a3-e053-b784100ade19

Amsterdam City Archives, Archive cards , Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 719, Municipality : Amsterdam, Period : 1939-1960 found at https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/deeds/9853340a-857d-56a3-e053-b784100ade19

Amsterdam City Archives, Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 719
Municipality : Amsterdam, Period : 1939-1960, found at https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/deeds/9853341a-53f7-56a3-e053-b784100ade19

Hilde’s parents Hermann and Elsa came to Amsterdam later than Hilde, arriving in May 1939, according to Hermann’s Amsterdam registration card.

Amsterdam City Archives, Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 78
Municipality : Amsterdam
Period : 1939-1960 found at https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?sa=%7B%22person_1%22:%7B%22search_t_geslachtsnaam%22:%22Blumenfeld%22,%22search_t_voornaam%22:%22Hermann%22%7D%7D

But escaping to Amsterdam did not keep any of them safe. According to records at Yad Vashem, Hermann and Else were sent to the Westerbork Detention Camp in 1943 and from there deported to Auschwitz where they were both killed on February 11, 1944.

Hilde and her daughter Hanna were also first sent to Westerbork in August 1943 and then to Auschwitz. Hilde died on January 31, 1944, and her five-year-old daughter Hanna on February 11, 1944, according to Yad Vashem.

Fortunately, Hilde’s two siblings survived the Holocaust. Erich Blumenfeld immigrated to Palestine on September 13, 1937, and became a naturalized citizen there on December 19, 1939.3

Erich married Miriam Emerich, daughter of Robert and Hannah Emerich, on April 6, 1941.4

Erich changed his name in 1948 to Eliezer Shadmon. Shadmon means farm in Hebrew, and according to Erich/Eliezer’s application for naturalization, he was working as a farmer at Ein Harod at that time, as seen in the images above.5 Unfortunately, I’ve not yet found any further information about Erich/Eliezer.

Liselotte Blumenfeld, the youngest child of Hermann III and Else, immigrated to the US and arrived in New York City on August 5, 1937. She was heading to Lexington, Kentucky, according to the ship manifest,6 and in 1940, she was living with James and Nanette Strause in Fayette, Kentucky and working as a nurse, presumably for their seven year old son. I don’t know why Liselotte chose Kentucky as her destination, but I assume there was some friend or family member living there when she immigrated or she had arranged the job before leaving Germany. (I’ve recently learned that another branch of the Blumenfeld family that I’ve yet to research settled in Kentucky long before the 1930s, so perhaps that was Liselotte’s connection. To be determined…)

On January 10, 1943, Liselotte, referred to here as Liesel Lotte Bloomfield, married Corporal Herbert Isaak in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Bloomfield-Isaak Wedding in Louisville,” Lexington Herald-Leader, January 17, 1943, p. 18

Herbert was born in Munich, Germany, on March 21, 1920, and had immigrated to the US on April 25, 1941; he’d enlisted in the US Army on January 5, 1942. His parents were Emil Charles Isaak and Therese Meyer.7 Liselotte and Herbert had one child born in the 1940s. According to his obituary, Herbert had survived the Dachau Concentration Camp and had served as a field-commissioned second lieutenant in the US  Army at the Nuremberg Trials.8

In 1950, the family was living in New York City, and Herbert was working as a traveling salesman for a “ladies suits and coats factory.”9 The family must have relocated to the South at some later date because, according to Herbert’s obituary, “he was a traveling sales representative of women’s coats in Virginia and the Carolinas and had a showroom in Charlotte, N.C.”10 Herbert died on November 18, 2001, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; he was 81. Liselotte outlived him by thirteen years; she was just a few days shy of her 97th birthday when she died on November 5, 2014. Herbert and Liselotte were both buried at Florence National Cemetery in Florence, South Carolina.11

I haven’t yet determined whether Liselotte Blumenfeld Isaak or Erich Blumenfeld/Eliezer Shadmon have living descendants. Nor have I found more information about their cousin Julius Blumenfeld, the son of Moses IIB. I am hoping that there are more descendants alive to carry on the legacy of Meier Blumenfeld IIB and his wife Sarchen Moses and their children.


  1. “Uruguay, listas de pasajeros, 1888-1980,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C33M-19T3?cc=2691993 : 30 June 2020), > image 1 of 1; Archivo General de la Nación, Dirección Nacional de Migración (General Archive of the Nation, National Migration), Montevideo. Also, see Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1, Description Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Ancestry.com. Free Access: Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 
  2. The Gedenbuch and Yad Vashem records mention both camps. I guess the evidence of where Rosa and Julius ended up is unclear, but their ultimate fate is not. 
  3. Erich Blumenfeld, Palestine Immigration File, found at the Israel Archives website at https://www.archives.gov.il/catalogue/group/1?kw=erich%20blumenfeld 
  4. Marriage record found at the Israel Genealogy Research Association website by searching for Erich Blumenfeld. https://genealogy.org.il/AID/ 
  5. Name change found at the IGRA website by searching for Eliezer Shadmon. https://genealogy.org.il/AID/ 
  6. Liselotte Brilea Ingeborg Blumenfeld, ship manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 21; Page Number: 37,
    Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  7. Herbert Jsaak [Herbert Isaak] Gender: Male Race: White Birth Date: 21 Mar 1920
    Birth Place: Munich, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 18 Nov 2001, Father:
    Emil Jsaak Mother: Therese Meyer SSN: 046143654, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007; Herbert Isaak, Petition for Naturalization, The National Archives at Atlanta; Atlanta, GA; Petitions For Naturalization , Compiled 1906-1978; NAI: 1275754; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21, Ancestry.com. Kentucky, U.S., Naturalization Records, 1906-1991; Herbert Isaak, National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, USA; Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946; NAID: 1263923; Record Group Title: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789-ca. 2007; Record Group: 64; Box Number: 04782; Reel: 142, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  8. “Herbert Isaak,” Myrtle Beach Sun-News, November 21, 2001, p. 35. 
  9. Herbert Isaak and family, 1950 US census, United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: New York, New York, New York; Roll: 4377; Sheet Number: 12; Enumeration District: 31-2180, Ancestry.com. 1950 United States Federal Census 
  10. See Note 8, supra. 
  11. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/138910393/liesel-isaak: accessed 21 September 2022), memorial page for Liesel Bloomfield Isaak (23 Nov 1917–5 Nov 2014), Find a Grave Memorial ID 138910393, citing Florence National Cemetery, Florence, Florence County, South Carolina, USA; Maintained by Danny & Judy Ard (contributor 47789022); Liesel Isaak, Rank: T/5, Death Age: 96, Birth Date: 23 Nov 1917, Death Date: 5 Nov 2014, Interment Place: Florence, South Carolina, USA, Cemetery Address: 803 East National Cemetery Road, Cemetery Postal Code: 29501, Cemetery: Florence National Cemetery, Section: 11 Plot: 37, War: World War II, Branch of Service: US Army
    Relative: Herbert Isaak, Comments: Wife, National Cemetery Administration; U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, National Cemetery Administration. U.S., Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019;