Betty Schnadig Cohen’s Heartbreaking Story, Part I

As we saw, Betty Schnadig married Bernard Arie Cohen from Holland, and they had four children born in Groningen in Holland: Arnold, Anita, Simona Hedda, and Adolf. Bernard Arie Cohen was a merchant in the rag, scrap metal, and paper business in Groningen.

I was very fortunate to connect with my fifth cousin Betty, Betty Schnadig Cohen’s granddaughter and namesake, who kindly shared the family photographs I’ve included in this blog post. Thank you also once again to Bert de Jong and also to Rob Ruijs who found many of the notices from Dutch newspapers and introduced me to the Delpher.nl website for Dutch research.

Here, for example, is a May 7, 1903, wedding announcement for Betty and Bernard, thanking everyone for their kind wishes.

Nieuwsblad van het Noorden 07-05-1903 (May 7, 1903), 
found at https://tinyurl.com/y6enc386

In this photograph, Betty and Bernard are dressed in costume to celebrate Purim:

Betty Schnadig and Bernard Arie Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

This adorable little boy in the sailor outfit is their first-born child, Arnold, probably taken in Groningen when he was about three or four, or in about 1908:

Arnold Cohen c. 1908 Courtesy of Betty de Liever

This is a newspaper notice announcing Arnold’s bar mitzvah in February, 1917.

Centraal blad voor Israëlieten in Nederland
02-02-1917
found at https://tinyurl.com/y6fl8gsa

This is a lovely photograph of all  four children probably taken in the early 1920s.

Arnold, Anita, Adolf, and Simona Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

And here is an announcement of Adolf Cohen’s bar mitzvah in 1929:

Nieuw Israelietisch weekblad
August 9, 1929 found at https://tinyurl.com/y66damno

The family that celebrated these joyous occasions was destroyed just fifteen years after Adolf’s bar mitzvah.

According to a Stolpersteine website devoted to the Cohen family, when World War II started in 1939, Bernard very quickly realized the dangers ahead. After a swastika was painted on the front of their home in Groningen along with the word “Jood,” he knew they had to go into hiding.

House of Bernard and Betty Cohen in Groningen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

But their efforts to hide were not ultimately successful. Betty Schnadig and Bernard Arie Cohen did not survive; they were arrested on November 11, 1942, and sent to the detention camp at Westerbork, from which they were then deported to Sobibor on May 18, 1943, and immediately gassed to death upon arrival.

Betty Schnadig Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Bernard Arie Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Of their four children, only two survived. One was their older daughter Simona Hedda. I located a card for her in the Arolsen Archives showing she was registered with the Judenrat in Amsterdam. The card has very little information other than Simona’s name, birth date, and address, and it’s not dated, but it appears that Simona was living in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations /
1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam /
Reference Code 124200009/ ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Somehow Simona avoided deportation and survived the war. On August 29, 1946, in Groningen, Simona married Jan de Jong, who was born on March 22, 1914, in Ooststellingwerf. Simona (apparently known as Mona) and Jan had a son Bernard de Jong (presumably named for Simona’s father) born November 4, 1948, but he died two and half months later on January 12, 1949.1 Sadly, Simona’s marriage to Jan did not long survive the loss of their child. They were divorced on April 28, 1950, in Groningen.

Thank you so much to Rob Ruijs, who found most of this information about Simona and her family, including these two newspaper notices for the birth and death of Simona and Jan’s infant son Bernard.

De waarheid 08-11-1948

Thanks to Rob, I also know that Simona moved to Amsterdam after her divorce and worked for the city, eventually becoming the bureau chief. She died on February 5, 2005, in Amsterdam at the age of 93. As far as I can tell, she did not remarry or have more children. Simona was blessed with a long life.

UPDATE: Another reader, N. Aronson, found Simona’s Amsterdam residency card, which showed that she lived in Groningen until 1953, then in Nunspeet, and then in 1954 she moved to Amsterdam. Thank you!!

But Betty and Bernard’s other daughter Anita Cohen did not survive. She married Abraham Jacob van Dam on December 23, 1935, in Groningen, Netherlands.2 Abraham was born in Groningen on June 24, 1898, the son of Jakob van Dam and Netje Kisch.3 Abraham and Anita had two children, a son Jacob Abraham van Dam, born on July 3, 1938, and a son Bernard, born December 24, 1939. The photo below depicts Anita and her two little sons probably in 1941.

Jakob van Dam, Bernard van Dam, and Anita Cohen van Dam c. 1941. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Anita, Abraham, and those two little boys in this photograph were murdered by the Nazis.

Just stop and think about that. Little Jacob van Dam was four years old, his brother Bernard not yet three. They and their mother Anita were murdered at Auschwitz on November 2, 1942. Their father Abraham survived until March 31, 1944, when he also died at the hands of the Nazis. Although it always takes my breath away when I discover yet another family member who was killed in the Holocaust, finding the Pages of Testimony for my cousins Jacob and Bernard, sweet innocent little boys, just sent me reeling.

Betty Schnadig and Bernard Cohen’s son Adolf married Henriette Sara Barnstijn on March 12, 1942.4 They both were murdered at Auschwitz before their first anniversary. Henriette was killed on December 15, 1942; Adolf was killed two months after his new bride on February 28, 1943. Henriette was 22, Adolf was 26.

Thus, Betty Schnadig and Bernard Arie Cohen and two of their children, Anita and Adolf, were murdered by the Nazis as were Anita and Adolf’s spouses and Anita’s two little boys. Betty and Bernard’s first born child Arnold survived, but not without tragedy. His story merits a separate post.


  1.  Bernard de Jong, Age: 2/12, Birth Date: abt 1948, Birth Place: Groningen
    Death Date: 12 jan 1949, Death Place: Groningen, Father: Jan de Jong, Mother: Simona Hedda Cohen, AlleGroningers; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  2.  Anita Cohen, Gender: Vrouwelijk (Female), Age: 28, Birth Date: abt 1907
    Marriage Date: 23 dec 1935, Marriage Place: Groningen, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen
    Mother: Bettij Schnadig, Spouse: Abraham Jakob van Dam, BS Marriage,
    Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Civil Marriage Index, 1795-1950. Original data: BS Huwelijk. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  3.  Abraham Jakob van Dam, Gender: Mannelijk (Male), Age: 37
    Birth Date: abt 1898, Marriage Date: 23 dec 1935, Marriage Place: Groningen
    Father: Jakob van Dam, Mother: Netje Kisch, Spouse: Anita Cohen
    BS Marriage, Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Civil Marriage Index, 1795-1950. Original data: BS Huwelijk. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  4.  Adolf Cohen, Gender: Mannelijk (Male), Age: 25, Birth Date: abt 1917
    Marriage Date: 12 mrt 1942 (12 Mar 1942), Marriage Place: Groningen, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen, Mother: Betty Schnadig, Spouse: Henriëtte Sara Barnstijn
    BS Marriage, Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Civil Marriage Index, 1795-1950. Original data: BS Huwelijk. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 

Tragedy and Escape: The Story of Helene Schnadig Cohn and Her Children

We saw in the last post that Henriette Katzenstein Schnadig’s youngest child Elsa survived the Holocaust as did her husband Salomon Cats and their two sons. Elsa’s two older sisters Helene and Betty were not as fortunate.

Elsa’s sister Helene Schnadig and her husband Emil Cohn were both murdered by the Nazis. According to their residency registration cards at the Amsterdam archives, Helene and Emil moved from Hamburg to Hilversum in the Netherlands on January 2, 1939, and then to Rotterdam on September 11, 1939, ten days after the start of World War II. They then returned to Hilversum on November 9, 1940. Eventually they returned to Amsterdam on July 17, 1942.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 721 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22schnadig%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

According to a Judenrat card found in the Arolsen Archives, Emil and Helene were taken to the detention camp at Westerbork on January 8, 1943. From there they were taken to the concentration camp in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, on January 20, 1944. Then on October 28, 1944, they were taken from Terezin to the death camp at Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Emil was 74, Helene 63.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.1 Camps and Ghettos / 1.1.42 Theresienstadt Ghetto /
1.1.42.2 Card File Theresienstadt / 4966533/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Miraculously, however, Helene and Emil Cohn’s four children all survived, although my information about them is somewhat limited. Meta, their oldest child, was married to Salomon Pregers, who was born in Rotterdam on October 8, 1885, son of Salomon Pregers and Isabelle Therese de Groot.1 Meta and Salomon were married in Hamburg on May 14, 1926, according to their Amsterdam residency card.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 159 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22meta%20cohn%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

That residency card indicates that Salomon and Meta came from Hamburg to Hilversum on June 3, 1926, a few weeks after their wedding. They remained in the Netherlands, eventually moving to Amsterdam in February 1943, not long after Meta’s parents were taken to Westerbork.

Salomon and Meta were registered with the Judenrat in Amsterdam, as reflected on these three cards. It appears that Salomon had been a teacher at a Jewish school. I can’t decipher much more than that.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

UPDATE: Bert de Jong pointed out that both these cards have the designation “gesperrt,” meaning that Meta and Salomon had been marked as exempt from deportation by the Judenrat, Salomon because of his former occupation as a teacher and his education, and Meta based on her husband’s exemption.

UPDATE from Rob Ruijs: Rob examined these three cards very carefully and provided some analysis. One interesting observation he made about Salomon Pregers was that he may have grown up in poverty and achieved success through higher education.  Rob also deciphered much of that third card with three entries for February 2, 1943. It appears that Salomon (and presumably Meta) were moving between Amsterdam and the town of Den Bosch, which is about an hour south of Amsterdam or that there was some confusion about where they were living.

The Amsterdam residency cards above indicate that both Meta and Salomon left for Germany (Duitschland) in March 1945. I would think that means they were deported then since I cannot imagine that any Jew would have gone to Germany willingly in March, 1945, but I have no record of any deportation, and I know that they survived the war.  Meta was listed as a person searching for relatives in an article in the June 15, 1945, issue of Aufbau. The words at the top translate as:

“The following list which we have received from the ITA [the International Tracing Agency] only reveals a part of the Jews found in Holland after the final liberation who are looking for relatives. In cases in which a closer address of the searcher is not given, they can be reached through the Red Cross.”

Meta Cohn Pregers in Aufbau June 15, 1945, p. 25, http://archive.org/stream/aufbau111945germ#page/n387/mode/1up

Although Meta and Salomon thus survived the war, it was not for very many years. Meta Cohn Pregers died on March 21, 1952, in Hilversum.2 Her husband Salomon Pregers died a month later on April 22, 1952, in Hilversum.3 He was 66 when he died, Meta was only 51. I have been unable to find a record of any children.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rob Ruijs for alerting me to the fact that there were death notices for Meta and Salomon that I could find on Delpher.nl. Given that neither death notice mentioned children, it appears that they did not have any.

New Israelite weekly
28-03-1952

New Israelite weekly
April 25, 1952

Meta’s younger brother Siegbert immigrated to Brazil in 1939; he arrived with his four-year-old daughter Ursula. I could not locate a woman traveling with him who might have been his wife, nor I have I yet found any further records for Siegbert or Ursula.

Siegbert Cohn, Digital GS Number: 004542471, Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

The third child of Helene and Emil Cohn, their daughter Hertha Johanna, married James Horwitz, a kosher butcher, on February 21, 1928, in Hamburg. James was born on November 10, 1895, in Hamburg, the son of Hermann Horwitz and Johanna Tannenberg.4 James and Hertha immigrated to Rotterdam inthe Netherlands from Berlin on March 15, 1939, and to Amsterdam in March of 1940.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 367 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22james%20horwitz%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

On July 17, 1940, they were both taken to the detention camp in Westerbork. According to entries in the Terezin Memorial database, both James and Hertha were deported to the Terezin concentration camp on September 4, 1944. James was then taken from Terezin to Auschwitz on September 29, 1944, but Hertha was not. The Terezin Memorial entry indicates that she was liberated from Terezin and survived.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.1 Camps and Ghettos / 1.1.42 Theresienstadt Ghetto /
1.1.42.2 Card File Theresienstadt /Ghetto Theresienstadt Card File
Reference Code 11422001/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

As for James’ fate, the records conflict. Some say he was killed at the death camp in Mauthausen in Austria on April 6, 1945.5 One nephew filed a Page of Testimony saying he was shot near Berlin in March 1945 as the camp inmates were being marched out of Auschwitz.  In either event, James Horwitz was murdered by the Nazis in the spring of 1945 right before the war ended.

In 1957, Hertha was living in Rotterdam when she traveled to Brazil, presumably to visit her brother Siegbert. She listed her marital status as “casada” or married, and the surname Van Thijn was added to her name, so Hertha must have remarried after the war. That is the only information I’ve found about her at this point.

UPDATE: Thank you to Rob Ruijs for reminding me to check Delpher.nl where I found a death notice for Salomon van Thijn published by H. J. van Thijn-Cohen, obviously Hertha. The death notice reads in part, “With sadness I announce the passing of my beloved caring husband Salomon van Thijn in his 87th year, March 18, 1982.” This death notice does not mention children or refer to Salomon as a father so I assume they, like Meta and Salomon Pregers, did not have children.

NRC Handelsblad
20-03-1982

Digital GS Number: 004916498, Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Lissy Sitta Cohn, the fourth and youngest of the Cohn siblings, ended up in England during the war. In 1939 she was living in Birmingham, working as a domestic servant.

Lissy Cohn, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/5600D, Enumeration District: QBUI, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register

Lissy Cohn, enemy alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/14
Piece Number Description: 014: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Cohn-Cz
Ancestry.com. UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945

She may have returned to Germany after the war because in 1946 she immigrated to Brazil and listed her last residence as Hamburg and her nationality as Alema or German. However, her passport was issued from London. She indicated that her intention was to stay in Brazil permanently and that she was a nurse (enfermeira). As with her siblings, I have no further details about Lissy’s life.

Digital GS Number: 004542185
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Thus, although the Nazis murdered Helene Schnadig and Emil Cohn, they did not murder any of their four children. But the stories of those four children are not entirely complete. I do not know whether there are living descendants of Helene and Emil, so there is still much work to be done.

 

 


  1.  Salomon Pregers, Birth Date: 1885, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Father: Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabelle Therese de Groot, Stadsarchief Rotterdam; Den Haag, Nederland; BS Birth, Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917. Original data: BS Geboorte. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. Child:
    Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabelle Therese de Groot Father: Salomon Pregers
    Date of birth: 8-10-1885, Birthplace:  Rotterdam Access number: 999-01 Civil Registry Rotterdam, birth certificates, Inventory number: 1885D, Folio number: d045v Deed number: 1885.3822 
  2.  Meta Cohn, Age: 50, Birth Date: abt 1902, Birth Place: Hamburg, Death Date: 21 mrt 1952 (21 Mar 1952), Death Place: Hilversum, Father: Emil Cohn, Mother: Helene Schnadig, Noord-Hollands Archief; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  3.  Salomon Pregers, Age: 66, Birth Date: abt 1886, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Death Date: 22 apr 1952, Death Place: Hilversum, Father: Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabella Therese de Groot, Noord-Hollands Archief; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  4. James Horwitz birth record, Year Range and Volume: 1895 Band 06, Ancestry.com. Hamburg, Germany, Births, 1874-1901. Original data:Best. 332-5 Standesämter, Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister, 1876-1950, Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg, Deutschland. 
  5. James Israel Horwitz, Birth Date: 10 Nov 1895, Birth Place: Hamburg, Mauthaus #: 134330, Nationality: staatenlos (Stateless), Arrest Reason: Jude (Jew), Night and Fog: No, Profession: Fleischer (Butcher), Death Date: 6 Apr 1945, Arrival Date: 26-Feb-45
    Source: AMM E/13/12/9; Y/36;Mauthausen Gedenkstätte. Austria, Mauthausen/Gusen Concentration Camp Death Record Books , 1938-1945. The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Microfilm: A3355; ARC: 596972; Title: Lists and Registers of German Concentration Camp Inmates, 1946 – 1958; Record Group: 242; Record Group Title: National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675 – 1958, Record Description: Records on Prisoners, Gat-Ji, Source Information
    Ancestry.com. Germany, Concentration Camp Records, 1946-1958. Also, some records at Yad Vashem show that James Horwitz was at Mauthausen. His Stolpersteine in Berlin also says that he died at Mauthausen. 

Henriette Katzenstein Schnadig, Part II: Her Daughter Elsa Schnadig Cats, The Survivor

Henriette Katzenstein Schnadig, the third daughter of Amalie Goldschmidt and Juda Katzenstein, died in 1924 in Hamburg at the age of 66. She was survived by her three daughters, Helene, Betty, and Elsa, and ten grandchildren.

Twenty years after Henriette’s death in 1924, only one of her daughters was still alive, her youngest daughter, Elsa.

I don’t know exactly how Elsa and her husband Salomon Cats survived the Holocaust. But thanks to the amazing help of Bert de Jong of the Tracing the Tribe group, I learned a great deal more about Elsa and Salomon than I had been able to find on my own.

UPDATE: According to Elsa’s great-niece Betty, Elsa and Salomon escaped to Suriname during the war.

First, in my initial research, I had not found any evidence that Elsa and Salomon had children, but as seen in my last post, thanks to the family register located by Bert de Jong, I now know that they had two sons—Marcel, born February 25, 1916, in Schaerbeek, Belgium, and Harry, born August 20, 1919, in Amsterdam. So it appears that for some time, Elsa and Salomon were in Belgium before returning to Amsterdam.

Family register of Salomon Cats and Elsa Schnadig, Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 152 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, Resident registration card
https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22marcel%20cats%22%7D
Amstserdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

But at some point—it’s not clear exactly when—Elsa and Salomon moved back to Belgium. Bert found a death notice for Salomon’s brother Leo Cats dated February 26, 1939, that shows that S.A. Cats and E. Cats-Schnadig were living in Brussels. Since that was more than six months before the start of World War II, it’s not likely that Salomon and Elsa left Holland because of the Nazis.

Bert also located a residency card for Elsa and Salomon’s son Marcel that shows that he married Betty Agsteribbe in Tel Aviv on November 20, 1949, and had been residing in Haifa until 1956 when he returned to the Netherlands.1

Marcel’s younger brother Harry married Sipora Englelanger. Sipora was born in Amsterdam on October 9, 1920. Death notices for Sipora’s father Louis Engelander show that Harry and Sipora were living in Antwerp in 1953.

In 1981, they were still living in Belgium, now Berchem, when Sipora’s mother Judith Engelander died.

According to an index of  Dutch genealogy, Salomon Cats died in Antwerp, Belgium, on June 9, 1978,1 when he was 96 years old. Elsa survived him by nine years, dying on June 8, 1987, also in Antwerp. She was 97.2 I have not found a death record for their son Marcel, but their son Harry died in April 16, 2008 in Strassbourg, France.3

UPDATE: Betty de Liever shared a cemetery listing confirming these dates of death and also shared this photograph of Elsa and Salomon and of their graves.

Elsa Schnadig and Salomon Cats Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Graves of Salomon Cats and Elsa Schnadig Cats. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

The fact that Salomon Cats and Elsa Schnadig lived such incredibly long lives makes what happened to Elsa’s sisters and their families even more upsetting. I wonder how long the others would have lived and what they would have contributed to our world and to each other if they had not been murdered by the Nazis.

More on Elsa’s sisters in the posts to follow. Thank you once again to Bert de Jong for his incredible help.

 


  1.  Salomon Aron Cats, Gender: Male, Birth Date: 3 jun 1882, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Zh, Nl, Death Date: 9 jun 1978, Death Place: Antwerpen, Antwerpen, België, Death Age: 96, Father: Aron Salomon Cats, Mother: Louisa Friezer, Spouse: Elsa Schnadig
    Ancestry.com. Web: Netherlands, GenealogieOnline Trees Index, 1000-2015. Original data: GenealogieOnline. Coret Genealogie. http://www.genealogieonline.nl/en/: accessed 31 August 2015. 
  2.  Elsa Schnadig, Gender: f (Female), Birth Date: 14 jan 1890, Birth Place: Frankfurt Am Main, Hessen, D, Death Place: Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgie, Father: Simon Schnadig, Mother: Henriette Katzenstein, Spouse: Salomon Aron Cats
    Ancestry.com. Web: Netherlands, GenealogieOnline Trees Index, 1000-2015. Original data: GenealogieOnline. Coret Genealogie. http://www.genealogieonline.nl/en/: accessed 31 August 2015. 
  3. “France, Indice de décès de la sécurité sociale de l’Insee, 1970-2019”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:C55D-T2W2 : 10 May 2020), Harry Leo Cats, 2008. 

Henriette Katzenstein Schnadig, Part I: Two Dutch Sons-in-Law

The third surviving daughter of Amalie Goldschmidt and Juda Katzenstein was Henriette. As we saw, she was born on February 13, 1858, in Eschwege, and married Simon Schnadig on August 20, 1877, in Eschwege. Henriette and Simon had four children—Julius, Helene, Betty, and Elsa—-but only three survived to adulthood.

Their son Julius only lived two years. He was born on May 13, 1878, in Frankfurt, where Henriette and Simon were then living, and died in Frankfurt on August 13, 1880.

Julius Schnadig birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 903_8917, Year Range: 1878, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Julius Schnadig death record, Certificate Number: 1961
Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 10336
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Ten months later Henriette gave birth to their second child, Helene, born in Frankfurt on June 26, 1881.

Helene Schnadig birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 903_8956, Year Range: 1881, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

I found it odd that Henriette named her daughter Helene since that was the name of her older sister, who was definitely still living in 1881, and I cannot find any other close relative of Henriette or Simon with that first name. Perhaps the Hebrew names were different.

Betty Schnadig, the second daughter, was born August 27, 1882, in Frankfurt.

Betty Schnadig birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 903_8970, Year Range: 1882, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Henriette and Simon’s third daughter Elsa was born in Frankfurt on January 14, 1890, seven and a half years after Betty, making me wonder whether Henriette and Simon had other babies or pregnancies that did not survive.

Elsa Schnadig birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 903_9071, Year Range: 1890, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

The oldest daughter Helene Schnadig married Emil Cohn on May 28, 1900, in Frankfurt. She was only eighteen, and Emil was thirty. He was born in Hamburg on February 4, 1870, to Simon Cohn and Malvine Josaphat.

Helene Schnadig and Emil Cohn marriage record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903, Year Range: 1900, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Helene and Emil had four children, all born in Hamburg. Meta was born on April 3, 1901.

Meta Cohn birth record, Year Range and Volume: 1901 Band 03
Ancestry.com. Hamburg, Germany, Births, 1874-1901. Original data:Best. 332-5 Standesämter, Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister, 1876-1950, Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg, Deutschland.

Siegbert was born April 23, 1905;1 Hertha Johanna was born September 1, 1906;2 and Lissy Sitta was born July 21, 1910.3

Betty Schnadig, the middle sister, married Bernard Arie Cohen on April 21, 1903, in Darmstadt, where Betty’s parents Henriette and Simon Schnadig were living at that time. He was born January 5, 1879, in Groningen, Holland, and was the son of Arie Cohen and Amalia Breslour. Since Groningen, located in the very northernmost part of the Netherlands, is over 300 miles from Darmstadt and in an entirely different country, I wonder how Betty and Bernard connected.

Betty Schnadig and Bernard Arie Cohen marriage record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 901; Laufende Nummer: 223, Year Range: 1903
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Betty and Bernard had four children. Arnold was born February 2, 1904, in Groningen, Holland, where Betty and Bernard had settled and where all their children were born.4 Anita was born on November 25, 1907;5 the third child Simona Hedda was born January 16, 1912,6 and the youngest child Adolf was born July 17, 1916.7

Elsa Schnadig, the youngest child of Henriette Katzenstein and Simon Schnadig, also married a Dutch man. She married Salomon Aron Cats, the son of Aron Salomon Cats and Louisa Frieser; he was born on June 3, 1882, in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Elsa and Salomon were married on August 9, 1909, in Offenbach am Main, where her parents were then living.

Elsa Schnadig and Salomon Cats marriage record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 918; Laufende Nummer: 517, Year Range: 1909, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

So between 1900 when their oldest daughter Helene was married in Frankfurt and 1909 when Elsa was married, Simon and Helene had moved from Frankfurt to Darmstadt to Offenbach. I wonder why since in those days people seemed to stay in one place for many years if not their entire lives.

Elsa and Salomon had two sons. Marcel was born on February 25, 1916, in Schaerbeek, Belgium, and Harry was born August 20, 1919, in Amsterdam, where the family was then living as seen on this family register from the Amsterdam archives.

Family register of Salomon Cats and Elsa Schnadig, Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 152 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, Other information
Resident registration card, Web Address https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22marcel%20cats%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

I want to express my deep gratitude to Bert de Jong of the Tracing the Tribe group on Facebook for his generous efforts in finding this Dutch record and many other Dutch records for the family of Salomon Cats and Elsa Schnadig. I would never have known of these records without his help.

If you look closely at the above record (click to zoom in), you will see that Elsa’s mother Henriette was also living with Elsa and her family in Amsterdam for some time. The record depicted below is from a registry of foreign residents and shows more specifically when Henriette spent time in Amsterdam. It appears that she was there for a period in 1917-1919 and then returned to Germany in June 1919. There is no mention of Simon so it appears he was not with her while she was living in Amsterdam.

Source reference Reproduction parts , archive number 5416 , inventory number 213 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1930 Web Address https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22schnadig%22%7D  Amstserdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

Thus, two of Simon and Henriette’s children, Betty and Elsa, married Dutch men and relocated from Germany to the Netherlands long before the Nazi era.

Simon Schnadig died on May 7, 1920, at the age of seventy in Brussels, Belgium.8 I don’t know whether Simon and Henriette had moved once again, this time to Brussels, or whether he just happened to die there while traveling either to visit one of his daughters in Holland or on business. If Simon had relocated to Brussels, Henriette must have moved back to Hamburg either before or after Simon died because she was living in Hamburg when she died on May 27, 1924, at the age of 66. Her son-in-law Emil Cohn was the informant on her death record.

Henriette Katzenstein Schnadig, death record, Year Range and Volume: 1924 Band 01
Ancestry.com. Hamburg, Germany, Deaths, 1874-1950

Simon Schnadig and Henriette Katzenstein were survived by their three daughters and ten grandchildren. Unfortunately, those descendants faced tragic times ahead during the Nazi era, as we will see in the posts to follow.


  1. Siegbert Armin Israel Cohn, Gender: Male, Marital status: Married, Birth Date: 23 abr 1905 (23 Apr 1905), Birth Place: Hamburgo, Arrival Date: 1939, Arrival Place: Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Father: Emil Cohn, Mother: Helene Cohn, Traveling With Children: Yes, FHL Film Number: 004542471, Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965 
  2. Hertha Johanna Cohn, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev, Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 159 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, Web Address
    https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22hertha%20cohn%22%7D 
  3. Lissy Sitty Cohn, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/14, Piece Number Description: 014: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Cohn-Cz, Ancestry.com. UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945 
  4.  Arnold Cohen, Birth Date: 2 feb 1904, Birth Place: Groningen, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen, Mother: Bettij Schnadig, AlleGroningers; Den Haag, Nederland; BS Birth, Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917 
  5.  Anita Cohen, Birth Date: 25 nov 1907, Birth Place: Groningen, Residence Year: 1907, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen, Mother: Betty Schnadig, AlleGroningers; Den Haag, Nederland; BS Birth, Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917 
  6.  Simona Hedda Cohen, Residence Age: 0, Birth Date: 16 jan 1912, Birth Place: Groningen, Residence Year: 1912, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen, Mother: Bettij Schnadig, AlleGroningers; Den Haag, Nederland; BS Birth, Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917 
  7.  Adolf Cohen, Birth Date: 17 jul 1916, Birth Place: Groningen, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen, Mother: Betty Schnadig, AlleGroningers; Den Haag, Nederland; BS Birth,
    Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917 
  8. https://www.genealogieonline.nl/stamboom-bouweriks-neervoort-frenk/I29524.php 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whitinghame College students, 1939

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

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

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

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

Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Story for the New Year

For Rosh Hashanah this year, I want to share a story about one of my cousins. His life is a true example of how we as human beings are capable not only of inconceivable evil but more importantly of boundless love and undying hope and gratitude.

When we talk about the Holocaust, the number six million is both overwhelming and numbing. Our minds can’t grasp what six million people looks like—what six million of anything would look like. Visiting the camps makes that number somewhat more comprehensible; when we visited Auschwitz in 2015 and saw the huge piles of eyeglasses, of shoes, of suitcases, each representing one of those six million killed, it made the scope of the horror more visceral. It gave us a concrete, visual way of imagining each of those killed. This video also helps to illustrate the immensity of that number:

 

But for me, it is the individual stories of those people who were killed that leave the biggest impact. If we read one story about one of the six million who were killed each day for our entire life, we still would hardly make a dent in the total numbers. Assuming we read a story a day for eighty years, we would still have read fewer than 30,000 stories—learned about only 30,000 of the six million who were killed. And that doesn’t even include the horrifying stories of many of the survivors—those who survived the camps, those who spent the years in hiding, those who escaped but who had lost their families and homes forever.

This is the story of a cousin whose life was forever changed because of the Nazis. He wishes to remain anonymous, so I will refer to him simply as J. J is my fifth cousin, another descendant of Jakob Falcke; his family left Oberlistingen, Germany at the end of the 19th century and moved to the Netherlands, where for many generations the men were butchers and cattle traders or worked in the textile and clothing business. J’s father was a butcher.

Their quiet lives were forever altered after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in May, 1940. J’s father was taken to Mauthausen concentration camp, where he was killed in October, 1941. J, who was just a young boy, and his mother and younger sister were left behind. When it became clear that the Nazis were going to start deporting all the Jews in Holland to concentration camps, J’s mother placed her two children in an orphanage in Utrecht, believing that the Nazis would not deport children because they would be too young to work. J’s mother and her sisters went into hiding with a non-Jewish family.

Description: Jewish Memorial in Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Austria main courtyard. 
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mauthausen-Jewish_memorial.jpg
Photographer: Gianmaria Visconti
Year: 2002

But then in December, 1942, those living in the orphanage were moved from Utrecht to the ghetto in Amsterdam, and J’s mother realized that her children were in imminent danger. She tried to get her children released from the orphanage, but it was impossible. Instead, a cousin who was working at a hospital in Amsterdam somehow managed to kidnap the children and bring them to a safe place in Amsterdam where J and his sister could then be placed in hiding.

At that point J’s mother relinquished her spot in the home where she and her sisters had been hiding so that her son, my cousin J, would have a safe place to hide. His sister was hidden somewhere else. J’s mother moved to different hiding places, but she was eventually discovered by the Nazis in the fall of 1943. She was deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered in October 1943. As J expressed it to me, she had given everything so that her children would survive.

Deportation of Jews from Amsterdam
By Anonymous (National Archives) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

J and his sister survived the war in their hiding places. After the war, his sister immigrated to Israel, where she still lives. J stayed in the Netherlands and continued to live with the brave couple who had kept first his mother and aunts safe and then kept him safe. He described them as being like grandparents to him. They made it possible for him to go to college, where he trained to become a veterinarian.

Despite the horrible losses he experienced as a young boy, J has led a remarkably productive and happy life. In addition to achieving professional success, he has been married since 1958 and has four children, ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.  He is another example of the resilience of human beings who, in the face of the darkest evil and the most heinous cruelty, somehow emerge into the light and are able to give and receive love and find the good and the beautiful in our world.

For me this is an appropriate story for Rosh Hashanah,  It reminds us that although we must always look back and remember, we also have to look forward with hope. We must be cognizant of all that is evil in the world, but we must embrace all that is good and beautiful.

May we all find the light of love and share all that is good and beautiful in the coming year.

L’shanah tova! A good year to you all, family and friends!

By Gilabrand (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking back:  The Cohen Family from Amsterdam to England to Philadelphia and Washington and beyond

 

Amsterdam coat of arms

Two months ago I wrote a summary of my perspective on the descendants of Jacob and Sarah Jacobs Cohen and their thirteen children, including my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen.  I wrote about the way they managed to create a large network of pawnshops that provided support for the generations to come.  Many of the Philadelphia Cohens stayed in the pawnshop business into the 20th century.  The generation that followed, those born in the 20th century, began to move away from the pawn business and from Philadelphia.  Descendants began to go to college and to become professionals.  Today the great-great-grandchildren of Jacob and Sarah live all over the country and are engaged in many, many different fields.  Few of us today can imagine living with twelve siblings over a pawnshop in South Philadelphia.  We can’t fathom the idea of losing child after child to diseases that are now controlled by vaccinations and medicine.  We take for granted the relative luxurious conditions in which we live today.

File:Flag of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.svg

Philadelphia flag

 

The story of the Cohen family in Washington is much the same in some ways, different in other ways.  Jacob’s brother Moses and his wife Adeline also started out as immigrants in the pawnshop business , first in Baltimore and then Washington.  But unlike Jacob who lived to see his children become adults, Moses Cohen died at age 40 when his younger children were still under ten years old.  Adeline was left to raise those young children on her own as she had likely raised her first born son, Moses Himmel Cohen, on her own until she married Moses Cohen, Sr.  When I look at what those children accomplished and what their children then accomplished, I am in awe of what Adeline was able to do.   For me, the story of the DC Cohens is primarily the story of Adeline Himmel Cohen for it was she, not Moses, who raised the five children who thrived here in the US.  She somehow instilled in those children a drive to overcome the loss of their father, to take risks, to get an education, and to make a living.

Her son Moses, Jr., an immigrant himself, had nine children; his son, Myer, became a lawyer.  To me it is quite remarkable that a first generation American, the son of a Jewish immigrant, was able to go to law school in the late 19th century.  Myer himself went on to raise a large family, including two sons who became doctors and one who became a high ranking official at the United Nations in its early years after World War II.  Moses, Jr.’s other children also lived comfortable lives, working in their own businesses and raising families.  These were first generation Americans who truly worked to find the American dream.

Adeline and Moses, Sr.’s other three children who survived to adulthood, Hart, JM, and Rachel Cohen, all took a big risk and moved, for varying periods of time, to Sioux City, Iowa.  Even their mother Adeline lived out on the prairie for some years.  JM stayed out west, eventually moving to Kansas City; he was able to send his two daughters to college, again something that struck me as remarkable for those times.  His grandchildren were very successful professionally.  Hart, who lost a son to an awful accident, had a more challenging life.  His sister Rachel also had some heartbreak—losing one young child and a granddaughter Adelyn, but she had two grandsons who both appear to have been successful.

Three of the DC Cohen women married three Selinger brothers or cousins.  Their children included doctors, a popular singer, and a daughter who returned to England several generations after her ancestors had left.  The family tree gets quite convoluted when I try to sort out how their descendants are related, both as Cohens and as Selingers.

There were a number of heart-breaking stories to tell about the lives of some of these people, but overall like the Philadelphia Cohens, these were people who endured and survived and generally succeeded in having a good life, at least as far as I can tell.  The DC Cohens, like the Philadelphia Cohens, have descendants living all over the United States and elsewhere and are working in many professions and careers of all types.

flag of Washington, DC

Looking back now at the story of all the Cohens,  all the descendants of Hart Levy Cohen and Rachel Jacobs, I feel immense respect for my great-great-great grandparents.  They left Amsterdam for England, presumably for better economic opportunities than Amsterdam offered at that time.  In England Hart established himself as a merchant, but perhaps being a Dutch Jew in London was not easy, and so all five of Hart and Rachel’s children came to the US, Lewis, Moses, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Jonas, again presumably for even better opportunities than London had offered them.  Eventually Hart himself came to the US, uprooting himself for a second time to cross the Atlantic as a man already in his seventies so that he could be with his children and his grandchildren.  Rachel unfortunately did not survive to make that last move.

Flag of the City of London.svg

The flag of the City of London

Arriving in the US by 1850 in that early wave of Jewish immigration gave my Cohen ancestors a leg up over the Jewish immigrants who arrived thirty to sixty years later, like my Brotman, Goldschlager, and Rosenzweig ancestors.  Of course, the Cohens had the advantage of already speaking English, unlike my Yiddish speaking relatives on my mother’s side.  They also had the advantage of arriving at a time when there wre fewer overall immigrants, Jewish immigrants in particular and thus faced less general hostility than the masses of Jewish, Italian, and other immigrants who arrived in the 1890s and early 20th century.  Also, my Cohen relatives may not have been wealthy when they arrived, but Hart and his children already had experience as merchants and were able to establish their own businesses fairly quickly.  Thus, by the time my mother’s ancestors started arriving and settling in the Lower East Side of NYC or in East Harlem, working in sweatshops and struggling to make ends meet, my father’s ancestors were solidly in the middle and upper classes in Philadelphia, Washington, Sioux City, Kansas City, Detroit, and Baltimore.

When I look at these stories together, I see the story of Jewish immigration in America.  I see a first wave of Jews, speaking English, looking American, and living comfortably, facing a second wave who spoke Yiddish, looked old-fashioned, and lived in poverty.  No wonder there was some tension between the two groups.  No wonder they established different synagogues, different communities, different traditions.

A recent study suggests that all Ashkenazi Jews were descended from a small group of about 350 ancestors.  We all must share some DNA to some extent.  We are really all one family.  But we have always divided ourselves and defined our subgroups differently—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform; Galitizianer or Litvak; Sephardic or Ashkenazi; Israeli or American; so on and so forth.  We really cannot afford to do that in today’s world; we never really could.  Today very few of us make distinctions based on whether our ancestors came in 1850 or 1900 because we are all a mix of both and because we have blurred the economic and cultural distinctions that once were so obvious.  But we still have a long way to go to eradicate the divisions among us and to overcome the prejudices that continue to exist regarding those who are different, whether Jewish or non-Jewish.

 

 

All Things Considered, I’d Rather Be in Philadelphia

W.C. Fields, who was born in Philadelphia, used to make fun of his birthplace as a staid and boring place by threatening to have the line, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” as the epitaph on his gravestone.  (Apparently, that threat was never carried out.)  Philadelphia has often been overshadowed by New York to its north and by Washington to its south.  I remember traveling to Philadelphia to visit my relatives when I was a child, my siblings and I fidgeting in the back seat of the car as my father fought through the traffic on the ugly New Jersey Turnpike.

English: W.C. Fields

English: W.C. Fields (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My grandmother Eva Cohen and her second husband Frank Crocker lived in what I remember as a small apartment in Philadelphia, and somehow it was always hot and humid whenever we visited.  I was only nine when my grandmother died, so my memories are somewhat vague, but I do remember watching a baseball game with Poppy Frank, as we called him, discussing the merits of Sandy Koufax versus Don Drysdale (the Phillies were obviously playing the Dodgers that particular visit).  We would sit and visit for a while, have lunch or dinner, and then pile back in the car, suffer through the Jersey Turnpike again, fidgeting and bickering in the backseat.  So I guess I could relate to W.C. Fields’ sentiments about his hometown.  Somehow I associated Philadelphia with long car rides, being tortured by my siblings, and hot, humid weather.  I wish I could remember more about my grandmother, but as a child, I was focused on childish things. Well, and baseball.  As I wrote before, I remember her as beautiful, reserved, and very dignified, a true gentle-woman in both senses of the word.

So given my somewhat skewed views of the City of Brotherly Love, I did wonder why my Cohen relatives (and in fact all of my father’s lines) ended up in Philadelphia.  They sailed into New York City—why did they leave the Greatest City in the World to go to its poor stepsibling to the south? I asked my father, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, this question the other day, and he said something about William Penn and how Philadelphia was a Quaker city and probably more tolerant of Jews.

I decided to do some research to answer a couple of questions: What was Philadelphia like for Jews in the 1840s and 1850s when the Cohens arrived? Where did they live in the city, and what were the socioeconomic conditions like in those areas? What drew them there instead of New York or some other American city?

I found a wonderful resource, a book by Robert P. Swierenga, a historian who has published several books about the Dutch in the United States.  The book I relied on is titled The Forerunners: Dutch Jewry in the North American Diaspora (Wayne State University Press 1994), and in it Swierenga traced the immigration of Dutch Jews to America and their settlements in several US cities, including Philadelphia.  I read the chapter on Philadelphia and learned not only about the Dutch Jews who settled there, but more generally about the history of Jews in Philadelphia.  After reading this chapter, I better understand why the Cohen family decided to settle there.

Philadelphia had one of the earliest Jewish communities in the United States.  In 1776 it had the third largest Jewish population of American cities, after New York and Charleston; there were 300 Jews living in Philadelphia at that time.  That number grew to 200 families by 1778 as Jews sought refuge there during the Revolutionary War.  The population was largely Sephardic, and the first synagogue was formed in 1782, Congregation Mikveh Israel, an Orthodox Sephardic synagogue.  Once the war ended, however, many of the Jews returned to their prior homes, and by 1790 there were only 25 Jewish families or about 150 people.  (Swierenga, pp. 118-119)

English: Former home of Mikveh Israel Synagogu...

Former home of Mikveh Israel Synagogue

There was a growing number of non-Sephardic Jews settling in Philadelphia after the Revolution, however, as immigrants from Germany, Poland and the Netherlands began to arrive, and in 1790 these people formed a new synagogue, Rodeph Shalom, which would adhere to Ashkenazi practices.  Rodeph Shalom was the first Ashkenazi synagogue in North America, and most of its first congregants were Dutch.  (Swierenga, pp. 119-120)

Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on the NRHP since Augu...

Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on the NRHP since August 7, 2007. At 607–615 North Broad St., in the Poplar neighborhood of Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Jewish population really started to grow in the early 19th century.  In 1820, there were 450 Jews in Philadelphia; in 1830 there were 730.  By 1840, there were 1500, and then there was a huge surge to 6000 by 1850 and to 10,000 by 1860.  This, of course, was the period my Cohen relatives began to arrive in Philadelphia—between about 1848 and 1851.  In fact, according to Swierenga, a substantial number of these Jewish immigrants were Dutch Jews.  (p. 120)

In his discussion of Dutch Jews, Swierenga included not only those who came directly from the Netherlands (meaning primarily Amsterdam), but also those, like my ancestors, who had emigrated from Amsterdam to England before coming to America.  Based on his research, he concluded that for the most part the Dutch Jews who came to Philadelphia tended to come directly from Amsterdam whereas those who had first stopped in London tended to end up in New York.  Swierenga found that in 1850 and 1860 there were only two Dutch Jewish families in Philadelphia who had had children born in England. (Swierenga, p. 125)  Was he counting my relatives? Hart Levy Cohen’s children were born in England, but did they count as “children?” On the other hand, Jacob’s daughter Fannie was born in England, and although his later children were born in the US, his family must have been one of those two families.

In fact, this screenshot from Appendix III in Swierenga’s book, captioned “Dutch Jewish Household Heads and Working Adults in Philadelphia 1850, 1860 and 1870,” shows that Swierenga did count Hart Cohen as one of those Dutch Jews.

Appendix III from Swierenga. The Forerunners

Appendix III from Swierenga. The Forerunners

Based on this data as compared to his findings that there was a greater number of Dutch Jewish families in New York with children born in England, Swierenga reached the following conclusion: “Clearly, the Dutch Jews in Philadelphia had been better off economically in the Netherlands, and they immigrated earlier than those settling in New York, who out of economic necessity spent a longer sojourn in London.  For the Philadelphia Dutch Jews, a London stopover or two-stage migration was not as necessary or desirable.” (p. 126)

I found this observation very interesting. Obviously, my ancestors did make that two-stage migration.  Did they do that because they could not afford to get directly to the US, or did they originally plan to stay in London?  Does this mean that Hart and Rachel were not as well-off as many of the other young couples who left Amsterdam at the end of the 18th century?

The Dutch Jewish community was located in the south side of Philadelphia. With the large wave of German immigrants in the 1840s, the Dutch Jews had moved south to Wards 1 through 5, and primarily Wards 4 and 5, located between what is now Broad Street and the Delaware River and South Street to the south and 2d Street to the north.  Swierenga described these two wards as slums.  Ward 4 is where Jacob and his family lived for many years at 136 South Street.   Was he living in a slum with his large family and three servants? It seems unlikely.  The neighborhood must have been somewhat economically diverse to attract what Swierenga himself had described as a fairly comfortable Dutch Jewish population.  (pp. 139-146)

This growing community of Dutch Jews eventually decided to form their own synagogue and leave Rodeph Shalom, which had become increasingly made up of congregants who had emigrated from Germany.  Also, Rodeph Shalom and Mikveh Israel as well as a third synagogue, Beth Israel, were all located in the north side of Philadelphia.  (Swierenga, pp. 127-129) Thus, in 1852 the Dutch Jewish families formed their own synagogue, B’nai Israel, on the south side where Jacob and Rachel were living in 1850. (pp. 130-145)

Between the 1850s and 1880, however, the Dutch Jews increasingly left the south side of Philadelphia and moved to neighborhoods further north.  Those who remained could not support their own synagogue, and B’nai Israel was closed in 1879.  By the end of the 19th century, the Dutch Jewish community had integrated into the larger Jewish community and had disappeared as a separate cultural subgroup.  (pp. 135, 320)  As I move forward from 1860 in tracing my Cohen relatives, I will keep in mind this shift to see whether or not they were a part of that trend.

After reading this material and understanding more about the history of the Jewish community in Philadelphia in the first half of the 19th century, I better understand why my ancestors chose Philadelphia.  It had a distinct Dutch Jewish community, which might have been very attractive to them after the Chut experience as outsiders in London.  It had a long history of a diverse but cooperative overall Jewish population.  And perhaps, like today, it seemed less overwhelming and more affordable than New York City.

I now read, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia” in a whole new light.

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My Ancestor was a Chut: More on Dutch and English Jews

The Chuts” Synagogue Sandy’s Row London

After I wrote my last post saying I was going to put aside for now any attempt to find my four times great-grandfather’s family in Holland, I decided to look more generally into the question of why a Dutch Jew would have emigrated from Holland to England in the late 18th century.  After all, life seemed to be pretty good for the Jews in Amsterdam at that point.  They had acquired full legal rights as citizens, many were comfortable both socially and economically, and England was in fact still forty years away from giving Jews the same legal rights as Christian residents.  Why would someone have left Amsterdam to move to London?

Su Leslie of Shaking the Tree mentioned in a comment that she had seen some episodes of the British version of Who Do You Think You Are involving famous British Jews and recalled that there had been discussion of an immigration of Jews from Holland to England in the late 18th century.  I decided to search on line for more information and learned that there was in fact a whole community of Dutch Jews who settled in London during that time.  My research led me to several websites discussing this community, including the Bishopsgate Institute website describing a recent oral history project about this community being sponsored by the Institute and created under the direction of Rachel Lichtenstein, a well-known writer and artist.  According to this site:

The oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in London, Sandys Row in Spitalfields, was established by Dutch Jewish immigrants in 1854, who began arriving in the city from the 1840s onwards. They came in search of a better life, rather than fleeing persecution like the thousands of Ashkenazi Jews who came after them in the 1880s from the Pale of Settlements.  Mostly from Amsterdam, many settled in a small quarter of narrow streets in Spitalfields known as the Tenterground. Here they continued to practise the trades they had bought with them from Holland, which were predominately cigar making, diamond cutting and polishing, and slipper and cap making. Many small workshops were established in the area and businesses were passed on within generations of families.

With their own practises and customs, many of which were different from other Ashkenazi Jewish groups, they became a distinctive, tight knit community of about a thousand people. To the frustration of the more established Anglo-Jewish population living in the area at the time, ‘the Chuts’ (as they were known locally) refused to join any of the existing synagogues…

Sandys Row Synagogue

Sandys Row Synagogue (Photo credit: FarzanaL)

So my four times great grandfather Hart Levy Cohen was a Chut—a term I’d never heard before and a community I’d never known about before.  Other sites confirmed this information and also provided some other details.  Wikipedia provided this explanation for the name “Chuts.”

The origin of the name Chuts is uncertain. A popular assumption is that it derives from the Dutch word goed (meaning “good”) and is imitative of the foreign-language chatter that others heard. It is also Hebrew חוץ for “outside” or “in the street” and may have been applied to the Dutch Jews of London either because they were socially isolated or because many were street vendors. Another possibility is that the Hebrew word would have appeared increasingly in Amsterdam synagogue records as more and more emigrated to London, and others who followed would have “gone chuts” (i.e., emigrated).

Sandys Row Synagogue, London

Sandys Row Synagogue, London (Photo credit: nicksarebi)

The About Jewishness website revealed where in London the Chuts lived:

They settled mostly in a small system of streets in Spitalfields known as the Tenterground, formerly an enclosed area where Flemish weavers stretched and dried cloth on machines called tenters (hence the expression “on tenterhooks”). By the 19th century, the site had been built upon with housing, but remained an enclave where the Dutch immigrants lived as a close-knit and generally separate community. Demolished and rebuilt during the twentieth century, the area is now bounded by White’s Row, Wentworth Street, Bell Lane and Toynbee Street (formerly Shepherd Street).

I looked up these streets on the map of London and was not surprised that this area is very close to New Goulston Street where my ancestors were living in 1841.

The About Jewishness site also provided some insight into what happened to this community and perhaps why my ancestors left London and moved to the US.  According to this site, “the successful introduction of machinery for the mass-production of cigarettes ultimately led to the collapse of the cigar-making economy on which the Chuts community depended. Many Chuts returned to improved conditions in Amsterdam, some emigrated further afield to places such as Australia and the USA, some assimilated into other Jewish families, and some eventually lost their Jewish identity altogether.”

In addition, the huge influx of Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the late 19th century caused tensions between the older established Chuts community and the newer immigrants, most of whom were poor, not as well skilled, and not used to living in a big city.  Interestingly, the Chuts community had traditions and practices that made them different both from the older Sephardic community and from the newer Eastern European Ashkenazi community.  Again, from the About Jewishness site:

[T]he Chuts were treated with suspicion by other Jews because the former had developed specific customs and practices, many of their families having lived in Amsterdam since the first synagogues were established there in the early years of the 17th century. Uniquely in Amsterdam, Ashkenazim (so-called “German Jews”) and Sephardim (so-called “Spanish Jews”) lived in close proximity for centuries, resulting in a cultural blend not found elsewhere. Most remarkably, the Dutch Jews were well accustomed to the sea, and ate seafoods considered not kosher by other Jewish communities.

From this information, it seems reasonable to infer a couple of things.  First, it seems that despite the fact that the Amsterdam Jewish community was fairly well-established, there must have been those, my ancestor Hart among them, who believed that there was greater opportunity for financial success in London.  These Dutch Jews decided to emigrate in order to achieve greater economic security.  Secondly, it seems that at some point many of those Dutch Jews either left or assimilated into the greater Jewish or non-Jewish society.  Some may have left because economic conditions were not as good as they had hoped; others may have left because as a “Chut,” they were not well integrated into the world of London’s Jews.  With different traditions, different practices, different synagogues, they may have felt isolated and disrespected.  I don’t know specifically what motivated my ancestors first to leave Amsterdam and then to leave London, but I’d imagine it was a combination of these factors.

Once again I am finding out new things about my own history and about Jewish history by doing genealogy.  I never knew about the Chuts, and I certainly never knew I was descended from one.  I have written to Rachel Lichtenstein to learn more about her project and will report back with whatever else I learn.

Also, in researching more about the Dutch Jews in general, I came across a genealogy blog I’d not seen before written by Kerry Farmer called Family History Research.  Kerry had a post from two years ago about searching for a Dutch Jewish ancestor using information she was able to obtain from a book compiling information about marriages performed at the Great Synagogue in London, Harold and Miriam Lewin’s Marriage Records of the Great Synagogue- London 1791-1885.  I was very excited when I read this post and contacted Kerry, who generously looked up Hart Levy Cohen and Rachel Jacobs’ wedding for me in the Lewin book.  She was able to provide me with the information she found there:

(Groom) Cohen Hart Levy

(Groom’s father) Leib Katz

(Groom’s patronymic) Hertz b. Leib Katz

(Groom’s address) Not listed

(Bride) Jacobs Rachel

(Bride’s father) Yaakov

(Bride’s patronymic) Rechel b. Yaakov

She also suggested that I contact the owners of the Akevoth site to see if this additional information would help in locating the records of my ancestors, and I have done that.  Now I will wait to see if they can provide any further assistance.

So yesterday I was ready to put aside the search for my Dutch ancestors, and then, with the help of Su Leslie and Kerry Farmer, I was able to make some progress in understanding who they were and why they left Amsterdam and why they left London.  Once again I am humbled by and grateful for the generosity of the genealogy community.  Su and Kerry are from New Zealand and Australia, respectively, and they have helped me in my search to find a Dutch Jew who lived in England and moved to America.  What a small world it is when you find such wonderful, helpful and knowledgeable people.

 

 

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