Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann: A Final Update

The process of finding the story of Rosa Abraham has been a challenging one. At first all I had was her birth record and one passenger manifest for a Rosa Zechermann with the same birth date and birth place.

Ricchen Rosa Abraham birth record Nov 20 1892 Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6177

Rosa Abraham passenger card
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at Miami, Florida.; NAI Number: 2788541; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85

Then with the incredible help of members of the Jekkes Facebook group, I learned that Rosa had married Isidor Zechermann and immigrated to Chile to escape Hitler. I had not found a marriage record, but several bits of circumstantial evidence supported that conclusion.

Most recently I’d received Rosa and Isidor’s request for repatriation as German citizens and Rosa’s application for reparations from the German government for the loss of her occupation. I also was able to deduce from various documents and directories that Rosa and Isidor must have married sometime between 1930 and 1932. But I still didn’t have a marriage record that proved when they were married and, perhaps most importantly, that the Rosa who married Isidor was in fact my cousin Rosa Abraham.  All the evidence pointed in that direction, but I had no official record, just secondary sources and circumstantial evidence.

I wrote to the city of Frankfurt to request a marriage record, and Sigrid Kaempfer of the Institut fuer Stadtgeschichte responded not only with Isidor and Rosa’s long sought marriage record, but with three other interesting documents as well. First, that much hoped-for marriage record:

Marriage record of Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann

It states that Isidor Zechermann, merchant, born on February 25, 1878, in Frankfurt and living in Frankfurt, married Ricchen Rosa Abraham, business owner, born on November 20, 1892, in Niederurff, on September 17, 1930, in Frankfurt. Finally, I had the proof I needed to get closure. My cousin Ricchen Rosa Abraham, daughter of Hirsch Abraham and Pauline Ruelf, born on November 20, 1892, was the wife of Isidor Zechermann and had married him in the time period I had determined in my last post about Rosa.

Also of interest—the two witnesses to the marriage were Adele Trier, geb. Abraham, Rosa’s sister, and Alfred Trier, Adele’s husband. Adele and Alfred were the couple Rosa and Isidor went to visit in Queens in 1952, as I wrote about here.

Ms. Kaempfer also sent me a link to Isidor’s birth record, confirming that he was born on February 25, 1878, in Frankfurt. With the help of the German Genealogy group, I learned that Isidor was the son of Schaye Zechermann, a shoemaker, and Fanny Benedikt. (Special thanks to Heike Keohane and Carolina Meyer for their extraordinary help in decoding Schaye’s first name!)

Isidor Zechermann birth record
HStAMR Best. 903 Nr. 8916 Standesamt Mitte (Frankfurt) Geburtsnebenregister 1878, S. 61

And Ms. Kaempfer sent me two documents relating to the businesses operated by Rosa and Isidor. For Rosa, she sent me this record of her tax payments from 1924 through 1932 for her “Damenkonfektion” or ladies’ clothing business. The form also notes the change to her married name Zechermann. And it indicates that Rosa’s business was shut down on August 31, 1938, and deregistered on September 8, 1938, presumably by the Nazis.

Rosa Abraham business record 1924-1938

For Isidor, Ms. Kaempfer sent me the record of his registration as a haberdasher in Frankfurt. He first registered on September 6, 1933.

Isidor Zechermann business registration and deregistration

I am not sure how to interpret the various entries on the first line below the solid line on the right side of this card, which asks about the location and personnel of the management of the business, but the last two notes there—-“isr./isr” —-are quite obviously a reference to the fact that the owner of the business was Jewish (“Israeltisch”). And the red stamped entries on this card—indicating that the business was shut down on August 31, 1938 and deregistered on September 3, 1938—are clearly a reflection of Nazi persecution as presumably was the case with Rosa’s business.

With these final records, I now have closure on the life of Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann.  I know when and where they were born, when and where they married, where they lived and worked in Frankfurt, when they emigrated from Germany and moved to Chile, and when they died. But it truly took a village to get here.

This search has proven once again that this work cannot be done alone and depends on the generosity of many people.  Thank you all! As this year draws to a close, I am mindful of and grateful for all the help I have received in 2017.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my friends, family, and readers who celebrate Christmas a joyful and loving holiday.  I will be taking a short break from blogging, but will return in 2018 to start the saga of my Goldschmidt family.

Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year! Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone!


Rosa Abraham Zechermann: A Story for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! Today’s post is in many ways fitting for Hanukkah, the holiday that commemorates the survival of a small number of Jews, the Maccabees, against all odds and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after their victory. It is a story thus about Jewish survival against persecution and the struggle for freedom and so in many ways is the story of Rosa Abraham Zechermann.

Back on October 31, 2017, I wrote about my search for Rosa Abraham, my third cousin, once removed, and the aunt of Fred and Martin Abrahams. Through the amazing connections I made on Facebook, I’d been able to establish that Rosa had married Isidor Zechermann and that both of them had immigrated to Santiago, Chile, to escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s. At the end of that post I mentioned that I was requesting a copy of their naturalization application and other files from the archives in Hesse, hoping to learn more about Rosa and Isidor, including when and where they had married.

I have now received the files, and unfortunately, I still do not have the answer to those last two questions, but the files I received did shed light on Rosa and Isidor and their lives before and during the Nazi era and have helped me narrow down the possible years and places where Rosa and Isidor married.

The file that was described as a naturalization file was actually Isidor and Rosa’s application for repatriation as German citizens. It was filed in 1952. From the notes at the bottom of this letter, we can see that they left Germany together as a married couple on December 13, 1938.

In his letter, Isidor wrote, “We have been living in Santiago de Chile since 1939, but we never applied for the Chilean citizenship because we could not give up the faith one day to become citizens of our German homeland again. Upon request, the local German Consulate confirmed to me that repatriation is possible, and I would be particularly grateful for fulfilling my request.”

After all that they must have experienced and lost during the Nazi era, Isidor and Rosa still considered Germany their homeland and wanted their status as German citizens restored.

The government granted their request, concluding that they were among those who were denied citizenship for political, racial, or religious reasons during the Nazi era:


Two years later, Rosa applied for reparations from the German government for damages she suffered during the Nazi era. I am very grateful to Irene Newhouse of the Jekkes group on Facebook for her generous help in translating Rosa’s letter and the government’s response.

Rosa wrote:

Santa Rosa 160 Dep. E.

Vitae curriculum

I had, in Frankfurt/Main, a women’s couture boutique and in the years 1932 to 31 July 1938, earned 600 Marks monthly.

I had to give up my skilled trade, as we, as Jews were victimized by the chicanery of the Nazis and the Gestapo, and the latter forced us to emigrate with threats. Relatives supported us from 1939 to 1942, until I succeeded to wring out a small independence with my needlework.

From the year 1943 to 1946, I earned about 1000 pesos a month, from 1947 to 1952, about 1500 pesos per month.

Since 1952, I’m unable to work due to gout, and am supported by my relations in the USA.

Rosa then requested compensation for her emigration expenses and the loss of her business and of her other assets.

In response the government awarded her 2,830.20 Deutsche marks as reparation for the damages she had suffered.

According to this website, in 1955 there were 4.2 marks to a US dollar, meaning that the award to Rosa was worth in 1955 about $673.  Allowing for inflation, $673 in 1955 would be worth about $6,100 today, according to this calculator. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a very generous award for someone who had been forced to emigrate and sacrifice her business and her home.

Although I did not learn exactly when Rosa married Isidor, it is clear from these papers that they were married before they left Germany and had been living together in Frankfurt at the time of their emigration from Germany.  Also, now that I know that Rosa had a business as a “Damenschneider” in Frankfurt beginning in 1932, I can assume that this is her listing in the 1932 Frankfurt directory:

That means she was married to Isidor as of 1932, probably earlier if she is listed this way in the 1932 directory. But where and when were they married?

Since Isidor’s first wife died on August 23, 1924, Isidor and Rosa must have married between then and 1932. Searching the Frankfurt directories before 1932, I found that Rosa was listed in the 1928 and 1931 directories as Rosa Abraham, not Zechermann, meaning that she must have married Isidor sometime between 1930 and 1932.

I have written to the registry in Frankfurt to see if they can find a marriage record, but it is also possible that Rosa was married in her birthplace, Niederurff. At any rate, I have narrowed down the possible range of years when they must have married.

Beginning in 1933 Isidor and Rosa are listed together, first living on Oberlindau Strasse and then beginning in 1935 at 15 Bohmerstrasse, the address given on their application for repatriation in 1952. Rosa (listed as Rosel) had her shop at 13 Bohmerstrasse. Living down the street were Jakob and Frida Zechermann, who presumably were Isidor’s relatives. Frida was named as Rosa’s representative in her request for reparations. Jakob and Isidor are both identified as “Kaufman,” or merchant. The Erdg indicates that Isidor and Rosa were living on the ground floor, and the T followed by a series of numbers was their telephone number.

1935 Frankfurt directory Germany and Surrounding Areas, Address Books, 1815-1974 [database on-line]

In 1939 there is no separate listing for Rosa, just for Isidor. I assume by that time Rosa had been forced to close her business. And in 1940, neither Isidor nor Rosa is listed, of course, as they had departed for Chile.

Although I am still hoping to find a marriage record for Isidor and Rosa, I am now more satisfied that I have been able to put together a fuller picture of the life of my cousin Rosa Abraham Zechermann. And from Simon in the Jekkes group, I learned that Rosa and Isidor were an active part of the Jewish community in Santiago.  They had struggled and they had survived to enjoy their freedom.

Thank you again to Irene Newhouse for translating Rosa’s reparations papers and also to the members of the German Genealogy group on Facebook for helping me decipher some of the abbreviations in the Frankfurt directories.

And happy Hanukkah to all!