Meyer Goldschmidt: A Man with a Pure Soul

After Meyer Goldschmidt’s wife Lea died in 1839 in Grebenstein, Germany, Meyer and his children worked together to support each other. At that time the oldest daughter Ella was about seventeen and the youngest child Falk was only three.  The two sons, Selig and Jacob, were still young boys, but went to work to help the family, and Ella ran a millinery business from their home.1

But Ella eventually decided that she had to leave Grebenstein and seek a better life in the United States. In remembering her decision to leave, her brother Selig wrote that “Ella, who had received many compliments for her beauty while she was learning her trade in Cassel had, perhaps, become a little more selfish.”2

Selig continued:3

After she had run her own little business for about a year, during which time she probably encountered many difficulties, she realized that she would have no future in Grebenstein. Conditions were bad indeed for all of us; so she quickly decided, I believe even against our father’s wishes, to emigrate to America, together with several cousins. For me it was a great shock at that time. I borrowed as much money as I could from school friends in order to help her with her travel expenses. I think it only amounted to two and a half Groschen. After she had been gone for about one hour, I told myself I had to see her just once more. I ran after for two hours, weeping softly, but did not meet her again. 

Selig’s description of his emotions about her leaving moved me and brought home the reality of the impact these departures had on a family.

Ella Goldschmidt was the only one of Meyer Goldschmidt’s six surviving children to leave Germany and settle permanently in the US. According to the 1900 US census, Ella immigrated in 1849, but that cannot be right because she married Albert Sigmund, another German immigrant, on April 26, 1846, in Baltimore, Maryland:

Marriage record of Albert Sigmund and “Helena Goldsmith.” Maryland County Marriages, 1658-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F4JC-GYH : 16 March 2018), Albert Sigmond and Helena Goldsmith, 25 Apr 1846; citing Baltimore, , Maryland, United States, clerk of the circuit court from various counties; FHL microfilm 13,694.

I will be devoting many posts to Ella and her life in the US, but for now let’s return to Grebenstein and the rest of Meyer’s children.

Selig wrote that once Ella left, times were challenging for the rest of the family.4

Our dear father was very weak and sickly. His constant prayer was “G-d Almighty do not let me die before I have repaid my debts.” This constant prayer gave us an added incentive to work day and night with all our energy. The just and noble man did not realise how the future prosperity of his children would spring forth from hidden roots. 

But Meyer’s financial burdens were reduced as the children became adults and married and moved away. Sarah, or Sarchen, whom Selig described as “our angel of a sister,” married Salomon Stern on August 1, 1849. Salomon was born on May 24, 1815, in Ziegenhain, Germany, to Abraham Stern and Keile Maier.

In 1852, Falk Goldschmidt, Meyer’s youngest son, who was only sixteen at the time, traveled to the US5 and in 1860 was living with his older sister Ella and her family.6 Falk did return to Germany, however, by 1870, as we will see in a later post.

Meyer’s youngest daughter Malchen married in June, 1853, according to David Baron’s research. Malchen married Juda Callman Katzenstein of Eschwege, Germany. He was born there in 1824, the son of Callman Katzenstein and Jettchen Katzenstein. As Selig wrote in the Selig Goldschmidt book, after marrying Juda, Malchen moved to live with him in Eschwege.5

Her brother Jacob married Jettchen Cahn one month later in Frankfurt. She was the daughter of Aaron Simon Cahn and Minna Gamburg, and Jettchen was born on April 13, 1830, in Frankfurt.

Marriage record of Jacob Goldschmidt and Jettchen Cahn, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Selig wrote that after Malchen married and moved to Eschwege, the family sold everything they had in Grebenstein, and Meyer moved to Eschwege to live with Malchen and Juda. Selig noted that they did this because Selig and his brother Jacob were traveling often for business and not able to be in Grebenstein to care for their father. Selig described the outpouring of love Meyer received when he moved away from his long-time home in Grebenstein:6

Poor and rich came to the station to see him off, and when the train departed, the sound of sobbing and weeping could be heard. Wealthy neighbours had offered to give him whatever he wanted if he would stay there. However, we did not wish him to stay in Grebenstein all by himself. 

Selig was the next child to marry. On May 27, 1857, he married Clementine Fuld in Frankfurt. She was born in Frankfurt on January 8, 1837, to Herz Fuld and Caroline Schuster.

Marriage record of Selig Goldschmidt and Clementine Fuld, Certificate Number: 30
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

After marrying, Selig and Clementine settled in Frankfurt and soon moved Meyer to Frankfurt to live with them. Selig wrote:6

I was determined to let him live with me as soon as I married, in order to brighten the days of his old age and give him joy, with G-d’s help, and in order to compensate him for all the suffering he had endured. I was enabled to do this, thanks to my good and noble wife who loved and admired by dearest father so sincerely. Clementine arranged a beautiful and comfortable room for him.  He moved in with us in Frankfurt and we, as well as he, were extremely happy together. 

Meyer was not destined to stay in Frankfurt for very long. Selig told the heartwarming story of why his father returned to Eschwege. Meyer had befriended and taken care of a blind man while living in that town, and the man wrote to Meyer, asking him to return to Eschwege. The man said that Meyer had given him comfort and restored his spirit and that without him, he was lost. Meyer was determined to move back to Eschwege so that he could help this man who needed him and asked for his help. He felt it was the most important thing he could do at that point in his life.7

But sadly Meyer did not live much longer himself. He died on November 5, 1868, in Eschwege. He was 74 years old, according to his death certificate, and was deeply mourned.

Meyer Goldschmidt death record, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 146, p. 36

His children set up a foundation to honor their parents, Meyer and Lea, and his congregation in Eschwege wrote this about Meyer in their obituary for him:8

The deceased had gained the love, respect and admiration of all members of the congregation through his exemplary way of life, his generosity and his sincere Jewish religious dedication. Hence, all of us endeavored to bring him relief on his sickbed, to cheer him up with friendly advice and, finally, to provide the last rites.

The editors of the Selig Goldschmidt book, Meyer’s descendants, wrote this about their ancestor:9

Pure was the soul of Meyer Goldschmdit when he passed away to follow the soul of his departed wife. In spite of adverse circumstances his mind had managed to attain the tranquil and unshakable repose of genuine Jewish wisdom. He realized that the pursuit of earthly comforts and physical pleasures are not the main content and aim of life. Only the acquisition of the goods which G-d desires, namely the fulfillment of the Mitzvos can bring lasting peace of mind. Thus, the existence of the village dweller had gradually become enriched and ennobled, until his life drew to a worthy end with an almost heroic act of Jewish humane love. 

From Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life, p. 15

UPDATE: One reader asked for a translation of the headstone, and Leah of the Tracing the Tribe group kindly provided this translation:

An upright man who enlightened/educated the poor
“He left behind him a legacy of blessings (?)
“He established a good thing for the poor, H”H (HaRav HaGaon)
“K”H Meir, son of K”H Yaakov
”When his days were full
“He returned to his palace? at a ripe old age
“On the even of Shabbat, the 25th, and he was buried
“In an ‘auspicious hour’/with a good name on Day 1 (Sunday), the 30th
“Of MarChesvan, on the first day of Rosh Chodesh
“[Kislev?] . . .”

Meyer Goldschmidt was clearly a good and well-loved man by his family and his community. His children and descendants carried on this legacy in Germany and in the United States, as we will see as I now examine the lives of each of them, starting with Meyer and Lea’s oldest child, Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund.


  1. “The Story of A Ring,” Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p.19-21 
  2. “The Story of A Ring,” Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p. 21 
  3. “The Story of A Ring,” Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), pp.21-22. 
  4. “The Story of A Ring,” Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p.22. 
  5. Juda Callman Katzenstein death record, Certificate Number: 175, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 923; Laufende Nummer: 1941, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958. Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life,(1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies)  p, 22. 
  6. “The Story of A Ring,” Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p.23. 
  7. Ibid. 
  8. “Obituary,” Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p.15. The use of the term “last rites” should not be confused with the Catholic tradition of giving last rites; under Jewish law there are certain rules and practices for the treatment of the deceased’s body between the time of death and burial. That must be what the obituary meant by “last rites.” 
  9. “Of Noble Origins,” Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p.10. 

Returning to Goldschmidt Research: A Dearth of Records, but A Wealth of Information

After a long break focused on photographs shared by some of my generous cousins, I am now returning to posting about my research of my Goldschmidt/Goldsmith family, the descendants of my four-times great-grandparents Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Reuben Seligmann.

They had five children: Seligmann, my three-times great-grandfather; Levi; Meyer; Jette; and Simon. In addition, Jacob had been married twice before marrying Eva and had two children with those wives, Elieser Falcke Goldschmidt and Jude Jacobs, my half-four-times great-uncles. I have already written about Seligmann, Lehman, and Simon and their descendants.1

Now I will turn to the fourth brother, Meyer Goldschmidt. Although I had many secondary sources providing information about Meyer and his family, it was very difficult to find any primary sources, as discussed below. I was very fortunate, however, to connect with a distant cousin in the Netherlands, and he sent me a book published in Israel by Meyer Goldschmidt’s descendants in 1996, Selig Goldschmidt: A Picture of A Life, hereinafter referred to as the Selig Goldschmidt book.2

The book includes remembrances, letters, obituaries, and images that Meyer’s descendants collected and translated to English in order to preserve and honor the memory of Meyer’s son Selig Goldschmidt. It sheds light not only on Selig, but also on his parents, his siblings, and his children.

I also benefited greatly from the research and support of David Baron, husband of my cousin Roger, a descendant of both Meyer and Seligmann Goldschmidt.

There are many trees on Ancestry and other secondary sources that say that Meyer Goldschmidt was born in Oberlistingen on June 10, 1787, but none of them has a primary source for that date. Meyer’s death record says he was 74 when he died on November 5, 1858. That would mean he was born in 1784, not 1787.

Meyer Goldschmidt death record, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 146, p. 36

Unfortunately, I cannot find a birth or marriage record for Meyer, so I do not know whether the trees are accurate or whether the death record is accurate. This photograph from the Selig Goldschmidt book includes the birth date found on those family trees:

Meyer Goldschmidt on p. 7, Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies)

Since I have not located a marriage record for Meyer, I do not know when or where he married, but I do know who he married—Lea Katzenstein. I also have no birth records for Lea, but Ancestry trees and other sources show her birth date as March 20, 1794, in Grebenstein, Germany, and her parents as Jesajas ha Cohen Katzenstein and Edel Ganz.

I presume that Meyer and Lea were married by 1823 because their daughter Sarah was born on December 26, 1823, according to her marriage record.

Marriage record of Sarah Goldschmidt and Solomon Stern, Certificate Number: 225a
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Another daughter, Ella, was possibly born that same year. Ancestry trees and other sources report that Ella was born March 26, 1823. That date apparently came from her death record:

Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund death certificate from David Baron

But unless her sister Sarah was conceived the day after Ella was born and was born several months prematurely, that seems impossible. I think Ella was more likely born in 1822. According to obituaries written about Ella when she died on March 19, 1904, and her death certificate, she was 81 years old when she died. That would mean that she was born between March 20, 1822, and March 19, 1823.3

At any rate, we can assume that Meyer and Ella were married by 1823, if not before.  They had seven children: Ella (1822?), Sarah (1823), Malchen (about 1827), Selig (sometimes spelled Seelig) (1828), Joseph (1830?), and Falk (1836). According to David Baron’s Goldschmidt family tree, Joseph died a month before his sixth birthday on November 27, 1836, five months after Falk was born. I am still working on finding records for some of these children and will report on what I find once I do, if I do. But given the depth of David’s research, I don’t think such records exist. All of us are relying on older family trees that include these dates.

Despite this dearth of records, I can tell quite a bit about the lives of Meyer, Lea, and their children based on the Selig Goldschmidt book and other later sources.

Three years after giving birth to her last child Falk at age 42, Lea Katzenstein Goldschmidt died on September 28, 1839. She was 45 years old and left behind her husband Meyer and six children under the age of eighteen.

Lea Katzenstein Goldschmidt death record, Sterberegister der Juden von Grebenstein 1827-1882 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 377)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 34

In the Selig Goldschmidt book, there are some translated remembrances written by Selig in 1887 about his mother Lea. Apparently the family had run into some hard times after Meyer suffered a prolonged illness and was confined to bed and unable to work for fourteen weeks. This took a toll on Lea. Selig wrote:4

My mother, who now rests with G-d, was an ideal woman, wife, and mother. She was beloved in the whole of our district, the benefactress and the support of many poor families. Everyone received ready comfort from her. Even when we were so poor that she could no longer help, people would still seek her advice and share their burdens with her.

I was only nine years old when she died. When I heard the loud sighs and groans of innumerable mourners who wept and cried out, “What shall we do, how shall we manage now that our benefactress is buried?,” I was roused from my childish grief. I asked myself how had she been able to help the needy? We are so poor ourselves that we have barely enough bread and potatoes to eat. I was a wild and carefree boy, but it was probably at this juncture that a turning point occurred in my life.

After her death, the family worked together  to provide for each other.5

Jakob and I had begun to work properly even though I was just ten years and Jakob twelve. Thus, we managed to add a little oil and fried onions to our boiled potatoes. That was quite amusing. Our good and noble sister Sarah fried small slices of onion in a little oil. This was then mixed with hot water and one had to fish out the onion. A big pot stood in the center of the table and each of us dipped his peeled potato into it. He who caught a slice of onion in this way was indeed the lucky one.

Behind our little house we had a small garden which my sister Ella tended. … My sister Ella learned millinery and ran a small millinery shop in our house. …[A]ll of us were working very diligently in order to support our dear father and little brothers and sisters.

These simple paragraphs describing the life of the family of Meyer and Lea Goldschmidt paint a picture of a tight-knit and loving family that managed to deal together with poverty and the tragic loss of their mother. I may not have all the dates and records, but I do have a sense of the values and life of Meyer Goldschmidt and his family.

More to come…


  1. For Jette, Elieser, and Jude, I have been fortunate to find the research of others, but no primary sources. I have added the names and dates to my Ancestry tree, but I do not have enough reliable information about them or their families yet to write about them on the blog. Maybe someday I will learn more, but for now I have decided that I will wait to see if any more can be learned about these distant relatives and their descendants before trying to write about them. 
  2. Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies) 
  3. US census records are also inconsistent with respect to Ella’s birth year. The 1870 census says she was then 47, giving her a birth year of 1823. But the 1880 census reports her age as 55, meaning she was born in 1825. And the 1900 census records her birth date as 1833. I think Ella’s birth date was not known by her family and perhaps even by Ella herself. 
  4.  “The Story of A Ring,” Selig Goldschmidt: Picture of A Life (1996, Elmar Printers Ltd. and Bezalel Bookbinders, Jerusalem, Israel)(limited edition of 300 copies), p. 19.If  Selig was nine when his mother died in 1839, then he was born in 1830, not 1828. The 1828 birth date came from his marriage record, however, so perhaps he did not remember his age at the time his mother died. 
  5. Ibid., pp. 20-21. 

Sophie Katz Vogel and Her Family: A Brick Wall Falls in My Katzenstein Family

Back in October 2017, I wrote about a brick wall I could not break down involving the children of my cousin Rosa Katzenstein. Rosa was my second cousin, twice removed. She was the granddaughter of Jacob Katzenstein, the older brother of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

Rosa was the oldest child of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein, born on June 19, 1859, in Frankenau, Germany.

Rosa Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 7

She married her third cousin, once removed, Salomon Feist Katz, son of Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz of Jesberg. Rosa and Salomon were married on June 28, 1881, in Jesberg. They had four daughters, one of whom died as a child, but three survived to adulthood: Sara, Sophie, and Recha.

Marriage record of Rosa Katzenstein and Salomon Feist Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3836

I had a great deal of trouble learning what happened to two of those daughters, Sara and Sophie. I knew that Sara had married Otto Loew and had two children and that Sophie had married Isaac Vogel, with whom she’d had two sons, Heinz and Carl, but that was all I could find. Then, with incredible help from my friend Aaron Knappstein, I learned that Sara and Sophie as well as their sister Recha had all left Germany in the 1930s and escaped to Argentina.

But I did not know what had happened to the two sons of Sophie Katz Vogel, Carl and Heinz. Now, thanks to more wonderful research done by Aaron Knappstein, I not only know more about their story, I actually have photographs of the family and am in touch with two new cousins.

In April, 2019, Aaron received an email with a packet of information and photographs from Ingo Sieloff, the director of the Borken museum. Back in 2009, Carl Vogel’s daughter had exchanged emails with Heinrich Broz, then the archivist for the town of Borken, and had sent him photographs and other documents and a history of her family. Mr. Sieloff sent all of this to Aaron, and  Aaron sent them on to me. Last week I took a chance and sent Carl’s daughter an email using the email address she’d had in 2009. That same day she responded and shared it with Heinz’s daughter, and now I have two new cousins with whom to share and exchange family information.

Here is more of the story of Sophie Katz and Isaac Vogel. Most of the information in this post came from my correspondence with their granddaughters and the documents and photographs they shared with me.

Sophie Katz married Isaac Vogel on June 9, 1909:

Sophie Katz marriage to Isaak Vogel
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5624

Their son Carl was born on March 30, 1910, in Borken, Germany:

Birth record of Carl Vogel

His brother Heinz was born two years later on July 18, 1912, also in Borken:

Birth record of Heinz Vogel. Courtesy of the Vogel family

During World War I Isaac Vogel served in the Germany military, fighting in France, and then was a city councilor in Borken in the 1920s.

Isaac Vogel (right). Courtesy of the Vogel family

Isaac Vogel, seated far right. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Isaac worked with his brother Moritz as a cattle trader. It was a business that Isaac and Moritz had taken over from their father Ephraim. It was a small business, but enough to support two families adequately.

Here are three photos of Carl and Heinz and their parents taken between about 1910 to about 1924 in Borken, Germany:

Heinz and Carl Vogel, c. 1910. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Sophie, Heinz, Isaac, and Carl Vogel, c. 1917. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Vogel family, c. 1924. Courtesy of the Vogel family

According to Ingo Sieloff,  the Vogel home in Borken was located at Hintergasse 125 and included a house and a stable; the house was 105 square meters or about 1130 square feet in area. It appears to be larger than that in this photograph:

Hintergasse 125, Borken. Courtesy of the Vogel family

I don’t know when this photograph was taken or the identities of the people standing in front.

As a child, Carl Vogel was an avid reader and a good student, and his parents decided to send him to grammar school in Kassel. During the week he lived with his uncle Moritz Vogel. Carl graduated from high school and then studied at the Philosophical Faculty of Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin. He also attended lectures at Rabbinerseminar and worked as a religion teacher.

These three photographs are labeled “Schule,” one with year 1921. I can find Carl in the Gymnasium photograph below (the third one); he is the young man standing fourth from the left in the back row. I assume that either Carl or Heinz is somewhere in the other two photos. Can you find them? I have guesses, but am not sure.

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Heinz Vogel was also a very talented boy, but his parents could not afford to send both boys to high school. Instead, Heinz completed his apprenticeship as a retail merchant in Kassel at the Tietz department store.

Until 1933, the family lived a normal life. They saw themselves as Jews and as good Germans. They lived a quiet life, although there were occasional verbal anti-Semitic attacks .  But once the Nazis came to power, the Vogel cattle business suffered because farmers were not allowed to do business with Jews. Heinz Vogel also found his livelihood affected; although he was considered the best salesman in the store, he was released from his job. He then completed an apprenticeship in a practical trade in Frankfurt to prepare for emigration.

Carl read Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” and recognized that the family needed to leave Germany. Sophie’s sister Recha Katz Goldschmidt had already left  for Argentina by 1932 after her husband Julius was beaten by the Nazis.

Carl and Heinz prepared to emigrate to Palestine, but then decided to go to Argentina since they already had relatives living there. Heinz and Carl first emigrated in 1935, and one year later their parents Isaac and Sophie and Sophie’s mother Rosa Katzenstein Katz followed. They sold their home in Borken for 9113 Reichsmarks. One source says that there were 2.5 Reichsmarks to a US dollar during World War II, so the price of the house would have been about $3,645 in US currency or about $48,000 in today’s dollars, according to this inflation calculator. They settled in Buenos Aires.

In Argentina, Carl and Heinz had to start their lives all over. But the family adapted well to their life in Argentina. The philanthropic association Asociación Filantrópica Israelita or Jüdischer Hillfsverein helped the newcomers adjust to their new country. In Buenos Aires, Isaac and Sophie continued to have a traditional Jewish home and went regularly to the liberal synagogue founded by German Jews; services were conducted in German and Hebrew and in later years, also in Spanish. Isaac and Sophie never learned Spanish, but it did not matter because they were living amidst other German Jews who had escaped from the Nazis. Isaac also tutored boys for their bar mitzvahs.

In 1943 Carl Vogel married Beate Hamburger from Frankfurt; Carl was very active and well known in the Jewish community and served as a deputy rabbi and as a bar mitzvah tutor. He also taught German and Latin. Beate also was a teacher; she gave private instruction in German and English. Carl and Beate had two children.

Heinz Vogel married Gertrud Lippman from Ludwigshafen in 1943. They had one child. Heinz started work in Argentina as an industrial worker in the meat business. Then he became a white collar worker in a big Argentina-owned multinational firm called Bunge & Born. For his job he was required to travel all over the world, including a six-month stay in India in 1954. He became the General Manager of the Jute department and traveled many times to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Although Heinz lacked the formal education his brother Carl had received in Germany, his daughter described him as a “very cultured and interesting person.” She said that her parents lived a secular life and had friends from many different backgrounds; their connection to the synagogue was limited to Yom Kippur and lifecycle events for family and friends. Heinz’s daughter also told me that Heinz was very proud to be an Argentine citizen and that when he received a diploma from the Argentine government on the fiftieth anniversary of his becoming a citizen, he was very emotional.

Isaac Vogel died on April 16, 1960, in Buenos Aires;1 his wife Sophie died five years later on May 5, 1965.2  Carl died in 1981, and Heinz in 2005.

I feel so fortunate to have found the granddaughters of Sophie and Isaac and to have learned so much more about the courage and determination of Sophie, Isaac, Carl, and Heinz, who all started their lives over in a new place after being forced to escape from Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

 

 

A Morreau Family Update: In Memory of Patrick Morreau 1934-2019

When we were in London, I was very fortunate to meet two of my Seligmann cousins, Annette Morreau, my fourth cousin, once removed, and Mark Morreau, my fifth cousin; I wrote about our meeting here. Since then, Mark and I have stayed in touch and shared some of our research into our shared family.

Before I delve into what I’ve learned from Mark, let me first explain how we are connected. Mark and I are both descended from our four-times great-grandparents Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, Mark through their daughter Caroline, me through their son Moritz, my third great-grandfather.

Caroline Seligmann married Moses Morreau on October 8, 1830 in Worrstadt, Germany:

Marriage record of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau October 8, 1930
Worrstadt Marriage Record, 1830-10

P. 2 of Marriage record of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau

They had two children, Levi (1831) and Klara (1838), about whom I wrote here. Levi Morreau married Emilia Levi and had five children, including Markus, who was born in Worrstadt on August 27, 1859:

Markus Morreau birth record, August 27, 1859
Worrstadt birth records, 1859-36

Here is a photograph of Emilia Levi Morreau, the mother of Markus Morreau:

Emilia Levi Morreau, courtesy of Mark Morreau

Markus married Alice Weinmann, and they had three children all born in England. Their first child Cecil, Mark’s grandfather, was born in April, 1905.1 Cecil married Cicely Josephine O’Flanagan in 1933 in Manchester, England,2 and they had three children, including Mark’s father Patrick, born in 1934.3

When I met Mark, his father Patrick was scheduled for surgery within a few weeks after our meeting on June 1, 2019. Patrick made it through the surgery, but then unexpectedly died not long afterwards on June 30, 2019. He was 85. I was heartbroken for Mark and his family and very sad that I had missed the opportunity to meet Patrick myself, especially after Mark shared some of his stories with me. I am grateful, however, to have met Mark and also our cousin Annette, and very glad that Mark was able to share with Patrick some of what we had discussed and to ask a few more questions about the family history.

So in memory of and in honor of Patrick Morreau, let me tell some of that history and those stories.

I will start with Mark’s great-grandfather Markus Morreau. As mentioned above, Markus was one of five children of Levi and Emilia (Levi) Morreau. He had four younger siblings: Albert, Adolf (who died as a child), Bertha, and Alice. I’ve written about them all here and here. In fact, my discovery of the Morreau cousins really started when my cousin Shyanne Morreau found my blog and we together put the various pieces together. Shyanne is descended from Albert Morreau, who left Germany for the United States in 1883 when he was 22 and settled in Cleveland. Albert’s older brother Markus also left Germany as a young man and was living in Withington, a suburb of Manchester, England in 1881; by then he had adopted the more English spelling of his name, Marcus. 4

Here is a photograph of Marcus taken in 1880 when he was 21. It appears it was taken in Frankfurt, either before he emigrated to England or during a visit back to Germany:

Marcus Morreau, aged 21. Courtesy of Mark Morreau

I don’t have a photograph of Albert as a young man, but this photo from his 1915 passport with his wife Leonora shows the family resemblance:

“United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJP-423K : 4 September 2015), Albert Morreau, 1915; citing Passport Application, Ohio, United States, source certificate #49162, Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925, 234, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,514,173.

Marcus was living in Manchester when he became a naturalized British citizen in 1892.

UK Naturalization Certificate for Marcus Morreau
The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Duplicate Certificates of Naturalisation, Declarations of British Nationality, and Declarations of Alienage; Class: HO 334; Piece: 19

Two of the questions that Mark and I had were why Marcus and Albert left Germany in the 1870s and 1880s and why one went to England and the other to America.  As for the first part of that question, the answer seems answered in part by what was happening in Germany in the 1870s and 1880s. According to several sources, Germany was substantially affected by the worldwide depression that began in 1873. Britannica.com reports that:

The prices for agricultural and industrial goods fell precipitously; for six successive years the net national product declined. A sharp decline in profits and investment opportunities persisted until the mid-1890s. About 20 percent of the recently founded corporations went bankrupt.

In agriculture, the deeply indebted Junker elite now faced severe competition as surplus American and Russian grain flooded the German market. Among the more immediate consequences of the crash was a burst of emigration from the depressed provinces of rural Prussia. During the 1870s some 600,000 people departed for North and South America; this number more than doubled in the 1880s.

Lynn Abrams, a scholar writing about this same period, noted that one of the other consequences of the depression of 1873 was an increase in anti-Semitism:5

The Depression, which did not recede until 1879, had profound consequences. The period beginning in 1873 saw the organization of economic interest groups, nationalism of a rather chauvinistic nature, militarism and modern anti-semitism.The Depression caused the landed and industrial interests to mobilize behind the policy of protective tariffs in order to retain their economic and political base. Thus, they succeeded in maintaining their power and the political status quo.

Ironically, the unification of Germany under Bismarck in 1871 led to some increased rights for Jews, but also increased anti-Semitism, as the Center for Israel Education described on its website:

In July 1869, Prussian King Wilhelm I promulgated the North German Confederation Constitution, which gave Jews civil and political rights in twenty-two German states.  This Constitution was adopted by the new German empire upon its establishment on April 14, 1871.  On April 22, 1871, the Jews in all of Germany were finally given emancipation when the Constitution was extended to Bavaria. 

The process of Jewish emancipation led to many changes in both Jewish and non-Jewish society.  Some Jews continued religious identification with non-Orthodox Judaism, seeking to remain Jewish but more like their Christian peers; some converted to Christianity because the Emancipation of 1871 still prevented Jews from gaining access to certain high profile social positions; others simply assimilated.  Emancipation also led to new and more virulent forms of anti-Semitism, a term that was coined in 1879 in a pamphlet by Wilhelm Marr. Marr became the father of virulent racial anti-Semitism, singling out  Jews as inferior because of their racial impurity.

Another website, Jewish History Online, further elaborated on the increased anti-Semitism that occurred in the 1870s and thereafter:

With the onset of the economic crisis of the early 1870s known as “Gründerkrach”, the atmosphere in the newly founded German Kaiserreich started to change. Reich Chancellor Bismarck reacted with a protectionist economic policy and changed his political course to join the conservative camp. As supporters of liberalism and Social Democracy, the Jews now found themselves on the side of the political enemy. They were accused of being responsible for the economic crisis and the ever more pressing “social question.”

There were thus multiple reasons why Marcus and Albert Morreau would have left Germany during this time period—to seek better economic opportunities and to escape anti-Semitism.

As for why one went to England and the other America, we can only speculate. Perhaps they were hedging their bets as to which country would give them more opportunities. Maybe they didn’t get along and wanted to put an ocean between them.  Or maybe they each just found a specific job opportunity that led them to settle in two different countries.

More to come…

 


  1. Inferred County: Lancashire, Volume: 8c, Page: 718, Source Information
    FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 
  2.  Inferred County: Lancashire, Spouse: O’flanagan, Volume Number: 8d
    Page Number: 648, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 8d; Page: 648,
    Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 
  3.  Registration district: Watford, Inferred County: Hertfordshire, Mother’s Maiden Name: O’Flanagan, Volume Number: 3a, Page Number: 1485, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Reference: Volume 3a, Page 1485, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2007 
  4. Marcus Morreau, 1881 England Census, Class: RG11; Piece: 3892; Folio: 79; Page: 37; GSU roll: 1341930, Enumeration District: 12a, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
  5. Lynn Abrams, Bismarck and The German Empire 1871-1918 ( Routledge, 1995), found at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3c20/c71ec7760438fd5651738e40dea8a81a8c19.pdf 

How the Nazis Treated Children of Mixed Marriages, Part II: Christine Seligmann

My last post told the tragic story of Emil-Jacob Seligmann, Jr., the great-grandson of my three-times great-grandfather Moritz Seligmann. This post will tell the story of his sister, Christine, known by the family as Christel. Emil, Jr. and Christel were the children of Emil Seligmann, Sr., who was Jewish, and Anna Maria Angelika Illian, who was Catholic, and they were raised as Catholics. But, as we saw in the prior post, Nazis treated those who had two Jewish grandparents as Mischlings in the First Degree. Although they were not thus identified as wholly Jewish, they were nevertheless not Aryan either and, as we saw with Emil, often persecuted. Emil was sent to Buchenwald in August 1944 and died there six months later on February 14, 1945, from poor health and a heart attack.

Christel was not sent to a concentration camp, but she faced persecution as well. In going through various papers that were found in Christel’s apartment after she died in 1982, my cousin Wolfgang located documents that revealed that Christel had applied for reparations from the German government for the harm and losses she suffered during the Nazi era. Those documents (which he has shared with me) reveal what Christel experienced and endured at the hands of the Nazis. The documents are all in German, but with a lot of help from Wolfgang and my elementary understanding of German, I have been able to piece together Christel’s story. You can see the documents I received here: Christine Seligmann dox

The first document was written by Christel on January 3, 1947, outlining her life in Wiesbaden before and during the Nazi era and World War II. She wrote that she was born on July 30, 1903 in Erbach, Germany. Her parents were quite wealthy, so Christel did not need to work. But in 1933 she became a certified baby nurse and began working for mostly Jewish families in that capacity. She was out of work due to poor health (rheumatism) from 1938 to 1942, but in 1942 returned to work for various families.

After losing both of her parents in 1942, Christel stopped working as a baby nurse and instead made a living by renting rooms in her family home. But in August 1944, her situation became much worse. Her brother Emil was arrested and sent to Buchenwald, where he died six months later.

Wolfgang found among Christel’s papers two cards that she received from her brother Emil while he was at Buchenwald. Wolfgang translated and summarized these cards for me.

The first card is dated September 10, 1944. At the top of the page are pre-printed instructions regarding written communications to and from prisoners. Prisoners were allowed to send and receive just two letters a month. The letters had to be written clearly. The rules also state that prisoners were allowed to receive food.

In the body of his message, Emil informed Christel that he was living at Buchenwald and that he was doing well, but he made several requests that he considered urgent. He asked her to send him money (30 Reichsmarken) and a long list of food items: marmalade, canned blackberries and raspberries, sugar, salt, cigarettes, and some cutlery. He also asked for something to treat fleas. He thanked her several times.

His second letter sounded more desperate. It was written in December, 1944, and it is obvious that the conditions and weather had become worse since his first card two months earlier. We can’t tell whether the siblings had exchanged other letters between September and December, but from the content of Emil’s December letter, we know that Christel had at least sent him one package. He wrote that he was happy to have received the package from her because he had been very worried and was glad to know that she was alive. He asked her to write him a letter—so perhaps she had not written to him, just sent the package.

He said that everything in that package was perfect, but that he now needed more money (50 Reichsmarken) and some winter clothing—gloves, earflaps (like ear muffs, I assume), and a winter jacket. He also asked for towels, handkerchiefs, a pen, a spoon, salt, cigarettes, glasses, and marmalade. Emil acknowledged that Christel might be too busy with work to get the items to him quickly and said she should ask the other women in her house for help. He closed by wishing her a good Christmas and sending her kisses.

We don’t know whether Emil heard from Christel again or whether she heard from him. He died less than two months after Christmas on February 14, 1945.

Meanwhile, Christel was having her own problems with the Nazis.  On the same day that Emil was arrested in August, 1944, the Gestapo raided their family’s apartment and forced her to move out on one day’s notice at great cost and with no help. They told her that if her furniture was not removed by the next morning, she would find it on the street. She was able to salvage some, but not all, of her belongings.

From October 1944 until December 1944, she was able to work as a nanny for a Christian woman, but then the Gestapo forced her to take a job in a cardboard factory. She found this work very difficult, and the long walk back and forth every day made matters even worse. Her feet became frostbitten and she developed bladder problems, but despite consulting three different doctors, she was unable to get any of them to give her a medical note to excuse her from work.

Once the war ended and the US army occupied Wiesbaden, Christel’s home was returned to her, but then was soon taken back by the US army to use as living quarters for American soldiers. Christel had just one room to live in. Nine months later her home was returned to her.

Christel filed a claim for reparations from the German government in November, 1953, for the loss of income and value she suffered by being forced from her home by the Gestapo, for the loss of her profession, for the damage to her health, and for the insults and humiliation she endured. She also claimed that a possible marriage was thwarted by the laws imposed by the Nazis. Wolfgang located in Christel’s papers a five-page petition filed by her attorney, Georg Marx, detailing her claims. Unfortunately, the copy I received is a bit too blurry (making it even more difficult to translate the German), but Wolfgang told me that it reiterates much of what Christel herself wrote in 1947 but with more details about her medical ailments.

According to Wolfgang, Christel did receive some money for reparations, but not very much.  She continued to live in her apartment in Wiesbaden for the rest of her life. When she died in 1982, Wolfgang and his father and uncle cleaned out the apartment. Christel was a bit of a hoarder, and there were many, many papers that were simply thrown away, papers that today might tell more of her story and that of her family.

Fortunately, however, Wolfgang’s uncle Herbert saved the “magic suitcase” that was in Christel’s apartment and that has become so critical to the family research that Wolfgang and his mother have done and have shared with me.

 

 

How the Nazis Treated Children of Mixed Marriages, Part I: Emil Seligmann

Wolfgang’s second find on the newly released Arolsen Archives website was about our cousin Emil Jacob Seligmann, Jr., the son of Emil Jacob Seligmann, Sr., and Anna Maria Angelika Illian. His father Emil, Sr., was the son of Caroline Seligmann and Siegfried Seligmann and the grandson of Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld. And since Emil Sr.’s father Siegfried was the son of Moritz’s sister Martha, Emil Sr., was also her grandson. Thus, Emil, Sr., was the great-grandson of Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer through two of their children.

Extended Pedigree Chart for Emil Seligmann

Anyway, I digress. Emil, Sr., was born on December 23, 1863, in Mainz, Germany.

Emil Jacob Seligmann Sr birth record, Stadtarchiv Mainz; Mainz, Deutschland; Zivilstandsregister, 1798-1875; Signatur: 50 / 66
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1798-1875

He married Anna Maria Angelika Illian on February 10, 1907, in Erbach, Germany. Their marriage record indicates that Anna Maria was Catholic, so theirs was an interfaith marriage.

Emil Jacob Seligmann Sr Marriage record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 919; Laufende Nummer: 1109, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Emil, Sr., and Anna Maria had two children—Emil Jacob, Jr. and Christina. From these names, we can see that Emil, Sr., was not keeping to Jewish naming traditions, having a son who shared his name and a daughter named Christina and known as Christel.

One other observation: Emil Jacob, Jr., was born on May 27, 1901, almost six years before the date on his parents’ marriage record. 1 I wonder whether there were legal or other obstacles that prevented Emil, Sr., and Anna Maria from marrying earlier.

According to Emil, Sr.’s death certificate, he died from arteriosclerosis on August 9, 1942, at home in Wiesbaden. He was 78 years old. His wife Anna Maria had predeceased him on January 31, 1942, in Wiesbaden; she was 71. She died from heart disease.2

Emil Jacob Seligmann, Sr death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 925; Laufende Nummer: 2934, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

The Arolsen Archives had this registration card for Emil, Sr., dated sometime after June 30, 1941. I know this is pure speculation, but I do have to wonder whether the stress of the Nazi era contributed to their deaths.

Card “Reichsvereinigung der Juden”, Emil I. SELIGMANN, 1.2.4.1 / 12673844, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

The fate of their son Emil, Jr., sheds some light on that, especially from the papers that Wolfgang located at the Arolsen Archives. There is an entire folder for Emil, Jr., of forms connected to his time at Buchenwald, and those forms reveal a great deal not only about Emil but also about the Nazi mindset. I will only post a few of the forms in the folder—those that reveal the most important information about Emil.

First is his Haeftlings-Personal-Karte or his personal prisoner’s card, which includes information about his birth, his parents, his physical characteristics, as well as other matters. Note that it asks for his religion, and he responded “R.K.,” or Roman Catholic. That is, Emil was imprisoned at Buchenwald even though his mother was Catholic and he identified as Catholic.

Prisoner Registration Card Concentration Camp Buchenwald, Emil SELIGMANN, 1.1.5.3 / 7088569, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Note also at the top that it says “Mischl. 1 Gr.”, or Mischling First Degree. “Mischling” means hybrid in German, and it was the way Nazis labeled those who were from a mixed background and not 100% Jewish in their ancestry. A Mischling First Degree meant someone who had two Jewish grandparents, as Emil, Jr. did. The First Supplementary Decree of November 14, 1935 to the Nuremberg Laws on Citizenship and Race first promulgated on September 15, 1935, established standards for defining who was a Jew for Nazi purposes and included this provision:

ARTICLE 5

(1)  A Jew is an individual who is descended from at least three grandparents who were, racially, full Jews…

(2)  A Jew is also an individual who is descended from two full-Jewish grandparents if:

(a)  he was a member of the Jewish religious community when this law was issued, or joined the community later;

(b)  when the law was issued, he was married to a person who was a Jew, or was subsequently married to a Jew;

(c)  he is the issue from a marriage with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, which was contracted after the coming into effect of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor of September 15, 1935;

(d)  he is the issue of an extramarital relationship with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, and was born out of wedlock after July 31, 1936.

There are many other sources shedding light on the definition of Mischling and the treatment thereof by the Nazis including those linked to here and here and here.

Emil did not fall into any of those disqualifying categories so was classified as a Mischling, First Degree. But what did that mean for Emil?

Well, as you can see from his card, he did not escape persecution. He was sent to Buchenwald by the Gestapo through Frankfurt, in 1944. The card says “eingewiesen am” August 21, 1944, and “eingewiesen am” translates as “instructed on,” but I assume in this context it means something more threatening than instruction. The “grund” or reason given for this action was that Emil was a “Polit. Mischl. 1 Gr,” meaning that he was arrested for political activity, not just for being a Mischling, First Degree.

Another card in the file shows that he was “eingeliefert” or admitted to Buchewald on August 21, 1944. 3   On that card it shows what Emil brought with him: a cap, one pair of cloth pants, a shirt, a skirt (?), and two pairs of shoes—laced shoes and clogs.

Personal effects card Concentration Camp Buchenwald, Emil SELIGMANN, 1.1.5.3 / 7088572, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

What the following form in the folder revealed makes the fact of Emil’s arrest and imprisonment even surprising. This is the prisoner registration form used at Buchenwald and the other Nazi concentration camps. It repeats most of the personal information Emil provided on the prisoner’s card above, but note the line that says “Kriegsdienstzeit.” That translates as military service time, and Emil reported that he had served in the infantry from 1940-1941. That is, Emil had been a soldier in the German army for two years of World War II. And now he was imprisoned at Buchenwald.

Prisoner Registration Form Concentration Camp Buchenwald, Emil SELIGMANN, 1.1.5.3 / 7088574, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Tragically, Emil did not survive his time at Buchenwald. Less than six months after his initial imprisonment he died from a heart attack on February 14, 1945. He was 43 years old.

ITS reference card, Emil SELIGMANN, 1.1.5.3 / 7088580, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

According to this card, which Wolfgang translated for me, Emil had been admitted to the infirmary the day before for diarrhea. Emil must have been quite ill, likely from mistreatment and poor nutrition, to have died so young.

Extract from the Book of deceased of the prisoners’ infirmary ward of Concentration Camp Buchenwald, 1.1.5.1 / 5348508, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Just a few months later, Germany was defeated by the Allies, and the concentration camps were liberated. Emil could have lived a full life instead of having it cut short by the Nazis.

My next post will tell the story of Emil’s sister, Christine.

 

 

 


  1.   Emil’s birth date appears on several records, although I do not have an actual birth record. For example, it appears on his records from his time at Buchenwald, see at National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Langenstein-Zwieberge Concentration Camp Inmate Cards, April 1944 – April 1945; Publication Number: M2121; Roll Number: 1, Ancestry.com. Germany, Langenstein-Zwieberge Concentration Camp Inmate Cards, 1944-1945. It also appears on the forms from Arolsen seen below. According to Wolfgang, Christel was born on July 30, 1903, so also before her parents’ marriage. Christel was the first owner of the “magic suitcase” that helped Wolfgang, his mother, and me learn so much about our shared family. More on Christel and her life to come in my next post. 
  2. Anna Maria Illian Seligmann death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 925; Laufende Nummer: 2931, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 
  3. A different card in the file says he was “eingeliefert” or admitted to Buchenwald on December 29, 1944. Had he been released and then re-arrested a few months later? Personal effects card Concentration Camp Buchenwald, Emil SELIGMANN, 1.1.5.3 / 7088571, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives 

Martha Oppenheimer Floersheimer: A Mother in Search of Her Children

For any of you who have done or are doing research about relatives who were persecuted or killed in the Holocaust, you may want to check out the newly organized database released by the Arolsen Archives in May, 2019. In the press release they issued on May 21, 2019, they wrote:

People from all over the world can now conduct research online to discover thefates of victims of National Socialist persecution: the Arolsen Archives havepublished a new online archive in partnership with the World HolocaustRemembrance Center, Yad Vashem (https://collections.arolsen-archives.org/en/). The database contains a comprehensive collection of documents from concentration camps, including prisoner cards and death notices. The more than 13 million documents featuring information on over 2.2 million people persecuted by the Nazi Regime are part of the UNESCO’s World Documentary Heritage and are a key focus of the collection of the Arolsen Archives. This database is the first of several large collections scheduled to go online in future. 

I first learned of this new resource from my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann, who emailed me on May 28, 2019, about new discoveries he’d made by searching the newly updated Arolsen Archives.

This post will be about the first—documents he found about Martha Oppenheimer Floersheimer, the daughter of Pauline Seligmann and Maier Oppenheimer and granddaughter of Moritz Seligmann, my three-times great-grandfather. Pauline was the younger sister of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman and Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August Seligmann. So Martha was Wolfgang’s first cousin, twice removed, and my first cousin, three times removed.

Although I have written about Martha before, since I last wrote about her, additional documents have become available on Ancestry that provide more details of her life before the Holocaust. Martha was born on March 1, 1876, in Offenbach, Germany. She married Heinrich Floersheimer on September 18, 1902, in Butzbach, Germany. Together they had two children: Trude, born January 24, 1904, in Gross-Gerau, Germany,1 and Paul, born August 9, 1906, in Wiesbaden, Germany.2  Martha and Heinrich were divorced in 1913.

Martha Oppenheimer birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 918; Laufende Nummer: 323, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Martha Oppenheimer marriage and divorce record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 924; Laufende Nummer: 323, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

From Yad Vashem and other family sources, I’d earlier learned that both Trude and Paul were murdered during the Holocaust. Trude was deported from Frankfurt on June 11, 1942, and sent to the Sobibor concentration camp where she was murdered; she was 38.3 Paul was deported on June 10, 1942, to the concentration camp at Majdanek, Poland, and was murdered there; he was 35.4 As for their mother Martha, she was sent to Thereisenstadt and somehow survived.

What Wolfgang found at the Arolsen Archives website were forms that Martha completed after she was liberated from Thereisenstadt in 1945. These were forms used by the International Refugee Organization to help displaced persons obtain assistance after the war. The first page in Martha’s file is a form she submitted to the International Tracing Service; it’s heartbreaking to read this because it reveals that at the time Martha filled out this form, she still had hope that her two children were still alive.

CM/1 files from Germany for the family FLÖRSHEIMER, envelope F-3042, 3.2.1.1 / 79088827, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

The second form is a questionnaire that the US Army asked displaced persons to complete. One question was, “Fuehren Sie de Namen irgendwelcher anderer naechster Familienangehoeriger auf, die sich zur Zeit in Deutschland aufhalten.“ In English—List the names of any other family members currently in Germany—and again, Martha listed her two children.  Since the form was created on June 1, 1946, this indicates that Martha still believed her children could be alive a year after she was released from Thereisenstadt.

CM/1 files from Germany for the family FLÖRSHEIMER, envelope F-3042, 3.2.1.1 / 79088828, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

The next two pages of that questionnaire ask numerous questions about Martha’s background. Of most interest here are two responses. One question asks whether she wants to return home, and she responded yes. Another question asked whether she had ever been persecuted for her race, religion, or political views, and she answered yes to race and religion; asked to describe how she was persecuted, Martha wrote that she was sent to Thereisenstadt concentration camp from September 2, 1942 until July 8, 1945.

CM/1 files from Germany for the family FLÖRSHEIMER, envelope F-3042, 3.2.1.1 / 79088828, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

In February 1948, Martha filled out a third form, this one a Request for Assistance. On this form Martha described herself as a widow and wrote that she had been living back in Wiesbaden since July 1945.

CM/1 files from Germany for the family FLÖRSHEIMER, envelope F-3042, 3.2.1.1 / 79088829, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

CM/1 files from Germany for the family FLÖRSHEIMER, envelope F-3042, 3.2.1.1 / 79088829, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

CM/1 files from Germany for the family FLÖRSHEIMER, envelope F-3042, 3.2.1.1 / 7908889, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

The saddest part of this form is the last page where Martha was asked whether she wanted to remain in Germany, to which she answered yes, and then whether she had any relatives living in Germany. Now her answer was no. By this time she must have learned that her children had been murdered.

I don’t have any other records for Martha after this point, but what I know from my cousin Angelika Oppenheimer and the Seligmann family tree is that Martha continued to live in Wiesbaden until her death on November 16, 1967, when she was 91 years old. That she survived almost three years at Thereisenstadt when she was almost seventy years old and then another twenty-two years in Wiesbaden after losing her children is amazing to me.

But Martha was wrong about one thing when she answered the questionnaire in February, 1948. She did have relatives who survived the war. Our cousin Angelika Oppenheimer, Martha’s great-niece and the granddaughter of Martha’s brother Moritz James Oppenheimer, remembers visiting her in Wiesbaden with her family when she was a child. And Wolfgang’s father and uncle were also still alive and living not far from Wiesbaden. Perhaps in some way Martha found the strength to survive from those family members who remained.

 


  1. From the Yad Vashem website at https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11497651&ind=1 
  2. Paul Floersheimer death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 926; Signatur: 333, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 
  3. See Note 1, above. 
  4. https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11497658&ind=1 

The Story of Julius Seligmann, Scorned for Not Being Jewish and for Being Jewish

In my recent post about Adolf Michel, I included the letter his son Fred had written to the International Tracing Service after the war in which he expressed obvious anger with his uncle Julius Seligmann for his failure to help learn what had happened to their mutual relatives. This post will shed light on Julius and his relationships with his siblings.

When my cousin Wolfgang first contacted me back in February 2015, he shared with me what he knew of the story of his grandfather Julius Seligmann. Julius was the second child of August Seligmann and Rosa Bergmann and was born February 5, 1877, in Gau-Algesheim. He was the nephew of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligmann and first cousin of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen.

Julius and his younger brother Moritz were for many years in business together in Gau-Algesheim as merchants, but from family lore, Wolfgang learned that after his grandfather married Magdalena Kleissinger on December 1, 1922, and converted to Catholicism, there was a falling out between Julius and his family. Julius was already 45 when he married Magdalena and fifty years old when his younger son Herbert was born in 1927.

Then, according to the book by Ludwig Hellriegel about the Jews of Gau-Algesheim, Julius was forced to close his store in Gau-Algesheim in December 1935 and moved with his wife and sons to Bingen in September, 1939.1 I had speculated back in November 2014 that these actions were somehow connected to Nazi persecution, but Wolfgang did not think so. Although he did not know the details of what happened to Julius and his family or why he ended up leaving Gau-Algesheim in 1939, Wolfgang had heard from his family that Julius had suffered financial hardship after being forced to pay his brother Moritz some kind of financial settlement that led to the move to Bingen, where the family lived with Magdalena’s relatives for some time.

Recently, Wolfgang decided to try and learn more about his grandfather’s life, and he searched the Landesarchiv Speyer, the archives for the Rhine-Palatinate region in Germany.  First, he searched online and found that there were court records available regarding a criminal prosecution of his grandfather Julius in 1937. The records themselves were not accessible online, so Wolfgang visited the archives in person and reviewed the many pages of court records there. He was not allowed to copy or photograph the records themselves, but took copious notes and reported back to me what he had learned. Thus, all the information that follows came from Wolfgang’s research of those court records.2

The records provided information not only about the criminal trial in 1937, but also background information about Julius and his life. The records reported that Julius was a good student and was in school through the sixth year at the Bingen schools. From 1897 to 1898, Julius served in the First Hessian Guard Regiment in Darmstadt.

After their father August died in 1909, Julius and his brother Moritz took over the family house as well as their father’s business. But Julius returned to military service on Germany’s behalf during World War I from 1914 through 1918. He was a sergeant in the infantry, battled malaria while in service, and received the Frontkämpferkreuz for his service on the front lines during the war. After the ceasefire, he helped bring the German battalions back to safety.

Honor Cross of World War I or Frontkampferkreuz
PicturePrince [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

After the war Julius returned to Gau-Algesheim and continued to work with his brother Moritz in what had been their father’s store. As noted above, he married Magdalena in 1922 and converted to Catholicism. Then Julius had an unfortunate injury in 1927 when he fell off his bicycle and suffered a concussion. The court records report that he suffered seizures for many years as a result of this accident.

The records indicate that there were many disputes between Julius and Moritz during this time, perhaps relating to Julius’ marriage and conversion or perhaps for unrelated family or business reasons. In May 1929, Julius bought out his brother Moritz of his share of the family home and business for 14,000 Reichmarks. There is a note in the records from a notary from Ingelheim saying this price was too high, that is, that Julius paid more than a fair price. Moritz then left Gau-Algesheim and moved to Koenigstein, and Julius ran the business on his own. But having overpaid for his brother’s half of the business, Julius soon ran into financial difficulties.

Location in Gau-Algesheim of Julius Seligmann’s store

Things then got worse after Hitler came to power. The mayor watched to see who went into Julius’ store as he was apparently considered non-Aryan despite his conversion to Catholicism. Under the Nuremberg laws, he was still considered Jewish for he had four Jewish grandparents. As a result of his financial difficulties, Julius was forced to borrow money from a man named Hammen so that he could pay off his debts. As part of the process of obtaining that loan, Julius had to provide a statement of his assets.

Apparently, there was some error in that statement of assets, and that led to Julius being prosecuted for “negligent perjury.” Hammen himself testified that Julius was always a reliable businessperson and thus did not think he had intended to misstate his assets. There were also other witnesses who testified to Julius’ good character. Nevertheless, Julius was convicted and sentenced to prison from September 16, 1937 until April 16, 1938. A request for clemency was rejected. One has to wonder whether an “Aryan” business owner would have been treated as harshly as one who was born Jewish.

After being released from prison, Julius was forced to sell the family home because of financial difficulties. That led to further legal problems. Julius sold the house in April 1938 to Philip Wendelin Rohleder, a toolmaker. Rohleder had visited Julius in prison accompanied by Magdalena to convince him to sell the house. Julius agreed, but later claimed that Rohleder never paid the agreed-to price and that he was a Nazi and had told Julius he didn’t need to pay him at all. Rohleder denied this and said that he had to pay off some of Julius’ creditors and that’s why Julius had not received the whole purchase price. This dispute was not resolved until 1959 when Rohleder finally agreed to pay Julius 5000 Deutschmarks as a settlement.

Julius and Magdalena Seligmann

Putting all this together, the story of Julius Seligmann now is more complete. Disputes between Julius and Moritz may have been the first step towards Julius’ financial problems. Overpaying his brother Moritz for the house and business in Gau-Algesheim left Julius financially vulnerable in 1929. Then the Nazis came to power, and despite his conversion to Catholicism, Julius was treated as a Jewish business owner and thus suffered as a result of the Nuremberg laws. Forced to borrow money, he became entangled in what to my mind appear to be trumped up charges as a way of getting him out of business completely. That then led to the sale of his house for less than its worth and thus his family’s need to leave Gau-Algesheim and seek help from his wife’s family in Bingen.

It is a sad story in so many ways. By marrying a Catholic woman, Julius lost the support of his family and the Jewish community of Gau-Algesheim. Then, despite being a hero for the German army in World War I, he was essentially treated as unworthy by the government in the Nazi era. He lost his family of origin, the family business and home, and his home community. At age 62 he was forced to move with his wife and two teenaged sons to Bingen and live with his in-laws.

But Julius was a survivor. He lived to 90 years old and was killed in a car accident coming home from church on March 28, 1967, three days before the first birthday of his grandson Wolfgang, who has now preserved the story of his grandfather Julius.

Julius Seligmann death notice

 

 


  1. Ludwig Hellriegel, Die Geschichte der Gau-Algesheimer Juden (1986, revised 2008)[The History of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim]. 
  2. References to the records can be found at http://www.archivdatenbank.lha-rlp.de/ under Landesarchiv Speyer, Justizvollzuganstalt Mainz, Bestand J 85, Findbuch, Akten, 03 Gefangene, Strafprozess 6142, Julius Seligmann, 367/37; Bestand J 83, Findbuch, Akten, 02 Gefangene, Gefangenepersonalakten, Sachakten 3142, Seligmann, Julius; Bestand J 10, Findbuch, Akten, 12 Prozessurteil und -akten, Zivilprozess 298 Seligmann, Julius. 

Holocaust Education in Germany

In June 2018, my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann sent me a paper written by a German high school student named Johanna Petry. Johanna’s paper1 was done as part of a school project about the Holocaust. I am really impressed by Johanna’s work, and she has graciously allowed me to share it on my blog.

Johanna researched the family of my cousin Anna Seligmann, who once lived in Johanna’s hometown of Neuenkirchen. Anna Seligmann was the daughter of August Seligmann and Rosa Bergmann and a sister of Wolfgang’s grandfather, Julius. She was also the first cousin of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen.

Johanna researched and wrote about Anna, her husband Hugo Goldmann, and their children, Grete, Heinz, and Ruth Goldmann, and what happened to them during the Holocaust. As I have written before, Hugo and Anna and their three adult children were all killed in the Holocaust, but until I read Johanna’s report, I did not know the details.

Johanna obtained documents from the International Tracing Service at Arolsen and also searched Yad Vashem, the archives in Neunkirchen, and other sources she found on the internet. In the course of doing her research about the Goldmann family, Johanna discovered my blog and then found Wolfgang as a result of finding my blog. Wolfgang provided her with more information about the Goldmanns and the extended Seligmann family.  Using what she learned in all this research, Johanna wrote a detailed and well-researched report on the fate of Hugo and Anna and their children.

The report is written in German, and with Johanna Petry’s very gracious permission, I am providing a link to it here so that those who are interested in the full report can read it. Unpublished paper by Johanna Petry, “Juden in Neunkirchen,” May 9, 2018, for the Gymnasium am Krebsberg, Neunkirchen.

For others, I will translate and summarize Ms. Petry’s overall findings, which are near the end of her report:

Anna Seligmann was born on November 30, 1889 in Gau-Algesheim near Bingen, where her father August ran a successful wine trade. She had three siblings and married Hugo Goldmann, who was born on March 24, 1885, in Gundersheim. Professionally, Hugo worked as managing director and moved to Neunkirchen in 1906.

From 1912 Hugo and Anna lived in Neunkirchen where they had three children. First, Grete Rosa Goldmann was born on July 8, 1913. Then, Heinz Leo Goldmann was born on March 28, 1916, and the youngest daughter Ruth Goldmann was born on July 23, 1924.

In 1935 the Goldmann family moved to nearby Saarbrücken. Grete moved in 1936 to Giessen [140 miles from Saarbrucken] where she worked as a milliner. In 1937 she was forced to move into the “Jew’s House” in Bergstrasse 8 in Hannover [340 miles from Saarbrucken, 188 miles from Giessen].

Johanna was interested in the term “Jew’s House” and did some further research. She wrote:

I had never encountered the term “Jewish house” before, but I suspected that it was a place of residence for Jews. My internet research revealed that “Jewish houses” were actually the homes of Jews who were forced to live there. The houses were often Jewish owned and many Jews had to live in very small spaces. In addition, they should prevent the maintenance of social contacts with non-Jews and contributed to the ghettoization. In Hanover on 3 and 4 September 1941, 1,200 Jews had to move into 15 Jewish houses, which were completely overcrowded. The Judenhaus in Bergstraße 8 was the Alte Synagoge.

Hugo Goldmann was imprisoned from November to December 1938 in the Dachau concentration camp and after his release did forced labor for a family. When parts of the Saarland and the Rhine-Palatinate were evacuated in 1939-1940, Hugo, Anna and their youngest daughter Ruth moved together to Halle [345 miles from Saarbrucken]. Ruth worked there as an intern in a retirement home of the Jewish community.

On May 30, 1942, Hugo, Anna, and their daughter Ruth were deported to Lublin in Poland, where they died immediately after their arrival at the Sobibor death camp on June 3, 1942.

Their son Heinz Leo worked in Berlin and was taken to the Auschwitz extermination and concentration camp on January 29, 1943. He died there three weeks later on February 19, 1943.

Anna and Hugo’s daughter Grete was deported from Hannover in 1941 to the Riga ghetto. She was transferred to the Riga-Kaiserwald concentration camp when it opened in 1943.  When this camp was evacuated by the Nazis as the Allied forces approached, Grete and the others being kept at Riga-Kaiserwald were taken to the Stutthof concentration camp, where Grete died on December 27, 1944.

Here is a map showing the places where the Goldmann family lived and then were forced to live and die:

 

Reading Johanna’s report not only provided me with more specific details about the Goldmann family; it also gave me insight into the mind and feelings of a young woman in Germany today as she learned what happened to a family that once lived in her town. Johanna’s personal reflection on her findings is both sad and uplifting:2

The sober, objective style of writing does not fit in with this terrible fate of this family – a destiny shared by millions of Jews at that time, and yet every life story is special to itself.

During the evaluation of the documents and the search my thoughts wandered again and again. I wondered how Anna, Hugo, Ruth, Grete and Heinz Leo went, what they thought and what they were most afraid of. I would like to know more personal details from their lives, because I find these much more exciting than dates and dates. Unfortunately, such information is extremely rare. All the more I was pleased that we were able to locate a descendant of the Seligmann family and, thanks to him, learned still more details.

And yet the fates of the victims of the National Socialist regime repeatedly make me deeply affected and thoughtful, especially since there are currently again racist and anti-Semitic tendencies in Germany. That’s why I find it all the more important to do commemoration work and to deal with this dark part of German history.

I find it very heartening that German schools are providing their students not only with an education about the Holocaust but with the research skills necessary to learn more about those who were killed during the Holocaust. Given the anti-Semitism and hatred of others that continues to exist in all parts of the world, including the United States and Germany, it is critical that all children and adults learn these same lessons that Johanna Petry learned. We all must remember the past and do all we can to prevent it from ever happening again.

 

 

 


  1. Unpublished paper by Johanna Petry, “Juden in Neunkirchen,” May 9, 2018, for the Gymnasium am Krebsberg, Neunkirchen. 
  2. Unpublished paper by Johanna Petry, “Juden in Neunkirchen,” May 9, 2018, for the Gymnasium am Krebsberg, Neunkirchen. 

What Happened to Adolf Michel?

In looking through my email exchanges with my cousin Wolfgang and my friend Aaron Knappstein, I remembered one of the unsolved mysteries that remain on our Seligmann family tree, the mystery of Adolf Michel, father of Fred Michel and ex-husband of Franziska Seligmann.

I have written a number of posts about my cousin Fred (born Fritz) Michel. Aaron Knappstein was able to locate several records related to Fred Michel and his parents, including Fred’s birth record. He was born in Bingen on June 6, 1906, to Adolf Michel and Franziska Seligmann.

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

Birth record of Fritz Michel

Franziska was the daughter of August Seligmann and Rosa Bergmann and brother of Julius Seligmann, Wolfgang’s grandfather.  Since August Seligmann was a brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard, Franziska was my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen’s first cousin. Here is Franziska’s birth record, also located by Aaron Knappstein:

Birth record of Franziska Seligmann

Although the stories of Fred’s life and his mother’s life have been told on the blog, his father Adolf Michel has remained a mystery. Aaron Knappstein located the marriage record of Adolf Michel and Franziska Seligmann, which shows that they were married on July 11, 1904, and divorced on February 16, 1915.

Marriage record of Franziska Seligmann and Adolf Michel

Aaron also located Franziska’s death certificate.

Death record for Franziska Seligmann Michel

Matthias Steinke from the German Genealogy group on Facebook translated the death record for me:

Nr. 176
Bingen, at the 19th December 1933
To the sigming registrar came today the personally known seller Fritz Michel, residing in Frankfurt am Main, Fuhardstreet 32, and reported that the privateer Franziska Michel born Seligmann, 57 years old, residing in Bingen, born in Algesheim, widow, in Bingen in the house Kapuzinerstreet 4, at the 19th December of the year 1933, pre midday at seven o’clock is deceased.
The reporter declared, that he knew about the death due to his own knowledge.
Readed, confirmed and signed
Fritz Michel
The registrar
In representation
Signature

Although it identified Franziska as a widow when she died in 1933, it is impossible to know whether that meant Adolf had died or whether their son Fritz (Fred), the informant, was just saving his mother from the stigma of divorce.

In any event, despite searches by Wolfgang, Beate Goetz, and Aaron Knappstein, no other records for Adolf Michel after that marriage certificate have been located. Fred Michel’s children also have no information about the fate of their grandfather Adolf.

We thought we had a possible lead when Wolfgang discovered this remarkable letter that Fred Michel wrote on August 18, 1958, to the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany (now known as the Arolsen Archives and searchable online), searching for his missing relatives.

There is much in this letter to discuss later in this post, but for now I want to focus on the last paragraph where Fred wrote:

Weiter such ich seit Jahren Max und Sophie [geb. Mendel] Michel vor Jahren wohnhaft in Essen, im Jahre 1934, 1935, 1936 in Duesseldorf und zuletzt im Nimwegen Holland. Herr Michel war in Bingen/Rhein geboren und ist ein Bruder meines Vaters. Alle obigen sind nach  Geruechten in K.Z. verbrannt worden.

For years I have been looking for Max and Sophie (nee. Mendel) Michel lived in Essen years ago, in 1934, 1935, 1936 in Duesseldorf and most recently in Nijmegen Holland. Mr. Michel was born in Bingen/ Rhein and is a brother of my father. All the above are rumored to have been burned in the concentration camps.

We were excited to learn that Adolf Michel had a brother and hoped that if we found that brother’s family, we might learn what happened to Adolf. Unfortunately, the rumors Fred mentioned in his letter were true; both Max and his wife Sophie were killed in the Holocaust. They were deported to Auschwitz and murdered there on May 22, 1944, according to records at Yad Vashem. As far as we can tell, Max and Sophie did not have any children, and so far we have not found anyone one else to ask about the fate of Adolf Michel.

As for the other relatives Fred was asking about in his 1958 letter, sadly they also were murdered in the Holocaust. I wrote here about Moritz Seligmann (son of August Seligmann and Rosa Bergmann), who was killed in the Holocaust in 1942, and here about his sister Anna Seligmann and her husband Hugo Goldmann and their three children, all of whom also were killed during the Holocaust (the Goldmann family information will be updated in a post to come). Moritz and Anna were the siblings of Fred’s mother Franziska and Wolfgang’s grandfather Julius.

About his uncle Julius, the remaining child of August and Rosa, Fred wrote:

Eine andere Bruder Julius jetzt beinahe 80 Jahre alt lebt Taunusstrasse 8 Bingen. Vor Jahre habe ihne ohne Erfolg gebeten nach den Verwandten nachzuforachen. Er hat in dieser Angelgenheit NICHTS unternommen.

Another brother Julius now almost 80 years old lives at Taunusstrasse 8 in Bingen. Years ago I had asked him without success to trace the relatives. He has done NOTHING in this matter.

Julius was Wolfgang’s grandfather, and Wolfgang and I were puzzled by this paragraph. We are not sure what Fred meant here or why he was expressing his frustration with Julius to the ITS. The use of ALL CAPS seems to suggest that Fred was angry with Julius.

Wolfgang wondered why his grandfather would not have helped look for his lost siblings. There is probably more to that story, given that, as discussed before on the blog, there was a family dispute between Julius and the rest of the family when Julius married a Catholic woman, Magdalene Kleisinger, and Julius ended up leaving the family business and moving away from Gau-Algesheim. More on Julius to come in a subsequent post.

Julius and Magdalena Seligmann

One thing, however, that we may be able infer from this letter is that Fred Michel knew what had happened to his father since he did not list him among the many relatives he was seeking. Either Adolf Michel died before or after the Holocaust, or he was killed during the Holocaust (though he is not in the Yad Vashem or Arolsen records) and Fred already knew when and how his father was killed. It’s also possible that Adolf Michel was still alive in 1958. He would have been 89 years old at that time. I just wish we knew the answer.

UPDATE: Although I still have no information about Adolf’s death or whereabouts after his divorce from Franziska in 1915, Aaron Knappstein was able to locate Adolf’s birth record:

Adolf Michel birth cert from AK-page-001

Birth record for Adolph Michel. father: Marx Michel, 30years old, tradesman *13.01.1869 in Bingen mother: Eva Michel née Woog, 26years old

Aaron also wrote to the archives in Berlin for any information about Adolf’s death, but he did not appear in their index. So the brickwall remains. Thank you, Aaron!