The Family of Moses Katz, Part I: Markus Katz

In earlier posts I discussed the families of the two sons of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz who were still living in Germany as of 1930: Moses and Meier. Moses had died in 1898 and Meier in 1925, but some of their children were still in Germany when Hitler came to power.  My last four posts described how the children and grandchildren of Meier Katz were able to survive by leaving Germany and coming to the US in the 1930s.

In this post and the one to follow, I will describe what happened to the children of Meier’s brother Moses Katz, three of whom had remained in Germany after 1930: Rickchen, Markus, and Lena. I will also report on what happened to the two children of Moses who had emigrated before the 1930s, Jacob M Katz and Julia Katz, and also Moses’ grandson Maurice (son of Markus), who also had immigrated to the US before 1930. This post will focus on the family of Markus Katz, the one to follow on the other four.

Markus Katz died before he had to experience the horrors of the Holocaust.  He died on August 3, 1931, in Jesberg, where he is buried. As I wrote about here, his grave is marked by a double stone where half was reserved for his wife Minna(also known as Nanna or Nanny) Wallach, but Minna is not buried there.  She was deported by the Nazis on June 16, 1942, and was presumed to have been killed sometime thereafter. That is why the other half of the gravestone is blank.

Markus Katz death record, HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3922 Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1931, S. 21

Gravestone of Markus Katz, son of Moses Katz, grandson of Rahel Katzenstein, with the blank half for his wife Minna (Nanny) Wallach Katz

Thanks to the generosity of their grandsons, I have this wonderful photograph of Markus and Nanny:

Minna (Nanny) Wallach and Markus Katz
Courtesy of the Abrahams family

Here is Nanny with her daughter Senta, grandson Martin, and mother Jenchen:

Nanny Wallach Katz, Senta Katz Abraham, Martin Abraham, and Jenchen Wolf Wallach
Courtesy of the Abrahams family

This beautiful photograph is of the three children of Markus and Nanny: Mali, Senta, and Maurice (Moritz):

Amalie (Mali), Senta, and Moritz (Maurice) Katz, 1908
Courtesy of the Abrahams family

Fortunately, all three of the children of Markus and Minna fared better than their mother.

As I wrote earlier, Moritz (later known as Maurice) left Germany for the US in April, 1925, and settled near his Katz relatives in Oklahoma. In the 1930s he was living in Oklahoma City and working as a salesman in a clothing store.  In 1940 he was living as a lodger with the family of Herman Mararsk in Oklahoma City, still working as a clothing salesman.

Maurice Katz, 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma; Roll: 1920; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0102; Image: 345.0; FHL microfilm: 2341654

Maurice Katz, 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma; Roll: T627_3342; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 78-20

Maurice married Mollie Krisman on May 23, 1943, in Oklahoma City. That marriage apparently did not last, because on January 21, 1948, Maurice married Sarah Ross in Chicago. Obituary of Sarah Ross Katz, The Daily Oklahoman, Monday, November 30, 1998.

Maurice Katz marriage to Mollie Krisman 1943 Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

For many years, Maurice owned a pawnshop in Oklahoma City. He died on October 7, 1994, and was survived by his wife Sarah. His obituary said this about him: “Maurice “Morris”, ended 91 years of a wonderful life when he died on October 7, 1994. Morris was born in Jesberg, Germany, Sept. 8, 1903 and came to the U.S. in 1925. He operated his business in Oklahoma City for 30 years before his retirement in 1972. … The wonderful memories of early Oklahoma City through the eyes of an immigrant that he shared with all who knew him will live on with his memory.” The Daily Oklahoman, October 10, 1994.  His wife Sarah died in 1998; there were no children.

Maurice’s two sisters, Mali and Senta, also survived the war.  Although I’ve yet to find any official records of what happened to Mali, her nephews and one tree on Ancestry show that she and her husband Siegfried Baumann and their daughters ended up in Brazil. Her nephew told me that she had tried to enter the US, but had been refused. I am still searching for more information about Mali and her family.

Senta and her husband Julius Abraham and their two sons immigrated to the United States on July 2, 1937. What I did not discover until the last week or so was that Julius was also a cousin of mine as well as a cousin to his wife Senta.  Julius was born in Niederurff in the Hesse region on January 2, 1894. He was the son of Hirsh Abraham and Pauline Ruelf. His mother Pauline was the daughter of Moses Ruelf and Gelle Katzenstein. Gelle Katzenstein was the daughter of Jacob Katzenstein, who was the half-brother of Rahel Katzenstein, Senta’s great-grandmother. In other words, Senta Katz and Julius Abraham were half-third-cousins, and Julius was my half-third cousin, once removed; Senta my full third cousin, once removed:

Julius and Senta’s son Fred Abrahams has generously shared with me his memoir and allowed me to share those portions that reflect the family’s life in Niederurff, Germany, and their decision to leave in 1937. Fred was only three years old when the family left Germany, which makes the clarity of his memories quite remarkable.  I think his writing movingly captures the innocence of childhood amidst the chaos of a world filled with hate:

The name, “Niederurrf”, the town where we lived means “lower-urrf (gothic for “stream”). The “urrf” was indeed a stream, probably no more than 10 feet across which ran by the back of our house. There it was spanned by a rude arched wooden foot bridge. I have many memories of playing and wading in the cool, clear waters of the slow moving rock marbled stream. In one of them:

My cousin from Frankfurt, Paul, is showing us how to fold paper hats out of newspaper. We are on the little bridge. Then, wonder of wonders, he places the hats in the stream and they become sailboats. But the water is not flowing fast enough to carry them very far downstream. My father appears. Across the stream, just above the bridge there is a long wooden board stretched lengthwise on edge across the stream and held in place by long pegs. The “urrf” forms a pool of water beyond this small dam. My father raises the board, releasing the water and the boats float and sail away out of sight. I cry because of the lost boats.

I am playing in the cobbled yard in front of our house. some boys who live a few streets away are shouting at me. I am upset. They are loud, angry…something to do with “Juden”. I don’t understand. I hardly know them. Opa (my Grandfather) Max says,” they are ignorant, you are much better than they are, ignore them. Come inside when you see them. They are louts!” I feel a little better, but I am still concerned. It still bothers me today. My Grandfather unlocks the gate to the garden behind our house. He shows me where he hides the key in a niche in a wall of slate slabs. It is our secret. 

My father comes into the living room. The atmosphere is strange, tense, nervous. Something important is taking place. He is excited and is holding a small book in his hand. We are going to America he tells us. Looking at the book in his hand he begins teaching us English words. He looks up a word and points at an object in the room. “Window” he says pointing to the fenster. “Door” pointing to the kitchen tur. “Chair” he indicates the stuhl he is sitting on. This is a strange new game but I know somehow that it is very important.

We are on a train, facing each other across the car, my mother and father on one side, my brother and I on the other. We sit on facing benches that line the walls of the car. My mother has brought salami sandwiches. An indoor picnic, as we eat I can hear the click-clack of the wheels of the train and see the countryside streaming by. I am excited but also sense that my parents are worried. We stop to visit my Grandmother in Frankfurt. I am playing and jumping on her white metal frame bed. She seems to be ill (diabetes I later learn) and we are saying goodbye. She will be left behind. We are going on to Bremen! Then, we are going on a big boat to America, the German Lloyd liner Hansa. To America (wherever that is). It is a great adventure!

I’m running all around a big boat. There is a wide long alley like deck with the water far below on one side. I am fascinated by the water streaming by. A brass band is playing, a real concert with a band stand. The bandsmen are in dark blue uniforms with white hats. I stand in front of the bandleader and make believe I am the conductor, aping his movements, leading the band. The bystanders watch me, laughing and applauding.

Later I am sick and miserable lying on an upper bunk. I can’t climb the ladder and my father lifts me up. After a while I feel better. Then my mother gets sick. The doctor comes to our cabin. I am left free to run around again. I explore this huge complex boat, bigger than any place I have ever known. More people at once than I have ever seen. Playing hide and seek in the life boats with sailors and other kids. Sitting in all the deck chairs. Trying to play shuffleboard. What an adventure.

Then the trip is over. We dock and wave to people waiting on the pier.

[From the memoirs of Fred J. Abrahams, unpublished.]

When the family left Germany, they were heading to New York, where Julius’ sisters (and thus also Senta’s cousins) Meta and Recha were living. Julius had been a businessman and tailor in Niederurff as well as a shop owner and farmer; on the ship manifest he listed his occupation as a tailor.

Family of Julius and Senta Katz Abraham, passenger manifest, lines 5-8, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6003; Line: 1; Page Number: 18
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

In 1940, the family was living at 72 West 93rd Street in New York City, and Julius was working in the family business, Abrahams Brothers, a clothing business. Julius had an uncle, Max Abrahams, who had come to the United States in the early 1870s and ultimately settled in Davenport, Iowa, where he and his sons established a clothing business known as Abrahams Brothers. The business grew to about a dozen stores throughout the Midwest. In 1940, Julius was working in the fur department of the New York office, where the administration and buying for the many stores was handled. He continued to work for the business for the rest of his life.

Senta Katz Abrahams and family, 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2642; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 31-777

Julius died on December 22, 1959; Senta lived to 93, dying on October 15, 2000, in Stamford, Connecticut. Their sons Martin and Fred have both been very kind and generous in sharing the photographs and the story of their family, and I look forward to meeting them both.