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

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!