Salomon Blumenfeld’s Children Thekla and Felix: Killed by the Nazis

In April, 1933,  Salomon Blumenfeld’s two children from his first marriage, Thekla Blumenfeld Gruenbaum and Felix Blumenfeld, were both living in Kassel, Germany. All of their children and grandchildren were also still in Germany. With Hitler’s rise to power, some of the family members left Germany not long afterwards. But others were not so fortunate.

Thekla Blumenfeld Gruenbaum was murdered by the Nazis. She was first deported to Theriesenstadt on July 25, 1942.  Two months later on September 26, 1942, she was sent to the extermination camp at Treblinka where she was killed. She was seventy years old. She had lived a hard life—losing her mother when she was just a toddler, being left behind by her father a few years later, losing her husband, and then being killed at Treblinka.

Thekla’s daughter Caecilie and her husband Walter Herzog were living in Krefeld, Germany, before the war. I am still researching where and when, but the evidence indicates that the two children of Caecilie and Walter, Renata and Manfred, were sent to England before the war.1 Walter was a successful silk tie manufacturer and had deposited a fair amount of money in a Swiss banking account; that account was confiscated by the Nazis.2 In December 1941, both Walter and Caecile3 were deported to the concentration camp in Riga, Latvia. Walter was later transferred to Buchenwald where he was “declared dead” on May 8, 1945.

Caecile was sent from Riga to the Stutthof concentration camp.4 The Holocaust Encyclopedia provided this information about the Stutthof camp:5

Conditions in the camp were brutal. Many prisoners died in typhus epidemics that swept the camp in the winter of 1942 and again in 1944. Those whom the SS guards judged too weak or sick to work were gassed in the camp’s small gas chamber. Gassing with Zyklon B View This Term in the Glossary gas began in June 1944. Camp doctors also killed sick or injured prisoners in the infirmary with lethal injections. More than 60,000 people died in the camp.

The Germans used Stutthof prisoners as forced laborers. … In 1944, as forced labor by concentration camp prisoners became increasingly important in armaments production, a Focke-Wulff airplane factory was constructed at Stutthof. Eventually, the Stutthof camp system became a vast network of forced-labor camps….

The evacuation of prisoners from the Stutthof camp system in northern Poland began in January 1945. When the final evacuation began, there were nearly 50,000 prisoners, the overwhelming majority of them Jews, in the Stutthof camp system. About 5,000 prisoners from Stutthof subcamps were marched to the Baltic Sea coast, forced into the water, and machine gunned. The rest of the prisoners were marched in the direction of Lauenburg in eastern Germany. They were cut off by advancing Soviet forces. The Germans forced the surviving prisoners back to Stutthof. Marching in severe winter conditions and treated brutally by SS guards, thousands died during the march.

In late April 1945, the remaining prisoners were removed from Stutthof by sea, since Stutthof was completely encircled by Soviet forces. Again, hundreds of prisoners were forced into the sea and shot. … It has been estimated that over 25,000 prisoners, one in two, died during the evacuation from Stutthof and its subcamps. 

Soviet forces liberated Stutthof on May 9, 1945, and liberated about 100 prisoners who had managed to hide during the final evacuation of the camp.

How did Caecilie manage to survive this ordeal? Was she one of the hundred who were hiding in the camp during its final evacuation? Her odds for survival were overwhelmingly low, yet somehow she did. After time as a displaced person and with the help of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), she was able to immigrate to the US in July 1946.

Arolesn Archives; Bad Arlosen, Germany, Resettlement Year: 1946, Free Acces Africa, Asia and Europe, Passenger Lists of Displaced Persons, 1946-1971

I was able to locate more information about Thekla’s brother Felix Blumenfeld through several sources, including a detailed and well-sourced biography online. Felix had studied medicine at both the University of Marburg and the University of Munich. He served as a ship’s doctor and later as doctor in a POW camp during World War I. As we saw, Felix lost his first wife Thekla Wertheim in 1917, and on February 16, 1920, in Nordhausen, Germany, he married his second wife Helene Petri, who was not Jewish. She was born on October 20, 1894, in Nordhausen, the daughter of Fritz Petri and Bertha Peter. Felix and Helene were living in Kassel, where Felix was a practicing pediatrician.

The detailed biography of Felix I found online describes in great detail all the contributions that Felix made as a doctor and citizen in Kassel.

Encouraged by the high infant mortality rate among children of poor parents, he began to use his position as a doctor and to get involved in society. At his suggestion, milk kitchens were built in which perfectly hygienic milk-grain mixtures were produced as baby food and sold using a deposit bottle system . The products were also given free of charge to the poor.

He also served as the medical director of the children and infant’s home/hospital in the city and also was involved in other charitable and civic organizations.

Despite his service in World War I and all these contributions he made as a doctor and citizen, Felix was persecuted by the Nazis. 

Just a few weeks after the National Socialists came to power on April 1, 1933, as a Jew, he was deprived of the management of the children’s hospital, he was banned from working and had to give up his apartment and practice…. His property and library were confiscated and owing to the fact that his wife Leni was not Jewish, he was initially allowed to live in his summer house a…. He was forced to do auxiliary and road construction work and had to collect rags and scrap at the municipal scrap yard . He was exposed to constant discrimination and surveillance by the Gestapo.

A second biography written for the occasion of the installation of Stolpersteine in Felix Blumenfeld’s honor in Kassel also reported this information and explained that Felix ultimately decided to end his own life in order to avoid deportation and also to protect his wife Helene.

Before killing himself on January 25, 1942, Felix wrote a long letter to his two sons in America, Edgar and Gerd, explaining why he had decided to take his own life. The first part of the letter details some of the abuse and persecution he had endured, and then he ends with these paragraphs, as translated by DeepL:

But enough of that ! Let’s get to the main thing ! Life is no longer bearable for me! All my hope, to which I had clung, was to get out of this hell and to be united with you in a near or distant time. I dare not count on that hope any longer. For with the years of war my years of life also increase. But the worst thing at the present moment is that out of sheer arbitrariness they have deprived me of all my property and referred me to my hands work or to public welfare. Subsequently, they also “expropriated the wife of the Jew”, although since 1939 there had been a legal separation of property, i.e. there was no legal basis for this. Leni was in Berlin and has the prospect of getting part of her property back if she gets a divorce. I want to agree to this divorce in order not to endanger Lenimutter’s livelihood again and again through my person. In that case, however, my life, which has been ruined through no fault of my own, has lost all the more meaning, especially since it is not known what else will be done to us.

Under these circumstances, death seems more desirable to me than an existence with ever new torments. I am therefore leaving this world of meanness, baseness and inhumanity in order to enter eternal peace and to seek the path that leads from darkness to light.

My last thoughts belong to my faithful comrade, on an often thorny path, and to you my beloved children, my Edgar, Gerd, Annchen, Lotte and Little Gerard ! You will be with me in the hour that demands strength and courage. Especially with you, my Gerd, I would have liked to hold a conversation, you dear, you good one! Stay as good as you have been so far, and be the one who makes sure that you always stay together faithfully. Then I am always in your midst and remain eternally connected with you. Without looking backwards, move forward and build a more beautiful life in a hopefully better world. May it be a comforting thought to you that your father is relieved of all fear, worry and pain after his departure. We remain united ! ! You will never forget me, I know that, because my love for you was, is and will be infinite.

V a t e r

*** Translated with (free version) ***

Like his sister Thekla, Felix Blumenfeld lost his mother as a baby, then his father, and then his first wife. Nevertheless, he grew up to be a devoted father and pediatrician who contributed greatly to his community. Although not technically murdered by the Nazis, Felix is also rightfully counted among those whose deaths were caused by Nazi persecution.

There was one more death in the family attributable to Nazi Germany. Thekla Blumenfeld Gruenbaum’s grandson, Caecilie and Walter Herzog’s son Manfred, was killed in action while fighting for the Allies in Europe sometime in the spring of 1945.

Thus, the Nazis killed both Thekla and Felix, the two children Salomon Blumenfeld had with his first wife Caecilie Erlanger, as well as Thekla’s son-in-law Walter Herzog; in addition, Thekla’s grandson Manfred Herzog died fighting the Nazis in World War II. I can’t help but think about how Felix and Thekla’s lives would have been different if their father Salomon had taken them with him when he moved to Spain.

They were survived by the rest of the family. Their stories will be told in the next post.

  1. To be discussed in the next post. 
  2. Special Master’s Final Report on the Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation (Swiss Banks Settlement), Case No. CV 96-4849 (ERK)(MDG) (Consolidated with CV 96-5161 and CV 97-461) United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, pp.28-30. 
  3. Cecilia Herzog [Cecilia Gruenbaum] Birth Date: 26 Apr 1900 Birth Place: Kassel
    Residence: Krefeld Camp: Riga/Stutthof Poland, German Jews at Stutthof Concentration Camp, 1940-1945; Entry at the US Holocaust Memorial and Museum at 
  4. See Note 3. 
  5. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Stutthof.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. Accessed October 5, 2021. 

A Survivor’s Story: The Shoah Foundation Testimony of Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer

Antonie Blumenfeld and her husband Siegfried Engelbert died before Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 and thus were spared seeing that their daughter Margot and her husband Gustav Neuhaus were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto and killed there in September 1942 and that their granddaughter Edith Neuhaus Kempner was killed at Auschwitz just two months later.

They were also spared knowing that their son Julius and his wife Ilse and son Werner were forced to leave Germany in 1939 to escape Hitler, but eventually survived and settled in the United States.

And they were spared knowing the terrible ordeals endured by their youngest child Elfriede and her husband Rudolf Goldschmidt and their children Gunther and Inge.

But we must remember their experiences and honor their memories. Thanks to the Shoah Foundation, we now have extensive interviews with many of the Holocaust survivors, including one with Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer, my fifth cousin.

I was privileged to listen to Inge’s interview and will attempt in my own words to tell her story. I am grateful to the Shoah Foundation for allowing me to do so. Except where noted, all the information below came from Inge’s interview.1 All the photographs are courtesy of Inge’s daughter Marsha.

Inge was born to Elfriede Engelbert and Rudolf Goldschmidt on April 13, 1929, in Kassel, Germany, just four years before Hitler came to power. She had almost no memory of life in Germany before the Nazis took control. She and her family lived in Kassel until 1938 when they moved to Cologne. Her memories of life in Kassel were terrible because of the persecution and harassment they faced as Jews. She and her brother Gunther went to a Jewish school and were often beaten up on the way home by Nazi youth members. As a result of incidents like that, the school decided to close fifteen minutes before the non-Jewish schools so that children could get home safely.

Here is a photograph of Inge with her brother Gunther taken in about 1934.

Gunther and Inge Goldschmidt. c. 1934-1935. Courtesy of the family

Inge’s father Rudolf was a veteran of World War I and had suffered a serious head injury while fighting for Germany. As a result, he eventually became paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. The family was living on the pension he received for his service in the war while also being forced to endure the anti-Semitism promoted by the government. Rudolf was very well-informed and followed the news on a radio tuned to the BBC, and although he wanted to leave Germany, his disability and their limited resources made that impossible.

Here is a photograph of Rudolf in uniform during World War I.

Rudolf Goldschmidt, c. 1914-1918. Courtesy of the family

Instead the family decided to leave Kassel and move to Cologne in 1938, believing that in the larger city they would be safer and also that life would be easier because it was less hilly than Kassel and thus easier for Elfriede to push Rudolf’s wheelchair. Here are two photographs of Inge from around this time.

Inge Goldschmidt, c. 1938-1939. Courtesy of the family

Inge and Rudolf Goldschmidt. Courtesy of the family

Gunther celebrated his bar mitzvah in Cologne in the summer of 1938, and a few months later in October his parents registered him for a children’s transport out of Germany to the United States. He ended up in St. Louis living with a foster family for many years. He was only thirteen. Inge was only nine and too young for those transports, so she stayed in Cologne with her parents. The photograph below shows the family at the train station in Cologne the day Gunther left for the US.

Margot Engelbert Neuhaus, Gustav Neuhas, Elfriede Engelbert Goldschmidt, Rudolf Goldschmidt, Inge Goldschmidt, unknown man. 1938. Courtesy of the family

Although things were initially better in Cologne than they had been in Kassel, after Kristallnacht and then once the war started in September 1939, conditions worsened. Their phones were taken, then their bicycles, and they lived in constant fear of being arrested. Then when the Allies started bombing Cologne in the early 1940s, they lived in fear of the bombs and poison gas as well. They moved frequently from one apartment to another and were later rounded up with other Jews and taken to a temporary camp outside of the city. By then they were required to wear the yellow star to identify them as Jews. Inge had hers pinned instead of sewn on as required so that she could sneak out of the camp and shop for the family, removing her star to do so without revealing that she was Jewish.

The star Inge Goldschmidt wore in Germany. Courtesy of the family

Elfriede Engelbert Goldschmidt identity card, 1939. Courtesy of the family

Then in 1942 the family was deported to Theriesenstadt. Inge and her mother Elfriede were in one of the barracks together, and her father Rudolf was in a separate men’s barrack. Interestingly, he was living with other men who were disabled World War I veterans. Inge speculated that but for his service in World War I he never would have been allowed to survive at all, given his physical disability.

Inge’s memories of life in Theriesenstadt are horrendous. She was scared and hungry all the time and often very ill. Her knee became infected, and she had to have it drained in the camp hospital without receiving anesthesia. They lived with bed bugs, lice, and a lack of sanitary facilities. They had no news of what was happening in the war or outside the camp itself.

Inge lived at Theriesenstadt for two years, and then in 1944 she was sent to Auschwitz and separated from her family. She was now fifteen years old and sick with typhus. Despite being sick, she knew enough not to let on and so did not get transported with those who were ill and were instantly killed when they arrived at Auschwitz. The train to Auschwitz was a nightmare—all of them standing packed into the cars with no food and sleeping standing up with only a bucket for a toilet.

She remembered vividly her arrival at Auschwitz. They arrived at night, and it was bitterly cold. The Kapos (Jewish prisoners forced to act as guards and agents for the Nazis) were screaming at them all to move out of the train while armed Nazi guards surrounded them. Inge went with the other women into one large room where they were forced to strip and have their heads shaved. They took cold showers and were disinfected and given rags to wear. She recalled one woman going into labor and giving birth during this ordeal and remembered hearing the women around her screaming when they realized they would never see their children again.

Inge was only at Auschwitz for a few weeks, but her memories of that time and place were seared in her memory. She recalled standing for hours each day in the snow for inspection while the guards selected those who would go to the gas chambers. Once she needed to urinate so badly that she just squatted on the ground and was beaten by the guard for doing so. At one point she was so despondent that she was going to run into the electric fence and kill herself, as she’d seen others do. But a kind woman convinced her not to, and so she survived.

After a few weeks she was selected to be sent to another camp near Leipzig, Germany, called Oederan. Oederan opened in September 1944; three transports brought five hundred women from Auschwitz to work in a munitions factory in a converted thread factory. Inge worked in the munitions factory making bullets; she recounted how she and the other prisoners tried to do things to sabotage the machines, although they knew they could be killed if they were caught. While at Oederan, she saw bright lights in the distance and asked innocently if that was the sun. It was in fact the fires from the Allied bombing of Dresden, which was about 35 miles away. A guard, thinking she was being disrespectful, punched her in the mouth and knocked out one of her teeth.

On April 12, 1945, the day before her 16th birthday, Inge heard that FDR had died, and she was bereft, believing that America was their one hope for survival and that FDR was a hero. But the news about the war was also starting to break through, and there were rumors that the Russians were coming to liberate them. What would she do if she survived to be liberated? What would she learn about the fate of her parents?

To be continued…

  1. Inge Oppenheimer, Interview 11370. Visual History Archive, USC Shoah Foundation, 1996. Accessed 17 August 2021. 

Antonie’s Children Margot Engelbert Neuhaus and Julius Engelbert

Antonie Blumenfeld Engelbert, daughter of Baruch Blumenfeld and Emma Docter, died in 1929, and her husband Siegfried Engelbert died three years later. They never knew what was going to happen to their family just a decade after their deaths.

Their oldest daughter Margot and her husband Gustav stayed in Goettingen after Hitler came to power in 1933. After Kristallnacht in November 1938, Gustav was forced by the Nazis to sell his cattle trading business far below its market value, a business that had been in his family since 1858 when it was started by his grandfather. Margot and Gustav were transported on March 31, 1942, to the Warsaw Ghetto, where they were killed on September 30, 1942. Here are the Pages of Testimony on file with Yad Vashem:1

Margot and Gustav’s daughter Edith also was murdered by the Nazis. After she was prohibited from attending the local high school for girls in Goettingen in 1938, she went to Hamburg and then to Berlin, where she met and married her husband Herbert Kempner in 1942. But Herbert and Edith’s marriage was short-lived because on November 29, 1942, they were both deported to Auschwitz and murdered there. I am so grateful to Dennis Aron, who shared with me the entries about Gustav, Margot, and Edith from Die Juedischen Buerger im Kreis Goettingen 1933-1945: Ein Gedenkbuch, including this photograph of Edith. 2

Tragically, Margot and Gustav and their daughter Edith have no living descendants because of the Nazis. Thus, we must all remember them instead.

The other two children of Antonie Blumenfeld and Siegfried Engelbert survived the Holocaust, but not without facing Nazi persecution.

Their son Julius Engelbert, his wife Ilse, and their nine-year-old son Werner fled to Bolivia on September 23, 1939.3 Six years later the family immigrated to the United States, arriving on December 23, 1945.4 They settled in Brooklyn, New York, and they all became US citizens in 1952. Werner Engelbert became a pharmacist after graduating from the College of Pharmacy of the City of New York in 1952.5 According to his niece Marsha, Julius saved the many wonderful photographs published in this series of posts when he fled Germany in 1939. How fortunate we all are that he did. U.S., Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995

Julius Engelbert died in New York on July 25, 1965; he was 67. He was killed in a car accident driving to or from the Catskills.6 His wife Ilse survived him by twenty years, dying in February 1985 at the age of 78.7 Their son Werner died in 2019.8 He was survived by his wife and children and grandchildren.

Elfriede Engelbert Goldschmidt and her family also survived the Holocaust, but their path to survival was more complicated than that of her brother Julius and his family. I was privileged to listen to the testimony that Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer, Elfriede’s daughter, gave to the Shoah Foundation in 1996,9 and her story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. I will share her story in my next post.

  1. Margot Engelbert Neuhaus, Yad Vashem, at;  Gustav Neuhaus, Yad Vashem at See also Uta Schaefer-Richter and Joerg Klein, Die Juedischen Buerger im Kreis Goettingen 1933-1945: Ein Gedenkbuch (Wallstein Verlag 1992), pp. 190-191. 
  2. Uta Schaefer-Richter and Joerg Klein, Die Juedischen Buerger im Kreis Goettingen 1933-1945: Ein Gedenkbuch (Wallstein Verlag 1992), p.190.Die Juedischen Buerger im Kreis Goettingen 1933-1945: Ein Gedenkbuch (Wallstein Verlag Goettingen), p. 126. 
  3. Julius Engelbert, Nationality: Deutsch Juden, Record Type: Miscellaneous
    Birth Date: 18 Okt 1897 (18 Oct 1897), Birth Place: Kassel, Residence Place: Kassel Kassel, Notes: Lists of judicial and official files concerning foreigners and German Jews
    Reference Number: 02010101 oS, Document ID: 70443285, Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees, Free Access: Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 
  4. Joseph Julius Engelbert, ship manifest, Year: 1945; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 22; Page Number: 41, New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  5. Werner J Engelbert, Yearbook Date: 1952, School: College of Pharmacy of the City of New York, School Location: New York, New York, USA, U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012″; School Name: College of Pharmacy of the City of New York; Year: 1952, U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1999 
  6. Julius Engelbert, Gender: Male, Age: 67, Birth Date: abt 1898, Residence Place: Adelphi, Kings, New York, USA, Death Date: 25 Jul 1965, Death Place: New York, USA, New York State Department of Health; Albany, NY, USA; New York State Death Index, New York State, U.S., Death Index, 1957-1969. Email from Marsha Eidlin, September 25, 2021. 
  7. Ilse Engelbert, Social Security Number: 129-22-5815, Birth Date: 31 Mar 1906
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 11210, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, USA, Death Date: Feb 1985, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  9. Inge Oppenheimer, Interview 11370. Visual History Archive, USC Shoah Foundation, 1996. Accessed 17 August 2021. 

Philipp v Germany: An Update

The Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Guelph Treasure case this week, and unfortunately it was not good news for my cousin Alan Philipp and the other plaintiffs. As I wrote about here, the plaintiffs, heirs to the Consortium of art collectors who once owned the Guelph Treasure, alleged that Germany and its agency, the SPK, had expropriated their property in violation of international law when the Nazis fraudulently and illegally coerced the Consortium into selling the Guelph Treasure to them at a third of its value in June 1935. After unsuccessfully seeking reparations from Germany, the plaintiffs brought their claims in the US federal courts for wrongful expropriation of their property in violation of international law.

The defendants asserted immunity from suit in the US under the Foreign Sovereignty Immunity Act (“FSIA”), claiming that Germany and its agents could not be sued in US courts. The plaintiffs asserted in response that their claims fell within the expropriation exception of the FSIA, which allows claims against foreign nations based on property taken in violation of international law, as I explained here. The plaintiffs argued that the forced sale of the Guelph Treasure to the Nazis had violated international law because it was coerced and consummated as part of the Nazi persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.

The District Court and the Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs that the expropriation exception applied and that the case could be heard in the US federal courts, but the Supreme Court has now reversed those decisions and remanded the case back to the District Court. The Supreme Court held in a unanimous decision that the plaintiffs’ claims did not fit into the expropriation exception of the FSIA if they were claims by German nationals against Germany. They read the “in violation of international law” language in the exception narrowly to refer only to the international law of property, not to international law respecting human rights. Then they addressed the “domestic takings” principle of international property law, which precludes US courts from adjudicating claims by a country’s nationals against that country. The court concluded that the domestic takings rule would apply here and deprive the plaintiffs of their right to have their claims against Germany heard in US courts if the members of the Consortium were nationals of Germany.

The plaintiffs are, however, left with one possible argument to allow the case to go forward in the US courts: that the members of the Consortium were no longer German “nationals” in June 1935 because Nazi persecution of the Jews in Germany destroyed their standing as German nationals, and thus their claim is not a claim by a German national against Germany and thus not precluded under the domestic takings rule. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the District Court for consideration of that issue.1

The decision is obviously disappointing for the plaintiffs and for other descendants of German Jews who might seek relief in American courts for property stolen by the Nazis. The court’s opinion focuses primarily on the statutory language and legislative history. But the court also made it clear that it was concerned about the policy implications of allowing such claims in the US—in particular, the possibility that a foreign court could likewise adjudicate claims by American nationals against the US for violations of their human rights.

What the court failed to address are the policy implications of its decision. Their ruling means that those descended from Jews who lived in Germany during the Nazi era are deprived of the right to bring property claims in US courts against the country that persecuted them because they were nationals of Germany. The argument on remand should establish that by persecuting, dehumanizing, torturing and killing its Jewish residents because they were considered subhuman and dangerous, Germany forfeited the right to claim that those same Jewish residents were German nationals and thus should be subject to suit in the US under the expropriation exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

You can read the Supreme Court decision here: Philipp v Germany SCOTUS opinion

Photo by Mr. Kjetil Ree., CC BY-SA 3.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons


  1. The defendants claimed that the plaintiffs had waived that argument in the lower courts and thus could not revive it now; the Supreme Court said that was also to be determined by the District Court. 

Flora Goldschmidt Schwarzschild’s Family: One Branch Flourished, the Other Extinguished

For Selig and Clementine Goldschmidt’s second daughter Flora Goldschmidt Schwarzchild, the twentieth century started with a sad loss when her husband Emil Schwarzchild died on June 17, 1902, at the age of 45.1

Their daughter Helene Schwarzschild married Joseph Offenbacher the following year on August 28, 1903. Joseph, the son of Lazard Ismael Offenbacher and Karoline Oppenheimer, was born on July 3, 1877, in Paris. The couple settled in Frankfurt.

Helene Schwarzschild Offenbacher marriage record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903, Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Helene and Joseph Offenbacher had five children. Paul Offenbacher was born in 1905 and died just five years later on January 13, 1910, in Frankfurt.

Paul Lazard Offenbacher death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 10664, Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Emil was born June 11, 1909, in Frankfurt.2 Then came Erich, born in Frankfurt on May 2, 1912.3 Another son, Erwin, was born December 30, 1915, also in Frankfurt.4 And finally Helene and Joseph had a daughter, Irmgard, born in Frankfurt on January 30, 1918.5

Helene Schwarzchild Offenbacher’s older brother Siegfried married five years after she did. He married Bertha Birnbaum on August 7, 1908. She was born on March 7, 1886, in Frankfurt, to Heinemann and Fanny Birnbaum.

Siegfried Schwarzschild marriage record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903, Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

They had one child, a son Emil Schwarzschild, born July 16, 1909.6

Flora Goldschmidt Schwarzchild thus had five living grandchildren when she died at 63 on June 17, 1922, in Frankfurt.

Flora Goldschmidt Schwarzschild death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 10858, Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Sadly, her son Siegfried only survived her by nine years, dying at the age of fifty on February 26, 1929, in Frankfurt.

Siegfried Schwarzschild death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 10964, Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Siegfried’s family continued to be plagued with tragedy after he died. Both Siegfried’s widow Bertha and his son Emil Schwarzschild were murdered by the Nazis. Both had escaped from Germany to the Netherlands, where Emil married Judith Bartels in 1938.7 Judith was born in Amsterdam on June 29, 1911, the daughter of Salomon Bartels and Rebecca Hamburger.

According to Yad Vashem, Emil was killed on August 16, 1942, and Judith on September 30, 1942, both at Auschwitz. Emil’s mother Bertha also was killed at Auschwitz. She died on February 26, 1943.  There are thus no living descendants of Siegfried Schwarzschild; his line was extinguished by the Nazis.

Fortunately, Helene Schwarzschild Offenbacher and her family fared far better than the family of her brother Siegfried. They all survived the Holocaust.

Helene and Joseph Offenbacher’s third son Erwin was living in the Netherlands beginning in January 24, 1934 and was issued a Dutch passport in 1938. According to his Dutch passport and his application for Palestinian citizenship, he then immigrated to Palestine on March 23, 1940. He married Hadassah Bacharach in Rishon L’tzion on June 14, 1942, and they had two children born in Israel.

Documents from the Palestinian Immigration File of Erwin Offenbacher from the Israel Archives, found at

I don’t have any other sources about Erwin, but an entry in Geni submitted by one of his nieces indicates that he died in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2010. He was 94.

Joseph and Helene’s youngest child and only daughter Irmgard also immigrated to Palestine. I could not locate an immigration file for her, but according to Baron and Cibella’s report, she married Carl Benjamin in Tel Aviv in 1938. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any sources about Carl or their marriage, but I did find a mention of Carl on a website listing a book being auctioned. The book, entitled Photographs of the Ruins of the Atlit Fortress, is a handmade book of photographs taken by Erwin Offenbacher of the Atlit Fortress, a site in Israel. The description of the book indicates that Carl Benjamin wrote the introduction and bound the book. It also says, “The writer of the introduction, Carl (Ya’akov) Benjamin (1911-1976), born in Köln, immigrated to Palestine during the 1930s. Benjamin was married for a while to Offenbacher’s sister, Lina Irmgard (Devorah).”

Erich Offenbacher, the second oldest child of Helene and Joseph Offenbacher, arrived in the US on September 4, 1934, according to his declaration of intention to become a US citizen filed in Pennsylvania on November 22, 1934. He was then residing in Philadelphia where he was a student.

Erich Offenbacher declaration of intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  Declarations 1001-1500 (Original), Pennsylvania, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1795-1931

Eric, as he later spelled his name, married Gertrude Stern on July 15, 1938, in New York City.8 She was born in Salmunster, Germany, on December 9, 1912, the daughter of Levy Stern and Rosa Neuhaus. When he filed his petition for naturalization in 1940, Eric reported that he was a dentist living in New York, so he must have been a dental student in Philadelphia in 1934 when he filed his declaration of intention.

Eric Offenbacher, petition for naturalization, National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; NAI Title: Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906; NAI Number: 5700802; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
Description: (Roll 1237) Petition No· 344551 – Petition No· 345024 New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

On the 1940 census, Eric and Gertrude were living in Manhattan and Eric was in private practice as a dentist.9 They would have four children born in the 1940s and 1950s.

Eric’s parents Helene (Schwarzschild) and Joseph Offenbacher arrived in New York on March 28, 1940, and by May, 1940, had declared their intention to become US citizens. On their May, 1940, declarations, they listed the location of their four surviving children. Emil was at that time living in Paris, France; Eric was in New York City, and Erwin and Irmgard were in Palestine.

Helene Schwarzschild Offenbacher declaration of intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, Description: (Roll 589) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 462401-463200), New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Helene and Joseph are listed on the 1940 US census, living in New York City, in a guest house. Joseph listed his occupation as a metals merchant.10

Their oldest child Emil Offenbacher, who had been in Paris when Joseph and Helene filed their declaration of intention, arrived in the US from Cuba on March 30, 1941. He had married Anna Rapp in Paris on August 23, 1934; she was also a native of Frankfurt, born there on February 25, 1912. 11 Emil was already a successful and well-known book dealer when he arrived in the US. According to a biographical profile of him on the website of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, he originally followed his father into the banking world, but in 1931 he started working in an antiquarian bookstore in Munich and then launched his own business in Frankfurt. When the Nazis took power in 1933, he and his wife Anna soon escaped to Paris where they waited for a visa to so they could immigrate to the US.

Emil and Anna had two small children who immigrated with them to the US in 1941. Interestingly, Emil’s parents were sailing with them from Cuba. Perhaps they had gone to help them move with their children.

Emil Offenbacher and family, ship manifiest, Year: 1941; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 5; Page Number: 190, Ship or Roll Number: Talamanca New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Emil reported on his August 1941 declaration of intention that he was a book dealer. He started his business anew in the US, eventually moving to Kew Gardens, Queens, where he ran his antiquarian book business for the rest of his life.

Emil Offenbacher, declaration of intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, Description: (Roll 626) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 496501-497400), New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Helene and Joseph’s daughter Irmgard, who adopted the name Deborah, immigrated to the US in 1947. She had suffered from health issues, and her mother came to Palestine in 1946 and was granted an extension of her visitor’s visa so that she could wait and travel back to the US with Deborah.12 According to her death notice in The New York Times, Deborah became a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College. She died in New York on April 5, 2004. She was 86.13

Joseph Offenbacher died in New York on June 26, 1945; he was 67.14 Helene Schwarzschild Offenbacher died nine years later on September 30, 1954; she was 72.15

Emil Offenbacher died from lung cancer in Bennington, Vermont, on August 16, 1990. He was 81.16 He was survived by his wife Anna, who died in 2004, and his two children.

According to his obituary in the Seattle Times,17 Eric Offenbacher practiced dentistry in New York for forty years before retiring to Seattle in 1979, where one of his children resided. He was also “a famed musicologist” with a special interest in Mozart. Eric died at the age of 96 in Seattle on January 5, 2009. His wife Gertrude had died on October 18, 2006, in Seattle when she was 93.18 They were survived by their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Flora Goldschmidt Schwarzschild today has many living descendants in Israel and in the United States through her daughter Helene Schwarzschild Offenbacher. But her son Siegfried has none because of the Nazis.

  1.  Emil Schwarzschild, Gender: männlich (Male). Age: 45
    Birth Date: abt 1857, Death Date: 10 Jan 1902, Death Place: Frankfurt am Main, Hessen (Hesse), Deutschland (Germany), Civil Registration Office: Frankfurt am Main
    Father: Emanuel Schwarzschild, Mother: Rafel Frenkel, Certificate Number: 99
    Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 10559, Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 
  2.  Emil Offenbacher, Birth Date: 11 Jun 1909, Birth Place: Frankfurt am Main
    National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, DC; Name Index of Jews Whose German Nationality Was Annulled by the Nazi Regime (Berlin Documents Center); Record Group: 242, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675 – 1958; Record Group ARC ID: 569; Publication Number: T355; Roll: 7, Mosbacher, Eduard – Schafranek, Bruno, Germany, Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935-1944 
  3.  Erich Offenbacher, Birth Date: 2 Mai 1912, Birth Place: Frankfurt am Main
    National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, DC; Name Index of Jews Whose German Nationality Was Annulled by the Nazi Regime (Berlin Documents Center); Record Group: 242, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675 – 1958; Record Group ARC ID: 569; Publication Number: T355; Roll: 7, Mosbacher, Eduard – Schafranek, Bruno, Germany, Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935-1944 
  4.  Erwin Offenbacher, Birth Date: 30 Dez 1915, Birth Place: Frankfurt am Main
    National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, DC; Name Index of Jews Whose German Nationality Was Annulled by the Nazi Regime (Berlin Documents Center); Record Group: 242, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675 – 1958; Record Group ARC ID: 569; Publication Number: T355; Roll: 7, Mosbacher, Eduard – Schafranek, Bruno, Germany, Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935-1944 
  5. Irmgard Offenbacher, Birth Date: 20 Jan 1918, Birth Place: Frankfurt am Main
    National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, DC; Name Index of Jews Whose German Nationality Was Annulled by the Nazi Regime (Berlin Documents Center); Record Group: 242, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675 – 1958; Record Group ARC ID: 569; Publication Number: T355; Roll: 7, Mosbacher, Eduard – Schafranek, Bruno, Germany, Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935-1944 
  6. Yad Vashem entry found at;
  7. Family report of David Baron and Roger Cibella. 
  8.  Eric Offenbacher, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 12 Jul 1938
    Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Gertrude Stern, License Number: 14185, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 6, New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  9. Eric and Gertrude Offenbacher, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02655; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 31-1332, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  10. Joseph and Lena Offenbacher, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02655; Page: 81A; Enumeration District: 31-1333, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  11. Anna Offenbacher, declaration of intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, Description: (Roll 626) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 496501-497400), New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943 
  12. Helene Offenbacher, Palestinian Immigration file, found at;
  13. Death Notice, Deborah I. Offenbacher, The New York Times, April 9, 2004, Section B, Page 8 of the National edition. 
  14. Joseph Offenbacher, Age: 67, Birth Year: abt 1878, Death Date: 26 Jun 1945
    Death Place: Manhattan, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 14386, New York, New York, U.S., Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948 
  15. Baron and Cibella Family Report. 
  16.  Emil Offenbacher, Gender: Male, Race: White, Age: 81, Birth Date: 11 Jun 1909
    Birth Place: Frankfurt, Germany, Residence Place: Kew Gardens, Death Date: 16 Aug 1990, Death Place: Bennington, Vermont, USA, Cause of Death: Natural, Metastatic Lung Carcinoma, Date Filed: 17 Aug 1990, Father: Joseph Offenbacher, Mother: Helena Offenbacher, Spouse: Anne Rapp, Vermont State Archives and Records Administration; Montpelier, Vermont, USA; User Box Number: PR-01616; Roll Number: S-31664; Archive Number: PR-2081, Vermont, U.S., Death Records, 1909-2008 
  17. The Seattle Times, January 6, 2009, found at;
  18. Gertrude Stern Offenbacher, Birth Date: 9 Dec 1912, Birth Place: Salmuenster, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 18 Oct 2006, Father: Levy Stern
    Mother: Rosa Neuhaus, SSN: 155369180, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 

Helene Goldschmidt Tedesco and Her Family: Hiding from the Nazis in France

When Selig Goldschmidt died on January 13, 1896, he was survived by his six children and eighteen grandchildren. In his will, he had wished them happiness and love and hoped they would live good lives, following the faith and practices of Judaism and giving back to their communities.

For the first thirty years of the twentieth century, his hopes for his children were largely fulfilled. Then everything changed. In the next series of posts I will look at each of the children of Selig and Clementine (Fuld) Goldschmidt and their lives in the 20th century, starting with their oldest child, Helene Goldschmidt Tedesco.

As we saw, Helene Goldschmidt, the oldest child of Selig Goldschmidt and Clementine Fuld, married Leon Tedesco on June 9, 1876, in Frankfurt.  I was very fortunate to find and connect with Helene’s great-great-grandson Lionel, and he has generously shared with me many wonderful photographs as well as the story of his family including information about his 3x-great-grandfather, Leon’s father, Giacomo (Jacob) Tedesco.

Leon’s father Giacomo Tedesco was born in Venice, Italy, on August 27, 1799, and in 1833 he married Therese Cerf, a Parisian, and started a small art supplies store in Paris.  Giacomo provided art supplies to artists in exchange for some of their art work. From that collection, he created what grew to be the famous and extremely successful Tedesco Freres gallery. Giacomo was also a very committed Jew who helped build a modern mikvah in Paris, contributed to the development of a synagogue, founded the first kosher butcher shop in Paris, and served as a mohel.

After Giacomo died in 1870, his sons Leon and Arthur took over the business of the gallery. Leon became a close friend of the artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the famous French landscape painter and printmaker who was considered “the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century.” The National Gallery in Washington, DC, has several works that came from the Tedesco Freres collection, including this work of Corot:

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Madame Stumpf and Her Daughter, 1872. Courtesy of the National Gallery

Helene and Leon’s son Giacomo was born in Paris on July 28, 1879, and was obviously named for his recently deceased grandfather. Giacomo, the grandson, married Henriette Lang on February 9, 1901, in Paris; she was the daughter of Louis Lang and Louise Blum and was born in Paris on January 31, 1882.1 Giacomo worked with his family in the art gallery. He and Henriette had two daughters, Irene, born December 23, 1902, and Odette, born July 16, 1907.2

Here is an absolutely gorgeous photograph of young Odette with her mother Henriette:

Odette and Henriette Lang Tedesco
Courtesy of the Family

This wonderful photograph is of Leon Tedesco, his granddaughter Odette, her mother Henriette Lang Tedesco, and her grandmother, Helene Goldschmidt Tedesco.

Front: Leon Tedesco, Odette Tedesco, Helene Goldschmidt Tedesco. Rear: Henriette Lang Tedesco. Courtesy of the family

Helene and Leon’s son Giacomo served in the French armed forces during World War I. It must have been strange to be on the opposite side of the war from his Goldschmidt family living in Frankfurt.

Giacomo Tedesco during World War I
Courtesy of the family

Odette married Mathieu Charles Weil on October 24, 1929. Mathieu was born in Strasbourg, France, on August 21, 1894, to Isidore Weil and Jeanne Levy.3 Lionel shared this beautiful photograph from their wedding day:

Odette Tedesco and Mathieu Weil on their wedding day
Courtesy of the family

Leon Tedesco died on August 7, 1932, at the age of 79.4 Lionel described his great-great-grandfather as “a strong and handsome man who looked like the King of Belgium.” This photograph of Leon with Helene certainly reflects Lionel’s description:

Leon was survived by his wife Helene, his son Giacomo, his two granddaughters and his great-granddaughter. All of them then had to face the Nazi era.

According to Lionel, the Tedesco family left Paris after the invasion of France by the Nazis in 1940. The family lost everything they had—which was substantial as Leon Tedesco’s art business had been extremely successful. Not only did they lose the business, they also lost most of the valuable art and antiques they’d owned.

Helene Goldschmidt Tedesco died in Marseille, France, on August 21, 1942; she was 84 years old. Her  granddaughter Irene Tedesco died on November 12, 1942, in Oberhoffen, France, in the Alsace region. Lionel had no information regarding Irene’s cause of death, except to say that she had apparently had some health challenges since birth.5

The rest of the family survived the Holocaust and the war years by being safely hidden.  Nadine, Lionel’s mother, still remembers that between the age of 9 and 14, after fleeing from Paris, she lived and went to school in many locations in southern France: Annet, Bordeaux, Arcachon, Salles, Sariac, Cassis, Marseille, Grenoble, Villars de Lans, and Autran. Most of the time she lived with her parents and her grandmother Henriette. Her grandfather Giacomo was hiding elsewhere in France. During the war, Nadine used two different names to hide her identity as a Jewish girl: Nicole Varnier and Mady Mercier.

Mathieu Weil joined the resistance movement and is depicted in this photograph with others who were fighting against the Nazis:

Mathieu Weil, third from right, as part of the French Resistance Courtesy of the family

At one point the family was hiding in the Vercors region with a woman named Charlotte Bayle, who had known the Tedesco family for six generations. When Mathieu Weil, Odette’s husband, was very ill with typhoid, the Gestapo came to Charlotte’s door looking for him. Charlotte lied and said he had left three days ago when in fact he was lying in bed in the next room. The whole family left immediately. Lionel credits Charlotte Bayle with saving the lives of his mother, grandparents, and great-grandmother. Here is a photograph of Charlotte Bayle with Odette Tedesco Weil:

Charlotte Bayle and Odette Tedesco Weil
Courtesy of the family

After the war the family returned to Paris and began to rebuild their lives. Giacomo Tedesco died in Paris on June 29, 1950; he was seventy years old. Giacomo’s wife Henriette Lang Tedesco died on March 3, 1961, in Paris.6

Although Lionel did not know his great-grandparents Giacomo and Henriette, he knew his grandmother Odette very well. He described her as a very fine and elegant woman. He also said that although the family had been very religious before the war, their level of observance faded in the aftermath of the war. But their commitment to Judaism always remained strong and central to their lives. Odette died on July 16, 1987;7 she was predeceased by her husband Mathieu Weil on August 20, 1972.8 Both died in Paris.

Odette Tedesco Weil
Courtesy of the Family

Thank you so much to my fifth cousin Lionel and his mother Nadine for sharing these wonderful photographs and the story of his family.


  1. Giacomo Jacob Tedesco, Marriage Bann Date: 9 févr. 1902 (9 Feb 1902)
    Father’s Name: Léon Tedesco, Mother’s Name: Hélène Goldschmidt, Spouse’s Name: Henriette Lang, Paris, France & Vicinity Marriage Banns, 1860-1902 
  2.  Odette Tedesco, Gender: femme (Female), Death Age: 80, Birth Date: 16 juil. 1907 (16 Jul 1907), Birth Place: Paris-16e-Arrondissement, Paris, Death Date: 16 juil. 1987 (16 Jul 1987), Death Place: Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France, Certificate Number: 1005, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (Insee); Paris, France; Fichier des personnes décédées; Roll #: deces-1987.txt, Web: France, Death Records, 1970-2018. Irene’s birth date came from the work of David Baron and Roger Cibella. 
  3. Mathieu Charles Weil, Gender: homme (Male), Death Age: 77, Birth Date: 21 août 1894 (21 Aug 1894), Birth Place: Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin, Death Date: 20 août 1972 (20 Aug 1972), Death Place: Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France
    Certificate Number: 1230, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (Insee); Paris, France; Fichier des personnes décédées; Roll #: deces-1972.txt, Web: France, Death Records, 1970-2018 
  4. Name: Leon Tedesco, Death Date: 7 Aug 1932, Death Place: Paris, France
    Probate Date: 8 Jun 1933, Probate Registry: London, England, England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995 
  5. These dates come from the work of David Baron and Roger Cibella and are also seen on the Geni profiles for Helene and Irene. 
  6. These dates come from Baron and Cibella and also from Geni. 
  7. Odette Tedesco, Gender: femme (Female), Death Age: 80, Birth Date: 16 juil. 1907 (16 Jul 1907), Birth Place: Paris-16e-Arrondissement, Paris, Death Date: 16 juil. 1987 (16 Jul 1987), Death Place: Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France, Certificate Number: 1005, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (Insee); Paris, France; Fichier des personnes décédées; Roll #: deces-1987.txt, Web: France, Death Records, 1970-2018 
  8. Mathieu Charles Weil, Gender: homme (Male), Death Age: 77, Birth Date: 21 août 1894 (21 Aug 1894), Birth Place: Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin, Death Date: 20 août 1972 (20 Aug 1972), Death Place: Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France
    Certificate Number: 1230, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (Insee); Paris, France; Fichier des personnes décédées; Roll #: deces-1972.txt, Web: France, Death Records, 1970-2018 

A Survivor’s Story

Regina Goldschmidt Rosenberger, the daughter of Julius Goldschmidt, granddaughter of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt, and great-granddaughter of Meyer Goldschmidt, was my third cousin, twice removed, and I first wrote about her here and here, but now need to update those posts.

The earlier post established that Regina was born in Frankfurt on March 7, 1900, and married Siegfried Rosenberger on March 10, 1921, in Frankfurt, and had two children in the 1920s. In my second post about Regina, I wrote:

I don’t know a great deal about what happened to Regina, her husband Siegfried Rosenberger, and their two children during the Holocaust. It appears that at least until 1937 they were still living in Frankfurt and that after the war, according to Roger Cibella and David Baron, their two children were both married in the Netherlands and had children born there. Eventually they all immigrated to Canada where Regina died in February 1992…

And that was all I knew. Until a couple of weeks ago when I received an email from a sixth cousin named Mark Isenberg. I had first heard from Mark a few years back when he contacted David and Roger regarding his research establishing that his paternal four-times great-grandfather Joseph Falk Neuwahl and Roger’s and my four-times great-grandfather Jacob Falk Goldschmidt were probably brothers.

This time Mark was writing about his relationship to Siegfried Rosenberger, husband of Regina Goldschmidt. Siegfried was Mark’s third cousin, once removed, on his maternal side. Mark had seen my blog post quoted above and kindly alerted me to the fact that Siegfried and Regina’s daughter Ruth had done an interview with the Shoah Foundation in 1997. I’ve now watched the two and a half hours of her testimony and can report in much greater detail what happened to Regina, Siegfried, and their two daughters Ruth and Margo during the Holocaust. All the information below except where otherwise noted comes from that testimony of Ruth Rosenberger Steinert.1

Ruth Rosenberger was born in Frankfurt on December 6, 1922. Her sister Margo was born almost exactly two years later on December 19, 1924. Ruth described their childhood in Frankfurt in idyllic terms. They lived in a very large apartment with a nanny, cook, and other servants, and were surrounded by their Goldschmidt grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins, having regular shabbat dinners with the extended family as well as holidays. Their father Siegfried was a successful stockbroker. He was very proud of being a German and of his service to Germany in World War I, for which he was awarded the Iron Cross.  Their mother Regina lived a good life, playing tennis daily, socializing with friends, and overseeing the household staff. The family was very observant, and Ruth and Margo went to an Orthodox day school in Frankfurt. Watching Ruth talk about her childhood was very moving; she so well expressed how safe and loved she felt.

Khal Adath Jeshurun synagogue in Frankfurt, the synagogue attended by the Goldschmidt family.

Everything was destroyed once the Nazis came to power. Ruth said that until 1936, she and her sister were fairly unaware of what was happening because the adults did not talk about the Nazis in front of the children. She knew that there were restrictions, mentioning as an example that they were not allowed to sit on the park benches, but she nevertheless felt safe.

But after 1936, it became impossible to hide what was happening from the children. Her father lost his stockbroker business because Jews were no longer allowed to engage in business. Ruth talked about how devastated her father was when they came and stripped away the telephones he needed for the business. The nanny, cook, and other servants had to leave the household because non-Jews were no longer allowed to work for Jews. Their mother Regina became terribly depressed.

Fortunately, Siegfried was able to secure another job with an international metals company called Lissauer. The position required him to travel to France and to Holland and enabled the family to continue to live fairly comfortably. As Ruth described it, this job ultimately saved their lives. Siegfried would never have left Germany despite all the oppression and fear. But in September 1938 while traveling for work in Paris, he was unable to return to Germany. Finally he agreed that the family should leave Germany, and through his business connections, he was able to obtain papers for them to immigrate to the Netherlands.

Ruth, not yet sixteen years old, took charge of packing and getting them ready to leave. They took a train to Paris, and Ruth put on lipstick so that she would look older. When they got to the French-German border at Emmerich, the German border guards gave them trouble with their papers, but fortunately a cousin was able to straighten matters out, and the next day they arrived in Paris. They remained in Paris for a few days, and then the whole family spent about ten days at the beach in the Netherlands. Ruth remembered it as a wonderful time and one of the very last times all four of them were together as a family.

Siegfried returned to Paris for work and would travel back and forth to Amsterdam. Regina and her daughters were living in a very nice apartment on the canal in Amsterdam. Margo attended high school, and Ruth spent a year at an art academy, learning design.  For a year life was fairly normal.

As one uncle had said to the family when they arrived in Paris, they had, however, gone from “the rain into the storm” because war was brewing, and no place was really safe. After the war started in September 1939 and then Holland and France were occupied by the Nazis in the spring of 1940, Siegfried could no longer travel to Amsterdam. From that point on, things went downhill.

Ruth recalled standing on a corner in Amsterdam with a crowd of other people from the neighborhood as the Germans marched into Amsterdam.

Nazi troops and supporters in front of De Bijenkorf, Dam Square, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1941 (crop of original 1941 public domain photo). 47thPennVols, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

But even on that dark day, the family found a silver lining. A man named Benot Hess was also standing on that corner and engaged Regina and daughters in conversation. Hess was married to a non-Jewish Swedish woman, and because Sweden was neutral during the war, he was given some extra protection based on that marriage. Hess and his wife became close friends with the Rosenberger women—like family, according to Ruth. He made sure that they had enough money by helping Ruth obtain work, sewing and then manufacturing travel kits and other items. The products sold well, giving the family an economic cushion.

By 1942, however, conditions worsened. Jews were required to wear the yellow stars with Jood to mark them as Jews. Ruth said that they lived in a constant state of angst for all their waking hours. Eventually they were forced to move into what Ruth described as a ghetto where all Jews were forced to live, and SS men on trucks barreled through the neighborhood every night, coming to arrest people and take them to Westerbork, the detention camp outside of Amsterdam.

At that point, they had to make a choice: stay and see what would happen or go into hiding. Ruth favored going into hiding, but her mother was not willing, and Margo did not want to leave their mother. For some time they remained safe from deportation as both Ruth and Margo had positions assigned by the Judenrat (the Jewish council) that kept them protected. Once the SS came to their apartment, and Ruth managed to convince them that they were not Jewish. She claimed that because of her light hair and coloring and straight nose, she was able to fool them.

But when the SS arrived a second time, Ruth was not successful, and in March 1943, Regina Goldschmidt Rosenberger was arrested and taken to Westerbork. Ruth described it as the worst moment in her life, watching her mother being taken away. She said that at that time they did not know about the death camps, only about what were being referred to as work camps. Soon thereafter Margo lost her position with the Judenrat and was also taken to Westerbork where she joined her mother.

Ruth contacted her father to see if he could arrange false identification papers for her, which he was able to accomplish, and Ruth went to Bussum, a town in Holland, and hid with a family there for the duration of the war. She was almost caught once when the SS came to look for hidden Jews, but again was smart enough and lucky enough to convince them that she was not Jewish.

Meanwhile, Regina and Margo had been taken from Westerbork to Terezin. Once again, Benot Hess came to their rescue. He also was imprisoned at Terezin, and when he learned that Regina and Margo were to be placed on the next train to Auschwitz, he intervened, using the Honduran passports that Siegfried had obtained for them, and Regina and Margo were taken off the list.

Jewish prisoners’ cell, Terezin (c) A Cohen 2015

When the war ended in Europe in April 1945, Ruth was reunited with her mother and sister, and they all moved to Bussum. Margo married her fiancé, Robert Engel, who had been at Westerbork throughout the war period, and Ruth met and married Otto Steinert. In 1950, Otto was offered a job in Canada through the family’s connections to another family, and Ruth and Otto and soon thereafter Regina, Margo, and her husband all moved to Canada.

Siegfried was never reunited with the family. He remained in Paris, where he died not long after the war. Regina Goldschmidt Rosenberger lived a long life, dying in Canada in February 1992 when she was almost 92 years old.

Her two daughters also lived long lives. Ruth Rosenberger Steinert died at the age of 93 on December 22, 2013, in Montreal. Her sister Margo Rosenberger Engel died just this past June 30, 2020, in Toronto; she was 95. They are survived by their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Watching Ruth’s testimony was a moving, inspiring, and heartbreaking experience. Despite everything she had experienced—all the losses, the fear, the separation, the loneliness—she remained a strong, optimistic, and loving woman who spoke about her parents, her husband, her sister, her children and grandchildren with so much affection and warmth. She was not going to be defeated by what happened around her—not while it was happening and not afterwards. How blessed we are to have this testimony to remember what happened and to inspire us all.

  1. Steinert, Ruth. Interview 35432. Visual History Archive, USC Shoah Foundation, 1997. Accessed 1 October 2020. 

Was Moritz Oppenheimer Forced by the Nazis to Divorce His Wife and Declare Bankruptcy?

I have written several posts about my cousin, Moritz Oppenheimer, the nephew of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman. Moritz was an extremely successful business owner and also racehorse breeder and owner who ended up committing suicide as a result of the persecution he experienced by the Nazis.

Emma Neuhoff and Moritz James Oppenheimer
photo courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

My cousin Wolfgang Seligmann recently discovered additional information about Moritz and his family, including an application filed in 1966 in Wiesbaden by Moritz Oppenheimer’s widow Emma Neuhoff, seeking compensation for the harm done to her husband and the financial losses suffered.

Emma Neuhoff Oppenheimer 1966 application for reparations

In reviewing those documents (with invaluable help from Wolfgang), I focused on two questions that had been raised by readers who commented on my earlier posts about Moritz Oppenheimer. First, were Moritz and his non-Jewish wife Emma forced to divorce by the Nazis in 1936, or did they choose to divorce? Second, was Moritz forced into bankruptcy by the Nazis in 1933, or were his businesses already failing before the Nazis came to power?

The first question is addressed by the court in its opinion approving the settlement between Emma and the government. The court recognized that Emma and Moritz had only divorced to protect Emma and their two children, who were not Jewish.

Court notes on divorce of Emma and Moritz Oppenheimer in decision approving settlement of Oppenheimer 1966 reparations claim

I used DeepL to translate this language and for the other translations in this post:

The marriage of the applicant with the persecuted person was divorced by judgment of the regional court Giessen 2 R 51/1935 of June 25, 1936 through his fault. In the judgment of the regional court Giessen 4 R 585/50 dated 6 October 1950 it was determined that the divorce judgment was incorrect because the divorce had actually taken place in order to protect the non-Jewish wife and children from persecution — but its legal validity remained unaffected.

With respect to Emma’s application for compensation, the court concluded that even if Emma was no longer legally married to Moritz at the time of his death and thus not technically his widow, she was nevertheless entitled to pursue her claim for compensation for the harm done to her husband and her family.

The applicant is entitled to claim. It can be left open whether she is the widow of the deceased, … or this is treated as a blameless divorced wife.

Thus, Emma and Moritz chose to divorce to protect Emma and their two children. It was a decision based on love, not a lack of it.  Although the Nazis did not require the Oppenheimers to divorce, the circumstances the Nazis created compelled the couple to divorce.

The question regarding the bankruptcy is more complicated. Emma contended that Moritz was forced into bankruptcy by the Nazis when he was arrested in September, 1933, the first of many arrests that eventually drove him to suicide in 1941, as has been described in earlier posts. Emma wrote in the third paragraph of her statement in support of her application for compensation in 1966:

Emma Neuhoff Oppenheimer statement filed in support of her 1966 application for reparations

In the prison in Hammelgasse, my husband was forced to file for bankruptcy on his property. In my opinion, this was pure Nazi harassment. There was never a reason for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy was actually carried out afterwards.

But a man named August Hartmann filed an accusation against Moritz with the Nazi party in which he claimed that Moritz had defrauded a family from Frankfurt out of almost one and a half million Reich Marks;  these fraud claims were never fully litigated because Moritz died before that could happen. Hartmann also claimed that the businesses owned by Moritz were heavily in debt and that Moritz was a flight risk.

Statement of August Hartmann regarding claims against Moritz Oppenheimer

Here is the DeepL translation of Hartmann’s statement:

The well-known industrialist and racing stable owner Consul Moritz Oppenheimer has lived for many years only on credit fraud. In the years 1931 and 1932 he swindled a very respectable Frankfurt family out of the round sum of one and three-quarter million Reichsmark in cash under false pretences. This case is all the more blatant because this amount of money came from assets confiscated during the war in America. That was only released at the end of 1929 and taken to Germany by the family, out of national interest in making this large amount of money available to the ailing German economy.  Despite the fact that this fraudulently damaged creditor has known for half a year now how the finances of Consul Oppenheimer are, he has now refrained from taking radical steps which were in his personal interest, in order not to make more than 250 German workers unemployed. But because of the great expenses of Mr. Consul O., for example maintenance of the Erlenhof Stud Farm, which requires a monthly subsidy of about 15,000, financial conditions have deteriorated to such an extent that bankruptcy is only a question of time, the strong suspicion arises that this Jew wants to run off to a foreign country where he in all probability has stashed a considerable fortune.

It was this letter from August Hartmann that led to the arrest of Moritz Oppenheimer in September 1933 and then to his alleged forced bankruptcy. Thus, Moritz may have been pushed into bankruptcy proceedings, but if Hartmann’s letter is true, Moritz was already in serious financial trouble.

Moritz’s son Walter Oppenheimer, in his affidavit in 1966, admitted that his father had incurred a great deal of debt by 1929, but argued that he would have been able to overcome these financial reversals but for the Nazis. He wrote in part (and translated as best I could, with help from DeepL and Google Translate):

Portion of the letter Walter Oppenheimer filed in support of 1966 reparations claim

If my father’s business got into financial difficulties in the years after 1929, it was because the racing stable required unexpectedly large sums. My father was the founder of the stud and racing stable Erlenhof, which he had also created out of nothing and brought to world fame. The most successful German racehorses were bred at Erlenhof. Erlenhof was also the first German stud farm which was able to export breeding horses to the United States, and to which, for example, the stud farm of the English king sent mares.

The economic crisis at that time hit the paper trade particularly hard, so that the whole industry was in dire straits. But without the advent of National Socialism, my father could have certainly overcome these difficulties perfectly. The President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Honorary Professor Karl Heinrich August Luhr, himself an economic expert of his time, admitted that without the advent of National Socialism, my father could have overcome all the financial difficulties of the time far beyond the borders of Germany, thanks to his organizational gifts and, above all, thanks to his enormous expertise. … So that if a so-called standstill agreement was maintained, the companies could have recovered quickly from the good economic developments that had already begun and had brought large profits. Especially the last months from the middle of 1932 onwards showed this very clearly in the business development of my father’s factories. Professor Luhr also told Mr. Allecke, who was an accountant at the time, very clearly that it was only for political reasons that it became impossible to put things back on a level playing field.

Where the truth lies is impossible to determine. It certainly appears that Moritz was having serious financial troubles before 1933, but were they serious enough to require bankruptcy? Would the business have recovered if he had not been arrested and persecuted by the Nazis? If he had been given more time, could he have turned around his companies’ financial situation?

In the end, the 1966 court approved a settlement that provided Emma with some compensation for the loss of her husband and the suffering he endured as well as for her own economic losses. It was less than what she wanted, but it did recognize that despite the divorce, she was entitled to compensation, implicitly recognizing that they had not freely chosen to divorce. But the settlement did not compensate her for the failure of her husband’s businesses.

Almost twenty years later in 1984, the descendants of Moritz and Emma Oppenheimer filed another claim, this time with the District President in Darmstadt, seeking compensation for the economic damage sustained to the business of Moritz Oppenheimer, according to another set of documents that Wolfgang discovered in the Wiesbaden archives. As Wolfgang explained to me, the Germany government adopted new laws over time that updated the process for obtaining reparations by those who suffered harm because of the Nazis. This new claim was presented under a statute called Bundesentschadeugungsgesetz-Schlussgesetz or Federal Compensation Act-Final Act.

1984 decision on the application for reparations by the heirs of Moritz and Emma Oppenheimer

As with the claim filed back in 1966, this claim for compensation for the financial losses suffered by Moritz’s business was rejected. The district president found that Moritz would not have been able to sell the stables or racehorses to cover his business losses, given the economic conditions of that period and the extent of his business liabiltiies.  Thus, he concluded that the economic damage was not the result of Nazi persecution. In addition, the district president concluded that Moritz’s medical condition disabled him from seeking other employment, not the Nazis, so there would be no compensation for lost income from such potential employment.

Of course, Moritz’s medical condition could very well have been and probably was caused by or at least exacerbated by his arrest and persecution. And no one can know with absolute certainty that he would not have been able to rescue his business but for that arrest and persecution. But at least two different decision-making bodies concluded otherwise and rejected the family’s claims.

The “Disappearance” of Arthur Cohen, My Grandfather’s First Cousin

Way back in July, 2014, I wrote about my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen’s youngest sibling, his brother Abraham, the thirteenth child of my great-great-grandparents Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs. What I reported was that Abraham, born in Philadelphia on March 29, 1866, had married Sallie McGonigal in 1886, and they had five children, but three of those children died in childhood. Only two children survived—their son Leslie, their second child, and their son Arthur, their fifth and youngest child. There were almost twenty years between the two boys: Leslie was born in 1889, Arthur in 1907.  They lost their mother Sallie to the dreadful flu epidemic on March 14, 1919.

Gravestone for Sallie and Abraham Cohen, courtesy of Michael DeVane

Abraham Cohen remarried in 1920, and I was able to trace Abraham and his son Leslie up through their deaths, as described here.

But Arthur’s story was unfinished. The last record I had for him was the 1930 census when he was living with his father Abraham and stepmother Elizabeth in Philadelphia and working in a gas station. He was 23 at the time. After that, he disappeared. I could find other Arthur Cohens who matched in some ways, but not in others. Thus, I was unable to find anything after 1930 that was definitely about my Arthur Cohen.

Abe Cohen and family, 1930 US census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0505; FHL microfilm: 2341874 1930 United States Federal Censu

Until, that is, about a month ago when I received a comment on the blog from someone named Michael DeVane, who wrote, “I came across your blog while searching for information on Abraham Cohen, my grandfather. My father was Arthur Cohen. You really helped me fill in some of the missing information on my family. If you want to reach out to me, I will gladly help fill in some missing information to our family tree.” I immediately wrote back to Michael, and we arranged to chat by telephone a few days later.

To prepare for the conversation, I went back to all the research I’d done about Abraham and his family. One thing puzzled me. If Michael’s father was Arthur Cohen, why was his surname DeVane? Well, that clue led me to find more information, and then my conversation with Michael confirmed what I’d uncovered and added more insights. There was a very good reason that I’d not been able to find Arthur Cohen after 1930. By 1931, he’d changed his name to Arthur DeVane.

Once I knew that Arthur had in fact changed his name to DeVane, I located a marriage in the Philadelphia marriage index for Arthur DeVane and Ruth Bussard dated 1931. 1 Michael found in his family records the following document that confirmed that this marriage record was indeed for his father, born Arthur Cohen. It is his father’s baptismal certificate under the name Arthur Cohen with his parents identified.

On the reverse, it notes that Arthur changed his name to DeVane and that he married Ruth Bussard on September 30, 1931, at St. Agnes Church in Philadelphia. Michael thought he might contact the church authorities to see if the record for the name change can be located.

Michael had understood that his father changed his name from Cohen to avoid anti-Semitism, but now we both wonder whether it also had to do with the marriage to Ruth Bussard. Perhaps she didn’t want to take on such an obviously Jewish name. As you can see from the headstone above, both of Arthur’s parents identified as Catholic and are buried in a Catholic cemetery, so Arthur was neither raised Jewish nor identified himself as Jewish.

In any event, the marriage to Ruth did not last. In September 1939, Ruth filed for divorce, and in February 1940, divorce was granted.2 Ruth remarried later that year.3

On the 1940 census, Arthur was living as a lodger with a family, listing his marital status as single and his occupation as a signal man for the railroad.4

On January 8, 1942, Arthur DeVane enlisted in the US armed services and served during World War II until September 5, 1945, including almost two and a half years serving overseas.5 During that time, while stationed in England , he met his second wife, Nellie Keep. Nellie was born April 1, 1917, in Oxford, England to Edward Keep and Nellie Massey. She and Arthur were married in New Hampshire on December 18, 1947. Like Arthur, Nellie had been previously married and divorced.

Marriage record of Arthur Devane and Nellie Keep, New England Historical Genealogical Society; New Hampshire Bureau of Vital Records, Concord, New Hampshire, Ancestry,com. New Hampshire, Marriage and Divorce Records, 1659-1947

The record for their marriage is interesting. Arthur reported that his father’s name was Leslie DeVane, not Abraham Cohen, the true name of his father. He also reported that his father had been a jeweler, when in truth, like so many of my Cohen relatives, Abraham had been a pawnbroker. Michael wasn’t sure whether Arthur did this to hide his background from his new wife or for some other reason, but Nellie did at some point know the truth of Arthur’s family background because she revealed it to Michael.

Part of the family lore is that Arthur had hoped to take over his father’s pawnbroker business, but that his father Abraham lost the business when his second wife Elizabeth died in 1939 and her family acquired it and apparently pushed Abraham out. That is why, as noted in my earlier post, Abraham’s death certificate in 1944 listed his occupation as elevator operator—a job he’d had to take after losing his business.

Abraham Cohen death certificate.

That meant Arthur also lost the business. Instead, Arthur ended up rejoining the military and spent most of his career serving his country in the US Air Force, as has his son Michael. Arthur was stationed over the years in England, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. He retired as a master sergeant in the Air Force after twenty years of service.

Arthur DeVane, born Arthur Cohen, died on April 16, 1976, in Burlington, New Jersey. He was sixty-eight years old.6  He was survived by his wife Nellie, who died in 2005, 7 and their three children and their grandchildren.

Michael kindly shared with me the following photograph of his father as a boy.

Arthur Cohen (later DeVane). Courtesy of Michael DeVane

I saw some similarity between young Arthur and his first cousin, once removed, my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., as a little boy, but it could just be the haircut.

John Cohen Sr as a baby

Michael also shared the following photograph of his father Arthur in 1948:

Arthur DeVane, 1948. Courtesy of Michael DeVane

I don’t see many resemblances here to either my father or my grandfather, except perhaps around the mouth and the large forehead.

John N. Cohen, Sr., 1921

John N. Cohen, Jr. c. 1945

I am so grateful to my cousin Michael, my father’s second cousin, for finding me and sharing his father’s story and photographs with me.



  1. Arthur J DeVane, Gender: Male, Spouse: Ruth H Bussard, Spouse Gender: Female
    Marriage Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, Marriage Year: 1931
    Marriage License Number: 606549, Digital GSU Number: 4141671, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 
  2. The Philadelphia Inquirer – 27 Feb 1940 – Page 11, found at;
  3. Ruth Devane, Gender: Female, Spouse: Marturano, Spouse Gender: Male
    Marriage Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, Marriage Year: 1940
    Marriage License Number: 716706, Digital GSU Number: 4141873, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 
  4.  Year: 1940; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03723; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 51-1118, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  5. Arthur J DeVane, Birth Date: 9 Dec 1907, Birth Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, Gender: Male, Residence Date: 2 May 1950, Residence Place: Upper Darby, Delaware, Pennsylvania, USA, Pennsylvania, World War II Veteran Compensation Application Files, 1950-1966 
  6. Arthur Devane, Social Security Number: 182-10-8245, Birth Date: 9 Dec 1907
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: Pennsylvania, Last Residence: 08016, Burlington, Burlington, New Jersey, USA, Death Date: Apr 1976, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  7.  Nellie A Devane, Social Security Number: 144-38-3406, Birth Date: 1 Apr 1917
    Issue Year: 1963, Issue State: New Jersey, Death Date: 26 Jun 2005, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

The Tragedy of Bennie Cohen, Betty Schnadig Cohen’s Grandson

Betty Schnadig and Bernard Arie Cohen and two of their four children were murdered in the Nazi concentration camps. Their oldest child Arnold survived, but his story is also terribly tragic. Thank you once again to my cousin Betty, Arnold’s daughter, for sharing their story and the family photographs posted here.

Arnold was a traveling salesman, and he married Saartje Odenwald in Groningen, Holland, on October 18, 1936.1

Wedding of Saartje Odenwald and Arnold Cohen, 1936. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Their son, Bernard Arie, known as Bennie, was born a year later on November 15, 1937, in Den Bosch, where Arnold and Saartje had settled after marrying. Den Bosch is about 150 miles southwest of Groningen. Bennie was named in honor of his paternal grandfather, who was, however, still living at that time. Here are some photographs of Arnold, Saartje, and Bennie:

Bernard Arie “Bennie” Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Bernard Arie “Bennie” Cohen Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Saartje, Bennie, and Arnold Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

When I started to search for what happened to Arnold and his family during the Holocaust, I was perplexed. Arnold and his wife Saartje both survived, but their son Bennie did not. He was only six years old. How could it be that he was murdered at Auschwitz and both his parents survived?

Researching that question led me to a truly devastating story that is recorded on the Stolpersteine website devoted to this family. Arnold and Saartje knew a couple who were active in the Resistance movement, Piet Toxopeus and Ellen Dwars, who arranged for a man named Geevers to take little Bennie into hiding. Geevers took three thousand guilders from the Cohens, but never in fact took Bennie into his home. Somehow instead Bennie ended up in a town called Dordrecht with a woman named Els van As, who took many Jews into her house to hide them from the Nazis. Dordrecht is 40 miles west of Den Bosch, and Bennie’s parents had no idea that that was where he had been taken.

Meanwhile, Piet and Ellen hid Arnold and Saartje in Bennekom. That placed them about 57 miles northeast of Dordrecht where their son was being hidden. In August 1942, Arnold and Saartje were then placed with an older couple, the Laars, in Ede, a town near Bennekom, where they stayed safely until after the war.

But their son Bennie was not as fortunate, as told in the Stolpersteine website:

It happened on Monday evening, October 25, 1943: the insensitive police officer Herman Gerard Feodor Wolsink from Dordrecht pulled 5-year-old Bennie Cohen into the horror of the war.

Here and there in Dordrecht, Jewish hunters had been working all day long at addresses where people might be in hiding…..In the house of the Van As family on the Vlietweg, they find a radio set and a money box with twenty thousand guilders in it. …. The Jew hunters suspect that a Jewish child is also hiding at this address. The Hague detective Cornelis Johannes Kaptein therefore orders Wolsink to take a closer look at the children who are sleeping in the attic. And then this happens, according to a maternity nurse who lived in rooms with the Van As family, and who told it after the war.

Bennie was impressed to always say his name was De Koning, and not Cohen. When Wolsink asked the boy for his name, he said: “Bennie de Koning.”

“Wolsink then asked,” said the nurse, “what his mother’s name was and then the poor child said: ‘Saartje’. To which Wolsink said: “Haha, a Jew after all!” Then he pulled down the little boy’s pajama bottoms and said, “It’s a Jew.” This child had to come along then. 

About 3.5 months later this child was dead: deported to Auschwitz via camp Westerbork and exterminated there on 11 February 1944. His life had already ended at the age of six.

I ask you to look at these photographs of this beautiful little boy. How could anyone do this to anyone, let alone a six year old child?

Bernard “Bennie” Arie Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Bernard “Bennie” Arie Cohen Courtesy of Betty de Liever

On November 9, 1945, Arnold Cohen posted this heartbreaking notice in the Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad, asking for information about his missing family members, including his son, his parents, his siblings, his nephews, and his in-laws, all of whom had been murdered by the Nazis:

Nieuw Israelietisch weekblad, November 9, 1945, found at

Arnold and Saartje somehow found the strength to go on. They had two daughters born after the war, and Arnold became a wholesaler of paper products in Groningen. Arnold died on December 15, 1967,2 and his wife Saartje on April 19, 1978.3 It’s hard to imagine how anyone finds hope after what they experienced, but having more children is certainly evidence that Arnold and Saartje believed that goodness and love can still exist and can prevail in this world.

De Telegraaf
December 16, 1967, found at

Thank you again to Bert de Jong and Rob Ruijs for all their help and especially to my cousin Betty for sharing these precious photographs and her family’s heartbreaking story. Betty lost her grandparents, her aunts and uncles and cousins, and her brother Bennie in the Holocaust.

  1. Arnold Cohen, Gender: Mannelijk (Male), Age: 32, Birth Date: abt 1904, Marriage Date: 15 okt 1936 (15 Oct 1936), Marriage Place: Groningen, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen, Mother: Betty Schnadig, Spouse: Saartje Odewald, BS Marriage, Netherlands, Civil Marriage Index, 1795-1950. Original data: BS Huwelijk. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. 
  2. Arnold Cohen, Age: 63, Birth Date: abt 1904, Birth Place: Groningen, Death Date: 15 dec 1967, Death Place: Groningen, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen, Mother: Betty Schnadig, AlleGroningers; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. 
  3. Death notice, Nieuw Israelietisch weekblad, April 21, 1978, found at