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 

Betty Schnadig Cohen’s Heartbreaking Story, Part I

As we saw, Betty Schnadig married Bernard Arie Cohen from Holland, and they had four children born in Groningen in Holland: Arnold, Anita, Simona Hedda, and Adolf. Bernard Arie Cohen was a merchant in the rag, scrap metal, and paper business in Groningen.

I was very fortunate to connect with my fifth cousin Betty, Betty Schnadig Cohen’s granddaughter and namesake, who kindly shared the family photographs I’ve included in this blog post. Thank you also once again to Bert de Jong and also to Rob Ruijs who found many of the notices from Dutch newspapers and introduced me to the website for Dutch research.

Here, for example, is a May 7, 1903, wedding announcement for Betty and Bernard, thanking everyone for their kind wishes.

Nieuwsblad van het Noorden 07-05-1903 (May 7, 1903), 
found at

In this photograph, Betty and Bernard are dressed in costume to celebrate Purim:

Betty Schnadig and Bernard Arie Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

This adorable little boy in the sailor outfit is their first-born child, Arnold, probably taken in Groningen when he was about three or four, or in about 1908:

Arnold Cohen c. 1908 Courtesy of Betty de Liever

This is a newspaper notice announcing Arnold’s bar mitzvah in February, 1917.

Centraal blad voor Israëlieten in Nederland
found at

This is a lovely photograph of all  four children probably taken in the early 1920s.

Arnold, Anita, Adolf, and Simona Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

And here is an announcement of Adolf Cohen’s bar mitzvah in 1929:

Nieuw Israelietisch weekblad
August 9, 1929 found at

The family that celebrated these joyous occasions was destroyed just fifteen years after Adolf’s bar mitzvah.

According to a Stolpersteine website devoted to the Cohen family, when World War II started in 1939, Bernard very quickly realized the dangers ahead. After a swastika was painted on the front of their home in Groningen along with the word “Jood,” he knew they had to go into hiding.

House of Bernard and Betty Cohen in Groningen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

But their efforts to hide were not ultimately successful. Betty Schnadig and Bernard Arie Cohen did not survive; they were arrested on November 11, 1942, and sent to the detention camp at Westerbork, from which they were then deported to Sobibor on May 18, 1943, and immediately gassed to death upon arrival.

Betty Schnadig Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Bernard Arie Cohen. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Of their four children, only two survived. One was their older daughter Simona Hedda. I located a card for her in the Arolsen Archives showing she was registered with the Judenrat in Amsterdam. The card has very little information other than Simona’s name, birth date, and address, and it’s not dated, but it appears that Simona was living in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam /
Reference Code 124200009/ ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Somehow Simona avoided deportation and survived the war. On August 29, 1946, in Groningen, Simona married Jan de Jong, who was born on March 22, 1914, in Ooststellingwerf. Simona (apparently known as Mona) and Jan had a son Bernard de Jong (presumably named for Simona’s father) born November 4, 1948, but he died two and half months later on January 12, 1949.1 Sadly, Simona’s marriage to Jan did not long survive the loss of their child. They were divorced on April 28, 1950, in Groningen.

Thank you so much to Rob Ruijs, who found most of this information about Simona and her family, including these two newspaper notices for the birth and death of Simona and Jan’s infant son Bernard.

De waarheid 08-11-1948

Thanks to Rob, I also know that Simona moved to Amsterdam after her divorce and worked for the city, eventually becoming the bureau chief. She died on February 5, 2005, in Amsterdam at the age of 93. As far as I can tell, she did not remarry or have more children. Simona was blessed with a long life.

UPDATE: Another reader, N. Aronson, found Simona’s Amsterdam residency card, which showed that she lived in Groningen until 1953, then in Nunspeet, and then in 1954 she moved to Amsterdam. Thank you!!

But Betty and Bernard’s other daughter Anita Cohen did not survive. She married Abraham Jacob van Dam on December 23, 1935, in Groningen, Netherlands.2 Abraham was born in Groningen on June 24, 1898, the son of Jakob van Dam and Netje Kisch.3 Abraham and Anita had two children, a son Jacob Abraham van Dam, born on July 3, 1938, and a son Bernard, born December 24, 1939. The photo below depicts Anita and her two little sons probably in 1941.

Jakob van Dam, Bernard van Dam, and Anita Cohen van Dam c. 1941. Courtesy of Betty de Liever

Anita, Abraham, and those two little boys in this photograph were murdered by the Nazis.

Just stop and think about that. Little Jacob van Dam was four years old, his brother Bernard not yet three. They and their mother Anita were murdered at Auschwitz on November 2, 1942. Their father Abraham survived until March 31, 1944, when he also died at the hands of the Nazis. Although it always takes my breath away when I discover yet another family member who was killed in the Holocaust, finding the Pages of Testimony for my cousins Jacob and Bernard, sweet innocent little boys, just sent me reeling.

Betty Schnadig and Bernard Cohen’s son Adolf married Henriette Sara Barnstijn on March 12, 1942.4 They both were murdered at Auschwitz before their first anniversary. Henriette was killed on December 15, 1942; Adolf was killed two months after his new bride on February 28, 1943. Henriette was 22, Adolf was 26.

Thus, Betty Schnadig and Bernard Arie Cohen and two of their children, Anita and Adolf, were murdered by the Nazis as were Anita and Adolf’s spouses and Anita’s two little boys. Betty and Bernard’s first born child Arnold survived, but not without tragedy. His story merits a separate post.

  1.  Bernard de Jong, Age: 2/12, Birth Date: abt 1948, Birth Place: Groningen
    Death Date: 12 jan 1949, Death Place: Groningen, Father: Jan de Jong, Mother: Simona Hedda Cohen, AlleGroningers; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. 
  2.  Anita Cohen, Gender: Vrouwelijk (Female), Age: 28, Birth Date: abt 1907
    Marriage Date: 23 dec 1935, Marriage Place: Groningen, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen
    Mother: Bettij Schnadig, Spouse: Abraham Jakob van Dam, BS Marriage, Netherlands, Civil Marriage Index, 1795-1950. Original data: BS Huwelijk. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. 
  3.  Abraham Jakob van Dam, Gender: Mannelijk (Male), Age: 37
    Birth Date: abt 1898, Marriage Date: 23 dec 1935, Marriage Place: Groningen
    Father: Jakob van Dam, Mother: Netje Kisch, Spouse: Anita Cohen
    BS Marriage, Netherlands, Civil Marriage Index, 1795-1950. Original data: BS Huwelijk. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. 
  4.  Adolf Cohen, Gender: Mannelijk (Male), Age: 25, Birth Date: abt 1917
    Marriage Date: 12 mrt 1942 (12 Mar 1942), Marriage Place: Groningen, Father: Bernard Arie Cohen, Mother: Betty Schnadig, Spouse: Henriëtte Sara Barnstijn
    BS Marriage, Netherlands, Civil Marriage Index, 1795-1950. Original data: BS Huwelijk. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. 

Tragedy and Escape: The Story of Helene Schnadig Cohn and Her Children

We saw in the last post that Henriette Katzenstein Schnadig’s youngest child Elsa survived the Holocaust as did her husband Salomon Cats and their two sons. Elsa’s two older sisters Helene and Betty were not as fortunate.

Elsa’s sister Helene Schnadig and her husband Emil Cohn were both murdered by the Nazis. According to their residency registration cards at the Amsterdam archives, Helene and Emil moved from Hamburg to Hilversum in the Netherlands on January 2, 1939, and then to Rotterdam on September 11, 1939, ten days after the start of World War II. They then returned to Hilversum on November 9, 1940. Eventually they returned to Amsterdam on July 17, 1942.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 721 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960,, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

According to a Judenrat card found in the Arolsen Archives, Emil and Helene were taken to the detention camp at Westerbork on January 8, 1943. From there they were taken to the concentration camp in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, on January 20, 1944. Then on October 28, 1944, they were taken from Terezin to the death camp at Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Emil was 74, Helene 63.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.1 Camps and Ghettos / 1.1.42 Theresienstadt Ghetto / Card File Theresienstadt / 4966533/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Miraculously, however, Helene and Emil Cohn’s four children all survived, although my information about them is somewhat limited. Meta, their oldest child, was married to Salomon Pregers, who was born in Rotterdam on October 8, 1885, son of Salomon Pregers and Isabelle Therese de Groot.1 Meta and Salomon were married in Hamburg on May 14, 1926, according to their Amsterdam residency card.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 159 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960,, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

That residency card indicates that Salomon and Meta came from Hamburg to Hilversum on June 3, 1926, a few weeks after their wedding. They remained in the Netherlands, eventually moving to Amsterdam in February 1943, not long after Meta’s parents were taken to Westerbork.

Salomon and Meta were registered with the Judenrat in Amsterdam, as reflected on these three cards. It appears that Salomon had been a teacher at a Jewish school. I can’t decipher much more than that.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

UPDATE: Bert de Jong pointed out that both these cards have the designation “gesperrt,” meaning that Meta and Salomon had been marked as exempt from deportation by the Judenrat, Salomon because of his former occupation as a teacher and his education, and Meta based on her husband’s exemption.

UPDATE from Rob Ruijs: Rob examined these three cards very carefully and provided some analysis. One interesting observation he made about Salomon Pregers was that he may have grown up in poverty and achieved success through higher education.  Rob also deciphered much of that third card with three entries for February 2, 1943. It appears that Salomon (and presumably Meta) were moving between Amsterdam and the town of Den Bosch, which is about an hour south of Amsterdam or that there was some confusion about where they were living.

The Amsterdam residency cards above indicate that both Meta and Salomon left for Germany (Duitschland) in March 1945. I would think that means they were deported then since I cannot imagine that any Jew would have gone to Germany willingly in March, 1945, but I have no record of any deportation, and I know that they survived the war.  Meta was listed as a person searching for relatives in an article in the June 15, 1945, issue of Aufbau. The words at the top translate as:

“The following list which we have received from the ITA [the International Tracing Agency] only reveals a part of the Jews found in Holland after the final liberation who are looking for relatives. In cases in which a closer address of the searcher is not given, they can be reached through the Red Cross.”

Meta Cohn Pregers in Aufbau June 15, 1945, p. 25,

Although Meta and Salomon thus survived the war, it was not for very many years. Meta Cohn Pregers died on March 21, 1952, in Hilversum.2 Her husband Salomon Pregers died a month later on April 22, 1952, in Hilversum.3 He was 66 when he died, Meta was only 51. I have been unable to find a record of any children.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rob Ruijs for alerting me to the fact that there were death notices for Meta and Salomon that I could find on Given that neither death notice mentioned children, it appears that they did not have any.

New Israelite weekly

New Israelite weekly
April 25, 1952

Meta’s younger brother Siegbert immigrated to Brazil in 1939; he arrived with his four-year-old daughter Ursula. I could not locate a woman traveling with him who might have been his wife, nor I have I yet found any further records for Siegbert or Ursula.

Siegbert Cohn, Digital GS Number: 004542471, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

The third child of Helene and Emil Cohn, their daughter Hertha Johanna, married James Horwitz, a kosher butcher, on February 21, 1928, in Hamburg. James was born on November 10, 1895, in Hamburg, the son of Hermann Horwitz and Johanna Tannenberg.4 James and Hertha immigrated to Rotterdam inthe Netherlands from Berlin on March 15, 1939, and to Amsterdam in March of 1940.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 367 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960,, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

On July 17, 1940, they were both taken to the detention camp in Westerbork. According to entries in the Terezin Memorial database, both James and Hertha were deported to the Terezin concentration camp on September 4, 1944. James was then taken from Terezin to Auschwitz on September 29, 1944, but Hertha was not. The Terezin Memorial entry indicates that she was liberated from Terezin and survived.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.1 Camps and Ghettos / 1.1.42 Theresienstadt Ghetto / Card File Theresienstadt /Ghetto Theresienstadt Card File
Reference Code 11422001/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

As for James’ fate, the records conflict. Some say he was killed at the death camp in Mauthausen in Austria on April 6, 1945.5 One nephew filed a Page of Testimony saying he was shot near Berlin in March 1945 as the camp inmates were being marched out of Auschwitz.  In either event, James Horwitz was murdered by the Nazis in the spring of 1945 right before the war ended.

In 1957, Hertha was living in Rotterdam when she traveled to Brazil, presumably to visit her brother Siegbert. She listed her marital status as “casada” or married, and the surname Van Thijn was added to her name, so Hertha must have remarried after the war. That is the only information I’ve found about her at this point.

UPDATE: Thank you to Rob Ruijs for reminding me to check where I found a death notice for Salomon van Thijn published by H. J. van Thijn-Cohen, obviously Hertha. The death notice reads in part, “With sadness I announce the passing of my beloved caring husband Salomon van Thijn in his 87th year, March 18, 1982.” This death notice does not mention children or refer to Salomon as a father so I assume they, like Meta and Salomon Pregers, did not have children.

NRC Handelsblad

Digital GS Number: 004916498, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Lissy Sitta Cohn, the fourth and youngest of the Cohn siblings, ended up in England during the war. In 1939 she was living in Birmingham, working as a domestic servant.

Lissy Cohn, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/5600D, Enumeration District: QBUI, 1939 England and Wales Register

Lissy Cohn, enemy alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/14
Piece Number Description: 014: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Cohn-Cz UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945

She may have returned to Germany after the war because in 1946 she immigrated to Brazil and listed her last residence as Hamburg and her nationality as Alema or German. However, her passport was issued from London. She indicated that her intention was to stay in Brazil permanently and that she was a nurse (enfermeira). As with her siblings, I have no further details about Lissy’s life.

Digital GS Number: 004542185
Source Information Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Thus, although the Nazis murdered Helene Schnadig and Emil Cohn, they did not murder any of their four children. But the stories of those four children are not entirely complete. I do not know whether there are living descendants of Helene and Emil, so there is still much work to be done.



  1.  Salomon Pregers, Birth Date: 1885, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Father: Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabelle Therese de Groot, Stadsarchief Rotterdam; Den Haag, Nederland; BS Birth, Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917. Original data: BS Geboorte. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. Child:
    Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabelle Therese de Groot Father: Salomon Pregers
    Date of birth: 8-10-1885, Birthplace:  Rotterdam Access number: 999-01 Civil Registry Rotterdam, birth certificates, Inventory number: 1885D, Folio number: d045v Deed number: 1885.3822 
  2.  Meta Cohn, Age: 50, Birth Date: abt 1902, Birth Place: Hamburg, Death Date: 21 mrt 1952 (21 Mar 1952), Death Place: Hilversum, Father: Emil Cohn, Mother: Helene Schnadig, Noord-Hollands Archief; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. 
  3.  Salomon Pregers, Age: 66, Birth Date: abt 1886, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Death Date: 22 apr 1952, Death Place: Hilversum, Father: Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabella Therese de Groot, Noord-Hollands Archief; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. accessed 24 May 2016. 
  4. James Horwitz birth record, Year Range and Volume: 1895 Band 06, Hamburg, Germany, Births, 1874-1901. Original data:Best. 332-5 Standesämter, Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister, 1876-1950, Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg, Deutschland. 
  5. James Israel Horwitz, Birth Date: 10 Nov 1895, Birth Place: Hamburg, Mauthaus #: 134330, Nationality: staatenlos (Stateless), Arrest Reason: Jude (Jew), Night and Fog: No, Profession: Fleischer (Butcher), Death Date: 6 Apr 1945, Arrival Date: 26-Feb-45
    Source: AMM E/13/12/9; Y/36;Mauthausen Gedenkstätte. Austria, Mauthausen/Gusen Concentration Camp Death Record Books , 1938-1945. The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Microfilm: A3355; ARC: 596972; Title: Lists and Registers of German Concentration Camp Inmates, 1946 – 1958; Record Group: 242; Record Group Title: National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675 – 1958, Record Description: Records on Prisoners, Gat-Ji, Source Information Germany, Concentration Camp Records, 1946-1958. Also, some records at Yad Vashem show that James Horwitz was at Mauthausen. His Stolpersteine in Berlin also says that he died at Mauthausen. 

Fredericke Katzenstein Goldmann’s Daughter Meta: A Family Destroyed

Fredericke Katzenstein Goldmann’s older daughter Clementine died in April 1942, just months before her husband Alexander Joel was deported to the concentration camp at Terezin, where he died in December 1942. But their daughters all survived the Holocaust as did their grandchildren.

Clementine’s younger sister Meta was not even that fortunate. She and her husband Adolf Hammerschlag and daughter Lieselotte were all murdered at Auschwitz. The page devoted to their Stolpersteine in Hamburg provides this biographical information:

[Adolph Hammerschlag], his wife Meta, and their daughters Lieselotte (*10 August 1910) and Irmgard (4 March 1915) lived in Göttingen, where he was a wealthy businessman, the co-owner of the grain company Bachmann Bros. …. Since profits fell rapidly after 1933, Hammerschlag moved the offices of his company to his private residence in Göttingen .… In the following years the political situation brought the company to a standstill.

Adolph Hammerschlag was arrested during the November Pogrom in 1938, and his company was “Aryanized” on 21 November. It was taken over by a grain merchant from Göttingen who was one of the first members of the Nazi Party.

After his release, Adolph Hammerschlag and his wife fled to Hamburg to his sister, Mrs. Alexander Joel, [sic: Mrs. Alexander Joel was Adolph’s sister-in-law, not his sister]…. The formerly wealthy couple was now destitute. ….[They were deported to Auschwitz on July 11, 1942, and murdered there.]

Hammerschlag’s daughter Lieselotte Blum and her husband had lived in Brussels since 1939. They were deported to Auschwitz in 1942. His daughter Irmgard married Heinz Baehr in September 1936. The couple was able to emigrate to Haifa in Palestine.

Thus, only Meta’s younger daughter Irmgard survived. The immigration documents for her and her husband Heinz show that they arrived in Palestine in 1937 and became naturalized citizens in 1939.

Irmgard’s husband Heinz died in 1947, according to Geni; he was only 33 years old. Irmgard remarried later, but I don’t know if she had any children with either husband. Irmgard died in Haifa in 1977, according to My Heritage. She was 62.

Thus, Fredericke Katzenstein Goldmann not only lost her husband Leopold and her son Karl before she died—both of her daughters, Clementine and Meta, and their husbands and one of her granddaughters died during the Holocaust. But her four other grandchildren survived as did their children.

Sometimes the randomness of who survived and who did not just overwhelms me.

Charles Bloch Redux, Part II: A Surprising Twist in the Family Tree

Although I ran into a brick wall trying to learn more about the time Charles Bloch spent in France during World War II, in the course of that research I discovered another twist in the Goldschmidt family tree.

First, I learned that Charles Bloch had a sister. Julius Bloch and Clara Herzberg, parents of Charles Bloch, had a daughter named Johanna Bloch born in 1879.

Johanna Bloch, birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 903_8931, Year Range: 1879, Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Johanna married a man named Ludwig Dannheisser in 1900.

Johanna Bloch marriage record to Ludwig Dannheisser, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903, Year Range: 1900, Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Here is a beautiful photograph of Johanna taken in 1921 in Frankfurt when she was 42:

Johanna Bloch Dannheisser, 1921, Frankfurt, Germany. Courtesy of Ralph Dannheisser

Tragically, both Johanna and Ludwig were killed at Auschwitz on May 22, 1944, after being deported from the Netherlands.1

Page of Testimony for Johanna Bloch Dannheisser at Yad Vashem,

But their son Paul Dannheisser escaped from Germany to the Netherlands in 1938 and then to the US in 1940, settling in New York with his wife Dora Anni (known as Anni) nee Rosenthal and their son Ralph.2

This is a photograph taken at Paul and Anni’s wedding in October, 1932.

Wedding of Paul and Anni Dannheisser, October, 1932. Front row: Johanna Bloch Dannheisser, Anni Rosenthal Dannheisser, Paul Dannheisser, and Bertha Kaufmann Rosenthal. Standing behind Anni is her father-in-law Ludwig Dannheisser. Behind Paul to the right is Max Rosenthal.  Others are not identified. Courtesy of Ralph Dannheisser

When I saw the name Dannheisser, I knew something was familiar about it. Elizabeth Stern, the daughter of Alice Rapp and Saly Stern, was known as Elizabeth Dannheisser near the end of her life, according to the Social Security Claims and Applications Index.3 I had not found a marriage record for Elizabeth showing a marriage to someone named Dannheisser, only records showing a Paul Dannheisser married to Anni, but when I saw that Charles Bloch had a brother-in-law Ludwig and a nephew Paul with that surname, I wondered if there was a connection.

Fortunately, I was able to find and connect with Paul Dannheisser’s son Ralph, and he confirmed that in 1973, his father Paul Dannheisser had married my cousin Elizabeth Stern, the daughter of Saly Stern and Alice Rapp. He even shared a copy of the marriage certificate I couldn’t locate.

Courtesy of Ralph Dannheisser

Paul was 72 at the time, and Elizabeth was 54. Paul was a widower, his wife Anni having died the year before, and Elizabeth had divorced her first husband Gerhard Hirsch in 1950.4  Paul and Elizabeth had been introduced to each other by Ilse Bloch, known in the US as Helen Bloch, the daughter of Amalie Meyer and Charles Bloch.

Helen was Elizabeth’s second cousin; they were both great-granddaughters of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt and Jettchen Cahn:

Helen Bloch was also Paul Dannheisser’s first cousin; they were both the grandchildren of Julius Bloch and Clara Herzberg:

First cousins, Helen Bloch and Paul Dannheisser, 1961. Courtesy of Ralph Dannheisser

So Elizabeth Stern, the granddaughter of Helmina Goldschmidt Rapp, married the nephew of Charles Bloch, who was the husband of Amalie Meyer, daughter of Regina Goldschmidt and Aaron Meyer. Regina was Helmina’s older sister. Here’s another chart to show the connection.

Ralph, Paul Dannheisser’s son and the great-nephew of Charles Bloch, was thus the stepson of my cousin Elizabeth (known as Elsbeth). He also knew Charles and Amalie (whom he called Ama) Bloch. He often visited them in their New York City apartment on West 56th Street. He and his parents would go for monthly Sunday dinners. Ralph would listen to the radio or be entertained by Charles and Amalie’s daughter Helen while his parents and Charles and Amalie played bridge. Helen, who was an avid photographer, would show Ralph her photography magazines.

Ralph described Charles as a heavy-set bald man and Amalie as a handsome woman who wore her hair in a bun, and he said they were both very kind to him, as was Helen. In fact, he stayed close to Helen for many years, bringing his own children to visit her often. Unfortunately, however, Ralph was not able to tell me any more details of how Charles Bloch spent the years he was in France.5

Ralph shared the certificates of naturalization issued to Alice, Saly, and Elizabeth Stern; these were particularly exciting to me because they included photographs of each of them. He also shared a collage of photos including one of Walter Stern, Elizabeth’s brother.

Ralph was very fond of Elizabeth Stern, his father’s second wife. He described her as a lovely woman who was very warm and wonderful to him and to his father. Ralph was very pleased when his father married her (he was already an adult by that time). Sadly, Elizabeth developed a terrible illness not long after she married Paul Dannheisser and spent many of the years at the end of her life in a nursing home, dying in February 1997.6

Her brother Walter Stern also endured difficult times. Ralph had a file filled with letters written to or about Walter that revealed much about his character and his work history and ethic. In Germany, Walter was a very well-regarded employee of a book dealer named J. Kauffmann before he immigrated to the US, and then for some time after he immigrated, he worked for a jewelry company in Washington, DC, where he was living when his parents and sister Elizabeth immigrated to the US. His employer at the jewelry company had written a letter in April 1939 to the American Consul in London (where his family was then living), extolling Walter’s virtues. My hunch is that this was a character reference to support the Consul’s issuance of a visa to Saly, Alice, and Elizabeth Stern so they could immigrate to the US.7

Walter returned to New York after his family arrived in March 1940 and worked for a company called Tonerde Incorporated, as listed on his World War II draft registration in October 1940. He left there on December 8, 1941, and received another positive letter of recommendation. But that draft registration hinted that something else was going on with Walter:

Walter Stern, World War II draft registration, U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Why was he “under care”? Family lore, according to Ralph, is that Walter was mugged and suffered a brain injury from which he never recovered. But as late as 1944, Walter received letters of thanks from the Treasury Department for his efforts in selling war bonds. 8

Ralph and I couldn’t put together the whole picture of what happened to Walter. In a December 1946 letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to Alice Rapp Stern, Walter’s mother, there is a reference to a warrant for Walter’s arrest that was being cancelled. My hunch is that once Walter’s declaration of intention to become a US citizen had expired after seven years, or in August, 1945, and he had not yet become a naturalized citizen, he was subject to deportation. How Alice Rapp Stern persuaded INS to close the case and cancel the arrest warrant is a mystery yet to be solved. I have filed a request for documents from the USCIS to see if I can learn more.

Courtesy of Ralph Dannheisser

What we do know is that by the end of 1947, Walter was institutionalized at the Rockland State Hospital and later at Brooklyn State Hospital, where he lived out the rest of his life, dying in October 1996, just a few months before his sister Elizabeth.9

I still have no details about how Charles Bloch survived the war in France, the original question that led me down this ambling path. But what an adventure the search for answers to that question has been: learning about the ITS document request process, thanks to Barbara; making the connection to Danny, who spent so much time helping me find French records; and then finding Ralph, my distant cousin by marriage, who brought to life some of the people I’d been researching.  All these connections and discoveries have made this a wonderful experience. I may not have all the answers, but sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination.

  1. Entry for Ludwig Dannheisser in Yad Vashem, found at; Entry for Johanna Bloch Dannheisser at Yad Vashem, found at 
  2. Telephone conversation with Ralph Dannheisser, July 22, 2020. 
  3. Elizabeth Ruth Stern, [Elizabeth Ruthhenrietta Hirsch] [Elizabeth Dannheisser] Birth Date: 21 Jan 1919, Birth Place: Frankfurt A, Federal Republic of Germany
    Death Date: 13 Feb 1997, Father: Sally Stern, Mother: Alice Rapp, SSN: 127144714
    Notes: Mar 1942: Name listed as ELIZABETH RUTH STERN; Jul 1943: Name listed as ELIZABETH RUTHHENRIETTA HIRSCH; Oct 1973: Name listed as ELIZABETH RUTH DANNHEISSER; Dec 1973: Name listed as ELIZABETH RUT DANNHEISSER; 22 Feb 1997: Name listed as ELIZABETH DANNHEISSER, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  4. Ralph has a copy of Elizabeth’s Mexico divorce decree, dated August 5, 1950, as well as copy of her “get,” the Jewish divorce decree, dated July 3, 1952. 
  5. Telephone conversation with Ralph Dannheisser, July 29, 2020 
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Ibid. Files in possession of Ralph Dannheisser 
  8. Ibid. 
  9. Ibid. Files in possession of Ralph Dannheisser 

Holocaust Education in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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




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

Sometimes What You Learn Is Unbearable

As I wrote last time, Gelle Katzenstein, the oldest daughter of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion, married Moses Ruelf of Rauischholzhausen. They had ten children together, six of whom lived full adult lives: Esther, Minna, Bette, Rebecca, Juda, and Pauline. They were my second cousins, twice removed. This post will tell the story of the families of Esther and Bette.

Esther, born May 26, 1857, in Rauischholzhausen, married Sussman Bachenheimer on June 25, 1874. (Schneider, Die Juedischen Familien im ehemaligen Kreise Kirchain,  p. 345.) He was also born in Rauischholzhausen on December 25, 1850. They settled in Kirchhain, Germany. Together Esther and Sussman had four daughters: Helene (1876), Rosa (1877), Bertha (1879), and Minna (1881).

Helene died the day after she was born:

Helene Bachenheimer birth record June 3 1876
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 4977

Helene Bachenheimer death record June 4, 1876
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5061

The other three daughters lived to adulthood, and their parents lived to see all three married with children.

Rosa was born on August 10, 1877, in Kirchhain:

Rosa Bachenheimer birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 4978

According to Matthias Steinke and Doris Strohmenger from the German Genealogy group on Facebook, the language in the left margin indicates that her name, Rosa, was added after the birth record had been recorded. It also indicates that her father’s name was Sussman, not Simon, as indicated on the original record.

Rosa married August Felix Katzenstein on November 20, 1900, in Kirchhain.

Marriage record of Rosa Bachenheimer and August Felix Katzenstein
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5028

August was born April 26, 1849 in Jesberg, the son of Meier Katzenstein and Auguste Wolf.

August Felix Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3807

August was Rosa’s first cousin, once removed. He was the grandson of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion through their son Meier, and Rosa was their great-granddaughter through their daughter Gelle and granddaughter Esther.

August and Rosa had two children: Margaretha Grete Katzenstein (1901) and Hans Peter Katzenstein (1905).

Rosa’s younger sister Bertha was born August 5, 1879, in Kirchhain.

Bertha Bachenheimer birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 4980

She married Josef Weinberg on November 11, 1903. Josef was born in Lauterbach, Germany, on March 4, 1876, the son of Abraham Weinberg and Fanni Simon.

Marriage record of Bertha Bachenheimer and Josef Weinberg
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5031

Bertha and Josef had one child, a daughter named Ruth born on August 28, 1904.

Minna, the youngest daughter of Esther Ruelf and Sussman Bachenheimer, was born on March 5, 1881, in Kirchhain.

Minna Bachenheimer birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 4982

She married Meier Wertheim on March 15, 1906. Meier was born on November 23, 1878, in Hatzbach, Germany, the son of Isaac Wertheim and Bertha Wertheim.

Marriage record of Minna Bachenheimer and Meier Wertheim
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5034

Minna and Meier had five sons born in Hatzbach: Herbert (1906), Kurt (1908), Walter (1915), and Gunther (1924).

Thus, by 1924, Esther Ruelf and Sussman Bachenheimer had six grandchildren, all born and living in the Hesse region of Germany. In the next twenty years their lives were all completely changed.

First, Sussman Bachenheimer died on March 8, 1924, in Kirchhain. He was 73 years old. The marginal comment here reports that his name was legally changed from Simon to Sussman in 1907.

Sussman Bachenheimer death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5109

Then on June 11, 1934, Esther Ruelf Bachenheimer’s daughter Bertha Bachenheimer Weinberg died at age 54; Bertha’s husband Josef Weinberg died just three months later on September 9, 1934. He was 58. They were survived by their daughter Ruth, who was thirty years old when her parents died.

Bertha Bachenheimer Weinberg death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 903_11031

By the time Bertha and Josef died in 1934, the Nazis were in power in Germany, and life had already changed for Jews living there. Some Jews were beginning to leave the country.

On September 23, 1935, Herbert Wertheim, the son of Minna Bachenheimer and Meier Wertheim, left Germany and moved to what was then Palestine, now Israel. Six months later in March, 1936, his younger brother Walter joined him there.

Esther Ruelf Bachenheimer died on August 16, 1936, at age 79. Not long after, her daughter  Minna Bachenheimer Wertheim and her husband Meier left Germany to join their sons in Palestine; they arrived there with their youngest son Gunther on September 10, 1936.

Death of Esther Ruelf Bachenheimer HStAMR Best. 915 Nr. 5121 Standesamt Kirchhain Sterbenebenregister 1936, S. 22

Ruth Weinberg, the daughter of Bertha and Josef Weinberg, also soon left Germany. She and her husband Hugo Schleicher and their daughter arrived in New York City on May 16, 1940. Hugo, who had been a lawyer in Germany, was working in Brooklyn at the Weingarten Agency of Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1942 when he registered for the World War II draft; the family was living in Manhattan.

Hugo Schleicher World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147

Thus, as of 1942, the only child of Esther Ruelf and Sussman Bachenheimer who was still in Germany was Rosa Bachenheimer along with her husband, August Felix Katzenstein, and their two children Margaretha and Hans-Jacob. Why they did not follow the other family members to either Palestine or the US is a mystery and a tragic one.

All four of them, as well as Margaretha’s husband Rudolf Loewenstein, were deported on April 22, 1942, to a concentration camp in Izbica, Poland, where they were murdered. Rosa, August, Margaretha, and Hans-Jacob were all my cousins, since Rose and August were both descendants of Jakob Katzenstein, my great-great-grandfather’s brother. Four more of my family members whose lives were taken by the Nazis. (The links are to their entries in Yad Vashem’s database.)

And heartbreakingly, the list does not end there. Esther Ruelf’s younger sister Bette also had family who were killed in the Holocaust. In fact, Bette has no living descendants.

Bette was born on December 3, 1860 in Rauischholzhausen. On January 26, 1886, she married Gustav Schaumberg of Schweinsburg. He was born in May 1857 to Isaak and Gutroth Schaumberg.

Marriage record of Bette Ruelf and Gustav Schaumberg
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8456

Bette and Gustav had four children born in Schweinsburg: Siegfried (1886), Rosa (1888), Flora (1891), and Selma (1897).

Sigfried Schaumsberg birth record November 16, 1886
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8429

Rosa Schaumberg birth record October 13, 1888
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8431

Flora Schaumberg birth record July 14, 1891
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8434

Selma Schaumberg birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 844

As far as I’ve been able to determine, only Flora ever married. She married David Haas on December 14, 1914.  I cannot find any record indicating that they had had children.

Marriage record of Flora Schaumberg and David Haas
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8484

Sadly, the youngest child of Bette Ruelf and Gustav Schaumberg, Selma, died in Marburg, Germany, on March 3, 1931, when she was only 33 years old:

Selma Schaumberg death record’
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5737

My colleagues Matthias Steinke and Doris Strohmenger at the German Genealogy group helped me translate this record also.  It reads: “The director of the university-hospital here has reported, that the unemployed (without profession being) Selma Schaumberg, 33 years old, residing and born in Schweinsberg, county of Kirchhain, unmarried, in Marburg in the hospital at the 3rd March of the year 1931 past midday at 5:30 is deceased.” There is no cause of death given.

Perhaps Selma was in some ways fortunate. She did not live to suffer under Nazi rule.

Her father Gustav Schaumberg died on July 30, 1938, when he was 81 years old; his wife Bette Ruelf Schaumberg died April 9, 1940; she was 79. They also in some ways may have been fortunate to die when they did, although by the time they did, they must have already experienced much suffering and humiliation by the Nazis.

Bette Ruelf Schaumberg death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8568

But at least they may have died with some hope that their remaining children would survive.

They did not. Siegfried was sent to Dachau Concentration Camp on April 3, 1942; he was then sent to the death camp in Hartheim, Austria on August 12, 1942, where he was killed. (JewishGen volunteers, comp. Germany, Dachau Concentration Camp Records, 1945 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.)

A month later Siegfried’s sisters Rosa and Flora were also deported. They were both sent to Theriesenstadt along with Flora’s husband David Haas. Rosa was then sent to Auschwitz on January 23, 1943, where she was put to death. Flora and her husband David were both sent to Auschwitz on May 16, 1944, where they also were murdered. (The links are to their Yad Vashem entries.)

Thus, not one of the children of Bette Ruelf and Gustav Schaumberg survived the Holocaust.

Can anyone not understand why it is so depressing, frightening, and maddening to see people marching with swastikas in our streets?




Ernest Lion’s The Fountain at the Crossroad: An Unforgettable Book

I am very excited to announce that Ernest Lion’s memoir, The Fountain at the Crossroad, has now been published and is available on both as a paperback ($10.50) and an ebook ($2.99). [UPDATE: the Kindle version is now available!] It has been my honor and privilege to bring this book to the public with the permission and assistance of Ernest’s son Tom.  I did this because I found the book unforgettable and because I don’t want Ernest or his life to be forgotten.  Tom and I are not deriving any financial gain from sales of the book. All net proceeds received from sales of the book will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in memory of Ernest Lion.

I have written about some aspects of Ernest’s life on the blog as he was married to my cousin, Liesel Mosbach, granddaughter of Rosalie Schoenthal, my grandfather’s sister.  Ernest and Liesel were deported from Germany to Auschwitz in early 1943; Liesel was murdered there, but Ernest survived.

The story of what he endured and how he survived is moving and horrifying.  His determination and courage in the face of unimaginable suffering is a story of what it means to be human when you are surrounded by inhumanity. And Ernest’s escape from the Nazis kept me on the edge of my seat even though I knew that he would survive.

But the book is not only about Ernest’s experience during the Holocaust.  It also tells the story of his childhood growing up with his parents in Germany and of his early adulthood when he dreamed of being an actor.  In addition, Ernest wrote about his life after the war—how he rebuilt his life in the US, starting all over, scarred by his experiences, but nevertheless determined to have a full and meaningful life.

Ernest only started talking about his Holocaust experiences late in his life, and then he was persuaded to write his memoirs.  In doing so, he relived much of the pain, but also reached a very poignant conclusion about the value of his own life.

If you have an interest in history, in World War II, in the Holocaust, in fact, if you have an interest in human beings and what they are made of, you should read this book. You can find it here.

Home Sweet Home

We are back from our trip, and I have so much to say that I don’t even know where or how to start.  Traveling to a different place can change your whole view of the world, of your place in the world, and of yourself.  This trip did that in so many different ways.  I have hundreds of photographs to sort and label, a lot of notes to transcribe and ponder, and so many thoughts and memories floating through my head that I need to write them all down before I forget them.  So I can’t just start blogging in detail about the trip right away.  I will certainly report about the parts of the trip that related directly to my own family—the trip to Poland in particular—once I have it all digested.

For now I have these overall thoughts and a few photographs to share.  First, standing in the former Jewish quarters in Prague, Krakow, Budapest, and Vienna, some of which still have several synagogues (a few even still in operation), is a chilling and horrifying experience.  For me, these places that once bustled with Jewish grandparents, mothers, fathers, and children, going to work and going to school and going to shul, were a graphic and vivid reminder of what the world lost in the Holocaust.  Had it not been for the Nazis, these Jewish communities could and likely would still exist, adding to the culture and economy of these places and of the world just as they did for hundreds of years before their Jewish citizens were murdered.

A street in the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow

A street in the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow

Nothing made this more painfully vivid for me than standing in Tarnobrzeg, the town where my Brotman great-grandparents lived, a town that was once 75% Jewish and where not one Jew lives today.  The only signs that there were once Jews there were a small plaque on the library, a building that had once been the synagogue, and a Star of David near the gate to the neglected Jewish cemetery, where only a handful of headstones remain.

gravestone on the ground in the Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg

gravestone on the ground in the Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg

Second, every person, Jewish or not, should visit Terezin and Auschwitz.  I cannot say more.  The places say it all.  You cannot go to these places and not be changed.  No matter what you may have read or seen or heard about the Holocaust, you cannot be prepared for what you experience walking in those places of terror and death.  I have only two photographs of Terezin and no photographs of Auschwitz.  I could not bear to think about taking a photograph while standing where so many were slaughtered.



Third, I had little idea what life was like under Soviet domination in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary until we met several people who had lived during that era.  We were lucky to have guides in Prague, Poland, and Budapest who had witnessed the changes and were able to describe to us how different life was before and after the Soviets left in the late 1980s, early 1990s.  Today all these places are clearly capitalist, for better in many ways, for worse in others.  Seeing Starbucks and McDonalds and KFC everywhere amidst the old buildings in these gorgeous cities is jolting, but much better than seeing empty store windows and children forced to march at rallies to support the “state.”

Despite all the sadness that we felt as we learned about the past in these places, overall we experienced these cities as places of joyfulness, liveliness, and overall comfort.  Yes, there were beggars and homeless people, especially in Budapest, and I am sure that outside the areas where tourists congregate there is plenty of poverty and misery.  But each of the cities we visited were beautiful places filled with incredible and fascinating architecture, a huge number of cafes and restaurants and bars, museums teeming with people, cobblestone streets crowded with tourists and tour groups, and the sounds of happy, excited people.  There was music everywhere—in the streets, in the churches, and in the concert halls.

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

We had an incredible time.  Our tears and sadness were well-balanced with times of pure joy—climbing the tower to see all of Prague, clapping to Klezmer music in Krakow, walking along the river in Budapest, and eating unbelievable pastries in Vienna.  We heard music in every city, we stood in awe in Gothic cathedrals, we watched people laughing and drinking and eating in the cafes, and we walked and walked and walked until our feet were numb.  We had an incredible time.

Musikverein in Vienna

Musikverein in Vienna