Meyer Selig Goldschmidt’s Descendants Scattered Across the World

As we’ve seen, Meyer Selig Goldschmidt and his wife Selma Cramer Goldschmidt had three children who survived them as well as a daughter Clementine who predeceased them. This post will report on the three who outlived them and also survived the Holocaust: Harry, Arthur, and Alice.

Harry Goldschmidt

Meyer and Selma’s oldest child Harry, his wife Fanny Steindecker, and their son Walter Selig Goldschmidt had moved to Paris, France, by 1933. Harry is listed on a ship manifest to New York, his occupation as an antiquary, and his marital status as married.1 But by 1936 when Harry is next listed on a ship manifest, his marital status is listed as single.2

Both Fanny (returning to her birth name Steindecker) and their son Walter Selig Goldschmidt immigrated to the US on February 18, 1942. Walter listed his occupation as bank clerk on the ship manifest. Fanny reported that she was divorced. They listed their last residence as Cassis, France, a community near Marseille in the south of France. I wonder if they’d been hiding there, waiting for a ship and visa to get to the US, as by February, 1942, the Nazis were occupying northern France and southern France was controlled by the Vichy government, considered a mere puppet government of the Nazis or even their allies and collaborators.

Fanny Steindecker, Walter Goldschmidt ship manifest, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Newport News, Virginia; NAI Number: 2877802; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85, Roll Number: 10, Ancestry.com. Virginia, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists, 1904-1963

On her 1942 declaration of intention Fanny reported that she was divorced from Harry Goldschmidt and that Harry was living in Aix-en-Provence in southern France. Perhaps he was hiding from the Nazis. Also, Fanny reported that her last residence was Cairo, Egypt, and that she had sailed from Casablanca, Morocco. Her travels show how difficult it was for people to get out of Europe by 1942.

Fanny Steindecker, 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 657) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 525001-525900), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Interestingly, her son Walter’s declaration of intention differed in some details from that of his mother, even though they were on the same ship. Walter listed his last residence as Cassis and said he emigrated from Marseille. Had Fanny left for Cairo and then Casablanca and met Walter on the ship? Unfortunately the ship manifest above does not name from which port the ship departed.

Walter Selig Goldschmidt, 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 660) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 527701-528600), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

On his World War II draft registration filed in May, 1942, Walter reported that he was employed by the Filtered Water Service Corporation, and both he and his mother were living at 21 West 86th Street in New York City. He also listed his citizenship as French.

Walter Selig Goldschmidt World War II draft registration, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Walter married Nicole Meyer in New York on February 6, 1946.3 She was born in Paris on June 12, 1923, to Emile Meyer and Georgette Hagenauer.4 Walter became a naturalized US citizen on July 15, 1948, and was still living in New York City at that time.5  Walter and Nicole had two children born in the 1950s, one in France and one in New York, and by 1959 the family was living in Paris and Walter was now claiming that his nationality was French, not American.6

According to David Baron and Roger Cibella’s research, Harry Goldschmidt died in Paris on November 12, 1970. His son Walter Selig Goldschmidt died in Paris in October 1982,7 and Walter’s mother Fanny Steindecker also ultimately returned to France where she died on November 15, 1987, at the age of 95.8

Arthur Goldschmidt

Meyer and Selma Goldschmidt’s second oldest child was their son Arthur Goldschmidt, and I have very little information about his life. I’ve not been able to find a ship manifest or any other record for Arthur between his 1924 marriage record to Martha Mitterhauser Widmer and his World War II draft registration dated 1946. By that time Arthur was living in New York City and self-employed.

Arthur Goldschmidt World War II draft registration, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

He did not list Martha as his contact person, and in fact in 1955 he married Anna Maria Kelsen9 so his marriage to Martha had obviously ended sometime between 1924 and 1955. Anna Maria Kelsen was born on February 7, 1907, in Berlin.10

I don’t have any other details about Arthur except that he died while traveling in Zurich, Switzerland, on August 22, 1960, from pneumonia and heart failure. The report on his death indicates that his address was in New York City, but that his widow Anne Marie Kelsen Goldschmidt with whom he’d been traveling also had an address in Paris. From the passenger card for Anne Marie traveling to Paris in April 1960, it appears that Arthur and Anne Marie had residences in both cities.11 I have found no evidence that Arthur had any children with either of his wives.

Arthur Goldschmidt death record, National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, U.S.A.; NAI Number: 302021; Record Group Title: General Records of the Department of State; Record Group Number: Record Group 59; Series Number: Publication A1 205; Box Number: 399; Box Description: 1960-1963 Switzerland A – L, Box Number: Box 0399: 1960 – 1962
Ancestry.com. U.S., Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835-1974

Alice Goldschmidt Eisemann

Whereas Harry had immigrated to France and Arthur to the US, Meyer Selig and Selma’s youngest child, their daughter Alice, and her husband Heinrich Eisemann escaped to England. They are listed on the 1939 England and Wales Register residing in London. Heinrich was working as a dealer in books of antiquity. They are not listed with any of their children, although there is one line blacked out that could be one of their six children. (I do not think that Berta Goldschmidt, their cook and housekeeper, was a relative.)

Heinrich and Alice Eisemann, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/564D, Enumeration District: AWAD, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register

Alice and Heinrich became British citizens, as indicated on a 1952 ship manifest for a visit to New York.12 Alice died in London on January 18, 1965 when she was 68 years old;13 her husband Heinrich survived her by eight years, dying in 1973 in England.14

Alice and Heinrich might have been visiting their daughter Clementine Eisemann Bodenheimer on that 1952 trip to New York. Clementine, who was born in Frankfurt on October 16, 1920,15 was married to Ernst Bodenheimer. Ernst was born on December 5, 1905, in Frankfurt,and is listed on the 1939 England and Wales Register as a manager of a chemical company. 16  According to David Baron and Roger Cibella’s research, Ernst and Clementine married on the Isle of Man where they must have been interned as enemy aliens. Ernst’s registration as an enemy alien indicates that he was released on September 7, 1940, and heading to Cuba.

Ernst Bodenheimer enemy alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/167
Piece Number Description: 167: German Internees Released in UK 1939-1942: Berk-Bohr
Ancestry.com. UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945

This ship manifest shows that Ernst and Clementine did in fact leave England for Cuba on September 9, 1940.

Ernst and Clementine Bodenheimer ship manifest, Ancestry.com. UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960

As we will see in a post to follow, Clementine (Eisemann) and Ernst Bodenheimer were on the same ship as Clementine’s first cousins, Manfred and Eric Sondheimer, the sons of Clementine Goldschmidt Sondenheimer, Clementine Eisemann’s aunt, her mother’s sister.

On July 1, 1941, Ernst Bodenheimer registered for the World War II draft. He and Clementine were living in Brooklyn, and Ernst was employed by Tonerde, Inc.17 Clementine and Ernst had three children in the 1940s, all born in New York.

Ernst Bodenheimer died at the age of 94 on September 12, 2000.18 Clementine Eisemann Bodenheimer died seven years later on December 21, 2007. She was 87. They are survived by their children and other descendants.19

The other children of Alice Goldschmidt and Heinrich Eisemann are either still living or have living spouses so in the interest of privacy, I will not be writing about them. Suffice it to say, Alice and Heinrich have many grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in many parts of the world.

 


  1. Harry Goldschmidt, ship manifest, Year: 1933; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 26; Page Number: 6, Description Ship or Roll Number: Ile de France, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  2. Harry Goldschmidt, ship manifest, Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 16; Page Number: 8, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  3. Walter S Goldschmidt, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 29 Jan 1946
    Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Nicole Meyer, License Number: 3469, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 5, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. The marriage date itself comes from Baron and Cibella. 
  4. Nicole Estelle Meyer, Gender: femme (Female), Death Age: 92, Birth Date: 12 juin 1923 (12 Jun 1923), Birth Place: Paris-14e-Arrondissement, Paris, Death Date: 22 mars 2016 (22 Mar 2016), Death Place: Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France
    Certificate Number: 366, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (Insee); Paris, France; Fichier des personnes décédées; Roll #: deces-2016.txt, Ancestry.com. Web: France, Death Records, 1970-2018. Original data: Fichier des personnes décédées. France: data.gouv.fr. https://www.data.gouv.fr/fr/datasets/fichier-des-personnes-decedees/:accessed 15 October, 2020. Parents’ names are from Baron and CIbella. 
  5. Walter Goldschmidt, Birth Date: 3 Feb 1915, Age: 33, Naturalization Date: 15 Jul 1948, Residence: New York, New York, Title and Location of Court: New York Southern District, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 
  6. Walter Goldschmidt, Nationality: French, Arrival Age: 44, Birth Date: 3 Feb 1915
    Birth Place: Frankfurt/Main, Arrival Date: 4 Feb 1959, Arrival Place: New York, New York, USA, Destination: New York, Airline: PAA, Flight Number: 115/03, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; NAI Number: 2848504; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series Number: A3998; NARA Roll Number: 140, Ancestry.com. New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1967 
  7. Walter Goldschmidt, Social Security Number: 108-18-8193, Birth Date: 3 Feb 1915, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 912, (U.S. Consulate) Paris, France, Last Benefit: 912, (U.S. Consulate) Paris, France
    Death Date: Oct 1982, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. See also FindAGrave entry at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/185496471/walter-goldschmidt 
  8. Fanny Steindecker, Gender: femme (Female), Death Age: 95, Birth Date: 11 déc. 1891 (11 Dec 1891), Birth Place: Paris-16e-Arrondissement, Paris, Death Date: 4 nov. 1987, Death Place: Saint-Maur-Des-Fosses, Val-De-Marne, France, Certificate Number: 678, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (Insee); Paris, France; Fichier des personnes décédées; Roll #: deces-1987.txt, Ancestry.com. Web: France, Death Records, 1970-2018. Original data: Fichier des personnes décédées. France: data.gouv.fr. https://www.data.gouv.fr/fr/datasets/fichier-des-personnes-decedees/:accessed 15 October, 2020. 
  9.  Arthur Goldschmidt, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 1955, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Anne Kelsen, License Number: 24215, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  10. Anne Marie K Goldschmidt, Nationality: American, Arrival Age: 53, Birth Date: 7 Feb 1907, Birth Place: Berlin Germany, Arrival Date: 1 Apr 1960, Arrival Place: New York, New York, USA, Destination: New York, Airline: Air France, Flight Number: 0707
    Ancestry.com. New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1967 
  11. Ibid. 
  12. Alice and Heinrich Eisemann, ship manifest, Year: 1952; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 5; Page Number: 228, Ship or Roll Number: Queen Mary, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  13. Alice Eisemann, Death Date: 18 Jan 1965, Death Place: London, England
    Probate Date: 5 Apr 1965, Probate Registry: London, England, Source Information
    Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995 
  14.  Heinrich Eisemann, Death Age: 82, Birth Date: 7 Aug 1890,
    Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-Dec 1973, Registration District: Islington
    Inferred County: Greater London, Volume: 5c, Page: 1806, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 5c; Page: 1806, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  15.  Clementin E. Bodenheimer, Social Security Number: 059-40-5773, Birth Date: 16 Oct 1920, Issue Year: 1964, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10952, Monsey, Rockland, New York, Death Date: 21 Dec 2007, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  16. Ernst Bodenheimer, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/1884A, Enumeration District: DMFQ, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register 
  17. Ernst Bodenheimer, World War II draft registration, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  18. Ernst L Bodenheimer, Gender: Male, Birth Date: 5 Dec 1905, Death Date: 12 Sep 2000, Claim Date: 4 Feb 1971, SSN: 050184990, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  19.  Clementin E. Bodenheimer, Social Security Number: 059-40-5773, Birth Date: 16 Oct 1920, Issue Year: 1964, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10952, Monsey, Rockland, New York, Death Date: 21 Dec 2007, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

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, Ancestry.com. 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, Ancestry.com. 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, Ancestry.com. 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, Ancestry.com. 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, Ancestry.com. 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, Ancestry.com. Web: France, Death Records, 1970-2018 

Charles Bloch Redux: A Lesson in French Genealogy Research

A few weeks ago I published my second post about Charles Bloch, searching for information about the time he spent in France during World War II. Charles was married to Amalie Meyer, granddaughter of Meyer Goldschmidt, my four-times great-uncle. He wasn’t related to me except by marriage, but I can’t seem to let go of his story. So this is my third Charles Bloch post. And there will be one more.

All I knew at the time of that second post was that Charles was still in Germany as of December, 1938, when he was released from the Buchenwald concentration camp, and that he arrived in the US from Toulouse, France, in 1946. I knew that his wife, Amalie Meyer Bloch, and his daughter Ilse Bloch, had both left Germany and were in the US by 1941, at which time Amalie reported on her declaration of intention that her husband Charles was in France.  But despite receiving additional documents from the International Tracing Service, I still didn’t know when Charles arrived in France or where or how he spent those war years.

I received a few suggestions from readers for additional research, but the most significant help came from a member of Tracing the Tribe named Danny Breslow. Danny has expertise in French genealogy research and was incredibly generous with his time helping me to find information.

First, he noticed something I should have noticed. On Charles’ ship manifest coming to the US in 1946, he listed as the person left behind in his former place of residence a person named Gaston Bloch, residing at 27 “Pomme St.” in Toulouse.

Charles Bloch, passenger manifest p. 2, Year: 1946; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 40, Ship or Roll Number: Fort Royal
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Danny then searched the 1936 Toulouse census (the most recent one available online) and discovered that in 1936, a couple named Gaston and Alice Alexandre lived at 27 Rue de la Pomme in Toulouse.

City of Toulouse, Municipal Archives, Call Number 1 F94, p. 301 (1936)

Could Charles have mistakenly referred to Gaston Alexandre as Gaston Bloch? Possibly, but not necessarily, as you will see.

Danny discovered that a boy named Jean Bloch had also lived at 27 Rue de la Pomme in Toulouse. He was born in Marseilles, and according to an article Danny found in a French publication about the Jewish children of Toulouse, Jean Bloch was living in Toulouse with his grandmother and his older brother in 1944. Jean was only fourteen when he was arrested by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camp at Drancy and then to Auschwitz on March 24, 1944. He survived Auschwitz, but was later killed on a death march on April 17, 1945.

TOULOUSE-MÉMOIRE DES ENFANTS JUIFS DÉPORTÉS, September 2014

A profile on Geni managed by Jean Bloch’s nephew’s wife Hanna revealed that Jean Bloch was the son of Lucie Alexandre and Georges Bloch and that Lucie Alexandre was the daughter of Gaston and Alice Alexandre. Thus, young Jean Bloch had a grandfather named Gaston. Was this the “Gaston Bloch” living at 27 Rue de la Pomme that Charles Bloch named on his manifest? Connecting those dots proved challenging.

Danny and I tried to find some link between the lineage of Georges Bloch, whose in-laws lived at 27 Rue de la Pomme, and the lineage of Charles Bloch. According to Geni, Georges Bloch, Jean’s father, was the son of Albert Fortun Salomon Bloch, who in turn was the son of Joseph Bloch.1

Danny’s knowledge of French genealogy came in handy as he located a birth record for Jules Bloch, Charles Bloch’s father, showing he was born in Scherwiller, France, in 1855. (That explained why Charles was identified as French on the ITS documents even though he was born in Frankfurt; his father was French-born.)

Birth record of Jules Bloch, 1885, Scherwiller – Etat civil – Registre de naissances 1855 – 4 E 445/5  found at http://archives.bas-rhin.fr/detail-document/ETAT-CIVIL-C441-P1-R241585#visio/page:ETAT-CIVIL-C441-P1-R241585-3028132

As seen on Jules Bloch’s birth record, he was the son of Meyer Bloch and Sarra Weill. I’ve tried to dig back further to see if I could find a tie between the Scherwiller Blochs and the Marseilles Blochs, but without success. With Danny’s help and my discovery of a Scherwiller Bloch family tree on Ancestry, a tree that is well sourced, we were able to trace Charles Bloch’s lineage back to the 1700s without finding a link to the Marseille Bloch family.

I also contacted Hanna, the manager of that Geni profile of Jean Bloch and  the daughter-in-law of Jean Bloch’s brother Michel; Michel had survived the war and immigrated to Israel. Hanna did not know of any connection to Charles Bloch and pointed out that there had been another Bloch family also living at 27 Rue de la Pomme who were not related to the Alexandre family. I’ve yet to find any records for that family though.

In addition, Danny discovered that a young Jewish woman named Nicole Bloch Klein, a resistance activist in France, also once lived at 27 Rue de la Pomme in Toulouse. Perhaps Bloch was a common enough name and 27 Rue de la Pomme was a big enough building that it’s purely coincidental that Charles Bloch ended up knowing people living in that building who also happened to be named Bloch?

I went back to look at the 1936 census again and counted five households living at 27 Rue de la Pomme that year. I don’t know what the odds are that, ten years later in 1946 when Charles Bloch reported a Gaston Bloch living at that address, there would have been another family named Bloch, unrelated to the family of Jean Bloch, living at that address.

So I cannot prove that there was a familial tie between Georges Bloch, the son-in-law of Gaston and Alice Alexandre of 27 Rue de la Pomme, and Charles Bloch, who listed the same address on his ship manifest. And I still don’t know how Charles survived the war. Who did he live with? How did he avoid deportation? Why did he wait a year after the war ended before joining his wife and daughter in the United States?

I still don’t know. But, in the course of researching the Bloch family, I discovered another interesting twist in the family tree.

To be continued…


  1. There were no records on Geni to support this, but since the profile is managed by a close family member, I assume that it is reliable. 

Gaps in the Story: How Did Amalie and Charles Bloch Escape from Nazi Germany?

Back in May, I wrote about Amalie Meyer Bloch, the granddaughter of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt and Jettchen Cahn, daughter of Regina Goldschmidt and Aaron Meyer. One question that lingered was how Amalie and her daughter Ilse ended up separated from Amalie’s husband Charles Bloch.

I knew from one of the Arolsen Archives document available through Ancestry that Charles had gone to Paris, and I knew that he eventually rejoined Amalie and Ilse in the US in 1946, reporting that his last address had been in Toulouse, France. But what I didn’t know was when Charles had gone to Paris and where he was in France during the war after Germany’s invasion of France in 1940.

Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1; Series: 2.1.1.1, Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Ancestry.com. Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947

Barb276, one of my readers, suggested that I contact the ITS (International Tracing Service) and file a request for more information about Charles since not all of their documents are available through the Arolsen Archives. I did as she suggested back in May and was told that it would take ten months to complete the investigation and report back. I prepared myself for a long wait.

You can imagine my surprise when just a week or so ago I received a report back from ITS with more documents about Charles. Those documents don’t really answer my questions, unfortunately, but they did reveal one more piece of the puzzle.

Charles was one of the thousands of Jewish men who were rounded up during and after Kristallnacht in November 1938 and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. He was released in December 1938.

My working hypothesis is that upon his release, he left Germany for France. One of the ITS documents, a property inventory prepared after the war in 1950, described Charles as a “französischer Jude,” a French Jew. I wasn’t sure what to make of that since Charles was also documented as German-born—born in Frankfurt in 1881. That same document also states that Amalie is “gilt als staatenlos,” considered stateless. So maybe the reference to Charles as a French Jew meant that he had become a citizen of France after immigrating there.

It would make sense that Charles would leave Germany in early 1939 after his experience at Buchenwald. As seen in my earlier post, his daughter Ilse had gone to England by 1939. But it seems that Amalie was not in England or France at that point. On her November 27, 1941, declaration of intention to become a US citizen, Amalie reported that Charles was at that time residing in France, Ilse was residing in New York, and that Amalie herself had last resided in Lisbon, Portugal.

Amalie Meyer Bloch, declaration of intent, 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 641) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 510101-511000)
Ancestry.com. New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

My hunch is that Amalie stayed behind in Germany longer than her husband and daughter and then somehow escaped to Portugal after the war started. But I could be wrong. My other hunch is that Charles escaped from Paris after the Nazis invaded and somehow survived the war in southern Vichy-controlled France, finally arriving in the US a year after the war. Although I don’t know more about Charles’ time there, I did find a Jewish Telegraphic Agency news release dated April 29, 1941, reporting that Jewish refugees had been expelled from Toulouse. I’ve no idea, however, how that impacted Charles Bloch.

Unfortunately, the ITS documents do not reveal anything about Charles’ time in France during or after the war. Nor do I have any more information about how Amalie ended up in Portugal or when. And since they have no living descendants, I fear I can only rely on my hunches and speculation to fill in these gaps.

 

Letters from Frank: A Soldier in World War I

In my last post I posted and transcribed three letters written to Francis Oestreicher aka Frank Striker by various relatives between 1907 and 1939.  In this post I want to share the letters that Frank wrote home while he was serving in World War I.  These letters were all written in the fall of 1918, beginning before Frank was sent overseas and ending with one in December, 1918, a month or so after the war had ended.

Frank Striker WW1

Francis Oestreicher in World War I

As with the last post, I have tried to keep the transcriptions true to the text of the letters, only making some punctuation changes and some spelling changes and adding paragraphing to make them more easily read.

The first letter was written from Camp Meritt, New Jersey, on September 20, 1918.

IMG_1847 IMG_1848

 

Camp Meritt, NJ September 20, 1918

Dear Mother, Father & Sister,

As you can see by the heading, I am now located at Camp Merrit. This accounts for my not having written yesterday. We left Camp Holabird yesterday morning and arrived here to[o] late last night to write.  We are located about 15 miles from New York and the camp is more like a park than anything else. It is layed out beautifully and is made to accomidate 70,000 men, all of whom sleep in barracks. There are no tents here.

Am going to try to get a pass to go to New York Sunday, but I doubt it if they will give me one, as they are very anxious to keep us together.

I suppose it will not come as a surprise when I tell you that we are prepairing to go across, we do not know just what day, but it may be to-morrow and it may not be for 2 weeks or more, so please do not worry if you do not hear from me for 3 or 4 weeks.  It often takes this long or longer for mail to come across. Our trucks are already in France.

Please do not let this worry you as I know I will be safe. It is not worrying me in the least and I am feeling fine and getting along nicely.

We will go through a good bit of schooling when we get to the other side so that we will not be assigned to our regular duty for 2 months or more. We will have to learn to understand French road signs and a great many other things.

Will close now as I want this letter to go out in the next mail.

I remain, with love to you all,

Your son & brother,

Francis

I love the tone of this letter—a young man trying to reassure his parents that he is and will be fine.  How can he possibly say he knows he will be safe? I had to laugh at the idea that his parents would not worry when their child was going off to fight in a war that had already seen a tremendous number of fatalities. But so far Frank hadn’t seen anything but American army camps.

The second letter was written while Frank was sailing to Europe with the army:

IMG_1821

 

Aboard ship October 6, 1918

Dear Mother, Father, & Sister,

We expect to land in [place name torn off] tomorrow so I am writing aboard ship in order that my mail will lose no time.  I trust that you have received the postal mailed from New York advising you of my safe arrival.

Our trip has been delightful in every respect and although some of our company suffered some from sea-sickness, I came through feeling fine all the way. We saw no submarines and everything went along nicely.  Of course we were protected, but the censor would not permit my writing anything on this subject.  The trip took us considerably longer than they do in peace times, but since we had plenty of entertainment the time passed quickly and pleasantly.  You know I’ve traveled considerably around the U.S.A. but this has it beat, we are in sight of shore.

[Letter ends there; not sure if there was more as there is no signature.]

Once again, Frank is being reassuring.  He writes as if he’s on a cruise, traveling to Europe, except for the hints about censorship and submarines.  Was he really feeling as calm as his letter claims?

There are no letters between this one and the end of the war on November 11, 1918.  I don’t know whether that means Frank didn’t write any letters during that time or just that they have not been preserved or located.

The next letter was written two days after the armistice:

Frank November 13 letter 1

Frank November 13 1918 letter 2

 

 

France  November 13, 1918

Dear Mother, Father & Sister,

The official notice of an armistice came to-day and of course I was more than happy to hear the good news.  We had been expecting it for sometime as the Allies have been having things their own way for some time. Now that the firing is over and there is no more need of your worring, I might as well tell you that I have been to the front a number of times and that our position here has been shelled every night since we came, with the exception of the last 4 nights.  The Germans are now retreating and not a single shot is being fired.

The only subject the boys talk about now is coming home and I do hope that it will not be long until we are homeward bound.

We are using some English trucks and our routine is the same every day.  I believe I have the softest snap on this side of the pond. The hardest job I have is to entertain myself.  I believe I told you in my last letter that I was in charge of the detail located here and I live a gentleman’s life.

Trusting you are all enjoying the best of health, I am

Lovingly

Your son and brother

Francis

PS I am going to send you a camouflaged German helmet as a souvenir.

The tone of this letter is markedly different from the first two.  One would expect a soldier to be excited and upbeat that the war had ended.  But this letter seems more somber.  Although Frank says he now living a gentleman’s life and just waiting to come home, his brief allusions to the war—being shelled every night—make it clear that he has seen more than he is mentioning.  Somehow he seems to have changed from that young man excited to be traveling overseas to a young man eager to get home and away from the war.

The next letter came four days later.

Frank November 13 1918 letter 1 Frank November 18 letter 2

November 17, 1918

Dear Mother, Father, and Sister,

Was very much surprised to-day to receive a letter addressed to Camp Lee and dated July 28th.  Although a bit stale I was very glad to receive it.

There is not much new to write.  Our duties are the same as they have been and we are getting along nicely.  Instead of war talk now the principal discussion these days are when are we going home.  There are many rumors as to what our company will do.  Some say we are to go to Germany, others say we will soon be homeward bound, but the truth is yet to be learned.

The cold weather is beginning to set in, but you never need worry as I have clothing gelore.  I have a heavy overcoat, sweater and gum boots that I have never worn also heavy wollen socks.

Yesterday I saw the first lot of prisoners to be returned from Germany.  They were a lot of Italians who had been in Germany 2 years.  Believe me they were glad to have there freedom

I can imagine the celebrations that took place in the states when peace was signed, but at the front all was silent.  In the night some bright lights flashed.

I trust that it will not be long now until I will be siting around the table with you as we used too.

Please give my love to dear Aunt Jennie and family, Uncle Morris, and Mr Lebenwalter.

Must close now with love to you all,

I remain

Lovingly

Francis B. Oestreicher

Frank obviously was longing to be home.  And again the tone is more somber.  His line contrasting what he expects the celebrations were like back home to the silence at the front is telling.  There was no celebrating by those who had fought in the war.  They just wanted to go home.

Eleven days later he wrote this letter:

Frank November 28 1918 letter 1

Frank November 28 letter 1918 2

Frank November 28 1918 letter 3

 

France, November 28, 1918

Dear Mother, Father & Sister,

These last few days we have not had a thing to do so I spent most of my time roaming around the country.  The YMCA gave me several hundred Christmas cards and I distributed some of them among the members of our Co. and I sent more than 50 to my customers.

Last week I was called back and joined the rest of my company.  I believe I wrote to you shortly after my arrival in France that was away from the Co. on detached service.

The part of France which I am in was full of soldiers and the roads were jammed with traffic a few weeks ago, but now there are very few soldiers around here and the only trucks we see are our own water tanks.  A few civilians are now coming back.  I was speaking to an old Frenchman this morning.  He is about 60 years old.  He pointed to a few standing walls and said it was his home.  His fields are turn [torn?] up with shell holes and trenches.

There are some German prisoners around here. One of them told me they have not had soap in Germany for 2 years and that they could not even buy a handkerchief without a note from a city official.

The censorship regulations are the same as they have been, but I think that within a short time the censorship will be lifted and I will be able to tell you where I am located.  At present I can only state that I am in the most notable line of defence the Germans ever built. Am also within 20 miles of the strongest fortified city in France, a city which the Germans have tried to take since the beginning of the war but never succeeded.

We are living in barracks which the Germans built and our meals are very good.  There is a YMCA located a very short distance from here and we can buy candy and chocolate.  We can also get newspapers and writing paper.

So far the weather has been fine.  It has been warm and fairly dry.

Have not received mail from you since I wrote to you last, but the mail comes in bunches, and I am expecting mail from you within a few days.

Knowing of nothing else that would interest you, will close, hoping you are all enjoying the best of health, I remain,

Lovingly

Your son and brother

Francis

Two images stand out for me here: the Frenchman surveying his destroyed home and fields and the German soldier revealing the desperate economic situation in Germany. How interesting that Frank conversed with someone who just weeks before had been the enemy.  And he sounds somewhat sympathetic to the conditions endured by that enemy.

It’s also interesting that Frank was now allowed to reveal more details about his location. That location was made much more clear in the letter that follows.

Frank December 8 1918 letter 1 Frank December 8 1918 letter 2 Frank December 8 1918 letter 3

 

France December 8, 1918

Dear Mother, Father, & Sister,

The censor is partly lifted now and I am able to write things that would not have passed a week ago.  We are now permitted to relate our experiences and to mention the names of the towns and cities.   We arrived in Liverpool, England on October 8th and traveled through England by rail to South-hampton.  From there we took a boat to Cherbourg, France, where we arrived on October 11th.  On October 13th we boarded a train on which we remained 4 days and finally we landed at Clermont which is located about 15 miles west of Verdun. At the time of our arrival here the front was 15 miles north.  On October 25 was sent on detatched service with some others in our Co. and we located at Montfucon which is about 22 miles north of Clairmont.  At the time of our arrival at Montfucon the trenches were a very short distance and we were able to get a fair idea of what modern war really is.

The day before yesterday we came back to Clairmont where the battalion headquarters are located and from all appearances I will remain with the Co. until we land in America.

Have not received any mail from you for about 2 weeks, but I know it is because of poor mail service.  I am not worried about you and you need not worry about me.  I also will ask you not to send me anything, either money, eatables or clothes, as I have everything I need.

Our chief thought these days is the thought of going home, but we receive very little information on this subject.  We are not doing any work and we have a good chance of being in the U.S.A. in Feb or possibly even in January.  However I cannot kick as we have it very good here.  There is an excellent band occupying an adjurning building so we have lots of music.  We also can buy candy and cakes at the Salvation Army.

Regarding the weather must say it is just like spring. We have not had one cold day yet.

Trusting you are all enjoying the best of health and wishing you dear father a very prosperous Chrismas business, I remain

Lovingly

Your son and brother,

Francis

PS Dear Mother, It seems a bit early to congratulate you for your birthday, but considering the slowness of the mail this letter may reach you after your birthday.  I wish to extend my heartiest wishes for a very happy birthday and trust that you will enjoy many more birthdays in good health and happiness. [Sarah’s birthday was January 8.]

Francis

I looked on a map to try and determine where Frank was located based on this letter.  I knew he had been involved in the Meuse Argonne offensive, so that also helped.  I believe “Clairmont” is Clermont-en-Argonne and “Montfuscon” is Montfaucon-d’Argonne.  On this map you can see Verdun, the “most fortified city in France,” as Frank described it in his earlier letter, and the cemetery at Meuse-Argonne where those killed in that offensive are buried.

 

Even though the censorship was reduced and Frank could reveal where he had been, he still does not discuss what he saw during the fighting or how he felt.  He makes reference to “getting a fair idea of what modern war is,” but he doesn’t share what that was like.  I wonder if he ever did. But it is clear that he is anxious to get home and hopes to be there by January or February, at the latest.

Frank’s military dates as revealed on this postcard, however, indicate that he did not in fact get back to the US until July.  I wonder what they had him doing for the next six months.

Frank postcard with military service dates

That is the last of the letters written by Frank that I received from Steve. I don’t know whether Frank wrote more.  I imagine he did.   Perhaps more letters will show up.  But even these six letters written over a short period of time reveal in subtle ways the experiences Frank lived through between September 20, 1918, and December 8, 1918.

Frank Striker WW1 medal

 

 

 

Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld, Part II: Finding Their Children and Grandchildren

In my last post, I talked about the twisted path I took to find my great-great-uncle Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienfeld.  After discovering that their daughter Henriette Schoenthal and her husband Julius Levi had been killed in the Holocaust, I was determined to find out what had happened to Henry Lyons, who was the son of Henriette and Julius Levi and who had filed Pages of Testimony for his parents with Yad Vashem.

I thought that would be easy.  After all, I had a name and a specific address from the Pages of Testimony—99-30 59th Avenue, Rego Park, New York.  And I did almost immediately find a Public Records listing with his name at that address that provided me with his birthdate, October 17, 1919.  But that didn’t tell me much more than what I knew from the Pages of Testimony.

Yad Vashem page of testimony for Henriette Schoenthal Levi

 

Searching a bit further using the Rego Park address listed on the Pages of Testimony, I found a Pauline Lyons listed at that same address; I assumed that she was Henry’s wife.  Having both names made the search a bit easier since Henry Lyons itself is not exactly a unique name. I was able to use their two names together to find that they are both buried at Calverton National Cemetery and that Henry had died on December 18, 1986, and Pauline on November 30, 2007.  Henry had served in the US military during World War II, beginning his service on November 28, 1942, and thus was entitled to a military burial.  Imagine coming to America as a young man to escape Hitler and then fighting against the country of your birth.

When had he come to the US? Had he and Pauline had children? I wanted to know more.  I assumed Henry had arrived in the US sometime in the mid-to late 1930s.  I also assumed that he had arrived under the surname Levi, not Lyons.  After I wasted a lot of time searching for him under the wrong name, a member of the NYC Genealogy Group found a record for a man named Helmut Levi who had changed his name to Henry Lyons on October 5, 1953, in the city courts in New York.

 

Helmut Levi change of name to Henry Lyons Ancestry.com. U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com

Helmut Levi change of name to Henry Lyons
Ancestry.com. U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com

Armed with the information about what was probably his original name, I was able to find Helmut Levi on the 1940 census, living as a lodger at 204 West 87th Street in NYC and working as a watchmaker.  I was pretty certain I had found the right person when I saw on the census record that he had been living in Cologne, Germany, in 1935.

I also then found him on a passenger manifest (see line 26 on each page below):

Helmut Levy ship manifest p 1

Helmut Levi ship manifest Henry Lyons

Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6293; Line: 1; Page Number: 188

 

Helmut Levi had arrived in NYC on February 25, 1939.  According to the ship manifest, he was a nineteen year old merchant born and last residing in Cologne, leaving behind his father Julius Levi of Breitstrasse in Cologne and going to his uncle Lee Schoenthal of Washington, Pennsylvania.  This was obviously my cousin, the man later known as Henry Lyons.

I also found him on a second passenger manifest dated July 4, 1948, arriving in NYC from Bremerhaven, Germany.  Henry had returned to Germany after the war.  What a devastating trip that must have been.  The photo below shows what his home city of Cologne looked like after Allied bombing during the war.  Henry had not only lost his parents, but the place where he had lived as a child and a teenager.

 

By U.S. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. [2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. [2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

From that 1948 passenger manifest (line 10), I saw that Helmut Levi was then living in Washington, Pennsylvania, where his two uncles, Lee and Meyer, were also living, that is, his mother’s brothers, the two sons of Jakob and Charlotte mentioned in my last post.  Like so many Schoenthal relatives before him, Helmut had spent time living in western Pennsylvania.  The ship manifest also indicated that by 1948, Helmut had married, although Pauline is not listed as traveling with him.

 

Helmut Levi aka Henry Lyons 1948 ship manifest

Helmut Levi 1948 ship manifest Year: 1948; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 7624; Line: 10; Page Number: 9

 

But I still didn’t know whether Helmut/Henry and Pauline had had children or whether there were other family members I might have missed.  I called Calverton National Cemetery, but they had no additional information.  I searched in the newspaper databases for articles or obituaries that might reveal more about Henry and Pauline Lyons.  At first I limited myself to New York papers, but then I realized that that was too narrow, given that he had once lived in western Pennsylvania.  I broadened my search and found this obituary from the January 19, 1989, Pittsburgh Press:

 

Erna Schoenthal Haas obit 1989

 

Who was Erna Haas? And was she Henry’s aunt or Pauline’s aunt? And who was Yohana Stern? I had more work to do.  I searched for Erna Haas, an unusual enough name, and was very excited to find this ship manifest (see lines 15 and 16):

 

Erna Haas ship manifest p 1

Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6152; Line: 1; Page Number: 174

 

Erna and her twelve year old son Werner had sailed from Hamburg, Germany on May 4, 1938; Erna was a beautician coming from Cologne.  I assumed that therefore her connection would be to Henry, a native of Cologne, not to Pauline, who was American-born.  Turning to the second page of the manifest, my hunch was confirmed (again, see lines 15 and 16):

 

Erna Haas ship manifest p 2

Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6152; Line: 1; Page Number: 174

 

Who was the person she named as living in the place she had left? Her sister, H. Levy of Breitstrasse in Cologne—that is, Henriette Schoenthal Levi, who had lived on that street as seen in the Köln directories in my last post. And who was she going to be with in the US? Her brother, Lee Schoenthal in Washington, Pennsylvania.  Erna Haas was another child of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld.  She was also my grandmother’s first cousin.  And the aunt of Henry Lyons.  She was born Erna Schoenthal. I had found a fourth child of Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal.

In 1940, Erna was listed on the census living with her son Werner in Pittsburgh, Erna working in cosmetics sales, Werner in newspaper sales.  Erna was a widow, so I assume that her husband Arnold had died in Germany, as I have no record of him in the US.  Unfortunately I have not yet found a record for him in Germany either.

But what about Yohana Stern, who had been listed in Erna’s obituary as her sister? I found this obituary for her husband Heinrich while searching for more information about Erna Haas:

Heinrich Stern obit

 

And then I located a ship manifest for Johanna Stern and Heinrich Stern (lines 3 and 4):

 

Ship manifest p 1 Johanna Schoenthal and Heinrich Stern

 

Ship manifest p 2 for Johanna Schoenthal and Heinrich Stern

Year: 1947; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 7389; Line: 4; Page Number: 107

 

They had not arrived in the US until June 10, 1947, when they were 66 and 70 years old.  Notice that Johanna was born in Cologne, presumably around 1880.  How had she and Heinrich survived the Holocaust?  The manifest lists them as “stateless” and notes that they had last resided in “Lyon, France” and that their visas had been issued in “Marseille, France.”

The second page indicates that the person they were leaving behind at their last residence was a friend named Henry Kahnweiler of Paris (more on him in my next post) and the person they were going to see in the US was Johanna’s brother Lee Schoenthal of Washington, Pennsylvania.  Their final destination was Washington, Pennsylvania.  Yohana or Johanna Stern was born Johanna Schoenthal, a fifth child of Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal. Another of my grandmother’s first cousins.

 

Thus, Jakob and Charlotte had had five children.  Their two sons Lee and Meyer had emigrated from Germany long before Hitler came to power; they had both settled near their aunt and uncle in Washington, Pennsylvania.    Jakob and Charlotte’s three daughters had stayed behind.  One, Henriette, was murdered by the Nazis with her husband Julius Levi at the Chelmno death camp in 1942, but their son Helmut Levi, aka Henry Lyons, left Germany in 1939 and survived.  Another daughter, Erna, left Germany with her son Werner in 1938.  And finally a third daughter, Johanna, somehow survived the war by going to France, and she and her husband Heinrich Stern came to the US in 1947.

It was a long and twisty road finding these five children, and it was heartbreaking to read of more cousins killed in the Holocaust.  But four of those five children survived and came to the US as did two of Jakob and Charlotte’s grandsons, Henry Lyons and Werner Haas.  More on the lives of these four children and their descendants in my next post.

The Schoenfelds and Erbes-Budesheim: Part II

In my last post, I wrote about Erbes-Budesheim, the German town where my Schoenfeld ancestors lived, where my 3x-great-grandmother was born, and where my 4x- and 5x-great-grandparents lived.   From the records I was able to obtain, I know that my 4x-great-grandparents Bernhard Schoenfeld and Rosina Goldmann were married and living in Erbes-Budesheim by 1804 when their first child Benedict Baehr was born.

As explained to me by Gerd Braun, the man in Erbes-Budesheim who sent me the documents,  when the French took over control of the region, one thing that they did in 1808 was order the Jewish residents to adopt surnames akin to those used by the Christian population.  Before that, Jews used patronymics.  Thus, before 1808, Bernhard Schoenfeld was named Baer (ben) Salomon[1] and Rosina was Rosina (bat) Benjamin.  The two children born before 1808 were named Benedict (ben) Baer and Taubchen (bat) Baer.  Taubchen was renamed Eva Schoenfeld after 1808.

Here is the birth record for Benedict.  (All the records before 1816 are in French, and my high school French classes came in handy.)  The translations for all of the documents below are in italics.

Benedict Baer birth record 1804

Benedict Baer birth record 1804

Act of birth of Benedict Baer born the 15th of Frimaire[2] at 10 in the morning, the legitimate son of Baer Salomon, merchant, living in Erbesbudesheim, and of Rosine nee Benjamin of Munchweiler.  The sex of the child has been recognized as masculine.  [Witnesses and signatures]

Benedict died just eight months later.

Benedict Baer death record 1805

Benedict Baer death record 1805

Act of death of Benedict Baer, died the 17th of Messidor[3] at 7 in the evening, eight months old, born in Erbesbudesheim and living in Erbesbudesheim.  Son of Baer Salomon and Roes nee Benjamin.  On the declaration made by Baer Salomon, his father, resident of Erbesbudesheim and a merchant, and Francois Colin, resident of Erbesbudeshem, a barber and a neighbor.

A year later, Taubechen (who became Eva) was born:

Birth record of Taubchen Baer/Eva Schoenfeld 1806

Birth record of Taubchen Baer/Eva Schoenfeld 1806

Act of birth:  In the year 1806 on the 2d of June in the afternoon appeared before the mayor of Erbesbudesheim… Baehr Salomon, a merchant, 34 years old, living in Erbesbudesheim, No. 66, and presented to us a female child of him and his legal wife Rosine nee Benjamin born the 2d of June at 5 in the morning and also stated that he wanted to give the child the name Taubchen.  [Witnesses and signatures.]

The children born after 1808 were given the name Schoenfeld, including my 3-x great-grandmother, Babetta.  You will see that on this record, Bernard and Rosine are referred to with surnames.

Babete Schoenfeld birth record 1806

Babete Schoenfeld birth record 1806

In the year 1810, the 28th of February, at nine in the morning, Bernard Schoenfeld, 37 years old, a merchant, and a resident of Erbesbudesheim,appeared before Andre Cronenberger, Mayor of Erbesbudesheim and presented a female child born the 28th of February in the morning of himself and Rosine nee Goldmann, his wife, and also declared that he wanted to give the child the name of Babet. [Witnesses and signatures]

In addition, I received records for other children of Bernard and Rosina Schoenfeld, ancestors I’d not known about before.  The first two are in French, but the last two are in German because they occurred when the region was back under German control.  The two in French follow the format and content of those above and evidence the births of a daughter Marianne, born June 29, 1812, and a daughter Rebecque, born July 20, 1814.

Birth record of Marianna Schoenfled 1812

Birth record of Marianna Schoenfled 1812

Birth record of Rebecque Schoenfeld 1814

Birth record of Rebecque Schoenfeld 1814

The last two are in German.  Thank you to Matthias Steinke for the translations. The first record is for the birth of another daughter, Zibora, in 1818.

 

Birtn record of Zibora Schoenfeld 1818

Birtn record of Zibora Schoenfeld 1818

In the year 1818, the 23rd of May came to me, the mayor and official for the civil registration of the comunity of Erbesbuedesheim, county of Alzey, Bernhard Schoenfeld, 45 years old, merchant, residing in Erbesbuedesheim, who reported, that at the 22nd of May at 11 o´clock in the night a child of female sex, which he showed me, was born and whom he intends to give the first name Zibora, and which he declared to have fathered with his wife Rosina Goldmann, 35 old, residing in Erbesbuedesheim.  The child was born in the Hauptstr. nr. 77. This declaration and presentation happened in presence of the witnesses Johannes Knobloch, 55 years old, farmer, in Erbesbuedesheim residing and Jacob Landesberg, 29 years old, farmer, in Erbesbuedesheim  residing, and have the father and the witnesses signed his birth-record and it was read to them. Signatures

The last child of Bernard and Rosine for whom I have a record was their daughter Saara, born in 1820:

Birth Record of Saara Schoenfeld 1820

Birth Record of Saara Schoenfeld 1820

In the year 1820 the fifteenth of October at twelve o´clock midday came to me, mayor and official for the civil registration of the comunity Erbes-Buedesheim Bernhard Schoenfeld, 51 years old, merchant, residing in Erbes-Buedesheim, who reported, that at the fifteenth October at two o´clock in the morning a child of female sex, whom he showed me, was born and whom he intends to give the name Saara, and he also reported, that he fathered the child with Rosina Goldmann, 41 years old, residing in Erbes-Buedesheim, his legal wife. This declaration and showing happened in presence of the witness Johannes Knobloch, 57 years old, farmer, and Jakob Landsberg, 28 years old, merchant, both residing in Erbes-Buedesheim, and have the father and the witnesses with me this present birth-certificate after it was read to them, signed. Signatures

In the midst of all these births, there was also a death.  On February 16, 1813, Salomon Schoenfeld, father of Bernard Schoenfeld, died at age 63 (or is that soixant treize meaning 73?).  His occupation was given as “cultivateur,” or cultivator, which I assume means that he was a farmer.  The witnesses to his death included Benoit Schoenfeld, his son, age 23, a “propietaire”  or owner, but no indication of what he owned.  This must have been a younger brother of Bernard since in 1813 Bernard would have been at least 40 years old.  (His age seems to vary from birth record to birth record.)

Death Record of Salomon Schoenfeld 1813

Death Record of Salomon Schoenfeld 1813

 

There is also a record for the birth of the child of an Isaac Schoenfeld and a Barbe Goldmann who is probably also a family member, though I am not sure what the exact connection was between these Goldmanns and Schoenfelds and Bernhard and Rosina, my 4x great-grandparents. But the number of marriages between a Schoenfeld man and a Goldmann woman are somewhat revealing.  Here is a third such marriage, this one between Rebeka (Rebecque) Schoenfeld, the daughter of Bernhard and Rosina,  and Salomon Goldmann.  Is it any surprise that Ashkenazi Jews come up with thousands of matches when DNA testing is done?  We are all interrelated at so many different levels.

Marriage Record for Rebecque/Rebkah Schoenfeld and Salomon Goldmann

Marriage Record for Rebecque/Rebkah Schoenfeld and Salomon Goldmann

 

 

In the year 1834 on the fifteenth October at ten o´clock pre midday came to me, Andreas Cronenberger mayor and official for the civil registration of the comunity Erbes-Buedesheim, county of Alzey:

Salomon Goldmann, 42 years old, merchant, residing in Kirchheimbolanden, Rhein-county, Bavaria, born in …thal, like it was presented to me by a certificate of the district-court Kirchheimbolanden from the 24th of December 1807, which was certified by the district-court in Mainz, the adult son of 1. Joseph Goldmann, 75 years old, during his lifetime a merchant in Kirchheimbolanden, deceased there the 8th of  November, 1800 (some parts here were cut off) 2. Friederike Goldmann, widow, nee Goldmann, 62 years old, without profession residing in Kirchheimbolanden and here present and giving her confirmation and who declared to be unable to write.

And on the other hand, Rebeka Schoenfeld (Schönfeld), 20 years old, born in Erbebudesheim in 1814, like I have seen in the present birth-register of the year 1814, without profession, in Erbes-Buedsheim residing.

Minor daughter of 1. Bernhard Schoenfeld, 62 years old, merchant and owner of a manor, in Erbes-Buedesheim residing. 2. Rosina Schoenfeld nee Goldmann, 55 years old, without profession, in Erbes-Buedesheim residing, both are present and giving their confirmation.

The appearing people asked me to do the marriage. The proclamation was published at the main-door of the comunity-building the September 24, 1834 at noon and the second the September 26 at noon in Erbes-Buedesheim and in Kirchheimbolanden the 14th of September the first time and the 21st of September of the same year the second time was made.

Due to the case, that no objections against this marriage appeared, and after reading the sixth chapter of the civil-rights-lawbook which is titled „about the marriage“ I asked them whether they want to marry each other. Both confirmed this question and I declared that Salomon Goldmann, widower from Kirchheimbolanden and the maiden Rebeka Schoenfeld of Erbes-Buedesheim are from now on connected by the matrimony.

About this act this certificate was made in presence of the following witnesses:

Georg Peter Erbach, 54 years old, member of the regional council and manor-owner in Erbes-Buedesheim, a neighbour of the bride, not related.  Johannes Klippel, 45 years old, farmer in Erbes-Buedesheim, not related, a neighbour of the bride, Christoph Zopf, 49 years old, farmer in Erbes-Buedesheim, not related, a neighbour of the bride,  Johannes Härter, 82 years old, comunity-servant in Erbes-Buedesheim, not related, a neighbour of the bride. After happened reading have all parts this document with me signed. Signatures

I have a couple of observations about this marriage certificate.  First, the groom was a widower and 24 years older than the bride.  Also, Rebeka was younger than her sister Babete or Babetta, my 3x-great-grandmother, yet married before her, even though this would appear to have been an arranged marriage.  Did Babetta object to marrying Salomon? Or did Salomon choose Rebeka over her older sister?

Also, I was struck by the fact that Bernard was described not just as a merchant, as he had been in the records of his children’s births, but as the owner of a manor.  Perhaps this explains why my Schoenfeld relatives were living in this small village with almost no Jewish residents.  Bernard must have  been quite successful to be a manor owner.

Two years after this wedding, Bernard Schoenfeld died.

Death record of Bernard Schoenfeld 1836

Death record of Bernard Schoenfeld 1836

In the year 1836 November 20th, at eight o´clock pre midday came to me, Andreas Cronenberger, mayor and official for the civil registration of the comunity Erbes-Buedesheim, county of Alzey, 1. the Jakob Landsberg, 46 years old, merchant in Erbes-Buedesheim residing, related as uncle of the below named deceased, and 2. Leopold Schoenfeld, 42 years old, merchant, in Erbes-Buedesheim residing, related as sibling of the below named deceased, and have reported to me that Bernhard Schoenfeld, 67 years old, merchant and manor-owner, born and residing in Erbes-Bueresheim, married to Rosina Schoenfeld, nee Goldmann ,56 years old, without profession, residing in Erbes-Buedesheim. Parents were: Salomon Schoenfeld, during lifetime merchant and manor-owner in  Erbes-Buedesheim, 2. Gertrude Schoenfeld nee Judah, during lifetime also residing in Erbes-Buedesheim.

Died November 1836 at three o´clock past midday in house nr 85 in the Hauptstrasse (Mainstreet) here is deceased and have the here present this certificate after it was read to them with me undersigned.

In this record, Bernard’s father Salomon is described as a merchant and manor owner, not a cultivator.  I am not sure how to reconcile that with the earlier record of Salomon’s death. The above record also reveals two more relatives: Leopold Schoenfeld, another brother of Bernard, and Jakob Landsberg, an uncle.  But Jakob Landsberg was over 20 years younger than Bernard.  Perhaps he was a nephew?  Leopold Schoenfeld’s headstone appeared in the video I posted in the last post.  Here’s a screenshot from that video:

Leopold Schoenfeld headstone

Leopold Schoenfeld headstone

Just a few months after Bernard Schoenfeld died, his daughter Babete, my 3-x great-grandmother, married Moritz Seligmann on February 14, 1837.

Marriage record of Babete Schoenfeld and Moritz Seligmann 1837

Marriage record of Babete Schoenfeld and Moritz Seligmann 1837

In the year 1837 the 14th of the month February, at three o´clock past midday to me, Peter Cronenberger, mayor and official for the civil registration of the comunity Erbes-Buedesheim, county of Alzey came:

Moritz Seligmann, 38 years old, widower of Eva Seligmann, nee Schoenfeld, deceased in Gaulsheim the 12th of May 1835 as it is written in the death-register of the comunity Gaulsheim of the year 1835, merchant, in Gau Algesheim residing, like it is in the birth-records of the community Gau Algesheim to find, adult son of 1. Jacob Seligmann, 63 years old, merchant, in Gaulsheim residing, 2. Martha Seligmann nee Mayer, 63 years old, in Gaulsheim residing, both not present, but giving their permission to this marriage according a notary-certificate of the notary Wieger in Gaulsheim from the 6th of February, 1837,

and on the other hand, Babete Schoenfeld, 26 years old, without profession, in Erbes-Buedesheim residing, born the February 28, 1810, like it is stated in the birth-register of the comunity Erbes-Buedesheim of the year 1810, adult daughter of 1. Bernhard Schoenfeld, during lifetime merchant, in Erbes-Buedesheim residing, deceased 19th of November 1836, as it is stated in the death-register of the comunity Erbes-Buedesheim, 2. Rosina Schoenfeld, nee Goldmann , 56 years old, in Erbes-Buedesheim residing, last named here present and consenting to the marriage. ….

Due to the case, that no objections against this marriage appeared, and after reading the sixth chapter of the civil-rights-lawbook which is titled ‘about the marriage,“ I asked them whether they want to marry each other. Both confirmed this question and I declared that Moritz Seligmann, merchant in Gau Algesheim residing and Babete Schoenfeld, without profession in Erbes-Buedesheim residing, are from now on legally connected by the matrimony.

About this act I made this certificate in the presence of the following witnesses: [Witnesses and signatures]

This marriage record answered a question that I had had about the two sisters both marrying Moritz Seligmann.  According to this record, Eva Schoenfeld had died on May 12, 1835.  Eva died in the aftermath of giving birth to her fourth child, Benjamin, who was born on May 10, 1835.

Her sister Babetta (as it was later spelled) became the instant mother of Eva’s four children, who then ranged in age from Benjamin, not yet two years old, to eight year old Sigmund, who would be the first to come to the US and settle in Santa Fe.  Babetta not only had these four children to care for; she must also have become  pregnant almost immediately after the wedding because my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman, obviously named for Babetta’s father Bernard Schoenfeld who had died the year before, was born on November 23, 1837, just nine months and nine days after the marriage.

The last record I received from Erbes-Budesheim was the death record for Rosina Goldmann Schoenfeld, dated July 19, 1862.  She was 84 years old.  She was my 4-x great-grandmother.  All I know about her is where she was born, her father’s name, her husband’s name, and the names of her children and some of her grandchildren.  I know that she lost one child at eight months old, an adult daughter in the aftermath of childbirth, and her husband almost thirty years before she died.  It’s not a lot, but it is remarkable to me that I know even that much about a woman who was born in the 18th century in Germany.

Death record of Rosina Goldmann Schoenfeld 1862

Death record of Rosina Goldmann Schoenfeld 1862

So what have I learned about my Schoenfeld ancestors and their lives in Erbes-Budesheim from all these documents?  First, they must have been one of only a very few Jewish families in Erbes-Budesheim if the total Jewish population was just 23 people.  Second, they must have been fairly comfortable living in that small town, living as merchants and manor owners.   But there was no future for their family in the town.  Bernard Schoenfeld and Rosina Goldmann had only daughters who survived to adulthood.   To find marriage partners for their daughters, Bernard and Rosina had to look outside of Erbes-Budesheim.  Their 20 year old daughter Rebeka Schoenfeld married a 44 year old widower from a town in Bavaria, about ten miles from Erbes-Budesheim.  Their daughter Eva married Moritz Seligmann and moved to Gau-Algesheim.  Then their daughter Babetta,  my 3-x great-grandmother, married Moritz after her sister died.  These young women must have had no choice but to marry and move away from Erbes-Budesheim.  No wonder the town’s Jewish population never grew and eventually declined and disappeared.

But the cemetery still exists, and Erbes-Budesheim is one more town to add to my list of ancestral towns I’d like to visit one day.

 

 

[1] Gerd Braun did not use the Hebrew terms “ben” or “bat” for son or daughter of, but simply referred to them as, for example, Baehr Salomon.  I am assuming, however, based on Jewish practice, that the second name would have been the father’s first name.  Thus, Baehr Salomon is really Baehr son of (ben) Salomon.

[2] According to Wikipedia,  Frimaire “was the third month in the French Republican Calendar. The month was named after the French word frimas, which means frost. Frimaire was the third month of the autumn quarter (mois d’automne). It started between November 21 and November 23. It ended between December 20 and December 22. It follows the Brumaire and precedes the Nivôse.”  Benedict was thus born about December 6.

[3] Messidor in the French Republic Calendar was equivalent to June 19 to July 18.  The 17th would be equivalent to July 6.

Simon L.B. Cohen 1898-1934: A Story about the Horrors of War

The youngest child of Reuben and Sallie Cohen was Simon L. B. Cohen.  He was born on February 25, 1898, in Philadelphia, and spent his childhood in Philadelphia and Cape May like his siblings.

When he was nineteen years old, he voluntarily enlisted in the US Army as a private in the infantry.  According to a questionnaire he completed for the American Jewish Committee, he had been a professional boxer before enlisting.  While in the service, Simon was promoted to sergeant and served in the machine gun battalion.  He was wounded in March, 1918, while fighting with his battalion in France.  In the questionnaire for the American Jewish Committee, he provided this detailed description of the battle in his own hand.

Simon L B Cohen  American Jewish Committee questionnaire

Simon L B Cohen
American Jewish Committee questionnaire

Simon page 4

I will try to transcribe it as best I can, preserving the original spelling and punctuation as well as Simon’s expressive language:

Entered the firing lines March 1, 1918, action commenced March 4, 1918; March 17 gas barrage lasting seventy-two hours, followed by a box barrage under my battalion stood the strain for five hours being boxed in by curtains of bursting shells on all sides of us preparing for an advance.  We were met by a creeping barrage in front of us followed by masses of German soldiers advancing towards us, with all of our machine guns in action mowing them down to the best of our abilities, and having us at such strong odds, our battalion being reduced from twelve hundred and fifty to two men; myself and another man.  The other man mentioned was wounded by having his left arm and right leg shot off, forcing me to take the gun, upon taking the gun, a wave of German soldiers advanced, which I mowed down, following them came another wave of German soldiers which I done likewise; Evidently the third wave arrived of which there was no evidence except the fact they used their own dead comrades bodies out of first and second waves piling them higher than a man head using them for breast works over which they fired at me. While laying there I heard reinforcements of ours arriving. Orders were given after they arrived for me to cease firing, and they went over the top but were compelled to come back, as it was impossible for them to advance through the dead German bodies, had to send working parties out so as throw the dead German bodies aside, So as infantry could advance. Seemed at that moment a black curtain fell before my eyes, and knew nothing more for three days. When I come too and found I was in the hospital at Baccarac where I was decorated by General Foch with Croix de Guerre.

I have read plenty of literature about the horrors of war, from All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque to The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, among many other fictional and factual accounts of battles and the horrible things that young people experience and see when serving as soldiers.  But I have never read one by someone related to me, someone whose family I had been researching and writing about for days and weeks before reading this account.  This was a boy, the baby of his family, one of the few children who had survived to be a young man out of the seventeen children born to his parents.  He grew up with a successful father and lived a life of relative luxury and comfort, spending summers at the seaside in Cape May.  He had many older siblings and his parents who must have treasured him as one of the few who had survived.

And then he volunteered to help his country and was exposed to this:  Being one of two of 1250 young men to survive being mowed down by other young men, seeing his friends and comrades die before him.  Killing probably many, many other young men who happened to be German by “mowing them down” with a machine gun.  Watching them use the bodies of their own dead comrades as protection on the battlefield and then watching his own countrymen throw those bodies aside so that they could advance against those other young men.  How could a nineteen year old boy like Simon watch and experience these things and not be scarred forever? What does something like that do to someone?

Simon’s story did not end there.  As he mentioned in his account, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre by General Ferdinand Foch, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces,  while in the hospital recovering from his injuries.  As he described that occasion, he was decorated by General Foch, who pinned the medal on his breast, “kissed [him] on both cheeks and expressed his appreciation for [Simon’s] bravery.”  Simon was also recommended by General Pershing for a Distinguished Service Cross.

English: Hand-colored photograph of French Gen...

General Ferdinand Foch, Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, World War I

Do these medals and honors make up for the pain and suffering and mental distress that he endured? Simon recognized that the war had had a psychological effect on him. On the questionnaire, Simon mentioned that he suffered from shell shock or what we today call post-traumatic stress syndrome.  He was rightfully recognized for his service and his sacrifices, but for me, that hardly makes up for the price he paid while engaged in that service.

Croix-de-Guerre awarded to Simon L B Cohen 1918

Croix-de-Guerre awarded to Simon L B Cohen 1918

Croix-de-Gurre-Back Simon LB Cohen

To make matters even worse, his family back home was subjected to extraordinary emotional distress.  As this news article from the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, Simon had been mistakenly reported as killed in action while he was actually recuperating in France.  Only after an officer was surprised to see that Simon was not being sent back home to recover did he and Simon learn that Simon had been thought to be dead.  (“239 Phila. Soldiers Killed during War Two Soldiers Reported Dead Yesterday with 10 Wounded,”  Thursday, September 12, 1918 Paper: Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Volume: 179 Issue: 74 Page: 14)

simon alive

Imagine thinking that your youngest son had been killed.  Imagine that after already losing ten of your children you were told that another had died.  Then imagine the shock, the relief, the joy, maybe the anger you would feel when told that he was in fact alive.

So Simon did come home, and by 1920 he was back living with his parents and some of his siblings in Cape May.  The 1920 census reports that he had no occupation.  However, by 1930 he was married, living in Cape May, and working as a clerk for some company I cannot decipher on the census report.  He and his wife Myrtle had only been married for one year.  Simon’s father Reuben, Sr., had died just four years before in 1926.  His mother Sallie died in 1930.  Four years later, Simon himself died on October 24, 1934.  He was only 36 years old.  I plan to order his death certificate from the State of New Jersey, but thus far I have not found any explanation of his cause of death.  I won’t speculate, though I have some thoughts.

Simon was buried in Cold Spring Presbyterian Cemetery near Cape May. Five years after his death, Simon’s older brother Arthur L.W. Cohen, Sr., applied for a military headstone to mark his brother’s grave.  His short life must be remembered not only because he served his country proudly and bravely, but also because for me it will always be a reminder of the horrible things we do to these brave and proud young people when we send them off to war.

Simon LB headstone request

 

Maurice Goldschlager

A number of the photographs I received from Robin were of her father, my uncle, Maurice (Mike) Goldschlager.  I asked Robin to provide me with some information about her father’s life to fill in what I know so that I could write a short biography to go with her photos.  Much of this was new information to me.  What I knew of my uncle was that he was a man who had a wonderful sense of humor, a big tease who pinched our ears whenever we saw him, a man who loved his family, animals and the outdoors, a good businessman, a man who had served his country proudly, a man who was full of passion and loved life.

Isadore Gussie Maurice and Elaine about 1923

Isadore Gussie Maurice and Elaine about 1923

Maurice Lawrence (really Leon but he hated that name) was born June 10, 1919, the second child of Isadore and Gussie Goldschlager.  He was named for Isadore’s father, Moritz.  My mother has a book with some notes that her big brother wrote about his activities when he was a boy, and as I recall, he was keeping track of the number of animals he had captured.  I don’t have access to the notebook right now, but that’s my vague recollection.  Once I can get that notebook again, I will update this and scan some of his handwritten notes.

Maurice 1939

Maurice 1939

Here is a picture of Maurice in 1941 when he was twenty-two before he enrolled in the Army Air Corps to serve in World War II.

Maurice Labor Day 1941

Maurice Labor Day 1941

He enrolled on September 25, 1942 and served until the end of the war.  He was a staff sergeant and a tail gunner on a B 12 bomber.  He was stationed in North Africa and flew missions over Italy and France.  The day before he returned to the US, his tent caught fire, and he lost everything but what he was wearing.  Although I never heard my uncle talk specifically about his war experiences, we all knew that he was very proud of his service and remained close to many of his army buddies.  He had his wings made into an ID bracelet which his son Jim now wears in his memory.

Maurice at Aerial Gunnery School in Kingman, AZ

Maurice at Aerial Gunnery School in Kingman, AZ

Maurice 1942

Maurice 1942

Tilly with nephew Maurice 1944

Tilly with nephew Maurice 1944

Maurice 1942

At the end of the war he was stationed in New Jersey where he met Lynn Brodsky.  As Robin reported in my earlier post, it was love at first sight, and they were married on his birthday, June 10, 1945.

Maurice and Lynn 1946

Maurice and Lynn 1946

  They settled in New Jersey until Maurice had a run-in with his boss and lost his job.  Lynn’s uncle, Kurt Leopold, owned a meat packing company, Union Meat, in Hartford, Connecticut, and offered Maurice a job and a place to live until he and Lynn could get settled in Connecticut.  Maurice worked for Union Meat for several years and then started his own business with his partners Eric and Kurt Strauss called National Packing.  Lynn had a sign made with the National Packing logo that hung in their family room in West Hartford; my cousin Beth now has it hanging in her kitchen.

National Packing sign on fireplace behind Maurice and Lynn

National Packing sign on fireplace behind Maurice and Lynn

Maurice and Lynn 1967

Maurice and Lynn 1967

Maurice and Lynn had three daughters, my cousins Beth, Suzie and Robin.  Sadly, Lynn’s life was cut short on September 5, 1967 when she died of breast cancer at age 44.

Maurice was very fortunate to find love again with Diane Crone Schaler, who happened to be Lynn’s first cousin.  He and Diane married and had a son, Jim (James Ian).  In addition, Diane had two children from her first marriage, George and Leslie, and they all moved in together in Bloomfield, Connecticut, in a house that not only was filled with teenagers and one small boy, but also lots of animals—dogs, cats, horses, even chickens, ducks and geese, as I recall.

Beth, George, Sue, Leslie, Jim/Jamie, Robin

Beth, George, Sue, Leslie, Jim/Jamie, Robin

Diane and Maurice

Diane and Maurice

The whole family in BloomfieldThe whole family in Bloomfield plus some visitors

But tragedy struck again on April 24, 1978, when Maurice was killed in a freak accident while riding a lawn mower down an incline on the property in Bloomfield.  He was only 58 years old.   It was hard to believe that a man who was so full of love and life was gone so suddenly.  His name lives on through his many namesakes and in our memories and in these pictures.

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