The Fate of the Children of Moses Katz, Part II

This was a painful post to research and write. It was made even more painful by the events in Charlottesville this past weekend. How can we still be seeing swastikas and Nazis in 2017? How do people learn to hate those who differ from them? When will we ever conquer racism and prejudice of all kinds?

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In my last post, I wrote about the family of Markus Katz, the oldest son of Moses Katz and Malchen Wetterhahn. Markus died before the Holocaust, and his wife Nanny was murdered by the Nazis. Fortunately, however, their three children—Maurice, Mali, and Senta—escaped in time.

Tragically, not all of Moses and Malchen’s descendants were able to escape. My thanks to David Baron and Barbara Greve for their research and help in uncovering some of the records and facts included in this post.

Rickchen Katz, the oldest child of Moses and Amalia Katz, died of cancer in Frielendorf on September 15, 1933. Given the ultimate fate of her husband and children, that might very well have been a blessing.

Death record of Rickchen Katz Moses, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 166,p. 54

I don’t know the details of what happened to the family in the 1930s, but according to the research done by Barbara Greve and reported on the Juden in Nordhessen website, Rickchen’s husband Abraham Moses committed suicide on June 13, 1940. He had moved to Frankfurt with his three daughters, Rosa/Rebecca, Amalie, and Recha. Imagine how intolerable his life must have become under Nazi rule for him to take such drastic action.

In November, 1941, Rickchen and Abraham’s daughter Rosa/Rebecca and her husband, Julius Katz, and their teenage son Guenther, were deported from Frankfurt to Minsk, where it is presumed that all three were killed. Amalie, Rosa’s sister, also was deported to Minsk at that time and is also presumed to have been killed there. I have no further record for Amalie’s twin Recha. I assume she also was a victim of the Holocaust. (All the links here are to the Yad Vashem entries for those individuals.) Thus, all of the children of Rickchen Katz and Abraham Moses were murdered by the Nazis.

Jacob M Katz, the second oldest son of Moses and Malchen Katzhad been in the US for many years by 1930, having arrived in 1908, as I wrote about here.  He had settled in Oklahoma, where in 1930 he was married to Julia Meyer and had a teenage son, Julian. They were living in Wolf, Oklahoma, where Jacob was working in a dry goods store.  According to the 1940 census, by 1935 Jacob and Julia had moved to Pawnee, Oklahoma, and in 1940 Jacob was a men’s clothing merchant there. Julia’s sister Rose was also living with them.

Jacob M Katz and family, 1940 census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Pawnee, Pawnee, Oklahoma; Roll: T627_3322; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 59-21

But by 1942 when he registered for the World War II draft, Jacob and Julia had moved to Vallejo, California, where Jacob was working for the Kirby Shoe Company.  I do not know what took them to California; their son Julian had married by then, but was still living in Oklahoma. Jacob died in San Francisco in 1956; Julia died the following year, also in San Francisco.

Jacob M Katz, 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

Lena Katz, one of the three children of Moses and Malchen still in Germany in the 1930s and their third oldest child, survived the Holocaust. Her husband Hermann Katz had died on November 2, 1929, in Marburg, Germany, but Lena and their three children—Bertha, Moritz, and Amalie—all left Germany before 1940.

Her son Moritz left first, arriving in the US on November 14, 1936.  He listed his occupation as a butcher and listed Maurice Mink, his aunt Julias husband, as the person he knew in the United States.  His final destination was listed as Cleveland, Oklahoma, where Julia Katz Mink (the youngest daughter of Moses and Malchen) and her husband Maurice Mink were then living.  Perhaps not coincidentally, his cousin Julius Katz, son of Aron Katz, was on the same ship, as noted in an earlier post.

Moritz Katz manifest, line 19, Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5900; Line: 1; Page Number: 146
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,

Lena and her daughter Amalie were the next to arrive; they sailed together along with Amalie’s husband Max Blum and their daughter and arrived in New York on April 1, 1938.  They all listed Jacob M. Katz in Pawnee, Oklahoma, Lena’s brother, as the person they were going to in the United States. Max listed his occupation as a cattle trader. (Lena, spelled Lina here, is listed on a separate page of the manifest from the Blum family.)

Lina Katz on manifest, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6134; Line: 1; Page Number: 98

Max and Amalie (Katz) Blum and family, lines 3-5, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6134; Line: 1; Page Number: 88
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

The next family members to arrive were the three young children of Lena’s daughter Bertha and her husband Siegmund Sieferheld; they were only twelve and eight years old (the younger two were twins) and sailed on a ship that seemed to have many children; it arrived in New York on February 6, 1940.  The ship manifest listed the German Jewish Children’s Aid Society as the entity responsible for receiving these children.

Children of Bertha Katz Sieferheld, passenger manifest, lines 5-7. Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6443; Line: 1; Page Number: 40
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6443
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

According to the Leo Baeck Institute, “The German-Jewish Children’s Aid Society was formed in New York in 1934 by a coalition consisting of the New York Foundation, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, B’nai B’rith, the Hofmeimer Foundation, the American Jewish Committee and the Women’s Committee of the American Jewish Congress. These organizations contributed the funds for the German-Jewish Children’s Aid to operate. The purpose of the German-Jewish Children’s Aid was to act as the receiving organization for unaccompanied or orphaned children emigrating from Europe to the United States. It acted as financial sponsor for the children (to avoid their “becoming a public charge”) and attempted to secure housing or foster home placement. ”

A more extensive description of the organization can be found here.  It describes the incredible work done by Americans, Jews and non-Jews, to rescue over a thousand children from the Nazis—certainly a small drop in the bucket considering the number of children who were murdered, but without organizations like the German-Jewish Children’s Aid Society, many more, perhaps including the three children of Bertha Katz and Siegmund Sieferheld, would also have been killed.

When I try to imagine the desperation of these parents—sending their young children off on a ship, not knowing whether they’d ever see them again—and the fear of those children, leaving their parents and the only home they’d ever known, I have to stop and catch my breath. I think of my seven year old grandson, just a year younger than Bertha’s twins. It is just too painful, too unimaginable, to visualize him being torn away from his parents and his parents being torn away from him.

The 1940 census shows Lena and almost all of her children and grandchildren living together in Detroit; Moritz, listed as the head of household on the 1940 census, was working as a sausage maker in a butcher shop.  Lena’s daughter Mali and her husband Max Blum were both working in a packing house. And the three young children of Bertha  and Siegmund Sieferheld, Tillie, Werner, and Henry, were also living with Lena, Moritz, and Mali. Their parents Bertha and Siegmund were still in Germany, separated from the rest of their family.

In addition, Lena’s younger sister Julia Katz Mink (listed as a widow here) was also living with them. Julia had apparently separated from her husband Maurice by 1930, when they were living separately in Cleveland, Oklahoma. Her daughter had married by 1940 and was living elsewhere. Julia died in 1971 in Montclair, New Jersey.

Lena Katz and extended family, 1940 census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T627_1881; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 84-1383

So as of 1940, all but Lena’s daughter Bertha and her husband Siegmund had escaped from Germany; their three young children, however, were safely with their grandmother Lena and aunt Amalie and uncle Moritz.

And then finally Bertha and Siegmund arrived on April 15, 1940.  They were sailing with two older women also named Sieferheld—perhaps Siegmund’s mother and aunt. They listed Detroit as their destination and M. Katz, Bertha’s brother Moritz, as the person they were going to. Siegmund listed no occupation.

 

Siegmund and Bertha (Katz) Sieferheld manifest, lines 18-21, Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6458; Line: 1; Page Number: 130
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6458
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

How very fortunate Lena and her family were—all of them reunited safely in Detroit by April, 1940. Sadly, Lena died from cancer on December 25, 1941, just twenty months after having her whole family reunited in Detroit.  She was 69 years old.

Thus, almost all of the children of Moses Katz survived the Holocaust—all but the children of Rickchen, who were murdered. Even those who were fortunate enough to survive, however, must have borne some scars from what they had experienced. Words like “fortunate” and “survived” are just not the right words to use in writing about something as horrific as the Holocaust.  I find myself just unable to find any right words. I don’t think there are any.

And to think that there are still people out there, chanting for hate and waving Nazi flags.

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This brings me to the end of the story of the children of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz. From Abraham Katz and Samuel Katz, who came as young men in the 1860s and settled first in Kentucky before moving to Oklahoma and Nebraska, to Jake and Ike Katz who came thirty years later as young men and started a department store business that grew to be a small empire in Oklahoma, to the many family members  who were killed in the Holocaust and those who were able to escape the Nazis in the 1930s, the Katzenstein/Katz family demonstrated over and over that they were willing to take risks, to help each other, and to work hard for success.  I am so fortunate to have been able to connect with so many of their descendants, who continue to exhibit that strong sense of family and that drive to succeed. To me that seems quite remarkable, but given the spirit of adventure and commitment to family exhibited by all the children of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz, perhaps it really is not.

 

 

 

The Family of Moses Katz, Part I: Markus Katz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Legacy of Jake Katz: One More Family Rescued and a Remarkable Life

The last child of Meier and Sprinzchen Katz to leave Germany was their son Aron, who had been his younger brother Karl’s partner in the cattle trading business in Jesberg.

The family of Aron Katz and Sara Leiser: rear, Julius, Aron, Jack; front, Sara.
Courtesy of the family of Fred Katz

As noted in an earlier post, Aron’s son Jacob, known as Jack, had left Germany for the US in 1926 and was living with Jake Katz and his family in Stillwater in the 1930s, working in the Katz department store there.

Aron’s son Julius arrived on November 4, 1936, on the same ship as his cousin Moritz Katz, son of Moses Katz’s daughter Lena. Julius listed himself as a cattle trader and said he was headed to his uncle “Jakob” Katz in “Chillwater,” Oklahoma.

Julius Katz manifest, line 6Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5900; Line: 1; Page Number: 146
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,

On February 22, 1939, Aron and his wife Sara finally arrived from Germany. Fred Katz told me that Aron had been quite resistant to leaving Germany, believing like so many others that things would not get too bad. Thank goodness Aron realized how wrong he was before it was too late.  When the war in Europe started just a little over six months later, it became much more difficult for Jews to leave Germany.

Aron and Sara listed their son Jacob (Jack) Katz of Stillwater, Oklahoma, as the person who was receiving them, but handwritten in is the additional notation that they were also going to Aron’s brother Jake at the same address. Aron reported that he was a merchant.

Aron and Sara Katz, ship manifest, lines 4-5, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6291; Line: 1; Page Number: 141
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

In 1940, Aron and Sara were living in Stillwater like so many other members of the extended family.

As mentioned in the post about Walter  and Max Katz, Aron and Sara’s older son Jack Katz was in the US Army during World War II and stationed for some time in Germany. Jack was 31 when he registered for the draft in October, 1940.  He was living in Stillwater and working Katz Department Store there. I don’t know the details of his service other than what was described by Walter, but his draft card indicates that he was discharged on November 2, 1945.

Jack Katz Draft Registration
Page 1 – Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations 15-Oct-1909

After he returned home Jack married Helen Oppenheimer of Jackson, Missouri, on August 18, 1947.

Jack’s brother Julius registered for the draft in October, 1940. At the time he was living in Oklahoma City and listed his employer as Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty was a supermarket chain owned by Sylvan Goldman, the son-in-law of Jake Katz and husband of his daughter Margaret Katz. As I wrote previously, Sylvan and his brother Alfred had married the two daughters of Jake Katz, Margaret and Helen (respectively). The Goldman brothers were in the grocery business together.

The Oklahoma Historical Society website provides this description of the history of the Goldman brothers’ grocery business:

After World War I… [Sylvan and] Alfred opened Goldman Brother’s Wholesale Fruits and Produce in Breckenridge, Texas. Years later, while living in California, Sylvan and Alfred were intrigued by a new type of grocery store that offered all products under one roof—the supermarket. The brothers returned to Oklahoma in order to bring this new way of shopping to their home state. With Sylvan serving as president and Alfred as vice president of Sun Grocery Company, they opened a store on April 3, 1920, at 1403 East Fifteenth Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One year later there were twenty-one Sun Grocery markets throughout the state.

In 1929 Sylvan and Alfred sold the Sun chain to Skaggs-Safeway Stores, and in 1934 Sylvan purchased the faltering Humpty-Dumpty grocery chain. The chain was revived in part due to Goldman’s revolutionary advertising and enlightened personnel policies. His greatest contribution was the shopping cart, invented in 1936 and patented by Goldman. He established the Folding Basket Carrier Company to manufacture his invention. It was just the beginning of a list of creations that revolutionized the grocery industry: the grocery sacker, the folding interoffice basket carrier, and the handy milk bottle rack.

The New York Times described Sylvan’s invention of the shopping cart in Sylvan’s 1984 obituary:

With help from a carpenter and a maintenance man, and with a folding chair as a model, he built the first grocery cart in the mid-1930’s. Shoppers were reluctant to use it, so Mr. Goldman hired people to push loaded carts back and forth in front of a store. He also hired a woman to offer the carts to customers as they entered.  “Sylvan N. Goldman, 86, Dies; Inventor of the Shopping Cart,” The New York Times, November 27, 1984.

After Alfred Goldman died on July 9, 1937, while vacationing in New York City, Sylvan continued the business, and Julius Katz, Aron’s son, was working for him in the Oklahoma City store at the time he registered for the draft in 1940. More information about Sylvan Goldman can be found here, here, here, and in this video:

Julius Katz was still living in Oklahoma City in 1943 when he became a naturalized citizen. He listed his occupation as farming in 1937 when he filed his Declaration of Intent, but the Petition for Naturalization does not reveal what his occupation was at the time.

Julius Katz Declaration of Intent
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship , compiled 1908 – 1932; ARC Number: 731206; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Oklahoma City Declarations of Intention, 1932-1974 (Box 1)
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, Naturalization Records, 1889-1991

Aron Katz died on October 19, 1950. He was seventy-five years old and was buried in Stillwater.

On November 15, 1953, his son Julius married Seena Hana Kaufman in Kansas City, Missouri:

Marriage record of Julius Katz and Seena Kaufman
Ancestry.com. Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.
Original data: Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. Microfilm.

The marriage must not have lasted, however, because two years later in 1955, Seena is listed under her birth name in the Kansas City directory.

Julius died on August 7, 1963.  According to his obituary, his body was discovered at his farm by his brother. The obituary described Julius as a “well-known Payne County farmer and rancher with operations north of Stillwater.”  The only survivors mentioned were his mother and his brother Jack. “Funeral Services Slated  Friday for Julius Katz, Stillwater Newspress, August 8, 1963, p. 8.

Aron’s wife Sarah died three years after her son at age 88 on December 18, 1966. She was survived by her son Jack, who died in Dallas, Texas, on August 27, 1997.  He was 87 years old. Like his father, mother, and brother, he was buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Stillwater.

Thus, all of the children of Meier Katz and Sprinzchen Jungenheim—Jake, Aron, Ike, Regina, and Karl and all their children—ultimately left Germany and settled safely in the United States, almost all of them in Oklahoma. Some came as early as the 1890s, other as late as the 1930s. As for those who came in the 1930s, it is tempting to think that it was a miracle that the entire family survived the Holocaust, but it was probably more a combination of luck, courage, and their own determined efforts and those of their family in America—especially those of Jake Katz—that got them out of Germany in time.

As for Jake Katz himself, recall that by 1930 he had lost his wife Sophia as well as his son Albert Jerome. Thanks to Jake’s great-granddaughter, I now have photographs of Jake and Sophia’s three children, Albert Jerome, Margaret, and Helen:

Albert Jerome Katz in rear, Helen Katz and Margaret “Babe” Katz seated with unknown cousins on laps
Courtesy of the Goldman family

Perhaps some Katz family member can identify the two unknown little cousins? Since we know Albert Jerome died in 1919, I am assuming this photo was taken in about 1918, meaning the two young children were likely born in 1916-1917. I am thinking one might be the daughter of Lester Katz and Mayme Salzenstein, Mildred “Bobbie,” since she was born in January 1916 and was related to Jake and Sophia on both sides, Lester being Jake’s cousin and Mayme being Sophia’s sister.

Here is Jake Katz with all three of his children:

Albert Jerome Katz in rear,
Margaret “Babe” Katz, Jake Katz, and Helen Katz seated
Courtesy of the Goldman family

Family members tell me that after Albert Jerome died, Sophia did not want to continue living in the house where their son had lived, so Jake sold it to a sorority.  After Sophia died, he bought the house back from the sorority. Family members recall his home as a family gathering place where children played hide and seek.  There were frequent Sunday dinners where the extended family would come to visit, and Jake always had either a silver dollar or a Hershey’s kiss for every child. Jake’s great-niece Ester wrote about Jake and his role in saving the family on her blog, It’s All from Hashem in her post Thoughts of a Libra. 

Jake Katz died on July 2, 1968, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He was 94 years old. His obituary made the front page of the Stillwater Newspress (July 3, 1968)[There is one error here; Sophia Salzenstein Katz did not die fifteen years after they were married; she died in 1930.]

Stillwater Newspress, July 3, 1968, p. 1
Jake Katz obituary

Jake Katz was truly a remarkable man. He came to the US as a young teenager, traveling alone. He worked with family members until he was able to strike out on his own, and then he started a department store business that expanded over the years and ultimately supported many members of his extended family. He rescued several of his siblings and their children from Nazi Germany. And he did all of this despite suffering the tragic loss of his son Albert Jerome and the premature death of his wife. He is remembered with great love and admiration by many members of the family who knew him.  It is quite a legacy.

His daughters Margaret and Helen survived him. Margaret died in 1984, followed just a few weeks later by her husband, the grocery store magnate and shopping cart inventor Sylvan Goldman. Helen died in 1999. Jake’s three grandsons also have passed away, but he is survived today by two great-grandchildren.

 

The Family of Regina Katz and Nathan Goldenberg—Escaping the Nazis

When Hitler came to power in 1933, three of the five children of Meier Katz and Sprinzchen Jungheim were still living in Germany: Aron, Regina, and Karl.  Through the moving memoir of Fred Katz  and the oral history of Walter Katz, we’ve seen how Karl Katz and his family were finally able to leave Jesberg by December, 1938. His sons Walter and Max had left earlier, and Karl, his wife Jettchen, and youngest son Fred left soon after Kristallnacht. All had settled in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with the help of Karl’s oldest brother, Jake.

Jake wasn’t only helpful to Karl’s family. Karl and his family had been preceded by his sister Regina and her family—her husband Nathan Goldenberg and their three children, Bernice, Theo and Albert.

Theo, Bernice, and Albert Goldenberg
Courtesy of the Goldenberg family

Theo was the first of Regina and Nathan’s family to leave Germany, arriving in New York on August 17, 1934, when he was twenty years old. Thanks to Theo’s granddaughter Abbi, I have some documents that reflect Theo’s work history and reputation before he left Germany. Special thanks to Doris Strohmenger and Heike Keohane of the German Genealogy group on Facebook for translating these documents for me.

This first letter, written November 14, 1932, when Theo was eighteen, is from his employer, A. Bachenheimer, a clothing manufacturing company, where Theo had been first an apprentice and then a salesman; he’d started when he was fourteen years old. The letter describes him as an honest, efficient and diligent salesman.

The second letter is from the next employer, Josef Volk, another clothing manufacturer, where Theo worked from December, 1932, until July 1933; this letter also describes him as willing, honest, and industrious. I am not sure where Theo went next or why he left this company, but given that Hitler had been elected by then and the boycott of Jewish businesses had been declared in April 1933, I assume there was some connection.

Theo left Germany a little over a year later. He filed a certificate of deregistration with the community of Kestrich on August 6, 1934, indicating that he was leaving the community.

He sailed on the SS New York with his cousin, Helma Goldenberg, who was 22 and a nurse. Theo listed his occupation as “clerk” and his final destination as Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he was going to his uncle Jake Katz. (Helma was going to Georg Goldenberg, her uncle, who was in New York City.) As my cousin Marsha learned when she interviewed Theo in 1993, Jake met Theo at the boat in New York when he arrived and provided him with land to farm when they returned to Oklahoma.  Theo told Marsha he “owed it all to Jake.”

Theo Goldenberg ship manifest, line 19, Year: 1934; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5531; Line: 1; Page Number: 39
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Theo’s sister Bernice and her family were the next to arrive in the US.  Bernice was married to Julius Katz, who was born in Steinbach, Germany. They had a son Henry.  I knew that the family had arrived by 1940 because they are listed as living in Brooklyn on the 1940 census. Julius was working as a wholesale butcher, and Bernice as a dressmaker. But I could not find a passenger manifest for them.  When I look back on it, I am not sure why it was so hard to locate. But I thought it might be worthwhile sharing what I did and how I finally found them.

Because all I had was the 1940 census, I used the names and ages on that census to search for a manifest. I searched for Bernice Katz, Julius Katz, Henry Katz, and Julius’ mother and sister, Violet and Bette Katz. I searched for any ship arriving between 1935 and 1940 because I knew from the census that they were still in Germany in 1935. But nothing came up that seemed right.

Bernice Goldenberg and Julius Katz and family, 1940 census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Kings, New York; Roll: T627_2611; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 24-2457

Then I searched to see if I could find more specific information about Julius and his mother and sister—when and where were they born? Nothing came up. Finally, I searched for obituaries, and although I found a SSDI record showing that Bernice had died in Fairfield, Connecticut in 1985, I could not find any obituaries. I was stumped.

So I decided to ask the family for help.  I sent Theo’s son Nate a message on Facebook, asking whether he knew when Bernice had arrived and whether her son Henry was still alive. Nate knew that Henry had died within the last few years so I narrowed my obituary search to the last few years, and Henry’s obituary immediately appeared.  It revealed, among other things, that Henry and his family had arrived in 1936. It also revealed that Henry was born in 1931, not 1933, as the 1940 census had indicated. (Hartford Courant, January 17, 2015)

That led me to a specific search for any Katz arriving in 1936 in New York City—with no limits on ages or names.  And this time the search immediately produced the right result: a ship manifest for Julius Katz, Berni Katz, Heinz [Henry] Katz, Veilchen [Violet] Katz, and Betty Katz arriving in New York on April 10, 1936.  Julius Katz listed his occupation as an animal dealer, and they were all heading to New York City where Julius’ brother Leopold Katz was living.

Bernice Goldenberg Katz and family on ship manifest, lines 9-13, Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5787; Line: 1; Page Number: 176
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

How had I missed this before? I am not sure.  Yes, all the ages were off.  Julius is listed as 37 on the 1936 manifest, but is listed as 48 four years later on the 1940 census; Bernice, who is listed as 29 on the manifest, is lasted as 37 on the 1940 census. Henry, as noted, was two years younger on the census than he was on the ship manifest. Had I searched too narrowly by those birth years? I don’t know.  All I know is that I was very grateful to my cousin Nate for providing me with enough information to narrow my search and find the passenger manifest for his aunt Bernice and her family.

On July 2, 1936, less than three months after Bernice and her family arrived, Nathan and Regina (Katz) Goldenberg and their son Albert arrived from Germany. (Regina is listed as Rosa here.) Nathan’s occupation was a cattle dealer, and Albert, who was sixteen, was an apprentice.  Here is Nathan’s business identification card from Germany:

They were headed to Stillwater, Oklahoma, going to Jake Katz and also joining their son Theo.

Nathan Goldenberg and family, ship manifest, lines 1-3, Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5825; Line: 1; Page Number: 20
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 5825
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Here are their German passports:

Nathan Goldenberg passport

Regina Katz Goldenberg passport

 

Albert Goldenberg passport

In 1940, Nathan, Regina, Theo, and Albert were all living together in Stillwater where Nathan and Albert were farming, and Theo was a salesman in a clothing store—Katz Department Store in Stillwater.

Nathan Goldenberg and family, 1940 census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Stillwater, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: T627_3323; Page: 19A; Enumeration District: 60-33
Description

Thus, the entire family of Nathan and Regina (Katz) Goldenberg had safely left Germany before 1940.. Theo filed a Declaration of Intent to become a US citizen on February 7, 1936, his brother filed on February 10, 1938, his father Nathan filed one on December 29, 1938, and his mother Regina had done the same on August 18, 1941.  All must have been very relieved to be safely living in Stillwater and anxious to become American citizens.

Theo Goldenberg Declaration of Intent
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Petitions 1932 – 1991; ARC Number: 731222; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Oklahoma City Petitions, 1954-1957 (Box 6; Volume 14-17)
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, Naturalization Records, 1889-1991

Albert Goldenberg Declaration of Intent
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship , compiled 1908 – 1932; ARC Number: 731206; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Oklahoma City Declarations of Intention, 1932-1974 (Box 1)
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, Naturalization Records, 1889-1991

Nathan Goldenberg Declaration of Intention
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship , compiled 1908 – 1932; ARC Number: 731206; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Oklahoma City Declarations of Intention, 1932-1974 (Box 2)
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, Naturalization Records, 1889-1991

Regina Katz Goldenberg Declaration of Intent
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship , compiled 1908 – 1932; ARC Number: 731206; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Oklahoma City Declarations of Intention, 1932-1974 (Box 2)
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, Naturalization Records, 1889-1991

Albert and Theo both registered for the draft, Theo on October 16, 1940, and  Albert on July 1, 1941. Both were working at Katz Department Store in Stillwater at the time of their registrations.

Theo Goldenberg draft registration
Page 1 – Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations 1940
Web Address
http://www.fold3.com/image/612584757?xid=1945

Albert Goldenberg draft card
Page 1 – Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations 1941
Web Address
http://www.fold3.com/image/612584753?xid=1945

Tragically, the family was to suffer two terrible losses not that long after settling in the United States. First, on March 17, 1944, Nathan Goldenberg died. He was only 67 years old. According to his obituary, he had been ill for some time. His two sons were in the military at the time of his death; Theo was a corporal in the US Army stationed in Garden City, Kansas, and Albert was a private, first class, stationed in the Pacific Theater. “Goldenberg Rites Sunday,” Stillwater Newspress, March 17, 1944, p.3.

Just three months later on July 12, 1944, Albert was killed in action serving his adopted country. According to his obituary, he had been inducted into the army on December 1, 1941, just six days before Pearl Harbor.  He had trained at Camp Barkley in Texas and was serving with the medical corps attached to the 105th Infantry in Saipan when he was killed. He was only 24 years old at the time of his death. “Services Set for Goldenberg, Stillwater Newspress, June 16, 1948, p. 8.

Albert Goldenberg,  courtesy of the Goldenberg family

According to Theo’s son, after receiving training to join the intelligence service, Theo was en route to France when he received word that his brother had been killed; he was called back and discharged from the service as the sole surviving son. In the space of three months, Regina Katz Goldenberg had lost her husband and her youngest child, and her two remaining children, Theo and Bernice, had lost their father and younger brother.  How heartbreaking it must have been to have escaped the Nazis only to lose two family members so soon afterwards, one of whom was killed serving his new country.

After returning home to Stillwater, Theo returned to work at Katz Department Store with his uncle Jake, where he worked for over fifty years, and also operated a small dairy business for over forty years. He milked cows by hand and sold raw milk; he was the last dairyman to be able to sell raw milk in Payne County.

On October 15, 1950, Theo married Anne Marie Kunstler, who was born in Nuremburg, Germany. They were married in Stillwater.

Marriage License of Theo Goldenberg and Anne Marie Kunstler
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line].
Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

According to family lore, Theo and Anne Marie met in New York City, and six days later Theo proposed to her. She told him she wouldn’t marry him without seeing Oklahoma first, and he told her he would buy her a one way ticket, and if she didn’t want to stay, she’d have to pay for her own ticket back home.

Apparently Oklahoma met her standards, and she and Theo were married for almost fifty years. Theo died on January 11, 2000. He was 86 years old. Anne Marie is still living.

As for Theo’s sister Bernice, she and her husband Julius and their son Henry lived in Brooklyn for many years, where Julius worked in the meat industry (a kosher hot dog company) and Bernice in the garment district. She would take her sewing machine back and forth from work so that she could work at home in the evenings. Bernice and Julius moved to Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1975, after Julius was mugged several times in Brooklyn.

Julius Katz died on November 26, 1977, in Fairfield. Bernice Goldenberg Katz, died at age 79 in Fairfield, Connecticut, on May 2, 1985. Their son Henry died on January 15, 2015, in West Hartford, Connecticut. He was a veteran of the Korean War and was a structural designer, having studied at Pratt Institute and New York City Community College. He worked for over thirty years at Dorr Oliver, a chemical engineering company in Stamford, Connecticut. (Obituary, Henry Herman “Hank” Katz, The Hartford Courant, January 17, 2015.)

Thus, another branch in the family of Meier Katz and Sprinzchen Jungheim survived the Holocaust and prospered in America.  But for the tragic death during World War II of young Albert Goldenberg, this would have been another happy story about Meier and Sprinzchen’s descendants.

 

 

 

 

Walter and Max Katz: Two Outstanding Americans

When I spoke with Fred Katz, I had many questions about what it was like to come to the US in 1938, a nine year old boy leaving the small town of Jesberg, arriving in New York City, and then settling in Oklahoma. Fred made it seem as though this was not a very difficult adjustment for him, although he said it was harder for his parents. I asked how he felt about leaving Germany, and he said that he had been very excited to come to the US although sad to leave the family’s horse behind.  He said he learned English quickly and adjusted easily to school in Oklahoma, and he said the family felt comfortable in Oklahoma, having so many other family members around, most of whom had been either born in or living in the US for quite some time.

So what happened to the rest of the family of Karl and Jettchen Katz after immigrating to America in the late 1930s? What happened to Fred’s two older brothers, Walter and Max?

On September 24, 2000, two graduate students at Wichita State University, Janice Rich and Paul Williams, conducted an oral history interview of Walter Katz. That interview, which remains unpublished, is the source of much of the information in this post.

In the interview Walter spoke about the family’s decision to leave Germany after 1933. He told the interviewers that boys who had been his friends before Hitler came to power ganged up on him and threw dirt clods at him, giving him a black eye; after 1935, his father and uncle were not legally allowed to engage in their cattle trading business, but they persisted illegally at great risk. He also shared the story that Fred had told of the difficulties the family had getting visas from the American consulate and of Fred’s rescue of the Torah scroll after Kristallnacht.

Walter also noted that his uncle Jake in Oklahoma had facilitated Max and Walter’s departure from Germany by submitting affidavits to support their applications for exit visas. When Walter left Germany, he sailed to New York, stayed with relatives there for a few days, and then took a train to St. Louis where he was met by his uncle Jake. Obviously Jake was very instrumental in saving Karl’s family from the Nazis.

Walter Katz on passenger manifest, line 29, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6055; Line: 1; Page Number: 50
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6055
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Jake brought him back to Stillwater where he was enrolled in school and was quickly put on the football team (he was seventeen, but because he did not yet know English, he was placed in junior high school).

Walter’s younger brother Max arrived in New York on July 21, 1938, and also listed that he was going to his uncle in Stillwater, Oklahoma:

Max Katz passenger manifest
Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6188; Line: 1; Page Number: 101
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6188
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Finally, Max and Walter’s parents and brother Fred arrived on November 30, 1938:

Karl Katz passenger manifest, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York;Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957;Microfilm Roll: Roll 6258; Line: 1; Page Number: 16
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

The family of Karl Katz and Jettchen Oppenheimer was finally reunited in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The Family of Karl Katz reunited in Stillwater: Max, Jettchen, Karl, Fred, and Walter

In 1939, Walter moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he worked at a men’s clothing store owned by two of his Youngheim cousins.  In 1942, he was drafted and inducted into the army at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He was then transferred to Camp Cook in California (now Vantenberg Air Force Base) and was soon naturalized as a United States citizen, as he described in the oral history interview.

Walter Katz in the US Army during World War II, courtesy of his family

Walter was assigned first to the 5th Armored Division and worked in company supply because of his retail experience.  He trained in Tennessee and in New York and was then transferred to intelligence school at Camp Ritchie in Maryland where he received two months of intensive training to prepare him to interrogate POWs.  He and 300 other servicemen from his base were then sent to the UK for seven months more of training. After that he was stationed in France, Belgium, and Germany. In France Walter became entangled in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944; while en route to Paris to pick up jeeps, he learned that the Germans had broken through Allied lines, and his unit, which had been stationed in Reims, France, was relocated to Belgium.

In Germany Walter was part of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) where his job after the war was to interview and arrest civilian officials who had been Nazis and to see that they were replaced with those who had not been affiliated with the Nazis.  Walter told his interviewers that the people he interviewed all denied being Nazis and claimed they had no choice but to follow orders.

While in Germany, Walter met up with his cousin Jack Katz, Aron’s son, who was stationed in Wiesbaden. The two cousins attended high holiday services in 1945 at a restored synagogue in Bad Nauheim. In one of those eerie small world stories, a teenage boy who participated in the service later married one of Walter’s cousins.  Walter did not know of this coincidence until visiting that cousin in New York years later.

Walter and Jack also visited Jesberg while they were stationed in Germany. Walter was distressed by the state of the cemetery, which had been vandalized during the war, and he demanded that the mayor restore the stones that had been toppled and clean up the damage, which was done by the next time he visited. Walter and Jack also met a young Jewish woman they’d known in Jesberg who had been in one of the camps and wanted to live in Jesberg again.  She had no money, so Walter went to the man who had been the local Nazi official responsible for the damage to the synagogues and Jewish homes and businesses and demanded that this woman be provided with everything she needed.

Walter and Jack visiting the former Jesberg synagogue after World War II, courtesy of the Katz family

Walter Katz and Jack Katz in Jesberg after World War II
Courtesy of the Katz family

Although Walter had an opportunity to stay in Germany and work for the State Department, he wanted to return to the US.  He returned to Wichita and to his work in his cousin’s men’s clothing store, The Hub, which he eventually purchased.  He married his wife Barbara Matassarin in Denver on July 7, 1950.  Barbara had been a nurse training in Wichita when she met Walter and had enlisted in the US Army as a second lieutenant in early 1950. When she was assigned to a hospital in Denver, they decided to get married. Walter and Barbara lived, however, in Wichita with their daughter for most of the rest of their lives, and Walter remained in the men’s clothing business until he retired.

Walter Katz at his store in Wichita, 1950s.
Courtesy of the Katz family

Walter’s brother Max also served in the US army during World War II.  He served in the Army Air Corps from 1942 until 1945, according to his obituary. Like Walter, he became a US citizen while serving in the armed forces.  According to his brother Fred, Max was stationed stateside during the war and did not fight overseas.

Max Katz in the US Army during World War II

After the war, Max returned to Oklahoma and attended Oklahoma A&M for two years, receiving a certificate in business.  He worked in the meat packing industry for several years before starting his own cattle trading business in 1953.

Military discharge papers for Max Katz

According to his obituary, “in 1973, Max began buying pasture land throughout Payne County and feeding his own cattle, in addition to commission buying. At any given time, Max usually had about 3,000 head of cattle either on pasture or in feed lots. Max retired from the cattle business in 2009.” Tulsa World, January 1, 2011.

Walter, Max, and Fred Katz lost their father Karl in 1966 and their mother Jettchen in 1979. Both had remained in Stillwater, where they are buried.

Katz family members buried at the Stillwater cemetery

Walter Katz died in Israel on November 5, 2007; his wife Barbara had predeceased him on July 1, 2000. They are buried in Israel. Max Katz died in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on December 30, 2010; he is buried in Stillwater.

According to his obituary, Max Katz “was known far and wide as a superior cattle buyer and rancher who created a successful 56-year career in the cattle business by relying on a keen eye, a razor-sharp business sense, honest dealings, and above all, pure hard work. His generosity and willingness to help others in need became his hallmark and reputation.” Tulsa World, January 1, 2011.

Walter Katz, when asked in 2000 by his interviewers what he would say to the youth of America, said “First, you are lucky to be born in the United States. Second of all, you can do anything here that you want to do if you put your mind to it. The opportunity for anything you want to do is here if you want to do it. Work hard and stay with it and be good and honest. Live a good honest life and you will make it!”

Although those words do not necessarily reflect the experiences of everyone in this country, they do reflect the experiences and the values of Walter Katz and of his brother Max. Both Walter and Max had escaped from Germany as teenagers and traveled by themselves to the United States; they both had contributed greatly to their adopted country. They served in its military during a war against their country of birth, and they worked hard to become successful businessmen.

And yet these were two men who almost did not get into this country because of some bureaucrats dealing with immigration in the 1930s.  How many more could have been saved? How many more were turned away because of ignorance, fear, and prejudice? Will we ever learn?

Our Last Two Days in Germany—Worms and Heidelberg—and Some Final Thoughts on the Trip

Why did we go to Worms? Not for any genealogy reason, but for its significance to Jewish history generally and to German Jewish history more particularly. It is one of the so-called ShUM cities, the three cities (Speyer (Sh), Worms (U), and Mainz (M) where Jewish scholars and rabbis in the Middle Ages had a widespread impact on Jewish religious and cultural practices.  Some of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars studied and taught in the ShUM cities, including Rashi, who is considered one of the greatest Talmudic scholars of all time. Many of the melodies used even today in Jewish religious services were developed in the ShUM cities. It seemed that it would be wrong to go all the way to Germany and not see Worms.  (Speyer, unfortunately, we could not fit into our itinerary, and we had seen Mainz.)

Worms is a short train ride from Heidelberg, so it made sense to go there during one of our three days in Heidelberg.  On May 13, we took a morning train to Worms to meet our tour guide. [For various reasons we were not very pleased with this guide, so I’ve decided not to use her name in this post. If anyone wants to know why, I will be glad to share privately but not on the blog.]

The guide met us at the train station and showed us the reliefs sculpted over the doorways to the train station, one showing different modes of transportation and the other, the doorway used by the wealthy, showing kings and nobles.  The station was built in the early 1900s and, as the guide said, was considered a sign of modernity and of the status of Worms as an important city.

From the station we walked a few blocks to the Jewish cemetery, which has existed since the eleventh century and is considered the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe.  We could not enter as it was Shabbat (Saturday), and the cemetery was closed.  But we could see the old stones and the very well-maintained grounds. The guide told us about some of the important scholars buried at the cemetery and how the cemetery is a pilgrimage site for Jews from all over the world.

From the cemetery we walked through a park where there was a statue of Martin Luther, for whom Worms was also an important city because, according to the guide, it was in Worms that his movement for Reformation became a movement adopted by the people, not just a theoretical idea. The guide also pointed out to us that the park we were walking through was where the moat had been located when Worms was a walled city in medieval times.  Once the wall was taken down and the moat filled, it became a ring of green space surrounding the city.

Martin Luther statute

We continued to follow the former moat towards the old Jewish quarter in Worms. Along the way we passed several stolpersteine, including one for Herta Mansbacher, who is considered an important heroine in the story of the Jews of Worms.  She was a teacher in a non-Jewish school until 1933 when she lost her job and took a teaching job in a Jewish school.  She then stayed in Worms to help the children and to encourage families to emigrate from Germany.  After the Worms synagogue was burned during Kristallnacht, Herta Mansbacher ran to rescue what she could and to try and put out the fire.  In 1942, she was deported and murdered by the Nazis.

Stolpersteine for Herta Mansbacher and others

Former home of Herta Mansbacher

A short distance past the home of Herta Mansbacher we reached the former Jewish quarter of Worms. Turning left on Judengasse it felt like we had entered not only a difference place but a different time. You could visualize what the quarter was like a hundred years earlier.

Judengasse in Worms

The Jewish quarter in Worms

There are two synagogue buildings in the Jewish quarter.  They are located at opposite ends of a small plaza in the center of the quarter. The Levy’sche synagogue is now a residential building.

 

Across from it was the other synagogue, the Old Synagogue—where there is a sculpture commemorating Rashi; Rashi studied at the yeshiva attached to this synagogue.  The building dates from the 12th century and is claimed to be the oldest synagogue in existence north of the Alps.   The building is today used for religious purposes and also for cultural events. There is a separate building where the yeshiva was located and also a mikveh on the grounds.   Behind the synagogue is a Jewish museum displaying Judaica and historical documents from the region; the most moving display was of the Torah scrolls and wimpels that were burned during Kristallnacht.  Perhaps these were the ones rescued by Herta Mansbacher, for whom there is a memorial plaque in the synagogue.

Old synagogue in Worms

Statue honoring Rashi

Interior of Old Synagogue

The synagogue was rebuilt after the war, but some of the original structure still was standing and is part of the building today.  Seeing the Jewish quarter allowed me to imagine in a concrete way how the Jews once lived in this section of the city.

After leaving the Jewish quarter, we stopped for lunch, and then the guide showed us Trinity Church, a very large Lutheran church built in the 18th century.  It was destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s.

Trinity Church

Interior of Trinity Church

Our last stop in Worms was at St. Peter’s Cathedral, which was built in the 12th century.  It is an impressive structure, and the altar is quite elaborate and beautiful.

St Peter’s Cathedral, Worms

Altar in St Peter’s Cathedral

We then walked back to the train station and returned to Heidelberg.

The next day, our last day in Germany, we were back on our own.  We took the funicular up to the castle that hovers over the city and can be seen quite dramatically from across the river.

We strolled around the grounds where the views of the river and the city of Heidelberg are stunning. Because you cannot get into the castle without a guided tour, we waited for the guided tour at 10 am.  Fortunately there were only three of us on the tour, plus the guide.  (There were hundreds of people wandering around the grounds being led by Viking Cruise guides, all with earplugs in their ears to listen to their guides, but they did not enter the buildings.)

The guide was delightful with a very dry and sarcastic sense of humor, and we all got a big kick out of him.  He entertained us with stories of political intrigue, romance, and wars to give us the colorful history of the complex of buildings that make up the castle.  The castle predated the city; it was originally built for strategic purposes with its towers and walls overlooking the valley below. Then, as medieval times moved into the Renaissance era, it became more a home for the local noble to impress his wife and entertain their guests.  Even Hitler used the castle at some point as a place to house soldiers.  I wish I could remember all the details of the guide’s stories, but suffice it to say he kept us interested, and he not only was amusing but very well-informed about the history of the region.

After returning to the city below, we spent our last afternoon in Germany wandering through the beautiful city of Heidelberg.  Unlike every other city we’d visited—Mainz, Bingen, Cologne, Wurzburg, and Worms—Heidelberg did not sustain any significant damage from Allied bombing during World War II, so it retains its architectural heritage as originally built.

The city has so much to offer—a world-renowned university, a scenic location on the Neckar River, a fascinating castle with gorgeous views, and churches and buildings that are rich in architectural detail.  The winding narrow streets and wide plazas, the youthful population, and the multitude of restaurants, bars, and stores make it an interesting and exciting place to visit. It made it all that much harder to pack our bags and head to the airport where we would stay our last night in order to catch our flight the following morning.

And so we said Auf Wiedersehen to Germany, land of my paternal ancestors, a country I had truly learned to appreciate during our stay, a place where the beer, the bread, the cities, the villages, the landscapes, and especially the people are just wonderful.  I was sad to leave, but ready to come home and have a chance to digest and remember it all.

Looking back on the trip now that we have been home for well over a month, it almost seems like a dream.  Was I really there? Did I really walk in the footsteps of my ancestors, see their gravestones, and meet my cousins, their descendants? Writing these blog posts has helped me remember and process everything we saw and experienced.  Looking at the photographs reminds me of all the people we met and all the beauty we saw as well as all the reminders of what happened during Hitler’s reign.

Much of what we experienced was bittersweet—bitter because of all the awful killings and destruction, sweet because of the kindness of the people we met and the hope they gave us for a future where people are tolerant and understanding and loving of each other despite their differences.  As I now return to the task of learning about and writing about my family’s history, I can better visualize where they lived and what their lives were like.  It will make what has already been a fascinating and rewarding journey that much more meaningful and satisfying.

Thank you for following me on this journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cologne: Its Jewish History and My Family Ties to the City


On our second day in Cologne we focused on its Jewish history. Back in December 2015, I had contacted Barbara Becker-Jakli to help me find where my great-great-uncle Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienfeld were buried in Cologne; Barbara had been extremely helpful, so a year later while planning our trip, I contacted her again, asking if she knew someone who would show us the cemetery and other Jewish sites in Cologne.

She recommended Aaron Knappstein, who worked with her at the National Socialism Documentation Center in Cologne. Aaron and I had been in touch numerous times for almost eight months before the trip, and as I wrote here, he had located documents about my Nussbaum ancestors that I had given up ever finding (and they did not even live in Cologne, but in Schopfloch) as well as birth records for four of the five children of Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal.  So I was looking forward to meeting him and spending the day with him.

Aaron did not disappoint us.  He is a thoughtful and knowledgeable man whose own background as the son of a Holocaust survivor gives him an interesting perspective on the Jewish history of Cologne.  It was a moving and very informative day.  He first took us to the Dom, which may seem a strange choice, but he wanted us to see the gargoyle of a pig being suckled—an anti-Semitic image once used widely.

He also pointed out a Holocaust memorial that we had passed the day before without knowing what it was.  It is not marked at all.  It is simply a long train rail placed on the ground running to the east with a six-segmented sculpture at its end.  The sculpture is meant to evoke the six million killed by the Nazis and the gate to the camps, and the train rail evokes the trains used to deport the Jews to the concentration camps in the east. It was very powerful.  We just didn’t understand why there was no marker or plaque explaining or identifying what it was.

Dani Karavan Holocaust memorial

After coming home, I searched for more information about this sculpture and found this very detailed description and analysis on a blog called Tapfer im Nirgendwo, which means Brave in Nowhere.  I didn’t read the other posts in the blog as they are in German, but this one was written in English.  Apparently the rail and sculpture we saw are part of a larger installation by an Israeli artist Dani Karavan (I am sure Aaron mentioned the artist’s name, but it slipped my mind).  The description of the overall work is fascinating and very powerful.

We then walked to the location of the old Jewish Quarter where today there are plans to build a Jewish museum in the heart of the center of the city.  Right now it is little more than an excavation site, and many relics of medieval times have been discovered.

The Jews have a very long history in Cologne.  As early as the 4th century, there was a Jewish community in Cologne; as in other places, there were good periods and bad periods for the Jews in medieval times.  Some archbishops protected the Jews, others did not.  The Crusades and the Black Death resulted in the deaths of many of the Jews in Cologne, and synagogues were built, destroyed, and rebuilt. Finally, Jews were expelled in 1424 because of a fight between the civil government and the Church regarding money and the payment of the taxes that were levied on the Jews.  Jews were not allowed to return to the city until Napoleon’s time in 1798.  Even then, they had to live across the Rhine in Deutz, although they were allowed to work on the other side of the river.

We then crossed the river ourselves and went to the cemetery in Deutz where Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienfeld are buried. Jakob Schoenthal was my great-grandfather Isidore’s brother.  As I wrote about here, he was one of only two of the ten Schoenthal siblings who did not emigrate from Germany.

At the cemetery we met Herr Gunther, who once was responsible for overseeing the care and condition of this very large cemetery; there are over 6000 stones at the Deutz cemetery.  The original stones for Jakob and Charlotte no longer exist, but the cemetery knew where they were buried, and the Jewish community of Cologne paid to put new markers at the gravesites.  I was touched and very appreciative of what they had done to preserve the memory of my relatives.

Stone for Jakob and Charlotte Schoenthal

Deutz Jewish cemetery

 

We then visited the one remaining pre-World War II synagogue still standing in Cologne, the Roonstrasse Synagogue. In 1933, there were approximately 20,000 Jews living in Cologne. Before the war there had been seven synagogues (although this source says there were only four), but all were damaged or destroyed on Kristallnacht, and only the one on Roonstrasse remains.  And it is still used as a synagogue; Herr Gunther is a member there and provided us with a tour.

Although the exterior of the building survived more or less intact, the interior of the synagogue was, like the other synagogues, destroyed on Kristallnacht.  During the 1950s, the interior was restored—not to its original style, but with more of a mid-century modern feel.   Whatever the décor, it was very uplifting to know that there is once again a Jewish community in Cologne.  Today there are about 5000 Jews living in the city. One of the stained glass windows installed in the 1950s depicts a dove to represent that the flood was over and that life was to begin again.

Roonstrasse synagogue

I very much wanted to see the place where Jakob Schoenthal and his family had lived and worked—65 Breite Strasse.  Jakob and Charlotte had five children.  Four of those children survived the Holocaust—Johanna, Lee, Meyer, and Erna.  As I wrote here, here, and here, Lee and Meyer had come to Pennsylvania early in the 20th century.  Erna and her son came in the 1930s, and Johanna and her husband came after the war, having been deported to France where they were incarcerated at the Gurs camp.  But the fifth child, Henriette, and her husband Julius Levi, had stayed in Cologne and had been deported to Lodz and then to the death camp at Chelmno, where they were killed.  The location of the Schoenthal’s home and business at 65 Breite Strasse is marked by Stolpersteine for Henriette and Julius.

Sadly, the buildings on the street were all destroyed during the war, but I took a photograph of the building that stands at that address today.  I also took a picture of a block of older buildings nearby that had survived the bombing so I could imagine what the Schoenthal home might have looked like. That’s Aaron, our guide, in that second photo.

65 Breite Strasse today

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Our final stop with Aaron was the National Socialism Documentation Center, where Aaron and I first spent some time trying to find records for a woman who was somehow related to my family.  After some research we concluded that she was related to me through Jakob Schoenthal’s marriage to Charlotte Lilienfeld.  More on that at some later time.

Aaron then left us to explore the basement of the National Socialism Documentation Center on our own.  The building that houses this organization had been Gestapo headquarters in Cologne during the war.  The basement was used as a place to imprison and torture prisoners.  Jews were not sent here, but some dissidents or those accused of being dissidents were.  There are hundreds of written messages all over the walls of the cells; they are angry, frightened, passionate, and heart-breaking.  Hundreds of people were shot in the courtyard of the building.  Some people were imprisoned only briefly, others for quite extended times.  The cells have been left untouched—the inscriptions remain to be seen.  It was a dark and depressing place for us to visit, but an important one.

We made a short stop at the Cologne city museum and then walked toward the Dom to return to our hotel.  We decided to skip Italian food that night and had Lebanese food near the Rhine at a restaurant called Beirut.  It was a welcome change and quite good.

The next morning we would leave Cologne to travel east to the Hessen region where my father’s maternal relatives came from—the Schoenthal, Hamberg, Goldschmidt, and Katzenstein families.

Cologne was the only major city we visited during our trip to Germany.  It is a fascinating city with a long and interesting history and a diverse and rich culture.  It is a reminder not only of the destructive forces of war and the human capacity for evil but also of our capacity for good.  People rebuilt Cologne into a city that now provides hope that human beings can be creative, inspirational, reflective, tolerant, and kind.

 

 

First Stop on Our Trip to Germany: Mainz

We spent our first day and a half in Germany in the beautiful and ancient city of Mainz, a city with a population of about 200,000 people and a city that was once an important center for Jewish learning and culture. Our visit there created some cognitive dissonance for me as we experienced such incredible beauty and also memories of such horrific ugliness.

We flew into Frankfurt Airport on May 2 and found the train to Mainz.  Once on the train, we were not entirely sure that we’d gotten on the right train.  Despite a full year of learning German online, I could not make out one word of the train announcements.  Fortunately, a very kind man sitting across from us realized we were confused and reassured us that we were on the right train and that he would tell us when to get off.  From the start, we were favorably impressed with the people in Germany.

Our hotel, the Mainz Hilton, was right on the Rhine; it is a large American-style hotel with large rooms and all the amenities.

The Rhine

We were exhausted after the overnight flight and took a short rest before meeting Wolfgang at 1:30.  And the adrenaline kept us going. I had so anticipated meeting my cousin Wolfgang.  We had been emailing each other for over two years on a regular basis, at first mostly about family history, but as time went on more often exchanging current information—about our families, our lives, politics, German and English, and life in general.  Meeting him in person for the first time, I felt as if I must have already met him and spent time with him. The connection was immediate, and he was just as I imagined based on his emails.  A warm and open person, sensitive and kind, intelligent and perceptive.  And with a delightful sense of humor.

My cousin Wolfgang and me

Wolfgang had planned a walk through the sights closest to our hotel and then a tram tour around the city to see some of the sites that were further out. We strolled along the Rhine for a bit.  The weather was rainy and quite cool, but it did not put a damper on my spirits. We passed a sculpture reflecting the division of Germany after World War II and its reunification in 1990.

We walked past a 15th century watch tower known as the Holzturm (“wooden tower); it was destroyed by bombing in World War II but reconstructed and restored to its original appearance.

Then Wolfgang showed us the house where Johanna Seligmann and Alfred Bielefeld had lived.  Johanna was my first cousin, three times removed.  She was the daughter of Hyronimus Seligmann, brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman.  Alfred, her husband, was a wine merchant in Mainz.  Both were killed in the Holocaust.  They were deported to Terezin first, where Alfred died in 1945; Johanna was then sent to Auschwitz, where she was killed in 1945.  Their children, Hans and Lily, survived and lived in the United States.  I wrote about Johanna and her family here and here.

Johanna Bielefeld nee Seligmann

Bielelfed house in Mainz

Just around the corner from where the Bielefelds lived was the so-called “Jew House” where the Nazis moved Jewish families before deporting them.  Although the house itself no longer exists, this is where it was located:

We then visited a beautiful 18th century church, St. Augustine, with an elaborately decorated interior:

St Augustine church in Mainz

Perhaps my favorite spot in Mainz was the Kirschgarten—a small square framed by several half-timber houses, some now restaurants.  This little square captured exactly what I expected an old German city or town to look like—something out of Hansel and Gretel or some other fairy tale. The oldest house in Mainz is located in the Kirschgarten:

Kirschgarten in Mainz

Everywhere we turned there were beautiful half-timber buildings, sometimes right next to a post-war building.

We then visited the Dom, or cathedral, a large Romanesque sandstone structure located on the main market square in Mainz. The cathedral’s oldest sections are a thousand years old with later additions over the years.  It was damaged by bombing in World War II, but restored afterwards.  The cloister is a peaceful place for contemplation, and the high vaulted ceiling in the main part of the cathedral forces you to look upwards.  It is an impressive and inspiring building.

Mainz Marktplatz

Cloister at the cathedral in Mainz

At this point we caught the little tram that took us on a tour around other parts of the city, passing the Rathaus (town hall), the Schloss (a palace more than a castle), the new synagogue, and the building where the Gestapo was housed during World War II. I couldn’t get any photos of these sites as we were moving too fast, but I was glad to be seated and not walking at that point. I asked Wolfgang if we could come back the next day to see the synagogue.

As I wrote here, our first stop on Wednesday was our visit with Wolfgang’s mother Annlis, a time I will never forget.

Then we continued our tour of Mainz.  We passed the location where Fritz/Fred Michel once owned a store.  Fred Michel was the son of Franzeska Seligmann and the grandson of August Seligmann, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather and another brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard. Fred and his wife Ilse came to the US in the 1930s and settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  I wrote about Fred, his mother, and his family here.

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel
Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Location of Fred Michel’s store in Mainz

We then walked up the steep hill to St. Stephen’s church, where there are a number of windows designed by Marc Chagall.  The contrast between the thousand year old medieval structure and the gorgeous blue Chagall windows is striking. Like so many other buildings in Mainz, this church was damaged by bombing during World War II.  According to Wikipedia, the priest at St. Stephens, Monsignor Klaus Mayer, was a friend of Marc Chagall and approached him in the 1970s to design new windows. This is the only church in Germany for which Chagall designed windows, and he saw it as a way of expressing his hope for peace between Christians and Jews.  To see the work of a Jewish artist and his depictions of figures from the Jewish bible inside a medieval Catholic church was very moving.

St Stephen’s church in Mainz with Chagall windows

We then walked back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and Wolfgang drove us to see the new synagogue.  I knew before coming that Mainz had a long and very important history as a Jewish community. According to several sources, Mainz had a Jewish community at least as early as the tenth century. Rabbi Gershom ben Judah, known as “the light of the diaspora,” was an early important leader of the Mainz Jewish community, and his codification of Jewish law was accepted in many other communities in Europe as well.

The Jews, however, were expelled from the city in the eleventh century; they returned later, but then a thousand were killed during the first Crusade during the twelfth century.  Later, many died from the Black Death and from persecution. For several centuries there was not much of a Jewish community in Mainz. The community began to grow again in the 18th and 19th centuries. Synagogues were constructed, and Jews for some time lived in peace in the community. By 1900, there were 3000 Jews living in Mainz, according to JewishGen.org

On November 9, 1938, the Mainz synagogues were attacked as part of Kristallnacht and burnt and in some cases destroyed; there were over 200 synagogues at that time in Mainz, including the largest synagogue, Neue Synagogue, which was completely destroyed. Most of the Jews who remained in Mainz, including my Bielefeld cousins, were eventually deported and killed.

But today there is hope.  A new synagogue was built on the site of the former Neue Synagogue in 2010, and it is an imposing structure.  As this article describes, it was consider a symbol of hope for the revival of Jewish life in Germany. Outside the synagogue stand pillars from the original synagogue, a permanent reminder of what had existed and what was destroyed. The city now has about a thousand Jews who are affiliated with the synagogue as well as many others who are not.

The website of Manuel Herz, the architect who designed the new synagogue, provides a great deal of information about the history and about the reasons for the choices made in naming and designing this new building.  The synagogue is called Meor Hagolah, which means “Light of the Diaspora,” the name used to refer to Gershom ben Judah because of his wisdom and his broad-reaching influence on the practice of Judaism. The Hebrew words on the door to the synagogue are translated as “Light of the Diaspora Synagogue Mainz.”

Meor Hagodah Synagogue Mainz

The building’s shape is supposed to evoke the Hebrew word Kedushah, meaning holiness and referring to one of the sections of the Amidah prayer. I must admit I could not see the letters no matter where I stood outside the building, but I like the concept. The building overall is quite imposing and, in my opinion, not very welcoming.  It looks more like a fortress than a house of prayer.  Maybe that is in part the point: that this is a safe place that will not be destroyed again.

We stopped at the historic Mainz cemetery on our way out of town.  I have no known family members there, and we could not go inside, but the age and number of the gravestones there are another reminder that there was once a large and important Jewish community there.

Mainz Jewish cemetery

Mainz is truly a beautiful city, and despite all the damage inflicted during the war, it retains its charm, its character, and its architectural beauty. It is hard to imagine, amidst all that beauty and all those churches, how the Jewish community that lived there so long could have been destroyed.  But it is also important to look forward. I left the city feeling hopeful, knowing that a new synagogue and a growing new Jewish community exist in the city of Mainz.

 

 

Another Small World Story, Another Twist in the Family Tree

In my last post I described my discovery that Rose Mansbach Schoenthal was not only related to me by her marriage to Simon Schoenthal, the brother of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, but that she was also related by marriage to my other great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein through her Mansbach cousins.   This post is about another discovery of a strange twist in my family tree, but this one involving two living cousins.

Last week I received a comment on an old blog post about Elizabeth Cohen, who was the sister of my other great-grandfather, Emanuel Cohen.  The man who left the comment on my blog, Joel Goldwein, is the great-grandson, through his mother’s side, of Elizabeth Cohen.  He is thus my third cousin.  I was, of course, delighted to make this connection, and I emailed Joel to learn more about him and our mutual family.

In the course of the exchange of emails, Joel shared information not only about his mother’s family, but also about his father, Manfred (Fred) Goldwein, who had escaped from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport to England.  His father’s parents and other family members, however, were murdered by the Nazis.  Joel sent me a link to a website about his son’s bar mitzvah in Korbach, Germany, the town where his father was born and had lived until he left Germany.  I was very moved by the idea that Joel’s family had returned to this town to honor the memory of his father’s family.

I mentioned that I was going to be in Germany, not far from Korbach, because I had Hamberg ancestors from Breuna.  Joel then mentioned that his paternal great-grandparents are buried in Breuna and that he had visited the cemetery there.  He sent me a link to his photographs of the cemetery, and I looked through them in search of anyone named Hamberg.

Imagine my surprise to find this photograph:

Courtesy of Joel Goldwein

Baruch Hamberg was the second cousin of my great-great-grandmother, Henrietta Hamberg Schoenthal.  More importantly, he was the great-grandfather of my fifth cousin, Rob Meyer.

Some of you may remember the story of Rob.  He and I connected through JewishGen’s Family Finder tool about a year and a half ago, and we learned that not only did Rob live about a mile from where I had once lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, we also had very good mutual friends.  It was one of those true goosebump moments in my genealogy research, standing in a cemetery in Longmeadow and talking to Rob as we realized that we both had the same close friends.

Rob’s mother had, like Joel’s father, escaped from Nazi Germany, and she also, like Joel’s father, had lost most of the rest of her family in the Holocaust. I sent the headstone photograph to Rob, and I asked whether he might be related to Joel.  Rob answered, suggesting that perhaps he was related to Joel not through Baruch Hamberg, but through Baruch’s mother, Breinchen Goldwein.  A little more digging around revealed that in fact Joel was related to Breinchen: her brother Marcus Goldwein was Joel’s paternal great-grandfather.

Thus, Joel and Rob are third cousins, once removed, through Rob’s mother’s side and Joel’s father side. And although they did not know of each other at all, Joel also had a photograph of the street in Breuna named in memory of Rob’s aunt:

Courtesy of Joel Goldwein

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It gave me great pleasure to introduce Rob and Joel to each other, who soon discovered that not only are they third cousins through their Goldwein family line, they are also both doctors and both graduates of the same medical school.

And they are both my cousins, Rob through his mother’s Hamberg side and Joel through his mother’s Cohen side.

There truly are only six degrees of separation.

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 Amazon.com 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.