The Story of Julius Seligmann, Scorned for Not Being Jewish and for Being Jewish

In my recent post about Adolf Michel, I included the letter his son Fred had written to the International Tracing Service after the war in which he expressed obvious anger with his uncle Julius Seligmann for his failure to help learn what had happened to their mutual relatives. This post will shed light on Julius and his relationships with his siblings.

When my cousin Wolfgang first contacted me back in February 2015, he shared with me what he knew of the story of his grandfather Julius Seligmann. Julius was the second child of August Seligmann and Rosa Bergmann and was born February 5, 1877, in Gau-Algesheim. He was the nephew of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligmann and first cousin of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen.

Julius and his younger brother Moritz were for many years in business together in Gau-Algesheim as merchants, but from family lore, Wolfgang learned that after his grandfather married Magdalena Kleissinger on December 1, 1922, and converted to Catholicism, there was a falling out between Julius and his family. Julius was already 45 when he married Magdalena and fifty years old when his younger son Herbert was born in 1927.

Then, according to the book by Ludwig Hellriegel about the Jews of Gau-Algesheim, Julius was forced to close his store in Gau-Algesheim in December 1935 and moved with his wife and sons to Bingen in September, 1939.1 I had speculated back in November 2014 that these actions were somehow connected to Nazi persecution, but Wolfgang did not think so. Although he did not know the details of what happened to Julius and his family or why he ended up leaving Gau-Algesheim in 1939, Wolfgang had heard from his family that Julius had suffered financial hardship after being forced to pay his brother Moritz some kind of financial settlement that led to the move to Bingen, where the family lived with Magdalena’s relatives for some time.

Recently, Wolfgang decided to try and learn more about his grandfather’s life, and he searched the Landesarchiv Speyer, the archives for the Rhine-Palatinate region in Germany.  First, he searched online and found that there were court records available regarding a criminal prosecution of his grandfather Julius in 1937. The records themselves were not accessible online, so Wolfgang visited the archives in person and reviewed the many pages of court records there. He was not allowed to copy or photograph the records themselves, but took copious notes and reported back to me what he had learned. Thus, all the information that follows came from Wolfgang’s research of those court records.2

The records provided information not only about the criminal trial in 1937, but also background information about Julius and his life. The records reported that Julius was a good student and was in school through the sixth year at the Bingen schools. From 1897 to 1898, Julius served in the First Hessian Guard Regiment in Darmstadt.

After their father August died in 1909, Julius and his brother Moritz took over the family house as well as their father’s business. But Julius returned to military service on Germany’s behalf during World War I from 1914 through 1918. He was a sergeant in the infantry, battled malaria while in service, and received the Frontkämpferkreuz for his service on the front lines during the war. After the ceasefire, he helped bring the German battalions back to safety.

Honor Cross of World War I or Frontkampferkreuz
PicturePrince [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

After the war Julius returned to Gau-Algesheim and continued to work with his brother Moritz in what had been their father’s store. As noted above, he married Magdalena in 1922 and converted to Catholicism. Then Julius had an unfortunate injury in 1927 when he fell off his bicycle and suffered a concussion. The court records report that he suffered seizures for many years as a result of this accident.

The records indicate that there were many disputes between Julius and Moritz during this time, perhaps relating to Julius’ marriage and conversion or perhaps for unrelated family or business reasons. In May 1929, Julius bought out his brother Moritz of his share of the family home and business for 14,000 Reichmarks. There is a note in the records from a notary from Ingelheim saying this price was too high, that is, that Julius paid more than a fair price. Moritz then left Gau-Algesheim and moved to Koenigstein, and Julius ran the business on his own. But having overpaid for his brother’s half of the business, Julius soon ran into financial difficulties.

Location in Gau-Algesheim of Julius Seligmann’s store

Things then got worse after Hitler came to power. The mayor watched to see who went into Julius’ store as he was apparently considered non-Aryan despite his conversion to Catholicism. Under the Nuremberg laws, he was still considered Jewish for he had four Jewish grandparents. As a result of his financial difficulties, Julius was forced to borrow money from a man named Hammen so that he could pay off his debts. As part of the process of obtaining that loan, Julius had to provide a statement of his assets.

Apparently, there was some error in that statement of assets, and that led to Julius being prosecuted for “negligent perjury.” Hammen himself testified that Julius was always a reliable businessperson and thus did not think he had intended to misstate his assets. There were also other witnesses who testified to Julius’ good character. Nevertheless, Julius was convicted and sentenced to prison from September 16, 1937 until April 16, 1938. A request for clemency was rejected. One has to wonder whether an “Aryan” business owner would have been treated as harshly as one who was born Jewish.

After being released from prison, Julius was forced to sell the family home because of financial difficulties. That led to further legal problems. Julius sold the house in April 1938 to Philip Wendelin Rohleder, a toolmaker. Rohleder had visited Julius in prison accompanied by Magdalena to convince him to sell the house. Julius agreed, but later claimed that Rohleder never paid the agreed-to price and that he was a Nazi and had told Julius he didn’t need to pay him at all. Rohleder denied this and said that he had to pay off some of Julius’ creditors and that’s why Julius had not received the whole purchase price. This dispute was not resolved until 1959 when Rohleder finally agreed to pay Julius 5000 Deutschmarks as a settlement.

Julius and Magdalena Seligmann

Putting all this together, the story of Julius Seligmann now is more complete. Disputes between Julius and Moritz may have been the first step towards Julius’ financial problems. Overpaying his brother Moritz for the house and business in Gau-Algesheim left Julius financially vulnerable in 1929. Then the Nazis came to power, and despite his conversion to Catholicism, Julius was treated as a Jewish business owner and thus suffered as a result of the Nuremberg laws. Forced to borrow money, he became entangled in what to my mind appear to be trumped up charges as a way of getting him out of business completely. That then led to the sale of his house for less than its worth and thus his family’s need to leave Gau-Algesheim and seek help from his wife’s family in Bingen.

It is a sad story in so many ways. By marrying a Catholic woman, Julius lost the support of his family and the Jewish community of Gau-Algesheim. Then, despite being a hero for the German army in World War I, he was essentially treated as unworthy by the government in the Nazi era. He lost his family of origin, the family business and home, and his home community. At age 62 he was forced to move with his wife and two teenaged sons to Bingen and live with his in-laws.

But Julius was a survivor. He lived to 90 years old and was killed in a car accident coming home from church on March 28, 1967, three days before the first birthday of his grandson Wolfgang, who has now preserved the story of his grandfather Julius.

Julius Seligmann death notice

 

 


  1. Ludwig Hellriegel, Die Geschichte der Gau-Algesheimer Juden (1986, revised 2008)[The History of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim]. 
  2. References to the records can be found at http://www.archivdatenbank.lha-rlp.de/ under Landesarchiv Speyer, Justizvollzuganstalt Mainz, Bestand J 85, Findbuch, Akten, 03 Gefangene, Strafprozess 6142, Julius Seligmann, 367/37; Bestand J 83, Findbuch, Akten, 02 Gefangene, Gefangenepersonalakten, Sachakten 3142, Seligmann, Julius; Bestand J 10, Findbuch, Akten, 12 Prozessurteil und -akten, Zivilprozess 298 Seligmann, Julius. 

Holocaust Education in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


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

Max Goldschmidt: A Survivor

As seen in my last few posts, although my cousin Betty Goldschmidt and her husband (and our cousin) Jacob Goldschmidt had eight children, I only have adult records for one of them, their son Berthold. Berthold and his wife Mathilde Freudenstein had seven children, but their son Siegfried Goldschmidt was the only child of the seven to live long enough to marry and have a child of his own; Siegfried and his wife Frieda Fanny Pless had one child, a son Max born November 30, 1924, in Frankfurt, Germany.

Siegfried and his wife were among the six million murdered in the Holocaust, but their young son Max, the last known remaining descendant of Betty and Jacob, survived. Max was only eight years old when Hitler came to power and not yet eighteen when his parents were deported in 1942. How had he survived? At first all I knew was that he had immigrated to the US from Israel in 1948, but thanks  to the generous assistance of Elan Oren of the Tracing the Tribe group on Facebook, I have been able to piece together much of the story of Max’s life.

Elan located Max’s file in the Israeli archives, which revealed that Max had escaped to Switzerland at some point during the Nazi era. After the war, Max sailed on the ship Plus Ultra from Barcelona, Spain, to Haifa, arriving in Haifa on June 19, 1945.

From Max Goldschmidt Israeli immigration file: Ship manifest for the Plus Ultra from Barcelona to Haifa, arriving June 19, 1945. Max is on line 94. http://www.archives.gov.il/en/archives/?fbclid=IwAR1y3d5C1X3pi2R1_jyX0MAbgeHLQoNhL6TM7F5P7ZT7CE4sFJgPPuql11A#/Archive/0b0717068002258e/File/0b071706856dcab1

Max’s file in the Israeli archives did not reveal how or when he got to Switzerland or to Barcelona, but Max’s A-file—his US immigration file—from the US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) revealed further details.1 According to a German police certificate included in Max’s application to the US Consul in Palestine for an immigration visa in 1947, Max lived in Warburg, Germany, from April 1927 until September 1936. That is also where his parents were residing during that time, according to records  at Yad Vashem.

On Max’s 1947 US visa application he stated that he’d immigrated to Switzerland in January 1939. He was only fourteen at that time. He lived in Basel, Switzerland, from January, 1939, until May, 1945, when he must then have left for Barcelona and ultimately Palestine. As for how he escaped from Germany in 1939, Elan Oren suggested that a Zionist youth group such as HeHalutz  might have helped him get out of Germany.

After arriving in Haifa, Max was transferred to Atlit, a detention camp built by the British, who were then in control of what was then Palestine. With the help of Elan Oren and his translation of Max’s Israeli naturalization file, I learned that Max left Atlit and first lived in Petach Tikvah and then moved to Tel Aviv to live with the Laks family. (More on them in a bit.)

Document that states that Max moved from Petah Tikvah to Tel Aviv where the Laks family lived. Translated by Elan Oren. http://www.archives.gov.il/en/archives/?fbclid=IwAR1y3d5C1X3pi2R1_jyX0MAbgeHLQoNhL6TM7F5P7ZT7CE4sFJgPPuql11A#/Archive/0b0717068002258e/File/0b071706856dcab1

But Max decided not to settle permanently in Israel. Max left Haifa on January 29, 1948, and arrived in New York on February 14, 1948. The manifest lists Max’s occupation as a gardener, his primary languages as English and Hebrew, his last residence as Tel Aviv, Palestine, and his birthplace as Frankfort [sic], Germany.

Max Goldschmidt passenger manifest, Year: 1948; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 7546; Line: 19; Page Number: 197, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

The second page of the manifest lists a friend named Pinil Laks as the contact person from Max’s prior residence of Tel Aviv and an uncle “Bernh Laks” of Blackwood, New Jersey, as the person he was going to join in the United States.

So who were the Laks? Bernhard Laks, also known as Bernhard Lachs, Berek Laks, and Bernard Laks, was married to Rosa Pless,2 who must have been a sister of Frieda Pless Goldschmidt, Max’s mother, since Max identified Bernard as his uncle and Rosa as his aunt on various documents.  Moreover, Bernard Laks (then spelled Bernhard Lachs) was one of the witnesses on the marriage record for Max’s parents, Siegfried and Frieda.

Bernhard Lachs as witness on the marriage record of Siegfried Goldschmidt and Frieda Fanny Pless. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

When Max arrived at Ellis Island on February 14, 1948, he was denied admission to the United States because he did not have in his possession the immigration visa that he had been granted by the US consul in Palestine on November 17, 1947. A hearing was held on February 18, 1948 before a Board of Special Inquiry, at which Max testified that he had last seen his visa on the day he embarked from Haifa while at customs, that he had left it with his other papers in his baggage, and that while at sea he’d discovered that the visa was missing.

Max also testified that he had no relatives living outside of the US and no money. He stated that he was coming to the US in order to join his relatives, the Laks family of Blackwood, New Jersey, and that his uncle Bernard Laks had paid for his ticket from Haifa. In addition, Max presented an affidavit from Bernard and Rosa Laks in which they, as “his sole surviving relatives,” promised to “receive and care for [Max] and …not permit him to became a public charge.”

Although the Board of Special Inquiry found that Max had a valid Palestinian passport with a stamp indicating that a visa had been issued to him by the US Consulate in Jerusalem, they concluded that he was not admissible without possession of the actual visa. On February 20, 1948, however, the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization (INS) recommended that the decision to deport Max be deferred for ninety days to give him time to locate the visa or to obtain a certified copy.

On March 3, 1948, the ninety day stay was granted, and Max was also granted parole during that period, meaning that on March 4, 1948, he was allowed to enter the country though he was required to report in writing on a monthly basis to the Deportation and Parole Section at Ellis Island. Max had thus been detained for eighteen days at Ellis Island before his parole.

On March 18, 1948, his attorney wrote to INS to notify them that the American Consulate in Jerusalem had confirmed that Max had been granted a visa on November 17, 1947, and that the Visa Division in Washington, DC, had been so notified.  On April 8, 1948, the State Department submitted a certified copy of the visa. However, it was not until four months later on August 11, 1948, that an order was entered to re-open Max’s case. A new hearing was scheduled for September 15, 1948.  Fortunately, Max had better luck at this hearing, and he was granted legal admission into the country on September 15, 1948, more than seven months after arriving at Ellis Island on February 14, 1948. (I assume Max had received extensions of the 90 day parole period initially granted in March, 1948.)

Then began the next chapter of his life and more experiences with the slowly grinding wheels of American bureaucracy. He started the process of becoming a US citizen on October 1, 1948, just two weeks after entering the country officially.  But before Max’s papers could be processed, he was inducted into the US Army on January 1, 1949, the very day the government had scheduled a meeting to discuss his citizenship application. He amended his address to reflect that he was now stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey as a member of the 9th Infantry Division. He was honorably discharged from the army on November 2, 1951, and on March 11, 1955, a certification of his service was issued to INS. His formal petition for naturalization was filed on October 14, 1955, with Bernard and Rosa Laks attesting to his character.

On January 24, 1956, the government received reports from the army that on January 2, 1951, while serving in the army, Max had “stated in substance … that if the Army is an example of democracy, he would take communism” and that on June 4, 1951 while giving a training lecture to his unit, “he introduced the Crusades as an illustrative example in this history of warfare, and then proceeded to interject his own thoughts on the persecution of Jews by Christians at the time of the Crusades, allegedly making rather strong remarks about the Roman Catholic Church. [Max] has at various times in the past tried to turn a topic of conversation into ‘making a case’ for Zionism.”

I suppose Max took the meaning of the First Amendment more literally than the US Army thought appropriate. Whether this had any impact on his citizenship application is not clear. On a page of examiner’s notes dated November 9, 1956, the examiner gave Max a final rating of “deny,” but then that was crossed out, and on May 17, 1957, his application was granted and he was finally issued a certificate of naturalization; he also changed his name to Goldsmith at that time. Despite his service in the US Army, it had taken almost eight years to complete the process of becoming a citizen.

Two months later in July 1957, Max married Shirley Larve in Trenton, New Jersey.3 Shirley was born in Trenton on May 29, 1923, to Joseph and Anna Larve.4 She was 34 when they married, and Max was 32. They did not have any children.

Shirley died at age 70 on July 24, 1993, in Broward County in Florida.5 Her obituary in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on August 15, 1993, filled in some of the gaps in their lives between 1957 and 1993.  Here are some excerpts:

…Shirley worked during WWII for the U.S. Army Finance Dept. and later for 25 years for the Department of Motor Vehicles, State of NJ, retired supervisor in 1985. Married Max Goldsmith July, 1957, an immigrant to the U.S.A. They resided at various locations throughout the U.S.A. … Her life was devoted to her husband, being a true companion to him who had lost his family of 68 members during the Nazi era.

She served two terms as President of the Ladys Auxiliary of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. Post 697 in Levittown, PA. A life member in the American Red Star of David for Israel. In 1989 she received the Lady of the Year award of the Star-Faye Post 672. She was very mild mannered, yet forceful. A lady in her own right. Always unpretending with an inherent sense of justice. She had her golds [goals?] and she never let go until accomplished. She had little patience for people who sat around and complained. Although small in stature yet big in ability and courage.

Shirley and Max thus lived in or near Trenton, New Jersey until 1985 when she retired after 25 years working for the Department of Motor Vehicles. (Levittown, Pennsylvania, is less than eight miles from Trenton.) By 1990, they had moved to Pompano Beach, Florida.6

I am troubled by the reference in her obituary to 68 members of Max’s family being killed in the Holocaust. Who were those 68 people? How were they related to Max? Were they his mother’s relatives? Or were they Goldschmidts I just haven’t found? It haunts me.

Max died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, eleven years after Shirley on July 2, 2004, at age 80.7  He’d endured a great deal in his life—fleeing from his homeland and his family as a young teenager, the murder of his parents, the move to Palestine and then to the US, and all the hassles he endured to become first a legal resident and then a  citizen of the United States.

But I was very comforted after reading Shirley’s obituary; I assume that Max wrote it himself. It is clear from his words that he loved her very deeply and that he felt loved and taken care of by her.  It is wonderful to know how devoted they were to each other, especially after all he’d been through in the first 32 years of his life.

Max Goldsmith, my third cousin, once removed, was a true survivor.  As best I can tell, he was the only and last surviving descendant of  his great-grandparents, Betty Goldschmidt and Jacob Goldschmidt, two first cousins who married each other, both grandchildren of Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Reuben Seligmann, my four-times great-grandparents. By remembering Max, I hope to honor not only him, but all those who came before him.

 

 

 


  1. The references in this post to documents relating to Max’s immigration to the US are all from his A-file from USCIS, copies of which are in my possession. References to his immigration to Palestine and his time there are from the Israeli archives here
  2. On the 1937 passenger manifest for Berek and Rosa Laks, the person they named as their closest relative living in their former residence of Frankfurt was E.Pless, identified as Berek’s mother-in-law and Rosa’s mother. From this I inferred that Rosa’s birth name was Pless and that she was the sister of Frieda Pless Goldschmidt, Max’s mother.  Laks family, passenger manifest, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York;Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957;Microfilm Roll: Roll 6022; Line: 1; Page Number: 127, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  3. Certificate Number: 21705, New Jersey State Archives; Trenton, New Jersey; Marriage Indexes; Index Type: Bride; Year Range: 1957; Surname Range: L – Z, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Marriage Index, 1901-2016 
  4. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,SSN: 146160447 
  5. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,SSN: 146160447 
  6.  Ancestry.com. U.S. Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1. Original data: Voter Registration Lists, Public Record Filings, Historical Residential Records, and Other Household Database Listings. 
  7.  Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, SSN: 129240166 

Berthold Goldschmidt’s Surviving Child, Siegfried

As seen in the last post, six of the seven children born to Berthold Goldschmidt and his wife Mathilde Freudenstein died early in life, including their son Leopold, who was killed in World War I fighting for Germany. The only child who one survived to adulthood was their youngest son Siegfried.

Siegfried was born on April 15, 1896, in Oberlistingen:

Siegfried Goldschmidt birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 909; Signatur: 8079,  1896, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Matthias Steinke of the German Genealogy group kindly translated this record for me:

Nr. 10
Oberlistingen, at the 20st April 1896
To the below signing registrar came today the personally known merchant Berthold Goldschmidt,
residing in Oberlistingen Nr. 56, jewish religion, and reported, that by the
Mathilde Goldschmidt, born Freudenstein, his wife, jewish religion, residing at him,
in Oberlistingen, in his residence, at the 15th April of the year 1896, pre midday at four o’ clock a child of male gender was born, who got the firstname
Siegfried.
Readed, confirmed and signed  Berthold Goldschmidt

The registrar signature

Note the addition made to the right in 1938 after the Nazis required all Jewish men to take the name “Israel” as a middle name:

right text:
Oberlistingen, at the 17th December 1938
The beside named has “suddenly” taken the first name “Israel”
The registrar
(signature)
The correctness with the main register is herewith certified.
Oberlistingen, 17th December 1938

Siegried married  Fanny Frieda Pless on April 18, 1922, in Frankfurt, Germany.  Fanny Frieda was born on August 6, 1895 in Zachan, then part of Germany in the Pomeranian region, but today known as Suchan in Poland. As Siegfried and Fanny Frieda were married in Frankfurt, I assume that Fanny Frieda’s family must have relocated to Frankfurt sometime after her birth. According to the marriage record (also generously translated by Matthias Steinke), Siegfried was living at the time in Holzminden and Fanny Frieda in Frankfurt. Holzminden is about 180 miles north of Frankfurt and 36 miles north of Oberlistingen where Siegfried was born. How did Siegfried meet Fanny Frieda, a woman born far from where he was born and living far from where he lived? I don’t know.

Siegfried Goldschmidt and Fannie Pless marriage record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903 Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Nr. 427
(bann-register nr. 235)
Frankfurt/Main, at the 18th April 1922

To the below signing registrar came today for the reason of a marriage:

1. the merchant Siegfried Goldschmidt, known personally, born at the 15th April of
the year 1896 in Oberlistingen, county of Wolfhagen, birth-register nr. 10 of the civil-registration-office
Oberlistingen, residing in Holzminden,

2. the Fanny Frieda Pless, warehouse assistant, known personally, born the 6th August 1895 in
Zachan, county of Saatzig, birth-register nr. 23 of the civil-registrationoffice in Zachan, residing
in Frankfurt/Main, Uhlandstrasse 15.

As witnesses were present:

3. the hatmaker Bernhard Lachs, known personally, 37 years old, residing in Frankfurt/Main,
grosse B…kt 12,

4. the merchant Jakobi Pless, known personally, 72 years old, residing in Frankfurt/Main, Uhlandstrasse 15,

The registrar asked the engaged couple one after another whether they want to marry each other.
After both confirmed this question, he declared, that they are from now on a legally married couple.

Read, confirmed and signed

(signatures)

This document was also amended in 1938 to reflect the Nazi requirement that Siegfried take the middle name Israel and Fannie the middle name Sara to identify them as Jews and then to reflect the cancellation of that amendment in 1949 after the war:

According the law from August 17, 1938 gets
the groom the additional first name Israel, the bride the additional first name
Sara,
24th July 1939
The regisrar

This order was cancelled by the registrar at the 24th July 1949.

As far as I have been able to find, Siegfried and Fanny Frieda had only one child, a son named Max born on November 30, 1924, in Frankfurt.1

Tragically, Siegfried and Fanny Frieda were both murdered in the Holocaust. They were deported to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 and killed sometime thereafter.2 These are the first Goldschmidt family members I’ve located who died in the Holocaust, but I fear not the only ones. I just haven’t yet found the others. Given that Siegfried’s brother Leopold had died fighting for Germany in World War I, Siegfried and Fanny’s deaths are that much more painful and infuriating. The cruel irony and immorality of that just leave me stunned.

Recently I had an opportunity to make that point to the Goldschmidts’ hometown, Oberlistingen. Back in September, I was contacted by my friend Ernst Klein, who had been our guide in Volkmarsen, Breuna, and Oberlistingen back in 2017. Ernst told me that he was involved in planning an event to take place in Oberlistingen to commemorate the  Jewish soldiers who fought for Germany in World War I. He asked whether I would be willing to write some remarks to be read at the ceremony since my cousin Leopold Goldschmidt was being honored at the ceremony.

When Ernst told me that Leopold had been killed in World War I, it was new information for me as I had not yet found any record of Leopold’s death. Nor did I then know what had happened to Leopold’s younger brother Siegfried.  How I wish I had known what I now know about Leopold and Siegfried so that I could have made my remarks more personalized and specific. Instead I drafted some general remarks and sent them to Ernst.

My remarks were translated into German and printed in the September 21, 2018, issue of Hessische Niedersächsische Allgemein (p. 3):

Here is my best attempt at translating the article with much help from Google Translate and a dictionary:

Caption under picture: Changed in the footsteps of her Jewish ancestors: Amy Cohen of Massachusetts/America visited the home of her ancestors last year. Ernst Klein, chairman of the association Flashback-Against Forgetting, accompanied her and told her a lot about the history of the Jewish inhabitants in the area of North Hesse. 

May it never happen again

Peace Weeks: Remarks of Amy Cohen, a Jewish woman from America

OBERLISTINGEN. As a sign of peace and hope, a ginkgo tree was planted as part of Peace Week in Wolfhager Land at the cemetery in Oberlistingen. The war memorial commemorated the dead who died in the First World War, including Leopold Goldschmidt. The name Goldschmidt is on the plaque at the cemetery as “Goldsehmied” and is probably a distortion of the name. An additional plaque at the memorial calls for tolerance and vigilance. The lecture by Jürgen Damm, Honorary Chairman of the Volksbund German War Graves Welfare (VDK), addressed the history of German Jewish soldiers in the First World War.

As part of the prayer of peace in the church in Oberlistingen, Ernst Klein, chairman of the association Flashback-Against Forgetting, read aloud a greeting from Amy Cohen. She is a relative of Leopold Goldschmidt and lives in Massachusetts/USA. In her greeting, she writes:

“In May 2017, my husband and I had the great pleasure of visiting Germany to see where my father’s ancestors once lived. My visit here in northern Hesse was very moving. It was wonderful to meet so many kind-hearted and hard-working people like Ernst and his colleagues who do everything they can to preserve the history of the Jewish communities that once existed in this area. I am also moved that today people are reminded of the Jewish soldiers who fell in the fight for their German homeland in the First World War, as did my distant cousin Leopold Goldschmidt of Oberlistingen.

And it is also important to remember those Jewish men who survived their service in the German army. Far too many of these men were victims of Nazi persecution 20 years later, despite having fought for Germany in World War I.”

And she goes on to write: “I know that today there are many people in Germany, the US, and elsewhere in the world who are spreading hatred, prejudice and anti-Semitism again. We must do everything we can to remember the past so that what happened under Hitler will never happen again.”

I am glad that I made that point about Jewish soldiers who fought in World War I becoming targets of Nazi terror, but I wish I could have told the specific story of Leopold and Siegfried instead. It would have been much more personal and more powerful.

There was one bright light left for this family.  Somehow Siegfried and Fanny Frieda’s only child, their young son Max, survived. His story in the next post.


  1. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, SSN: 129240166. 
  2.  https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11507807&ind=12, https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11507231&ind=0 

Life of Frieda Bensew Loewenherz, Part III: 1919-1975

By the end of 1918, World War I had ended, and Frieda Bensew and Emanuel Loewenherz had married in Chicago. Soon thereafter there were troubles at KW, the battery company where they had met in 1913:

The man who was heading the company, supposedly an old friend of Manek whom we trusted, in fact idolized, turned out to be an embezzler. Not alone did he cheat the firm out of huge sums, but also my hard earned savings which I had given him, believing his promises of a speedy return. Besides Manek had signed notes for him and it took a long time to pay these off. But it was not the money but the great disappointment in a man, a close associate for years who took such an advantage of us, his true friends.

Manek had a heart to heart talk with Mr. Paepcke, in case this gentleman should harbor any doubt about him, in which case he would resign. But Mr. Paepcke not only expressed his full confidence but made Manek the head of the company, which he built up to a very successful enterprise -earning the respect of all associates and the community. We worked hard and there were many obstacles to overcome, but Manek met the challenge with perseverance. His kindness and generosity knew no bounds as well as his understanding, from the lowest laborer to the chairman of the Board.

KW Battery letterhead. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Thus, as my mother would say, from bad came good. The loss of the money and the betrayal by their friend led to Emanuel’s promotion to president of KW and a long and successful career there.

Frieda and Emanuel’s son Walter was born on August 6, 1920, and when Walter was 20 months old, Frieda took him to Europe to meet her family as well as Emanuel’s family, whom she herself had never met.

Frieda Loewenherz and her infant son Walter, 1920.
Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda and Walter Loewenherz traveling to Europe 1922. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Uncle Julius [Mansbach, who had met her at the ship in Hamburg] took me all the way home to my parents in Melsungen. I can’t describe our emotions, they remain unforgettable! As I write this, more than 48 years later, I am reliving those days and weeks. Alas, the end was sad. My dear, gentle mother passed away, quietly and peacefully. My father, sister and everybody else who knew her said that her desire to see me and baby kept her alive and the fact that this wish was granted her alleviated my pain.

Breine Mansbach Bensew died on May 31, 1922, in Melsungen; she was 77 years old.1

After some weeks in Melsungen mourning with her family, Frieda took Walter to Vienna where she met for the first time Emanuel’s mother Charlotte and brothers Henryk and Josef, Henryk’s wife Rosa and their son Richard, and Josef’s wife Sofie and children Ada and Siegmund. After a wonderful visit with them, she and Walter visited her uncle Julius Mansbach and his wife Frieda (her cousin) and their son Alfred. She then returned to Chicago and her happy life with her husband.

In the years that followed, Frieda and Emanuel settled into family life in Chicago, continuing their trips to Europe and to the West to see family. Here they are in Denver in 1926 with Frieda’s brother Julius Bensev:

Julius Bensev and Loewenherz family in Denver 1926. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

In 1929, they bought a house in Winnetka, Illinois, that would become the long-time family home.

Loewenherz home in Winnetka. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Two months after moving in, Frieda’s cousin Alfred Mansbach, son of her uncle Julius and her cousin Frieda, came from Germany and moved into their home.

Walter was in 4th grade in Greeley School and we sent Alfred, although he was 19 and had finished the “Gymnasium” (High School) in Germany, to New Trier High school for one semester, to get an idea of our schools and help his English. The following year he entered Northwestern University as freshman.

Then in 1932, Emanuel’s nephew Siegmund, Josef’s son, moved into their home:

In 1932 Siegmund came to us from Vienna. By then Alfred had moved to Chicago and was working and also taking courses in air conditioning – an industry in its infancy. Siegmund went to Northwestern University School of Music and also to English classes.

In 1934, the family made another trip to Europe—to France and Italy as well as Vienna. Here are Frieda and Emanuel in Venice:

Frieda and Emanuel Loewenherz in Venice, 1934
Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

But Hitler had taken power in Germany, and there were serious concerns about his intentions.

It was the spring of 1934 and Hitler had been in power in Germany a whole year. Manek was very apprehensive but [his brother] Josef did not think he would ever attack Austria. – How right Manek was – he pleaded then with the folks to get out of the country, to no avail. Grandma Charlotte could not even think of it- at her age. Josef was still convinced that Hitler would leave Austria alone – how the picture changed in a few years.

The family traveled on to Danzig and to Germany:

The next day we were welcomed at the Danzig Station by [Emanuel’s brother] Henryk. There we saw the first Bravo-shirts — I almost felt sick to my stomach. Danzig was already under the influence of Hitler, with Hitler youth, marching and Nazis in the higher echelons – Henryk lived in Oliva which was Polish a short train ride away. We were happy to be together but that cloud of Nazism hung over us like a dark shadow.

Dr. Greg from Cologne came to see us there … to persuade us to come to Cologne and be his guests. I was frank to state that I felt uneasy about it and feared that he might get into difficulties for having Jewish guests. He answered, “Nobody is going to dictate to me whom I can invite.” So we promised to come. -The days passed pleasantly – we did not fathom then that it would be our last visit together– We made a stopover at Berlin and visited my nephew Alfred [Stern, son of Frieda’s sister Roschen] and his wife Rita. It seems all we saw was uniforms and Nazi banners. – We were glad to leave although Cologne was not much better.

Since Frieda mentioned her nephew Alfred but not her sister Roschen, I have to wonder whether Roschen was no longer living by the spring of 1934. It remains the one big unsolved mystery of my Bensew relatives—the fate of Roschen Bensew Stern.

Three years later, Frieda lost her beloved uncle, Julius Mansbach, who had returned with his wife Frieda to the US just a few years before to join their son Alfred in Chicago.

In the spring of 1937 we planned to go to New Orleans for Walter’s Easter vacation. We did sightseeing for 2 days, then a telegram arrived from Alfred that his father had passed away suddenly. The shock was awful – He and Frieda had seen us off at the station and had all kinds of plans for our return. We took the freight train back to Chicago – Frieda [Bensew Mansbach] was numb with grief and I just could not accept the thought never to hear Uncle Julius’ voice again. He was so gay when we left, had all kinds of little packages for me “to open on the train,” he loved surprises – I don’t want to dwell on this sad time.

Meanwhile, things in Europe were getting more and more ominous.

Conditions in Germany were getting worse for the Jews and we made out many affidavits for family members. The first to come was [Emanuel’s nephew] Richard  in July 1937 – he had finished his studies at medical school and was interning in Vienna for a short while before.–He-stayed with us until he got an internship at a hospital in Chicago.

In March 1938, catastrophe struck Austria; Hitler marched into Vienna! The persecution of the Jews cannot be described. Josef together with all the leading members of the community was jailed for weeks. It became imperative to get Siegmund out as quickly as possible, perhaps with Ada. [Josef’s children] [Siegmond arrived in] July… Ada arrived in the U.S. in August. ….

In August 1939 Hitler invaded Poland and occupied it. Luckily, Micha [son of Emanuel’s brother Henryk] who was born in Danzig, could get a visa and he left the end of August. While en route, the war in Poland broke out but he was safe and arrived in New York on Sept. 3.- Manek and Walter met him, a 13 year old [boy] … It was a new experience to have another adolescent in the house and under such circumstances. We knew how hard it was for his parents to part with him and we did everything to make him feel at home. Since he did not speak English, it was fortunate that we could make his adjustment easier by speaking German to him and Walter was a real big brother to him.

Emanuel and Frieda had done everything to rescue the Loewenherz relatives in Europe and had largely succeeded. The children of Josef and Henryk were all safe—Siegmund, Ada, Richard, and Micha (who became Michael in the US).

But tragically they could not rescue Emanuel’s brother Henryk and his wife Rosa:

Many people fled without visas in small boats to Denmark which was so close and Denmark was most hospitable to Jews and hid them from the Nazis. But Henryk wanted to have official permission and our efforts, as well as Josef’s from Vienna were without success. And then came their notice that they were leaving for Cracow- From then on news were scarce, a card now and then. Finally, when we received permission from the British Consulate for a transit visa to England, it did not reach them any more – they had left Cracow- destination unknown.

Emanuel’s other brother Josef and his wife Sofie were still in Vienna, trying to get out. Then in December 1941, the US entered World War II.

Our lives were changed. Manek worked harder as war orders had to be filled, and restrictions in the economic appeared soon, although there was no food shortage. We could not communicate with the folks in Vienna. In January or perhaps later (I am not certain about the exact date) we were at war with Germany too) and the gigantic war machine was in full swing with all the heartaches, anxieties and hopes for an early peace– Everybody worked for the Red Cross- I knitted day and night, helmets, gloves with trigger fingers, scarves, sweaters, etc. ….

Walter knew he was going to be drafted. Meanwhile he continued school, hoping to finish. He had become friends with Bea, also at Northwestern U. in the School of Education. It was not too long until the friendship ripened and the outcome was their engagement after Bea graduated in June. Walter graduated in August. We were happy about it, although we knew that Walter would soon be drafted. It happened in Sept. and he was sent for basic training to Fort Lawton, Oklahoma. … We had, in addition the worry about the folks in Vienna.

Walter and Emanuel Loewenherz c. 1942. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

On top of all this stress, or maybe because of it, Emanuel suffered a serious heart attack in December, 1942. Fortunately he recovered, though he and Frieda could not attend Walter and Bea’s wedding in Oklahoma on March 20, 1943.

One had to accept this too – we were happy and grateful for Manek’s recovery and it was only a short time when Walter was ordered to the Officer’s Training School outside of Washington. Bea rented a room in Washington and did research work on her Master’s thesis. In June Walter was made 2nd Lieut. in G2 (Intelligence) and received a week’s leave which they spent in Winnetka. His first assignment was at the Brooklyn Army Base and they were fortunate to get an apartment there. … As he was specially trained because of his knowledge of German we figured that he would be sent to Europe, but he was sent to the Pacific in October.

Frieda, Emanuel, Bea, and Walter Loewenherz in NY before he was sent to the Pacific. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

The war ended in Europe in April, 1945, and then in the Pacific that August.  It was then that they learned the tragic fate of Emanuel’s brother Henryk and his wife Rosa:

What we dreaded was true – they were sent to the extermination camp.

According to the Yad Vashem database, Henryk and Rosa were murdered at Auschwitz in 1942.

But Frieda was overjoyed to learn that somehow Josef and his wife Sofie had survived the war. (She did not go into details about how they managed to escape from the Nazi death machine.) Josef and Sofie came to the US and were reunited with their children, who were now grown adults.

After the war, life returned to peacetime conditions, and in the years that followed, Frieda and Emanuel were blessed with many grandchildren and a meaningful and joyful life. Walter worked with his father at KW, eventually taking over the company and freeing Emanuel and Frieda with more time to travel in retirement.

Frieda and Emanuel Loewenherz 1962. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda Loewenherz 1963. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda was heartbroken when her beloved Manek died on December 22, 1963.

My world had crumbled and I did not know how to cope with what was left – then I did realize that Manek would want me to go on, as he so often emphasized in our conversations in our happy days. We used to discuss life from every angle and every phase of it and I admired his philosophy and his clear, human outlook. But above all was his deep love which I shared for over 45 years – how many people are that fortunate? And that helps me to go on, it is something precious and all my own.

Frieda did go on and enjoyed her extended family for another twelve years. She died on December 17, 1975, at the age of 89.2 Here is one final photograph of my cousin Frieda, one that I think reflects all her beauty, inside and out:

Frieda Bensew Loewenherz. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Reflecting back on her life after reading this memoir several times now, I continue to be moved to tears and feel goosebumps as I do. Frieda and Emanuel lived an incredible life together.  Theirs was a true love story.

But they were much more than that.  Their love was not limited to love for each other, but for their entire extended family—the Mansbachs, the Bensevs, and the Loewenherzs. They made sure to stay connected to them all despite all the distances and obstacles. And they did what they could to rescue their family members in Europe and opened their home over and over again to those beloved family members. Despite all the evil they saw—the discrimination they personally faced during World War I and the hateful destruction of Jewish life in Europe under the Nazis—they remained positive, life-affirming, and loving.


All excerpts from Frieda Loewenherz’s memoir and all the photographs in this post are published with the permission of Franz Loewenherz, her great-grandson. My deep gratitude to Franz for his generosity.


  1. Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 4684,
    Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 
  2. Ancestry.com. Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 

Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Story for the New Year

For Rosh Hashanah this year, I want to share a story about one of my cousins. His life is a true example of how we as human beings are capable not only of inconceivable evil but more importantly of boundless love and undying hope and gratitude.

When we talk about the Holocaust, the number six million is both overwhelming and numbing. Our minds can’t grasp what six million people looks like—what six million of anything would look like. Visiting the camps makes that number somewhat more comprehensible; when we visited Auschwitz in 2015 and saw the huge piles of eyeglasses, of shoes, of suitcases, each representing one of those six million killed, it made the scope of the horror more visceral. It gave us a concrete, visual way of imagining each of those killed. This video also helps to illustrate the immensity of that number:

 

But for me, it is the individual stories of those people who were killed that leave the biggest impact. If we read one story about one of the six million who were killed each day for our entire life, we still would hardly make a dent in the total numbers. Assuming we read a story a day for eighty years, we would still have read fewer than 30,000 stories—learned about only 30,000 of the six million who were killed. And that doesn’t even include the horrifying stories of many of the survivors—those who survived the camps, those who spent the years in hiding, those who escaped but who had lost their families and homes forever.

This is the story of a cousin whose life was forever changed because of the Nazis. He wishes to remain anonymous, so I will refer to him simply as J. J is my fifth cousin, another descendant of Jakob Falcke; his family left Oberlistingen, Germany at the end of the 19th century and moved to the Netherlands, where for many generations the men were butchers and cattle traders or worked in the textile and clothing business. J’s father was a butcher.

Their quiet lives were forever altered after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in May, 1940. J’s father was taken to Mauthausen concentration camp, where he was killed in October, 1941. J, who was just a young boy, and his mother and younger sister were left behind. When it became clear that the Nazis were going to start deporting all the Jews in Holland to concentration camps, J’s mother placed her two children in an orphanage in Utrecht, believing that the Nazis would not deport children because they would be too young to work. J’s mother and her sisters went into hiding with a non-Jewish family.

Description: Jewish Memorial in Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Austria main courtyard. 
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mauthausen-Jewish_memorial.jpg
Photographer: Gianmaria Visconti
Year: 2002

But then in December, 1942, those living in the orphanage were moved from Utrecht to the ghetto in Amsterdam, and J’s mother realized that her children were in imminent danger. She tried to get her children released from the orphanage, but it was impossible. Instead, a cousin who was working at a hospital in Amsterdam somehow managed to kidnap the children and bring them to a safe place in Amsterdam where J and his sister could then be placed in hiding.

At that point J’s mother relinquished her spot in the home where she and her sisters had been hiding so that her son, my cousin J, would have a safe place to hide. His sister was hidden somewhere else. J’s mother moved to different hiding places, but she was eventually discovered by the Nazis in the fall of 1943. She was deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered in October 1943. As J expressed it to me, she had given everything so that her children would survive.

Deportation of Jews from Amsterdam
By Anonymous (National Archives) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

J and his sister survived the war in their hiding places. After the war, his sister immigrated to Israel, where she still lives. J stayed in the Netherlands and continued to live with the brave couple who had kept first his mother and aunts safe and then kept him safe. He described them as being like grandparents to him. They made it possible for him to go to college, where he trained to become a veterinarian.

Despite the horrible losses he experienced as a young boy, J has led a remarkably productive and happy life. In addition to achieving professional success, he has been married since 1958 and has four children, ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.  He is another example of the resilience of human beings who, in the face of the darkest evil and the most heinous cruelty, somehow emerge into the light and are able to give and receive love and find the good and the beautiful in our world.

For me this is an appropriate story for Rosh Hashanah,  It reminds us that although we must always look back and remember, we also have to look forward with hope. We must be cognizant of all that is evil in the world, but we must embrace all that is good and beautiful.

May we all find the light of love and share all that is good and beautiful in the coming year.

L’shanah tova! A good year to you all, family and friends!

By Gilabrand (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann: A Final Update

The process of finding the story of Rosa Abraham has been a challenging one. At first all I had was her birth record and one passenger manifest for a Rosa Zechermann with the same birth date and birth place.

Ricchen Rosa Abraham birth record Nov 20 1892 Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6177

Rosa Abraham passenger card
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at Miami, Florida.; NAI Number: 2788541; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85

Then with the incredible help of members of the Jekkes Facebook group, I learned that Rosa had married Isidor Zechermann and immigrated to Chile to escape Hitler. I had not found a marriage record, but several bits of circumstantial evidence supported that conclusion.

Most recently I’d received Rosa and Isidor’s request for repatriation as German citizens and Rosa’s application for reparations from the German government for the loss of her occupation. I also was able to deduce from various documents and directories that Rosa and Isidor must have married sometime between 1930 and 1932. But I still didn’t have a marriage record that proved when they were married and, perhaps most importantly, that the Rosa who married Isidor was in fact my cousin Rosa Abraham.  All the evidence pointed in that direction, but I had no official record, just secondary sources and circumstantial evidence.

I wrote to the city of Frankfurt to request a marriage record, and Sigrid Kaempfer of the Institut fuer Stadtgeschichte responded not only with Isidor and Rosa’s long sought marriage record, but with three other interesting documents as well. First, that much hoped-for marriage record:

Marriage record of Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann

It states that Isidor Zechermann, merchant, born on February 25, 1878, in Frankfurt and living in Frankfurt, married Ricchen Rosa Abraham, business owner, born on November 20, 1892, in Niederurff, on September 17, 1930, in Frankfurt. Finally, I had the proof I needed to get closure. My cousin Ricchen Rosa Abraham, daughter of Hirsch Abraham and Pauline Ruelf, born on November 20, 1892, was the wife of Isidor Zechermann and had married him in the time period I had determined in my last post about Rosa.

Also of interest—the two witnesses to the marriage were Adele Trier, geb. Abraham, Rosa’s sister, and Alfred Trier, Adele’s husband. Adele and Alfred were the couple Rosa and Isidor went to visit in Queens in 1952, as I wrote about here.

Ms. Kaempfer also sent me a link to Isidor’s birth record, confirming that he was born on February 25, 1878, in Frankfurt. With the help of the German Genealogy group, I learned that Isidor was the son of Schaye Zechermann, a shoemaker, and Fanny Benedikt. (Special thanks to Heike Keohane and Carolina Meyer for their extraordinary help in decoding Schaye’s first name!)

Isidor Zechermann birth record
HStAMR Best. 903 Nr. 8916 Standesamt Mitte (Frankfurt) Geburtsnebenregister 1878, S. 61

And Ms. Kaempfer sent me two documents relating to the businesses operated by Rosa and Isidor. For Rosa, she sent me this record of her tax payments from 1924 through 1932 for her “Damenkonfektion” or ladies’ clothing business. The form also notes the change to her married name Zechermann. And it indicates that Rosa’s business was shut down on August 31, 1938, and deregistered on September 8, 1938, presumably by the Nazis.

Rosa Abraham business record 1924-1938

For Isidor, Ms. Kaempfer sent me the record of his registration as a haberdasher in Frankfurt. He first registered on September 6, 1933.

Isidor Zechermann business registration and deregistration

I am not sure how to interpret the various entries on the first line below the solid line on the right side of this card, which asks about the location and personnel of the management of the business, but the last two notes there—-“isr./isr” —-are quite obviously a reference to the fact that the owner of the business was Jewish (“Israeltisch”). And the red stamped entries on this card—indicating that the business was shut down on August 31, 1938 and deregistered on September 3, 1938—are clearly a reflection of Nazi persecution as presumably was the case with Rosa’s business.

With these final records, I now have closure on the life of Rosa Abraham and Isidor Zechermann.  I know when and where they were born, when and where they married, where they lived and worked in Frankfurt, when they emigrated from Germany and moved to Chile, and when they died. But it truly took a village to get here.

This search has proven once again that this work cannot be done alone and depends on the generosity of many people.  Thank you all! As this year draws to a close, I am mindful of and grateful for all the help I have received in 2017.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my friends, family, and readers who celebrate Christmas a joyful and loving holiday.  I will be taking a short break from blogging, but will return in 2018 to start the saga of my Goldschmidt family.

Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year! Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone!

 

Rosa Abraham Zechermann: A Story for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! Today’s post is in many ways fitting for Hanukkah, the holiday that commemorates the survival of a small number of Jews, the Maccabees, against all odds and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after their victory. It is a story thus about Jewish survival against persecution and the struggle for freedom and so in many ways is the story of Rosa Abraham Zechermann.

Back on October 31, 2017, I wrote about my search for Rosa Abraham, my third cousin, once removed, and the aunt of Fred and Martin Abrahams. Through the amazing connections I made on Facebook, I’d been able to establish that Rosa had married Isidor Zechermann and that both of them had immigrated to Santiago, Chile, to escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s. At the end of that post I mentioned that I was requesting a copy of their naturalization application and other files from the archives in Hesse, hoping to learn more about Rosa and Isidor, including when and where they had married.

I have now received the files, and unfortunately, I still do not have the answer to those last two questions, but the files I received did shed light on Rosa and Isidor and their lives before and during the Nazi era and have helped me narrow down the possible years and places where Rosa and Isidor married.

The file that was described as a naturalization file was actually Isidor and Rosa’s application for repatriation as German citizens. It was filed in 1952. From the notes at the bottom of this letter, we can see that they left Germany together as a married couple on December 13, 1938.

In his letter, Isidor wrote, “We have been living in Santiago de Chile since 1939, but we never applied for the Chilean citizenship because we could not give up the faith one day to become citizens of our German homeland again. Upon request, the local German Consulate confirmed to me that repatriation is possible, and I would be particularly grateful for fulfilling my request.”

After all that they must have experienced and lost during the Nazi era, Isidor and Rosa still considered Germany their homeland and wanted their status as German citizens restored.

The government granted their request, concluding that they were among those who were denied citizenship for political, racial, or religious reasons during the Nazi era:

 

Two years later, Rosa applied for reparations from the German government for damages she suffered during the Nazi era. I am very grateful to Irene Newhouse of the Jekkes group on Facebook for her generous help in translating Rosa’s letter and the government’s response.

Rosa wrote:

Santa Rosa 160 Dep. E.

Vitae curriculum

I had, in Frankfurt/Main, a women’s couture boutique and in the years 1932 to 31 July 1938, earned 600 Marks monthly.

I had to give up my skilled trade, as we, as Jews were victimized by the chicanery of the Nazis and the Gestapo, and the latter forced us to emigrate with threats. Relatives supported us from 1939 to 1942, until I succeeded to wring out a small independence with my needlework.

From the year 1943 to 1946, I earned about 1000 pesos a month, from 1947 to 1952, about 1500 pesos per month.

Since 1952, I’m unable to work due to gout, and am supported by my relations in the USA.

Rosa then requested compensation for her emigration expenses and the loss of her business and of her other assets.

In response the government awarded her 2,830.20 Deutsche marks as reparation for the damages she had suffered.

According to this website, in 1955 there were 4.2 marks to a US dollar, meaning that the award to Rosa was worth in 1955 about $673.  Allowing for inflation, $673 in 1955 would be worth about $6,100 today, according to this calculator. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a very generous award for someone who had been forced to emigrate and sacrifice her business and her home.

Although I did not learn exactly when Rosa married Isidor, it is clear from these papers that they were married before they left Germany and had been living together in Frankfurt at the time of their emigration from Germany.  Also, now that I know that Rosa had a business as a “Damenschneider” in Frankfurt beginning in 1932, I can assume that this is her listing in the 1932 Frankfurt directory:

That means she was married to Isidor as of 1932, probably earlier if she is listed this way in the 1932 directory. But where and when were they married?

Since Isidor’s first wife died on August 23, 1924, Isidor and Rosa must have married between then and 1932. Searching the Frankfurt directories before 1932, I found that Rosa was listed in the 1928 and 1931 directories as Rosa Abraham, not Zechermann, meaning that she must have married Isidor sometime between 1930 and 1932.

I have written to the registry in Frankfurt to see if they can find a marriage record, but it is also possible that Rosa was married in her birthplace, Niederurff. At any rate, I have narrowed down the possible range of years when they must have married.

Beginning in 1933 Isidor and Rosa are listed together, first living on Oberlindau Strasse and then beginning in 1935 at 15 Bohmerstrasse, the address given on their application for repatriation in 1952. Rosa (listed as Rosel) had her shop at 13 Bohmerstrasse. Living down the street were Jakob and Frida Zechermann, who presumably were Isidor’s relatives. Frida was named as Rosa’s representative in her request for reparations. Jakob and Isidor are both identified as “Kaufman,” or merchant. The Erdg indicates that Isidor and Rosa were living on the ground floor, and the T followed by a series of numbers was their telephone number.

1935 Frankfurt directory
Ancestry.com. Germany and Surrounding Areas, Address Books, 1815-1974 [database on-line]

In 1939 there is no separate listing for Rosa, just for Isidor. I assume by that time Rosa had been forced to close her business. And in 1940, neither Isidor nor Rosa is listed, of course, as they had departed for Chile.

Although I am still hoping to find a marriage record for Isidor and Rosa, I am now more satisfied that I have been able to put together a fuller picture of the life of my cousin Rosa Abraham Zechermann. And from Simon in the Jekkes group, I learned that Rosa and Isidor were an active part of the Jewish community in Santiago.  They had struggled and they had survived to enjoy their freedom.

Thank you again to Irene Newhouse for translating Rosa’s reparations papers and also to the members of the German Genealogy group on Facebook for helping me decipher some of the abbreviations in the Frankfurt directories.

And happy Hanukkah to all!

 

 

 

A Year with the Katzensteins

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, my great-grandmother

When I finish (as much as we ever finish) telling the story of a particular family line, I always have mixed feelings. In some ways I feel a sense of relief—I’ve accomplished my goal. It feels good to know that I’ve covered to the best of my ability the story of my direct ancestors and their descendants in that family as well as the stories of their siblings and their descendants.

But it is also in some ways bittersweet. Each family brings its own color and depth to my family history, and each time I’ve been so fortunate to find living descendants—people who share that history, but know it from a different perspective. As I move away from that story, it feels like leaving a family after a long visit.  You’ve just gotten to know them, and now it’s time to move on. Not that I ever forget, and I always try and stay connected with the cousins I’ve found, but my focus shifts. So it’s a separation, and those are always bittersweet.

I have been studying the Katzenstein family for over a year now, starting with my great-great-grandfather Gerson and his descendants and then on to each of his siblings and their stories. I have found and in some cases met wonderful new cousins—many cousins who descend from Gerson’s sister Rahel and her husband Jacob Katz and who settled in Kentucky and Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Abraham Katz and family c. 1906
courtesy of the Katz family

Jake Katz
Photo found in Stanley Tucker Whitney Houston, Stillwater (Arcadia Publishing 2014), p. 38

There were the descendants of Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach who lived in West Virginia and Maryland. These are all places where I never imagined I had cousins.

Some of those cousins came as children from Germany with their parents to escape Hitler. Some ended up in the US, others in South America, South Africa, and Israel.

Front row: Eva Baumann, Fred Abrahams, Martin Abrahams, Margot Baumann. Courtesy of Martin Abrahams

Other cousins have roots in the US going back to the Civil War. One cousin fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

H.H. Mansbach
Courtesy of John Fazenbaker at FindAGrave
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=85694927&PIpi=56133066

My cousins were mostly merchants, and some were cattle ranchers.  One of my great-grandmother’s brothers lost his wife and child in the Johnstown Flood. Some cousins lived incredibly long lives; some died far too young. Some were wealthy; some were not. And some never made it out of Germany. Far too many were killed by the Nazis. One was still singing at 93, and one was killed by a terrorist when he was in his 30s.

It has been a fascinating and rewarding year for me. I have learned so much about this family and about my Jesberg roots—the town where my great-great-grandfather Gerson grew up and the town he left as a young man with three children in 1856 to come to Philadelphia. My great-grandmother Hilda never saw Jesberg, the town where her father was born and where three of her siblings were born. But I did. I was able to visit Jesberg in May and see where my Katzenstein family had its roots. It was a moving experience that would not have been nearly as meaningful if I hadn’t already spent seven months learning about all those Katzenstein ancestors who lived there.

So it is bittersweet to move on.

I have now written about all eight of my great-grandparents—-Joseph Brotman, Bessie Brod, Moritz Goldschlager, Ghitla Rosenzweig, Emanuel Cohen, Eva Mae Seligman, Isidor Schoenthal, and Hilda Katzenstein. Those are eight of the family names with which I had the most familiarity before I ever started down this path.[1] The names ahead are less familiar—the names of some of my great-great-grandparents—Jacobs, Hamberg, Dreyfuss, Goldschmidt, Schoenfeld, Bernheim, Bernstein, and so on. Which one comes next?

Stay tuned. But first some posts to catch up on a few other matters.

[1] I did not know the birth names of my great-grandmothers Bessie and Ghitla. And I did know one more name—Nusbaum, my father’s middle name and the birth name of my great-great-grandmother Frances Nusbaum Seligman.

Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander: Mystery Solved!

Back on October 24, 2017, I wrote about Regina Katzenstein, the daughter of Mina Katzenstein and her husband Wolf Katzenstein. Mina Katzenstein was a daughter of Jacob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion and was the niece of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein. Her daughter Regina was thus my paternal grandmother’s first cousin.

Regina married Selig Alexander of Frankenau, and they had seven children, but only four lived to adulthood: Bertha, Rosa, Mina, and Samuel. I learned that Regina, Seligman, and three of their children had escaped to South Africa in the 1930s, but I had no luck finding out what had happened to their oldest daughter Bertha. I knew she had married Julius Simon of Pohl-Goens in 1922, but that was it. I didn’t know whether they had any children or whether they had survived the Holocaust. They just seemed to have disappeared.

I asked Aaron Knappstein if he could help, and he soon sent me this wonderful photograph of Julius Simon taken when he was serving in the German military during World War I. But I’d given up on ever finding out what had happened to Julius and Bertha after 1922.

And then last week Aaron shocked me by emailing me that he had learned what had happened to Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander. Aaron had written to Dr. Dieter Wolf, the head of the museum and archives for the city of Butzbach, Germany, and Dr. Wolf had responded with detailed information about Julius and Bertha. Now I have closure on one of the most perplexing mysteries in my research of the Katzenstein family.

Dr. Wolf relied on a review of documents including address books from Pohl-Goens but primarily on a book written by Werner Reusch in 1998 entitled Wäi the Bimbel noach ean Polgies gehale hoat. Pohl-Göns in the 20th century (Selbstverlag Butzbach-Ebersgöns 1998). [I have no idea what that title means, and neither did Google Translate.  Does anyone?] UPDATE: See the comment from Michael Zorn below. Michael lives in Pohl-Gons and informed me that the title means “When the Steam Train Stopped in Pohl-Gons.” Thank you, Michael.

The book not only includes information about the family of Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander; it includes several photographs of them. Here is one of Julius and Bertha with both Bertha’s parents and Julius’ parents taken in 1923; I believe the young boy was Julius’ nephew.

Back row: Bertha Alexander, Regina Katzenstein Alexander, Selig Alexander, and Julius Simon in 1923 (found at p. 263 of Werner Reusch’s book, Wäi die Bimbel noach ean Polgies gehale hoat. Pohl-Göns im 20. Jahrhundert.  Selbstverlag Butzbach-Ebersgöns 1998

According to Dr. Wolf and Werner Reusch, Bertha and Julius had two children, a daughter Senta, born in 1926, and a son Martin, who died before his first birthday. He was born on September 9, 1928, and died on January 9, 1929; Martin is buried in Pohl-Goens.  According to Werner Reusch, the Simon family was a distinguished family in the town.

When Julius received a warning that he was going to be arrested by the Nazis in early 1936, he and Bertha and Senta left immediately, first going to Frankfurt for a short time and then to Johannesburg, South Africa, where Bertha’s parents and siblings also settled as well as many of Julius’ relatives. This is a photograph from Reusch’s book of Senta, Julius, and Bertha in 1940 in Johannesburg.

Senta Simon, Julius Simon, and Bertha Alexander Simon, 1940 Johannesburg. Found in Werner’s Reusch’s book Wäi die Bimbel noach ean Polgies gehale hoat. Pohl-Göns im 20. Jahrhundert. Selbstverlag Butzbach-Ebersgöns 1998, p. 264

In 1966, Bertha, Julius, and Senta left South Africa and moved to Israel, where they settled in Rehovoth. Julius died there in January 1987; my cousin Bertha Alexander Simon lived to 101, dying in February 1995. Here is a photograph of her celebrating her 100th birthday in Israel.

Bertha Alexander Simon celebrating her 100th birthday in Israel. Found on p, 264 in Werner Reusch’s book, Wäi die Bimbel noach ean Polgies gehale hoat. Pohl-Göns im 20. Jahrhundert. Selbstverlag Butzbach-Ebersgöns 1998

In addition to their daughter Senta, Bertha and Julius were survived by two granddaughters.

Thank you once again to Aaron Knappstein, who has proven time and time again that he is an excellent and persistent researcher and a good friend.