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.

Sliding Doors

Back in April, I wrote about the family of Rosalie Schoenthal, my great-grandfather’s sister, the one who stayed in Germany to marry Willy Heymann.  Most of what I knew of their fate I learned from the memoir written by Ernest Lion, the man who married Rosalie and Willy’s granddaughter, Liesel Mosbach.  Liesel, her sister, her parents, and her aunt, were all victims of the Holocaust. Ernest Lion memorialized them all in his heartbreaking memoir, The Fountain at the Crossroad.

As I mentioned in a subsequent post written for Yom Hashoah in May, I was so moved by Ernest’s story that I tracked down his son Tom to ask about getting it published so that it could be more widely read.  Since then, I have been working with Tom to edit and format the memoir for publication.  (We’ve run into a few obstacles, but that’s a story for another day.)  I am hoping that sometime soon the book will be available for distribution. When it is, I will post the relevant information on the blog.

But none of this would be possible without the help of another of my cousins by marriage, Sharon.  Sharon is married to the great-grandson of Simon Schoenthal, who was also my great-grandfather’s brother as well as Rosalie Schoenthal Heymann’s brother.  And Sharon, who writes the blog The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, has a great deal of knowledge not only about writing, but also about getting your writing published.  Sharon and her husband were the ones who shared with me the remarkable memoir written by Hettie Schoenthal Stein.  So when I decided to try and get Ernest Lion’s book into a publishable format, I turned to Sharon for help.

Sharon spent hours through email and Skype instructing me on how to turn a typed manuscript into a format that is not only more readable, but also professional looking.  She has been incredibly patient with me, as all this was new to me, and the old brain isn’t quite as flexible as it once was.  I cannot possibly express how grateful I am to her for her help.

One of the last things we worked on was inserting photographs into the memoir, and as she was doing this, Sharon was struck by the resemblance she saw between Liesel Mosbach Lion, Ernest’s first wife and our mutual cousin, and Sharon’s mother-in-law, Blanche Stein Lippincott.  She sent me a photograph of Blanche and her family that I had not previously seen.

ezzie-blanche-parvin-1940

Blanche Stein Lippincott and her family 1940 Courtesy of the Lippincott family

And here is a photograph of Liesel Mosbach and Ernest Lion that I obtained from Ernest’s son to put into his book:

wedding-ernest-liesel-dec-18-1940-600-dpi

Liesel Mosbach and Ernest Lion Courtesy of the Lion Family

 

The resemblance is striking.  Blanche and Liesel were second cousins, but from these two photographs, they could have been sisters.

jpg-blanche-to-liesel

 

But what different lives and fates they had, and the expressions on their faces in these two photographs reflect those differences. While Blanche looks healthy and happy, Liesel looks drawn and sad, even on her wedding day.

Blanche was born in 1912 in Tucson, Arizona, and grew up living on the American frontier in the 1910s and 1920s.  Her mother Hattie and her aunt Gertrude had ventured out west after growing up in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.  They did later return to the East, as I’ve written, and Blanche spent the rest of her life living in New Jersey.  She married in 1937 and raised two children with her husband Ezra.  Blanche lived a long and happy life, making it to almost 101 years old before dying in 2013.  Her mother Hettie had made it to 103.

Blanche Stein Lippincott with her great-granddaughter 1996

Blanche Stein Lippincott with her great-granddaughter 1996

In contrast, Liesel lived a short and tragic life.  She was born in 1921 in Germany, where her father Julius Mosbach owned a fruit and vegetable stand. The family was probably living a comfortable enough life until Hitler came to power.  When Liesel married Ernest Lion on December 18, 1939, conditions for Jews were terrible in Germany, and the young couple had no idea what the future would bring.

There would, in fact, be no future. As a result of the Nazi oppression and the loss of his business, Julius Mosbach suffered a nervous breakdown; in 1941, he was sent to an institution where instead of being treated, he was murdered by the Nazis. In 1942, Liesel’s mother, sister, and aunt, and Ernest’s father were all deported and eventually killed in a Nazi concentration camp.  In 1943, Liesel and Ernest were deported to Auschwitz, where Liesel was killed.  Ernest survived and eventually escaped; he became the voice for the whole family.

Thus, Blanche and Liesel, second cousins who looked like sisters, had far different lives and fates.  I can’t help but think, what if Rosalie and Willie had come to the US like almost all of Rosalie’s siblings? What if Liesel and her sister Grete had grown up in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the United States?

As the president of our synagogue reminded us on Rosh Hashanah, we cannot control where we are born, when we are born, or to whom we are born.  Some of us are blessed with good luck in all of those things while others are not.  We should never take that for granted.

Yom Hashoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day to remember all those who were killed during the Holocaust.

As a result of my genealogy work, I have learned in the last few years that there were many members of my extended family who were victims of the Nazis.  I had always assumed that all my relatives had left Europe before Hitler came to power—long before he came to power.  So learning about the many members of the Seligmann family who were killed and then more recently about the many members of the Schoenthal and Hamberg families who were killed has been very painful.

The Holocaust touched us all, whether we know it or not, whether we are Jewish or not. Our world lost millions of people.  As each generation learns how cruel and inhumane other people can be, there is once again a loss of innocence.  I dread the day when my grandsons also have to learn this horrible truth.

English: A lit Yom Hashoah candle in a dark ro...

English: A lit Yom Hashoah candle in a dark room on Yom Hashoah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last spring I visited the camps at Terezin and Auschwitz.  I carried with me a list of the names of my relatives who had died at each of the camps so that I could honor their memories.

That list has grown since last spring.  One of the most recent names I’ve had to add to the list of those who died at Auschwitz was Liesel Mosbach Lion, granddaughter of Rosalie Schoenthal Heymann, my great-grandfather’s sister.  Liesel was my father’s second cousin.

I recently posted about Liesel and her family and what happened to them.  Most of what I knew came from the memoir written by Liesel’s husband Ernst Georg Lion, The Fountain at the Crossroads.  I was so moved by his book that I have decided to see whether there is a way to get it published in a format where it will be accessible to more people.  I am now in touch with Ernst’s son Tom.  He sent me photographs of Ernst and his family, including my cousin Liesel.  With his permission, I am posting a few of them here to honor their memory this Yom Hashoah.

The first three are of Ernst’s parents, Leo and Bertha (Weinberg) Lion.  Bertha died from the stress caused by the Nazi treatment of Jews during the 1930s.  Leo was killed in one of the camps.

Ernst Lion parents 1 Ernst Lion father

Ernst Lion parents 2

This is the last photograph taken of Leo Lion before he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

Ernst Lion father 2

On the left below is my cousin Liesel Mosbach Lion; she was killed at Auschwitz.  On the right is the wedding picture of Liesel and Ernst, December 18, 1939.

Liesel, her sister Grete, both of her parents, Helene Heymann Mosbach and Julius Mosbach, and her aunt Hilda Heymann were all killed during the Holocaust. Her grandfather Willy Heymann was arrested and taken to Dachau and died soon after being released.

They were all my cousins.

Liesel Mosbach Lion alone and in wedding picture with Ernst

These are various photographs of Ernst from childhood through the war years and afterwards in the US.  His story of suffering and survival is unforgettable.

pictures of Ernst Lion

We live in a time when once again hatred and fear permeate our world and demagogues are seeking power.  We must be vigilant and remember what happened then.  We must do all we can to ensure that genocide does not occur again anywhere.

We must never forget.  Never again.

Passover 2016: The Exodus

In many ways Jewish history is about one exodus after another.  The Jewish story begins when God tells Abra(ha)m, “Lech Lecha,”  or “Go, Go out.”  He instructs him to leave his father’s land and go to a new land where his children would be as numerous as the stars.

There are many journeys throughout the Bible—Noah’s journey, Jacob’s journey, Joseph’s journey, and, of course, the exodus from Egypt led by Moses, which is recalled and re-enacted every year on Passover.

This Friday evening we will once again remember and re-enact that journey.  We will read the story of the Exodus.  We will drink wine, recline like free people, and eat matza to remember that our ancestors had no time to wait for the dough to rise before exiting from Egypt.  We will eat the bitter herbs to remember the bitterness of slavery, and we will eat the charoset—a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine—to embrace the sweetness of freedom from slavery.

English: Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays...

English: Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays עברית: שולחן הסדר, Original Image Name:סדר פסח, Location:חיפה (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


But that exodus was not the last journey our people took to freedom.  Over the centuries Jews kept moving from one land to another, either having been expelled or deciding on their own to seek freedom from oppression, violence, and hatred.  They moved to Babylonia, to Spain, to eastern Europe, to Germany, to places all over the globe, including eventually to the Americas.

I have spent much of the year since last Passover studying the journeys of my paternal relatives from Sielen, Germany—my father’s maternal grandfather’s family, the Schoenthals.  Although I still have a few more stories to share about my Schoenthal cousins, now that I have written about all the children of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg, I want to spend this Passover looking back over the story of this particular family.

Levi and Henriette Schoenthal had ten children who survived to adulthood, all born in Sielen, Germany.  Of those ten, eight settled permanently in the US, and all but one of those eight started their lives in America in western Pennsylvania—either in Pittsburgh or the town thirty miles away, known as Little Washington.  Henry, the oldest son, arrived first in 1866, and by 1881, eight of the siblings were living in the US.  Henry over the years was a book seller and a china dealer, but underneath was a deeply religious and well-educated man.

His youngest brother was my great-grandfather Isidore, who arrived in 1881, also settled in Washington, and also worked as a china dealer.

Isidore Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal

In between Henry and Isidore were four other brothers in the US plus two sisters.  Over the years almost all of them prospered.  Some moved away from western Pennsylvania.  Simon ended up in Atlantic City, where he and his wife raised nine children, many of whom ended up in the hotel business there; Felix and his wife and two daughters ended up in Boston, where he became successful in the typewriter repair business. Julius lived in Washington, DC, worked as a shoemaker and had four children.  Nathan lived in many different places.  And even Isidore and Henry eventually left Pennsylvania, Isidore for Colorado and Henry for New York.  The two sisters, Hannah and Amalie, stayed in Pittsburgh for most of their lives.  Both were married and had children.

Felix and Margaret Schoenthal from 1919 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 728; Volume #: Roll 0728 - Certificates: 70500-70749, 19 Mar 1919-20 Mar 1919

Felix and Margaret Schoenthal from 1919 passport application,
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 728; Volume #: Roll 0728 – Certificates: 70500-70749, 19 Mar 1919-20 Mar 1919

 

Simon Schoenthal, my great-great-uncle

Simon Schoenthal, my great-great-uncle

 

The next generations wandered even further afield, although many ended up not too far from where their parents had originally settled.  My grandmother, who was born in Washington, PA, and grew up in Denver, spent her whole adult life in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

My Grandma Eva

My Grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen

Martin Schoenthal, Gertrude Sch., Hettie Sch Blanche Walter

Walter Schoenthal, Gertrude Schoenthal, Hettie Schoenthal, Blanche Stein and Walter Stein in Arizona

 

Arthur Schoenthal promoted 1942-page-003

 

Washington Evening Star, September 14, 1928, p. 9

Washington Evening Star, September 14, 1928, p. 9

 

 

Washington Star, December 2, 1928 p. 64

Washington Star, December 2, 1928 p. 64

Washington Evening Star, February 18, 1963, p. 24

Washington Evening Star, February 18, 1963, p. 24

 

Overall, the Schoenthals in the US prospered; most were successful business owners.  Most of these people appeared to have full and happy lives, although there were some who struggled.  Today there are numerous living descendants of those eight siblings, myself included.

On the other hand, the two siblings who stayed in Germany did not have as happy a legacy.  Jakob died young, and his daughter Henriette was killed in the Holocaust.  His four other children survived and, like their aunts and uncles, ended up in western Pennsylvania. Lee, Meyer, and Erna came before the war.  But Johanna was deported to a camp in Gurs, France, during the war and did not come until 1947.   From these five children, there were just two grandchildren: Helmut Levi, son of Henriette and Julius Levi, and Werner Haas, Erna’s son.  Both grandsons made it to the US before World War II.  Neither had children, however, so there are no living descendants of Jakob Schoenthal and his wife Charlotte Lilienthal.

Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh, June 14, 1984, p. 23 ewish+Chronicle+Vol.+23+No.+18 Formed+by+the+union+of:+Jewish+criterion+;++and:+American+Jewish+outlook. http://doi.library.cmu.edu/10.1184/pmc/CHR/CHR_1984_023_018_06141984

Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh, June 14, 1984, p. 23
ewish+Chronicle+Vol.+23+No.+18
Formed+by+the+union+of:+Jewish+criterion+;++and:+American+Jewish+outlook.
http://doi.library.cmu.edu/10.1184/pmc/CHR/CHR_1984_023_018_06141984

 

And finally Rosalie, the youngest child of Levi and Henriette, after living in the US for a few years made the fateful decision to return to Germany to marry Willy Heymann.  They had six children.  Four survived the Holocaust.  The three sons, Lionel, Max, and Walter, settled in Chicago before the war, where Lionel became a well-regarded photographer.   One daughter, Johanna, who was widowed at a young age, followed her stepdaughter Else Mosbach to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to escape the Nazis.

The other two daughters, Helene and Hilda, were murdered in the Holocaust as were Helene’s two daughters, Liesel and Grete.  From Rosalie’s six children, only one grandchild survived, the son of Max Heymann.  I am still hoping to find him.

Stolperstein for Julius Mosbach and family

The Schoenthal story illustrates how one fateful decision can alter the future irrevocably. One decision to take a chance and leave what you know—to listen to the call of Lech Lecha, to venture out to a new land—can make all the difference.  By taking a chance that the sweet charoset of that new land would outweigh the bitterness of leaving a land they knew, my great-grandfather and seven of his siblings changed their own fates and those of their descendants.

What if Jakob and Rosalie had left Germany when their siblings did?

And what if the other eight siblings had never left at all?  This story would have a very different ending.

In fact, it never would have been written.

 

Fritz Davids: A Young Hero

 

I know I promised my next post would be about Lionel Heymann and his secret life, but first I need to write about someone else, someone who was not in any way related to me, but who deserves to be remembered and honored.  I will return to Lionel next time.

In my last post I had asked for help in interpreting a sentence in the Steinheim Institute site describing what had happened to Willy Heymann.

Willy Heymann wurde nach seinem Tod von dem 14jährigen Fritz Davids, der erst kurze Zeit zuvor aus dem KZ Dachau zurückgekehrt war, in das man ihn nach derPogromnacht mit seinem Vater verschleppt hatte, ganz alleine und heimlich zum Friedhof gebracht und begraben.

Translated by a member of the German Genealogy Facebook group as:

After his death, Willy Heyman was brought secretly to the cemetery and buried by 14 year old Fritz Davids alone, who had returned only a short time before from the concentration camp of Dachau where he had been brought with his father after the [Kristallnacht, Nov. 9, 1938].

And two members of the genealogy village came to my assistance and found this link and interpreted it for me:

Recently back from the concentration camp, Fritz Davids experienced, two months later, how bad the Jews had fared. There was no respect even for the dead. The Jew Willy Heymann died at the age of almost 84 years old. Since nobody wanted to bury him or could, the 14-year-old Fritz put the corpse in a wheelbarrow and at dawn wheeled it to Boeckelter Weg (street name) to the Jewish cemetery, where he, fully in dignity of the time, shoveled a grave for the old man and spoke the Kaddish. David Cain and Jacob Heymann were also buried under such humiliating circumstances.

Imagine being fourteen, being arrested and sent to a camp like Dachau.  Then imagine coming back and finding what the Nazis had done to your community.  And then imagine that fourteen year old boy having the courage and the moral decency to ensure a proper burial for one of his fellow citizens, an 84 year old man whose wife had died and whose three sons were in America.   What an exceptional person this young boy must have been.

That left me and some of my readers wondering about this brave fourteen year old boy, Fritz Davids.  Who was he, and what happened to him?

So this morning I checked my sources, and what I learned did not shock me, but it did break my heart.

Fritz Davids, the son of Gustav Davids and Freidel Hext, was born in Geldern on April 4, 1924.  He was named for his father’s brother, who had died in 1901 when he was just nine years old.

Fritz Davids, uncle of the subject of this post http://www.steinheim-institut.de/daten/picse05/xl/0051_E05_1_1984.jpg

Fritz Davids, uncle of the subject of this post
http://www.steinheim-institut.de/daten/picse05/xl/0051_E05_1_1984.jpg

 

Fritz was imprisoned again at Dachau on September 5, 1941, until May 4, 1942.  He was then deported to the killing facility at Hartheim, where he was killed on July 2, 1942.  Both of his parents and his aunt were also murdered during the Holocaust.

Fritz Davids was 18 years old.  He did not get a decent burial.  No one was there to say kaddish for him.

May his memory be for a blessing.  May we never forget his name.

The Little Sister Who Went Back Home: Rosalie Schoenthal, Part I

 

Finally I have come to the youngest of my great-grandfather’s siblings, the only one born after he was, his younger sister Rosalie.   Her story is even more tragic than that of her brother Jakob.

Rosalie was born in Sielen, Germany, in 1863, five years after my great-grandfather Isidore.  As I wrote earlier, she came with her mother and Isidore to the United States in 1881 when she was eighteen, but returned to Germany to marry Willy Heymann of Geldern, to whom she was apparently engaged even before leaving Germany. They were married on December 8, 1884, in Geldern.

 

 

I was fortunate that there were numerous sources available that provided me with information about Rosalie, Willy, and their family.  Two German websites had biographies of Willy and Rosalie Heymann and their children.  One, a site about the Geldern Jewish community, indicated that Willy and Rosalie had had six children, although it only named two of them, Helene and Hilda.  A second website containing information about the Heymann family was the Steinheim Institute site, which confirmed the fact that there had been six children and provided the names and birth years of all six as well as other pertinent facts that helped me with my research of Rosalie’s children.

From these two sources, I learned that Willy was a horse trader like his father Levi Heymann and was born in Geldern in February, 1857.  Geldern is about 150 miles from Sielen, so I’ve no idea how Rosalie and Willy knew each other; perhaps their fathers had known each other.  Willy and Rosalie settled in Geldern; their six children were: Lionel, born in 1887 and presumably named for Rosalie’s father, my great-great grandfather Levi Schoenthal; Johanna, born in 1889; Helene, born in 1890 (perhaps named for Henriette Hamberg, Rosalie’s mother), Max, 1893; Walter, 1896; and Hilda, born in 1898.

The Geldern site had a photograph of the Heymann home in Geldern, depicted below.

 

Home of Willy and Rosalie Schoenthal Heymann in Geldern http://hv-geldern.de/images/juden/juden.htm

Home of Willy and Rosalie Schoenthal Heymann in Geldern
http://hv-geldern.de/images/juden/juden.htm

The Steinheim Institute site reported that Rosalie died on August 7, 1937, when she was 74 and that Willy Heymann died on January 15, 1939; it provided this description of his death:

Willy Heymann wurde nach seinem Tod von dem 14jährigen Fritz Davids, der erst kurze Zeit zuvor aus dem KZ Dachau zurückgekehrt war, in das man ihn nach der Pogromnacht mit seinem Vater verschleppt hatte, ganz alleine und heimlich zum Friedhof gebracht und begraben.

Translated by a member of the German Genealogy Facebook group as:

After his death, Willy Heyman was brought secretly to the cemetery and buried by 14 year old Fritz Davids alone, who had returned only a short time before from the concentration camp of Dachau where he had been brought with his father after the [Kristallnacht, Nov. 9, 1938].

How would you interpret that sentence? Does it mean that Willy had died outside of Geldern and been secretly returned by this fourteen year old boy? Had Willy also been at Dachau or just Fritz and his father? Or does it mean that Willy and Fritz’s father had been brought to Dachau after Kristallnacht? Does the “he” in that last phrase refer to Willy or Fritz?  I am inclined to think that Willy was at Dachau because otherwise, why would he have had to have been secretly brought to the Geldern cemetery?

UPDATE:  Thanks to Renate Adolfs and Cathy Meder-Dempsey, I now have more information about what happened to Willy, and it is awful.  Both Renate and Cathy found a link here that describes the terrible fate of Willy Heymann.  As translated by Cathy, this is the full story:

Aus dem KZ zurück, muß Fritz Davids schon zwei Monate später miterleben, wie schlimm es mittlerweile den Juden erging. Selbst vor dem Tod hat man nämlich keine Achtung mehr : Der Jude Willy Heymann war fast 84-jährig verstorben. Da ihn niemand begraben wollte oder konnte, lädt der 14-jährige Fritz die Leiche auf eine Schubkarre und fährt sie im Morgengrauen zum Boeckelter Weg auf den jüdischen Friedhof, wo er, ganz der ‚Würde” der Zeit entsprechend, dem alten Mann ein Grab schaufelt und den Kaddish spricht. Auch David Cain und Jakob Heymann wurden unter solchen entwürdigenden Umständen begraben.

Recently back from the concentration camp, Fritz Davids experienced, two months later, how bad the Jews had fared. There was no respect even for the dead. The Jew Willy Heymann died at the age of almost 84 years old. Since nobody wanted to bury him or could, the 14-year-old Fritz put the corpse in a wheelbarrow and at dawn wheeled it to Boeckelter Weg (street name) to the Jewish cemetery, where he, fully in dignity of the time, shoveled a grave for the old man and spoke the Kaddish. David Cain and Jacob Heymann were also buried under such humiliating circumstances.

Thank you, Renate and Cathy, for allowing me to memorialize Willy Heymann more completely.

 

 

 

The information about Willy and Rosalie and their children was also confirmed by a third source, Juden in der Geschichte des Gelderlandes (2002), a book edited by Gerd Halmanns and Bernhard Keuck that contains information, photographs, articles, documents, and maps of the Jewish communities in Geldern and the surrounding townsRodney Eisfelder from the GermanSIG of JewishGen kindly sent me a copy of page 370 from that book, which lists information about Willy Heymann and his family.  That page also provided me with numerous clues about the Heymann children.

page 370 for blog

From these sources, I knew that Lionel Heymann, the oldest child, had moved to Chicago, but I found out that before he immigrated to the US, he had left Germany for England; he is listed on the 1911 English census as a 24 year old German national, living in London and working as a hotel waiter.

 

Lionel Heymann 1911 UK census Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA), 1911. Data imaged from the National Archives, London, England.

Lionel Heymann 1911 UK census
Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA), 1911. Data imaged from the National Archives, London, England.

In 1912 he sailed from England to Algiers, still a German citizen, but listing his intended future permanent residence as Switzerland.  He was working as a hotel manager, according to the ship manifest.

 

Lionel Heymann 1912 passenger manifest Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Outwards Passenger Lists. BT27. Records of the Commercial, Companies, Labour, Railways and Statistics Departments. Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England.

Lionel Heymann 1912 passenger manifest
Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Outwards Passenger Lists. BT27. Records of the Commercial, Companies, Labour, Railways and Statistics Departments. Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England.

He next surfaced on a passenger ship manifest for a ship sailing from England to New York in 1924. He was still a German citizen, stating that his last permanent residence was Geldern, Germany, and listing his father “Wilhelm Hyman” of Geldern as his contact in that place.  He said that he was going to his uncle Harry Schoenthal of 260 Riverside Drive in New York City.  At first I was thrown by this, but then realized he must have meant Henry Schoenthal, his mother’s oldest brother, who was in fact living in New York at that time.  Lionel indicated on this manifest that he intended to settle permanently in the United States.

 

Lionel Heymann 1924 passenger manifest Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867.

Lionel Heymann 1924 passenger manifest
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867.

By 1928, Lionel was living in Chicago and working as a waiter, as reflected on this October 30, 1928 passenger manifest.  He was still an alien resident, listing his father again as his contact in Germany, but providing his Chicago address as his permanent address.  He was returning from Germany, so he probably had been visiting his family back home.

 

Lionel Heymann 1928 passenger manifest Year: 1928; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4280; Line: 1; Page Number: 200

Lionel Heymann 1928 passenger manifest
Year: 1928; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4280; Line: 1; Page Number: 200

 

Interestingly, Lionel’s younger brother Walter had arrived in the US just a few months earlier in June, 1928.  This was consistent with the information in the above-mentioned  sources—that is,  that Walter also had ended up in Chicago. On the ship manifest for Walter’s arrival it reports that Walter was a cook, that he was 32, that his last residence had been Cologne, Germany, and that he was heading for Chicago where his brother Lionel resided.

 

Walter Heymann 1928 ship manifest Year: 1928; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4373; Line: 1; Page Number: 141

Walter Heymann 1928 ship manifest
Year: 1928; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4373; Line: 1; Page Number: 141

 

After searching the 1930 census as many ways as I could, including using Lionel’s address as given on both the 1928 ship manifests and his 1933 naturalization papers (1411 Winnemac Avenue), I concluded that the census enumerator had completely missed that address.  The listings include 1409 and 1413, but not 1411.  Just my luck.

Although I could not find Lionel on the 1930 census, Walter is listed on that census, living as a lodger in Chicago and working as a chef in a hotel.  He was then 34 years old and had been in the US for two years and had filed his papers for citizenship.

As mentioned, Lionel became a naturalized US citizen in 1933.

Ancestry.com. U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

According to the Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, Walter Heymann married Lucie Goldschmied on March 16, 1934.  Lucie was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on February 11, 1908, the daughter of Miksa (later Americanized to Michael) Goldschmied, a Hungarian native, and Bertha Hirschberg, a native of Eschbach, Germany.  Lucie first came to the US in 1928, according to the 1930 census, which has her listed as residing at the Moraine Hotel in Highland Park, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), where she was employed as a pantry servant.  I assume that this was the same hotel where Walter was employed as a chef.

The Chicago Tribune described the history of the Moraine Hotel in an article published on May 11, 1986:

In the early years of this century, the Hotel Moraine-on-the-Lake sparkled as a North Shore glamor resort. Built on 15 acres overlooking Lake Michigan in Highland Park, the hostelry opened in 1900 with 140 rooms.

The Moraine immediately caught the eye of the rich and famous. Glancing through old guest registries (now in the Highland Park Historical Society), you`ll spot some well-known Chicago names–the Marshall Field family, the Swifts, the Pullmans, the Florsheims, and many others.

Guests came from all over the U.S. and even from abroad. Some of the more affluent even traveled with their chauffeurs and maids.

…   The heyday of the Moraine continued into the 1920s, when the increasing number of guests necessitated additions to the hotel. Then came the Depression and even the Moraine was not spared–it declared bankruptcy in 1937.

By 1939, the once-grand hotel had become a barracks for military officers. But sunnier days were just around the corner. In 1942, the hotel was purchased, rehabbed, and reopened. It regained some of its former glory and operated until 1969, when the last guest checked out.

In 1972, the Hotel Moraine-on-the-Lake itself checked out. It was torn down and the site was turned into a public park.

“North Shore Glamor Hotel Reborn,” Chicago Tribune, May 11, 1986

 

If this is indeed where Walter and Lucie were working when they met, they were certainly working in quite a grand place.

Max Heymann, the middle brother, was still back in Germany during this period, but he finally came to the US with his wife Frieda and their eleven year old son Klaus on January 7, 1939, escaping from Nazi Germany.  They had been most recently living in Essen, Germany, where Klaus was born.  Max listed his occupation as a merchant, his father Willy Heymann as the person he was leaving behind, and his brother Lionel as the person he was going to in the US.  I was surprised to see that Lionel was then living in Detroit, not Chicago.

 

Max and Frieda Heymann 1939 ship manifest Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6274; Line: 1; Page Number: 8

Max and Frieda Heymann 1939 ship manifest
Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6274; Line: 1; Page Number: 8

 

By 1940, all three of the sons of Rosalie Schoenthal and Willy Heymann were living in Chicago.  According to the 1940 census, Lionel was living in the household of his brother Max in 1940, apparently having returned from Detroit.  Lionel was now the head waiter at a hotel, according to the census.  Max was a salesman for a paper box manufacturing company. Lionel, Max, Frieda, and Klaus were living at 1441 Belle Plaine Avenue in Chicago.

Walter and his wife Lucie as well as Lucie’s recently arrived parents, Michael and Bertha Goldschmied, were living a mile away from Max and Lionel at 3325 North Paulina Street in Chicago.  Walter was continuing to work as the cook in a hotel, and Lucie was working as a waitress, perhaps in the same hotel restaurant.  Lucie and Walter did not have any children.

All three brothers registered for the World War II draft in 1942.  According to those registrations, Lionel was still living with Max on Belle Plaine Avenue and working for the Blackstone Hotel.  Max was now working for Parfeit Powder Puff Company in Chicago. Walter was still living on North Paulina Street and working for “Martin,” a restaurant.

 

Lionel Heymann World War II draft registration Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration.

Lionel Heymann World War II draft registration
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration.

Max Heymann World War II draft registration Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration

Max Heymann World War II draft registration
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration

Walter Heymann World War II draft registration Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registrati

Walter Heymann World War II draft registration
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registrati

Max died a year later on May 31, 1943.  He was only 49 years old.  Walter died ten years after his brother Max on August 14, 1953; he was only 57.  Did the stress of uprooting themselves and worrying about their relatives back home contribute to their early deaths? I don’t know.

Lionel, the oldest brother, lived the longest.  He died on November 29, 1966, when he was 79 years old.  I was fortunate to find both a death notice and an obituary for Lionel (but none for his brothers).  Those two records revealed more about Lionel than I’d been able to glean from the passenger ship manifests or the census records.  He’d had a whole other life not reported on those documents.

More on that in my next post.

 

Fighting their Native Country in World War II: Jakob Schoenthal’s Grandsons

As I wrote last time, the two sons of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld had arrived in the US long before Hitler came to power in Germany.  They were working as tailors and living in Washington, Pennsylvania, where their uncles and aunt had lived for many years.  Then Hitler came to power, and their family back home was in danger.

In 1938, Lee and Meyer’s sister Erna arrived from Germany with her son Werner.  I have now learned more about Erna’s husband Arnold Haas.  He was born in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1893, and had served his native country during World War I.  He and Erna Schoenthal had married on February 13, 1925, and their son Werner was born on April 14, 1926.  Then Arnold died at age 38 on January 23, 1931, leaving behind his young widow Erna and his not-yet five year old son Werner.  Fortunately Erna had the good sense to leave Germany in May, 1938, and bring her son and herself to safety in the US.  In 1940, they were living in Pittsburgh.

Darmstadt register for Arnold Haas and family indicating birth, marriage, and death of Haas and birth of son Werner

Darmstadt register for Arnold Haas and family indicating birth, marriage, and death of Arnold Haas and birth of son Werner

Helmut Levi, the son of Julius and Henriette (Schoenthal) Levi, had also arrived by then and was living in New York City.  Both Helmut and Werner soon found themselves fighting their former homeland when the US entered World War II at the end of 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Werner Haas joined the US Navy on March 15, 1944, when he was 18, and served until March 6, 1946.  He spent time at the Naval Air Stations in Norfolk, Virginia, and in Corpus Christi, Texas, before being assigned to the Destroyer Escort USS Wesson in June, 1945.  According to Michael Moskow, who has done extensive research on Jewish military service during World War II, the Wesson had been struck by a kamikazi in April, 1945, two months before Werner was assigned to that vessel.

As seen in the caption on the photo below, the Wesson was “in overhaul” from May to July 1945, so it would seem likely that Werner was working on her repairs when he was first assigned to that ship.  Werner served as a fireman on the destroyer; according to this site about military careers, “The training received as a Fireman or in the related engineering skill specialties is equivalent to that received as an electrician, electrical or power plant/co-generation plant operator or supervisor, diesel mechanic, or electronics repair technician.”  From various military records it appears that Werner was assigned to the Wesson for at least a year and was then assigned to two other naval ships.

 

English: 26 June 1945: Mare Island Naval Shipy...

English: 26 June 1945: Mare Island Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, Cal. – Forward plan view of USS Wesson (DE 184) at Mare Island. She was in overhaul at the yard from 16 May to 1 July 1945. USS Blessman (APD 48) inboard of Wesson and USS Hazelwood (DD 531) is on the opposite side of the pier. (U.S. Navy photo #DE-184-4842-45) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Werner’s older cousin Helmut Levi served in the US Army, enlisting on November 28, 1942.  He served as a private and then a corporal during the course of World War II.   Although I am still looking for more information about Helmut’s service during the war, I was able with the help of Michael Moskow to find this letter that Helmut Levi (presumably the same one) wrote to Yank magazine in September, 1944:

 

Pvt Helmut Levi letter to Yank magazine, September 29, 1944, p 14

Pvt Helmut Levi letter to Yank magazine, September 29, 1944, p 14, found at http://www.unz.org/Pub/Yank-1944sep29-00014

 

 

Not surprisingly, Helmut had strong feelings about the need for Germany (and Japan) to be occupied and supervised carefully after the war.  It appears that he was stationed in Britain in September, 1944, just months after the D-Day invasion and the beginning of the Allies’ advances in France against Germany.  During that time, Helmut’s aunt and uncle, Johanna (Schoenthal) and Heinrich Stern, were living in France, hiding from the Nazis. His parents had already been killed at the Chelmno death camp.

Lee and Meyer both registered for the World War II draft, though being almost in their sixties when the war began, neither served in the military during the war.  Note that Meyer was both working for and living with Lee in April 1942.  (Lee seems to have listed his work address as his residence.)  Although Meyer listed his brother Lee as the person who would always know his address, Lee listed someone named Mary Reinbold, who as listed in the 1940 census, was then a 39 year old single woman living with her father and brothers and working as a telephone operator.

 

Lee Schoenthal World War II draft registration The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 278

Lee Schoenthal World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 278

 

Meyer N Schoenthal World War II draft registration Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Meyer N Schoenthal World War II draft registration
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Why wouldn’t Lee have listed Meyer as his contact just as Meyer had listed him? More on that in a later post.

Once the war ended, the family apparently spent a year trying to learn what had happened to Henriette Schoenthal and Julius Levi.  My heart broke when, with Michael Moskow’s help,  I found this notice in the June 14, 1946 issue of Aufbau, the newspaper published beginning in the 1930s for German Jewish immigrants in the United States:

 

Aufbau June 14, 1946

Aufbau June 14, 1946 found at http://archive.org/stream/aufbau1219461946germ#page/n475/mode/1up

 

Translation: After a one year search in Europe, we today know that our beloved parents and siblings, Julius Levi and Henriette Levi (nee Schoenthal) from Cologne have fallen to the Nazi terror …. [followed by the names of their son and their siblings].

By the time Helmut Levi had enlisted in the US Army in November 1942, his parents had already been murdered by the Nazis.  It must have just been unbearable for him to realize that while he had been fighting to defeat Hitler and the Nazis, it had already been too late to save his parents.

This notice also indicates that as of June 14, 1946, Helmut was still in the Army; although I am not sure what “Liaison Sec” refers to, G-2 is military shorthand for military intelligence staff.  It appears that Helmut was doing some kind of intelligence work in Berlin after the war, which makes sense, given his familiarity with Germany and the German language.  Being in Berlin may have also allowed him to search more quickly for what had happened to his parents.

As for Johanna Schoenthal Stern and her husband Heinrich Stern, they arrived in the US in 1947 from France.  As I mentioned in my prior post, Johanna and Heinrich had listed a friend named Henry Kahnweiler of Paris as their contact person in France.  I was curious as to who he was and how Johanna and Heinrich were connected to him.  I wanted to know more about their story—how and when did they go to France? How did they survive the Nazi occupation of France? Had they had children who had not survived the war?

Although I don’t have all the answers, I now have at least some answers to those questions.  I will address those in my next post.