(Re)introducing Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach and Her Family

Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, c. 1899
Courtesy of Art Mansbach

I have already told in two earlier posts the beginning of the story of Sarah Goldschmidt, my three-times great aunt and oldest child of my three-times great-grandparents Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, but that was almost nine months ago. I had moved away from Sarah to tell the story of her younger siblings who had immigrated to the US thirty or so years before Sarah arrived. Now it is once again Sarah’s turn. But first a brief refresher on those earlier posts. Some of this material is covered in more depth in those earlier posts, and some is newly updated.

Sarah Goldschmidt was born December 1, 1818, in Oberlistingen; she married Abraham Mansbach on October 31, 1843.

Marriage record of Sarah (Sarchen) Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach
Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 14

Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach had ten children: Breine (1844), Hewa “Hedwig (1846), Leiser “Louis” (1849), Jacob (1851), Merla “Amalie/Amelia” (1853), Berthold (1856), Hannah (1858), Meyer (1860), Kathinka (1862), and Julius (1865).1

Jacob, the fourth child, born on June 23, 1851, died on September 13, 1853. He was just two years old.

Jacob Mansbach death record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 387, p. 47

Hedwig was born on November 20, 1846. On February 16, 1875, she married David Rothschild of Zierenberg, Germany. Sadly, Hedwig died nine months to the day later on November 16, 1875.

Hedwig/Hewa Mansbach birth record HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p.43

Death record for Hedwig Mansbach Rothschild
Description: Geburten, Heiraten Tote 1874-1875
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1730-1875

All but one of Sarah and Abraham’s eight other children emigrated to the United States.  The one who remained in Germany was their oldest child, Breine. She was born on September 27, 1844, and she married Jacob Bensew on February 3, 1870; Jacob was born on January 15, 1840, in Malsfeld, Germany, the son of Heinemann Bensew and Roschen Goldberg.

Breine Mansbach birth record
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p. 39

marriage record for Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 386, p. 35

Breine and Jacob had eight children—six sons and two daughters: Roschen (1870), William (1872), Lester (1873), Julius (1875), Siegmund (1877), Heinemann (1879), Max (1882), and Frieda (1886). Siegmund died in 1882 when he was five, but the six of the other seven Bensew children would eventually immigrate to the United States. Breine and Jacob stayed behind, however, and lived the rest of their lives in Germany, as did their daughter Roschen. Breine died in Melsungen, Germany, on May 31, 1922, and her husband Jacob in Kassel, Germany, on April 25, 1925. More on the Bensew family in posts to come. 2

Death record for Breine Mansbach Bensew
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 4684

This post will now focus on the seven children of Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach who immigrated to the US: Louis, Amalia/Amelia, Berthold, Hannah, Meyer, Kathinka, and Julius.

Thanks to my cousin Art Mansbach, I have some photographs of Sarah and Abraham and their family.  Here is one of Sarah and Abraham and their youngest child, Julius in about 1870:

Abraham Mansbach, Julius Mansbach, and Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach c. 1870
Courtesy of the Mansbach family

The photograph below is of Sarah with her two youngest sons, Julius and Meyer, taken in about 1874, when Meyer would have been fourteen and Julius nine:

Julius Mansbach, Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, and Meyer Mansbach c. 1874
Courtesy of the Mansbach family

It was about this time that Abraham and Sarah’s older children began immigrating to the US. Although I was unable to find passenger manifests for all the Mansbach children, the earliest one I could find was for Merla/Amalie/Amelia. She was born December 10, 1853, in Maden, Germany. She (as Amalie) sailed to the US in 1872 with my great-great-uncle Henry Schoenthal and his new wife Helene Lilienfeld, as I discussed here.

Birth record of Merla Mansbach, Archives for the State of Hessen, Jewish records, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p. 55

Henry Schoenthal and Helene Lilienfeld 1872 ship manifest lines 95 to 98
Year: 1872; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 359; Line: 1; List Number: 484

I have no record of Amalie from the time of her arrival until the 1880 census, but I assume she must have been living in Pennsylvania, probably in Philadelphia, because according to the 1900 census, in 1879, she married Henry Langer. Henry was 22 years older than Amalie, born in 1831 in Austria; he had immigrated to the US in 1856, and in the 1870s he was living in Philadelphia, working as a furrier, according to the Philadelphia directory for 1870 and a newspaper listing in 1877.3

Amalie and Henry relocated to Denver by December 17, 1879, when their first child, Joseph Henry Langer, was born.4 According to the 1880 census, Henry continued to work as a furrier in Denver:

H and A Langer and son 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Denver, Arapahoe, Colorado; Roll: 88; Page: 116C; Enumeration District: 005

Amalie and Henry’s second child, Lester Sylvester Langer was born in Colorado on January 1, 1884.5

Berthold may have been the next child of Sarah and Abraham to arrive from Germany; he was born on February 23, 1856. Although I cannot find a passenger manifest for him, the 1920 census reports that he immigrated to the US in 1874.6 In 1877, he is listed in the Philadelphia directory working as a clerk.7 But by 1880, he  had relocated to Trinidad, Colorado, where he was living with his cousin, who was also named Abraham Mansbach and was the grandson of Marum Mansbach. Abraham  was a merchant, and Bert was working as a clerk, presumably in his cousin’s store.

Birth record of Berthold Mansbach, Archives for the State of Hessen, Jewish records, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p. 59

Bert Mansbach 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Trinidad, Las Animas, Colorado; Roll: 92; Page: 65D; Enumeration District: 066

But not all the Mansbach siblings chose to settle out west. Sarah and Abraham Mansbach’s oldest son Leiser/Louis Mansbach, who was born on March 10, 1849, came to the US on December 16, 1876:

Birth record of Louis “Leser” Mansbach, Archives for the State of Hessen, Jewish records, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p. 47

(The long note to the left of the birth record is extremely difficult to read, even by those used to reading German script, but thanks to the efforts of Cathy Meder-Dempsey and a man from the German Genealogy Transcriptions group on Facebook, I now believe that it merely says that the date of birth was provided by the synagogue.)

Louis (Lasser) Mansbach ship manifest
Year: 1876; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 406; Line: 1; List Number: 1160
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

In 1880, Louis was living with my great-great-grandparents, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt; Eva was his aunt, his mother Sarah’s sister. My great-grandmother Hilda, who was then sixteen, was also living at home and thus must have known her first cousin Louis quite well. Louis was 31 years old and was a veterinary surgeon.

Louis Mansbach in the household of Gerson Katzenstein 1880 census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219

For Hannah Mansbach, I was unable to locate a birth record, but other records establish that she was born on February 6, 1858. I also have no ship manifest, and census records indicate three different years of arrival: 1880 on the 1900 census, 1881 on the 1920 and 1930 census records, and 1885 on the 1910 census. Usually I’d assume the one closest in time, the 1900 census, would be the most reliable, but at best I can say she arrived sometime between 1880 and 1885.  Since the rest of the family had arrived by 1882, I think 1880-1881 is more likely.8

Census records also conflict regarding the arrival date for Meyer Mansbach. He was born on June 21, 1860. The 1900 census reports that he arrived in 1879, but the 1910 and 1930 census records both report 1882 as his date of arrival.9

Birth record of Meyer Mansbach, Archives for the State of Hessen, Jewish records, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 384, p. 65

For Julius, who was born on November 7, 1865, I found information about his arrival on his passport applications, of which there were three—in 1900, 1903, and 1908. Although all three provide the same date of arrival (June 12, 1881) and the same port of departure (Bremen), they each have a different name for the ship.10 Julius would have been not yet sixteen when he immigrated, perhaps explaining why he didn’t remember the name of the ship. This photograph of Julius at age 13 may capture how young he was only three years later when he left home by himself:

Julius Mansbach, Age 13, c. 1878
Courtesy of Art Mansbach

It thus seems reasonable to conclude that Hannah, Meyer, and Julius had all arrived by 1881-1882.

On October 23, 1882, they were joined by their parents, my three-times great-aunt Sarah Goldschmidt and her husband Abraham Mansbach, and their youngest sister Kathinka.

Abraham Mansbach II and family on passenger manifest
Year: 1882; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 459; Line: 1; List Number: 1509

Given that all four sons are adults in this photograph, I believe it was taken shortly after Sarah and Abraham had immigrated to the United States:

Abraham Mansbach and his four sons
Courtesy of Art Mansbach

The next post will pick up with the Mansbach siblings and their parents between 1882 and 1900.

 


  1. Sources for births to be provided as I write about each child. 
  2. Sources for the children’s births will be provided when I write about each child in later posts. 
  3. Henry Langer on the 1900 US Census; Year: 1900; Census Place: Denver, Arapahoe, Colorado; Roll: 117; Page: 2;Enumeration District: 0031; FHL microfilm: 1240117′; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1870,
    Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  4. Joseph Langer, Passport Application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 933; Volume #: Roll 0933 – Certificates: 122000-122249, 27 Sep 1919-28 Sep 1919 
  5. Lester Langer, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Colorado; Registration County: Denver; Roll: 1561841; Draft Board: 5. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  6. Berthold Mansbach, 1920 US Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Albuquerque Ward 3, Bernalillo, New Mexico; Roll: T625_1074; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 18 
  7. Title: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1877. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  8. Hannah Mansbach death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 071201-073500,Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966, Certificate Number 72276. Hannah Mansbach Dannenberg on the 1900-1930 US Census records: Year: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1463; Page: 9; Enumeration District: 0425;FHL microfilm: 1241462; Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1399; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0692; FHL microfilm: 1375412; Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1633; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 969; Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2125; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0778; FHL microfilm: 2341859 
  9. Meyer Mansbach on 1900-1930 US Census records: Year: 1900; Census Place: Trinidad, Las Animas, Colorado; Roll: 126; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 0064; FHL microfilm: 1240126; Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1399; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0692; FHL microfilm: 1375412; Year: 1930; Census Place: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California; Roll: 136; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0108; FHL microfilm: 2339871 
  10. Julius Mansbach 1900 passport application
    National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, 1795-1905; Roll #: 550; Volume #: Roll 550 – 07 May 1900-11 May 1900. Julius Mansbach 1903 passport application
    National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Emergency Passport Applications (Issued Abroad), 1877-1907; Roll #: 41; Volume #: Volume 075: Germany. Julius Mansbach 1908 passport application
    National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 74; Volume #: Roll 0074 – Certificates: 64339-65243, 20 Nov 1908-15 Dec 1908. 

Another Jakob Goldschmidt Comes to America

As I wrote in my last post, the earliest Goldschmidts to leave Germany and come to the US were the family of Simon Falcke Goldschmidt, brother of my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann Goldschmidt. Simon had arrived in 1845 with his second wife, my three-times great-aunt Fradchen Schoenthal, and by 1860 he and all his children including those from his first wife Eveline were living in western Pennsylvania, most of them in Washington, Pennsylvania.

During this same period, almost all the children of my three-times great-grandparents Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander were also emigrating, though they chose to settle in Philadelphia, about 300 miles east of their relatives in the western part of the state.

The first of Seligmann and Hincka’s children to arrive was their oldest son Jakob. Jakob was born on October 22, 1822, making him about three years older than his first cousin, Simon’s son, also named Jakob Goldschmidt; both cousins changed their names to Jacob Goldsmith once in the US. To make matters even more confusing, both Jacobs married women named Fannie.  Maybe Seligmann’s Jacob chose to settle in Philadelphia and Simon’s across the state to minimize confusion for some not-yet-born family historian?[1]

To distinguish the two Jacob Goldsmiths I will refer to Seligmann’s son as Uncle Jacob as he was my three-times great-uncle, and I will refer to Simon’s Jacob as Cousin Jacob, as he was my first cousin, four times removed.

Uncle Jacob must have arrived in the US before 1849 because by that time he had married Fannie, and they had had their first child, a daughter named Caroline born on May 7, 1849, in Pennsylvania. In 1850 Uncle Jacob was working as a merchant:

Jacob Goldsmith (Seligmann’s son) and family 1850 census

I could not find Uncle Jacob on the 1860 census at all, but he and Fannie must have been living in Philadelphia in the 1850s and 1860s because they had several more children born there between 1850 and 1860: Emma (1851), Hannah (1855), Philip (1856), and Harry (1858). Their sixth child, Huldah, was born in 1861. (Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V1M9-7GF : 8 December 2014), Hulda Goldsmith, 18 Jan 1861; citing bk 1 p 252, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,306.)

One more child was born to Jacob and Fannie in March 1864, a boy named Eli.  Sadly, he died when he was four months old of hydrocephalus internus,

Eli Goldsmith death record “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DHR6-H?cc=1320976&wc=9F5Z-T3D%3A1073282601 : 16 May 2014), 004010010 > image 197 of 1250; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Searching the Philadelphia newspapers for 1860-1870, I found this little news item about a donation made by Jacob Goldsmith to support the soldiers fighting in the Civil War; based on Jacob’s business address in the 1862 Philadelphia Directory (338 Market Street, which is at the corner of 4th Street), I am reasonably certain that this refers to my uncle Jacob Goldsmith.

“Soldiers Mittens, ” Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 26, 1861.

 

I also found an 1868 advertisement for Jacob’s clothing store, which had moved by then to 624 Market Street:

Ad for Jacob Goldsmith’s store
Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 28, 1868

On the 1870 census, Jacob and Fannie were living with their five younger children. Jacob was working as a merchant and claimed he owned $8000 worth of real property and $2000 worth of personal property.

Jacob Goldsmith (Seligmann’s son) and family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12 District 34, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1396; Page: 114A; Family History Library Film: 552895

Their oldest daughter Caroline was no longer living at home in 1870, having married Nathan Rice in 1869; Nathan was born in Philadelphia in 1842 to German immigrant parents, Joseph Reiss and Elizabeth/Betsy Kohn (the spelling was later changed to Rice). In 1870 Nathan and Caroline were living in Dubuque, Iowa, with Nathan’s parents, and Nathan was working as an agent for a wholesale clothing company. His father’s occupation was “retired clothing dealer,” so perhaps Nathan was working in his father’s former business. Caroline and Nathan’s first child, Rena, was born in Iowa in the spring of 1870 and was one month old on June 1 when the census was taken.

Caroline Goldschmidt and Nathan Rice on 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Dubuque Ward 1, Dubuque, Iowa; Roll: M593_389; Page: 61A; Family History Library Film: 545888

Thus, Uncle Jacob was well established in Philadelphia by 1870 with a large and growing family. He also was joined by several of his siblings during this time, as we will see in my next post.

 

 

 

 

[1] That separation did not last, however. By 1870 Cousin Jacob had moved from Washington to Philadelphia. I spent an entire day trying to decipher which Jacob was which on the 1870 and 1880 census records since both were living in Philadelphia, both had wives named Fannie, both were in the clothing business, and both had many children, including several with the same names. It was a long day!

What Did They Know, and When Did They Know It?

As I’ve learned about the numerous members of my Seligmann family who were killed during the Holocaust, one of the questions that has bothered me was whether or not their American relatives were aware of what was going on in Germany.  This, of course, is part of the larger question of what Americans, Jewish or not, knew about Hitler and his plans to murder the world’s entire Jewish population. Certainly people were aware of the anti-Semitic laws and practices, of Kristallnacht, of some violence against Jews, but to what extent were they aware of the seriousness, the severity of the situation, of the plans for genocide?  We all know stories of immigrants who were denied entry, including full ships turned away from American ports.  Historians have written about the failure of the Roosevelt Administration to respond to pleas for help from those who were very much aware of what was happening in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

But what did my own family know? Did my Seligman relatives here in the US know what was happening to their cousins in Germany?  In 1935 when the Nuremberg Laws were enacted in Germany, depriving Jews of their citizenship and imposing many other restrictions on their lives and livelihoods, both my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen and her younger brother James Seligman, my great-great-uncle, were still alive (their youngest brother Arthur had died in 1933).  Did they even know they had cousins living in Germany? Were they in touch with them? Did they know what was going on there?

To some extent those questions now have some answers, thanks to a series of letters from and to Fred Michel sent to me by his children.  Fred Michel’s grandfather August Seligmann was the younger brother of Bernard Seligman, the father of Eva and James and my great-great-grandfather. Fred was thus the first cousin once removed of my great-grandmother and her brother.  I wrote previously that in Fred Michel’s citizenship application he had identified James Seligman of Santa Fe as his sponsor for immigrating to the United States in 1937.  Fred’s children have some letters written by James Seligman regarding the immigration of his German cousin that shed some light on my questions.

The earliest letter in this particular collection is one from James Seligman to George G. Harburger of Metropolitan Life Insurance in New York City, dated December 22, 1936.  In this letter, James was writing in response to a letter from Mr. Harburger regarding a letter that had been sent from Frankfort, Germany, to Bernard and August Seligman, which an Ernest Rubel had delivered to Harburger.  Ernest Rubel was the person whom Fred Michel later listed on his naturalization application as the person to whom he had been coming when he arrived in the US.

James requested that the letter be sent to him, as he was the son of Bernard Seligman. There follows a German translation of the same letter.  I wonder whether James knew German or whether he had someone else do this translation for him.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

courtesy of the family of Fred and Ilse Michel

courtesy of the family of Fred and Ilse Michel

The next letter in the file is from James Seligman to Fred Michel.  (Note that James addresses the letter to Fritz, which was Fred’s real name before he changed it after immigrating.)  The letter is dated January 25, 1937, and in it James first described the American Seligmans—his father Bernard, his two uncles, Sigmund and Adolf, and his brother Arthur, all of whom had passed away by 1937, and then mentioned that only he and his sister were still living.  His sister, of course, was my great-grandmother Eva.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

James then addressed the purpose of Fred’s letter to him: his desire to immigrate to the United States.  James warned Fred about the unemployment situation in the US, although recognized that Fred had a friend in the US who could help him.  Fred must have inquired about a possible job in Santa Fe with James, to which James replied, “As regards a job in this city, this would be out of the question as I only have a very small business myself with only one employee and which is all it will stand.”  By 1930, James Seligman was no longer affiliated with Seligman Brothers and had formed his own business, the Old Santa Fe Trading Post, which must have been the business to which he was referring in his letter to Fred Michel.  Fred might very well have been taken aback by this flat-out refusal to help him find a job in Santa Fe.  But James agreed to help Fred by sending an affidavit in support of his immigration and closed by wishing him the best and expressing hopes to meet him some day.

On February 11, 1937, George Harburger wrote to James Seligman to persuade him to help.  It appears from the letter that Ernest Rubel, Fred’s personal friend, had contacted Harburger to ask him to contact James for help.   I am not sure of the various connections there, but George described Fred as someone who had supported his mother all his life and as an intelligent and self-made man who would “never be a burden” to James and then instructed him how to submit an affidavit in support of Fred’s immigration.

James Seligman to Fred Michel first letter and supporting docs-page-005

Courtesy of the Michel Family

James Seligman to Fred Michel first letter and supporting docs-page-004

James then wrote to Fred again on May 10, 1937, advising Fred that the American Consulate had received James’ affidavit and that all was in order, but that they had not yet received an application from Fred himself.  James advised him to do so “as soon as possible.”

James Seligman to Fred Michel first letter and supporting docs-page-008

Courtesy of the Michel Family

Then there was a letter in German which I could not translate, but which the kind people in the Germany Genealogy group on Facebook helped me with:

James Seligman to Fred Michel first letter and supporting docs-page-009

Here is the translation of this letter from Fred Michel to the US Consulate on May 1, 1937:

Subject: Pledge from Mr James Seligman,321 Hilside Ave., Santa Fe,

for Fritz Michel, Leerbachstreet 112/o at Moritz (means in the apartment of Moritz), Frankfurt/Main

To the consulate general of the USA

Dear Mr Consul General!

Attached I’m sending you the missing papers for your examination.

Obtaining the papers I had to learn that my landlord didn’t register me for 3 month (from March until May 1933). Please find the reason for that in the authentication attached. Also you can find in attached transcript of my certificate where I was working during that time. If you wish I can bring the original paper with me. The County Department of Bingen /Rh. ( at the Rhine), where I complained about my certificate of good conduct four times, just sent me the information that the required paper was given to post it to Stuttgart on May 3 to your address.

I own a proper passport.

If I won’t hear from you, I’ll assume that my papers are in order.

Yours respectfully 

Attachments:

4 passport pictures, 2 birth certificates

4 certificates of good conduct

1 transcript of certificate

Reading this letter after I’d had it translated made me angry; it so clearly reflects how difficult some in Germany were making it for Fred to be able to leave, but also how difficult the US was making it for him to arrive.

From other documents we know that Fred Michel was finally allowed to immigrate and arrived in the US on September 24, 1937.  On October 10, 1937, his cousin James wrote to him again, welcoming him to the United States.  Fred must have enclosed a photograph in his letter to James telling him of his arrival because James referred to it as indicating the Fred must have encountered bad weather while crossing the ocean to America.  Fred also must have told James that he had landed a job and was living with friends.

I found the next paragraph of this letter very telling.  James warned Fred that it might take some time to adjust to his new country and then said, “How anyone can live in Germany under that man Hitler I cannot understand but suppose they cannot get away from it all.”  What did he know about Hitler as of September 1937? Were his feelings shared by Americans in general? And isn’t it also revealing that James, the son of a man who had left Germany behind about 80 years earlier, could not imagine why others were not also leaving Germany as his father and Fred Michel had done?  Would James have found it so easy to leave his homeland if the shoes were on the other feet?

James then thanked Fred for a gift he had sent him—a writing set—but says Fred should have saved his money until he “could afford it better.”  Was this insulting to Fred as patronizing? Or did he see it as an older cousin’s concern? James closed by saying, “Let me hear from you from time to time and let me know how you are getting along and what kind of work you are doing as I will always want to know.”  Although I read this as genuine interest and concern, it is not at all clear to me that Fred and James maintained much or any future contact.  Fred’s children seemed to believe that they did not.

courtesy of the Michel family

courtesy of the Michel family

In any case, James died on December 15, 1940, just three years after Fred’s arrival in the US.  Among Fred’s papers was an obituary for his cousin James that he must have saved for many years.  I had not seen this obituary before, and I do not know in what paper it was published or the date and page.  I will not transcribe its content here, but will add it to the post I wrote quite a while back about James Seligman.

james seligman obit edit

James Seligman obit p 2 edit

The next letter in this file was written many years later.  On October 9, 1975, Fred wrote the following letter to Mrs. Randolph Seligman of Albuquerque, New Mexico, thinking she might perhaps be a relative, and identifying his own background and his connection to James Seligman of Santa Fe.

Courtesy of Michel Family

Courtesy of Michel Family

Of greatest interest to me in this letter is this short reference to my great-grandmother: “Once I met Eva Seligman in Philly.”  My great-grandmother died in October 1939, just two years after Fred arrived.  My father was living with her at the time that she likely met Fred Michel.  He doesn’t remember him, though he said the name was familiar, but probably from reading it on the blog.  From what I have learned about my great-grandmother, she was a warm and welcoming person who had several times taken in relatives in need.  I wish I knew more about her meeting with her German-born cousin Fred Michel.

Mrs. Randolph Seligman responded shortly thereafter that although she was not a relative of the Santa Fe Seligmans, the Santa Fe phone directory listed a William Seligman and a Jake Seligman living in Santa Fe. [These were the sons of Adolph Seligman, about whom I wrote here.]  She said they had once met William, known as Willie, years before in his clothing store in Sante Fe.  In November 1975, she wrote again, commenting that it was strange that the two New Mexico families did not know each other, but attributed that to the fact that “they married non-Jews and became affiliated with the Episcopal Church.”  Near the end of her letters she spoke of plans to visit with Willie Seligman in Santa Fe and identified him as a relative of Arthur and James Seligman.  Fred responded to her on January 5, 1976, expressing his delight that she had written to him again and filling her in on his family.

But within what is otherwise a newsy and cheery letter are two sad passages.  After referring to some relatives he remembered from Germany, Fred wrote, “As I write these notes I am amazed how much I know about my family when one considered I left “home” when I was 18, never to return. Finally, in 1972 while in Europe I contacted some survivors. It was an emotional experience we never forget. Some I haven’t seen since Hitler came to power.”[1]  For me, this is a powerful statement in its own understated way.  Here was a man who had left everything behind yet even he is surprised by how much he still remembered of his family and his past.

The other disturbing passage in this letter is in the following paragraph where Fred wrote about the travel plans he and Ilse had made in 1974, including to Santa Fe, where Fred had relatives, and to Georgia, where Ilse had relatives.  Fred wrote that they had discarded those plans “as Ilse reasoned that in spite of her writing after arriving here, she never received an answer and the same goes for my relatives in S.F. [Santa Fe].”  How sad that so many years later Fred and Ilse both still felt hurt by the fact that their American relatives had not stayed in touch with them.

I don’t know how to reconcile that with the welcoming letters that Fred received from James, but obviously there were some hard feelings there, whether justified or not.  I just find it very sad that two people who had lost so much felt so abandoned by their American relatives.

So what did those American Seligman relatives know by 1937 when Fred was trying to escape from Germany?  They knew that they had German relatives, they knew that things were bad for Jews with Hitler in power, and they knew that there were at least some family members who wanted to leave Germany and come to the United States.  Did they do enough? Of course, in retrospect nothing anyone did was enough, given the outcome of the Holocaust.  And it is hard to know sitting here today what more any one individual could or should have done.  Certainly James did what he was asked to do and helped Fred immigrate.  Could he have given him a job? Could he or any of the Seligmans have reached out to these newly arrived cousins in a more committed way? I don’t know, and I can’t judge.  But I do judge our government which closed its eyes and its ears for political and other reasons while thousands and eventually millions were killed.

 

 

 

 

[1] I don’t know why Fred wrote that he was 18 when he left home.  The US records all give his birth year as 1906, and he came to the US in 1937 when he was 31, not 18.  Perhaps he is referring to leaving home in a more specific way, not leaving Germany.

Research update: Bad News, Good News, Bad News

As you may recall, on October 31, I sent a request to the USCIS  for the naturalization papers for Max Brotman in the hope that they would reveal where Max and thus the other family members were born in Galicia.  According to the automated message on the USCIS phone, it could take at least 90 days to get a response.  Well, I figured the news wasn’t going to be good when I received a response yesterday only 35 days after making my request.  And it wasn’t—they had no records for a Max Brotman who fit the dates I had submitted.  In fact, all their naturalization records start in 1906, and I should have known that Max was naturalized before 1906 since he was the witness for Abraham in 1904.

I then went back to ancestry.com and rechecked my search of their naturalization records where I had been able to find records for both Abraham and Hyman.  I checked and rechecked pages and pages of indices, searching for anything that might relate.  I found one for a Max Bratman born in Germany who worked as a conductor for the railroad and emigrated in 1882, but dismissed it because the name, place of birth, and date of immigration seemed wrong.

Max "Bratman" Naturalization Card

Max “Bratman” Naturalization Card

Then I went back to the records I already have for Max, including several census reports, his marriage certificate and his death certificate.  While reading through the 1900 census, I noticed that it said Max was a conductor.  At that time he and Sophie were just married (the census was taken in June; they had married in April) and were living at 113 East 100th Street in Manhattan.  When I saw the entry that he was a conductor, I knew it rang a bell, but at that point I could not remember where else I had seen it.

1900 US Census Report for Max and Sophie Brotman

1900 US Census Report for Max and Sophie Brotman

I began to search through the naturalization records again and could not find any reference to a Max Brotman who was a conductor.  I started thinking that I was losing my mind! Then I remembered that there had been a Max BrAtman and searched for him, and lo and behold, found the naturalization card again for the conductor.  I looked at the address on that form and sure enough, Max Bratman was living at 113 East 100th Street in Manhattan in 1900 when he filed this application.  Obviously this was the same person, our Max, but why did he spell his name wrong? Why did he say he was born in Germany and emigrated in 1882? The birth dates also did not exactly line up, but I am used to the fact that no one ever reported their birthday consistently.

When I looked at the handwritten application, I saw that the signature was definitely Max BrOtman, not BrAtman.

Max Brotman naturalization petition

Max Brotman naturalization petition

My guess is that the clerk who filled out the card just could not decipher the handwriting.  As for the wrong date, I have no guess except that Max was confused, wasn’t clear, or was trying to make it seem he’d been in the US for more than just 12 years.  As for why Germany? I wish I knew.  I know from Joseph Margoshes’ book that secularized, modern Jews were referred to as “German” in Galicia. Perhaps that’s why Max said Germany.  Perhaps the clerk thought he was German because of his name, accent and use of Yiddish and suggested it to him and Max just agreed? I have no clue.

The census form was filled out just a month earlier than the naturalization form.  The census says his place of birth was Austria as does every other document listing Max’s place of birth.  The census says he emigrated in 1888, which is also consistent with almost all the other forms.  It would have made little sense for Max to have emigrated in 1882 when he was only four years old.  So once again, we have evidence that forms are unreliable, that our ancestors were not too reliable, and that much must be left to conjecture and speculation.

So where does that leave us in terms of identifying where our family lived in Galicia? Hanging on the thin thread of Hyman’s own unreliable documents, our best guess is Dzikow near Tarnobrzeg.  I contacted Stanley Diamond who manages the archives of documents for JRI-Poland, and he sent me a list of all the records of all Brotmans and Brots from that area.  They are almost all of people born after 1900, and Stanley said that the records for that area are rather limited.  He said it would probably take a trip to archives in a few cities in Poland to learn if there is anything else and that that is probably a long shot.

And thus, my cousins and friends, I think that for now I have hit a wall. I am still waiting for Tillie’s death certificate and Hyman’s marriage certificate, but I am not putting any hope into finding out more information about their place of birth from those documents. I am in touch with a researcher in Poland, and I am hoping to travel there perhaps in 2015, but for now I guess we have to accept that the best we can do is hang our hopes on Hyman’s references to Jeekief and Giga and assume that Dzikow near Tarnobrzeg is our ancestral home.