Martha Loewenthal Wolff’s Family: An Update from Israel

One of the more elusive Goldschmidt family members to research has been Martha Loewenthal Wolff and her family. Martha was the daughter of Kiele Stern and Abraham Loewenthal, the granddaughter of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern, and my third cousin, twice removed. Thanks to my friend Aaron Knappstein, I now have more information and documents and even photographs of Martha and her family.

Martha was married to Jakob Wolff, as discussed here, and they had three children: Anna, Hans Anton, and Walter. I was missing birth records for all three children, and Aaron was able to locate all of them.

Birth record of Anna Wolff

Birth record of Hans Anton Abraham Wolff

Birth record of Walter Wolff

Martha died in 1930, and I could not find a death record for her until Aaron located it, as I wrote about here.

After Martha’s death and the Nazi takeover of Germany, Jakob Wolff and all three of their children immigrated to Israel, as I wrote about here.

But I did not know what happened to Jakob or his children after their immigration. And then Aaron came through for me again and located Hans Anton Wolff’s son Benjamin in Israel and connected me to him and his daughter Ravid. Now I have firsthand information about Martha’s family as well as photographs, thanks to Ravid Wolff, my fifth cousin, once removed.

First, some photographs of the family taken before they left Germany.

Jacob and Martha Wolff and their first car Courtesy of the Wolff family

Anna Wolff and her mother Martha Loewenthal Wolff Courtesy of the Wolff family

Anna Wolff as a child Courtesy of the Wolff family

Hans Anton and Walter Wolff Courtesy of the Wolff family

Ravid shared with me that her great-grandmother Martha was a very talented artist and sent me this image of a painting that Martha did while traveling with Jakob in what was then Palestine in the 1920s.

Painting by Martha Loewenthal Wolff

According to Ravid, her great-grandparents Martha and Jakob Wolff owned two banks in Frankfurt, Germany, and were quite wealthy. After Martha died from ovarian cancer in 1930, Jakob married Ilse Gruenebaum. When Hitler came to power, Jakob recognized how dangerous he was and, as a Zionist, decided to leave Germany for Israel (then Palestine) before it was too late. He was able to obtain visas to immigrate for a thousand pounds each, an exorbitant amount of money at that time, but had to leave all his other property and possessions behind. All of it including their home in Frankfurt was confiscated by the Nazis and never returned to the family.

Ravid shared two letters with me that show that the requests for restitution of their property in Frankfurt were denied:

Google Translate helped me translate these letters. The one above translates as:

Upon your request of 17 December 1956, we will inform you: The property Leerbachstrasse 36 was registered until 17 September 1937 on:
Banker Jakob Wolff on the ideal half
Instead of his wife Martha Wolff [names of children] for ideal half in undivided community of heirs. [I am not sure what “ideal half” means.]
In the way of the forced auction, this plot of land on 17 9 1937 is given to Frau Therese Ried geb Stromer, [address]. It is still owned by them.
The owner of the Paulsplatz 14 property was the merchant Carl Seitz in Baden near Vienna in 18 1 1923 and the owner of the Paulsplatz 16 property was the Jakob Wolff & Co., Open Trade Company since 18 March 1922.
The current owner of both properties has been the municipal district of Frankfurt since August 10, 1934 bze, October 15, 1935. A piece of land at Paulsplatz 18 does not exist.

The second letter translated as:

The aforementioned property became the property of the City of Frankfurt on the basis of an additional resolution dated 2 4 1935. The compulsory auction had already started in 1932. The JRSO, which had previously asserted claims for reimbursement for the aforementioned property, accepted its application on Feb. 1, 1951. For your further information, we would like to inform you that the city has always contested a claim for reimbursement.
We hope to have served you with the above statements.

As for Martha and Jakob’s three children, Anna, the oldest, was married to Simon Wittekind when she immigrated, and they had two sons, Aharon and Baruch (as they were known in Israel) who were born in Berlin. Simon was a doctor who wanted to move to South Africa, but Anna felt safer in Israel, so she stayed there with her children.

Anna later married Herbert Feige. According to Ravid, Anna hated Germany and suffered great trauma because of what had happened there and unlike her brother Hans Anton refused to reclaim her German citizenship when that right became available to her. Her sons changed their surname to Yardeni (for the Jordan River) to identify with their new homeland. Ravid did not know exactly when Anna died, only that like her mother Martha, she died young and from cancer.

Ravid’s grandfather was Hans Anton Wolff, the second child of Martha Loewenthal and Jakob Wolff.  He married Susana Meseritz, another refugee from Germany, whom he met in Palestine. They had one child, Ravid’s father Benjamin. Hans had a doctorate in chemistry. He died from colon cancer in 1974, and his wife Susana died in 2002.

Walter, the youngest of the siblings, also married in Palestine/Israel. He owned a hotel in Jerusalem for many years. He and his wife Hedy Buller had two children. Walter died in 1968 in Jerusalem, also from cancer.

I am so indebted to Aaron Knappstein for finding the missing records of the Wolff children and even more so for connecting me to my cousin Ravid. And I am very, very grateful to Ravid for sharing her family’s story with me. Ravid, like her great-grandmother Martha and so many others in the extended Goldschmidt family, has a great interest in and great talents in art. Her photography captures in simple and yet complex ways the beauty of the world around us by using unusual perspectives and contrasting light and colors.

Escaping from Germany to Brazil and Israel: Brick Walls


We’ve already seen that Helene Goldschmidt Fuld’s second child, Minna Fuld, who was born in 1875, had a complicated marital history. First, she married Leo Offenstadt in 1894 when she was eighteen, and that marriage ended in divorce in 1904. She and Leo had had one child, Flora, in 1894. Then Minna married Ladislaus Polacovits in 1906, and he died in 1913; Minna had one child with Ladislaus, Lisolette, who was born in 1907.

Finally, Minna married Hermann Heinrich Karl Reuss in 1923, with whom she had no children. Hermann is listed in the 1940 Frankfurt directory1 and died in Frankfurt on September 27, 1947.

Hermann Reuss death record, Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 225
Year Range: 1947, Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

His death certificate indicates that he was a widower at the time of his death. I have no record for Minna’s death, but unsourced trees indicate that she died in Tel Aviv on May 3, 1944. Had Hermann gone with her to Palestine and returned to Germany after she died? Or had Hermann never left Germany?  I don’t know.

As we saw, Minna’s daughter Flora Offenstadt2 married Hermann Durlacher in 1918 and had two children with him, Siegfried Julius Thomas (known as Thomas) and Ulla Louise Sara. Flora and the two children immigrated to Brazil in 1939, as seen in these immigration cards.

Flora Offenstadt Durlacher, Digital GS Number: 004764836 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Siegfried Julius Thomas Durlacher, Digital GS Number: 004916940 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Ulla Durlacher, Digital GS Number: 004916940 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

I could not locate any further records for Hermann Durlacher, but several unsourced trees indicate that he died in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on November 15, 1954, so perhaps he also immigrated to Brazil either before, with, or after his family. I don’t know what happened to Flora or her two children after they immigrated to Brazil in 1939. An unsourced tree on Geni reports that Thomas died in Sao Paulo on December 23, 2007.

Minna’s second daughter, Liselotte Polacovits, married Wilhelm Strauss-Reich on June 5, 1928, and had one child, as discussed here. I was not able to find information about their whereabouts during the 1930s, but by 1942 Liselotte and Wilhelm both had Palestinian passports that they renewed in 1947. I was able to locate a marriage record for their son (who may still be living) in England, so perhaps they also ended up in England or maybe they stayed in Israel.

Liselotte Strauss-Reich, Israel Archives, at

Thus, there is much to do to learn more about Minna and her descendants. So far, however, I’ve hit dead ends and brick walls. Searching online for answers in Brazil and Israel has led me nowhere. Not knowing how to read either Portuguese or Hebrew (except some basic terms) makes the task even more difficult. If anyone has any thoughts, please let me know.




  1.  Title: Amtliches Frankfurter Adressbuch, Deutsche National Bibliothek; Leipzig, Deutschland; Publisher: August Scherl; Signatur: ZC 811; Laufende Nummer: 1, Germany and Surrounding Areas, Address Books, 1815-1974 
  2. Flora’s father, Minna’s first husband Leo Offenstadt, died at Theriesenstadt concentration camp on January 9, 1943. See his entry at Yad Vashem at 

Escaping from Germany, Part VII: Children Separated from their Parents

This is the final chapter in the story of my cousin Sarah Goldschmidt, daughter of my fourth great-uncle, Meyer Goldschmidt. These last seven chapters about her descendants’ struggles during and for the most part survival of the Nazi era have been an inspiration to me during this pandemic. We need to remember that human beings have survived many other challenges as we continue to fight this one.

The youngest child of Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern was their son Mayer. As we have seen, Mayer was married to Gella Hirsch, and they had two children, Elsa (1891) and Markus Kurt (1895)(later known as Kurt Marco).

As of 1930, Mayer and Gella were living in Frankfurt. Their daughter Elsa had been married to her second cousin Jacob Schwarzschild, with whom she’d had a daughter Elizabeth (1915). That marriage ended in divorce, and in 1920, Elsa had married Alfred Hirsch, with whom she had three children in the 1920s. Kurt Stern was married to Rhee Mess; they had no children.

With the rise of Hitler, the family began to disperse. Kurt and Rhee left Germany first. From 1918 to 1923, Kurt had worked as an art dealer in Frankfurt with his father and Goldschmidt relatives in the firm of I & S Goldschmidt (more on them to come). He and Rhee had then moved to Paris, where he became an independent art dealer.1 Then they immigrated to the US, arriving in New York on October 4, 1934. Kurt declared his intention to become a US citizen on February 19, 1935, four months after arriving in New York.

Kurt Marco Stern declaration of intention, The National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Petitions for Naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1897-1944; Series: M1972; Roll: 1256
Archive Roll Descriptions: (Roll 1256) Petition No· 352904 – Petition No· 353350 New York, Naturalization Records, 1882-1944

Kurt registered for the US draft on April 26, 1942, at which time he was a self-employed art dealer, living in New York City.

Kurt Stern, World War II draft registration, U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

Kurt’s parents Mayer and Gella Stern also left Germany around that time. According to Mayer Stern’s immigration papers, he and Gella arrived in Palestine on April 12, 1935. Sadly, Gella died less than two months later on June 1, 1935, in Haifa. She was 71 years old. Mayer remained in Haifa and became a Palestinian citizen on August 24, 1938.2

Mayer Stern, Palestinian citizenship certificate, found at

But Mayer did not live much longer. He died on September 15, 1939, in Haifa, where he is buried. He was 78.

The grave site of מאיר שטרן. Cemetery: Haifa Mahane David – Sde Yehoshua Cemetery, Location: Haifa, Haifa District, Israel. Birth: 7 Jan 1861, Death: 15 Sep 1939. Found at Photographer  Nadezda

As for Mayer and Gella’s daughter Elsa Stern Schwarzschild Hirsch, she and her husband Alfred Hirsch and three children also immigrated to Palestine, arriving in 1938, according to their immigration file.3

The file includes letters indicating that two of Elsa and Alfred’s children returned to Europe after arriving in Palestine, one to Antwerp to study, the other to Italy for health reasons. Alfred requested that the two children be granted Palestinian passports expeditiously because they each had limited visas from those countries that would expire before they could return to Palestine to sign their new passports.

Alfred received a response that the Palestinian officials would ask the British consul to issue Palestinian passports to the two children once Alfred himself was naturalized. Alfred and Elsa were naturalized on August 14, 1938. Alfred was working as the general manager of the Palestine Milling & Trading Company at that time.4

Elsa and Alfred Hirsch, Palestinian citizenship certificate, found at

I assume the two children were able to return soon thereafter to Palestine to join their family. But can you imagine the anxiety experienced by them all, thinking that the two young teenagers might be stranded in Europe as the Nazi persecution of Jews intensified in 1938, culminating in Kristallnacht just a few months after Alfred and Elsa received their naturalization certificate?

One of their children immigrated to the US as early as 1940 and was residing without any family members in New York City at the YMHA on the 1940 US census;5 his uncle Kurt was, however, residing in New York at that time, where he was the owner of an “art shop,” according to the census.6

The rest of the family joined them in the US after the war. Alfred and Elsa arrived in New York on December 24, 1946.7 Alfred died less than two months later on February 6, 1947; he was only 56 years old.8 Elsa outlived him by over forty years; she died in Dallas, Texas, on October 4, 1988.  She was 97 years old.9

Elsa’s brother Kurt Stern unfortunately did not have his sister’s longevity. He died on April 16, 1962 at the age of 67 after a long illness, according to his obituary.10 He was survived by his wife Rhee, who died in August 1986 at the age of 91,11 and his sister Elsa and her three children.

Thus ends not only the story of Mayer Stern, but that of his parents Sarah Goldschmidt and Salomon Stern. Their story is overall a story shared by so many German Jews. They went from being successful merchants living in comfort and security, raising children and grandchildren in a country that they saw as their home, to being refugees from the worst kind of persecution and violence anyone can imagine.

Sarah Goldschmidt’s descendants were, however, among the more fortunate ones. Out of all of Sarah’s children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in Germany during the Nazi era, only one, little Margot Fulda, just thirteen years old, was murdered by the Nazis. The rest were uprooted from their homes and torn from the comfort they’d known, but were able to escape to Palestine, to England, and to the United States. Their descendants live among us today in places all over the world. How fortunate and blessed we are that they do.

Next I will turn my attention to Sarah’s younger brother Jacob Meier Goldschmidt and his family.

  1. “Kurt M. Stern Dies; Art Dealer Was 67,” The New York Times, April 17, 1962, p.34. 
  2. Mayer Stern, Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, found at 
  3. Elsa and Alfred Hirsch, Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, found at 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Stephen Hirsch, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02663; Page: 83B; Enumeration District: 31-1658, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  6. Kurt M. Stern, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02656; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 31-1368, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  7. Alfred and Elsa Hirsch, ship manifest, Year: 1946; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 7250; Line: 1; Page Number: 10, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  8. New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948 
  9. Else Hirsch, Social Security Number: 119-36-5922, Birth Date: 4 Jan 1891
    Issue year: 1962, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 75219, Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA, Death Date: 4 Oct 1988, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  10. Kurt M Stern, Birth Date: 28 Jan 1895, Death Date: 16 Apr 1962, Claim Date: 17 Aug 1962, SSN: 060070787, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. “Kurt M. Stern Dies; Art Dealer Was 67,” The New York Times, April 17, 1962, p.34. 
  11.  Rhee Stern, Social Security Number: 065-52-1280, Birth Date: 12 Jun 1895
    Issue year: 1973, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 10028, New York, New York, New York, USA, Death Date: Aug 1986, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

Escaping from Germany, Part VI: Germany’s Loss, America and Israel’s Gains

Abraham and Johanna (Goldschmidt) Stern’s daughter Clementine had died in 1919 during the 1918 flu epidemic, survived by her husband Siegfried Oppenheimer and three children: Erika (1909), William Erwin (1912), and Sarah Gabriele (1917). After Clementine’s death, Siegfried married her younger sister Alice Lea, with whom he had five more children, all born in the 1920s. All eight of those children as well as Alice and Siegfried themselves escaped from Germany in the 1930s.

The Children of Clementine Stern and Siegfried Oppenheimer

Siegfried and Clementine’s oldest child, Erika Oppenheimer, first escaped to the Netherlands in 1933, but she immigrated to the United States on July 4, 1938, appropriately enough. Two weeks later she married Paul Fromm in Chicago, Illinois, on July 20, 1938. Paul also had arrived on July 4, 1938, so the two may have met and fallen in love on the ship that brought them to the US. Paul was born in Kitzingen, Germany, on September 28, 1906, into a family with a long tradition as vintners. He had been living in Bingen, Germany, before immigrating. Erika and Paul both filed their naturalization papers on August 26, 1938, less than two months after their arrival.

Erika Oppenheimer Fromm, Declaration of Intent, National Archives at Chicago; Chicago, Illinois; ARC Title: Illinois, Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1991; NAI Number: 593882; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
Description: Petitions for naturalization, v 1185, no 296351-296550, ca 1943-1944 Illinois, Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991

Paul Fromm, Declaration of Intent, National Archives at Chicago; Chicago, Illinois; ARC Title: Illinois, Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1991; NAI Number: 593882; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
Description: Petitions for naturalization, v 1185, no 296351-296550, ca 1943-1944 Illinois, Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991

The 1940 census reports them living in Chicago, where Paul was the proprietor of a wholesale liquor importation business and Erika a psychologist working in a hospital clinic.1 They would have one child born in 1940.

Both Paul and Erika achieved great success in the US. Paul was a very successful wine merchant, but also made his name as a philanthropist who generously supported the arts, music specifically. He created the Fromm Foundation at Harvard to support musicians and composers and musical events such as Tanglewood and the Aspen Music Festival. John Rockwell, the long-time music critic for the New York Times, described Paul Fromm as “the most active and distinguished private patron of contemporary classical music in the United States.” Paul died on the 49th anniversary of his arrival in the US, July 4, 1987.  He was eighty years old.2

Erika also had a distinguished career. She had received her doctorate in psychology from the University of Frankfurt in 1933 before escaping to the Netherlands. After immigrating to the US in 1938, she became a research assistant in psychiatry at the University of Chicago for a few years and then spent years in practice, eventually returning to the faculty at the University of Chicago in 1961, where she became a scholarly expert in the use of hypnosis. Her obituary described some of her professional accomplishments:3

Dr. Fromm considered hypnosis a valuable analytical tool that, when used by a skilled practitioner, could provide access to a patient’s unconscious conflicts and desires. She said hypnosis could induce an altered state of consciousness involving heightened awareness and focus in approximately 1 in 12 people.

She used hypnosis to treat severely disturbed patients as well as victims of incest and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders. She also advocated self-hypnosis as a path to self-exploration.

In the 1980’s, Dr. Fromm joined the growing field of behavioral medicine, which uses hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback and other techniques to treat physical ailments. Her book ”Hypnosis and Behavioral Medicine,” written with Dr. Daniel P. Brown and published in 1987, presented research supporting those methods in treating allergies, asthma, migraines and hypertension.

Erika Oppenheimer Fromm died on May 25, 2003, in Chicago. She was 93.4

Clementine and Siegfried’s son William Erwin Oppenheimer (often called Erwin) left Germany very early; he arrived in Palestine on November 8, 1933, less than a year after Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. By 1938, when he applied for Palestinian citizenship, he was married to Hannie Halpern, who was also a refugee from Germany. She was born in Frankfurt on September 1, 1914. Erwin was then working as a farmer near Rehovoth.5 According to trees on MyHeritage, he died on April 22, 1963, in Jerusalem. He was only fifty years old.

Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, found at

As for Clementine and Siegfried’s younger daughter Sarah Gabriele Oppenheimer, known as Gabriele, I am missing some pieces to Gabriele’s story, but it appears from documents that she had been married to a man named Leon Schindel, whom she divorced in Jerusalem on July 28, 1941.6

Among Gabriele’s immigration documents is her original Palestinian passport, issued on December 2, 1937, so she was already a citizen of Palestine by then. She was a professional photographer, according to her passport.

She married a second time in Tel Aviv on September 11, 1942, to Martin Lederman; he was born in Dresden, Germany, on April 13, 1904, and had immigrated to Palestine on March 26, 1940; he had previously been living in Panama. According to his Palestinian naturalization papers, Martin was a publisher.7

Martin and Gabriele did not remain in Palestine, later Israel, for too long after the war ended.  They made several trips to England and the US after the war, and in June 1949, they indicated on the ship manifest taking them from England to the US that their intended future permanent residence was the “USA.”8  Gabriele became a naturalized US citizen on December 20, 1954,9 and Martin on February 14, 1955.10 They were residing in New York City.

Both Martin and Gabriele lived into their eighties. Martin died on July 9, 1991, at 87,11 and Gabriele died on January 11, 2001, at the age of 83.12 As far as I can tell, they did not have any children.

Alice Stern and Siegfried Oppenheimer

I don’t have many documents for what happened to Alice and Siegfried Oppenheimer before they arrived in Palestine in late 1938. But as we saw in my last post, a letter written by Erich Stern, Siegfried Stern’s son, to his brother Gunther Stern in 1938 on November 13, 1938, revealed that Siegfried Oppenheimer was arrested in the aftermath of Kristallnacht just days before his family planned to travel to Palestine.

But eventually Siegfried and Alice and all five of their children made it to Palestine. Alice and Siegfried Oppenheimer arrived with three youngest of those children, and their two oldest children arrived separately around the same time.13 They all became naturalized citizens of Palestine in 1941.

I do not have death records for Alice or Siegfried, but the research of Cibella/Baron indicates that both died in Israel, Siegfried in 1959, Alice in 1986. All but one of their five children also lived the rest of their lives in Israel; the other child immigrated to the US after the war.

Thus, of the eight children of Clementine and Alice Stern, six ended up in Israel, two in the United States. Clementine, Alice, and Siegfried Oppenheimer have many descendants living in both countries. What Germany lost—e.g., a brilliant psychologist, a philanthropist and entrepreneur, and a photographer–were gifts to the countries that took them in.

  1. Erika and Paul Fromm, 1940 US census, Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00929; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 103-268, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  2. “Paul Fromm dies at 80; was Fromm week patron,” The Berkshire Eagle
    Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 07 Jul 1987, Tue • Page 12. “Paul Fromm, Philanthropist,” Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, 06 Jul 1987, Mon • Page 128. Paul Fromm
    Social Security Number: 323-12-0163, Birth Date: 28 Sep 1906, Issue State: Illinois
    Last Residence: 60637, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, Death Date: Jul 1987, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  3. “Erika Fromm, 93, Psychologist and Expert in Use in Hypnosis,” The New York Times, May 30, 2003, Section B, Page 9. 
  4.  Erika Fromm, Social Security Number: 340-32-7862, Birth Date: 23 Dec 1909
    Issue year: 1955-1956, Issue State: Illinois, Last Residence: 60637, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, Death Date: 25 May 2003, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  5. Erwin Oppenheimer, Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, found at 
  6. Martin Lederman and Gabriele Oppenheimer Schindel Lederman, Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, found at 
  7. See footnote 6. 
  8. Martin and Gabriele Lederman, ship manifest, Departure Date: 22 Jun 1949
    Port of Departure: Southampton, England, Destination Port: New York, USA, UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 
  9. Martin Lederman, Naturalization Date: 14 Feb 1955, Residence: New York, New York, New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 
  10. Gabriele Lederman, Naturalization Date: 20 Dec 1954, Residence: New York, New York, New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 
  11.  Martin Lederman, Social Security Number: 060-26-6446, Birth Date: 13 Apr 1904
    Death Date: 9 Jul 1991, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  12.  Gabriele Lederman, Social Security Number: 121-54-6243, Birth Date: 20 Jul 1917, Death Date: 11 Jan 2001, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  13. Siegfried and Alice Stern Oppenheimer, Immigration and Naturalization File, Israel Archives, at 

Escaping from Germany, Part III: A Family Divided Across the World

The story of my cousin Siegfried Loewenthal is the story of how one family ended up separated and spread all over the world in order to escape Nazi Germany.

Abraham Loewenthal and Keile Stern’s younger son Siegfried and his wife Henriette Feuchtwanger had five children, as we have seen: Rosel (or Rosa) (1908), Albert (1909), Louise (1910), Grete (1913), and Lotte (1914).

Rosa Loewenthal married Justin Held in Frankfurt on August 24, 1928. Justin was born in Kulsheim, Germany on October 18, 1900.

Marriage record of Justin Held and Rosa Loewenthal, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 903. Year Range: 1928, Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Rosa and Justin had two daughters born in Germany, one in 1929, one in 1930.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Siegfried and Henriette’s family began to disperse. First, their son Albert Loewenthal went to Palestine on March 26, 1934.1 I do not have a marriage record for Albert, but my cousins Roger Cibella and David Baron report that he married Hilda Weingarten in Jerusalem on June 12, 1935. Hilda was born in Hamburg, Germany, on April 10, 1911. I do know that they were married by the time they applied to become naturalized citizens of Palestine in April 1938, and they had a son born in Jerusalem in 1937.2 According to Cibella/Baron, Hilda died in Switzerland in 1954, Albert in 1995 in Jerusalem (after marrying two more times and having several more children).

Naturalization certificate for Albert and Hilda Loewenthal, found at

By 1939, the rest of Siegfried’s family had also left Germany. Siegfried and Henriette themselves arrived in Palestine on March 20, 1939, and became naturalized citizens in 1941.3 Unfortunately, Siegfried died just a year later in Tel Aviv on February 25, 1942. He was 62 years old and survived by his wife and all five of his children.4

Naturalization certificate of Siegfried and Henriette (Feuchtwanger) Loewenthal,

And those children were all over the world by then. Rosa Loewenthal and Justin Held and their children left for England in 1939 and then immigrated to the United States in 1940.5 They ended up living in New York and becoming naturalized citizens.6 Justin died in 1980,7 Rosa in 1993.8

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/243J
Enumeration District: AKCZ, 1939 England and Wales Register

Louise Loewenthal had married Walter Meier Strauss in Basel, Switzerland. Walter was native to Frankfurt, where he was born on December 18, 1909.9 I was fortunate to find a long biography of Walter written by one of his grandsons and posted on the family genealogy website.  According to this document, Walter was employed by a woolen factory in Frankfurt when he was a teenager, and when he was in his early twenties or in the early 1930s, the company moved to Switzerland, and the owner asked Walter to come with them, which he did. By that time he had been dating Louise Loewenthal for seven years, and they soon married and moved to Basel, Switzerland. According to the grandson’s biography of Walter:

During the War, friends from home that were now in the concentration camps sent him letters about the atrocities that were going on in the War and specifically in the Camps. Trying to help, he established a group consisting of himself… and a few other men from Basel. The group would send very small care packages periodically to the people in the camps. The packages consisted of food such as salami, sardines, and any other small items that the people requested or needed and was small enough that it could be sent. Every sunday they would load up the packages in a car and drive all over Basel putting them in many different mailboxes, for if they were all dumped in one mailbox they would surely not arrive at the camps.

Thus, Louise and Walter were able to survive the Holocaust; Walter’s parents and brother were, however, murdered at Sobibor.10

In 1946, after the war ended, Louise and Walter Strauss and their two children immigrated to the US; Max Stern, husband of Louise’s first cousin Hilda, helped them get a visa. The ship manifest listed Justin Held, Louise’s brother-in-law married to her older sister Rosa, as the person they were going to in the US.11 They settled in New York where Walter once again got a job with a woolen factory. Walter died in 1990 while on a business trip in Switzerland and was buried in Israel.12 Louise died in New York on August 11, 2003; she was 92 and was survived by her two children and her grandchildren.13

Grete Loewenthal immigrated to Palestine, arriving on April 6, 1936. She became a naturalized citizen on November 29, 1938. She was working as an assistant pharmacist at the time and was unmarried.14

Cibella/Baron report that she married Fritz Altar in 1948, but I have no records to verify that fact. I did find two ship manifests, one outgoing from England, one arriving in New York, in May 1958, that list Grete and Fritz Altar, residents of Austria and working as hotel managers.15 The English manifest indicates that they were headed to the US as “the country of intended permanent residence.” But I have found no records showing that Grete and Fritz lived in the US. Fritz died in Vienna on January 30, 1993, and is buried there.16 Unsourced trees on Geni and MyHeritage report that Grete died on September 27, 1995, also in Vienna. I have no verification of that fact.

Lotte Loewenthal also had left Germany by 1939. She and her husband Erich Posen are listed on the 1939 England and Wales Register showing residence in England by 1939. Erich was working as an optical goods salesman.

Lotte Loewenthal and Erich Posen, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/980H, Enumeration District: BXHY, 1939 England and Wales Register

Unfortunately I have no marriage record for Lotte and Erich, but I know this is the correct person because after the war when she and Erich had their first child in January 1946, Lotte had serious complications and her mother Henriette had to get permission to leave Palestine to go to England for a few months to help Lotte with the new baby.16

Immigration and Naturalization File for Siegfried and Henriette (Feuchtwanger) Loewenthal, Israel Archives, found at

Lotte was not destined for a long life. She died at the age of 52 in 1967 in England, survived by her husband Erich and two children.17 Her mother also survived her; Henriette Feuchtwanger Loewenthal died at the age of 93 in Israel, according to the work of Roger Cibella and David Baron.

Despite the lack of sources for some of the stories of Siegfried Loewenthal and his family, there is enough information to conclude that he, his wife, and all five of their children and their grandchildren escaped Germany in time and survived the Holocaust. In doing so, they ended up spread across three continents and three different countries.

There are always costs to these relocations and disruptions. Siegfried’s early death in 1942 certainly could have been just one of those costs.

Gravestone of Siegfried Loewenthal, photograph by Ben Ariel October 17, 2015, found at

Gravestone of Henriette Feuchtwanger Loewenthal photo by Ben Ariel October 17, 2015 , found at



  1. Immigration and Naturalization File for Albert and Hilda (Weingarten) Loewenthal, Israel Archives, found at 
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Immigration and Naturalization File for Siegfried and Henriette (Feuchtwanger) Loewenthal, Israel Archives, found at 
  5. Rosa and Justin Held and family, passenger ship manifest, Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6459; Line: 16; Page Number: 81, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  6. Name: Rosa Held, Birth Date: 14 Feb 1908, Age: 39, Naturalization Date: 20 Nov 1947, Residence: New York, New York, Title and Location of Court: New York Southern District, New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989. Justin Held, Birth Date: 18 Oct 1900, Age: 47, Naturalization Date: 15 Jul 1948, Residence: New York, New York, Title and Location of Court: New York Southern District, New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989. 
  7.  Justin Held, Social Security Number: 092-14-6607, Birth Date: 18 Oct 1900
    Death Date: Dec 1980, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  8. Rose Held, Birth Date: 14 Feb 1908, Death Date: Mar 1993, SSN: 095144557, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  9. Walter Meier Strauss, Birth Date: 18 Dec 1909, Naturalization Date: 24 Mar 1952,
    Residence: New York, New York, Title and Location of Court: New York Southern District, New York, Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 
  10. “My Genealogy Home Page:Information about Walter Meyer Strauss,” Jonathan Strauss, found at 
  11. Walter and Louise Strauss and children, ship manifest, Year: 1946; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 7161; Line: 1; Page Number: 267, New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  12. See footnote 10. Walter M Strauss, Death Date: 15 Oct 1990, SSN: 065246257, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  13. Louise Strauss, Death Date: 11 Aug 2003, SSN: 122285989, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  14. Immigration and Naturalization File for Grete Loewenthal, Israel Archives, found at 
  15. Fritz and Grete Altar, ship manifest, 15 May 1958, Port of Departure: Southampton, England, Destination Port: New York, USA, Ship Name: Ryndam UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. Grete and Fritz Altar, ship manifest, 24 May 1958, Arrival Place: New York, New York, USA, Ship: Ryndam, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; NAI Number: 2990227; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series Number: A4115; NARA Roll Number: 447, New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1967 
  16. See multiple letters in Immigration and Naturalization File for Siegfried and Henriette (Feuchtwanger) Loewenthal, Israel Archives, found at 
  17. Lottie V Posen, Death Age: 52, Registration Date: Jul 1967, Registration district: Hampstead, Inferred County: Greater London, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 5b; Page: 583, England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 

Max Goldschmidt: A Survivor

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

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

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

From Max Goldschmidt Israeli immigration file: Ship manifest for the Plus Ultra from Barcelona to Haifa, arriving June 19, 1945. Max is on line 94.

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

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

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

Document that states that Max moved from Petah Tikvah to Tel Aviv where the Laks family lived. Translated by Elan Oren.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander: Mystery Solved!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Last but Not Least, Levi Katzenstein and His Heroic Great-Grandson, Arye Katzenstein

How painful it must have been for this family to lose a son to terrorism in Germany in 1970 after escaping from the Nazis in Germany less than forty years before.  This is the story of the family of Levi Katzenstein, the youngest child of the nine children of my three-times great-uncle Jakob Katzenstein and his wife Sarchen Lion. With this post I will have covered as best I can at this point the lives of all the descendants of Scholem Katzensten, my 4-times great-grandfather.

In some ways Levi’s story reflects the stories of all his siblings; there are children who died young or who were stillborn. There are children who were killed in the Holocaust. And there are children who escaped from Nazi Germany and whose descendants are alive today in various places in the world. And in this family, there was a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect other people.

Levi was born on May 29, 1851, in Jesberg. He married Jeanette Bendheim on August 13, 1878.  Jeanette was born July 17, 1858, in Friedberg, Germany, daughter of Wolf Bendheim and Johanette Schering or maybe Schwarz (the mother’s birth name is very hard to read; these were the possibilities given by members of the Jekkes group on Facebook. I can’t read it at all.).

Marriage record for Levi Katzenstein

Marriage record of Levi Katzenstein and Jeanette Bendheim Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 924; Laufende Nummer: 546

Levi and Jeanette had six children, four sons and two daughters. Their firstborn was Kathinka, born on November 25, 1879, in Jesberg.

Kathinka Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3810

Then came two sons, Jakob and David. Jakob was born February 25, 1882, six years after the death of his grandfather Jakob for whom he must have been named.

Jakob Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3813

David was born two years later on March 3, 1884.

David Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3815

Sadly, the fourth child did not make it to her first birthday. Sara was born July 14, 1886, and died on May 11, 1887.

Sara Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3885

The last two children were boys. Sally Katzenstein was born on April 10, 1890, and Max Katzenstein was born on May 15, 1893.

Sally Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3821

Max Katzenstein birth record
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3824 Standesamt Jesberg Geburtsnebenregister 1893, S. 29

Thanks to Barbara Greve, I can share this photograph of the house in Jesberg where Levi and Jeanette Katzenstein raised their children:

Home of Levi Katzenstein in Jesberg

Four of the five children of Levi and Jeanette Katzenstein married and had children. Kathinka married Meier Bamberger on August 8, 1905, in Jesberg. Meier was born on June 8, 1878, in Holzheim, Germany, the son of Joseph Bamberger and Settchen Meier.

Kathinka Katzenstein and Meier Bamberger marriage record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3860

Kathinka and Meier Bamberger had one child who survived, a daughter Gertrud born in Holzheim on May 7, 1910, and also had a stillborn child on December 9, 1915.

stillborn child of Kathinka and Meier Bamberger
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 905; Laufende Nummer: 796

Kathinka’s brother Jacob married Auguste Wallach on February 11, 1908, in Oberaula, Germany. Auguste was the daughter of Manus Wallach and Roschen Stern, and she was born on August 7, 1882, in Oberaula.

Marriage record of Jakob Katzenstein and Auguste Wallach
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 6351

Jacob and Auguste had one child, a son named Benjamin Willi born in Jesberg on November 18, 1908, according to the research done by Barbara Greve.

David Katzenstein married Gertrude Spier on January 7, 1912 in Merzhausen, Germany. Gertrude, the daughter of Juda Spier and Jeanette Rothschild, was born in Willinghausen, Merzhausen, Germany, on December 10, 1887.

Marriage record of David Katzenstein and Gertrude Spier
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 8870

David and Gertrude had a stillborn baby on October 27, 1912, and then three more children: Heinz (1913), Erich (1919), and Ursula (1923). Here is David Katzenstein’s house, as provided to me by Barbara Greve:

David Katzenstein’s house in Jesberg

The fourth surviving child of Levi and Jeanette was Sally Katzenstein. He married Gretha Nussbaum on December 24, 1913, in Wehrda, Germany. She was the daughter of Joseph Nussbaum and Rickchen Stein, born in Rhina, Germany, on August 5, 1891.

Marriage record of Sally Katzenstein and Gretha Nussbaum
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 907; Laufende Nummer: 6935

Sally and Gretha had two daughters, Elfriede (1914) and Ruth-Rika (1924).

The youngest child of Levi Katzenstein and Jeanette Bendheim was their son Max. Tragically, Max was killed fighting for Germany in World War I on June 4, 1915. According to Barbara Greve’s research, Max served as a musketeer in the Third Company of the 7th Infantry, Regiment No. 142. He was 22 years old. Given what happened to some of his siblings, his sacrifice for Germany is especially tragic.

Max Katzenstein death record
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3913 Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1915, S. 27

Levi and Jeanette Katzenstein had thus already lost two of their children—their daughter Sara and their son Max. Then on May 17, 1921, they lost yet another child, their only other daughter Kathinka Katzenstein Bamberger. She was only 41 years old and left behind her husband Meier and their eleven year old daughter Gertrud.

Kathinka Katzenstein Bamberger death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 905; Laufende Nummer: 797

Meier remarried seven months later on December 23, 1921; his second wife was Zerline Kahn, stepmother to little Gertrud.

After Kathinka’s death, Levi and Jeanette had only their three sons Jakob, David, and Sally surviving as well as their grandchildren. Levi died on April 3, 1929, and Jeanette died a year later on July 22, 1930.

Levi Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3920

Jeanette Bendheim Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3921

They are both buried in Jesberg, as seen in this photograph I took while in Jesberg in May:

Levi Katzenstein and Jeanette Bendheim Katzenstein, Jesberg cemetery

Levi and Jeanette’s remaining family did not get to stay in their ancestral town of Jesberg. According to Barbara Greve, David Katzenstein was forced to sell his home and farm after the Nazis came to power. He and his family left for Palestine in 1934. His brother Jakob left three years later in 1937.

Jakob and David and their families survived the Holocaust and settled in Palestine where, as these documents reveal, they became naturalized citizens.

Naturalization petition and citizenship order in Palestine for David Katzenstein and
Gertrude Spier

Naturalization petition and citizenship order in Palestine for David Katzenstein and Gertrude Spier

Palestine Application for Naturalization for Jakob Katzenstein and Auguste Wallach

Palestine Citizenship Order for Jakob Katzenstein and Auguste Wallach

Their younger brother Sally and his wife Gretha as well as their niece Gertrud Bamberger and her father and stepmother were not as fortunate.  They were all murdered by the Nazis. Gertrud Bamberger, her father Meier Bamberger and stepmother Zerline Kahn Bamberger were deported to the concentration camp at Treblinka on September 30, 1942, where they were killed. (The links are to their entries in the Yad Vashem database.)

The fate of Sally Katzenstein and his wife Gretha Nussbaum Katzenstein and their two daughters was described in detail on this website describing the Stolpersteine for the village of Minden, Germany. I will quote from this website, which tells in chilling terms the story of this Katzenstein family:

Sally Katzenstein was a teacher and a preacher. He taught in an Israeli school in Breitenbach, North Hessen, from 1911 and from 1921 until 1934 at the state school in Soest. At both schools he also had the responsibility for teaching four hours each week at a school for further education. In Soest he was [a] preacher to the Synagogue congregation.

Shortly after the National Socialists took over power on the 7th April, 1933, the law for the Reinstatement of the Career Civil Servants was passed. This was to enable the removal of unwanted officials, especially Jews, from governmental posts. Sally Katzstein also fell foul of this law and on 29th March, 1934, lost his occupation as a teacher.

On 1st September, 1935, the family moved to Minden and found a home in Wilhelmstrasse 18. Sally Katzenstein became the local representative for the National Association of Jews in Germany and later preacher to the Synagogue Community. As Jewish children were banned from State schools he held lessons in private rooms.

After the November Pogrom of 1938 Sally Katzenstein was required to pay 1.400 Reichsmark tax on his fortune. These taxes were cynically called ‘Jewish Punishment Tax’. With this money the Jews had to pay for damage that had been done to their property, by others, during the Pogrom.

In 1939 the family tried to emigrate to Palestine but only their daughter, Ruth Rika, was given permission to leave. Her sister, Elfriede, had emigrated in 1936. In 1941 Sally and Gretha submitted an application to emigrate to the USA and permission was granted but then was foiled by the USA entering the war.

In 1941 the Katzensteins were forced to leave their home and to move into the so called Jewish house in Kampstrasse 6, The Jewish community house together with lots of other Jews, in very cramped conditions.

In the spring of 1943 Sally and Gretha Katzenstein were the last Jews living in Minden but they were arrested and taken to Bielefeld and from there were deported to Teresienstadt. From there they were taken separately to Auschwitz where they were both murdered in October 1944.

Fortunately, both of Sally and Gretha’s daughters survived. Elfriede, their older daughter, married to Siegfried Berliner, settled in Palestine, now Israel, where she died on December 8, 2011, according to this obituary. She was 97 years old and had three children.  Her sister Ruth Rika Katzenstein married Harold Rosenberg and settled in Scotland where Ruth was registered as a nurse for many years. I have not yet found a death record for Ruth nor do I know whether she had any children.

There is one final tragic story to tell about the descendants of Levi Katzenstein. As noted above, two of his sons, Jacob and David, immigrated to Palestine in the 1930s. David and his wife Gertrude had three children: Heinz, Erich, and Ursula. Heinz had a son named Arye born in Haifa, Israel, in 1937.

On February 10, 1970, Heinz was seriously injured and Arye was killed during a terrorist attack on a bus that was supposed to take them from the Munich Airport terminal to an El Al jet they were planning to board. The details were described in a September 6, 2015, obituary for Uriel Cohen, an El Al pilot who had tried to stop the attack:

The attack in Germany occurred on February 10, 1970, at 12:50pm. An El Al plane on Flight 435 from Israel had landed at the airport shortly before. Some passengers intended to continue to London, [and] were on their way to a bus that would take them to a connecting flight. A scream was suddenly heard and three young Arab men came from the direction of the transit hall stairs, shouting and running towards the bus, ordering passengers to put their hands up.

The captain tackled the assailants, but they managed to toss two hand grenades at the bus. One of the terrorists pulled out a gun, and another grenade was thrown. Arye Katzenstein of Haifa, 32 at the time, was on the bus with his father and sprinted towards one of the grenades. He used his body to prevent other passengers from being wounded. He died at the scene and his father was severely wounded.

Arye Katzenstein, my fourth cousin, was a hero. His family had left Germany to escape from the Nazis, and almost forty years later he was killed in Germany while trying to protect others from a terrorist attack.

It does make me wonder whether hate will ever end.  It also makes me realize that there will always be good people who will fight that hate and provide us all with hope and inspiration.


The Flat: A film by Arnon Goldfinger


The other night we watched a fascinating movie, The Flat. It is a documentary made by Arnon Goldfinger about what he learns about his grandparents after his grandmother dies and he and his family clean out their apartment in Tel Aviv. His grandparents had lived in Berlin until 1936 when they left for Israel. Goldfinger and his family, including his mother, had almost no knowledge of the grandparents’ lives before they left Germany.

I do not want to reveal too much about what they learn because each viewer should be able to experience the revelations as they are uncovered in the course of the film. But I will say that this is a film that anyone interested in family history and the ethical dilemmas that are created when you learn something surprising and perhaps troubling about the past should watch. What is our obligation to reveal the truths we learn to those left behind, even if they were innocent of the past actions of their family members? Why do people hide from the truth? Why do some of us ask questions and seek answers whereas others prefer to avoid uncovering the past?

But this is not only a film for genealogists. It is a film for everyone who has an interest in human nature. The film addresses important questions of identity and nationality. What makes people identify with a country, a religion, a family? How do we pick our friends? How does denial play into our sense of who we are?

Finally, this is also a film about our legacy. What will our families do and think after we are gone?  When the family throws out bag after bag after bag of the treasured belongings of the grandparents, I couldn’t help but think about the way we all collect objects—clothing, books, jewelry, letters, photographs—that our descendants will toss away with barely a thought. We have to leave something else behind besides these material things—our good name, our good deeds, our stories, and our love. All else will vanish.

Why I Have Been Quiet about Israel

I have never been afraid to express my opinion.  I welcome reasonable discussions and debate about almost anything—food, movies, books, baseball, politics, world affairs, religion, you name it.  I have strong feelings about almost anything and everything, and I usually am not at all hesitant to say what I am thinking.  I like to think that I listen to what others have to say and that I try and be informed about as much as I can before formulating my own opinion.  My values have not changed much at all in the course of my life, so I know my starting point based on those values, but my mind has been changed many times on many issues by listening and reading what others have to say.

But this time I am lost.  I am Jewish, I am proud to be Jewish, and I feel a strong emotional tie to Israel and Jewish people everywhere.  I’ve only visited Israel once, back in 1997, and it left an indelible mark upon me.  I felt a connection historically and spiritually to the place.  I cried when we left in a way that was far different from the sadness I always feel when a trip or vacation ends.  Israel felt like home to me in a way I never expected.  From my research I now know I have family in Israel.  I have friends in Israel. I know how important Israel is to the past, the present, and the future of the Jewish people.

I am also a lifelong progressive liberal (and not ashamed at all of that word) who argued and protested against every US war during my lifetime—from Vietnam starting in 1965 when I was a teenager up through Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2002.  I know that some wars were so-called just wars; defeating Hitler and others who have tried to commit genocide is justified and necessary.  Dropping an atomic bomb on Japan, however, is not something I would have agreed with, if I’d been born at the time.  I don’t agree with capital punishment, even when the convicted person has committed a heinous crime.  I just don’t see killing as a way of accomplishing anything unless and until there is no choice in the name of self-defense or defense of others.

So I have read the news these last few weeks with my stomach churning, my heart breaking, and my brain torn from one side to the other.  Almost everything I have read is filled with one-sided rhetoric. There is no reason for me to recap the arguments; you’ve heard them all before.  People who are defending Israel point me to pro-Israel sources; people who are anti-Israel point me to anti-Israel sources.  I read the New York Times every day, hoping it is more objective than other sources.  People who are pro-Israel say that the Times is biased against Israel; people who are anti-Israel say the Times is biased in favor of Israel.

There are only a few actual facts: Hamas wants to destroy Israel—it says so in its charter; there is a blockade around Gaza that makes escape for those who live there almost impossible and life there absolutely miserable; Hamas is building tunnels and accumulating weapons and shooting rockets to reach its goal of destroying Israel; Israel is fighting back with stronger and bigger weapons and with a defense system that has resulted in many more Palestinian deaths than Hamas has been able to inflict on Israel; Hamas refuses to agree to a ceasefire; Israel refuses to stop building new settlements; Hamas continues to shoot rockets, knowing that its own people will be killed in greater numbers; Israel knows that it cannot avoid killing them when it shoots its rockets at Gaza.  Neither side can win unless it obliterates the other side, in which case neither side has won.

Meanwhile, people are dying on both sides, no one feels safe, and there is hate being spewed by both sides.  And across the world, there are people protesting, saying things that I’ve not heard said so publicly and proudly in my lifetime: “Death to the Jews, Kill the Jews.”  In one town in France, shop windows were smashed.  Immediately I thought of Kristallnacht.

So why have I remained quiet?   Being quiet did not help the Jews in the 1930s. But why express my feelings when they only provoke more rhetoric?  Why be accused of being either a self-hating Jew for having sympathy for the people in Gaza or of being a Jewish imperialist/Zionist for understanding why Israel feels a need to use force to stop Hamas from trying to kill the Israeli people and their country? The dialogue is pointless.  No one really listens.  They just argue.  They just throw around words of hate.  They just make me feel sick and sad and confused.

I have also remained quiet because I am confused and upset and heart-sick.  I see no hope for any improvement in the situation; I only see things getting worse.  I only see a terrible ending to all this anger and killing and hate, and it makes me despair for my children and my grandchildren, for Jews and for non-Jews, for our world, our planet, our lives.  There is no right, no wrong.  There is just ugliness, blood, violence, and hatred.  There are no words.  I have no words.  I am speechless.  I am silenced.

Please don’t tell me what you think.  Please don’t fill my heart with more hate, with more anger. I’ve heard all the arguments. The rhetoric is all noise to me. Endless Facebook postings prove nothing; people only read what supports their point of view. There is nothing to celebrate. Everyone is wrong; everyone is right. Everyone needs to be quiet, to stop talking, and to start listening to their hearts, hoping with their souls, and thinking with their brains.  If those of us who do not live where the bombs are flying cannot talk to each other with respect and understanding, how is there any hope that there will ever be peace over there or, for that matter, anywhere?

So my silence does not signify indifference or apathy; it signifies confusion and a willingness to listen and think and hope. You cannot listen when you are talking.  You cannot think when you are just spewing rhetoric.  You cannot hope when you are angry.  I am listening.  I am thinking.  I am trying as hard as I can to hope.