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 Wurda, Germany. She was the daughter of Joseph Nussbaum and Rickchen  Stein, born in Rhina, Germany, on August 5, 1991.

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
http://www.archives.gov.il/en/

Naturalization petition and citizenship order in Palestine for David Katzenstein and Gertrude Spier http://www.archives.gov.il/en/

Palestine Application for Naturalization for Jakob Katzenstein and Auguste Wallach http://www.archives.gov.il/en/

Palestine Citizenship Order for Jakob Katzenstein and Auguste Wallach http://www.archives.gov.il/en/

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 Greta 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.

 

Pauline, Baruch, and Meier: Heartbreaking Stories

I am now more than half way through the nine children of  my three-times great-uncle Jakob Katzenstein and his wife Sarchen Lion; there are four more to go, and this post will cover three of them: Pauline, Baruch, and Meier. Special thanks to Cathy Meder-Dempsey for her help in translating some of the records in this post.

Sadly, I have very little to report about Pauline. She was born on May 12, 1841, in Jesberg, and died in Jesberg 61 years later on December 27, 1902. She did not marry or have children and presumably lived in Jesberg all her life.

Death record of Pauline Katzenstein
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3900 Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1902, S. 49

As explained to me by Cathy Meder-Dempsey, the marginal notation refers to the fact that Pauline died without an occupation. She is buried in the cemetery in Jesberg, where I took this photograph of her gravestone.

Pauline Katzenstein, daughter of Jacob Katzenstein

I am sorry that I do not know more about her life.

Baruch, the seventh child of Jakob and Sarchen, was born April 30, 1844, in Jesberg, and died there when he was 75 on March 26, 1920.

Baruch Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3915

I also know very little about his life. Although I could not locate a marriage record, it appears that Baruch married Auguste Bertha Schlesinger, according to her death record.  She was born in Gladenbach in 1850 and died in Jesberg on November 2, 1890. She was the daughter of Feitel Schlesinger and Gelle Wolf, according to her death record.

Death record of August Bertha Schlesinger wife of Baruch Katzenstein
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3888

I was able to photograph the headstone for Baruch Katzenstein in Jesberg, but I don’t know where Auguste was buried. She died thirty years before Baruch and before the “new” Jesberg cemetery was being used. She should have been buried at Haarhausen cemetery, where the other Katzenstein family members were buried before Jesberg opened its own cemetery. But there is no record of her burial there on the LAGIS website, nor can I find a record of her burial at any of the other Hesse region Jewish cemeteries. Also, as far as I can tell, she and Baruch did not have any children.

Baruch Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein

Fortunately I have a little more information about Jakob and Sarchen Lion’s eighth child, Meier, but it is a very sad story.  Meier was born April 26, 1849. Sometime before September 1876, he married Auguste Wolf, who was born on October 27, 1851, in Gladenbach, Germany, to Folk Wolf and Ester Stern.

On September 13, 1876, Auguste Wolf Katzenstein gave birth to a son, August Felix Katzenstein.

August Felix Katzenstein birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3807

Six days later, Auguste Wolf Katzenstein died on September 19, 1876, leaving behind her husband Meier and her infant son. She was not yet 25 years old.

August Wolf Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3874

How Meier raised the baby for the next year and half is unknown, but then he married again. On May 19, 1878, he married Bertha Spier, daughter of Moses Spier and Roschen Fackenheim. Bertha was born in Raboldshausen on May 13, 1853.

Marriage record of Meier Katzenstein and Bertha Spier
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3833

Bertha gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son named Julius, on March 18, 1879, in Jesberg.

Birth record of Julius Katzenstein
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3810

A second child was born on July 2, 1880, a daughter named Ida.

Birth record of Ida Katzenstein
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3811 Standesamt Jesberg Geburtsnebenregister 1880, S. 56

Ida only lived ten months; she died on April 1, 1881.

Death record of Ida Katzenstein
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3879 Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1881, S. 26

Her mother Bertha died one week after her baby daughter on April 8, 1881.  She was 27 years old.

Death of Bertha Spier Katzenstein
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3879

It seems too cruel to imagine that in the space of less than five years Meier lost two young wives and a ten-month-old child. He died just three years after Ida and Bertha on September 10, 1884, in Jesberg. He was 35.

Here is his gravestone; unfortunately I did not find it when we were at Haarhausen, so this is from the LAGIS website:

According to the LAGIS website, the inscription reads as follows: “Here lies a righteous man, and upright in all his works, who strove for peace every day of his life. This is Meier, son of Jacob ha-Kohen, from the holy community of Jesberg.”

Meier left behind his two sons, August Felix Katzenstein, who was only eight years old when orphaned, and Julius Katzenstein, his half-brother who was only five years old. Where did these two little boys go after losing both of their parents? Did they go to live with their aunts or uncles who lived in Jesberg or nearby? I don’t know.

In fact, I have no further record for Julius Katzenstein—no marriage record, no death record. I wonder if he was adopted by a relative or another person and took on a new surname. Or did he also die as a child without a recorded death? I don’t know.

As for August Felix Katzenstein, his tragic story has already been told. He married his first cousin, once removed, Rosa Bachenheimer. August Felix was the grandson of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion through their son Meier, and Rosa was their great-granddaughter through their daughter Gelle Katzenstein Ruelf and granddaughter Esther Ruelf Bachenheimer.

August and Rosa had two children: Margaretha Grete Katzenstein (1901) and Hans Peter Katzenstein (1905). All four of them, as well as Margaretha’s husband Rudolf Loewenstein, were deported on April 22, 1942, to a concentration camp in Izbica, Poland, where they were all murdered: RosaAugustMargaretha, Rudolf, and Hans-Jacob. (All links are to their entries in the Yad Vashem database.)

Thus, unless Julius Katzenstein survived, there are no descendants of these three children of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion. Not a single soul alive to pass on the genes and the stories of Pauline, Baruch, or Meier Katzenstein.

That leaves only one more child of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion, their youngest child, Levi. Because he had six children, I will tell his story in a separate post.

 

 

Two of The Less Fortunate Children of Jakob Katzenstein: Schalum and Rebecca

I will now return to the children of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion. I had already discussed their first two children and their descendants: Gelle and Mina.

Mina Katzenstein’s children and descendants were remarkably fortunate in many ways. They survived the Holocaust by escaping from Germany during the 1930s. Some went to the United States, some to South America, and some to South Africa. I don’t mean to say they were lucky. They were all torn from their homes and all that they knew and undoubtedly subjected to harassment and discrimination before they left and some painful adjustments after they left. But they did survive.  As we’ve seen, that was not true for many of the descendants of Mina’s sibling Gelle.

Now we can explore the fate of the other seven children of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion. Unfortunately, many of them do not have happy endings.

The third child of my great-great-grandfather’s brother Jakob Katzenstein and his wife Sarchen Lion was their first son, Schalum Abraham Katzenstein, named for his grandfather, Jakob’s father and my three-times great-grandfather, Scholem Katzenstein. Jakob and Sarchen’s son Schalum was born in February, 1834, in Jesberg, according to the report of Reverend Bach provided to me by Barbara Greve.

Reverend Bach family sheet for Jakob Katzenstein

Schalum only lived to be 25. He died on July 7, 1859, in Jesberg. He is buried at Haarhausen cemetery, where I visited in May and took this photograph of his gravestone:

Jacob Katzenstein’s son, Schalum Katzenstein

The inscription was very faded, but it had been transcribed years ago on the LAGIS site from Hebrew to German, and Barbara Greve translated the German translation of inscription on the headstone for me into English. It describes Schalum as “a lovable youth of a beautiful stature who avoided evil and was attached to the good. He was quick and nimble in his work in the short time of his work. And there came death, and gathered him there in the blossom of his youth.” How bittersweet.

Jakob and Sarchen’s fourth child was Rebecca Katzenstein. According to her death certificate and the report of Reverend Bach, Rebecca was born on July 6, 1836. I was not able to locate a marriage record for Rebecca, but sometime before August, 1866, Rebecca married Wolf Lamm of Ober-Gleen, Germany. According to his death record, Wolf was the son of Joseph Lamm and Hanna Goldschmidt and was born in Ober-Glenn in about 1833.

Rebecca and Wolf had two children, Karoline, born August 4, 1866, in Ober-Gleen, and Joseph (obviously named for his paternal grandfather), born July 9, 1870, in Ober-Gleen.

Wolf died before either of his children married.  He died on March 13, 1897, in Ober-Gleen. He was 64 years old.

Wolf Lamm death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 921; Laufende Nummer: 717

Their daughter Karoline married Seligmann Hoexter on March 3, 1908, in Ober-Gleen; he was born February 7, 1858, in Gemuenden, Germany, and had been previously married and widowed. Karoline was 41 when she married Seligmann, and he was fifty. They did not have any children.

Karoline Lamm andSeligmann Hoexter marriage record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 921; Laufende Nummer: 715

Joseph Lamm, Karoline’s brother, married Bertha Baum on November 24, 1901. Bertha was born June 10, 1877, in Gielhausen, daughter of Abraham Baum and Gretchen Kaiser.

Marriage record of Joseph Lamm and Bertha Baum
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 905; Laufende Nummer: 317

Joseph and Bertha had two sons, Willi, born November 15, 1902, in Ober-Gleen, and Nathan, born December 21, 1903, also in Ober-Gleen.

Rebecca Katzenstein Lamm lived to see her children marry and her two grandsons born. She died on February 20, 1915, in Ober-Gleen at age 74.

Rebekka Katzenstein Lamm death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 921; Laufende Nummer: 717

Just three years later, Rebecca’s daughter Karoline died on January 11, 1918, making her husband Seligmann a widower for the second time. Karoline was only 51 years old.

Karoline Lamm Hoexter death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 922; Signatur: 4233

Seligmann Hoexter died twenty years later on October 12, 1938. He was eighty years old and died at the Jewish community hospital in Frankfurt.

Unfortunately, all but one of the remaining family members were killed in the Holocaust. Joseph Lamm and his wife Bertha Baum Lamm were deported first to Theriesenstadt on September 1, 1942. Joseph was then taken to Treblinka, where he was murdered on September 29, 1942. Bertha died at Theriesenstadt on December 17, 1942.

Their older son, Willi, was killed at the concentration camp in Majdanek, Poland, on July 16, 1942. He was thirty-nine years old. Thanks to Linda Silverman Shefler, who is also related to the Lamm family of Ober-Gleen, I was able to learn that Willi had married Berta Dub, and she also was killed at Majdanek.  Neither Linda nor I have been able to find any children born to Willi and Berta, although I did find Berta’s sister’s family and hope to learn more from them. (The links are all to their entries in the Yad Vashem database.)

The only descendant of Rebecca Katzenstein and Wolf Lamm to survive the Holocaust was their younger grandson, Nathan, Willi’s brother. Nathan had left Germany before Hitler even came to power. He had arrived in New York on November 27, 1927, reporting that he was a tailor and that he was going to a friend in Buffalo named Henry Geissler, who had been in the US since 1923 and was also from Ober-Gleen.

Nathan Lamm 1927 passenger manifest Year: 1927; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4175; Line: 1; Page Number: 35 Description Ship or Roll Number : Roll 4175 Source Information Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

At first I had no luck finding Nathan on the 1930 census, but then I found his naturalization papers, which indicated that he was using the name Max Nathan Lamm:

Nathan Max Lamm naturalization papers
The National Archives at Atlanta; Morrow, Georgia, USA; 2217062; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Description
Description : Greenville Petitions 1911-1965 (Box 6)
Source Information
Ancestry.com. South Carolina, Naturalization Records, 1868-1991

Using the name Max Lamm to search for him, I found him in Buffalo in 1930, working as a laborer in a bakery and living as a boarder with two other men who were also working in the bakery:

Max Lamm 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Buffalo, Erie, New York; Roll: 1428; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0182; FHL microfilm: 2341163

In 1940, Max Lamm was still in Buffalo, living in a large guest house and working as a laborer in building construction.

Max Lamm 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Buffalo, Erie, New York; Roll: T627_2824; Page: 82A; Enumeration District: 64-73

He enlisted in the US Army on December 1, 1942, and while in the army, he petitioned for citizenship, as the document above reveals. He was apparently stationed in South Carolina when he filed his petition.

After serving in the military for the United States during World War II, Max Nathan Lamm returned to Buffalo, New York; he is listed in Buffalo directories for 1957 and  1960, working as an employee of the Red Star Express, a trucking company.

Max Nathan Lamm died in 1968 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. He was 64 years old. It does not appear that he ever married or had children, and he had lost his brother and both his parents during the Holocaust. He was the only surviving descendant of Rebecca Katzenstein and Wolf Lamm, and he died without survivors.

Courtesy of Jay Boone
Find A Grave Memorial# 82841920

Thus, neither Schalum or Rebecca Katzenstein has any living descendants.

The fifth child of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion was their daughter Johanna. Her story is covered in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebekka and Regina: Sisters with Intertwined Lives

The last two children of Mina Katzenstein and Wolf Katzenstein were Rebekka and Regina, and because their fates are intertwined in several ways, I will discuss both in this post.

Rebekka was born on August 28, 1865, in Frankenau. Regina was born two years later on September 24, 1867.

Rebekka Katzenstein birth record Arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174

Regina Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 8

Rebekka married her cousin Salomon Schalom Kneibel Katz (apparently known as Kneibel) on April 30, 1889, as discussed previously.

Marriage of Rebekka Katzenstein and Salomon Kneibel Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3844

Two and a half years later, on November 25, 1891, Regina Katzenstein married Selig(mann) Alexander in Frankenau. He was born on September 20, 1861, in Momberg, the son of Joseph Alexander and Fradchen Frank.

Marriage of Regina Katzenstein to Selig Alexander
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Frankenau Heiratsnebenregister 1891 (Hstamr Best. 922 Nr. 3226); Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 922

Rebekka and Salomon Kneibel Katz had four children, three sons and one daughter. Their first child was Berthold; he was born on May 15, 1890, in Jesberg.

Berthold Katz birth record
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3821 Standesamt Jesberg Geburtsnebenregister 1890, S. 36

Then came Rebekka and Salomon’s only daughter, Therese. She was born November 11, 1891, in Jesberg.

Therese Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3822

Two sons followed Therese. Julius was born May 30, 1893, in Jesberg.

Julius Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3824

And Jakob Katz was born April 14, 1895, in Jesberg.

Jakob Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3826

Meanwhile, Regina and her husband Selig Alexander were also having children in the 1890s. Regina gave birth to seven children, but only four survived infancy. The first child, a girl, was stillborn on January 9, 1893.

Stillborn daughter of Regina Katzenstein and Selig Alexander
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6560

Less than a year later, Regina gave birth to Bertha on December 28, 1893, in Momberg.

Bertha Alexander birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6476

Regina and Selig’s third child was Rosa. She was born in Momberg on January 18, 1896.

Rosa Alexander birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6479

Almost two years after Rosa’s birth, on December 22, 1897, Regina gave birth to her fourth child, Mina, named for Regina’s mother Mina Katzenstein, who had died on September 5, 1896.

Mina Alexander birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6480

After giving birth to Mina, Regina and Selig lost two sons in infancy. Little Joseph Alexander lived only thirteen days, dying on January 24, 1902. His brother Manus lived for two months, dying on March 23, 1903.

Joseph Alexander death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6569

Manus Alexander death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6570

The seventh and last child I have for Regina Katzenstein and Selig Alexander was a son named Samuel, born January 1, 1906, according to a source provided by Barbara Greve, Barbara Haendler-Lachmann’s Schicksale der Juden im alten Landkreis Marburg 1933-1945, Hitzeroth, Marburg 1992, p. 125. Without Barbara Greve’s help, I never would have known about this seventh child as there was no available birth record for him online.

Thus, of the seven children born to Regina and Selig Alexander, only Bertha, Rosa, Mina, and Samuel lived to adulthood.

In many ways the two Katzenstein sisters were following similar paths at the same time, Rebekka in Jesberg, Regina in Momberg, fifteen miles apart. Their lives became even more intertwined on August 21, 1923, when Rebekka’s son Jakob married Regina’s daughter Rosa.

Marriage record of Rosa Alexander and Jakob Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6208

That is, Rosa Alexander married her first cousin, Jakob Katz. They had three daughters who were not only sisters but also second cousins to each other. Rebekka and Regina shared granddaughters who were also their great-nieces. Remember also that Rebekka and her husband Salomon Kneibel were also cousins to each other, so Salomon Kneibel was not only his children’s father but also their cousin and the same for Rebekka.

As for Rebekka and Regina’s other children, they made my life easier by marrying outside of the family.

The first to marry was Rebekka’s daughter Therese. On June 16, 1919, she married Hermann Blum, who was born in Kuelsheim on July 7, 1883, son of Abraham and Sophie Blum. I have not been able to identify any children born to Therese and Hermann.

Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3872

Rebekka’s oldest son Berthold married Ida Blumenstiel on January 20, 1920. Ida was the daughter of Hugo Blumenstiel and Bertha Weinberg of Mansbach, Germany. She was born July 9, 1893.

Marriage record of Berthold Katz and Ida Blumenstiel
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Hersfeld, Bad Heiratsnebenregister 1920, Eintrags-Nr. 1 – 78; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 907

Berthold and Ida would have two children born in the 1920s, Senta (1921) and Ludwig (1924).

I have not found any marriage record for Rebekka’s son Julius, and, as discussed above, her son Jakob married his cousin Rosa on August 21, 1923, and they had three daughters.

As for Regina’s children, Bertha Alexander married Julius Simon on June 26, 1922, in Momberg. He was the son of Moses Simon and Fanni Katz and was born in Pohl-Goens on May 29, 1891.

Marriage record of Bertha Alexander and Julius Simon
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6207

I have not been able to locate any record of children born to Bertha and Julius, nor do I have any records for them after their marriage, but I am still looking. Thank you to Aaron Knappstein for finding this photograph of Julius Simon on the Vor dem Holocaust – Fotos zum jüdischen Alltagsleben in Hessen website. According to the website, this was taken in 1916 when Julius was a soldier in the Germany army during World War I.

I am still hoping to locate some records that will reveal what happened to Julius Simon and Bertha Alexander.

Bertha’s younger sister Rosa Alexander married Jakob Katz, as discussed above. The third sister Mina Alexander married Leo Wachenheimer in Momberg on December 25, 1927. Leo was the son of Meier Wachenheimer and Klara Rothschild; he was born on March 23, 1897, in Biebesheim, Germany. Mina and Leo would have two children.

Marriage record of Mina Alexander and Leo Wacheneimer
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6212

According to Barbara Greve, Regina and Seligmann’s only surviving son, Samuel, married Lottie Weiler in July 1933; Lottie was born in Marburg on January 10, 1913, according to the JOWBR. I do not have names for her parents. Samuel and Lottie had one son, Hans-Joseph Alexander, according to Barbara Greve.

Rebekka Katzenstein Katz died in Jesberg on March 2, 1927; she was only 61 years old. Her husband Salomon Scholum Kneibel Katz died two years later on May 2, 1929.  He was 69.

Death record of Rebekka Katzenstein Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3918

Here is the photograph I took in the Jesberg cemetery of Rebekka’s grave long before I knew the whole story of their family; sadly, I do not have a photograph of her husband’s gravestone:

The rest of the families of Rebekka and Regina Katzenstein survived into the Nazi era, and it appears that every single one of them left Germany in time—all of Rebekka and Salomon Kneibel’s children and spouses and grandchildren as well as Regina Katzenstein and Selig Alexander and at least three of their four children and spouses and grandchildren. The only couple I’ve been unable to find in any later record or index are Regina’s daughter Bertha and her husband Julius Simon.

Almost all the rest of the families of Rebekka Katzenstein and her sister Regina Katzenstein ended up in Johannesburg, South Africa. Unfortunately, I don’t have any actual records or documents that reveal when the family arrived there or any other information aside from their deaths and burials.

But I was fortunate to connect with John Leach, a relative by marriage of Leo Wachenheimer, husband of Mina Alexander. From John I learned that Leo had been a cattle dealer in Germany and had also worked in his father’s kosher butcher business. Leo was arrested by the Nazis in 1935 for doing business with a non-Jew; when he was released, he escaped from Germany to South Africa, where he opened a kosher butcher shop. Soon many family members followed him, including his wife Mina and their children, his in-laws Regina and Selig Alexander, his sister-in-law Rosa Alexander Katz and her husband Jakob Katz and their three children, and Jakob Katz’s sister Therese Katz and her husband Hermann Blum and Jakob’s brother Julius Katz. They all appear to have spent the rest of their lives in Johannesburg.

The only descendants of Rebekka or Regina who did not go to South Africa were Rebekka’s son Berthold and his wife Ida and their children, Senta and Ludwig. Instead, they went to the United States. Their daughter Senta arrived first on October 8, 1938, and Berthold, Ida, Ludwig, and Ida’s mother Bertha Blumenstiel arrived on November 25, 1938; they were all going to a cousin, Leo Katzmann in the Bronx:

Senta Katz 1938 passenger manifest
Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6238; Line: 1; Page Number: 176
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Berthold Katz and family passenger manifest
Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6254; Line: 1; Page Number: 68
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

By 1940, they had settled in Philadelphia where Berthold was working as a salesman for a paper bag company and Senta was working as a packer for a children’s dress company. Bertha’s mother-in-law Bertha Blumenstiel was also living with them.

Berthold Katz and family 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T627_3733; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 51-1446

That same year Senta married Julius Idstein, who was also a refugee from Germany. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951)  Julius was born on August 6, 1906, in Bad Homburg, and came to the United States on October 20, 1938. On his World War II draft registration, he reported that he was a partner in business with Berthold Katz, his father-in-law. On Berthold’s registration, he reported that he owned a paper products business. So between his arrival in 1938 and 1942, Berthold had become a business owner in partnership with his son-in-law Julius.

Julius Idstein World War II draft registration
Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations

World War II draft registration for Berthold Katz
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147; Series Number: M1951

Sadly, Berthold’s wife Ida died at age 48 of liver cancer on December 29, 1941.

Ida Blumenstiel Katz death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 109451-112000

Their son Ludwig was in college at Temple College (now Temple University) in Philadelphia in 1942:

Ludwig Katz World War II draft registration
Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations

In 1943, Berthold remarried; his second wife was Betty Nussbaum, and she also was a German native, born in Mansbach on February 4, 1893. She had come to the US in 1925 on her own; her parents stayed behind where her mother died in 1939 and her father died in the Theriesenstadt concentration camp in 1942. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951)

Berthold died from stomach cancer on March 5, 1959; he was 68 years old; his second wife Betty died in 1977:

Berthold Katz death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 026551-029250

Meanwhile, Berthold’s siblings and first cousins and aunt and uncle were all living in South Africa.  His aunt Regina Katzenstein Alexander died on October 14, 1942, and her husband Selig Alexander died on May 5, 1949; they are buried at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg. (JewishGen Online World Burial Registry (JOWBR)). Charmaine Rosenberg of the Johannesburg Chevra Kadisha kindly sent me the following photograph of Regina’s headstone:

Headstone of Regina Katzenstein Alexander

Berthold’s daughter Senta and her husband Julius Idstein had five children. Julius died in 1981, and Senta lived until 2003. She was 82 when she died.

Berthold’s son Ludwig became a nuclear physicist and was a senior scientist for Visidyne, Inc. in Burlington, Massachusetts, when he was killed in a car accident on March 18, 1981. He was 57 years old and was survived by his wife and two children. “Ludwig Katz, Swampscott,” Boston Herald (March 25, 1981), p. 40.

As for the family in South Africa, I have no information other than their dates of death and burial place. All those named below are, like Regina Katzenstein and Selig Alexander, buried at the West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg, and all this information comes from the JOWBR on Jewishgen.org and from Charmaine Rosenberg of the Chevra Kadisha in Johannesburg. I am very grateful to Charmaine for providing me with these photographs of the headstones.

Julius Katz died on November 11, 1958, when he was 65. As far as I know, he never married or had children.

Headstone of Julius Katz

Therese Katz died on September 28, 1964, eight years after her husband Hermann Blum, who died on December 23, 1956. She was 73, he was also 73 when he died. As far as I have been able to determine, they did not have children.

Headstone of Therese Katz Blum and Hermann Blum

Jakob Katz died on August 24, 1974; he was 79. His wife and first cousin Rosa Alexander Katz outlived him by 23 years. She was almost 101 when she died on June 14, 1997.

Headstone of Jakob Katz

Rosa’s sister Mina Alexander Wachenheimer also outlived her husband by many years. Leo Wachenheimer died on January 23, 1969, when he was 72. Mina survived him by over twenty years, dying on December 23, 1989, when she was 92.

Headstone of Mina (Minna) Alexander Wachenheimer

Headstone of Leo Wachenheimer

Samuel Alexander died on June 21, 1989; he was 83. He had outlived his wife Lotte by seventeen years; she died on January 11, 1972, when she was 59.

Overall, the children of both Rebekka and Regina Katzenstein, daughters of Mina Katzenstein and Wolf Katzenstein, were fortunate to escape from Nazi Germany when they did. Perhaps Leo Wachenheimer’s arrest in 1935 was the key that opened the door to the survival of all of them.

 

 

 

 

 

The Brick Wall Surrounding Rosa Katzenstein: Help Wanted!

The story of Rosa Katzenstein is largely unrevealed, and I sure could use some help. Rosa was the oldest child of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein, born on June 19, 1859, in Frankenau, Germany, and as I wrote last time, she married her third cousin, once removed, Salomon Feist Katz, son of Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz of Jesberg. Rosa and Salomon were married on June 28, 1881, in Jesberg.

Marriage record of Rosa Katzenstein and Salomon Feist Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3836

Rosa and Salomon had four daughters. The first, Zilli, was born on May 22, 1882, and died just two and a half months later on August 4, 1882.

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

Zilli Katz death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3880

The second daughter, Sarah, was born a year later in Jesberg on July 14, 1883.

Sarah Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3814

She married Otto Loew on October 28, 1904, in Jesberg. Otto was the son of Leopold Loew and Johanna Bickhardt of Selters, Germany.

Marriage of Sarah Katz and Otto Loew
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3859

Unfortunately, that is all I know about Sara and Otto. I don’t know if they had children. I don’t know if they emigrated from Germany. I don’t know where or when they died. They are not in the Yad Vashem database. They just seem to have disappeared. I searched for hypothetical children, but could find none. The names Sara, Katz, Otto, and Loew are so common that there was no way to determine whether any of the people with those names were my relatives, but I found nothing that would lead me to believe that they were.

I did not have much better luck with Sara’s younger sister Sophie. She was born in Jesberg on July 10, 1885.

Sophie Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3816

On June 9, 1909, she married Isaak Vogel in Marburg, Germany. He was born in Borken, Germany, on November 7, 1878, to Hermann Ephraim Vogel and Betti Trier.

Sophie Katz marriage to Isaak Vogel
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5624

Barbara Greve told me that Sophie and Isaak had two sons, Karl, born in 1910, and Heinz, born in 1912, but I have no records for them, nor do I know what happened to Sophie, Isaak, Karl or Heinz. Once again, the names were so common that there are many people with those names, but none that matched my relatives.

I had a little bit more luck with Rosa and Salomon’s youngest daughter, Recha. She was born on September 25, 1889, in Jesberg.

Recha Katz birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3820

She married Julius Goldschmidt on November 20, 1911. He was the son of David Goldschmidt and Jettchen Rosenblatt of Hebel, Germany, born on November 11, 1886.

Marriage of Recha Katz and Julius Goldschmidt
HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3866 Standesamt Jesberg Heiratsnebenregister 1911, S. 29

Thank you once again to the members of the German Genealogy group on Facebook for help in translating this record and to Doris Strohmenger for finding several articles about David Goldschmidt, Julius’ father. David was apparently a leader in the Jewish community, a very knowledgeable and committed Jew:

David Goldschmidt father of Julius Goldschmidt (Jesberg, 3 November David Goldschmidt celebrated 81th birthday  fresh in mind and body.He got the title of Chower by Rabbi Dr. Walter). Courtesy of Doris Strohmenger

Recha Katz and Julius Goldschmidt had a daughter named Lotte born in Jesberg on December 13, 1913. Although I could not find Lotte’s birth record, I know that Lotte was their daughter because Recha and Julius are identified as her parents on her entry in the US Social Security Applications and Claims Index.  David Baron, who was in touch with Lotte’s descendants, informed me that Lotte married Julius Gans in Johannesburg, South Africa, on October 19, 1940.  Eventually Lotte settled in the US where in 1974 she became a naturalized citizen.

Lotte Gans naturalization petition
National Archives at Riverside; Riverside, California; NAI Number: 594890; Record Group Title: 21; Record Group Number: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009

David Baron also learned from family members that Lotte’s parents both died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Julius Goldschmidt on August 4, 1961, and Recha Katz on January 14, 1964.

What had happened to the rest of the family? I know that Salomon Feist Katz died in Jesberg on February 16, 1924.

Salomon Feist Katz death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3915

But what had happened to Rosa and her two other daughters Sara and Sophie and their husbands? I just don’t know, and I have looked everywhere I can imagine searching. David Baron and Barbara Greve also had no information about the fates of Rosa, Sara or Sophie. If they did not find anything, perhaps there just is nothing to find.

If anyone has any suggestions as to where else I might look, please let me know.

UPDATE! Please see my next post for important updates to this one.

The Increasingly Twisted Family Tree: Mina and Wolf Katzenstein

I still have some work to do on two of the previously-mentioned descendants of Jakob Katzenstein’s oldest daughter Gelle and her husband Moses Ruelf, and I am working on some leads right now and should have updates soon on both Rosa Abraham Zecherman and Hugo David. But for now I am moving on to Gelle’s younger sister Mina and her descendants.

Once again, my family tree looks more like the roots of a mangrove than the usual image of a tree with outstretched and separate branches.

Mangrove roots
By Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At first I thought Mina was going to be a tough brick wall because I was researching her under the name Michaela.  The starting point of my research into the family of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion was a handwritten document sent to me by Barbara Greve that had been prepared by a Reverend William Bach sometime after 1824; it listed the names of the children of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion as follows:

As you can see, Reverend Bach had listed their second child as Michaela with a birthdate of May 29, 1832. But I could not find a birth record or any record for a person with the name Michaela Katzenstein.  And none of the other secondary sources for Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion listed a daughter named Michaela.

But as I was searching for Michaela on Ancestry.com, I noticed a listing of a death record for a Mina Katzenstein and decided to take a look. My gut instinct proved to be correct: Mina Katzenstein was the daughter of the merchant Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen geb Lion. She was 64 when she died on September 5, 1896, meaning she was born in 1832, just as “Michaela” supposedly had been. I knew this had to be the same person and that her real name was Mina, not Michaela.

Mina Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 922; Signatur: 3290

The death record also revealed that Mina was the wife of Wolf Katzenstein and that she had been living in Frankenau, Germany, at the time of her death.

Now that I knew Mina’s actual first name, I was able to uncover several other important documents, including a marriage record for her marriage to Wolf Katzenstein:

HHStAW Fonds 365 No 175, p.4

They were married in Frankenau on July 27, 1858.  Wolf was not, as far as I can tell, a cousin. His father was Manus Katzenstein, born in Frankenau, and I’ve yet to find a familial connection between the Frankenau Katzensteins and the Jesberg Katzensteins. Wolf’s mother was Roeschen Mannheimer.

When I initially only found two children born to Mina and Wolf, I thought that this part of the family would be much easier to research than that of Mina’s older sister Gelle Katzenstein Ruelf. But the more I looked, the more I found, and things became more and more complex.

Mina and Wolf in fact had five children, all born in Frankenau: Rosa (1859), Karoline (1861), Manus (1863), Rebecca (1865), and Regina (1867). I located them by searching page by page through the birth register for Frankenau starting the year after Mina and Wolf’s marriage up through 1875. If there were others born later or elsewhere, I’ve not yet found them.

All five of those children lived to adulthood and were married, and four had children. And sometimes they married cousins within the Katzenstein family, making the research and the story even more convoluted. So from what I thought would be a simple one-post story of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein, I now have several posts to write about the large, extended family.

This post will outline the growth of the family from 1859 through 1915. Subsequent posts will focus on each of Mina and Wolf’s children and their respective offspring.

Rosa, the oldest child, was born on June 19, 1859, in Frankenau, eleven months after her parents’ marriage.

Rosa Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 7

She married Salomon Feist Katz on June 18, 1881, when she was 21 years old. Salomon was born on September 29, 1852, to Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz, both of whom were born in Jesberg, as was their son Salomon.

Marriage of Rose Katzenstein and Salomon Feist Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3836

As you might have guessed, Salomon Feist Katz was also related to me and to his wife Rosa. We are all descendants of my 6-times great-grandfather Pinchas (Bonum) Katz.  Rosa was my second cousin, twice removed, and Salomon my third cousin, three times removed.

The numerous familial relationships between Rosa and her husband Salomon Feist were, for some reason, beyond the ability of my Family Tree Maker software to calculate, so I substituted Rosa’s sister Regina for Rosa and compared her to Salomon’s father Joseph Feist, and they came up as second cousins, twice removed, meaning that Regina and Salomon were third cousins, once removed, and thus so were Rosa and Salomon.

Rosa and Salomon would have four children, all born in Jesberg: Zilli (1882), Sara (1883), Sophie (1885), and Recha (1889).

Mina and Wolf’s second child was Karoline. She was born on March 30, 1861, in Frankenau:

Caroline Katzenstein birth record from Arcinsys for Hessen
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 8

On October 10, 1884, she married Heinemann Blumenfeld, who, thank goodness, was not her cousin (as far as I can tell). He was born on October 8, 1854, in Momberg, Germany.

Marriage record of Karoline Katzenstein and Heineman Blumenfeld
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Frankenau Heiratsnebenregister 1884 (Hstamr Best. 922 Nr. 3219); Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 922

Karoline and Heinemenn had three children born in Momberg: Toni (1885), Moritz (1887), and Bella (1890).

Manus Katzenstein was the middle child and only son of Mina and Wolf. He was born on April 23, 1863, in Frankenau.

Birth record of Manus Katzenstein
Standesamt Höringhausen Heiratsnebenregister 1891 (HStAMR Best. 922 Nr. 5542)AutorHessisches Staatsarchiv MarburgErscheinungsortHöringhausen, p. 19

He married Fanny Bickhardt of Hoeringhausen, Germany, on November 18, 1891.  Fanny was born in Hoeringhausen on June 6, 1868, daughter of Abraham Bickhardt and Esther Lion. Manus and Fanny did not have children as far as I’ve been able to determine.

Marriage record of Manus Katzenstein and Fanny Bickhardt
HStAMR Best. 922 Nr. 5542 Standesamt Höringhausen Heiratsnebenregister 1891, S. 19

Wolf and Mina’s fourth child was Rebecca, born on August 28, 1865, in Frankenau.

Rebekka Katzenstein birth record Arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174

On April 30, 1889, she married Salomon Schalom Kneibel Katz (“Salomon SK Katz”), who was, you guessed it, a cousin. Salomon SK Katz was born in Jesberg on June 28, 1859, to Schneuer Kneibel Katz and Sarchen Rosenblatt. Like his cousin Salomon Feist Katz who married Rebecca’s older sister Rosa, Salomon SK Katz was a grandson of Pinchas Bonum Katz, my six times great-grandfather. Salomon SK Katz and his brother-in-law Salomon Feist Katz were first cousins married to sisters, Rosa and Rebecca Katzenstein. And they were all descended from Pinchas Bonum Katz, as am I.

Marriage of Rebecca Katzenstein and Salomon SK Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3844

Once again, the relationship between Rebecca Katzenstein and Salomon Schalom Kneibel Katz proved too confusing for my software, but when I used Rebecca’s sister Regina again and compared her to Rebecca’s father-in-law, Schneuer Katz, it showed Regina and Schneuer as second cousins, twice removed, meaning that Regina and thus her sister Rebecca were third cousins, once removed, of Salomon SK Katz.

Rebecca Katzenstein and Salomon SK Katz had four children, all born in Jesberg: Berthold (Pinchas) (1890), Theresa (1891), Julius (1893), and Jakob (1895).

Regina Katzenstein was the youngest child of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein; she was born on September 24, 1867, in Frankenau.

Regina Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 8

She married Selig Alexander, the son of Joseph Alexander and Fradchen Frank of Momberg. Selig (sometimes called Seligmann) was born on September 20, 1861, in Momberg. Regina and Selig were married on November 25, 1891, in Frankenau.

Marriage of Regina Katzenstein to Selig Alexander
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Frankenau Heiratsnebenregister 1891 (Hstamr Best. 922 Nr. 3226); Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 922

Regina and Selig Katz had six children: a stillborn child (1893), Bertha (1893), Rosa (1896), Mina (1897), Joseph (1902), and Manus (1903).

As you might have inferred from the names of Regina’s children, her mother Mina had died before the birth of Regina and Selig’s fourth child Mina. Mina Katzenstein died on September 5, 1896, in Frankenau. She was 64 years old.

Mina Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 922; Signatur: 3290

Mina’s husband Wolf Katzenstein survived her by almost twenty years. He died at age 85 on March 18, 1915, in Frankenau.  Mina and Wolf were survived by their five children and their grandchildren, whose stories will be told in posts to follow.

Now if I ever discover that Mina and her husband Wolf were also cousins, well, then I may just suffocate in those mangrove roots!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Jake Katz with all three of his children:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are their German passports:

Nathan Goldenberg passport

Regina Katz Goldenberg passport

 

Albert Goldenberg passport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert Goldenberg,  courtesy of the Goldenberg family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Walter and Max Katz: Two Outstanding Americans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max Katz in the US Army during World War II

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

Military discharge papers for Max Katz

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

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

Katz family members buried at the Stillwater cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

Fred’s Story: A Boyhood in Jesberg in the 1930s

As I wrote in my last post, many of the descendants of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz were still living in Germany when Hitler came to power. One of those was Manfred Katz, son of Karl Katz, grandson of Meier Katz, and great-grandson of Rahel and Jacob.  Fred, as he is known, is my third cousin, once removed, and he was a young boy in the 1930s.

Relationship of Fred Katz to Amy Cohen

Before I left for Germany, I had a long conversation with Fred.  Years ago he had written a memoir about his years in Jesberg and his family’s experience after the Nazis came to power.  I asked Fred if I could reprint his memoir on my blog. Fred graciously granted me permission to post his story.  In addition, he and his family have provided me with some wonderful photographs, some of which are included in this post, and others will be added to those to come.

The family of Karl Katz and Jettchen Oppenheimer, from left to right: Fred, Karl, Walter, Max, Jettchen, c. 1933
Courtesy of the family of Fred Katz

Fred’s story is very moving, and having now been to Jesberg, I can visualize this young boy growing up in the small village with a beautiful brook running through it, surrounded by his brothers and cousins, his parents, and his aunt and uncle.  It should have been an idyllic boyhood, but as you will see, it was not.

Please read this and remember what happened to innocent children like Fred:

My Childhood in Germany[1]

By Fred Katz

I was born [in] 1929, in Giesen, Germany.  My parents actually lived in Jesberg, a small village in the state of Hessen, with a population of about 1000, of which about 70 were Jews.  ….  Since there was no hospital in Jesberg and my mother was 40 years old, she opted to go to Giesen, where she lived with her sister until it was time for her to go to the hospital to deliver me.  She took me to Jesberg when I was a week old to meet my two older brothers, 9 year old Walter and 8 year old Max. 

We lived in a large two story house with an attached barn.  We lived downstairs and my uncle, aunt and son lived upstairs.  My dad and uncle were partners in a very successful cattle business. 

The Katz home, 1930s
Courtesy of the family of Fred Katz

I was told that the winter of 1929 was one of the coldest and longest on record.  My brothers always told me that they had to go every morning to a small stream, the Gilsa, in back of our house, to break the ice with an axe and bring buckets of water for use in the house and livestock in the barn since all the water pipes in the house were broken. 

The stream behind the Katz house in Jesberg

I actually have very pleasant memories of my childhood until I started the 3rd grade of public school.  My playmates up to that time included non-Jewish and Jewish.  I enjoyed being with my older brothers when they did chores, and especially harvesting potatoes and making hay.  It was great riding home on top of a load of hay being pulled by a team of horses.

Riding the family horse, Ella, c. 1933: Walter to the left, Julius to the right, Fred and Max on the horse.

Fred Katz, c. 1936
Courtesy of the family of Fred Katz

 I fondly remember all the festivities associated with my brothers’ Bar Mitzvahs.  We had a small synagogue with about 20 families in 1934.  I always went with my father and brothers to Friday evening and Saturday morning and afternoon services, as well as all holidays.  We had a religious school that must have been rather informal because I can remember tagging along with my brothers when I was surely no more than 3 years old.  My exposure to religious school ended when I was 8 years old, but by that time, I knew most of the Bible stories and could read prayer book Hebrew. 

Starting in 1934, the number of Jewish families in Jesberg slowly decreased as they emigrated due to the ever more severe restrictions being imposed by the Nazis.  I started first grade in 1935.  There were 3 teachers in the Volkschule [public school].  One for the first 2 grades and one each for grade 3 through 5 and 6 through 8.  My first teacher was not a Nazi and I had no problems in his classroom or in the playground. 

However, the 3rd through 5th grade teacher was a real Nazi who instructed the students in Nazi doctrine while 3 of us Jewish students had to stand outside of the classroom as long as 2 hours, while they were supposedly discussing Christianity.  There were only 3 of us left in 1937 because others had already emigrated with their families or had been sent to Jewish schools in large cities.  My memories of the 3rd grade and part of the 4th that I attended until the 9th of November 1938 are not very pleasant.  I don’t know what hurt more, the taunts being thrown at me or the stones. 

We, my parents and two brothers, tried to immigrate to the United States already in the fall of 1935.  We traveled by train to the American consulate in Stuttgart, but they refused to give us a visa.  We tried again a year later, and this time they were willing to give my parents and myself a visa, but not to my brothers, who they claimed had tuberculosis.  My parents did not want to leave without my brothers so they declined the visa. On the return from Stuttgart, we stopped in Frankfurt so my brothers could be examined by a specialist, who found no trace of TB. 

Shortly after that, my father had a severe cerebral hemorrhage.  His entire right side was paralyzed, and he could not speak.  He slowly regained some ability to speak and move his limbs while under a doctor’s care in our home in Jesberg.  About 6 weeks after he had the stroke, it was recommended that he be moved to a Jewish rehab hospital in Frankfurt.  He made good progress there so that when he came home about 6 weeks later he was able to speak clearly and walk with the use of a cane. 

After my father had the stroke, mother decided to get separate visas for Walter and Max.  Walter went by himself to the American consulate, and they issued him a visa.  He left by himself in the fall of 1937 for Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Then Max went to the American consulate, and they granted him a visa.  He left for Stillwater in the spring of 1938.  [Stillwater was the home of Jake Katz, brother of Fred’s father Karl and by that time a very successful business owner in Oklahoma, as discussed in earlier blog posts.]

By then, our father was able to get around fairly well with a cane but was not able to do any physical work.  Uncle Jake knew one of Oklahoma’s senators, Elmer Thomas, quite well, and they were able to pull some strings at the State Department so that when my parents and I went back to the American consulate for the third time in early fall of 1938, we were granted a visa.  Preparations were then made for us to leave Germany in the middle of December. 

Alas, November comes before December, so I therefore experienced the Kristallnacht of November 9, 1938.  Not every German was a Nazi and an anti-Semite.  The son of a neighbor who had the only car in the village and who drove some of the Nazis heard of the plan and told my parents.  By this time, there were only 4 other Jewish families left in Jesberg, and my parents told them.  All left their homes that night to hide in the fields except us.

My father still had difficulty walking in fields so we went to the house of a Jewish family who had recently sold it for use as a municipal building.   We thought that we would be safe there, and this turned out to be the case.  We heard the mob hooting and hollering as they ransacked our little synagogue, destroying the one remaining Jewish store, and then went on to our house. 

Katz home in Jesberg today

The devastation we found on returning to our house in the morning was indeed sad.  Furniture had been severely damaged, glasses and dishes broken, beds soiled with urine, and they also left behind a cat of 9 tails, which really scared me.  However, I was also angry and decided to go by myself to the synagogue to find my wimpel, which I wanted to take with us when we left for America. 

I am sure that most of you never heard of a wimpel since it is strictly a German Jewish tradition.  A wimpel is about a 10 foot long linen sash made from the cloth from swaddling a boy at his Brit and is used to bind the two scrolls of the Torah together.  It is made by cutting the washed swaddling clothes into strips about 7 inches wide and sewing them together.  The child’s Hebrew name and date of birth are painted or embroidered into the cloth, along with a traditional blessing in Hebrew and, “May God raise him up to a life of Torah, a successful marriage, and good deeds, Amen.”  Additional color images of animals, bride and groom under the Chuppa etc are also added. 

Wimpel, By Center for Jewish History, NYC [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

The synagogue was in terrible condition.  Prayer books, prayer shawls, wimpels, Torah scrolls and mantels had all been thrown into a large pike and then set on fire.  However, the fire only scorched some of the items before it went out.  Searching through the rubble, I did not find my wimpel but found a Torah which had been torn apart at the seam, but was otherwise undamaged.  I went home to ask my parents if I could bring this Torah home.

Not Jesberg, but an example of the destruction of a small synagogue on Kristallnacht, this one in Hechingen.
http://www.holocaustandhumanity.org/kristallnacht/kristallnacht-november-9-10/

When I got home, there was an Army truck with a canvas cover along with about half a dozen SA troopers, the ones wearing the light brown uniforms, in front of our house. The doctor from our village was also there, and he told the SA leader that my father was in no condition to go with him since my father was still recovering from his stroke and that my uncle could not be taken because of his heart condition.  We found out later that the men picked up in Hessen were taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp.  They were all released over the next 2 to 6 weeks.  None were intentionally killed or severely hurt.  The idea was to scare the remaining Jews to leave Germany. 

My uncle [Aron], who had been a soldier in the German army in World War I, had no intention of leaving, but changed his mind after Kristallnacht.  He was fortunate that he and his wife got a visa and arrived in Stillwater, Oklahoma in September 1939. 

The family of Aron Katz and Sara Leiser: rear, Julius, Aron, Jack; front, Sara. 1933
Courtesy of the family of Fred Katz

My mother gave her ok for me to take our hand wagon to pick up the two scrolls of the Torah.  About a month later, the scrolls were packed with our household belongings into a large wooden box called a Lift and shipped to Stillwater. 

So it was with this background that we left Germany for Hamburg on an American ship, the SS Washington, the middle of December, 1938.  We came into NY harbor standing at the rail, looking at the Statue of Liberty.  After a week in NY city, visiting with relatives, we left by train for our new home and life in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

SS Washington in NY harbor

The Torah [scroll I had rescued] could not be used, being torn apart at the seam, so [it] remained unused until 1956, when my brother Walter brought it to his synagogue in Wichita, Kansas.  There, it was repaired to make it kosher and useable.  My niece, Ellen, Walter’s daughter, read from it at her Bat Mitzvah.  Our son Harold brought the Torah to Tulsa, Oklahoma for each of our three grandsons’ Bar Mitzvahs, so they could read from it.  Ethan, the oldest, … and I shared the same Torah portion, Terumah.  The rabbi asked if I would like to read the first section, which I had read at my Bar Mitzvah, followed by Ethan reading the next sections.  As you can imagine, this was quite an emotional moment for me.

Tulsa World, February 24, 1996

I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have felt like, linking the generations, the traditions, and the places he loved.

Looking at those old family photographs and reading Fred’s story made it very clear to me how much was lost because of the Nazis. Here was a family, living a comfortable and happy life in a small town in Germany—a family where children grew up feeling safe and loved. All of that was stolen from them.  Although they were among the very fortunate ones who were able to escape, it remains remarkable to me that they were able to rebuild their lives, continue their traditions, and create a place for themselves in a new country that they could call home.

More on that in posts to come. First, a look at what happened to the other Katz/Katzenstein family members who were still in Germany in the 1930s.

 

 

 

 

[1] I have done only a small bit of editing here, deleting some background on Jesberg already discussed in the blog and some personal information about birth dates of those who are still living. I’ve also added a few editorial explanations. I otherwise did not want to alter in any way Fred’s voice or the content of his story.