The Fate of the Children of Moses Katz, Part II

This was a painful post to research and write. It was made even more painful by the events in Charlottesville this past weekend. How can we still be seeing swastikas and Nazis in 2017? How do people learn to hate those who differ from them? When will we ever conquer racism and prejudice of all kinds?

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In my last post, I wrote about the family of Markus Katz, the oldest son of Moses Katz and Malchen Wetterhahn. Markus died before the Holocaust, and his wife Nanny was murdered by the Nazis. Fortunately, however, their three children—Maurice, Mali, and Senta—escaped in time.

Tragically, not all of Moses and Malchen’s descendants were able to escape. My thanks to David Baron and Barbara Greve for their research and help in uncovering some of the records and facts included in this post.

Rickchen Katz, the oldest child of Moses and Amalia Katz, died of cancer in Frielendorf on September 15, 1933. Given the ultimate fate of her husband and children, that might very well have been a blessing.

Death record of Rickchen Katz Moses, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 166,p. 54

I don’t know the details of what happened to the family in the 1930s, but according to the research done by Barbara Greve and reported on the Juden in Nordhessen website, Rickchen’s husband Abraham Moses committed suicide on June 13, 1940. He had moved to Frankfurt with his three daughters, Rosa/Rebecca, Amalie, and Recha. Imagine how intolerable his life must have become under Nazi rule for him to take such drastic action.

In November, 1941, Rickchen and Abraham’s daughter Rosa/Rebecca and her husband, Julius Katz, and their teenage son Guenther, were deported from Frankfurt to Minsk, where it is presumed that all three were killed. Amalie, Rosa’s sister, also was deported to Minsk at that time and is also presumed to have been killed there. I have no further record for Amalie’s twin Recha. I assume she also was a victim of the Holocaust. (All the links here are to the Yad Vashem entries for those individuals.) Thus, all of the children of Rickchen Katz and Abraham Moses were murdered by the Nazis.

Jacob M Katz, the second oldest son of Moses and Malchen Katzhad been in the US for many years by 1930, having arrived in 1908, as I wrote about here.  He had settled in Oklahoma, where in 1930 he was married to Julia Meyer and had a teenage son, Julian. They were living in Wolf, Oklahoma, where Jacob was working in a dry goods store.  According to the 1940 census, by 1935 Jacob and Julia had moved to Pawnee, Oklahoma, and in 1940 Jacob was a men’s clothing merchant there. Julia’s sister Rose was also living with them.

Jacob M Katz and family, 1940 census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Pawnee, Pawnee, Oklahoma; Roll: T627_3322; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 59-21

But by 1942 when he registered for the World War II draft, Jacob and Julia had moved to Vallejo, California, where Jacob was working for the Kirby Shoe Company.  I do not know what took them to California; their son Julian had married by then, but was still living in Oklahoma. Jacob died in San Francisco in 1956; Julia died the following year, also in San Francisco.

Jacob M Katz, World War II draft registration, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147

Lena Katz, one of the three children of Moses and Malchen still in Germany in the 1930s and their third oldest child, survived the Holocaust. Her husband Hermann Katz had died on November 2, 1929, in Marburg, Germany, but Lena and their three children—Bertha, Moritz, and Amalie—all left Germany before 1940.

Her son Moritz left first, arriving in the US on November 14, 1936.  He listed his occupation as a butcher and listed Maurice Mink, his aunt Julias husband, as the person he knew in the United States.  His final destination was listed as Cleveland, Oklahoma, where Julia Katz Mink (the youngest daughter of Moses and Malchen) and her husband Maurice Mink were then living.  Perhaps not coincidentally, his cousin Julius Katz, son of Aron Katz, was on the same ship, as noted in an earlier post.

Moritz Katz manifest, line 19, Year: 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,

Lena and her daughter Amalie were the next to arrive; they sailed together along with Amalie’s husband Max Blum and their daughter and arrived in New York on April 1, 1938.  They all listed Jacob M. Katz in Pawnee, Oklahoma, Lena’s brother, as the person they were going to in the United States. Max listed his occupation as a cattle trader. (Lena, spelled Lina here, is listed on a separate page of the manifest from the Blum family.)

Lina Katz on manifest, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6134; Line: 1; Page Number: 98

Max and Amalie (Katz) Blum and family, lines 3-5, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6134; Line: 1; Page Number: 88
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

The next family members to arrive were the three young children of Lena’s daughter Bertha and her husband Siegmund Sieferheld; they were only twelve and eight years old (the younger two were twins) and sailed on a ship that seemed to have many children; it arrived in New York on February 6, 1940.  The ship manifest listed the German Jewish Children’s Aid Society as the entity responsible for receiving these children.

Children of Bertha Katz Sieferheld, passenger manifest, lines 5-7. Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6443; Line: 1; Page Number: 40
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6443
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

According to the Leo Baeck Institute, “The German-Jewish Children’s Aid Society was formed in New York in 1934 by a coalition consisting of the New York Foundation, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, B’nai B’rith, the Hofmeimer Foundation, the American Jewish Committee and the Women’s Committee of the American Jewish Congress. These organizations contributed the funds for the German-Jewish Children’s Aid to operate. The purpose of the German-Jewish Children’s Aid was to act as the receiving organization for unaccompanied or orphaned children emigrating from Europe to the United States. It acted as financial sponsor for the children (to avoid their “becoming a public charge”) and attempted to secure housing or foster home placement. ”

A more extensive description of the organization can be found here.  It describes the incredible work done by Americans, Jews and non-Jews, to rescue over a thousand children from the Nazis—certainly a small drop in the bucket considering the number of children who were murdered, but without organizations like the German-Jewish Children’s Aid Society, many more, perhaps including the three children of Bertha Katz and Siegmund Sieferheld, would also have been killed.

When I try to imagine the desperation of these parents—sending their young children off on a ship, not knowing whether they’d ever see them again—and the fear of those children, leaving their parents and the only home they’d ever known, I have to stop and catch my breath. I think of my seven year old grandson, just a year younger than Bertha’s twins. It is just too painful, too unimaginable, to visualize him being torn away from his parents and his parents being torn away from him.

The 1940 census shows Lena and almost all of her children and grandchildren living together in Detroit; Moritz, listed as the head of household on the 1940 census, was working as a sausage maker in a butcher shop.  Lena’s daughter Mali and her husband Max Blum were both working in a packing house. And the three young children of Bertha  and Siegmund Sieferheld, Tillie, Werner, and Henry, were also living with Lena, Moritz, and Mali. Their parents Bertha and Siegmund were still in Germany, separated from the rest of their family.

In addition, Lena’s younger sister Julia Katz Mink (listed as a widow here) was also living with them. Julia had apparently separated from her husband Maurice by 1930, when they were living separately in Cleveland, Oklahoma. Her daughter had married by 1940 and was living elsewhere. Julia died in 1971 in Montclair, New Jersey.

Lena Katz and extended family, 1940 census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T627_1881; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 84-1383

So as of 1940, all but Lena’s daughter Bertha and her husband Siegmund had escaped from Germany; their three young children, however, were safely with their grandmother Lena and aunt Amalie and uncle Moritz.

And then finally Bertha and Siegmund arrived on April 15, 1940.  They were sailing with two older women also named Sieferheld—perhaps Siegmund’s mother and aunt. They listed Detroit as their destination and M. Katz, Bertha’s brother Moritz, as the person they were going to. Siegmund listed no occupation.

 

Siegmund and Bertha (Katz) Sieferheld manifest, lines 18-21, Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6458; Line: 1; Page Number: 130
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6458
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

How very fortunate Lena and her family were—all of them reunited safely in Detroit by April, 1940. Sadly, Lena died from cancer on December 25, 1941, just twenty months after having her whole family reunited in Detroit.  She was 69 years old.

Thus, almost all of the children of Moses Katz survived the Holocaust—all but the children of Rickchen, who were murdered. Even those who were fortunate enough to survive, however, must have borne some scars from what they had experienced. Words like “fortunate” and “survived” are just not the right words to use in writing about something as horrific as the Holocaust.  I find myself just unable to find any right words. I don’t think there are any.

And to think that there are still people out there, chanting for hate and waving Nazi flags.

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This brings me to the end of the story of the children of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz. From Abraham Katz and Samuel Katz, who came as young men in the 1860s and settled first in Kentucky before moving to Oklahoma and Nebraska, to Jake and Ike Katz who came thirty years later as young men and started a department store business that grew to be a small empire in Oklahoma, to the many family members  who were killed in the Holocaust and those who were able to escape the Nazis in the 1930s, the Katzenstein/Katz family demonstrated over and over that they were willing to take risks, to help each other, and to work hard for success.  I am so fortunate to have been able to connect with so many of their descendants, who continue to exhibit that strong sense of family and that drive to succeed. To me that seems quite remarkable, but given the spirit of adventure and commitment to family exhibited by all the children of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz, perhaps it really is not.

 

 

 

The Family of Moses Katz, Part I: Markus Katz

In earlier posts I discussed the families of the two sons of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz who were still living in Germany as of 1930: Moses and Meier. Moses had died in 1898 and Meier in 1925, but some of their children were still in Germany when Hitler came to power.  My last four posts described how the children and grandchildren of Meier Katz were able to survive by leaving Germany and coming to the US in the 1930s.

In this post and the one to follow, I will describe what happened to the children of Meier’s brother Moses Katz, three of whom had remained in Germany after 1930: Rickchen, Markus, and Lena. I will also report on what happened to the two children of Moses who had emigrated before the 1930s, Jacob M Katz and Julia Katz, and also Moses’ grandson Maurice (son of Markus), who also had immigrated to the US before 1930. This post will focus on the family of Markus Katz, the one to follow on the other four.

Markus Katz died before he had to experience the horrors of the Holocaust.  He died on August 3, 1931, in Jesberg, where he is buried. As I wrote about here, his grave is marked by a double stone where half was reserved for his wife Minna(also known as Nanna or Nanny) Wallach, but Minna is not buried there.  She was deported by the Nazis on June 16, 1942, and was presumed to have been killed sometime thereafter. That is why the other half of the gravestone is blank.

Markus Katz death record, HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3922 Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1931, S. 21

Gravestone of Markus Katz, son of Moses Katz, grandson of Rahel Katzenstein, with the blank half for his wife Minna (Nanny) Wallach Katz

Thanks to the generosity of their grandsons, I have this wonderful photograph of Markus and Nanny:

Minna (Nanny) Wallach and Markus Katz
Courtesy of the Abrahams family

Here is Nanny with her daughter Senta, grandson Martin, and mother Jenchen:

Nanny Wallach Katz, Senta Katz Abraham, Martin Abraham, and Jenchen Wolf Wallach
Courtesy of the Abrahams family

This beautiful photograph is of the three children of Markus and Nanny: Mali, Senta, and Maurice (Moritz):

Amalie (Mali), Senta, and Moritz (Maurice) Katz, 1908
Courtesy of the Abrahams family

Fortunately, all three of the children of Markus and Minna fared better than their mother.

As I wrote earlier, Moritz (later known as Maurice) left Germany for the US in April, 1925, and settled near his Katz relatives in Oklahoma. In the 1930s he was living in Oklahoma City and working as a salesman in a clothing store.  In 1940 he was living as a lodger with the family of Herman Mararsk in Oklahoma City, still working as a clothing salesman.

Maurice Katz, 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma; Roll: 1920; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0102; Image: 345.0; FHL microfilm: 2341654

Maurice Katz, 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma; Roll: T627_3342; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 78-20

Maurice married Mollie Krisman on May 23, 1943, in Oklahoma City. That marriage apparently did not last, because on January 21, 1948, Maurice married Sarah Ross in Chicago. Obituary of Sarah Ross Katz, The Daily Oklahoman, Monday, November 30, 1998.

Maurice Katz marriage to Mollie Krisman 1943 Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

For many years, Maurice owned a pawnshop in Oklahoma City. He died on October 7, 1994, and was survived by his wife Sarah. His obituary said this about him: “Maurice “Morris”, ended 91 years of a wonderful life when he died on October 7, 1994. Morris was born in Jesberg, Germany, Sept. 8, 1903 and came to the U.S. in 1925. He operated his business in Oklahoma City for 30 years before his retirement in 1972. … The wonderful memories of early Oklahoma City through the eyes of an immigrant that he shared with all who knew him will live on with his memory.” The Daily Oklahoman, October 10, 1994.  His wife Sarah died in 1998; there were no children.

Maurice’s two sisters, Mali and Senta, also survived the war.  Although I’ve yet to find any official records of what happened to Mali, her nephews and one tree on Ancestry show that she and her husband Siegfried Baumann and their daughters ended up in Brazil. Her nephew told me that she had tried to enter the US, but had been refused. I am still searching for more information about Mali and her family.

Senta and her husband Julius Abraham and their two sons immigrated to the United States on July 2, 1937. What I did not discover until the last week or so was that Julius was also a cousin of mine as well as a cousin to his wife Senta.  Julius was born in Niederurff in the Hesse region on January 2, 1894. He was the son of Hirsh Abraham and Pauline Ruelf. His mother Pauline was the daughter of Moses Ruelf and Gelle Katzenstein. Gelle Katzenstein was the daughter of Jacob Katzenstein, who was the half-brother of Rahel Katzenstein, Senta’s great-grandmother. In other words, Senta Katz and Julius Abraham were half-third-cousins, and Julius was my half-third cousin, once removed; Senta my full third cousin, once removed:

Julius and Senta’s son Fred Abrahams has generously shared with me his memoir and allowed me to share those portions that reflect the family’s life in Niederurff, Germany, and their decision to leave in 1937. Fred was only three years old when the family left Germany, which makes the clarity of his memories quite remarkable.  I think his writing movingly captures the innocence of childhood amidst the chaos of a world filled with hate:

The name, “Niederurrf”, the town where we lived means “lower-urrf (gothic for “stream”). The “urrf” was indeed a stream, probably no more than 10 feet across which ran by the back of our house. There it was spanned by a rude arched wooden foot bridge. I have many memories of playing and wading in the cool, clear waters of the slow moving rock marbled stream. In one of them:

My cousin from Frankfurt, Paul, is showing us how to fold paper hats out of newspaper. We are on the little bridge. Then, wonder of wonders, he places the hats in the stream and they become sailboats. But the water is not flowing fast enough to carry them very far downstream. My father appears. Across the stream, just above the bridge there is a long wooden board stretched lengthwise on edge across the stream and held in place by long pegs. The “urrf” forms a pool of water beyond this small dam. My father raises the board, releasing the water and the boats float and sail away out of sight. I cry because of the lost boats.

I am playing in the cobbled yard in front of our house. some boys who live a few streets away are shouting at me. I am upset. They are loud, angry…something to do with “Juden”. I don’t understand. I hardly know them. Opa (my Grandfather) Max says,” they are ignorant, you are much better than they are, ignore them. Come inside when you see them. They are louts!” I feel a little better, but I am still concerned. It still bothers me today. My Grandfather unlocks the gate to the garden behind our house. He shows me where he hides the key in a niche in a wall of slate slabs. It is our secret. 

My father comes into the living room. The atmosphere is strange, tense, nervous. Something important is taking place. He is excited and is holding a small book in his hand. We are going to America he tells us. Looking at the book in his hand he begins teaching us English words. He looks up a word and points at an object in the room. “Window” he says pointing to the fenster. “Door” pointing to the kitchen tur. “Chair” he indicates the stuhl he is sitting on. This is a strange new game but I know somehow that it is very important.

We are on a train, facing each other across the car, my mother and father on one side, my brother and I on the other. We sit on facing benches that line the walls of the car. My mother has brought salami sandwiches. An indoor picnic, as we eat I can hear the click-clack of the wheels of the train and see the countryside streaming by. I am excited but also sense that my parents are worried. We stop to visit my Grandmother in Frankfurt. I am playing and jumping on her white metal frame bed. She seems to be ill (diabetes I later learn) and we are saying goodbye. She will be left behind. We are going on to Bremen! Then, we are going on a big boat to America, the German Lloyd liner Hansa. To America (wherever that is). It is a great adventure!

I’m running all around a big boat. There is a wide long alley like deck with the water far below on one side. I am fascinated by the water streaming by. A brass band is playing, a real concert with a band stand. The bandsmen are in dark blue uniforms with white hats. I stand in front of the bandleader and make believe I am the conductor, aping his movements, leading the band. The bystanders watch me, laughing and applauding.

Later I am sick and miserable lying on an upper bunk. I can’t climb the ladder and my father lifts me up. After a while I feel better. Then my mother gets sick. The doctor comes to our cabin. I am left free to run around again. I explore this huge complex boat, bigger than any place I have ever known. More people at once than I have ever seen. Playing hide and seek in the life boats with sailors and other kids. Sitting in all the deck chairs. Trying to play shuffleboard. What an adventure.

Then the trip is over. We dock and wave to people waiting on the pier.

[From the memoirs of Fred J. Abrahams, unpublished.]

When the family left Germany, they were heading to New York, where Julius’ sisters (and thus also Senta’s cousins) Meta and Recha were living. Julius had been a businessman and tailor in Niederurff as well as a shop owner and farmer; on the ship manifest he listed his occupation as a tailor.

Family of Julius and Senta Katz Abraham, passenger manifest, lines 5-8, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6003; Line: 1; Page Number: 18
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

In 1940, the family was living at 72 West 93rd Street in New York City, and Julius was working in the family business, Abrahams Brothers, a clothing business. Julius had an uncle, Max Abrahams, who had come to the United States in the early 1870s and ultimately settled in Davenport, Iowa, where he and his sons established a clothing business known as Abrahams Brothers. The business grew to about a dozen stores throughout the Midwest. In 1940, Julius was working in the fur department of the New York office, where the administration and buying for the many stores was handled. He continued to work for the business for the rest of his life.

Senta Katz Abrahams and family, 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2642; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 31-777

Julius died on December 22, 1959; Senta lived to 93, dying on October 15, 2000, in Stamford, Connecticut. Their sons Martin and Fred have both been very kind and generous in sharing the photographs and the story of their family, and I look forward to meeting them both.

 

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.

Back in Jesberg: The Family of Moses Katz Before the Nazi Era

While Jake and Ike Katz, grandsons of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz, were establishing their dry goods business in Oklahoma along with their uncle Abraham Katz and his children, other members of the family of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz were still back in Jesberg, Germany.  Rahel and Jacob had three children who were still living in Germany in the late 19th century: Blumchen, Moses, and Meier. This post will describe the status of the families of Blumchen and Moses up to 1930.

Jacob and Rahel’s oldest child, Blumchen, died March 15, 1909, in Meimbressen, Germany, where she had lived after marrying Heskel Grunenklee of that town. As far as I’ve been able to find, Blumchen and Heskel did not have any children.  Heskel died in 1920.

Transcription of Blumchen Katz Grunenklee’s gravestone on LAGIS,
Gräberverzeichnis des jüdischen Friedhofs in Meimbressen (Calden), aufgenommen im Juli 1937 durch Baruch Wormser von Grebenstein 1700-1936 (1937) (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 590) AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 12

Moses Katz, the second oldest child of Jacob and Rahel, had married Malchen Wetterhahn on July 3, 1869. She was from Rhina, Germany.  Moses and Malchen had six children: Rickchen, born June 28, 1869; Markus, born August 30, 1870; Lina, born September 5, 1872; Bertha, born June 22, 1878; Jacob M., born May 27, 1880; and Julia, born December 13, 1883. Moses died in 1898, and Malchen followed him four years later in 1902.

Death record of Moses Katz, Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1898 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3896)AutorHessisches Staatsarchiv MarburgErscheinungsverlauf1898ErscheinungsortJesberg, p.32

Death record of Malchen Wetterhahn Katz, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1902; Bestand: 920; Laufendenummer: 3900

Children (and Grandchildren) of Moses and Malchen (Wetterhahn) Katz

Rickchen had married Abraham Moses on August 12, 1895; Abraham Moses was from Grossropperhausen, Germany, and had been previously married and widowed. Abraham and Rickchen had three daughters: Rosa (1896 in Grossropperhausen), Amalie (1904), and Recha (1904). Amalie and Recha were twins, Amalie born before midnight on February 10 and Recha born after midnight on February 11.  They were born in Frielendorf. Rosa married Julius Katz (perhaps from the Jesberg Katz family); they had a son Guenther born on August 30, 1929, in Frielendorf, Germany.

Rickchen died on September 15, 1933, in Frielendorf.

Death record of Rickchen Katz Moses, HHStAW Fonds 365 No 166,p. 54

Markus Katz, the second oldest child of Moses and Malchen, married Minna Wallach on September 7, 1902 in Oberaula, Germany, where Minna was born in 1880.  Markus and Minna had three children: Maurice (also known as Moritz or Moses) (born in 1903, named for his grandfather), Mali (1904), and Senta (1906). They were all born in Jesberg.

Maurice came to the United States as a young man on April 4, 1925. According to his naturalization papers, he was going to his “cousin” Jack Katz in Yale, Oklahoma; this might have referred to Jacob M. Katz, his brother, who was living in Yale, Oklahoma in 1925. Maurice’s passenger manifest, however, said he was going to his “uncle,” Jake Katz, in Stillwater. (Jake, son of Maurice’s uncle Meier, was really his cousin, not his uncle.) In 1930, Maurice was living as a lodger in Oklahoma City, where he was working as a salesman in a clothing store.

Maurice (Moritz) Katz naturalization petition,
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; ARC Title: Correspondence Relating to Naturalization, compiled 1909 – 1960; ARC Number: 731194; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Description
Description : Oklahoma City Correspondence Relating to Naturalization, 1909-1925 (Box 1)
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, Naturalization Records, 1889-1991

 

Maurice (Moritz) Katz passenger manifest, Year: 1925; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 3630; Line: 1; Page Number: 72
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 3630
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

As for Maurice’s two younger sisters, Mali married Siegfried Baumann on April 17, 1930, in Jesberg.  Siegfried was born in Lauterbach, Germany, in 1893. The youngest child of Markus and Minna, Senta, married Julius Abraham of Niederurff, Germany, by 1932 when their first child was born in Niederurff.

Lina Katz was the third child of Moses and Malchen Katz; she married Hermann Katz on April 15, 1901. He was from Schweinsberg, Germany.  Hermann and Lina had three children born in Schweinsberg: Bertha (1902), Moritz (1903), and Amalie (1905). Hermann died on November 2, 1929, in Marburg, Germany.

Lina’s daughter Bertha married Siegmund Sieferheld on January 14, 1927; they would have three children. The younger daughter Amalie married Max Blum, who was also a Schweinsberg native.  Lina and all three of her children were still living in Germany as of 1930.

Marriage record of Lina Katz and Hermann Katz, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Eheregister und Namensverzeichnisse. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

The fourth child of Moses and Malchen was Bertha, born in 1878. Unfortunately the only record I have for Bertha is her birth record.  I don’t know whether she died young or married or just disappeared. According to family lore, Moses and Malchen Katz had a daughter who died by drowning in the Seine River, and I did find a death record for a female named Katz who died in France in 1901, but again, I have no idea whether that is Bertha Katz. I thought that the fact that Lina and Hermann named their first daughter Bertha in 1902 supported this theory, but then I realized that Hermann’s mother was also named Bertha and their daughter was likely named for her.

Bertha Katz birth record,
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3809
Description
Year Range : 1878
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Geburtenregister und Namensverzeichnisse. Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Deutschland.

Jacob M. Katz, Moses and Malchen’s youngest son, left Germany in 1908, immigrating to the United States.  Although he put Stillwater, Oklahoma, as his final destination, he listed his uncle Abraham Katz of Louisville, Kentucky, as the person to whom he was going in the United States. By 1910, he was living in Yale, Oklahoma, working as a department store manager.  By 1920 he was married to Julia Meyer, had a son, and was working as a dry goods merchant in Yale. In 1930, Jacob and his family were living in Wolf, Oklahoma, where he continued to work as a dry goods merchant.

Jacob M Katz passenger manifest, Year: 1908; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1132; Line: 1; Page Number: 104
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 1132
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Finally, Moses and Malchen’s youngest child was Julia Katz.  She followed her brother Jacob to Oklahoma, arriving in August 1912 when she was 29 years old. Finding her manifest was quite a challenge as Ancestry had her indexed as Inlchen Thatz when she in fact sailed as Junchen Katz.  But as you can see, this is the right woman as she was going to her uncle Isaac Katz in Oklahoma.

Julia (Julchen) Katz passenger manifest, Year: 1912; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1918; Line: 1; Page Number: 30
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 1918
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Seven years after arriving in the US, Julia (as she was known in the US) married Maurice Mink, a Russian immigrant who was a dry goods merchant in Cleveland, Oklahoma.  The marriage was written about in the Pawnee newspaper:

Miss Julia KATZ, one of the most popular clerks of the Katz Department Store and niece of Mr. Ike KATZ, became the bride of Mr. Maurice MINK, of Cleveland, Oklahoma, Sunday. the ceremony took place at Tulsa and following the wedding a six o’clock dinner was served at the Cutcham Hotel. The happy couple left for a two week honeymoon, after which time they will be at home to their friends at Cleveland, Oklahoma, where Mr. MINK is one of the leading business men and has a splendid home for his bride. Pawnee regrets to lose Miss Julia, but wishes her much happiness as Mrs. MINK. (Pawnee Courier-Dispatch and Times-Democrat, June 19, 1919)

In 1920 Julia and Maurice were living in Cleveland, Oklahoma, with Maurice’s two children from an earlier marriage. Their own daughter Marguerite was born that same year.  In 1930, Julia and Marguerite were living in Cleveland, and although Julia reported that she was married, Maurice is not listed as living in the household with Julia and their daughter. He is rather listed in a separate household in Cleveland, living with his two older children from the first marriage.

Thus, as of 1930, two of the children of Moses Katz and Malchen Wetterhahn (Jacob M and Julia) were in the US and one of their grandsons (Maurice) had emigrated from Germany as well.  But all the other descendants of Moses and Malchen were still in Germany.

Similarly, three of the children of Meier Katz and Sprinzchen Jungenheim were still in Jesberg, as I will describe in my next post.

 

Jake Katz: Tragedy in the Family

In my last post I started to tell the story of Jake Katz, the oldest child of Meier Katz and Sprinzchen Jungheim.  Jake was my grandmother’s second cousin. He came to the US as a teenager in 1887 and within ten years had established his own clothing store in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Working with his younger brother Ike and other members of the extended Katz family, Jake helped to establish a chain of clothing stores in a number of places in Oklahoma by 1910.

He married Sophia Salzenstein in 1901, and they had three children: Albert Jerome, Helen, and Margaret.  All that success, however, was tempered by a terrible tragedy in 1919 when Albert Jerome died during a boxing match at school.

Albert Jerome (who seems to have been known as Jerome) was a student at Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, and, according to several news accounts about the incident, he had gotten into a dispute with another student.  As described in an article from the first page of the November 26, 1919, issue of the Wichita (Kansas) Beacon [see below], the other student had taunted Jerome by calling him a “pussy cat,” and Jerome had requested a “fistic bout” to settle the dispute between them.  According to the article, at the time it was “a practice of the Kemper School’s discipline to permit such bouts between cadets whose disputes cannot be arbitrated.”

The bout was scheduled and witnessed by not only other students but several staff and faculty members of the school.  The newspaper wrote, “Katz, the larger of the boxers, seemed to have the advantage in the first and second rounds. In the third round he staggered and fell on the ground.  He was dead before a physician could be brought.”

Death of Albert Jerome Katz
The Wichita Beacon, November 26, 1919, page 1

Although the initial news reports including the one from the Wichita Beacon above suggested that Jerome had suffered from a weak heart, the family later disputed this conclusion.  The St. Louis Star and Times reported on December 24, 1919 (p. 3) that Jake Katz had written a letter stating that his son had passed a rigorous physical exam before being admitted to the school and had not been sick since he was a child.  He claimed that after the fight there were bruises all over his son’s body and that he had died from injuries sustained in the boxing match.  The newspaper quoted from Jake’s letter claiming that the conduct of the school authorities was “inexcusable and even deceitful in their efforts to silence and shift the responsibility of their crime.”

Death of Albert Jerome Katz 1919
St Louis Star and Times, December 24, 1919, p. 3

The official death certificate for Jerome shows that the authorities concluded that the cause of death was acute dilatation of the heart, defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a disease of the heart muscle, usually starting in your heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle). The ventricle stretches and thins (dilates) and can’t pump blood as well as a healthy heart can.”  The American Heart Association asserts that one third of those with the condition inherited it from their parents.  Disease and other causes are also listed, but physical impact from a fight is not among the listed causes.

Alfred Jerome Katz death certificate
Ancestry.com. Web: Missouri, Death Certificates, 1910-1962 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Missouri Death Certificates. Missouri Secretary of State. http://www.sos.mo.gov/records/archives/archivesdb/deathcertificates/: accessed 24 August 2014.

In fact, the Wichita Beacon article reported that Jerome’s uncle had died from heart disease two years earlier in Kansas City. That was Sophia’s brother Sol Salzenstein, who died of “valvular insufficiency” on February 27, 1918, at age 41:

Sol Salzenstein death certificate
Ancestry.com. Web: Missouri, Death Certificates, 1910-1962 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Missouri Death Certificates. Missouri Secretary of State. http://www.sos.mo.gov/records/archives/archivesdb/deathcertificates/: accessed 24 August 2014.

The death certificate for Albert, however, also reported that a contributing cause of his death was “fisticuff exercise,” or at least that’s what I think that says.

Although the November 26, 1919, article from the Wichita Beacon shown above had reported that Jake Katz originally wanted to establish a memorial scholarship in his son’s memory at the Kemper School, by December 25, 1919, he had no such intention, according to an article from the December 25, 1919, Mexico (Missouri) Weekly Ledger (p. 1).  According to that article, Jake said, “A better memorial would be to abolish the old and outgrown custom of dueling.”

Report on death of Albert Jerome Katz in the Mexico OK) Weekly Ledger, December 25, 1919, page 1

I couldn’t agree more. It’s hard to imagine something like this being not only allowed, but encouraged by any school today.  At least I hope that’s the case.  Even if Albert Jerome’s death was caused by heart disease, the idea that a school would condone the use of force to settle a name-calling dispute is very disturbing and obviously was extremely upsetting to the family of this young man.

A year after Albert’s death, Jake, Sophia, and their two daughters were living in Stillwater with Sophia’s mother Carrie and her sister Fannie.

Jake Katz and family 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Stillwater Ward 2, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: T625_1482; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 190; Image: 875

The family did establish a scholarship in memory of Albert Jerome, but at Oklahoma A & M in Stillwater, not at the military academy where he had died:

I find it interesting how the paper described Albert Jerome’s death—that he was killed in a boxing match, not simply that he died during a boxing match.

Around this time Jake made Sol Frisch a partner in the Stillwater store; Sol was the husband of Jake’s cousin Florence Katz, daughter of Abraham Katz.  Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life.

Ike Katz, meanwhile, was still living in Pawnee in 1920 with his wife Sophia and running the Katz store in that town.

Ike and Sophia Katz 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Pawnee, Pawnee, Oklahoma; Roll: T625_1482; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 150; Image: 77

A second tragedy struck the family when Ike Katz died in 1923; he was only 46. According to the family, he left most of his estate to his brother Jake, who used it to acquire land and to expand the family business. Ike’s widow Sophia remarried by 1930 and remained in Pawnee with her second husband, Albert Cohn.

Thus, within four years Jake Katz had lost his son and his brother.  In August 1926, his sixteen year old nephew Jack Katz came to live with Jake and his family in Stillwater.  Jack was the son of Jake’s brother Aron, who was still living in Jesberg.  Jack was following in Jake’s footsteps in many ways—coming to the US as a teenager to help an uncle in his dry goods business. In 1930, Jack was living with Jake and his family and working in the Stillwater store:

Jake Katz and family 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Stillwater, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: 1925; Page: 34A; Enumeration District: 0029; FHL microfilm: 2341659

Jake’s daughter Helen married Alfred Goldman on February 26, 1930.  Alfred was an Oklahoma native, born in 1894 to Michael Goldman, an immigrant from Lithuania, and Hortense Dreyfus, who was born in France. After they married, Alfred and Helen settled in Oklahoma City, where Alfred and his brother Sylvan were in the grocery business.  A year later Sylvan would marry Helen’s sister Margaret.

Helen Katz and Alfred Goldman marriage record
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

Margaret Katz and Sylvan Goldman marriage record
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Marriage Records. Oklahoma Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.

Jake and his daughters suffered another terrible loss when Sophie Salzenstein Katz died on October 17, 1930.  She was 58 years old.

Meanwhile, the Katz family back in Jesberg, Germany was facing its own crisis with the rise of Hitler and Nazism during the 1930s. Jake would play an important role in rescuing the family back home in Jesberg.

 

 

 

 

Jake Katz: Pioneer and Entrepreneur

Now it is time to return to the story of the descendants of Rahel Katzenstein, sister of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein. Rahel had married Jacob Katz, and they had had six children: Blumchen, Moses, Meier, Abraham, Sanchen, and Samuel. Thus far I have focused on the stories of Abraham and Samuel, both of whom came to the US as young men after the Civil War. Now I will turn to Meier Katz and his family.

As I wrote in my last post before we left for Germany, Meier Katz and Sprinzchen Jungheim had six children, five of whom survived to adulthood: Jacob, Aron, Seligmann, Regina, and Karl.  Two of those children—Jacob (“Jake”) and Seligmann (known as  “Isaac” or “Ike” in the US) came to the US as young men about twenty years after their uncles Abraham and Samuel; the other three siblings did not arrive until the 1930s after Hitler came to power.

Karl, Sprinzhchen, Regina, Jacob, Aron, Meier, and Isaac Katz

Jake, the oldest son, has taken on a legendary status in the family’s history.

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

According to his 1923 passport application, Jake Katz was born on September 13, 1873, in Jesberg, Germany, and arrived in the United States in August, 1887, when he was not quite fourteen years old.

Jake Katz passport application 1923
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2232; Volume #: Roll 2232 – Certificates: 273350-273849, 23 Apr 1923-24 Apr 1923

Family lore is that he came to work as a clerk in a dry goods store in Winfield, Kansas, owned by his mother’s brother, Eli Jungheim (spelled Youngheim in the US). Jake is listed in the household of Eli Youngheim in the 1895 Kansas state census:

Jake Katz, 1895 Kansas census
Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, Kansas; 1895 Kansas Territory Census; Roll: v115_31; Line: 1
Description
Township or Location : Winfield
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

According to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life, Eli Youngheim opened up a dry goods store in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1894, and hired Jake to run the store.  The family story is that there was a falling out between Jake and his uncle Eli and that Jake turned to his father’s brother, Samuel Katz, who was then in Omaha, and obtained from him financial backing to start his own store in Stillwater in 1896.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life provides an overview of the early history of Stillwater:

Settlement in Stillwater, Oklahoma began during the 1889 land run. The first settlers lived in tents pitched next to the creek that gave the town its name and survived on hunted wild game. From these rustic beginnings, Stillwater quickly developed after it was named the seat of Payne County and the site of Oklahoma’s land grant college in 1890. Cotton was the main economic engine of the area, and Stillwater became a commercial and processing center for the cash crop. By the time Eli Youngheim opened a clothing store there in 1894, Stillwater had a water system, public schools, and a downtown filled with commercial buildings. Stillwater never had a formal Jewish congregation, but a small number of Jews have lived in Stillwater since the late 19th century. 

By 1899, Jake was well settled in Stillwater; he became a naturalized citizen there on May 12, 1899.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life states that Jake’s younger brother Ike joined him in 1898 and helped him run the Stillwater store, which they named Katz Brothers. Ike, who was born Seligmann Katz in 1877, seems to have become Isaac or Ike in the US, arrived in the US on September 8, 1892. Here is his birth record from Jesberg as Seligmann:

Birth record of Seligmann “Ike” Katz
Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg: Standesamt Jesberg Geburtsnebenregister 1877 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3808) Jesberg 1877, p. 71

He was still using Seligmann when he immigrated:

Ship manifest for Seligmann Katz, 1892
Year: 1892; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 597; Line: 1; Page Number: 10
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 597
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

My hunch is that Seligmann was his secular name in Germany, but that his Hebrew name was Isaac.  He seems to have adopted Isaac/Ike as his first name once in the US. According to a ship manifest for a voyage Ike took in August, 1912, he was naturalized in October 9, 1899, in Oklahoma.

Jake was still single as of the time of the 1900 census, but according to the family he married Sophia Salzenstein in 1901. Sophia was the older sister of Mayme Salzenstein, who would later marry Jake’s first cousin Lester Katz, son of Abraham Katz. As I wrote in an earlier post, Wolf Salzenstein, father of Sophia and Mayme, was a German immigrant living in Athens, Illinois, working as a livestock dealer.  His wife Caroline was born in Illinois, as were both Sophia and Mayme.

Jake and Sophia would have three children: Albert Jerome (1903), Helen (1904), and Margaret (1906). In 1910, they were living in Stillwater.

Jake Katz and family 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Stillwater Ward 2, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1269; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0199; FHL microfilm: 1375282
Description
Enumeration District : 0199
Source Information
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line].

By 1910, Ike Katz also was married.  On May 26, 1909, he married Sophia Weil in New York City.  Sophia was also a German immigrant, born in Freiberg, Germany, which is not far from Jesberg.  According to the family, this was an arranged marriage. In 1910, Ike and Sophia were living in Pawnee, Oklahoma, where Ike had established a second Katz Brothers store.

Ike Katz and family 1910 census
Source Citation
Year: 1910; Census Place: Pawnee Ward 3, Pawnee, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1268; Page: 22B; Enumeration District: 0181; FHL microfilm: 1375281
Description
Enumeration District : 0181
Source Information
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

It was around this time that Jake contacted his uncle Abraham, who was still living in Kentucky, and asked him to move to Oklahoma to establish another Katz dry goods store.  As I described in an earlier post, Abraham sent his oldest son, Lester, to Stillwater to work with Jake and explore the prospects of a store in another town in Oklahoma. In 1910, Abraham Katz and his family moved to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, and established another Katz store.

According to the family, in 1917, Ike decided to open a new Katz store in Oilton, Oklahoma.  He asked his cousin Sidney Katz to run it for him. Sidney, who had recently married his wife Eulalia, had been operating a shoe store in Fort Scott, Kansas, in partnership with his brother-in-law Morris Kohlmann, but the business had not been profitable enough, so Sidney decided to accept Ike’s invitation to run a store in Oilton.  Ike remained in Pawnee where on September 12, 1918, he registered for the World War I draft.

Isaac Katz World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Pawnee; Roll: 1852068
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA

The family business was thus thriving in the first two decades of the 20th century, but then Jake and Sophia Katz suffered a terrible loss on October 6, 1919, when Albert Jerome Katz, their son and oldest child, died four days short of his sixteenth birthday.

To be continued…

 

Before You Visit A Cemetery, Read This Post

There’s a lesson in here for anyone planning to visit a cemetery to find where their ancestors are buried.  I wish I’d had this lesson before traveling to Germany.

May 10 was our last day in the Kassel region, and we were going to see the village of Jesberg, home of the Katz and Katzenstein families.  As the Katzenstein/Katz family has been the one I have been researching most recently, these names and stories were freshest in my mind, and I was very interested in seeing what we could find and learn. Hans-Peter Klein was again going to be our guide along with Mrs. Ochs, who lives in Jesberg. We followed Hans-Peter from Kassel to Borken, where he picked up the key to the cemetery in Haarhausen where the Katzenstein and Katz family members from Jesberg were buried before the Jesberg cemetery itself was established.

As with the Obervonschutzen cemetery near Gudensberg the night before, I had no idea what to expect in Haarhausen.  I did like the horses who were grazing nearby.

This was another very big cemetery with close to 400 stones dating back to 1705. Once again, Hans-Peter came equipped with a map and pages from the LAGIS website showing the headstones and information about many members of the Katz and Katzenstein families who were buried at this cemetery.  So we were off on another treasure hunt—but with better lighting and more rested eyes than the evening before.

Haarhausen cemetery

And what treasure we found.  I have to admit that I should have been better prepared for this visit.  I should have searched the LAGIS website myself before leaving home and written down all the Katzensteins who were buried there, where they were buried, and how they were related to me.  But I failed to do that.  I am not sure I even knew about that part of the LAGIS website, or I’d forgotten about it.  It would have made my search both easier and more meaningful if I’d been better prepared.

For example, these two headstones:

I thought that these were the headstones of my three-times great-grandparents Scholum Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld because, looking quickly, they matched the pages for a Schalum and a Brendelchen.  I placed stones and even took a picture with both stones, believing these were the parents of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

But I was wrong.

In fact, having now had the chance to sit and check my tree and the LAGIS pages and the photos, I know that these were the stones of my FIVE-times great-grandparents, Schalum, son of Pinchas ha-Cohen, and his wife Brendelchen (father’s name unknown) who died in 1774 and 1776, respectively.  They were the grandparents of Scholum Katzenstein, great-grandparents of Gerson. Wow. Do I wish I had known? Yes. Does it really matter? Probably not.  I paid tribute, I visited. I just thought they were different people.

I am, however, really sorry I could not find the stone for Meir, the son of Schalum ha Cohen and Brendelchen, who is buried at Haarhausen.  He was my four-times great-grandfather, the father of Scholum Katzenstein.  There were many stones that were similar to this one depicted on the LAGIS website.  But I could not find Meir’s stone.

I did, however, find the stone for his wife, Henchen, who was my four-times great-grandmother.  But I did not realize this was who she was at the time, only when I got home and checked my resources.

Henchen, wife of Meier Katz. My 4th great-grandmother

I assume that Meir’s stone was nearby.  Henchen died in 1793, Meir in 1803.

And this stone, which I photographed but could not read clearly at the site, is in fact the stone for my three-times great-grandfather, Scholum Katzenstein.  It is labeled on the LAGIS website as the stone for Abraham Schalum, son of Meir ha-Kohen, so I didn’t realize it at the time, but again, after checking with my resources at home, I now know that that was the Hebrew name used by Scholum Katzenstein and that that was in fact his stone. Perhaps the stone for his wife was nearby, but  Hans-Peter had no sheet for a Breine Blumenfeld Katzenstein, and I couldn’t find one either at the LAGIS site.

Scholem Katzenstein, my 3x great-grandfather

I did find the stone for Schalum Abraham Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, grandson of Scholum Katzenstein.  He was my first-cousin, three times removed.  His brother Meier is also buried at Haarhausen, but we did not find his stone. (You can see why I was overwhelmed with all the similar names!)

Jacob Katzenstein’s son, Schalum Katzenstein

So I learned an important lesson: be really well prepared for cemetery visits.  I feel extremely fortunate that I found the stones of my 5x great-grandparents, my 4x-great-grandmother, and my three-times great-grandfather. But I sure wish I’d known more about who was buried at Haarhausen and where they were buried before I even got to the cemetery.  Am I kicking myself? Yes. I missed some important stones because I had not done a careful enough job of preparation. It’s too late now, and I am annoyed with myself, but I also learned a very important lesson.  Do the hard work of preparation ahead of time because cemeteries are overwhelming, stones are hard to read, and time is limited.

We left the cemetery and proceeded on to Jesberg, where the Katz and Katzenstein families lived from at least the early 19th century. Today there are about 2500 people living in Jesberg, making it about four times the size of Sielen but smaller than Breuna. A castle was built in Jesberg in the 13th century, and there was a Jewish community dating from the 17th century. In 1905, the Jewish community of about 90 people made up over ten percent of the overall population of Jesberg; during the 19th century when my great-great-grandfather was born and raised, the Jewish population ranged from 55 people to 73 people, according to Alemannia-Judaica.  A synagogue was built in 1832, and there was a mikveh, a Jewish school, and eventually a cemetery.

Jesberg synagogue before World War I

In 1933 when many members of my Katz family were still living there, there were still more than fifty Jews in Jesberg.  Today there are no Jews in Jesberg.

Helping us in touring Jesberg along with Hans-Peter was Mrs. Ochs, who is another volunteer in the research of the Jewish history of the area and who works with Barbara Greve, who was out of town. Mrs. Ochs lives in Jesberg and was, like all the others, very warm, friendly, and helpful. We first drove out to the Jesberg cemetery, which did not open until about 1900 and which only has about twenty stones.

View of Jesberg from the cemetery

Jesberg cemetery

These are all the stones at the Jesberg cemetery

I knew that Meir Katz and his wife Sprinzchen Jungenheim were buried there, the parents of Jake, Aron, Ike, Regina, and Karl Katz, all of whom came to the US and settled in Oklahoma, some in the 19th century, others in the 1930s to escape the Nazis. I had spoken to Karl Katz’s son Fred before we left for Germany, and he had asked me to look for his grandparents’ graves and told me how to find them in the cemetery.

Back of the stones for Sprinzchen and Meier Katz in German

Front of stones for Sprinzchen and Meier Katz in Hebrew

There were three children of Jacob Katzenstein, brother of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein, buried in the cemetery.  These were my great-grandmother Hilda’s first cousins:

Levi Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, and his wife Jeanette

Levi  Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein, and his wife Jeanette

Pauline Katzenstein, daughter of Jacob Katzenstein:

Pauline Katzenstein, daughter of Jacob Katzenstein

Baruch Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein:

Baruch Katzenstein, son of Jacob Katzenstein

There were also a few stones where half of the stone was left blank, obviously reserved for a spouse.  What had happened to their spouses? Had they left Germany and escaped safely or had they been killed in the Holocaust? I decided I would check.

Markus Katz: He was the son of Moses Katz, as I wrote about here.  His grandmother Rahel Katzenstein was the sister of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

Markus Katz, son of Moses Katz, grandson of Rahel Katzenstein

Markus was married to Minna Wallach, also known as Nanny according to other records.  As I had feared, she was murdered in the Holocaust, explaining the blank side of this headstone.

Another stone with a blank half was for Josef Katz.  He was quite distantly related to me, a third cousin, three times removed.  According to David Baron’s research, Josef was married to Bertha Lowenstein, daughter of Simon Lowenstein and Esther Stern, and she was born in Fronhausen, Germany in 1870.  I have not yet found any information about Bertha’s death so cannot say why the other half of Josef’s gravestone is blank. Perhaps she escaped the Holocaust, though her son Siegfried did not survive, so I doubt she did either. I will keep looking.

Josef Katz, third cousin, three times removed

The third stone with a blank half was for someone named Moses Schloss.  As far as I know, he was not a relative of mine, but I still wanted to know what had happened to his wife.  According to Yad Vashem, his wife was Lisette Gans Schloss, and she died at Theriesenstadt on October 14, 1942. So it appears my hunch was right.  At least two of the three blank stones were for victims of the Holocaust.

After visiting the cemetery, we returned to Jesberg, where Mrs. Ochs showed us the former synagogue and pointed out the brook that ran behind it, feeding what was probably once a mikveh.

Former synagogue in Jesberg

Brook running behind the synagogue

Back of former synagogue

I could imagine the carefree life that my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein and his many cousins had in Jesberg, running through the quiet streets and playing in the brook.  The town is probably not that much different today in appearances, other than the cars and paved roads.

We also walked down Bahnhofstrasse, the street where Fred Katz had lived as a young boy before escaping with his parents to Oklahoma in December 1938.  Fred had told me the house number, so I was able to find the house where he had lived with his parents, Karl Katz and Jettchen Oppenheimer, his brothers Walter and Max, his uncle Aron and his wife Sarah, and their sons Jack and Julius.  More on Fred and his life in Jesberg in a later post.

Marktplatz and church in Jesberg

Bahnhofstrasse in Jesberg

House where the Katz family lived in Jesberg in the 1930s

The brook that runs through Jesberg

We then all went to lunch in a nearby town (there was no place to eat—not even a bakery—in Jesberg), and then Harvey and I said another difficult goodbye to Hans-Peter and Mrs. Ochs and to the Kassel region.

Our days in the Kassel region far exceeded my expectations.  The friends we made and the places we saw will stay with me forever.  Yes, I wish I had better prepared for the cemetery visits, but overall I have no regrets and am so thankful that I got to visit the homes of my Hamberg, Goldschmidt, Schoenthal, and Katzenstein ancestors.  I am particularly thankful to Ernst Klein, Julia Drinnenberg, Hans-Peter Klein, Barbara Greve, and Mrs. Ochs for all their hard work and dedication, and, of course, especially to Harvey for being a willing and helpful participant in the hunt for stones in so many cemeteries.

Now we were heading south to Wurzburg and then to Schopfloch, the home of the Nussbaums