The Family of Juda Ruelf and Lina Bachenheimer

Gelle Katzenstein gave birth to three sons and seven daughters, but only one of her sons survived to adulthood. That was her son Juda, born on October 30, 1867, in Rauischholzhausen. He was her eighth child and the first boy since her firstborn, who had been stillborn and was unnamed.

Juda Ruelf birth record,
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 14

Juda married Lina Bachenheimer on November 19, 1897, in Rossdorf, Germany. He was thirty, and Lina was 24. Lina was the daughter of Seligmann Bachenheimer and Betty Baum, and she was born on New Year’s Day in 1883; she was also the niece of Sussman Bachenheimer, who had married Juda’s oldest sister, Esther. (Schneider, Die Juedischen Familien im ehemaligen Kreise Kirchain, pp. 83 and 344)

Marriage of Juda Ruelf and Lina Bachenheimer
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 7966

After posting my first post about Jakob Katzenstein, I was contacted on Facebook by a man whose grandfather was Siegfried Bachenheimer (born in 1900); he told me that the Bachenheimers had once lived next door to the Ruelf family in Rauischholzhausen.  That helped to explain the interconnections between the Bachenheimer and Ruelf families.

Juda and Lina had five children: Isidor (1898), Selma (1900), Rosa (1901), Leo (1904), and Gottfried (known familiarly as Friedel)(1905). Leo died as a boy on December 14, 1912.  He was only eight years old. (Schneider book, p. 345) Then Isidor, their oldest child, was killed in 1917 while serving Germany in World War I. (Schneider book, p. 345)

World War I memorial in Rauischholzhausen listing Isidor Ruelf among others
Courtesy of Richard Oppenheimer

Thus, only Selma, Rosa, and Friedel survived to adulthood. Selma married Julius Meier on November 17, 1922, in Rossdorf; Julius was born May 17, 1898, in Gladenbach. According to the Nazi record nullifying his citizenship, he was a farmer; later records describe him as a cattle dealer. Selma and Julius had two children born in the 1920s. Germany, Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935-1944 [database on-line]. Original data: Name Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by the Nazi Regime (Berlin Documents Center).

Selma’s sister Rosa did not marry, and her brother Friedel did not marry until much later in life and did not have children. Thus, Selma’s two children were the only grandchildren of Juda and Lina Ruelf.

Lina Bachenheimer Ruelf died on October 16, 1930, in Marburg; she was 57 years old.

Lina Bachenheimer Ruelf death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 573

All three of the surviving children and their father Juda Ruelf immigrated to the US after Hitler came to power. Selma and her family left first, arriving in New York on April 30, 1936. The passenger manifest states that they were going to Los Angeles where Julius had an uncle.

Selma Ruelf Meier and family passenger manifest
Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5796; Line: 1; Page Number: 117 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

It doesn’t seem that Selma and Julius ever went to Los Angeles or, if they did, they were not there very long. When Selma’s brother Friedel arrived on June 16, 1937, he listed his sister Selma Meier as the person he was going to stay with and reported her address as Pine Plains, New York, a small town about a hundred miles north of New York City. Friedel reported that he was a horse dealer.

Gottfried Friedel Ruelf passenger manifest
New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 2 October 2015), 5997 – vol 12899-12901, Jun 21, 1937 > image 10


The last family members to arrive were Juda Ruelf and his remaining child, Rosa Ruelf. They arrived on July 14, 1938, and listed Gottfried (“Friedel”) Ruelf, Juda’s son, as the person they were going to see. Friedel’s address was given as “Dairy Farm, Fishkill, New York.” Fishkill, another small town, is about fifty miles south of Pine Plains and fifty miles north of New York City.

Juda Ruelf and daughter Rosa ship manifest
Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6186; Line: 1; Page Number: 116 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

But Juda, Rosa, and Friedel did not remain long in Fishkill. On the 1940 census they were all living together in New York City. Friedel, now going by the Americanized name Fred, was the head of household and working as an operator in a stapling machine factory. Neither his father nor his sister Rosa was employed.  They also had two boarders living with them. Friedel must have been the sole support for his father and sister Rosa.

Friedel Rosa and Juda Ruelf 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2670; Page: 21A; Enumeration District: 31-1890

In 1940, his sister Selma and her family were, however, still living in upstate New York in Pine Plains where Julius continued to work as a farmer. Interestingly, the census record indicates that in 1935 they were living in Astoria, Queens, which can’t be correct since they hadn’t even left Germany in 1935.

Julius and Selma Meier and family 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Pine Plains, Dutchess, New York; Roll: T627_2523; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 14-42

Friedel Ruelf married late in life. According to the New York City Marriage Index database on Ancestry, he married Claire Lowenstein in 1962 when he was 57 and she was 56.

Juda Ruelf and his children and their spouses are all buried at Cedar Park cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey. The cemetery office told me that Selma Meier died on April 15, 1950, but her death is listed on the New York, New York, death index on Ancestry as April 13, 1950. According to the cemetery, Juda Ruelf died eight months after his daughter Selma on December 12, 1950; he was 83 years old at his death. Julius Meier, widower of Selma Ruelf Meier, died on June 20, 1959, according to the cemetery. Rosa Ruelf’s death is documented by the Social Security Death Index; she died when she was 76 on June 18, 1978, which was confirmed by the cemetery.

Friedel and his wife Claire also are buried at Cedar Park cemetery in Paramus. Claire died July 3, 1999, at age 93; Friedel died just over a year later on August 13, 2000. He was 94 years old. [1]

Two of the members of the Bachenheimer side of the family, both named Steve, had the pleasure of knowing Friedel and his wife Claire personally.  I am looking forward to learning more from them about the family. Both Steves generously shared with me pictures of Friedel and Claire, one outside the Jewish cemetery in Kirchain, Germany,  and one in New York City.

Claire and Friedel Ruelf in Kirchhain, Germany
Courtesy of Steven Bachenheimer

Claire and Friedel Ruelf
Courtesy of Steve North

Thus, unlike the families of his sisters Esther, Betty, and Minna, no members of the immediate family of Juda Ruelf were killed in the Holocaust. His wife Lina died before the Nazis came to power, and Juda and his children all escaped to the US in time. They were among the fortunate ones.





[1] I am now in touch with two people who knew Friedel “Fred” Ruelf, and I am hoping to get more information about him and his life.

Walking in Their Footsteps by Jennifer Spier-Stern

I am honored today to share with you an essay written by my fourth cousin, once removed, Jennifer Spier-Stern. Jennifer is the great-granddaughter of Minna Ruelf and Isaak Spier, about whom I wrote in my last post. When Jennifer shared this essay with me, I was so moved that I asked her if I could post it on my blog. She graciously agreed to let me do that, and I hope that you also will feel the way I did—that I was with Jennifer in her footsteps as she walked in the footsteps of her family in Rauischholzhausen, Germany.

Walking in Their Footsteps

by Jennifer Spier-Stern

I was transformed back in time as we drove through the narrow streets of the town called Rauischholzhausen.  We passed old homes with beautiful flower baskets hanging from windows and well manicured gardens. The narrow street was paved and there was even a sidewalk. I wanted to absorb every corner, every home into my mind so I could never forget these images.  I know that 70+ years ago it was not as pristine. I have thought of this day for so many months. Each and every time I envisioned this part of my trip I cried.  The tears were for the people that were no longer here to tell me their tales. My father wasn’t with me to show me the way, to tell me about his memories and to stand with me in front of the home where he was born. To walk with me to the Schloss (castle) and show me the places where he ran, where he played, to show me where his family lived and where the synagogue was.

View of Rauischholzhausen with arrow pointing to synagogue

The reason for this trip started many years ago. My father was born in Rauischholzhausen in 1922, a small town a few minutes drive from Marburg.  Growing up we heard all the stories of Holzhausen and of the early childhood of my father and his four siblings. We used to roll our eyes and laugh with yet another story of “home.” As young adolescents we didn’t appreciate all that he told us.  I wish I had documented everything, but like most young adults, I didn’t.   My father always promised my brother and I a trip back to his roots, but that was never going to happen, he passed away in 1998.  Since my father’s passing I had fleeting thoughts of going to Germany but not until recently did this strong urge possess me that I had to go and see for myself.

Without going into full details of the history of our family, my father’s brother returned to Germany with his wife and son and settled in Bielefeld in 1959.

My aunt, uncle, cousin and his wife met us at our beautiful hotel and drove us to the house that was 16 Lerchengasse. 16 Lerchengasse was the house where my father lived. The house that bore the name I Spier (Isaak Spier) above the front door frame. We parked the car and walked that last few steps down a cul de  sac.  I had the vision of the house from few photos that survived the war. 

My uncle stopped in front of the house and said, “This is it. This is the house where we were born.”  I looked up at this large home, the home of my great-grandfather, grandfather and father. My hands were shaking and the tears rolled down my face.  I heard my father’s voice, I heard his stories, I saw him walking up and down the front stairs. I saw him running around the courtyard with his siblings. I haven’t felt my father’s presence as strongly as I did at that moment.  I wish I could have knocked on the door and introduced myself. I so wanted to go inside, but I know it is far different than the house my father left on November 9, 1938.  I looked at the surrounding homes, and they too were lovely with their planters filled with flowers and lace curtains in the window. Later in the week Hajo (My hero guide) posed the question to me, “Can you imagine this town 65 years ago?”

Spier home in Rauischholzhausen
Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

The next stop was the Jewish cemetery. We picked up the key at the caretaker and then we walked the grass soaked path towards the cemetery. The rain started and the path became very muddy. The land to the right was a beautiful pasture for grazing cows who seemed very curious and walked over to the fence. It seemed surreal.  As we walked my eyes were looking down at the path, knowing that my grandparents and many other ancestors walked here to enter the cemetery. They came here to bury. They came here on the holidays to remember those that passed. They came here to say Kaddish. I was walking in their footsteps.  

My grandfather Abraham Spier buried his parents, Isaak Spier and Minna Rülf neé Spier. One of the oldest stones in the cemetery is Nathan Spier, my 3rd great grandfather (1792-1866). We stepped into the cemetery where 80% of the graves are family ancestors. I had my dear friend Hajo Bewernick photograph every stone for me. I’ve looked at the photos numerous times and now, I stood before them. I stood there and cried.  Emotions flooded my body that I didn’t know how to react. I wanted to touch every stone and place a rock, I wanted to pray. In years to come how many will walk through the gates to pray for all the souls? However, all I could do was cry. Later on I found out that my husband said the Mourner’s Kaddish, (a Mourner’s Prayer) as he stood over one grave, but he said it for all.

Gravestones of Minna Ruelf Spier and Siegfried Spier in Rauischholzhausen

I walked in their footsteps. I was thankful that my family who live in Germany were able to share this experience with me.  Special thanks to Hajo Bewernick who took the time from his busy work and home life to show my husband and I Marburg. I can never thank you enough for explaining the history of your beautiful town as well as showing us the many historical sites and to our many insightfully deep conversations.  You created a three dimensional image for me  of my grandparents, my Oma and Opa, by showing us where they would have been, where they would have walked and the buildings from where they were deported. I do not recall the name of the street corner. Hajo was specific in pointing his finger.

Through my research I have come across generous people who devote their time and efforts to the history of the Jewish people. To everyone we thank you for all your hard work. Special thank you to Barbara Greve for always being there with the answers.

One more person I need to thank with all my heart is my husband, Effy. This trip wouldn’t have happened without him. He knew how important this trip was for me and I am glad he shared it by my side.

I never felt closer to my family and my ancestors as I have during these few days in my family’s home town.   I know I’ll keep these stories alive with my family and I hope they will continue the legacy.

The Indomitable Human Spirit: The Descendants of Minna Ruelf Spier

Although the story of Minna Ruelf Spier is, like that of her sisters Esther and Bette, a story that includes much tragedy and suffering, in its way it is also uplifting for what it reveals about the human spirit and the will to survive. As we move closer to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I find Minna’s story appropriate for these days and inspiring.

I have been in touch with one of Minna’s direct descendants, my fourth cousin- once removed Jennifer Spier-Stern, and she has shared with me what she knows about the family history as well as some family photographs. I am so very grateful to Jennifer for her help and her generosity.

Minna Ruelf was born on February 16, 1859, in Rauischholzhausen, Germany:

Minna Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 10

Three days after her 21st birthday, on February 19, 1880, she married Isaak Spier. Isaak was born June 12, 1850, in Leidenhofen, Germany, another town in the Hesse region, the son of Abraham Spier and Esther Schaumberg. Isaak was a merchant.  Minna and Isaak settled in Ebsdorf, a small village a mile from Leidenhofen, where they had the first of their three sons, Abraham, who was born on January 18, 1881.

Minna Ruelf and Isaak Spier marriage record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 2524

Their two younger sons, Julius (July 26, 1883), and Siegfried (November 29, 1886), were born in Rauischholzhausen.

Isaak Spier died on June 17, 1910, in Rauischholzhausen. He was sixty years old. At that time none of his sons had married.

Isaak Spier
Courtesy of  Jennifer Spier-Stern

Isaak Spier death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8036

Abraham, the oldest son, married nine years later on November 3, 1919; he was 38 years old. He married Jenny Wertheim, who was born on June 4, 1890, in Hatzbach, Germany, to Wolf Wertheim and Sanchen Edelmuth.

Marriage of Abraham Spier and Jenny Wertheim
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5047


Abraham Spier, c. 1914
Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Jenny Wertheim  Spier Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Abraham and Jenny had five children, one daughter and four sons: Edith (1920), Julius (1922),[1] Alfred (1924), Martin (1925), and Walter (1927); they were all born in Rauischholzhausen.

Edith, Julius, and Alfred Spier , c. 1926 Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Family of Abraham and Jenny Spier, Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Just three weeks after Walter’s birth, his grandmother Minna Ruelf Spier died at age 68 on November 5, 1927.

Minna Ruelf
Courtesy of her great-granddaughter Jennifer Spier-Stern

Minna Ruelf Spier death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8053

The youngest son of Isaak Spier and Minna Ruelf, Siegfried, died when he was 48 years old in Rauischholzhausen on February 21, 1935, just seven months before the Nuremberg Laws were adopted by the Nazis in Germany. Siegfried was unmarried.

Siegfried Spier death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 8061

Not long after Siegfried’s death, Julius Spier (Abraham’s brother, not his son) left Rauischholzhausen. According to Alfred Schneider’s book, Die Juedischen Familien im ehemaligen Kreise Kirchain (p. 350), Julius was still in Rauischholzhausen in 1935, but as of 1936, his location was unknown. One source says that he went to Frankfurt where he had a seat on the stock exchange.  That same source said that he immigrated to England by 1945, perhaps as early as 1938.  (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch( : accessed 2017-09-06), entry for Julius /Spier).

According to Jennifer, Julius Spier married Lucie Henrietta Cohn. According to this website located by Jennifer, Lucie was the daughter of Hugo Cohn and Selma Marcuse of Halberstadt; she was born on October 28, 1897. The website also states that she’d gone to Frankfurt and married (no date or place was given, nor the name of her husband). If futher states that after getting divorced in 1938, Lucie had immigrated to England and worked in the fashion industry.  Although I have no marriage record or other document showing her marriage or divorce, Lucie appears on many passenger manifests between 1947 and 1960—first residing in London, later in the US, listed at various times as a commercial traveler, a housewife, and a nurse.

Julius died in London on February 25, 1959. (England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007, on

UPDATE: Thank you to Anne Callanan of the German Genealogy for sending me some records she found on FindMyPast, a genealogy service to which I do not (yet) subscribe. Anne found Enemy Alien registration cards for several family members including Julius Spier and Lucie Henrietta Spier. From those records, I now know that Julius was in England by November 1939, working as an agent. He was at first granted an exemption from being detained as an enemy alien, but that decision was reversed and he was interned on June 21, 1940, but was released two months later on August 23, 1940.

Lucie also had to register as an enemy alien. She registered on December 8, 1939, when she was living in Manchester, England (thus not with Julius) and working as a house servant for a Mr. M. I. Marks in his home. She was granted an exemption and was not interned. The card does not reveal any information about her marital status.

Julius Spier (son of Minna Ruelf and Isaak Spier)
Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

Abraham and Jenny Spier and their children were still in Germany during the Nazi era, but they were eventually able to get some of their children to England. According to my cousin Jennifer, Edith Spier left Germany on one of the early Kindertransports to England where she worked as au pair; according to the Schneider book (p. 351), Edith left on October 20, 1937, when she was seventeen. She eventually went to New York, where in 1943 she married Alfred Baumann, who was born in Adelsberg, Germany, in 1913, and had immigrated to the US in 1938.

Julius Spier (Abraham and Jenny’s son) was arrested along with ten thousand other Jewish men  in the aftermath of Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938, and sent to Buchenwald. His daughter Jennifer wrote this about his experiences:

My father, John Sanders (nee Julius Spier) was born in Rauischholtzhausen, Germany on June 17, 1922. At the age of 16, on November 9, 1938 he was arrested in his home by the Gestapo. It should have been my grandfather, but he was in a few towns over at his mother’s home. Rumors around the towns were that the Gestapo were going from house to house to arrest the eldest male.

My father was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp where he remained for 10 weeks. During this time, his mother heard about the organized efforts of the Jewish Agency of Bloomsbury, London to get as many Jewish children, between the ages of four to 17, out of Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. She went to the Jewish Agency and the police, where she was told to get all the documents ready, as well as a visa to leave Germany.

Upon release from Buchenwald, my father had only two weeks to leave Germany. His father took him to the Frankfurt train station, where he was to meet the Kindertransport train that would take him to England. At the train station there were other families with children. The parents and their young ones had to say their good-byes inside the train station. The children, regardless of age, had to go onto the platform and then onto the train by themselves. Families with infants gave the infants to the older children. It is difficult to comprehend all sides. How does a parent give up a baby and how does a young adult care for one. My father said goodbye to his father, not realizing that this was the last time he would ever see him.  …

After his tenure in Dover Court, my father was taken into the home of an Orthodox family in Westgate, London. He was there until June of 1939 when his brother [Alfred] came over from Germany. Together, they went to a hostel in London. Shortly thereafter they were taken to a farm in Aberdeen, Scotland. An aristocrat owned the farm by the name of Sir Robert Grant. He treated my father and his brother with the utmost of respect and kindness. One memorable time for my father was when the chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce took him and his brother to Harrod’s department store in London and they were able to pick out all that they needed. Sir Robert Grant applied for visas to get my father’s parents and brothers out of Germany. Unfortunately war broke out a few days later and all visas were denied. 

Julius Spier, son of Abraham and Jenny (Wertheim) Spier, c. 1935
Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

That left Abraham and Jenny and their two youngest children, Martin and Walter, stranded in Germany. On September 7, 1942, all four were deported to Theriesenstadt. Then on May 18, 1944, all four were transported to Auschwitz, where Abraham and Jenny were murdered. Martin and Walter survived. Walter Spier talked movingly about his experience in this video. I implore you all to watch it. It’s less then fifteen minutes long, and when you considered what he suffered for years, you know you can spare fifteen minutes to hear him talk.


When I think of the two young men being reunited in Rauischholzhausen in 1945, it moves me to tears.

Meanwhile, their older siblings were for a time in the United Kingdom. But like many other Jews who were sent to England for safety from the Nazis, Julius and Alfred were sent to the Isle of Man as possible “enemies of the state” after England declared war on Germany in September, 1939.

According to this article from B’nai Brith Magazine, the first inmates arrived on the Isle of Man in May, 1940, and by August, 1940, there were over 14,000 men, women, and children imprisoned on the Isle of Man, some being Nazi sympathizers, many others being Jews who’d been born in Germany and thus were considered enemy aliens, ironically.  Because of overcrowding, in July, 1940, England decided to send some of the inmates to Canada or to Australia. (Cheryl Klemper, “Imprisoned On The Isle Of Man: Jewish Refugees Classified As “Enemy Aliens”, ” B’nai Brith Magazine, September 19, 2016)

Julius and Alfred Spier were among those sent to Australia. According to Jennifer, they both were on the ship known as the HMT (Hired Military Transport) Dunera. According to the Australian website for the Migration Heritage Centre:

On board the HMT Dunera were about 2,000 male German Jewish refugees aged between 16 and 45, who had escaped from Nazi occupied territories. Also on board were 200 Italian POWs and 250 Nazis. The voyage lasted 57 days. The conditions were appalling. Apart from overcrowding on the ship with the attendant problems of hygiene and harsh treatment by crew members, the journey was also made unpleasant by the fear of torpedo attacks, the uncertainty of the destination, and by tensions between Jewish refugees and Nazi passengers.

After arriving in Australia, Julius and Alfred spent two years interned at camps in Hay and Tatura in Australia. The Migration Heritage Centre website reported this about the Hay camp:

The Hay POW camp was constructed in 1940. The first arrivals were 2036 German and Austrian Jewish refugees who fled the Nazis. They were mostly professionals who had simply fled for their lives. They were placed along side 451 German and Italian POWs many of whom were pro Nazi and fascist.

While awaiting release, the Dunera Boys developed a rich cultural and intellectual programme at their camp, giving concerts and establishing an unofficial university. The small group of strictly Orthodox Jews also managed to organise a kosher kitchen. After a period of time the injustice of their situation was realised and they were permitted to return to Britain.

Here is a record identifying Julius Spier as a POW in Australia during the war:

Courtesy of Jennifer Spier-Stern

According to Jennifer, when Julius and Alfred were finally released, they were given a choice  either to return to Germany or join the British Army, so they both joined the British Army, where they served for the duration of the war and then returned to England.

UPDATE: Thanks again to Anne Callanan, I now have enemy alien registration cards for both Edith and Julius Spier.  Edith registered on December 12, 1939, and was granted an exemption; she was working as a domestic. Her brother Julius registered as an enemy alien on November 28, 1939, when he was working on Sir Robert Grant’s farm in Scotland. But as we know he was denied an exemption and interned until June 21, 1942, when he was returned to the UK from Australia.

In the years immediately after the war Edith was in New York City, Julius and Alfred were in England, and Martin and Walter were in Germany. Martin and Walter both stayed in Rauischholzhausen for a year after their liberation from the camps in 1945, and then both immigrated to New York City where both of them later married.

In England, Alfred married Hannelore Reimers, who was from Bielefeld, Germany. Hannelore wanted to return to Bielefeld where her family still lived[2], so Alfred and Hannelore ended up back in Germany.

Julius married Helene Trunec in England in 1952; Julius and Helene stayed in England until 1963 when they immigrated to the United States and were reunited with Edith, Martin, and Walter in New York City. Julius and Helene had two children, Jennifer and Mark.

The five children of Abraham Spier and Jenny Wertheim thus all survived the Holocaust, although their parents did not. The five siblings not only suffered the loss of their parents and of their home; two were tortured and suffered terribly in the Nazi concentration camps, and two were imprisoned like criminals by England, the country where they had sought sanctuary. It’s hard to imagine how any of them coped with what they had endured.

But listening to Walter Spier on that video reveals that somehow the human spirit can endure unimaginable suffering and still have faith, hope, and love. All five of the Spier siblings went on to have children after the war, one sign of the incredible power of faith, hope, and love.


[1] I find it interesting that Abraham named a son Julius since his brother Julius was still alive. I assume the son was named for another family member, not his uncle.

[2] Hannelore was not born Jewish, but converted when she married Alfred.

Transitioning back to the Katzensteins

I am now returning to the story of my Katzenstein family. I’ve spent the better part of the last year researching and writing about my Katzenstein family: first, the family of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein, who came to the US from Jesberg in 1857; then the family of Gerson’s half-sister Hannchen who married Marum Mansbach; their children came to the US around the same time; and then the family of Gerson’s full sister Rahel Katzenstein, who married Jacob Katz and whose children also for the most part came to the US and settled primarily in Oklahoma.

I needed a short break to recover from the overwhelming sadness I felt as I discovered how many members of the family had died or suffered at the hands of the Nazis.  Now I am ready to tell the story of the remaining sibling of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein, his half-brother Jakob. Unfortunately much of the story of Jakob’s family also is devastatingly sad. But I need to tell it because these people need to be remembered and their memories need to be honored.

According to Barbara Greve’s research, Jakob was born on August 20, 1802, in Jesberg to Scholum ha Kohen Katzenstein and Gelle Katz (or Katten.  He married Sarchen Lion on February 24, 1829; Sarchen was born on March 5, 1805, in Mardorf, Germany, to Baruch Loew/Lion and Michel Erhlich. [1] Jakob was a merchant in Jesberg.

Barbara Greve concluded that Jakob and Sarchen had nine children, all born in Jesberg: Gelle (1829), Michaela (1832), Schalum Abraham (1834), Rebecca (1836), Johanna (1838), Pauline (1841), Baruch (1844), Meier (1849), and Levi (1851).

Jakob died in 1876, and Sarchen four years later in 1880.

Jakob Katzenstein death record
Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1876 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3874)AutorHessisches Staatsarchiv MarburgErscheinungsortJesberg, p. 76

Sarchen Lion Katzenstein death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Standesamt Jesberg Sterbenebenregister 1880; Bestand: 920; Laufendenummer: 3878

It will take quite a while to cover all nine of Jakob and Sarchen’s children. In this and the next several posts, I will focus on their oldest child, Gelle, and her family.

Gelle was born December 3, 1829, in Jesberg, according to the research done by Barbara Greve. She married Moses Ruelf on January 21, 1855. Moses was born October 17, 1828, in Rauischholzhausen, Germany, the son of Juda Ruelf and Rachel Schlesinger.

Although I do not have actual records for these facts, I do have another secondary source for them. David Baron kindly sent me a link to a genealogy report compiled in Germany by a man named Alfred Schneider called Die Juedischen Familien im ehemaligen Kreise Kirchain (2006) [The Jewish Families in the Former Districts of Kirchain], which appears to be well-researched and has a bibliography indicating the archives he visited to obtain his information. I will refer to it hereafter as “the Schneider book,” and all the information about Moses and Gelle appears on p. 345. (You can find a link to the Schneider book here.)

Moses Ruelf and Gelle Katzenstein had ten children, all born in Rauischholzhausen. The first child was stillborn on June 1, 1856; many trees on Ancestry have this child with the name Simon, but the record I found has no name given, nor does the Schneider book (p. 345).

Birth record for unnamed child of Moses Ruelf and Gelle Katzenstein, Todt Geboren (born dead)
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 9

The second child was Esther, born May 26, 1857. Her birth entry is on the same page as the stillborn child, above.

Minna, the third child, was born on February 16, 1859:

Minna Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 10

Bette was born December 3, 1860:

Bette Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p.12

Gelle then gave birth a fourth daughter, Johanna, on November 21, 1862:

Johanna (Hannah) Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p.13

As I wrote in an earlier post, Johanna was the first wife of Hirsch Abraham. Johanna died on August 12, 1890, eleven days after giving birth to her first child, who was apparently renamed Johanna in her memory.

A fifth daughter, Roschen, was born to Gelle and Moses Ruelf on April 25, 1864:

Roschen Ruelf birth record,
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p 13

Although I’ve been unable to find a death record for Roschen, the Schneider book (p. 345) reports that Roschen died before her first birthday on March 3, 1865.

A sixth daughter, Rebekka, was born on November 7, 1865:

Rebekkah Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 14

After having six daughters in a row, Moses and Gelle had a son, Juda, born October 30, 1867:

Juda Ruelf birth record,
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 14

Then their ninth child was another girl, Pauline, born September 25, 1869:

Pauline Ruelf birth record,
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p.15

As I wrote in an earlier post, Pauline married Hirsch Abraham after her sister Johanna died. Pauline was the grandmother of my cousin Fred Abrahams, who wrote the memoir I posted here.

Finally, Gelle gave birth to her tenth and last child, Gutmann, on November 15, 1871, in Rauischholzhausen:

Gutmann Ruelf birth record
Geburtsregister der Juden von (Rauisch)Holzhausen (Ebsdorfergrund) 1824-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 452)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 15

The Schneider book (p. 345) reports that Gutmann died on July 10, 1873, when he was not quite twenty months old. I did not find any other record of Gutmann’s death.

Thus, of the ten children to whom Gelle Katzenstein Ruelf gave birth, one was stillborn and two appear to have died as young children. Of the other seven, one (Johanna) died in the aftermath of childbirth.

As for the other six—Esther, Minna, Bette, Rebecca, Juda, and Pauline—I have learned more about their lives and their descendants and will report on my research in the posts that follow. First, I will discuss Esther and Bette.




[1][1] Although all the family trees I’ve seen refer to Sarchen as Sarchen Lion, it appears that the family name was originally Loew, German for lion. At some point, however, even the German records started using the name “Lion,” not Loew.