Minna Fuld and Her Descendants: New Cousins from Sao Paulo, But A Brick Wall Remains

Back in April, I posted about the dead ends I’d reached in my research of Minna Fuld and her family. To recap, Minna was the daughter of Helene Goldschmidt and Salmon Fuld,  the granddaughter of Jacob Meier Goldschmidt, and the great-granddaughter of Meyer Goldschmidt, who was my four-times great-uncle. Minna was married three times. First, she married Leo Offenstadt in 1894 when she was eighteen, and that marriage ended in divorce in 1904. She and Leo had had one child, Flora, in 1894. Then Minna married Ladislaus Polacovits in 1906, and he died in 1913; Minna had one child with Ladislaus, Liselotte, who was born in 1907. Finally, Minna married Hermann Heinrich Karl Reuss in 1923, with whom she had no children.

The first mystery was about Minna’s whereabouts during the 1930s and 1940s. I knew that her third husband Hermann was listed in the 1940 Frankfurt directory and died in Frankfurt on September 27, 1947. But several unsourced trees reported that Minna died in Tel Aviv on May 3, 1944. So had Minna gone to Palestine alone and died there? Had Hermann gone with her and returned to Germany after the war?

The second mystery was the fate of Minna’s daughter Flora Offenstadt during the Holocaust. Flora Offenstadt married Hermann Durlacher in 1918 and had two children with him, Siegfried Julius Thomas (known as Thomas) Durlacher and Ulla Louise Durlacher. I had records showing that Flora and the two children immigrated to Brazil in 1939, but no records for her husband Hermann or any information about what happened to them after they immigrated.

I also had no luck locating more information about Liselotte, Minna’s younger daughter with her second husband Ladislaus, although I knew she and Ladislaus were living in Palestine/Israel during the 1940s and that their son had married in England.

Having exhausted the usual genealogy tools and newspaper databases and Google, I turned to Tracing the Tribe to see if there was anyone with connections in Brazil who might be able to help me. And I was very, very fortunate that a group member named Jacqueline who is from Sao Paulo volunteered to help me.  She first located a marriage announcement for a son of Siegfried Julius Thomas Durlacher, which can be found here.

Then Jacqueline found a long magazine article, partly in German but mostly in Portuguese, that she summarized for me. According to the article, Thomas Durlacher started a library of German-language books in Atibaia, a town in the countryside outside of Sao Paulo; the library now has ten thousand books, some of which were Thomas’ parents’ books that they took with them out of Germany when they escaped from the Nazis and others were donated by other refugees from Germany. The article also mentioned that Thomas had two sons, one a doctor in Brazil and the other residing in Germany.

And then—the icing on the cake—Jacqueline located those sons and other members of the Durlacher family on Facebook! At that point, I took over and sent messages and friend requests to these descendants of Minna Fuld. And almost immediately two of Thomas Durlacher’s sons responded. They then connected me to their cousin Sergio, the son of Ulla Durlacher (Flora and Hermann’s daughter), who contacted me by email.

Sergio told me that his grandfather Hermann Durlacher was the first member of the family to immigrate to Brazil. When I asked him why Brazil, he explained that it was the destination of the first available ship that Hermann could take.  Hermann and Flora had already sent Thomas to the Netherlands to study; he lived with a wealthy family who were close friends of the family. Flora and her daughter Ulla remained in Germany, and Sergio said that his mother had very painful memories of those years.

Unfortunately, Sergio did not have any information about the fate of Minna Fuld, his great-grandmother, so that mystery remained unsolved.

He provided me with more contacts, however, and one of those contacts who was in fact on Sergio’s father’s side found this document about Minna:

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/73, Description, Piece Number Description: 073: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Reu-Rop, Source Information
Ancestry.com. UK, WWII Alien Internees, 1939-1945

I also realized that one of the documents I’d found about Hermann indicated that Minna had immigrated to England:

Arolsen Archives, Digital Archive; Bad Arolsen, Germany; Lists of Persecutees 2.1.1.1
Reference Code: 02010101 oS, Ancestry.com. Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947

So Minna was in England in 1940. I then located her on the 1939 England and Wales Register:

The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/419G
Enumeration District: APDF, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Registe

Note that she reported that her marital status was married, but Hermann was not living with her in England. That might explain why he was still listed in the 1940 Frankfurt directory. Hermann was not Jewish and may have stayed behind to protect their interests in Germany.  But I could not find any later record for Minna. Since Hermann was a widower when he died in Frankfurt in 1947, Minna must have died sometime between 1940 and 1947, but where and when remains a mystery.

On the other hand, thanks to Jacqueline, I now am in touch with several of Minna’s descendants, my cousins who grew up in Brazil after their parents and grandparents escaped there from Germany in the 1930s. Someday someone will learn what happened to their ancestor Minna.

 

My Cousin in Sao Paulo

In an earlier post I mentioned that I had been fortunate to have several German sources of information about Rosalie Schoenthal Heymann, her husband Willy, and their six children, three sons, Lionel, Walter, and Max, and three daughters, Johanna, Helene, and Hilda.  I’ve already posted about the lives of the three sons. This post and the next will tell about the lives of the three daughters.

The death notice for one of those sons, Lionel, mentioned a sister named Henny Mosbach Rothschild; his full obituary mentioned an unnamed sister living in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

 

Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

 

From the Steinheim site, I knew that the second-born child of Rosalie (Schoenthal) and Willy Heymann was their daughter Johanna; that site reported that Johanna was born in 1889, married someone named Mosbach, and died in Brazil.  From the Juden in der Geschichte des Gelderlandes book, I learned that Johanna’s husband was Hermann Mosbach, a merchant in Ratingen, and that they had married on April 8, 1915.

 

page 370 for blog

Bernhard Keuck and Gerd Halmanns, eds., Juden in der Geschichte des Gelderlandes, p. 370

Thus, I assumed that the sister mentioned in the obituary and the one named in the death notice were one and the same: Johanna (“Henny”) Schoenthal, who had married a man named Hermann Mosbach and who had ended up in Brazil.  But I didn’t know anything about what had happened in between: Why had she gone to Brazil, not Chicago where her three brothers were living? When had she gotten there? What had happened to Hermann Mosbach? And who was the apparent second husband named Rothschild?

I did not find anything helpful on Ancestry, but on FamilySearch.org, I found two records from Brazil. The first was a record for a widow (“viuva”), Johanna Mosbach, born February 27, 1889, in Geldern, Germany, daughter of Willy Heymann and Rosalie Schoenthal.  She was being admitted to Brazil as a permanent resident.  The card was dated February 18, 1939, and indicated that she had arrived at the Porto de Santos on the ship Monte Sarmento.

 

Brasil, São Paulo, Cartões de Imigração, 1902-1980," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKD5-RQ52 : accessed 31 March 2016), Joana Mosbach Rothschild, 1939; citing Immigration, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, certificate 544986, registration 20634, Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo State Public Archives, São Paulo).

Brasil, São Paulo, Cartões de Imigração, 1902-1980,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKD5-RQ52 : accessed 31 March 2016), Joana Mosbach Rothschild, 1939; citing Immigration, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, certificate 544986, registration 20634, Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo State Public Archives, São Paulo).

 

The second record I found for Johanna through FamilySearch’s Brazil database was not dated, but was presumably some years later.  Her name is now recorded as Joana Mosbach Rothschild, same birth date as above, and she is now “casada” or married.  She was apparently still an alien as this was a card issued by the public security secretary for registration of foreigners or “estrangeiros.”

 

Brasil, São Paulo, Cartões de Imigração, 1902-1980," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKJG-XR67 : accessed 31 March 2016), Joana Mosbach, 1939; citing Immigration, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, certificate 20634, registration 544986, Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo State Public Archives, São Paulo).

Brasil, São Paulo, Cartões de Imigração, 1902-1980,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKJG-XR67 : accessed 31 March 2016), Joana Mosbach, 1939; citing Immigration, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, certificate 20634, registration 544986, Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo State Public Archives, São Paulo).

 

But that was as far as I could get without more assistance, so I sent an inquiry to a woman named Anita on the JewishGen Family Finder, who listed Mosbach as one of her family names.  I also wrote to three of the JewishGen listservs, including one for Latin America.  Once again, the genealogy village came through and provided me with helpful suggestions and ultimately many answers.

First, Anita from the JewishGen Family Finder sent me three links that provided more information about Johanna and her first husband Hermann Mosbach.  All pertained to the Jewish community in Ratingen, Germany, before World War II.  From these three sources, I learned that Johanna was Hermann Mosbach’s second wife and that he’d had a daughter named Else with his first wife.  Hermann was born on July 18, 1877, and died on October 30, 1931, in Ratingen, when he was 54 years old.  Here is a photograph of Hermann, standing far right.

 

 

(Caption under photograph says, “Hermann Mosbach, owner of the “Rheinische department store C. Schmidt & Co.”, was a member of the Catholic Mercantile Association (CISO). In the picture he is seen at an event of the club in the second row on the right. (1928).”

These sources also indicated that Hermann’s daughter Else had immigrated to Brazil in 1936 and that Johanna also had left Ratingen by 1936.  Three years later she arrived in Brazil, presumably to be with her stepdaughter Else.  That might explain why she did not go to Chicago to be with her brothers.

I was curious as to why Else and then Johanna would have selected Brazil as their new home.  Was there a Jewish community there? Why Sao Paulo?

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sao Paulo had a long history of being a city that welcomed immigrants, receiving over three millions immigrants from all over the world before 1940.  Jewish immigrants began to arrive in the late 19th century, but Jewish immigration really surged in the 1920s as immigration obstacles in the US and Canada made those less likely destinations for Jews leaving Europe.  Sao Paulo, however, welcomed these immigrants, and during the 1920s, synagogues, Jewish schools, cemeteries, and other institutions were created to serve the growing Jewish population.  After Hitler came to power in 1933, there was another large influx of Jewish immigrants to Sao Paulo.  Thus, it made sense that Else Mosbach and her stepmother, Johanna Heymann Mosbach, would have settled there.

English: aerial photograph of Sao Paulo Brazil...

English: aerial photograph of Sao Paulo Brazil 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Neither Anita nor I could find any information about what happened to Johanna or her stepdaughter Else once they got to Brazil.

Fortunately, I then heard from Sandra through the LatinAmSig on JewishGen; she was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil; her family had also immigrated there to escape Nazi Germany.  Sandra was incredibly generous and had asked her mother to see if she could find any information about Johanna or Else; she then sent me three links to additional online sources, including links to two newspaper articles regarding Else Mosbach Simon’s successful application to become a citizen of Brazil in 1950.

From those articles, I learned that Else was born on February 8, 1905, to Hermann and Selma Mosbach.  Thus, Else had been only ten years old when Johanna married her father in 1915, further explaining why Johanna would have moved to Sao Paulo—to be closer to the child she had helped to raise.  Else had married someone with the surname Simon by 1950, but unfortunately, I’ve not yet found out more information about her.

Sandra also gave me a link to the Arquivo Historico Judaico Brasileiro and suggested I contact the synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Sao Paulo.  She then translated into Portuguese an email I drafted and sent it to a person she knew at the synagogue when I had trouble trying to contact them directly through their website.  From these sources, I learned that Johanna had died on September 11, 1971, and was buried at the Buntantan cemetery in Sao Paulo.  She was 82 years old.

 

By Dornicke (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Synagogue Beth El in Sao Paulo By Dornicke (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The pieces were starting to come together, except that I still had no information about Johanna’s presumed second husband named Rothschild.  Then someone sent me (I apologize for failing to note who that was) this marriage announcement in the September 29, 1957 issue of the O Estado de Sao Paulo (p. 12) for someone named Hans Joseph Schmitz, described as the son of Ferdinand Rothschild and Johanna Mosbach Rothschild:

 

 

Could this be my Johanna? Could she have remarried and had a son born sometime after 1939 who was now marrying—although he could be no more than 18 years old?  That seemed unlikely, but now at least I had a first name to use for her presumed second husband.

I found a tree on Ancestry that included Ferdinand Rothschild and contacted the tree’s owner, Rainer.  He informed me that Ferdinand Rothschild had married Johanna Heymann on April 9, 1955, when Johanna was already 66 years old and Ferdinand was 67.  Ferdinand had been previously married to Grete or Gretchen Schmitz, Rainer’s great-aunt, who had died in Brazil on April 29, 1939.  Hans was her son.  He died on April 5, 1970, according to these death notices from the April 7, 1970, issue of O Estado de Sao Paulo, p. 35:

 

Hans Schmitz death notice April 7, 1970 O Estado de Sao Paulo Hans schmitz second death notice same paper p 35 same as other april 1970 o estado

 

Rainer also sent me Ferdinand’s death record.  He had died on December 31, 1958, while on a visit to Germany  and was buried in Dusseldorf, Germany, not in Sao Paulo where Johanna was living.  At the bottom of that record you can see a reference to the marriage date for Ferdinand and Johanna.

 

Ferdinand Rothschild death certificate

Ferdinand Rothschild death certificate

 

Johanna and Ferdinand had been married only three years when he died; he was seventy years old.  Johanna would outlive her second husband by another thirteen years, dying, as noted above, on September 11, 1971, in Sao Paulo.  Like her brothers Lionel and Walter, Johanna left no descendants behind, except for her stepdaughter Else Mosbach Simon and her stepson Hans Joseph Schmitz.

Once again, I am very grateful to all those who helped me put together these pieces of my cousin Johanna Heymann Mosbach Rothschild’s life, including my new cousins-by-marriage, Rainer and Anita, and especially Sandra, without whom I’d never have been able to learn where and when Johanna died and was buried.

That leaves me with the two remaining daughters of Rosalie Schoenthal and Willy Heymann: Helene and Hilda.