My Ever-growing Seligmann Family Tree

Of all my family lines, I have had the best luck with my Seligmann line. First, early on I found my cousin Pete, Arthur Seligman’s grandson, who had a wealth of information about the New Mexico Seligmans.  Then I was lucky to find people in Germany who provided me with the copies of vital records for Moritz Seligmann and his family as well as a book about the Jews of Gau-Algesheim.  From those sources, I learned the names of many of my German ancestors.

Then my cousin Wolfgang found my blog, and he has provided me with invaluable information and documents as well as his continuing help in deciphering and translating what he found in his cousin’s suitcase.  From there I was able to find my cousin Suzanne, who has provided me not only with more information and more documents but also with priceless photographs of many of my Seligmann relatives.

And now I have connected with two more cousins: George, an American descendant of Hieronymous Seligmann, a brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard, and Davita, a descendant of Adolph Seligman, also my great-great-grandfather’s brother, who also settled in Santa Fe..  And from George and Davita I hope to learn even more about the family.

Right before I left and then while I was away, Wolfgang and Suzanne sent a bunch of new documents and new photographs that I want to share.  I am not even sure where to begin.  I think I will start with the newly discovered Westminster Bank document revealing the names of all the children of Hieronymous Seligmann; it answered some of the questions left open by my posts about the list of heirs to the estate of English James Seligman.

Westminster Bank family tree for Hieronymous Seligmann

Westminster Bank family tree for Hieronymous Seligmann

This must have been the family tree that Elsa Oppenheimer had found erroneous as described in her letter of July 9, 1984.  She had asserted that Hieronymous did not have a daughter named Johanna or Elizabeth (Bettina, on the tree), as the Bank’s tree indicated.  But Elsa also said that Moritz did not have a son named Adolph, and she was wrong about that.  I now think she was also wrong about Johanna and Bettina.  How do I know she was wrong?  Because there are pictures of both of these women in the photograph album that belonged to their cousin, Fred Michel.

First, here is a picture of Johanna Seligmann Bielefeld from the Michel album.  Despite Elsa’s protestations, Johanna was clearly the daughter of one of the Seligmann sons, and there is no reason to think that she was not a sibling of Jack, Rosina Laura, and Mathilde, as indicated on the Bank tree, and thus a daughter of Hieronymous.

Johanna Bielefeld nee Seligmann

Johanna Bielefeld nee Seligmann

As I posted earlier, Johanna married Alfred Bielefeld, and they had two children, Hans and Lily, both of whom immigrated to the United States.  Alfred and Johanna were both deported to Terezin, where Alfred died.  With the help of the archivist at Terezin, I was able to locate Alfred’s death certificate.

Albert Bielefeld death certificate from Terezin

Alfred Bielefeld death certificate from Terezin

From what I can interpret here, Alfred died from myocardial deterioration and cellulitis.  Johanna did not die at Terezin, but was later transported to Auschwitz, where she was killed.

As for Bettina, this beautiful photograph appears in the Michel photo album.

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Wolfgang located a page in German for the stolperstein placed in her memory in Muelheim-Ruhr.

Stolperstein for Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld

Stolperstein for Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld   By RalfHuels (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

According to this page, Bettina was born in Gau-Algesheim on March 17, 1875, the daughter of Hieronymous Seligmann and Anna Levi.  She attended school in Bingen and married Adolf Arnfeld in 1900.  Adolf was in the fabric and clothing business in Mulheim-Ruhr, and he and Bettina were living there when their son Heinz was born in 1902.  Adolf died in 1927, and Bettina was still living in Mulheim when she was deported to Terezin on July 21, 1942.  She died six months later at Terezin from pneumonia.  Here is yet another chilling death certificate issued by the Nazis.

Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld death certificate from Terezin

Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld death certificate from Terezin

Unfortunately, I was not able to locate these death records while at Terezin so was unable to locate the specific gravesite where Albert Bielefeld and Bettina Arnfeld were buried.

Bettina’s biography also discussed her son Heinz.  After initially working for his father’s company, Heinz became an attorney and worked as a clerk in the court system until dismissed in 1933 under the anti-Semitic laws adopted by the Nazis.  He was imprisoned for a period of time in 1938 at Dachau (mostly likely in the aftermath of Kristallnacht), but was released.  He immigrated to England in 1939, where he married Liselotte Schondorff in 1945.  Heinz died in England on May 4, 1961.  I have not located any descendants.

Based on the photographs and the other information and documentation, I think it is quite evident that both Johanna and Bettina were the daughters of Hieronymous Seligmann, the younger brother of Bernard Seligman, my three-times great-grandfather.

There were two other names I was not certain about when I wrote about the list of heirs to the estate of English James Seligmann: Anna Wolf and Bettina Ochs.  I think I now have answers for those as well, with the help of Wolfgang and the photographs from Suzanne.

The list of heirs to English James Seligman’s estate had listed Anna Wolf right below Johanna Bielefeld and Bettina Arnfeld and referred to Johanna as her aunt.  It also indicated that Anna had died in December 1935 in Mulheim-Ruhr, the town where Bettina had lived.

heirs list p 1

On the Hieronymous family tree from the Westminster Bank, depicted above, one of his daughters, Mathilde Wolf, is listed as having a daughter Anna, who died in 1935. This certainly seems to indicate that the Anna Wolf on the list of heirs was the daughter of Mathilde, sister to both Johanna and Bettina.  That assumption is further supported by this photograph of what appears to be a stock certificate with the name Mathilde Wolf geb. (born) Seligmann written upon it.  I don’t know what happened to Mathilde or her husband or why she herself is not listed as an heir instead of her daughter Anna.

Mathilde Wolf geb Seligmann

There are several photographs of unidentified couples from the Michel album.  Perhaps one of these is Mathilde Seligmann Wolf and her husband; perhaps one is a photograph of Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld and her husband.  I don’t know.  I will post some of these in a subsequent post and ask for help from all of you.

As for Bettina Ochs, I had been quite perplexed by her name on the list of James Seligman’s heirs.  As I wrote, she is listed as Frau Bettina Ochs from Milan, Italy.  Ochs thus appeared to be her married name, so I had thought her birth name must have been Seligmann or Oppenheimer, but the list names her brother as Arthur Erlanger, suggesting that Bettina’s birth name was Erlanger.  So who was she, and how was she related to the Seligmanns?

Heirs List p 2

I was stumped.

Until I saw this photograph:

Emil Ochs and wife, daughter of Mathilde Erlanger geb Seligmann

Emil Ochs and wife, daughter of Mathilde Erlanger geb Seligmann

It says “Emil Ochs and wife, daughter of Mathilde Erlanger nee Seligmann.” So Bettina Ochs was the daughter of a Mathilde Seligmann, who had married someone named Erlanger.  But which Mathilde Seligmann?

Thanks to Wolfgang, I now have an answer.  Wolfgang found a page on Geni.com, another genealogy website, for Mathilde Erlanger nee Seligmann, which identified her as the daughter of Moritz and Babetta Seligmann. I looked back at my notes for the children of Moritz and Babetta, and sure enough there was a daughter named Mathilde for whom I had had no information beyond her birth date of January 31, 1845, which came from the records I’d obtained from Gau-Algesheim.  Now from the Geni page, the list of heirs, and the photograph, I know her married name and the names of her children, Bettina and Arthur, and I know Bettina’s husband’s name, Emil.  Unfortunately, however, I do not know what happened to Mathilde, her husband, Arthur or Bettina and Emil.  I don’t know why Bettina was listed as living in Milan or why she had an English lawyer, according to the list of heirs.  I don’t know why her brother was only listed as a secondary heir.

The only other record I have for Bettina so far is from the JewishGen database labeled “Switzerland, Jewish Arrivals 1938-1945,” which includes a listing for “Bettina Ochs-Erlanger (Bettina Oberdorfer).”  That listing says her nationality was Italian and that she arrived in Switzerland on August 5, 1944.  Where did she go from there?  Why is she also listed as Oberdorfer? What happened to Emil?  I don’t know.

So as always, some questions have been answered, leading to more to be answered.  Next post I will look at some of the other photographs from the album of Fred Michel.

Home Sweet Home

We are back from our trip, and I have so much to say that I don’t even know where or how to start.  Traveling to a different place can change your whole view of the world, of your place in the world, and of yourself.  This trip did that in so many different ways.  I have hundreds of photographs to sort and label, a lot of notes to transcribe and ponder, and so many thoughts and memories floating through my head that I need to write them all down before I forget them.  So I can’t just start blogging in detail about the trip right away.  I will certainly report about the parts of the trip that related directly to my own family—the trip to Poland in particular—once I have it all digested.

For now I have these overall thoughts and a few photographs to share.  First, standing in the former Jewish quarters in Prague, Krakow, Budapest, and Vienna, some of which still have several synagogues (a few even still in operation), is a chilling and horrifying experience.  For me, these places that once bustled with Jewish grandparents, mothers, fathers, and children, going to work and going to school and going to shul, were a graphic and vivid reminder of what the world lost in the Holocaust.  Had it not been for the Nazis, these Jewish communities could and likely would still exist, adding to the culture and economy of these places and of the world just as they did for hundreds of years before their Jewish citizens were murdered.

A street in the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow

A street in the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow

Nothing made this more painfully vivid for me than standing in Tarnobrzeg, the town where my Brotman great-grandparents lived, a town that was once 75% Jewish and where not one Jew lives today.  The only signs that there were once Jews there were a small plaque on the library, a building that had once been the synagogue, and a Star of David near the gate to the neglected Jewish cemetery, where only a handful of headstones remain.

gravestone on the ground in the Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg

gravestone on the ground in the Jewish cemetery in Tarnobrzeg

Second, every person, Jewish or not, should visit Terezin and Auschwitz.  I cannot say more.  The places say it all.  You cannot go to these places and not be changed.  No matter what you may have read or seen or heard about the Holocaust, you cannot be prepared for what you experience walking in those places of terror and death.  I have only two photographs of Terezin and no photographs of Auschwitz.  I could not bear to think about taking a photograph while standing where so many were slaughtered.

Terezin

Terezin

Third, I had little idea what life was like under Soviet domination in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary until we met several people who had lived during that era.  We were lucky to have guides in Prague, Poland, and Budapest who had witnessed the changes and were able to describe to us how different life was before and after the Soviets left in the late 1980s, early 1990s.  Today all these places are clearly capitalist, for better in many ways, for worse in others.  Seeing Starbucks and McDonalds and KFC everywhere amidst the old buildings in these gorgeous cities is jolting, but much better than seeing empty store windows and children forced to march at rallies to support the “state.”

Despite all the sadness that we felt as we learned about the past in these places, overall we experienced these cities as places of joyfulness, liveliness, and overall comfort.  Yes, there were beggars and homeless people, especially in Budapest, and I am sure that outside the areas where tourists congregate there is plenty of poverty and misery.  But each of the cities we visited were beautiful places filled with incredible and fascinating architecture, a huge number of cafes and restaurants and bars, museums teeming with people, cobblestone streets crowded with tourists and tour groups, and the sounds of happy, excited people.  There was music everywhere—in the streets, in the churches, and in the concert halls.

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

We had an incredible time.  Our tears and sadness were well-balanced with times of pure joy—climbing the tower to see all of Prague, clapping to Klezmer music in Krakow, walking along the river in Budapest, and eating unbelievable pastries in Vienna.  We heard music in every city, we stood in awe in Gothic cathedrals, we watched people laughing and drinking and eating in the cafes, and we walked and walked and walked until our feet were numb.  We had an incredible time.

Musikverein in Vienna

Musikverein in Vienna