Tragedy and Escape: The Story of Helene Schnadig Cohn and Her Children

We saw in the last post that Henriette Katzenstein Schnadig’s youngest child Elsa survived the Holocaust as did her husband Salomon Cats and their two sons. Elsa’s two older sisters Helene and Betty were not as fortunate.

Elsa’s sister Helene Schnadig and her husband Emil Cohn were both murdered by the Nazis. According to their residency registration cards at the Amsterdam archives, Helene and Emil moved from Hamburg to Hilversum in the Netherlands on January 2, 1939, and then to Rotterdam on September 11, 1939, ten days after the start of World War II. They then returned to Hilversum on November 9, 1940. Eventually they returned to Amsterdam on July 17, 1942.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 721 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22schnadig%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

According to a Judenrat card found in the Arolsen Archives, Emil and Helene were taken to the detention camp at Westerbork on January 8, 1943. From there they were taken to the concentration camp in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, on January 20, 1944. Then on October 28, 1944, they were taken from Terezin to the death camp at Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Emil was 74, Helene 63.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.1 Camps and Ghettos / 1.1.42 Theresienstadt Ghetto /
1.1.42.2 Card File Theresienstadt / 4966533/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Miraculously, however, Helene and Emil Cohn’s four children all survived, although my information about them is somewhat limited. Meta, their oldest child, was married to Salomon Pregers, who was born in Rotterdam on October 8, 1885, son of Salomon Pregers and Isabelle Therese de Groot.1 Meta and Salomon were married in Hamburg on May 14, 1926, according to their Amsterdam residency card.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 159 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22meta%20cohn%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

That residency card indicates that Salomon and Meta came from Hamburg to Hilversum on June 3, 1926, a few weeks after their wedding. They remained in the Netherlands, eventually moving to Amsterdam in February 1943, not long after Meta’s parents were taken to Westerbork.

Salomon and Meta were registered with the Judenrat in Amsterdam, as reflected on these three cards. It appears that Salomon had been a teacher at a Jewish school. I can’t decipher much more than that.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

UPDATE: Bert de Jong pointed out that both these cards have the designation “gesperrt,” meaning that Meta and Salomon had been marked as exempt from deportation by the Judenrat, Salomon because of his former occupation as a teacher and his education, and Meta based on her husband’s exemption.

UPDATE from Rob Ruijs: Rob examined these three cards very carefully and provided some analysis. One interesting observation he made about Salomon Pregers was that he may have grown up in poverty and achieved success through higher education.  Rob also deciphered much of that third card with three entries for February 2, 1943. It appears that Salomon (and presumably Meta) were moving between Amsterdam and the town of Den Bosch, which is about an hour south of Amsterdam or that there was some confusion about where they were living.

The Amsterdam residency cards above indicate that both Meta and Salomon left for Germany (Duitschland) in March 1945. I would think that means they were deported then since I cannot imagine that any Jew would have gone to Germany willingly in March, 1945, but I have no record of any deportation, and I know that they survived the war.  Meta was listed as a person searching for relatives in an article in the June 15, 1945, issue of Aufbau. The words at the top translate as:

“The following list which we have received from the ITA [the International Tracing Agency] only reveals a part of the Jews found in Holland after the final liberation who are looking for relatives. In cases in which a closer address of the searcher is not given, they can be reached through the Red Cross.”

Meta Cohn Pregers in Aufbau June 15, 1945, p. 25, http://archive.org/stream/aufbau111945germ#page/n387/mode/1up

Although Meta and Salomon thus survived the war, it was not for very many years. Meta Cohn Pregers died on March 21, 1952, in Hilversum.2 Her husband Salomon Pregers died a month later on April 22, 1952, in Hilversum.3 He was 66 when he died, Meta was only 51. I have been unable to find a record of any children.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rob Ruijs for alerting me to the fact that there were death notices for Meta and Salomon that I could find on Delpher.nl. Given that neither death notice mentioned children, it appears that they did not have any.

New Israelite weekly
28-03-1952

New Israelite weekly
April 25, 1952

Meta’s younger brother Siegbert immigrated to Brazil in 1939; he arrived with his four-year-old daughter Ursula. I could not locate a woman traveling with him who might have been his wife, nor I have I yet found any further records for Siegbert or Ursula.

Siegbert Cohn, Digital GS Number: 004542471, Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

The third child of Helene and Emil Cohn, their daughter Hertha Johanna, married James Horwitz, a kosher butcher, on February 21, 1928, in Hamburg. James was born on November 10, 1895, in Hamburg, the son of Hermann Horwitz and Johanna Tannenberg.4 James and Hertha immigrated to Rotterdam inthe Netherlands from Berlin on March 15, 1939, and to Amsterdam in March of 1940.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 367 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22james%20horwitz%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

On July 17, 1940, they were both taken to the detention camp in Westerbork. According to entries in the Terezin Memorial database, both James and Hertha were deported to the Terezin concentration camp on September 4, 1944. James was then taken from Terezin to Auschwitz on September 29, 1944, but Hertha was not. The Terezin Memorial entry indicates that she was liberated from Terezin and survived.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.1 Camps and Ghettos / 1.1.42 Theresienstadt Ghetto /
1.1.42.2 Card File Theresienstadt /Ghetto Theresienstadt Card File
Reference Code 11422001/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

As for James’ fate, the records conflict. Some say he was killed at the death camp in Mauthausen in Austria on April 6, 1945.5 One nephew filed a Page of Testimony saying he was shot near Berlin in March 1945 as the camp inmates were being marched out of Auschwitz.  In either event, James Horwitz was murdered by the Nazis in the spring of 1945 right before the war ended.

In 1957, Hertha was living in Rotterdam when she traveled to Brazil, presumably to visit her brother Siegbert. She listed her marital status as “casada” or married, and the surname Van Thijn was added to her name, so Hertha must have remarried after the war. That is the only information I’ve found about her at this point.

UPDATE: Thank you to Rob Ruijs for reminding me to check Delpher.nl where I found a death notice for Salomon van Thijn published by H. J. van Thijn-Cohen, obviously Hertha. The death notice reads in part, “With sadness I announce the passing of my beloved caring husband Salomon van Thijn in his 87th year, March 18, 1982.” This death notice does not mention children or refer to Salomon as a father so I assume they, like Meta and Salomon Pregers, did not have children.

NRC Handelsblad
20-03-1982

Digital GS Number: 004916498, Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Lissy Sitta Cohn, the fourth and youngest of the Cohn siblings, ended up in England during the war. In 1939 she was living in Birmingham, working as a domestic servant.

Lissy Cohn, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/5600D, Enumeration District: QBUI, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register

Lissy Cohn, enemy alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/14
Piece Number Description: 014: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Cohn-Cz
Ancestry.com. UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945

She may have returned to Germany after the war because in 1946 she immigrated to Brazil and listed her last residence as Hamburg and her nationality as Alema or German. However, her passport was issued from London. She indicated that her intention was to stay in Brazil permanently and that she was a nurse (enfermeira). As with her siblings, I have no further details about Lissy’s life.

Digital GS Number: 004542185
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Thus, although the Nazis murdered Helene Schnadig and Emil Cohn, they did not murder any of their four children. But the stories of those four children are not entirely complete. I do not know whether there are living descendants of Helene and Emil, so there is still much work to be done.

 

 


  1.  Salomon Pregers, Birth Date: 1885, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Father: Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabelle Therese de Groot, Stadsarchief Rotterdam; Den Haag, Nederland; BS Birth, Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917. Original data: BS Geboorte. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. Child:
    Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabelle Therese de Groot Father: Salomon Pregers
    Date of birth: 8-10-1885, Birthplace:  Rotterdam Access number: 999-01 Civil Registry Rotterdam, birth certificates, Inventory number: 1885D, Folio number: d045v Deed number: 1885.3822 
  2.  Meta Cohn, Age: 50, Birth Date: abt 1902, Birth Place: Hamburg, Death Date: 21 mrt 1952 (21 Mar 1952), Death Place: Hilversum, Father: Emil Cohn, Mother: Helene Schnadig, Noord-Hollands Archief; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  3.  Salomon Pregers, Age: 66, Birth Date: abt 1886, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Death Date: 22 apr 1952, Death Place: Hilversum, Father: Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabella Therese de Groot, Noord-Hollands Archief; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  4. James Horwitz birth record, Year Range and Volume: 1895 Band 06, Ancestry.com. Hamburg, Germany, Births, 1874-1901. Original data:Best. 332-5 Standesämter, Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister, 1876-1950, Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg, Deutschland. 
  5. James Israel Horwitz, Birth Date: 10 Nov 1895, Birth Place: Hamburg, Mauthaus #: 134330, Nationality: staatenlos (Stateless), Arrest Reason: Jude (Jew), Night and Fog: No, Profession: Fleischer (Butcher), Death Date: 6 Apr 1945, Arrival Date: 26-Feb-45
    Source: AMM E/13/12/9; Y/36;Mauthausen Gedenkstätte. Austria, Mauthausen/Gusen Concentration Camp Death Record Books , 1938-1945. The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Microfilm: A3355; ARC: 596972; Title: Lists and Registers of German Concentration Camp Inmates, 1946 – 1958; Record Group: 242; Record Group Title: National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675 – 1958, Record Description: Records on Prisoners, Gat-Ji, Source Information
    Ancestry.com. Germany, Concentration Camp Records, 1946-1958. Also, some records at Yad Vashem show that James Horwitz was at Mauthausen. His Stolpersteine in Berlin also says that he died at Mauthausen. 

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