My Fifth Cousin Matthew, Ruth Blumenfeld Friedman’s Grandson

Happy 2023, everyone! For today’s post I am updating a post I wrote back in April 2022. Thank you to my cousin Matthew Steinhart for making this post possible.

Back on April 22, 2022, I wrote about the children of Meier Blumenfeld III and Emma Oppenheim and the teamwork it took to locate their three daughters, Gertrud, Ruth (also known as Bertha), and Hanna. Meier, my second cousin, three times removed, was the son of Giedel Blumenfeld, Isaak’s daughter, and her first cousin, once removed, Gerson Blumenfeld I (not to be confused with Giedel’s brother Gerson Blumenfeld II, whose story I just completed.)

Meier and Emma and their family were destroyed by the Holocaust. Of the five of them, only Ruth managed to escape from Germany in time to survive the Holocaust. The others were all murdered by the Nazis.

Ruth immigrated to the US and settled in New York City, where she married Leo Friedman on March 21, 1942, as I wrote about here. Ruth and Leo had two children, and I was recently contacted by one of Ruth and Leo’s grandsons, Matthew Steinhart, son of Eileen Dinah Friedman Steinhart.

Matthew works in video production and is the manager of the video production team at the United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Washington, DC.1 He created three short videos about his search to learn more about his grandparents and their families. With his permission and courtesy of the USHMM, I can provide links to those three videos. They are very touching, and I highly recommend you spend the time watching them.

Matthew also shared some wonderful photographs of his grandmother and her family and generously has allowed me to share them on the blog. He also shared some family stories and other information to fill in some of the holes in the story of Ruth and her family that were left unanswered in my April 22, 2022 post.

One of those unanswered questions involved the fate of Ruth’s sister Gertrud. Yad Vashem reported that she had been killed in the Holocaust, but an Arolsen Archive document indicated that she and two children had left for the US. Which was true? Sadly, Matthew confirmed for me that the Yad Vashem information was accurate. He wrote that “the story I was told of Gertrud was that she and her husband and children intended to leave but Erwin, her husband, had an eye condition which prevented him from emigrating. Gertrud refused to leave without him, and eventually all four were deported to Lodz. All four perished.”2

I also asked Matthew about Ruth’s younger sister Hanna because again there were records that suggested she had escaped the Holocaust because she had a visa for Cuba. But Matthew had to confirm that Hanna was in fact killed in the Holocaust. He wrote that he was told that “she and her husband [Siegfried Levi] took a train to Portugal with the intent to emigrate to Cuba. In fact, Hanna had sent some of her furniture and clothing to Ruth in anticipation for her eventual arrival to the US. Apparently, this train was stopped and turned around to France. Both were put into slave labor camps. Hanna was eventually deported to Auschwitz and died. Her husband survived and emigrated from Luxembourg.”3

Matthew’s grandmother Ruth was sponsored by her aunt Bella Oppenheim Marx, her mother’s sister, and was the only one who was able to leave Germany and get to the US safely.4

Matthew has a large collection of old photographs of the family, but unfortunately, he has been only able to identify the people in a limited number of those photographs. I am sharing only those he could label with certainty. Most of those are of his grandparents, Ruth Blumenfeld and Leo Friedman.

Here are two photographs of Ruth, one as a baby and the other as a toddler.

Ruth Blumenfeld, c. 1920. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Ruth Blumenfeld, c. 1922 Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

These two photos show Ruth as a younger adult, but are undated. They may have been taken in the US since Ruth was nineteen when she immigrated, but they also might have been taken in Germany. We do not know who the woman is on the left in the first photo or who the child is in the second.

Ruth Blumenfeld on right. Date and place unknown. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Ruth Blumenfeld with unknown child. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

The next photograph is of Ruth and Leo with Ruth’s aunt, Bella Oppenheim Marx, the woman who sponsored Ruth when she left Germany in 1940. I am sorry the image is so small.

Bella Oppenheim Marx, Leo Friedman, and Ruth Blumenfeld Friedman. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

This next group of photographs were taken in 1972 when Ruth and Leo visited their respective hometowns in Germany. Unfortunately we cannot identify who the couple is standing with Ruth or where these photos were taken—presumably either Bad Hersfeld, where Ruth grew up, or Crailsheim, Leo’s hometown.

Ruth Blumenfeld and Leo Friedman, 1972, in Germany. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Ruth and Leo in Germany, 1972 Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Ruth with unknown couple, 1972, in Germany. Courtesy of Matthew Steinhart

Speaking of Bad Hersfeld, here is a postcard depicting the town sent to the family of Leo Friedman in Forest Hills, New York, from someone named Minna.. I can’t decipher the date on the postmark, but it must have been written after June 1, 1963, because that is when the US adopted zip codes.

Thank you to Simone Simiot of the GerSIG Facebook group for translating the message on the card; she said that Minna wrote that she had moved and gave her new address. She said it was fine that she moved because Dudenstrasse had become too busy and noisy. She also said that she could have moved in with her son Josef but she doesn’t want to be away/move from her pretty Bad Hersfeld. And she sent regards to Tante Bella—Aunt Bella Oppenheim Marx. I don’t know who Minna is, but if she was a relative, she must have been related to Ruth’s mother.

Since there are so many other photographs that Matthew cannot provide labels for, I have suggested that he contact Ava Cohn a/k/a Sherlock Cohn, the photogenealogist, for help in identifying the people in the other photographs. I hope that he has success doing that.

I am very grateful to my cousin Matthew for sharing his videos, his photographs, and his stories with me. It is always good to be able to have faces to put with the names and answers to questions, but it is especially meaningful to be able to connect with a new cousin who can share all this with me.

  1. Email from Matthew Steinhart, September 24, 2022. 
  2. Email from Matthew Steinhart, October 11, 2022. 
  3. Ibid. 
  4. Ibid. I will be writing more about Bella in an upcoming post.