Two of The Less Fortunate Children of Jakob Katzenstein: Schalum and Rebecca

I will now return to the children of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion. I had already discussed their first two children and their descendants: Gelle and Mina.

Mina Katzenstein’s children and descendants were remarkably fortunate in many ways. They survived the Holocaust by escaping from Germany during the 1930s. Some went to the United States, some to South America, and some to South Africa. I don’t mean to say they were lucky. They were all torn from their homes and all that they knew and undoubtedly subjected to harassment and discrimination before they left and some painful adjustments after they left. But they did survive.  As we’ve seen, that was not true for many of the descendants of Mina’s sibling Gelle.

Now we can explore the fate of the other seven children of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion. Unfortunately, many of them do not have happy endings.

The third child of my great-great-grandfather’s brother Jakob Katzenstein and his wife Sarchen Lion was their first son, Schalum Abraham Katzenstein, named for his grandfather, Jakob’s father and my three-times great-grandfather, Scholem Katzenstein. Jakob and Sarchen’s son Schalum was born in February, 1834, in Jesberg, according to the report of Reverend Bach provided to me by Barbara Greve.

Reverend Bach family sheet for Jakob Katzenstein

Schalum only lived to be 25. He died on July 7, 1859, in Jesberg. He is buried at Haarhausen cemetery, where I visited in May and took this photograph of his gravestone:

Jacob Katzenstein’s son, Schalum Katzenstein

The inscription was very faded, but it had been transcribed years ago on the LAGIS site from Hebrew to German, and Barbara Greve translated the German translation of inscription on the headstone for me into English. It describes Schalum as “a lovable youth of a beautiful stature who avoided evil and was attached to the good. He was quick and nimble in his work in the short time of his work. And there came death, and gathered him there in the blossom of his youth.” How bittersweet.

Jakob and Sarchen’s fourth child was Rebecca Katzenstein. According to her death certificate and the report of Reverend Bach, Rebecca was born on July 6, 1836. I was not able to locate a marriage record for Rebecca, but sometime before August, 1866, Rebecca married Wolf Lamm of Ober-Gleen, Germany. According to his death record, Wolf was the son of Joseph Lamm and Hanna Goldschmidt and was born in Ober-Glenn in about 1833.

Rebecca and Wolf had two children, Karoline, born August 4, 1866, in Ober-Gleen, and Joseph (obviously named for his paternal grandfather), born July 9, 1870, in Ober-Gleen.

Wolf died before either of his children married.  He died on March 13, 1897, in Ober-Gleen. He was 64 years old.

Wolf Lamm death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 921; Laufende Nummer: 717

Their daughter Karoline married Seligmann Hoexter on March 3, 1908, in Ober-Gleen; he was born February 7, 1858, in Gemuenden, Germany, and had been previously married and widowed. Karoline was 41 when she married Seligmann, and he was fifty. They did not have any children.

Karoline Lamm andSeligmann Hoexter marriage record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 921; Laufende Nummer: 715

Joseph Lamm, Karoline’s brother, married Bertha Baum on November 24, 1901. Bertha was born June 10, 1877, in Gielhausen, daughter of Abraham Baum and Gretchen Kaiser.

Marriage record of Joseph Lamm and Bertha Baum
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 905; Laufende Nummer: 317

Joseph and Bertha had two sons, Willi, born November 15, 1902, in Ober-Gleen, and Nathan, born December 21, 1903, also in Ober-Gleen.

Rebecca Katzenstein Lamm lived to see her children marry and her two grandsons born. She died on February 20, 1915, in Ober-Gleen at age 74.

Rebekka Katzenstein Lamm death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 921; Laufende Nummer: 717

Just three years later, Rebecca’s daughter Karoline died on January 11, 1918, making her husband Seligmann a widower for the second time. Karoline was only 51 years old.

Karoline Lamm Hoexter death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 922; Signatur: 4233

Seligmann Hoexter died twenty years later on October 12, 1938. He was eighty years old and died at the Jewish community hospital in Frankfurt.

Unfortunately, all but one of the remaining family members were killed in the Holocaust. Joseph Lamm and his wife Bertha Baum Lamm were deported first to Theriesenstadt on September 1, 1942. Joseph was then taken to Treblinka, where he was murdered on September 29, 1942. Bertha died at Theriesenstadt on December 17, 1942.

Their older son, Willi, was killed at the concentration camp in Majdanek, Poland, on July 16, 1942. He was thirty-nine years old. Thanks to Linda Silverman Shefler, who is also related to the Lamm family of Ober-Gleen, I was able to learn that Willi had married Berta Dub, and she also was killed at Majdanek.  Neither Linda nor I have been able to find any children born to Willi and Berta, although I did find Berta’s sister’s family and hope to learn more from them. (The links are all to their entries in the Yad Vashem database.)

The only descendant of Rebecca Katzenstein and Wolf Lamm to survive the Holocaust was their younger grandson, Nathan, Willi’s brother. Nathan had left Germany before Hitler even came to power. He had arrived in New York on November 27, 1927, reporting that he was a tailor and that he was going to a friend in Buffalo named Henry Geissler, who had been in the US since 1923 and was also from Ober-Gleen.

Nathan Lamm 1927 passenger manifest Year: 1927; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4175; Line: 1; Page Number: 35 Description Ship or Roll Number : Roll 4175 Source Information Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

At first I had no luck finding Nathan on the 1930 census, but then I found his naturalization papers, which indicated that he was using the name Max Nathan Lamm:

Nathan Max Lamm naturalization papers
The National Archives at Atlanta; Morrow, Georgia, USA; 2217062; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21
Description
Description : Greenville Petitions 1911-1965 (Box 6)
Source Information
Ancestry.com. South Carolina, Naturalization Records, 1868-1991

Using the name Max Lamm to search for him, I found him in Buffalo in 1930, working as a laborer in a bakery and living as a boarder with two other men who were also working in the bakery:

Max Lamm 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Buffalo, Erie, New York; Roll: 1428; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0182; FHL microfilm: 2341163

In 1940, Max Lamm was still in Buffalo, living in a large guest house and working as a laborer in building construction.

Max Lamm 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Buffalo, Erie, New York; Roll: T627_2824; Page: 82A; Enumeration District: 64-73

He enlisted in the US Army on December 1, 1942, and while in the army, he petitioned for citizenship, as the document above reveals. He was apparently stationed in South Carolina when he filed his petition.

After serving in the military for the United States during World War II, Max Nathan Lamm returned to Buffalo, New York; he is listed in Buffalo directories for 1957 and  1960, working as an employee of the Red Star Express, a trucking company.

Max Nathan Lamm died in 1968 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. He was 64 years old. It does not appear that he ever married or had children, and he had lost his brother and both his parents during the Holocaust. He was the only surviving descendant of Rebecca Katzenstein and Wolf Lamm, and he died without survivors.

Courtesy of Jay Boone
Find A Grave Memorial# 82841920

Thus, neither Schalum or Rebecca Katzenstein has any living descendants.

The fifth child of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion was their daughter Johanna. Her story is covered in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:2:SB2K-RMP : 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 Ancestry.com)

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.

Cruising to Cologne

 

On Friday, May 5, our fourth day in Germany, we left the Mainz-Bingen region behind and took a three hour cruise on the Rhine from Bingen to Koblenz.  The weather was still quite dreary and cool, but the views out the window was nevertheless quite scenic—castles, little towns clustered at the shoreline, high cliffs and fields, and other boats cruising on the river.  It was very peaceful and relaxing, just what we needed after several very full and exciting days.

Burg Ehrenfels

We disembarked in Koblenz and walked through that city for an hour or so before taking a train to our next major stop, Cologne or Köln, as it is called in German.

Koblenz

Deutsches Eck where the Moselle meets the Rhine in Koblenz

Once we got to the Cologne train station, we realized we had no idea how far our hotel was, so we checked Google Maps on my phone and were delighted to see that our hotel, the Marriott, was just a short few blocks away.  Although the Marriott is a large, American-style hotel, we were not very pleased with it.  I won’t get into details here, but if anyone is planning a trip to Cologne, check with us first.  The best thing about it was its location. We should not have “played it safe” and chosen a known brand.  Live and learn.

Nevertheless, we very much enjoyed the two days we had in Cologne.  The first night we had dinner at a very chic Italian restaurant, Da Damiano.  It wasn’t far from the hotel, but somehow we got a bit twisted around looking for it.  But that gave us our first glimpse of the Dom, the huge Gothic cathedral that dominates everything in Cologne.  The Dom dwarfs all the churches we’d seen before and even cathedrals we had seen in other cities such as Milan and Paris.  It is awesome in the literal sense of the word.  And you can see its spires almost anywhere in the city.

Cologne Dom

The following morning we went to the Ludwig Museum, which is almost right behind the Dom.  (The Dom quickly became our point of orientation for anything in the city.) The Ludwig is an extremely well-planned museum with lots of light and open space and a very impressive and enjoyable collection of 20th century art.  There were many works by Picasso including a very provocative sculpture of a mother pushing a child in a stroller, a rich collection of Expressionist and Surrealist artists, and a collection of art that had been rescued by a collector during the 1930s when Hitler condemned all modern art as degenerate and corrupt.

But the piece that really took us aback was a lifelike sculpture of a modern-dressed woman staring at art in one of the galleries.  Both of us had at first thought it was an actual person and only realized it was a sculpture on a second or third look.  It really made us think about what is art and what is real and how we often walk by real people without realizing they are real.

Woman with a Purse, Sculpture, by Duane Hanson (1974) at Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany Photo found on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/26317979044298519/

In the afternoon we went on a walking tour of Cologne with Free Walk Cologne (there is no fee, but tips are encouraged early and often).  Julian, our tour guide, was fluent in English and very engaging, knowledgeable, and entertaining.  We met at the Eigenstein Tur, one of the old Roman gates that still exist in the city, and our group was made up of people from Switzerland, Poland, Ecuador, and Scotland, as well as Philadelphia and California.  Julian provided us with some background in Cologne’s long history—it was once a military garrison during the Roman Empire, and a woman from Cologne married the Emperor and made Cologne an important outpost in the empire.  Julian claimed that Cologne still had more of an Italian feel to it—more laidback and liberal than most of Germany.

Eigenstein Tur

We also learned that one of the reasons Cologne has such a tremendous cathedral is that the remains of the Three Kings are kept there.  That made Cologne a pilgrimage destination long ago and thus a wealthy city filled even in early times with constant visitors.

The symbol of Cologne —the three crowns for the Three Kings and eleven tears for the eleven virgins killed by Attila the Hun

Julian then skipped to modern times and informed us that over 90% of Cologne had been destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II and that the city was rebuilt as cheaply and quickly as possible after the war, leaving it with buildings that are eclectic in style and not very well-planned.  People were allowed to build whatever they wanted, including a building that is only two meters wide.

Two meter wide building on Eigenstein Strasse

Eigenstein Strasse

Mural by artists protesting the takeover of space in Cologne by media corporations

Many immigrants from Greece and Turkey came to Cologne after the war to do this rebuilding as the male population of Cologne had been greatly reduced by wartime casualties.  These immigrants stayed, giving Cologne a diversity that was for a long time unusual for Germany.  (Now there are many immigrants living in Germany from all over the world.)

We saw a church, St Maria Himmelfahrt, that was bombed during the war and restored afterwards:

before the war

after bombing during WW II

Today

St Maria Himmelfahrte

Perhaps the most bizarre thing we saw was a Roman wall that was discovered in recent years during excavation for a parking lot near the Dom.  The wall was preserved and now can be seen in the middle of a modern parking lot.

Roman wall in parking lot under the Dom

There was also a Roman floor mosaic discovered nearby, and that also can be seen today by looking into the window of the city’s archaeological museum.

Roman mosaic

Our last major stop with Julian was the Dom itself.  He explained how it took over 600 years for the cathedral to be completed—with a three hundred year gap when nothing was done.  It was started in the 13th century and not completed until the 19th.  I’ve already mentioned how awesome the Dom is from the outside—the interior is equally breathtaking.  The height of the vaults, the almost delicate feel of the structure, and the stained glass windows are magnificent.

After the tour we had a beer along the Rhine with a few people from the tour and then returned to our hotel before dinner in the Belgian Quarter where we once again had Italian food.  That made it our third night in a row eating pasta plus the lunch in Gau-Algesheim—and it wouldn’t stop there.  German food just didn’t work for us—too much meat, too little fish.  It’s a real challenge for someone who is kosher and lactose intolerant. So we ate mostly Italian food throughout the trip.  And it was very good.  On the other hand, we also ate a lot of delicious German bread, pastries, and pretzels and drank wonderful German beer.  My favorite lunch was a fresh German roll with either a hard-boiled egg or smoked salmon.  I learned that salmon in German in Lachs—hence, the Yiddish term “lox.”  Believe me, we ate quite well—too well!

Marketplace in Cologne

People relaxing along the Rhine

Our second day in Cologne focused on its Jewish past and present.

Annlis Schäfer Seligmann 1924-2017

We have returned from our trip to Germany, and I have many things to share about the experience.  It was a trip filled with many joyous moments as well as many sad and heartbreaking moments.  One of the greatest joys and definitely the saddest moment involved Annlis Seligmann, mother of my dear cousin Wolfgang.

Annlis and Wolfgang

When Wolfgang found my blog almost two and half years ago, it was the result of a family research project he was sharing with his mother.  Annlis was not born a Seligmann; she was born Annlis Schäfer on April 12, 1924.  But in 1965 she married Wolfgang’s father Walter Seligmann, who died in 1993, and she was fascinated with the history of his family.  When the Seligmann family discovered the “magic suitcase” that had belonged to Walter’s brother Herbert, Annlis and Wolfgang began to search through the documents to learn more about the Seligmann family history.  Because Wolfgang could not read the old German script, Annlis had to decipher many of the old records and documents for him.

At some point in this process, Wolfgang discovered my blog, and together the three of us—Annlis, Wolfgang, and I—all worked together to find many of the missing pieces of the Seligmann family.  We were able to figure out how many of the people named in those documents were related to us all.  Without their help, I would not have found many of the Seligmanns who died in the Holocaust or who, like my cousins Lotte Wiener Furst and Fred Michel, were able to escape Germany before it was too late.

So when I was planning my trip to Germany, one of my priorities was to meet not only Wolfgang, his wife Bärbel, and daughter Milena, but also his mother Annlis.  We arrived in Germany on May 2, and the first thing we were scheduled to do on May 3 was meet Annlis.  We went with Wolfgang to the senior residence where she was living in Mainz (like an assisted living facility in the US) first thing that morning. Annlis did not speak English, so I was able to test my baby German.  With Wolfgang’s help, we were able to communicate.

She and Wolfgang showed me some family photographs, and I shared with her photographs of my parents, children, and grandchildren.  We looked through the magic suitcase together (there are still hundreds of letters and postcards still to be translated). Despite the language obstacles, I felt a strong connection to Annlis and was sad to say goodbye when our visit ended.

Annlis had been in declining health in recent months.  Her vision had become so poor that she could no longer read and help translate the documents, but she remained very interested in the family history and, according to Wolfgang, had been very anxious to meet me.  After our visit, she expressed to Wolfgang how happy she had been to meet me.  I was so touched and, of course, felt the same way.

So you can imagine my shock when less than ten days later while still in Germany, I received a message from Wolfgang telling me that his mother had died.  I was stunned and so sad.  And heartbroken for Wolfgang and his family.

Annlis lived a long and full life.  From Wolfgang I know that she grew up in Mainz where she also lived for the last five years of her life.  During World War II, she was working in Bingen.  In September, 1944, she witnessed the murder of an American soldier, Odis Lee Apple, whose plane had been shot down and crashed nearby.  As described here by Wolfgang himself on the website for the radio station where he works, the caretaker for the building where Annlis worked notified the people in the office that an American soldier was walking on the street outside the building.

Annlis and three of her co-workers left the building and followed Apple, whom she described as a man with a friendly face.  Then suddenly the building’s caretaker rushed out onto the street in his SA uniform and shot Apple.  He did not die right away, but was suffering terribly from the gunshot wound.  At some point someone else shot him, and he died.

Street in Bingen where Annlis worked and witnessed the murder of Odis Lee Apple

After the war, the US Army investigated Apple’s death; Annlis provided testimony, and several people were sentenced to prison.  The caretaker, however, had died not long after the shooting during a bombing attack on Bingen.

According to Wolfgang, his mother never forgot this incident and was horrified by what she had witnessed. Even though at that point the US was at war against Germany, Annlis knew it was wrong to kill someone in cold blood like that.

Tribute to Odis Lee Apple at the spot where he was shot

It was not until twenty years after the war that Annlis married Walter Seligmann in 1965.  Together they raised their son Wolfgang in a neighborhood outside of Mainz in an apartment overlooking the valley.  She lived in that apartment until five years before her death when she moved to the building where I met with her on May 3.

Annlis Seligmann lived a good and long life; she had just turned 93 a month before her death.  I feel so privileged and fortunate that I was able to be a part of her life in the last two years and especially that I was able to meet her in person, share some time with her, and give her a hug.  My heart goes out to Wolfgang, Bärbel, Milena, and the entire extended family.  May her memory be a blessing.

 

 

Ernest Lion’s The Fountain at the Crossroad: An Unforgettable Book

I am very excited to announce that Ernest Lion’s memoir, The Fountain at the Crossroad, has now been published and is available on Amazon.com both as a paperback ($10.50) and an ebook ($2.99). [UPDATE: the Kindle version is now available!] It has been my honor and privilege to bring this book to the public with the permission and assistance of Ernest’s son Tom.  I did this because I found the book unforgettable and because I don’t want Ernest or his life to be forgotten.  Tom and I are not deriving any financial gain from sales of the book. All net proceeds received from sales of the book will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in memory of Ernest Lion.

I have written about some aspects of Ernest’s life on the blog as he was married to my cousin, Liesel Mosbach, granddaughter of Rosalie Schoenthal, my grandfather’s sister.  Ernest and Liesel were deported from Germany to Auschwitz in early 1943; Liesel was murdered there, but Ernest survived.

The story of what he endured and how he survived is moving and horrifying.  His determination and courage in the face of unimaginable suffering is a story of what it means to be human when you are surrounded by inhumanity. And Ernest’s escape from the Nazis kept me on the edge of my seat even though I knew that he would survive.

But the book is not only about Ernest’s experience during the Holocaust.  It also tells the story of his childhood growing up with his parents in Germany and of his early adulthood when he dreamed of being an actor.  In addition, Ernest wrote about his life after the war—how he rebuilt his life in the US, starting all over, scarred by his experiences, but nevertheless determined to have a full and meaningful life.

Ernest only started talking about his Holocaust experiences late in his life, and then he was persuaded to write his memoirs.  In doing so, he relived much of the pain, but also reached a very poignant conclusion about the value of his own life.

If you have an interest in history, in World War II, in the Holocaust, in fact, if you have an interest in human beings and what they are made of, you should read this book. You can find it here.

Imprisoned on the Isle of Man

Some of my readers were disturbed, as was I, to learn that England imprisoned Jewish refugees in internment camps on the Isle of Man during World War II; one of those imprisoned was my cousin Ilse Gross, daughter of Karl Gross, as I wrote about here.

By one of those strange incidences of serendipity, someone on the JewishGen listserv and on one of my Facebook groups today posted a link to a recent story on the B’nai Brith International website about these camps.  It gives a much fuller picture of the history of the camps, what conditions were like, and why England did this.  It demonstrates how fear can lead us to do things that are fundamentally unfair and discriminatory, judging people by their race, religion, or national origin.

Here is one excerpt from the article.  You can find the rest here:

On May 27, 1940, Isle of Man residents gathered behind barricades at the docks, witnessing the arrival of the first 823 prisoners. Leaving the boat under armed guard, they included German Nazi sympathizers, mixed in with Jewish men in their 20s and 30s, as well as a few school boys, conspicuous in short pants. They would set the pattern for those coming in the next weeks and months, assigned to camps located in Ramsey, Douglas, Onchan and other seaside spots. Cleared of tourists, ordered to leave behind their sports equipment for the inmates, quaint Victorian rooming houses and private hotels were grouped together and ringed with barbed wire to form compounds. In some, Jews and Nazis shared the same spaces.

Additional information can be found at the following links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutchinson_Internment_Camp

http://www.manxnationalheritage.im/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/CG4-Internment_Web.pdf

http://timewitnesses.org/english/IsleOfMan.html

In Memory of Murray Leonard: May 4, 1922-March 27, 2016

Murray Leonard

Murray Leonard

My second cousin Richard Leonard contacted me to let me know that his father, Murray Leonard (born Murray Leonard Goldschlager) had passed away on March 27, 2016, in Tucson, Arizona.  Murray was my mother’s first cousin.  He was the son of David Goldschlager, my grandfather’s younger brother, and Rebecca Schwarz.  He was named for his grandfather, my great-grandfather Moritz Lieb Goldschlager, and shared the same Hebrew name with his first cousin, my uncle Maurice Goldschlager.

I never had the chance to meet Murray, but I know from Richard how well loved he was.  With Richard’s permission, I am quoting from Murray’s obituary and Richard’s own personal tribute:

Murray Leonard, 93, of Tucson, Arizona, passed away peacefully on March 27th 2016. He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on May 4th 1922.

Murray grew up in The Bronx, following all the NY Yankee greats.

David Rebecca Sidney and Murray at Brighton Beach

Murray, Sidney, Rebecca and David Goldschlager at Brighton Beach

David and Murray Goldschlager

David and Murray Leonard Goldschlager

 

When World War Two broke out he answered his country’s call to duty as a PFC in the US Army (83rd Reconnaissance Troup, 83rd Division), participating in the Battle of the Bulge, sustaining injuries and was awarded a Purple Heart.

Ancestry.com. U.S., WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 1942-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Original data: Alphabetical Master Cards, 1942–1947; Series VI, Card Files—Bureau of War Records, Master Index Cards, 1943–1947; National Jewish Welfare Board, Bureau of War Records, 1940–1969; I-52; boxes 273–362. New York, New York: American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History.

Ancestry.com. U.S., WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 1942-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
Original data: Alphabetical Master Cards, 1942–1947; Series VI, Card Files—Bureau of War Records, Master Index Cards, 1943–1947; National Jewish Welfare Board, Bureau of War Records, 1940–1969; I-52; boxes 273–362. New York, New York: American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History.

After getting married to the love of his life Edna in 1958, he moved to Tucson, Arizona to pursue a career in the mail-order and retail women’s clothing business with his wife at Old Pueblo Traders and the Vicki Wayne retail stores, retiring at the age of 78.   

He was a keen golfer and enjoyed playing with his buddies as part of the ‘Grumpy Old Men” golfing group, playing until he was 87. He also enjoyed playing the US stock market/investing mostly on his own, including reading the Wall Street Journal every day.

Murray_Leonard_Lacey_Busby_Hadwin_Layla_Hadwin_11_JAN_2014

Murray Leonard

 

He is survived by a son, Richard (Stephanie) and loving wife of 57 years, Edna Leonard. He was preceded in death by his brother Sidney Goldschlager (Nora) of Rumson, New Jersey and parents, David and Rebecca Goldschlager, who immigrated to the US [from] Iași, Romania. He is also lovingly remembered by all his nieces and nephews as fun-loving “Uncle Mursh”, who would do anything for a laugh.

Richard wrote:

He was a fantastic father, patriotic American and overall great guy. He heeded his country’s call to duty fighting in WWII, seeing combat action in the Battle of the Bulge (getting wounded and was awarded a Purple Heart). A successful businessman retiring at the age of 78, he also was a keen golfer, playing until he was 87. He will be certainly missed but the great memories will always remain! Time to toast him with a Tanqueray & Tonic, his favorite drink!

I will be sure to have that Tanqueray & Tonic in his memory and will think of my cousin Murray, the son of Romanian immigrants who grew up to live the life his parents must have dreamed for him: a long and happy marriage and a loving son, a successful business, and dedicated service to the country that his parents had adopted as their own when coming here as young adults in the early 20th century.

May his memory be for a blessing, and may his family be comforted by their memories.

Murray Leonard older

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Fighting their Native Country in World War II: Jakob Schoenthal’s Grandsons

As I wrote last time, the two sons of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld had arrived in the US long before Hitler came to power in Germany.  They were working as tailors and living in Washington, Pennsylvania, where their uncles and aunt had lived for many years.  Then Hitler came to power, and their family back home was in danger.

In 1938, Lee and Meyer’s sister Erna arrived from Germany with her son Werner.  I have now learned more about Erna’s husband Arnold Haas.  He was born in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1893, and had served his native country during World War I.  He and Erna Schoenthal had married on February 13, 1925, and their son Werner was born on April 14, 1926.  Then Arnold died at age 38 on January 23, 1931, leaving behind his young widow Erna and his not-yet five year old son Werner.  Fortunately Erna had the good sense to leave Germany in May, 1938, and bring her son and herself to safety in the US.  In 1940, they were living in Pittsburgh.

Darmstadt register for Arnold Haas and family indicating birth, marriage, and death of Haas and birth of son Werner

Darmstadt register for Arnold Haas and family indicating birth, marriage, and death of Arnold Haas and birth of son Werner

Helmut Levi, the son of Julius and Henriette (Schoenthal) Levi, had also arrived by then and was living in New York City.  Both Helmut and Werner soon found themselves fighting their former homeland when the US entered World War II at the end of 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Werner Haas joined the US Navy on March 15, 1944, when he was 18, and served until March 6, 1946.  He spent time at the Naval Air Stations in Norfolk, Virginia, and in Corpus Christi, Texas, before being assigned to the Destroyer Escort USS Wesson in June, 1945.  According to Michael Moskow, who has done extensive research on Jewish military service during World War II, the Wesson had been struck by a kamikazi in April, 1945, two months before Werner was assigned to that vessel.

As seen in the caption on the photo below, the Wesson was “in overhaul” from May to July 1945, so it would seem likely that Werner was working on her repairs when he was first assigned to that ship.  Werner served as a fireman on the destroyer; according to this site about military careers, “The training received as a Fireman or in the related engineering skill specialties is equivalent to that received as an electrician, electrical or power plant/co-generation plant operator or supervisor, diesel mechanic, or electronics repair technician.”  From various military records it appears that Werner was assigned to the Wesson for at least a year and was then assigned to two other naval ships.

 

English: 26 June 1945: Mare Island Naval Shipy...

English: 26 June 1945: Mare Island Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, Cal. – Forward plan view of USS Wesson (DE 184) at Mare Island. She was in overhaul at the yard from 16 May to 1 July 1945. USS Blessman (APD 48) inboard of Wesson and USS Hazelwood (DD 531) is on the opposite side of the pier. (U.S. Navy photo #DE-184-4842-45) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Werner’s older cousin Helmut Levi served in the US Army, enlisting on November 28, 1942.  He served as a private and then a corporal during the course of World War II.   Although I am still looking for more information about Helmut’s service during the war, I was able with the help of Michael Moskow to find this letter that Helmut Levi (presumably the same one) wrote to Yank magazine in September, 1944:

 

Pvt Helmut Levi letter to Yank magazine, September 29, 1944, p 14

Pvt Helmut Levi letter to Yank magazine, September 29, 1944, p 14, found at http://www.unz.org/Pub/Yank-1944sep29-00014

 

 

Not surprisingly, Helmut had strong feelings about the need for Germany (and Japan) to be occupied and supervised carefully after the war.  It appears that he was stationed in Britain in September, 1944, just months after the D-Day invasion and the beginning of the Allies’ advances in France against Germany.  During that time, Helmut’s aunt and uncle, Johanna (Schoenthal) and Heinrich Stern, were living in France, hiding from the Nazis. His parents had already been killed at the Chelmno death camp.

Lee and Meyer both registered for the World War II draft, though being almost in their sixties when the war began, neither served in the military during the war.  Note that Meyer was both working for and living with Lee in April 1942.  (Lee seems to have listed his work address as his residence.)  Although Meyer listed his brother Lee as the person who would always know his address, Lee listed someone named Mary Reinbold, who as listed in the 1940 census, was then a 39 year old single woman living with her father and brothers and working as a telephone operator.

 

Lee Schoenthal World War II draft registration The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 278

Lee Schoenthal World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 278

 

Meyer N Schoenthal World War II draft registration Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Meyer N Schoenthal World War II draft registration
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Why wouldn’t Lee have listed Meyer as his contact just as Meyer had listed him? More on that in a later post.

Once the war ended, the family apparently spent a year trying to learn what had happened to Henriette Schoenthal and Julius Levi.  My heart broke when, with Michael Moskow’s help,  I found this notice in the June 14, 1946 issue of Aufbau, the newspaper published beginning in the 1930s for German Jewish immigrants in the United States:

 

Aufbau June 14, 1946

Aufbau June 14, 1946 found at http://archive.org/stream/aufbau1219461946germ#page/n475/mode/1up

 

Translation: After a one year search in Europe, we today know that our beloved parents and siblings, Julius Levi and Henriette Levi (nee Schoenthal) from Cologne have fallen to the Nazi terror …. [followed by the names of their son and their siblings].

By the time Helmut Levi had enlisted in the US Army in November 1942, his parents had already been murdered by the Nazis.  It must have just been unbearable for him to realize that while he had been fighting to defeat Hitler and the Nazis, it had already been too late to save his parents.

This notice also indicates that as of June 14, 1946, Helmut was still in the Army; although I am not sure what “Liaison Sec” refers to, G-2 is military shorthand for military intelligence staff.  It appears that Helmut was doing some kind of intelligence work in Berlin after the war, which makes sense, given his familiarity with Germany and the German language.  Being in Berlin may have also allowed him to search more quickly for what had happened to his parents.

As for Johanna Schoenthal Stern and her husband Heinrich Stern, they arrived in the US in 1947 from France.  As I mentioned in my prior post, Johanna and Heinrich had listed a friend named Henry Kahnweiler of Paris as their contact person in France.  I was curious as to who he was and how Johanna and Heinrich were connected to him.  I wanted to know more about their story—how and when did they go to France? How did they survive the Nazi occupation of France? Had they had children who had not survived the war?

Although I don’t have all the answers, I now have at least some answers to those questions.  I will address those in my next post.

 

My Aunt Eva’s Magic Suitcases: Another Small World Story

A long time back I mentioned that my father had two suitcases filled with photographs and letters that had belonged to his sister, my aunt, Eva Hilda Cohen.  My aunt had died February 14, 2011, but my father had never gone through the suitcases and wasn’t eager to do so.  Finally this past weekend he agreed to let my brother and me bring the suitcases down from their garage and go through their contents.  I was hoping for some old photographs or letters about my ancestors, and I didn’t find much of that, but there was an amazing small world story that came out of those suitcases. (I will report on the other finds in later posts.)

First, a little bit about my Aunt Eva.  She was born on January 13, 1924, the first child of my paternal grandparents, John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr. and Eva Schoenthal.

Eva Hilda Cohen

Eva Hilda Cohen

My father was born almost three years later.  They were very close as children growing up together.

Eva and John Cohen, Jr.

Eva and John Cohen, Jr.

My father describes his sister as a strong-willed and rebellious child who became a strong-willed and rebellious teenager and adult. She also was a very intelligent woman with many interests. She graduated from Gratz High School in Philadelphia in 1941, where she apparently was known by the nickname “Ave,” and was described as follows in the yearbook: “To Gratz our “Ave” has given services of hours; in almost every field she has displayed her powers.”  From the list of her activities, that inscription seems accurate: drama club, debate club, a cappella choir, and several others.

Aunt Eva yearbook picture

Simon Gratz High School yearbook 1941 Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

During World War II, she served in the United States Navy. She served from February 10, 1944 until February 10, 1946, and was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, for most of her second year of service.  She wrote a letter to her mother in May, 1945, describing her trip by train from Philadelphia to Texas.  I had to chuckle as I read it because it sounded so much like her, describing and naming every person that she met along the way.    She clearly was a hit with the servicemen, frequently being invited to eat and drink and sit with them on that long train.  That ability to befriend new people wherever she went was a skill she maintained throughout her life.

After the war, she completed her education at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  There she also was active socially and academically.

Aunt Eva college yearbook

University of Colorado at Boulder yearbook 1949 Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

After college she became engaged to be married to a man named Karl, but when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Karl broke it off, not wanting to care for someone he thought would be an invalid.

Eva and Karl

Eva and Karl

He sorely underestimated her.  She never married, but her inner strength and her independence held in her good stead for the rest of her life even as her physical challenges became greater.  She worked for the city of Philadelphia until retirement age, and she had a large circle of friends who were devoted to her. She traveled all over the world and was interested in many things and well-informed about current events. She remained devoted to my father, and he to her, her whole life.

Her collected photographs and letters reflected those priorities— the many letters she kept that she had received from my father over the years; lots of photographs of our family, extended and immediate; lots of pictures from her numerous trips and cruises.  And many, many pictures of people who were her friends. The photographs were not at all organized by subject matter or date, so as I went through the photographs with my brother, I sorted them into piles—family, travel, friends.  I wasn’t particularly interested in the last two categories, but I still looked at each photo, hoping to find some of my ancestors or distant cousins mixed in.

Then I found this photograph.  It was a Christmas card with a family photograph, an item for the friends’ pile.  But I looked at it more closely and thought one of the faces looked familiar.  Then I looked at the family’s surname, and I got the chills.  The face was in fact familiar.

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The little boy in that photograph looked just like the young man who is now engaged to my daughter’s best friend Anna.  I knew that her fiancé Mark was from Philadelphia, and it certainly was possible that my aunt could have known his family.  But nevertheless—what were the odds?  Mark’s parents are at least a generation younger than my aunt.  How in the world would they have known her? It made no sense.  I continued looking through the photographs, and I found five more pictures of Mark’s family, including his parents’ wedding photograph.  Obviously, my aunt knew his family for a long, long time.

I took snapshots of the pictures of Mark’s family with my phone and sent them to Maddy and Anna, asking them if this was Mark’s family. Anna responded that indeed it was his family.  Anna asked Mark what he knew about my aunt, if anything, and he did remember her and said that his father had been a lifeguard at the pool in her building and had met her there.

That made perfect sense to me.  My aunt was an avid swimmer; being in the water gave her the mobility and comfort that she could not find out of the water because of her MS.  As my father wrote in one of his letters to her, she swam in pools and oceans all over the world; she found it liberating.  When she moved into The Philadelphian, one of the large apartment buildings in Philadelphia, one of the great benefits was that there was a pool in the building.  It was there that she made many friends over the years, including Mark’s father and his family.

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I still get the chills thinking about this.  There I was sitting in my parents’ house, sorting through photographs mostly of strangers, and I found a photograph of someone who will now be marrying Anna.  Anna, whom I’ve known since she was born and who has been my daughter Maddy’s best friend since they sat in the sandbox as one year olds at our child care cooperative in 1985.  Anna, who was Maddy’s roommate in Boston for several years—until she met Mark.  Mark, a delightful young man whom we met the first time a few years back when he was helping Maddy and Anna move from one apartment to another and sitting patiently outside the apartment, watching their stuff while they went to rent a truck.  Mark, whose father befriended my aunt years before Mark was even born and who obviously stayed in touch with her over the years as his children grew to adulthood.

I am sure that my aunt would have been thrilled to know that her friend’s son was marrying her great-niece’s best friend.  I am just sorry she is no longer around to hear the story.  It’s the kind of story she would have loved.

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