The Brother Who Stayed Behind: Adventures in Genealogy Research

Born just one year after Simon, the next sibling was Jakob Schoenthal. (I am using the German spelling for two reasons.  First, Jakob stayed in Germany and thus that is how he spelled his name.  Second, it helps to distinguish him from his nephew, Simon’s son Jacob.) Finding Jakob’s story was quite a lesson in genealogy research.  It took some lucky breaks and the help of others, and in the end it led to a story of both tragedy and triumph.

 

Centro de la ciudad de Koln, Alemania Deutsch:...

Köln Germany, where Jakob Schoenthal lived as an adult (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

First, some background. I’ve already written about eight of the ten children of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg, my great-great-grandparents.  They were the eight children who came to America between 1866 and 1881 and settled here permanently, including my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal.  All of them lived relatively long and seemingly satisfying lives.  They started in western Pennsylvania, but eventually they and/or their children moved far afield across the United States—to California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.  They thrived in America, and they have many descendants still living in this country.

But there were two siblings who did not end up in America.  One, the youngest child, Rosalie, had in fact immigrated to the US in 1881 with her mother Henriette and her brother Isidore, my great-grandfather.  But Rosalie returned to Germany to marry Willy Heymann in 1884, and that decision was in the end one with devastating consequences for her family.  I will write more about Rosalie in a subsequent post.

The only sibling who never left Germany was the sixth child of Levi and Henriette, Jakob, who was born in Sielen in 1850.  I will always wonder why Jakob stayed when almost all of his siblings had emigrated from Germany by 1874.  Jakob was 24 by then, only a year younger than Simon, who had left in 1867. Why did he stay? I don’t know, but my theory is that Jakob stayed to take care of his mother and youngest siblings. By 1874 when his father Levi died, Jakob was the oldest son still in Germany, and there were still some younger siblings at home, including my great-grandfather.  So perhaps Jakob stayed out of a sense of family obligation. As with his sister Rosalie, that decision to stay had tragic consequences.

On September 1, 1879, Jakob married Charlotte Lilienfeld, the younger half-sister of Helen Lilienfeld, who had married Jakob’s brother Henry in 1872 and moved with him to Washington, Pennsylvania.  Charlotte and Helen were both the daughters of Meyer Lilienfeld of Gudensberg, where Henry Schoenthal had once been a teacher before immigrating to the US.

Marriage record of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden: Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386) 1825-1900

Marriage record of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden: Trauregister der Juden von Gudensberg 1825-1900 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 386, p.42) 1825-1900

 

For a long time I could not find much more information about Jakob.  I knew from the 1893 Beers biography of Henry Schoenthal that Jakob had then been living in Cologne, Germany in 1893, but I didn’t know if he and Charlotte had had children or if they had ever left Germany or when they had died.

Then while I was researching Henry Schoenthal and his family, I kept coming across two men living in Washingon, Pennsylvania, with the same names as two of Henry’s sons: Meyer and Lee Schoenthal.  At first I thought they were Henry’s sons, but soon it became clear that there were in fact two Meyers and two Lees.  When I found the death certificates for the Meyer and the Lee who were not the sons of Henry Schoenthal, I saw that their parents were Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld.

 

Lee Schoenthal death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Lee Schoenthal death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I knew then that Jakob and Charlotte had had at least two sons, both of whom had lived in Washington, Pennsylvania, where their Schoenthal uncles Henry and Isidore as well as their aunt Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal were living.  And, of course, the identical names made sense.  Both Meyers were named for their maternal grandfather, Meyer Lilienfeld, and both Lees were named for their paternal grandfather, Levi Schoenthal.

And then I was stuck.   What else could I learn about Jakob and Charlotte? I asked in the German Genealogy group on Facebook whether there were records available online for Cologne, or Köln, as it is spelled in German, and I learned that there were in fact archives online with birth, marriage, and death records.  Unfortunately, the archives are divided into geographic areas in and around Köln, and I had no idea where in the city Jakob had lived.  In addition, I had no idea what years to search for births or deaths for his family, and the number of records was too overwhelming to search without some parameters.

But then another member of the Genealogy Group suggested I look in city directories to see if I could narrow down where in Köln Jakob and his family had lived.  I learned that there were city directories online that dated as early as 1797 all the way through to the 1960s.  I started searching year by year, and I eventually found many listings for him, starting with one in 1901 and going as late as 1935, and then he disappeared.  Here are a few examples:

 

Greven's address book for Cologne subtitle:and environment especially Mühlheim am Rhein and lime Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 51 Year: 1905

Greven’s address book for Cologne
Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 51
Year: 1905

 

Grevens Adreßbuch 1915 Cologne and environs

Grevens Adreßbuch 1915 Cologne and environs

 

Greven's address book for Cologne subtitle:and neighborhood and business directory the circles Cologne-Mülheim country and a. Rh. Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 67 Year: 1925

Greven’s address book for Cologne
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 67
Year: 1925

 

So I thought Jakob must have died or moved or emigrated around 1935, but not knowing German had once again proven to be a problem.  I posted the 1935 listing on the German Genealogy Facebook page, and my friend Matthias translated it and pointed out that the listing was not for Jakob, but rather for his widow.  He explained that the abbreviation Ww meant “widow,” and when I went back to look at the earlier directories, I saw that the Ww was included in almost all of the listings I had thought were for Jakob Schoenthal.

 

Greven's address book of Cologne subtitle:and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Year: 1935

Greven’s address book of Cologne
Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume )
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Year: 1935

 

I worked all the way back to 1905, seeing that Ww.  There were no directories on the website for 1902-1904, but in 1901, there was no Ww, so I assumed that meant that Jakob was still alive in 1900.  Thus, it seemed likely that Jakob had died sometime between 1901 and 1905.

 

Greven's address book for the borough Cologne subtitle:and for the environment especially: Mühlheim am Rhein and lime Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 47 Year: 1901

Greven’s address book for the borough Cologne
Author / Edit .: Ant. Carl Greven
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 47
Year: 1901

 

From the address on Breite Strasse in the directories, my friends in the Germany Genealogy group thought that Jakob had lived in the central part of Köln.  Having narrowed down the years and the section of the city where he lived, I now combed through the relevant records until I found a death record for Jakob.  He had died on November 19, 1903.  He was only 53 years old when he died.  He was the first of his siblings to die.

 

Jakob Schoenthal death certificate Das Digitale Historiche Archiv Koln, Civil registry, civil registry Cologne I, deaths, 1903 1903 Vol 03 p.320

Jakob Schoenthal death certificate
Das Digitale Historiche Archiv Koln, Civil registry, civil registry Cologne I, deaths, 1903 1903 Vol 03 p.320

 

Since 1935 was the last year Jakob’s widow Charlotte was listed, I assumed that she must have died around 1935.  I wrote to the synagogue in Köln to see if they had information about Jakob and Charlotte, and the secretary there informed me that Jakob and Charlotte were both buried in their cemetery and that Charlotte had died on June 17, 1935.  She also confirmed Jakob’s date of death.  So I now knew when both Jakob and Charlotte had died and where they were buried.

But the 1935 Köln directory listing, along with a number of others, also revealed something else.  Notice that right above Jakob’s widow’s listing it says, “Schonthal & Co, Jul. Levi and Frau Jul. Levi,” and some additional text following, including the same address as that listed for Jakob’s widow.

Greven's address book of Cologne subtitle:and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Year: 1935

Greven’s address book of Cologne
subtitle: and its environs, as well as the address book of the circles Cologne-country Bensberg, Bergisch Gladbach u. Porz, Volume (→ Second volume )
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Year: 1935

My friends in the German Genealogy group explained that the first listing was for a Julius Levi and his wife, Henny nee Schoenthal.  Obviously Henny was Jakob and Charlotte’s daughter, living at the same address as her parents with her husband Julius Levi.

Julius Levi and Henny nee Schoenthal were listed again in 1936 (without a listing for Charlotte), but after that they disappeared.  By then, of course, Jewish-owned businesses were being restricted or closed by the Nazis.  What had happened to Julius and Henny? Had they left Germany, I hoped? Or had they been killed in the Holocaust?

Greven's address book of the Hanseatic City of Cologne subtitle:the circles Cologne-country, the county town of Bergisch Gladbach and Bensberg communities and Porz, Volume (→ Second volume ) Publishing company: Greven's Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven Vintage: 78 Year: 1936

Greven’s address book of the Hanseatic City of Cologne
Publishing company: Greven’s Cologne Address Book Publisher Ant. Carl Greven
Vintage: 78
Year: 1936

Unfortunately, a search on Yad Vashem revealed that they were both victims of the Nazi atrocities.

Yad Vashem page of testimony for Henriette Schoenthal Levi Yad Vashem page of testimony for Julius Levi

I learned more details from a researcher in Köln named Barbara Becker, who informed me that Julius and Henriette Levi had been first moved to the ghetto in Köln in 1940 and then were deported to Lodz, Poland, on October 30, 1941.  From there they were sent to the death camp in Chelmno on September 10, 1942, where they were murdered by the Nazis.

Lodz Ghetto Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-051639A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Lodz Ghetto
Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-051639A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Chelmno death camp 1942 By SS Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chelmno death camp 1942
By SS Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Two more names to add to the growing list of my relatives who were killed during the Holocaust:  Henriette Schoenthal and her husband Julius Levi.  Henriette was probably named for her grandmother, Jakob’s mother Henriette Hamberg, my great-great-grandmother.   Henriette Schoenthal Levi was my first cousin, twice removed.  She was my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen’s first cousin.

When I looked at the Pages of Testimony filed on behalf of Henriette (Schoenthal) and Julius Levi more closely, I saw that they were filed in 1977 by their son, Henry Lyons.  There was even an address for Henry: 99-30 59th Avenue, Rego Park, New York.  My next step had to be locating Henry Lyons, my father’s second cousin.

To be continued….

 

Mystery Photos II: Oppenheimers

I learned something important from my first Mystery Photo post.  Keep it simple.  Too many photos makes it too confusing for people (and for me).  Although a lot of people read the post, almost no one commented.  I did go to Facebook and got some feedback about whether or not these two photos are both Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann.  Most people said yes, some said no.

old babetta closeup

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

For my second post involving the mystery photos from the Michel album, I want to start with some photographs that are clearly labeled as members of the Oppenheimer family and that present no mystery.  The Oppenheimers were the children of Pauline Seligmann, sister of my great- great-grandfather Bernard.  She and her husband Maier Oppenheimer had five children: Joseph, Martha, Anna, Ella, and Moritz, according to the Westminster Bank‘s family tree for Pauline.

Pauline Seligmann Oppenheimer Family Tree by Westminster Bank

Pauline Seligmann Oppenheimer Family Tree by Westminster Bank

The Michel album included clearly marked photographs of the two sons, Joseph and Moritz, and one of the daughters, Ella.

Joseph Oppenheimer

Joseph Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer2

Joseph Oppenheimer from Butzbach, son of Tante Pauline

Joseph was born in 1875 and died at Dachau Concentration Camp in October, 1940.

Moritz Oppenheimer

Moritz Oppenheimer

I wrote about Moritz Oppenheimer in detail here.  He was the wealthy industrialist who owned the horse breeding farm and who died in May 1941, under suspicious circumstances after being “questioned” by the Gestapo.  Moritz was born in 1879.

How old do Joseph and Moritz appear to be in these photos?  I am guessing between 25 and 35, meaning the photographs were taken between 1900-1910.  Does that seem right?

The third clearly labeled Oppenheimer photograph is this one:

Milla Oppenheimer

To Wolfgang and me, this seemed to say Milla Oppenheimer.  But neither Joseph nor Moritz Oppenheimer married a woman named Milla and there was no sister named Milla.  I posted the photograph on Facebook for some feedback, and one member of Tracing the Tribe pointed out that the M could really be an E, except for the dot over what seems to be an I.  Then another member pointed that the “dot” was really part of the framing around the photograph, not part of the name written on the side.  So I believe that in fact this is Ella Oppenheimer.

According to the family tree for Pauline Seligmann Oppenheimer prepared by the Westminster Bank, Ella never married or had children and died during the Holocaust, although I cannot find her in the Yad Vashem database.  I did find in the JewishGen database entitled “German Towns Project”  an entry for Ella Oppenheimer from Butzbach,  who had been born there June 21, 1878 and had moved to Frankfort in 1939,    (That database was created by asking officials in numerous Jewish towns to list their former Jewish residents and their fate, if known.)  But that database had no information about how or where she died.

So these three photographs are pretty clear to me.  The next possible photograph of one of the five Oppenheimer children is the woman at the center of the photograph I posted last time.

Who are these people?

Who are these people?

 

Here is a closeup of her face.

Anna Oppenheimer maybe

It certainly looks like it says Anna Oppenheimer over her head, doesn’t it?

label for Anna maybe

Anna, another sister of Joseph, Moritz, and Ella, was born in 1877, and she died in 1908.  In my earlier post, I assumed that the older woman in this photo was Babetta Seligmann, meaning the photo would have been taken in about 1890 or so since Babetta was born in 1810.  But Anna certainly does not look thirteen in this photograph.  How old does she look?

If I guess that she is 30, that would mean the photo was taken in 1907.  That would make Babetta almost a hundred years old.  Or maybe it’s not Babetta.  Maybe the older woman is Pauline Seligmann Oppenheimer, who was also born in Gau Algesheim.   Paulina was born in 1847, so she would have been sixty in 1907.  That woman could be sixty (not that sixty-year old women look like that today).   But then why is she labeled Grandmother?  Pauline was not Franziszka Seligmann’s grandmother; she was her aunt. In the photo of Joseph Oppenheimer, she is referred to as Tante Pauline.

Franziska’s grandmother from Gau-Algesheim was Babetta.  Fred Michel’s maternal grandmother was Rosa Bergmann Seligmann; she did live in Gau-Algesheim.  She was born in 1853 and died in Gau-Algesheim in 1899.  But that woman does not look 45, does she?  I still think the elderly woman is Babetta.

But then how could that be Anna Oppenheimer?  Am I misreading the name above her head?

So my only question for today: could that be Anna Oppenheimer?

That’s it for this post.  I will return to the other people in this photo in a later post once I have some feedback.  I am trying to narrow down the date so I can piece together the other parts of this puzzle.

 

Auschwitz

I have really been struggling to figure out how to write about our second day in Poland, which started with a trip to the ghetto established by the Nazis in Podgorze, across the river from Krakow, and ended with a trip to Auschwitz.  We had an incredible guide, Tomasz Cebulski from Polin Travel.  He is a scholar in the field of the history of Polish Jewry and the Holocaust as well as an articulate, thoughtful, and sensitive person, and he wanted us to understand on a deeper level the methodology used by the Nazis during the Holocaust.  Without Tomasz and his way of preparing us for Auschwitz, I do not think we would have fully appreciated the horror of what we were seeing.

The ghetto in Podgorze.  The empty chairs evoke the chairs that were left behind by those who had been sitting while awaiting the transports that took them to the camps

The ghetto in Podgorze. The empty chairs evoke the chairs that were left behind by those who had been sitting while awaiting the transports that took them to the camps

Having said that, there is just no way that I can do the same for anyone reading this post.  Most of us have seen photographs; we’ve seen movies and read books about Auschwitz. Many of us have been to Yad Vashem and/or the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We think we understand what happened there.  But we don’t.  Even being there, I still don’t.  The more you learn about it, the less you understand.

What we learned from Tomasz was how ingenious the Nazis were in using psychology and technology and the instinct for greed to enlist not only Germans but citizens of other countries including France, Austria, Hungary, and Poland into their program for annihilating the Jewish population of the world.  And Jews weren’t helpless sheep being led to the slaughter; they also were the victims of the Nazi propaganda machine and its use of psychology to create the impression that somehow all would be fine in the end.   Corporations like IBM and many others saw the opportunities for making fortunes in developing the technology and equipment needed to facilitate the operation of the Nazi death machine.  Jews were also used as slave labor in the companies of many industrialists; Oskar Schindler was the exception, doing something to protect these people who were being forced to work in his factory across the river from Krakow and close to the concentration camp at Plaszow, which we also visited.

 

Ghetto Wall in Podgorze, built to look like headstones to demoralize the Jewish residents

Ghetto Wall in Podgorze, built to look like headstones to demoralize the Jewish residents

And the world sat back and let it happen, pretending that things could not be that bad, that focusing on the war effort itself was sufficient, and that there really could not be such things as death camps.  That a place like Auschwitz could not exist.  Are we any better today? Just as the Jews could not believe that they would be slaughtered like animals but that things would be okay in the end, so do we all.  We delude ourselves over and over again into believing that we can’t do anything to stop genocide, just as the world did during World War II.  We bend to the profit motive, and we buy into propaganda.  We forget, and we move on.

But Auschwitz is still there.  Although the other death camps were destroyed by the Nazis when they realized that they were losing the war (see Note below), Auschwitz survived more or less intact.  The Nazis did bomb the gas chambers and the crematoria, but there was enough evidence left to show the world what happened there.  And the fact that the Nazis made one serious error—placing the gas chambers and crematoria adjacent to barracks for concentration camp prisoners who could witness how they were being used—also ensured that history would not allow the Nazis to cover up their satanic ways completely.

Auschwitz memorial

Auschwitz is still there.  You can stand on the watchtower, and you can see the foundations of hundreds of barracks almost as far as the eye can see.  You can see the crematoria, the remains of the gas chambers, the barracks, the train tracks.  You can see the confiscated property of the people who were killed there—glasses, suitcases, clothing, ritual objects. Their hair and their prosthetic devices.  The glass case exhibiting baby clothes made me weep.  The clothes of children younger than my grandsons—evidence of the complete evil of these animals who watched babies get carried to their deaths with their mothers.  More than anything else, that devastated me.

How do you walk away from this and still have faith in humanity?  How can you have hope that good and beauty and love will prevail when there is so much capacity for evil? How can you ever trust anyone to be compassionate, fair, understanding?

You just have to.  Because it is just too painful to think that people can be so evil.  Because in fact most of us are good and loving and compassionate and fair.  Because we have no choice but to see the beauty and the love and the hope or we would all just give up and fall into the darkness.  We have to walk away, and we have to get up the next day and embrace life.  Otherwise, the Nazis and all the other evildoers in the world defeat us.  Yes, we need to stand up to evil.  Yes, we cannot close our eyes and hide.  But we also have to go on seeing the good in each other and loving each other as best we can.

 

*************************

Important Note: Although the other death camps were substantially destroyed by the Nazis to hide their genocidal activities, there is a movement to preserve the limited remains of the Belzec death camp in eastern Poland.  You can read about that project here.  It’s in German, but you can use Google Translate to read it in English.  There is some urgency as the property is to be sold at a public auction on June 22.  Please help preserve this place as another reminder us of our potential for evil and our need to fight against it.

UPDATE:  Due to public pressure, the auction has been cancelled, and the money already collected will be used for preservation.  The organization is no longer collecting donations.

Putting The Puzzle Together:  Too Many Missing Pieces

Sometimes it is amazing to me how much information you can get from one document—an obituary, a death certificate, a news article.  This time it was a document my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann found in a suitcase.  In fact, I learned so much from this document that I have to divide this post into two separate posts to make each a reasonable length.

What Wolfgang found was a list of names of the heirs to the estate of James Seligman, the son of Moritz and Babetta who had moved to England. (I will refer to him as English James Seligman to distinguish him from the US James Seligman, my great-grandmother’s brother.)   The document is entitled: “J. Seligman Deceased: Statement as of 1st January 1950 of Nephews and Nieces and their Issue, who may take an interest under the Intestacy in the above Estate.”  There are 21 principals named on the document as well as the names of several of the children or relatives of those 21 who might inherit in their place, if the principals were deceased.

heirs list p 1

Heirs List p 2

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out who these 21 people were and how they were related to English James and also thus to me.  Some of them were very easy to identify.  Number 21 was the easiest:  Mrs. Eva Cohen of Philadelphia was my great-grandmother.  She was deceased by 1950, and unfortunately there was no listing on the document of her heirs, which would have included my father, my aunt, my great-uncle Stanley, and the sons of Maurice Cohen, Buddy and Junior.

Numbers 19 and 20 were also easily identified: Arthur and US James Seligman, my great-grandmother’s brothers and the two other surviving children of Bernard Seligman, English James Seligman’s older brother.  For US James Seligman, Morton is listed as his surviving son.  For Arthur, there is mention of his “oldest son” (he had only one, Otis), and a note that he had been “Governor of Santa Fe” and might be able to find other relatives.  By 1950, however, Arthur and his son Otis were both deceased.  (These careless errors made me a bit skeptical of the Bank’s attention to detail.)

I also knew who Numbers 15 and 16 were: Emil and Eugen Seligmann were the sons of Carolina Seligmann, the half-sister of James, Bernard, and the others, and they were the grandsons of Moritz Seligmann and Eva Schoenfeld.  Emil had died from heart disease in 1942, and Eugen had died at Thierenstadt concentration camp in 1942.  Emil’s son also died during the Holocaust at Buchenwald in 1945.   His daughter Christine was still alive in 1950 when this document was created.

Number 6 is Wolfgang’s grandfather Julius, a son of August Seligmann and grandson of Moritz and Babetta.  He was still alive in 1950.  Number 7 is Moritz Seligmann, the brother of Julius about whom I wrote here.  He had served in World War I for Germany and been awarded the Cross of Honor, but was nevertheless killed during the Holocaust.  Number 8 is Franziska or Frances Seligmann Michel, the mother of Fred Michel, about whom I wrote here.  She was also the child of August Seligmann and the granddaughter of Moritz and Babetta, and had died in 1933.  Her son Fritz (Fred) is also mentioned on the heirs list.

Number 9 is Anna Seligmann Goldmann, the sister of Julius, Moritz, and Franziska and husband of Hugo Goldmann.  Anna, Hugo, and their three young children, Ruth, Grete, and Heinz, were all killed in the Holocaust.

The next four people, Numbers 10 through 13, are all from the Oppenheimer family, written about here.  Joseph, Martha, and Ella were the children of Paulina Seligmann and Meier Oppenheimer.  Paulina was the sister of Bernard, August, and James, and the daughter of Moritz and Babetta Seligmann.  Joseph and Ella both died during the Holocaust.  Martha survived, but her two children Gertrud and Paul did not.  With this document, I now learned that Martha’s married name was Floersheimer, and was able to find Gertrud and Paul in the Yad Vashem database.  Gertrud died at an unknown camp in 1942 after being deported on June 10 of that year from Wiesbaden, and her brother Paul died at a camp in Majdanek, Poland, on August 16, 1942.

Emma Oppenheimer, Number 13, I assume was Emma Neuhoff, the widow of Moritz James Oppenheimer, son of Paulina and a brother of Joseph, Martha, and Ella.  Moritz Oppenheimer, discussed here, had been a successful business person and horse breeder; he was reported to have committed suicide after being visited by the Gestapo in 1942.

That left me with eight unknowns: Numbers 1 through 5 and Numbers 14, 17 and 18.  Some of these I believe I have figured out; others I am not as certain about.  For example, Jack Seligmann, Number 1, has to be the son of a brother of James to have the Seligmann surname.  I knew he was not the son of Sigmund (never married, lived in the US), Bernard (lived in the US), or Adolph (lived in the US).  I assumed I had all the sons of August Seligmann from the records I found and records Wolfgang shared with me.  Salomon Seligmann died when he was 21, so I eliminated him.  That left only two of James’ brothers: Benjamin, a half-brother, and Hyronimus, a full-brother.  I had no records other than birth records for either Benjamin or Hyronimus, and thus, I had no way to determine whether Jack was a son of Benjamin or Hyronimus, but assumed he was the son of one or the other.

Then, while I was trying to puzzle this out, Wolfgang found another document.  It was a letter written in 1984 by Elsa Oppenheimer to the National Westminster Bank regarding the estate of English James Seligman.   (I think Elsa Oppenheimer was the daughter of Jur Oppenheimer, son of Moritz James Oppenheimer, based on the family tree I received from Wolfgang a few weeks ago.)  In her letter to the bank on July 9, 1984, Elsa attempted to correct some errors she felt the bank had made in identifying heirs of English James.    She claimed, for example, that the Bank had incorrectly listed Adolph as a son of Moritz and Babetta because she could not locate a birth record for him; she was wrong about that, however, as here is a copy of his birth record, naming Moritz and Babetta as his parents.

adolph seligman birth record

 

Elsa also claimed that she knew of all of the children of Hieronymous Seligmann based on birth records, and that they were Jacob and Auguste, twins born on April 8, 1869; Mathilde, born October 4, 1872; and Rosina Laura, born June 9, 1878.  Elsa asserted that Hieronymous did not have daughters named Elizabeth or Johanna.

Elsa Oppenheimer 1984 letter-page-001

Elsa Oppenheimer 1984 letter-page-002

From this letter, I am assuming that Jack Seligmann, Number 1 on the heirs’ list, was Jacob Seligmann, son of Hieronymous Seligmann and thus a grandson of Moritz and Babetta and a nephew of English James Seligman.  His wife Anna is named here as living in Luxembourg as of 1950, so I looked on Yad Vashem and found an entry for a Jacob Seligmann, born on April 8, 1869, married to Anna, a clear match to my Jacob Seligmann.  He was killed in Luxembourg in 1941, according to the Yad Vashem site.    I don’t know whether Jacob and Anna had had any children.

That brings me to Number 2, Laura Winter.  I am assuming that Laura Winter was born Rosina Laura, a daughter of Hieronymous, and married a man named Winter.  The document names a Frau Aennie Wiener as her next of kin and states that Laura and her husband also died in Luxembourg, reinforcing my assumption that she and Jacob were siblings.  Aennie Wiener is listed as residing at 8409 Talbot Street, Kew Gardens, Long Island.

For a while I didn’t know what had happened to Laura Seligmann Winter or her husband, although they were deceased by 1950 according to the list of heirs.  Included, however, in the Ilse and Fritz Michel Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute is one handwritten note that provided some clues.  The note has no title, but is just a list of names: Anna Goldmann, Hugo Goldmann, Grete Goldmann, Heinz Goldmann, Ruth Goldmann, Helene Hess [mother of Ilse Hess Michel], Max Michel, Sophie Michel, Moritz Seligmann, Jacob Seligmann, S Winter, Laura Winter, Martha Florsheimer, Paul Florsheimer, Trude Florsheimer.

Handwritten list of names Fred Michel

What can I infer from this list? I know that Ilse and Fred Michel were actively involved in trying to find family members who were missing after the war.  I know that the Goldmann family, Helene Hess, Moritz Seligmann, Jacob Seligmann, and Paul and Trude Florsheimer were all killed in the Holocaust.  Martha was not, but nevertheless my guess is that these were all people whom Fred and Ilse could not locate after the war.  My hunch was that since the Winters were listed as deceased on the list of heirs document that they also were killed in the Holocaust.

I then searched Yad Vashem’s database again, this time for anyone named Winter living in Luxembourg, and found just one listing—for a Samuel Winter.  It said he was born on October 27, 1863, in Dusseldorf, Germany, and that he was married to Martha Seligmann.  Could Martha Seligmann really be Laura Seligmann? Could there really be two German men with the surname Winter and first initial S living in Luxembourg and married to a woman whose birth name was Seligmann?  I thought the odds were slim, so I used the Related Search function on the Yad Vashem database, searching for anyone with the same surname and from the same residence.

This time I got a list of other Winters from Luxembourg, including a Laura Winter.  The entry did not have a birth date or birth place for Laura, but it said she was the widow of Samuel and that she had been murdered on August 28, 1940. But the entry for Samuel said he was not deported until April, 1943, and died on April 21, 1943, at Thieresenstadt.  So how could Laura have been a widow in 1940?  Was this a different Samuel Winter who was really married to a Martha Seligmann?  I don’t know.

Fortunately, it was not very difficult to find their daughter, Aennie Wiener since I had her address at 8409 Talbot Avenue in Kew Gardens, a section of Queens in New York City, was listed on the heirs’ document.  Searching for her on Ancestry quickly uncovered Anna and Joseph Wiener living at 8409 Talbot Avenue in Queens.  Their residence in 1935 had been Mannheim, Germany, and they were now 46 and 58 years old, respectively.  Living with them were their daughter Doris Grunewald, her husband Ernst Grunewald, also both German immigrants, and their one year old daughter, Hannah Grunewald, born in New York.

Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Queens, New York; Roll: T627_2746; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 41-1373

Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Queens, New York; Roll: T627_2746; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 41-1373

I also was able to find ship manifests for Anna, Doris, and Ernst, all of whom came between 1937 and 1938.  Four more who escaped from Nazi Germany. I’ve not yet found any records for any of them after the 1940 census, but I am still looking.  I am particularly interested in finding Hannah.

 

To be continued…

 

My Goldschlager Cousins: New Connections and New Photos

Lately it’s been sort of raining Goldschlagers.  First, I received an email from someone named Jeanne who matched me very distantly on the DNA testing website, but who’d spotted that one of my ancestral names was Goldschlager.  Jeanne had had an aunt named Anne Goldschlager; although her aunt was an aunt by marriage only, not genetically, Jeanne had loved her greatly and wondered whether we might be related since Anne Goldschlager’s family also had ties to Romania.

According to Jeanne, Anne’s father Max had moved to Dresden in the early 20th century where Anne and her sister Sabina were born.  In 1939, Max, his wife, and Sabina left Germany to go to Romania (I assume they thought it would be safer), and they left Anne behind.  She was 15 years old.  Somehow Anne got to England and survived the war, but her sister was killed in one of the concentration camps. Her parents survived the war and emigrated to Israel. Here is Sabina’s Page of Testimony at Yad Vashem, which includes this photograph:

Unfortunately, Anne has no biological descendants, and Jeanne knew nothing more about her family tree, so I don’t think I can get any further back to determine if her Goldschlagers were related to mine.

Then around the same time that I heard from Jeanne, my cousin Jim and his wife Jodi emailed me to say that their son Michael was in Spain for the Model UN and had met a fellow student named Eva Goldschlager.  Michael wanted to know if Eva could be related to our Goldschlagers.  After obtaining Eva’s father’s contact information, he and I have emailed several times.  His Goldschlager family is also from Romania—from the town of Siret, which is a little more than 100 miles from Iasi where my grandfather was born.  We’ve not gotten any further than that so far, but are trying to figure out how to learn more.

And then finally just the other day I received a whole bunch of new photographs from my cousin Richard, who lives in Australia but was in the US visiting his parents.  Richard is my second cousin; his father Murray is the son of David Goldschlager, my grandfather’s younger brother.  Although Murray changed his surname a long time ago, he is nevertheless a Goldschlager.  Here are some of the photographs Richard sent me of his grandparents.

Here are three photographs of David and Becky as young people.

David Goldschlager

David Goldschlager

 

Rebecca Schwartz

Rebecca Schwartz

Rebecca and David Goldschlager

Rebecca and David Goldschlager

Here they are with their sons Murray and Sidney  at Brighton Beach probably in the 1930s:

David and Murray Goldschlager

David and Murray Goldschlager

David Rebecca Sidney and Murray at Brighton Beach

All four Goldschlagers at Brighton Beach

 

The others were taken when David and Becky had moved to Arizona where Murray and his wife Edna and their son Richard lived.

Richard Leonard and David Goldschlager

Richard and his grandfather David Goldschlager

Richard with his grandparents at his bar mitzvah

At Richard’s bar mitzvah

David and Becky at Richard's bar mitzvah David and Rebecca Goldschlager

 

Thank you so much to my cousin Richard who so generously shared these photographs with me.  I am so happy to have more pictures of my grandfather’s brother David and his family.

 

The Fusgeyers: Why They Left Romania

Isadore Goldschlager

Isadore Goldschlager

“Grandpa walked out of Romania to escape from the Romanian army.”  That was the one story I knew about my grandfather’s life before he came to the US as a teenager.  I knew a few other snippets about him in general—that he loved music and animals, that he knew multiple languages, that he was a union activist and very left-wing in his political views, that he was a milkman, and that he was a terrible tease and had a great sense of humor.  But the story about him walking out of Romania was the one that always intrigued me the most.  I would ask my mother questions: Did he go alone?  Where did he walk to? How did he get to the United States? But she knew nothing more than that barebones story—that as a teenager, he decided to run away from the army and walked across the country to escape.

When I first started researching my grandfather’s family, I wanted to know more about this story.  Was it just a myth, or was there any factual basis to it?  I did some initial research and learned that there was in fact an entire movement of Jews who left Romania by foot beginning in the early 1900s, around the same time my grandfather left (1904).  These walkers were known as the Fusgeyers or “foot-goers.”  Unfortunately, I could not find many sources of information about this movement.  I found only two books devoted in depth to the topic.   One is a novel called The Wayfarers by Stuart F. Tower; although written as a novel, it was inspired by the author’s actual search to learn about the Fusgeyers.  It tells the story of an American man whose grandfather left Romania by foot.  The grandson, now an adult, takes his own teenage son and his elderly father to Romania to learn more about his grandfather’s escape from Romania.  The author describes long conversations that the lead character had with a rabbi living in Romania who was familiar with the Fusgeyer movement.  Although this book gave me a taste of what the movement was like, I wanted to read something more fact-based and scholarly to understand and know more about the Fusgeyers.[1]

I found that in the second book about the Fusgeyers: Finding Home: In the Footsteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers by Jill Culiner.  This book, a work of non-fiction, is fascinating and heart-breaking.   After reading Jacob Finkelstein’s “Memoir of a Fusgeyer from Romania to America,” an unpublished Yiddish manuscript written around 1942 and held by the New York-based YIVO Institute, Culiner, not herself a descendant of Romanian Jewss, decided to retrace the routes taken by the Fusgeyers as they walked out of Romania.  She actually walked these routes, visiting all the towns and cities along the way, asking current residents what they remembered of the Fusgeyers and of the Jewish communities that existed in those towns before the Holocaust.  What she learned about the past and present in Romania is what makes the book both fascinating and heart-breaking, and in a subsequent post, I will write more about that.  But first, I want to set the scene by describing what I learned from this book and elsewhere about why the Jews left Romania in the early 1900s.

As reported by Culiner and others[2], Jews had likely been living in the two principalities that became Romania, Walachia and Moldavia, since Roman times.   The Jewish population increased significantly in the second half of the 14th century when many Jews from Hungary and Poland immigrated there after being expelled from their home countries. (Wikipedia).  Ironically, Romania eventually became one of the most anti-Semitic of the European countries.  In 1640, the Church Codes of Walachia and Moldavia declared Jews heretics and banned all relationships between Christians and Jews. (Culiner, p. 15). During the 17th and 18th century, there were repeated “blood libel” accusations against Jews—being accused of killing Christian children for their blood— followed by violence and persecution.  (Culiner, p. 15; Wikipedia).

The widespread anti-Semitism really came to a head in the mid-nineteenth century during the movement for Romanian independence and the unification of Walachia and Moldavia into the independent nation of Romania. As the report on Romanian anti-Semitism on file with Yad Vashem reports, after the Crimean War and the defeat of Russia, which had previously controlled Walachia and Moldavia, the European powers (primarily France and Britain) put a great deal of pressure on the leaders of the independence movement in the region to grant Jews full legal status in the new country.  Although the leaders had originally argued for such rights during the uprisings against Russia, the external pressure created a great deal of resentment, and in the end the European powers backed off from insisting on full legal rights for the Jewish residents of the newly-united nation of Romania.  (Yad Vashem report).

The Yad Vashem report continues:  “A real explosion of openly expressed antisemitism occurred as the prospect of achieving national independence became more certain. During discussions of the new Constitution of 1866, Romanian leaders began to portray Jews as a principal obstacle to Romanian independence, prosperity, and culture.”  As finally drafted, Article 7 of the new Constitution for Romania provided that “[t]he status of Romanian citizen is acquired, maintained, and forfeited in accordance with rules established through civil legislation. Only foreign individuals who are of the Christian rite may acquire Romanian citizenship.”  Culiner described this development, saying that “anti-Semitism had now become part of the national identity.” (Culiner, p. 15)

Despite protests and outcry from western European countries, the new country persisted in its anti-Semitic views and practices.  Between 1866 and 1900, a number of laws were enacted restricting the business and other activities of Jewish residents in Romania.  Jews could not become officers in the military, customs officials, journalists, craftsmen or clerks.  Jews could not vote or obtain licenses to sell alcohol.  Jews could not own or cultivate land.  Jews could not own or manage pharmacies.  They could not work in psychiatric institutions or receive care as free patients in hospitals.  Jews could not sell tobacco or soda water or certain baked goods. Fewer than ten percent of Jewish children were allowed to attend public schools, and Jews were prohibited from opening their own schools.  Jews were not allowed to work as peddlers, which was sometimes interpreted to include owning shops.  Jewish homes were randomly destroyed as “unsanitary.”  (Culiner, pp. 16-17)

Culiner wrote:  “Eventually, 20,000 Jews found themselves on the streets of Romania and dying of starvation.  There were many suicides in Iasi, Bacu, and Roman….In 1899 and 1900, harvests were poor and a severe depression gripped the country.  Anti-Semitic decrees were applied with new severity and anti-Jewish speeches were delivered in parliament.  Riots took place in several towns, and…a pogrom broke out in Iasi.”  (Culiner, pp. 17, 19) (See also Wikipedia  and the Yad Vashem report on Anti-Semitism in Romania.)

That pogrom in Iasi was described in the American Jewish Yearbook of 1900: “For several hours there was fighting, merciless blows, pillaging and devastation, all under the paternal eyes of the police authorities and the army, which interfered only to hinder the Jews from defending themselves.”[3]

In 1900, my grandfather was twelve years old.  He lived in Iasi.  He experienced this horrible violence and hatred.  By that time his uncle Gustave and his aunt Zusi had already left for America.  Is it any surprise that this young teenager would have wanted to escape from his homeland and seek refuge someplace else?

Isadore age 27

Isadore age 27

As I will report in a later post, he and thousands of other Jews did leave, many on foot, walking out of Romania to find a better life.  My grandfather followed his uncle and his aunt, who had left in the late 1880s, but he left alone, without his parents or siblings.  His first cousin Srul Srulovici, who became Isador Adler, had left two years before him in 1902, also alone and without his parents and siblings.  My grandfather left in 1904, and by 1910 the rest of his family—his siblings, mother and father and the rest of his Srulovici cousins—had also arrived.  I don’t know the details of how any of them got out or whether they were also Fusgeyers, but they all  followed their two oldest sons and brothers, both to be called Isadore in the United States.

So  my grandfather left Romania on foot, but not only to escape the Romanian army.  He escaped a life of poverty, of hatred, of discrimination.  He was only sixteen, but he was brave enough, smart enough, and strong enough to get out of a place that held no future for him.  He led his family to freedom.  Whatever life brought them in America, and it wasn’t easy, it was better than what they had left behind.

 

[1] Apparently the novel is being turned into a documentary about the Fusgeyer movement.  See https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1552736981/the-wayfarers-the-story-of-the-fusgeyers

[2] Wikipedia has a long and detailed article on the history of the Jews in Romania at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Romania.  I also consulted other sources, such as a report on Romanian anti-Semitism filed on the Yad Vashem website at http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/about/events/pdf/report/english/1.1_roots_of_romanian_antisemitism.pdf

[3][3] “Romania since the Berlin Treaty,” The American Jewish Yearbook (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1900), p. 83, as quoted in Culiner, p, 19.

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A Call to Israel!

Just to show that I never give up, I thought I’d report on a phone call I made this morning to Shmuel Brotman of Kiryat Tivon in Israel.   Renee, my mentor, made the suggestion that I look for any Brotmans who had lived in Dzikow by checking both JRI-Poland and the database at Yad Vashem.  Both sources found one family, the family of Shmuel and Zipporah Brotman, who had resided in Dzikow/Tarnobrzeg.  It looked like the entire family had died in the Holocaust, but Renee suggested I contact the person who had submitted the names to Yad Vashem, Shmuel’s daughter-in-law Chana Brotman.

I then had to track down Chana Brotman.  I knew from the Yad Vashem submission that she had lived in Kiryat Tivon in 1997 when she submitted the names of Shmuel and his family, and so I made a request on both the JewishGen website and on Gesher Galicia for help in locating the family.  By this morning I had several responses, including two that gave me phone numbers, one for Chana and one for her son Shmuel.  The person who provided me with Shmuel’s number had just spoken with him and said he was awaiting my call.

I jotted down some notes and then called Shmuel.  He’s about my age and fluent in English.  He was very happy to help me, and we spent about half an hour, comparing notes and trying to figure out whether there is a connection between our families.

At the moment I still don’t know what the connection is, but it seems likely that there is one.  His grandfather Shmuel Brotman was born around 1888 in Dzikow, and his great-grandfather’s name was Moshe.  I don’t yet know where Moshe Brotman was born.  He could even be the same Moses Brotman who ended up in Brotmanville.  We still have to sort more things out.

He did tell me that he has done some research and believes that the Brotman family originally came from Georgia in the former Soviet Union and left to escape the pogroms.  He believes they changed their name to Brotman to get across the border.  According to Shmuel, some Brotmans went to the US, some to Romania, and some to Poland, including his family.  Whether our ancestors were also part of that family I don’t yet know, but it is a possibility.

So just as I was about to give up hope of finding more traces of our family, I received a glimmer of hope this morning from Israel.  No matter where this goes, it was another one of those uplifting experiences where strangers helped me find someone and that someone ended up being welcoming and hopeful that we are related.