Rosa Abraham Zechermann: A Story for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! Today’s post is in many ways fitting for Hanukkah, the holiday that commemorates the survival of a small number of Jews, the Maccabees, against all odds and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after their victory. It is a story thus about Jewish survival against persecution and the struggle for freedom and so in many ways is the story of Rosa Abraham Zechermann.

Back on October 31, 2017, I wrote about my search for Rosa Abraham, my third cousin, once removed, and the aunt of Fred and Martin Abrahams. Through the amazing connections I made on Facebook, I’d been able to establish that Rosa had married Isidor Zechermann and that both of them had immigrated to Santiago, Chile, to escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s. At the end of that post I mentioned that I was requesting a copy of their naturalization application and other files from the archives in Hesse, hoping to learn more about Rosa and Isidor, including when and where they had married.

I have now received the files, and unfortunately, I still do not have the answer to those last two questions, but the files I received did shed light on Rosa and Isidor and their lives before and during the Nazi era and have helped me narrow down the possible years and places where Rosa and Isidor married.

The file that was described as a naturalization file was actually Isidor and Rosa’s application for repatriation as German citizens. It was filed in 1952. From the notes at the bottom of this letter, we can see that they left Germany together as a married couple on December 13, 1938.

In his letter, Isidor wrote, “We have been living in Santiago de Chile since 1939, but we never applied for the Chilean citizenship because we could not give up the faith one day to become citizens of our German homeland again. Upon request, the local German Consulate confirmed to me that repatriation is possible, and I would be particularly grateful for fulfilling my request.”

After all that they must have experienced and lost during the Nazi era, Isidor and Rosa still considered Germany their homeland and wanted their status as German citizens restored.

The government granted their request, concluding that they were among those who were denied citizenship for political, racial, or religious reasons during the Nazi era:

 

Two years later, Rosa applied for reparations from the German government for damages she suffered during the Nazi era. I am very grateful to Irene Newhouse of the Jekkes group on Facebook for her generous help in translating Rosa’s letter and the government’s response.

Rosa wrote:

Santa Rosa 160 Dep. E.

Vitae curriculum

I had, in Frankfurt/Main, a women’s couture boutique and in the years 1932 to 31 July 1938, earned 600 Marks monthly.

I had to give up my skilled trade, as we, as Jews were victimized by the chicanery of the Nazis and the Gestapo, and the latter forced us to emigrate with threats. Relatives supported us from 1939 to 1942, until I succeeded to wring out a small independence with my needlework.

From the year 1943 to 1946, I earned about 1000 pesos a month, from 1947 to 1952, about 1500 pesos per month.

Since 1952, I’m unable to work due to gout, and am supported by my relations in the USA.

Rosa then requested compensation for her emigration expenses and the loss of her business and of her other assets.

In response the government awarded her 2,830.20 Deutsche marks as reparation for the damages she had suffered.

According to this website, in 1955 there were 4.2 marks to a US dollar, meaning that the award to Rosa was worth in 1955 about $673.  Allowing for inflation, $673 in 1955 would be worth about $6,100 today, according to this calculator. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a very generous award for someone who had been forced to emigrate and sacrifice her business and her home.

Although I did not learn exactly when Rosa married Isidor, it is clear from these papers that they were married before they left Germany and had been living together in Frankfurt at the time of their emigration from Germany.  Also, now that I know that Rosa had a business as a “Damenschneider” in Frankfurt beginning in 1932, I can assume that this is her listing in the 1932 Frankfurt directory:

That means she was married to Isidor as of 1932, probably earlier if she is listed this way in the 1932 directory. But where and when were they married?

Since Isidor’s first wife died on August 23, 1924, Isidor and Rosa must have married between then and 1932. Searching the Frankfurt directories before 1932, I found that Rosa was listed in the 1928 and 1931 directories as Rosa Abraham, not Zechermann, meaning that she must have married Isidor sometime between 1930 and 1932.

I have written to the registry in Frankfurt to see if they can find a marriage record, but it is also possible that Rosa was married in her birthplace, Niederurff. At any rate, I have narrowed down the possible range of years when they must have married.

Beginning in 1933 Isidor and Rosa are listed together, first living on Oberlindau Strasse and then beginning in 1935 at 15 Bohmerstrasse, the address given on their application for repatriation in 1952. Rosa (listed as Rosel) had her shop at 13 Bohmerstrasse. Living down the street were Jakob and Frida Zechermann, who presumably were Isidor’s relatives. Frida was named as Rosa’s representative in her request for reparations. Jakob and Isidor are both identified as “Kaufman,” or merchant. The Erdg indicates that Isidor and Rosa were living on the ground floor, and the T followed by a series of numbers was their telephone number.

1935 Frankfurt directory
Ancestry.com. Germany and Surrounding Areas, Address Books, 1815-1974 [database on-line]

In 1939 there is no separate listing for Rosa, just for Isidor. I assume by that time Rosa had been forced to close her business. And in 1940, neither Isidor nor Rosa is listed, of course, as they had departed for Chile.

Although I am still hoping to find a marriage record for Isidor and Rosa, I am now more satisfied that I have been able to put together a fuller picture of the life of my cousin Rosa Abraham Zechermann. And from Simon in the Jekkes group, I learned that Rosa and Isidor were an active part of the Jewish community in Santiago.  They had struggled and they had survived to enjoy their freedom.

Thank you again to Irene Newhouse for translating Rosa’s reparations papers and also to the members of the German Genealogy group on Facebook for helping me decipher some of the abbreviations in the Frankfurt directories.

And happy Hanukkah to all!

 

 

 

From A to Z: Adventures in Chile

Once again I found myself taking quite a rollercoaster ride in my genealogy research-this one involving one of the children of Pauline Ruelf and Hirsch Abraham.

As I wrote in this post, I had very little information about their oldest daughter, Rosa.  All I knew about her was her birth date and place (November 20, 1892 in Niederurff); the only other document I had was a passenger card from a 1961 flight from Santiago, Chile, to Miami, Florida. The birth date and place matched what I knew about Rosa, and the card listed her as Rosa A. Zechermann, so the middle initial could have referred to Abraham. But that wasn’t enough to know for sure whether this Rosa was in fact Rosa Abraham, even though the circumstantial evidence made it seem very likely.

Rosa Abraham passenger card
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at Miami, Florida.; NAI Number: 2788541; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85

And who was Mr. Zechermann? And why were they in Chile? Rosa’s nephew Martin remembered that one of his father’s sisters had ended up in Chile, but that was all he remembered. He didn’t remember a husband named Zechermann or anything else. But his memory and the passenger card led me to believe that I had to search for Zechermanns in Santiago, Chile.

Unfortunately, there are no documents on Ancestry.com for Chile after 1920, and although FamilySearch does have some cemetery records up through 2015 for Chile, there were no Zechermanns listed in that database. I wasn’t able to find any other websites or databases that might help.

I turned to Facebook and specifically to the Jekkes group on Facebook. Jekke (pronounced Yekkie) is a term used to refer to German Jews or more broadly, German-speaking Jews. I thought that this group might know about Jews of German background who had settled in South America, so I asked for help at 8 am one morning. First, a woman named Hanna responded within a half hour of my post and mentioned that she had known a woman named Ilse Dahlberg who had immigrated from Frankfurt to Chile. She didn’t know if Ilse was still alive, but thought she might be worth contacting.

When I googled Ilse Dahlberg, a Geni result came up for an Ilse Dahlberg whose birth name was Zechermann! I didn’t know whether Hanna had mentioned her for that reason or whether it was just a coincidence, but obviously Zechermann is not a common name so I thought it possible if not likely that  Ilse Dahlberg was somehow related to Rosa A. Zechermann.

Geni listed Ilse with a brother named Erich Zechermann and a father named Isidor Zechermann, but Ilse’s mother’s name was Amalia Zechermann, born Dahlberg, and not Rosa Abraham. (Ilse married one of her mother’s relatives, Nathan Dahlberg, thus ended up with a married name that was the same as her mother’s birth name. Just to confuse genealogists, I am sure.)

I found an immigration card for Erich that confirmed that his mother was also Amalia Dahlberg:

Erich Zechermann, Brazil immigration card
Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: “Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965”. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2013.

And I found the record of Isidor Zechermann’s marriage to Mali Dahlberg in Worms in 1905:

Marriage of Isidor Zechermann to first wife

Marriage of Isidor Zechermann to Amalie Dahlberg Ancestry.com. Worms, Germany, Marriages, 1876-1923 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Personenstandsregister Eheregister, 1876-1923. Stadtarchiv Worms.

So how did Rosa fit into this picture? Had she married Isidor’s brother or some other Zechermann who also ended up in Chile?

Then I found a record of Mali Dahlberg Zechermann’s death in Frankfurt on August 23, 1924:

Amalia Dahlberg death record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 903; Signatur: 903_10891

Thus, Isidor was a widower as of August 1924 and might have married Rosa Abraham sometime thereafter. But I could find no record of a second marriage for Isidor or any marriage for Rosa.

The first document I located that possibly linked Isidor Zechermann to Rosa Abraham was this passenger manifest listing Isidor and Rosa Zechermann traveling together in April 1952 on a flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to New York:

Isidor and Rosa Zechermann, 1952 passenger manifest
Year: 1952; Arrival: Idlewild Airport, Idlewild, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 8139; Line: 1; Page Number: 164
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

It listed their destination address as 41-15 50th Avenue, Long Island, New York. That address did not mean anything to me, and Google identified it as an apartment building in Queens, New York.

The manifest listed Isidor’s occupation as a “rentista,” which translated to a person of independent means or a stockholder or financial expert. Rosa also had an occupation listed—“bussinesm,” which didn’t translate to anything, but I assume meant she was in business. But there was no birth name given for Rosa to link her to Rosa Abraham.

I also searched for descendants of Isidor Zechermann, hoping that one of them might be able to help. Eric Zechermann had eventually immigrated to the United States, and I was able to find the names of his children and grandchildren. One of them was on Facebook, a woman named Deborah, and I left a private message explaining who I was and asking her to get in touch.

And then I sat back and waited.

No, not really.  I kept desperately trying to figure out where to turn next.

Around 3 in the afternoon of that same day, I received a Facebook notification that a man named Simon had commented on my post in the Jekkes group. Simon lives in Santiago, and his first comment was to tell me that “most of the German Jews know and knew each other in Chile.”

And he then blew me away by telling me that not only had he known Ilse Zechermann Dahlberg, but that he remembered and knew Rosa as well and remembered her sitting in synagogue with Ilse. But Simon did not know Rosa’s birth name or what had happened to either Isidor or Rosa.  He did not believe that Isidor and Rosa had children of their own and called his mother to check.  She agreed that Rosa and Isidor did not have children, but she also did not know what had happened to Isidor and Rosa, nor did she know Rosa’s birth name. Simon gave me several suggestions for websites and people to contact in Santiago, and I followed up with his suggestions.

Later that same afternoon I also heard back from Deborah, Isidor’s great-granddaughter.  She was excited about my work and interested in what I had learned, but unfortunately she didn’t know anything about Rosa.

So that’s where I was on Rosa. I knew that there was a Rosa A. Zechermann whose birthdate and place matched those of Rosa Abraham and a Rosa Zechermann who had traveled to New York with Isidor in 1952. I was 90% certain that this had to be my cousin, the daughter of Pauline Ruehl and Hirsch Abraham. But there was that nagging 10% of doubt.

I contacted Fred and Martin Abrahams, Rosa’s nephews, to report on what I’d found and to see if I could stir up any other stories or memories. Fred had no memory of an aunt named Rosa; he wrote that he only remembered three of his father’s sisters—Meta and Recha and Adele.

Adele, I said? I hadn’t found a sibling named Adele in researching the Abraham family. I had written a long blog post about the Abraham siblings, and neither Fred nor Martin had previously mentioned an aunt named Adele despite having had several communications back and forth among us.

Fred wrote that Adele’s married name was Trier and that she had lived in Queens.  So back to Ancestry I went to look for this missing sibling, Adele Abraham Trier. And it wasn’t hard to find her. She had arrived in the US on on October 10, 1936, with her husband Alfred Trier. I knew this was the right person because her birth place was Niederurff, and they were going to Meta Abraham and Recha Abraham, the sisters of Adele Abraham.

Alfred and Adele Trier 1936 passenger manifest
Year: 1936; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5890; Line: 1; Page Number: 120
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-195

Other US documents revealed that Adele was born on December 21, 1903; now I knew why I hadn’t found her before. The Hesse records on Ancestry stop in 1901, and there are no birth records on the LAGIS website for Niederurff for 1903 either. If Fred hadn’t mentioned Adele, I’d never have known there was another sibling.

In 1940, Adele and Alfred Trier were living in the apartment next to Adele’s sisters Meta and Recha. I’d seen this census before, of course, but had not had any reason to see the connection between the two households.

Alfred, Adele and Paul Trier on 1940 census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2643; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 31-809

The next records I found for Adele and Alfred related to their deaths—entries in the Social Security Death Index and on FindAGrave. Both lived long lives. Adele died in March 1993 at age 89, Alfred in 1996 at age 108! Alfred died in New Jersey, but Adele had died in Queens. They are buried at Mt. Zion cemetery in Queens.

And then I recalled that Rosa and Isidor had listed a Queens address on the 1952 manifest. I decided to see if I could find Alfred or Adele in any directories or databases for Queens. And I found this:

City: Long Is City; State: New York; Year(s): 1993 1994
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.
Original data: 1993-2002 White Pages. Little Rock, AR, USA: Acxiom Corporation.

Adele Abraham and Alfred Trier had lived at 41-15 50th Avenue in Long Island, New York—-the very address that Rosa and Isidor Zechermann had listed as their destination in 1952. I was now 99% sure that Rosa Zechermann was the sister of Adele Abraham Trier as well as Meta, Recha, and Julius Abraham and that she was the aunt of Fred and Martin Abrahams. And thus she was my third cousin, once removed.

The final piece of the puzzle came from a tip from a researcher in Germany named Kari, whom Fred Abrahams had recommended. She found two files in the Arcinsys website for Hesse, one for Isidor Zechermann and one for Rosa Zechermann geb Abraham. Although the files themselves are not accessible online, the descriptions of the files made it clear that this was my cousin Rosa and that she was married to Isidor Zechermann:

The birth date and place matched, her birth name was Abraham, and she was married to a Zechermann.  And I learned that Rosa was a “modistin,” a milliner.

I contacted someone at the archives to see what was in the file. The archives responded that there were four files in the Hesse archives relating to Isidor and Rosa Zechermann, including two lengthy files relating to their claims for compensation and one nine page file that included their naturalization application.

I have requested the naturalization papers (the other two files would be very costly to obtain), but from just the label on the file, I now have confirmation that Isidor Zechermann (born February 25, 1878) was married to my cousin Rosa Abraham (born November 20, 1892).

My search for Rosa Abraham Zechermann was over. It had truly been a search from A (Abraham) to Z (Zechermann).