My Cohn Cousins: Journalism, Sports, and, Most Importantly, Family and Love

 

The first post about my cousin Bob Cohn and his family discussed the lives of his grandparents—both Joseph and Rose (Kornfeld) Cohn, his paternal grandparents, and Minnie and Moses Kremenko, his maternal grandparents.  It also discussed his parents, Harold and Teddi (Kremenko) Cohn and their untimely deaths, which left Bob and his brother Paul as orphans at a young age.  Bob and Paul went to live with their aunt and uncle, Beatrice (Kremenko) and Sol Berman, after their mother’s death in 1945.

Despite these tragic losses, both Bob and Paul went on to enjoy successful careers and full family lives.  Bob wrote:

Seven years later [in 1952] I joined the United States Air Force for four years and served in Texas, Alaska, and Montgomery [Alabama] editing base newspapers.  When I was discharged from Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery I used the GI Bill to enroll at the University of Alabama where I met [my wife] June in 1959.

I asked Bob how he became interested in journalism, and he told me he was inspired by his role model and uncle, Barney Kremenko.  Bob had told me that his Uncle Barney was a famous sportswriter, but I had no idea how famous until I read this entry about him at Baseball-Reference.com, one of the best resources for information about baseball.

Barney Kremenko was a sports writer with the New York Journal American; there, he covered Willie Mays’ first – and the Giants’ final – seven seasons and was, reputedly, the one responsible for Mays’ famous nickname, The Say-Hey Kid. 

Upon joining the Journal some years before, Kremenko’s initial assignment had been Madison Square Garden, where he covered hockey, college hoops and track and field. In relatively short order, however, he would find his metier when chosen to succeed outgoing Giants’ beat writer, Pat Lynch.

When the Giants left New York in 1958, Kremenko led the campaign to restore National League baseball to New York. When that call was finally heeded in 1962, he was the logical choice to cover the fledgling Mets. Thus, the eulogy delivered many years later by UPI’s Carl Lundquist: “Barney was with the Giants, the Mets, and now he’s with the Angels.”

By 1966, however, the Journal was absorbed in a three-way merger. Kremenko continued with the short-lived World Journal Tribune, but when that paper went under in 1967, he went to work in a PR capacity for both the NHL’s New York Islanders and the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. At the time of his death in 1990, he was still listed as a communications consultant in the Islanders’ guide.

Throughout those final years, however, Kremenko maintained his membership in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and continued to edit The Scorebook, the journal presented annually to those attending the BBWAA’s New York chapter dinner. As fate would have it, Kremenko’s death came exactly one day before 1990’s New York dinner.

Paul C. Barton, Barney Klemenko, and Bob Cohn Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

Paul C. Barton, Barney Klemenko, and Bob Cohn
Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

After reading this, it was no surprise to me that Bob was inspired to be a journalist.  He was very close to his uncle, who often took him to sporting events as a child, and remained close to him as an adult.  At the University of Alabama, Bob became the editor of the student newspaper and after graduating got a job at the Montgomery Adviser in Montgomery, Alabama, covering the civil rights movement during the 1960s. Bob wrote:

As a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, N.Y., I was improbably assigned to cover the Montgomery Police Department.  I was such an underdog that two brothers who were officers “adopted” me and made certain I got all the breaks on news stories.  Montgomery was the hotbed of racial violence and black protest.  It was there that the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lived and preached.  It was in Montgomery that the “Freedom Riders” were beaten at the Greyhound Bus Station by the Ku Klux Klan while the police were deliberately absent from the scene.  I was there reporting on the violence.

Bob Cohn and Bobby Shelton, Imperial Wizard of the KKK, Montgomery, Alabama

Bob Cohn and Bobby Shelton, Imperial Wizard of the KKK, Montgomery, Alabama

I would love to hear more about Bob’s experiences during that time.

Eventually, Bob became the bureau chief in Atlanta for Morris Publishing, which owned several daily newspapers in the region.  His brother Paul had also settled in Atlanta after graduating from Emory University there.  Paul had changed his name from Paul Barton Cohn to Paul C. Barton after the bombing of the Temple, a Reform synagogue, on October 12, 1958, by white supremacists angry with that synagogue for its support of the civil rights movement.  Concerned about anti-Semitism, Paul decided to change his name to something less obviously Jewish.

Bob's brother Paul

Bob’s brother Paul C. Barton  Courtesy of Bob Cohn

Both Bob and Paul married women they met in college. Paul met his wife Joan Belger at Emory, and they had three children, Harris, Todd, and Jennifer.

Jennifer, Todd and Harris Barton Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

Jennifer, Todd and Harris Barton
Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

Their son Harris Barton was a star player for the San Francisco 49ers, definitely the first cousin I’ve found who had a career as a professional athlete.  Here is the entry from International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame website:

San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Harris Barton was a Natiional Football League All-Pro selection four consecutive years: first team in 1991, 1992 and 1993, and 2nd team in 1990. He played in the 1993 Pro Bowl. Barton anchored the storied offensive line for superstar quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young that provided the foundation for three 49er Super Bowl victories–1989, 1990, 1995. During his ten-year pro career, 1987-1996, Barton played 138 career NFL games, including 89 consecutive games. The 1986 University of North Carolina All-America was the 49er’s #1 draft choice in 1987. In his first season with the 49ers, Barton was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie team by the UPI, Pro Football Writers of America, and Pro Football Weekly.

Bob Cohn and Harris Barton after the NFC Championship game in Chicago

Bob Cohn and Harris Barton after the NFC Championship game in Chicago  Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn


Wikipedia also has a detailed entry as does the Pro-Football Reference website.   This article, from the Los Angeles Times and written in 1993 after Harris learned that his father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, reveals how important his father was to him.  Titled “The Good Son : 49er Lineman Harris Barton Discovers What Really Matters Is His Father,” the article, dated December 7, 1993,and written by Bill Plaschke, describes how learning of his father’s illness affected Harris and his focus on football.  Although Harris continued to play well, his priorities had shifted.

Barton also believes he is having a good year–as the right tackle, he has done well protecting left-handed Steve Young’s blind side.  But suddenly, preventing sacks is not as important as making sure his father can live the rest of his life in peace and dignity.

“When it comes to my family, football is on the back burner,” Barton said. “If anything comes out of me talking about this, it is that people should appreciate their parents while they still have them. Appreciate them now.”

Paul C. Barton died on May 25, 1994, at the age of 56.  Ten years later his wife Joan died from the same horrible disease, brain cancer.  She was 62.  They are survived today by their three children and seven grandchildren.

 

Bob Cohn with Joe Montana and Harris Barton Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

Bob Cohn with Joe Montana and Harris Barton
Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

 

 As for Bob, as noted above, he met his wife June at the University of Alabama.  Bob wrote this about June:  “She was a student from a small Alabama town about 17 miles from Tuscaloosa and she was (and is) gorgeous.” They married on June 5, 1960.
Bob and June's wedding

Bob and June’s wedding Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

Bob and June Cohn in more recent days Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

Bob and June Cohn in more recent days
Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

They had three children.  As Bob described it:

Our first child, Terri Paula, was born [in 1961] in Montgomery and delivered by Dr. Robert Lightfoot whom I had met at a train wreck.  I was officially introduced to fatherhood when I held Terri in my lap and she peed on me.  … Susan was born in Augusta and Greg in Atlanta.  June noticed that every time we moved we had another child so she didn’t want to move again.

Terri, Greg, and Susan Cohn

Terri, Greg, and Susan Cohn Photo courtesy of Bob Cohn

With three children to raise and a need to earn more money, Bob left journalism in 1970 and founded his own public relations firm, which later became a partnership named Cohn & Wolfe.  It must have been difficult to leave his chosen field, especially after winning fourteen awards from the Associated Press and United Press.  But Bob’s decision proved to be a wise one as he had incredible success with his new business.  The firm was sold to Young & Rubicam in 1998 and now has 71 offices all over the world and still uses its original name despite the fame and reputation of its parent company.

Bob and June’s children were highly successful students and athletes, as are his grandchildren.  He wrote:

Both of my daughters were captains of their tennis teams at Lakeside High School. Terri was a finalist in the state tennis tournament. My son Greg, a pitcher, went to the University of Virginia on a baseball scholarship. During his runup to that he played on teams that won so many championships… I can’t remember how many. His three children—Grace (high school volleyball), Samantha (soccer, basketball, volleyball  and fast pitch softball) and Owen (football, basketball, an all-star baseball player and now playing lacrosse for the first time. Samantha’s team finished third this summer for the soccer national championships in Tulsa, OK. She and her team travel all over the country—San Fran, San Diego, Chicago, New York, Florida, etc. since she was 9 years old. Teams from Jacksonville and Orlando are in town this coming weekend to play Sam’s Tophat team, No. 1 in the state of Georgia. Samantha was tapped by the Olympic Development Program in soccer and is one of 60 girls in the South so honored, including Texas and Oklahoma.

Greg pitching for the U. of Virginia

Greg pitching for UVa

terri skiing

Terri and her husband David skiing

Suzie Cohn Polay

Susan cheerleading

The photos below are of Bob and June’s grandchildren engaged in various athletic endeavors.

DSC_0078 2 DSC_4134 DSC_5530 (3) copy DSC_5807 DSC_5978 DSC_7575 Scan 5.zzjpeg-2

 

Tragically, Bob and June’s daughter Susan died at age 46 on May 11, 2011.  She is survived by her husband Robert and their two sons, who continue to live in Atlanta.  Bob and June also continue to live in Atlanta as do their two surviving children, Terri and Greg, their spouses, and their five grandchildren.

Despite losing his parents at such a young age and then losing his brother prematurely and his daughter as well, Bob is a man of incredibly positive energy.  Listening to him talk about his family, his marriage, his children,and his nieces and nephews and all of his grandchildren, you can only hear a man who is filled with love and gratitude for what he has and no bitterness about what he lost.

I will close this post with some photographs of the next generations in the line going backwards from Harold Cohn and Teddi Kremenko to Joseph Cohn and Rose Kornfeld to Mary Seligman and Oscar Kornfeld to Marx Seligmann and Sarah Koppel to Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, my 4x great-grandparents from Gaulsheim, Germany.

The next generation

Photos courtesy of Bob Cohn

next generation 2

 

 

 

 

Some Broken Brick Walls: Thank you, Cousin Bob!

In my post about the descendants of Mary Seligman, the youngest child of Marx Seligman, I wrote that I was hoping to be in touch with one of Mary’s descendants to learn more about what happened to some members of the family.  Specifically, I was trying to connect with Bob Cohn, who is the son of Harold Cohn and Teddi Kremenko (sometimes called Tillie, sometimes Theodora).  Harold Cohn was the son of Joseph Cohn and Rose Kornfeld.  Rose was Mary Seligman’s daughter with her husband Oscar Kornfeld.  Here’s a chart showing how Bob and my father are related as fourth cousins, making him my fourth cousin once removed.

Dad to Bob

After jumping through a number of hoops, I finally reached Bob after emailing someone at the public relations firm he founded in Atlanta forty-five years ago, Cohn & Wolfe.  Although Bob has retired, the man I contacted at the firm immediately emailed Bob, and within minutes Bob and I had exchanged emails.   It’s a long story as to how I figured out that the Bob Cohn at Cohn & Wolfe was the right Bob Cohn.  I won’t describe all my crazy sleuthing on this one!

Bob Cohn with trophy

My cousin, Bob Cohn All photos in this post are courtesy of Bob Cohn

Anyway, Bob is himself a family historian and has generously shared with me a great deal of information and a wonderful collection of photographs.  He, however, did not know very much about his grandmother Rose or her family, so he was delighted to learn what I had discovered about Rose and her Seligman(n) family roots.  By sharing what we each knew, we each were able to fill in some of the gaps that we each had in our research.

For example, I had been unable to find Rose and Joseph on any record after the 1930 US census.  At that time they were living on West 90th Street in New York, and after years in the printing business, Joseph had become an investor in the securities business.  Obviously that was unfortunate timing because, as Bob told me, Joseph lost a great deal of money in the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Depression.

Joseph and Bob Cohn

Joseph Cohn and his grandson Bob.  Note the family resemblance as you can see in the photo of Bob above.

Bob also told me that he had no memory of his grandmother Rose.  Since I knew Bob was born in 1934, I assumed that Rose might have died sometime between 1930 and 1940 if he had no memory of her.  Although a death record had not shown up in my initial search, this time I was able to find it.  Rose had died on June 24, 1930, shortly after the 1930 census.  She was 52 years old and died from a cerebral hemorrhage caused by hypertension.

Rose Cohn death certificate

Rose Cohn death certificate

Since I had not found Joseph on the 1940 census or elsewhere after the 1930 census, I was hoping Bob would know when he died or where he lived.  Bob believes that Joseph died in a nursing home in New Rochelle sometime in the late 1950s.   Those death records are not publicly available, however, except to close family, so I don’t have any record of Joseph’s death.  But knowing that he was a widow after 1930 led me to search again for him on other records.   I still, however, ran into some trouble.  On the 1940 US census, I found a Joseph Cohen (with the E), a widower of the right age, living in Newark, New Jersey, working as a storekeeper in a restaurant. (You will have to click on the images below to see them more clearly.)

Joseph Cohen and lodger 1930 US census

Joseph Cohn and lodger 1940 US census

 

Full page: Joseph Cohn 1930 census

Full page: Joseph Cohn 1940 census Year: 1940; Census Place: Newark, Essex, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2414; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 25-132

Bob has no memory of his grandfather living in New Jersey.  The man on this census record was living with a woman, Mary Miller, listed (I think) as “occupant,” working as a laundryman (?) in a hospital.  Although the enumerator wrote that Joseph was living in the same place in 1935, he also wrote that he was living in Matthen (??), New York, in 1935.  Maybe that’s Manhattan?  The same page has lots of other strange entries.  I think perhaps this enumerator was not very careful.

So why would I think that this is Joseph Cohn, Bob’s grandfather? Because I also found a World War II draft registration that shows that Joseph Cohn was living in Newark, New Jersey, in 1942.  This is definitely the right Joseph Cohn; he lists his closest relative as Harold Cohn of East 9th Street in Brooklyn, which is where Bob and his parents and brother Paul were living in 1942.  On the draft registration, Joseph was living on Court Street in Newark. The Joseph Cohen on the 1940 census was living on Bergen Street in Newark, less than two miles away.  Joseph was working for L. Loeb in Newark in 1942 at 317 Mulberry Street in Newark.

Joseoh Cohn World War II draft registration

Joseph Cohn World War II draft registration

 

I decided to search Newark directories for 317 Mulberry Street to see if I could find out what Joseph was doing in Newark.  I did not find Joseph in the 1942 Newark directory, but at 317 Mulberry Street in 1942 I did find a listing for a butcher named Samuel Cohn.  Bob had told me that his grandfather Joseph had had a brother Samuel, but he had not been able to learn what had happened to his great-uncle.  When I saw the name and the same address that appeared on Joseph’s draft registration, I assumed that this had to be Joseph’s brother Samuel.  I searched further in the Newark directories and found that in 1934 Sam Cohn was located on Bergen Street, where Joseph CohEn was living in 1940, according to the 1940 census.  In 1941, Sam was located at 69 Court Street; Joseph was living at 59 Court Street in 1942.  I was quite certain now that Joseph had moved to Newark after his wife Rose died in order to be closer to his brother Samuel.

That made me curious to know more about Samuel, the great-uncle Bob had not been able to locate.  Knowing now that he was a butcher, I was able to find him living in New York City in 1940 on the US census; he was living with his wife Minerva and adult son Phillip as well as two boarders.  The census indicated that he had been living in Newark in 1935 and that he was a butcher.  Now knowing his wife and son’s names, I found Samuel on the 1910 and 1920 census (but not the 1930), working as a butcher and living with his wife Minerva (or Minnie) and his son Phillip in the Bronx.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any records for Joseph or Samuel Cohn after 1942.  All I know is what Bob told me—that Joseph lived until sometime in the 1950s and was living at a nursing home in New Rochelle when he died.

 

Harold and Teddi

Harold and Teddy 1926

Harold and Teddi 1926

When I first wrote about Bob’s parents, Harold Cohn and Teddi Kremenko, I knew that Harold and Teddi had married in 1928, but then they disappeared for the next sixteen years.  I couldn’t find them on either the 1930 or the 1940 census.  All I knew was that Harold had died of coronary thrombosis at the age of 39 in 1944.  I didn’t know what he had done for a living, I didn’t know what had happened to his wife Teddi, and I didn’t know whether they had had children.  Fortunately, one of Teddi’s relatives, a granddaughter of one of her sisters, has a tree on Ancestry.com, and by connecting with her, I learned more and eventually found our mutual cousin, Bob.

I had been unable to find Harold and Teddi on the 1930 census, but one clue from Bob helped me locate a Harold Cohn who seems likely to be the right one.  I asked Bob what his father had done for a living, and he told me he’d been in the silk importing business.  I’d had no luck looking for a Harold Cohn married to a woman named Teddi, Tillie, or Theodora, but by entering “silk” into the search form, I came up with this Harold Cohn.  (You will need to click and zoom to read it.)

Harold Cohn 1930 census

Harold Cohn 1930 census  See lines 11 and 12.  Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1556; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0449; Image: 1030.0; FHL microfilm: 2341291

 

Yes, it says his father was born in Germany, whereas Harold’s father Joseph Cohn was born in New York. But his grandfather Philip was born in Germany.  Harold’s mother Rose was born in New York, as the census reports.  He was a silk distributor, as the census reports.  His age is not exactly right, but it’s close, or at least within the range of accuracy that census records generally report. They were living on West 86th Street, the same neighborhood where Harold’s parents were living in 1930.  All that certainly supports my assumption that this is the correct Harold Cohn.

But then it says his wife was Fay, not Tillie, Teddi, or Theodora.  It says she was born in New York, but Teddi was born in Russia.  It says her mother was born in England, but Teddi’s mother was born in Russia.  How do I explain these inconsistencies?  I can’t.  Did the census enumerator talk to a neighbor who knew more about Harold than he or she knew about Teddi? I don’t know, but I still think this is the right Harold.  But am I certain? No.  What do you think?

The 1940 census is even more problematic. In 1940, Bob turned six, his brother Paul turned three.  Bob said that they were living in Brooklyn when he started school at PS 99.  But I can’t find them in Brooklyn.  Even looking at the census report for everyone living on East 9th Street between Avenues J and K where Bob recalls the family living, I couldn’t find them on the 1940 census.

I only found one possible entry  for Harold and Teddi on the 1940 census, and it is even more of a stretch; I have serious doubts about whether these are the right people. I found a Philip Kohn married to Lillie with a four year old son named Michael, living in Queens.  Why would I even for a second think this was Harold and Teddi Cohn? Because Philip Kohn was in the silk business.  But it says he was born in Russia, not New York.  But it also says Lillie (could be Tillie?) was born in New York, not Russia.  Had the enumerator switched the birthplaces? And gotten all the names wrong?  And forgotten a child? Probably not.  Especially since Bob says they never lived in Queens. So the Cohn family remains missing from the 1940 census as far as I can tell.

Could this be Harold Cohn? See line 74

Could this be Harold Cohn? See line 74  Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Queens, New York; Roll: T627_2749; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 41-1623B

 

For the rest of the story, I have the great benefit of Bob’s memories, experiences, and research.  I think it best to let him tell his story mostly in his own words.

First, a few pages that Bob wrote about his mother’s family, the Kremenkos.

Bob's book 1 Bob's book 2 Bob's book 3

As for his father’s family, Bob wrote:

The Cohn family history covers three generations.  Bob’s father, Harold, was born in New York City and was the only child of Joseph and Rose Cohn.  Joseph was also born in New York to Adela and Phillip Cohn in 1876. … Phillip and Adela immigrated to New York in 1866 and married four years later.  Adela was from the Alsace Region of France hat sits on the west bank of the Upper Rhine River next to the German border. It is one of France’s principal wine-growing regions.  Phillip was born in Baden in July, 1842 and later worked as a banker there.

From the collection of family photographs Bob shared with me, it looks like Harold Cohn and Teddi Kremenko and their sons were living happily up until 1944:

Harold and Teddi

Harold and Teddi

Mom and Dad at tennis

Harold and Teddi

Mom and Dad with Robert in the grass

Harold, Bob, and Teddi Cohn

Mom and Robert, 1937

Teddi and Bob, 1937

Mom, Paul and I, 1944 at Bungalow Colony

Paul, Teddi, and Bob Cohn 1944

Robert (Red) Cohn

Bob

My Mom and Dad, Uncle Barney

Harold and Teddi Cohn, Barney Kremenko, and others

U 2

Harold and Teddi

 

And then, as noted earlier, Harold died unexpectedly.  Bob wrote:

When I was 9 years old, I remember my father giving me a nickel on the front porch of our home on East 9th Street between Avenue J and Avenue K.  The money was for a Red Cross Fund Drive.  My Dad died that day, February 1, 1944, at the age of 39 from a heart attack.

As if that wasn’t tragedy enough for two young boys and their mother, less than two years later, Bob and Paul’s mother Teddi died at age 42 from throat cancer.

My mother, Theodora (Teddi) Cohn died on Oct. 13, 1945, barely a month after World War II ended. For my Oct. 12th birthday Uncle Barney (Kremenko) took me to Yankee Stadium’s press box to watch undefeated Army play a highly ranked Michigan team. Army had two Heisman trophy winners in the backfield—Doc Blanchard and Glen Davis—and four consensus All-Americans. At halftime the score was 14-0 when Uncle Barney got a call to rush home because my mother was dying. We got there before she passed away and she gave me an ID bracelet that was popular in those days. Everyone in the family called me Robert, including my Mom, but she knew I preferred the name Bob. So it was the first time she acknowledged my preference and gave me the sterling silver bracelet with Bob Cohn inscribed on the top. On the reverse side she had inscribed “From Mother, Oct. 12, 1945.

ID bracelet

As it turned out Army won 28-7 and it was a historic day in college football.  

(According to Wikipedia, “Outmanned by Army, Michigan’s Coach Fritz Crisler unveiled at halftime the first known use of the so-called “two-platoon” system in which separate groups played offense and defense.” Click the link for more on the game.)

Thus, by the time he was eleven, Bob Cohn had lost both his parents; his brother Paul was only eight years old.  Where would they go?

Bob wrote:

There was a family circle meeting to decide who would take my brother Paul and I in. Aunt Diana and Uncle George said they wanted to have us but the others voted against them because they would not be right for young children because they had no experience, having no children of their own. Then Aunt Rose and Uncle Louie put in their bid but they also were turned down. The decision was made by the family for us to live with Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Sol because they had two young children and could best deal with the situation. Aunt Diana understood but over the years spent a lot of her time with the two of us. Ann [a cousin] said she loved us deeply.

Bob pointed out that his Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Sol had two children—Barbara and Morton—who became like siblings to Bob and Paul. Barbara is three years older than Bob, and Morton is seven years younger.

Barbara Paul Morty and Bob

Aunt Rose with Paul Barton Cohn

Rose Kremenko and Paul Barton Cohn

Kremenko sisters

The five Kremenko sisters and their mother Minnie

What would happen to these two little boys who lost both their parents so young? Not only did they survive; they both thrived, as we will see in Part II of Bob’s story.  That they did is a tribute to the love they had received from Harold and Teddi in their early years and the love they received from the family members who raised them and cared for them after they’d lost their parents.

 

 

Old Friends: Braided Forever

My mother has often spoken about how sad she was when her family decided to move from Brooklyn to the Bronx when she was about twelve years old.  There were many reasons she was upset.  For one, she had to leave her dog Sparky behind.  That broke her heart, and she still can’t talk about it without getting emotional.

Sparky 1934

 

But also she had to leave her best friend Beatty behind. Beatty lived in the same four-family house at 1010 Rutland Road in Brooklyn; she lived right down the hall from my mother.  They had been close friends all through childhood, and although they tried to stay in touch after my mother moved, back in the 1940s that was not at all easy.  Phone calls were expensive, and the trip from Brooklyn to Parkchester in the Bronx was a long one, especially for two young girls.  So over time, they lost touch.

Beatty and my mother c. 1940

Beatty and my mother c. 1940

Not too long ago my mother asked me if I could find Beatty.  She knew her first and last name from when she’d last seen her over 70 years earlier, but she had no idea where she was living or whom she might have married.  I tried to find her, but with so little information I had no luck.  If Beatty had married, it was after the last year of the publicly available NYC marriage index (1937).  The only information I could find related to her siblings, who had passed away.

So you can imagine how excited I was to receive a message on the blog last week from Beatty herself.  She was looking for my mother after seeing her pictures and childhood name on the blog.  I contacted Beatty, and I called my mother.  And I gave them each other’s contact information, and now they are reconnected after over 70 years.  I get the chills (and a warm feeling) whenever I think about it.

One of the stories my mother shared with me was about Passover at Beatty’s house.  Her father led the seder in a very serious way, and as many of us know, a traditional seder can get quite long and quite boring, especially for young children.  To keep themselves from misbehaving and talking, my mother and Beatty would braid the fringes on the beautiful tablecloth that adorned the seder table.  When my mother shared this memory with Beatty, she said that she also had shared that story with her children.

The tablecloth still exists, and even more remarkable, the braids made by my mother and her best friend Beatty are still there as well.  Here is the photograph to prove it.

Beatty's tablecloth

Beatty’s tablecloth

tablecloth with braids 2

My mother was once my Girl Scout troop leader, and one of the songs we sang had the lyrics, “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, and the other gold.”  My mother and Beatty certainly know the truth of that message.

Moritz James Oppenheimer: The (More) Complete Story

Several weeks ago I received a comment on the blog from Angelika Oppenheimer, the granddaughter of Moritz James Oppenheimer, whose life I wrote about here.  He was the successful businessman who owned the horse breeding farm in Germany that was appropriated by the Nazis.  Moritz Oppenheimer died in 1941, an apparent suicide after being “visited” by the Gestapo.

Angelika found the blog because she was interested in knowing more about her grandfather’s family, and I am grateful because I now have learned more about her grandfather’s life and about the lives of his children and grandchildren.

Angelika Oppenheimer

Angelika Oppenheimer photo courtesy of Angelika

Angelika is my third cousin, once removed.  Here is a chart explaining our relationship:

Angelika to me chart

 

 

Moritz James Oppenheimer was born in 1879 in Butzbach, Germany, the youngest child of Maier Oppenheimer and Pauline Seligmann.  As seen above, he was the grandchild of Moritz Seligmann and Babetta Schoenfeld, my three-times great-grandparents.  Here is a photo of him as a young man from Fred Michel’s photo album,

Moritz Oppenheimer

Moritz Oppenheimer Photo courtesy of the Michel family

According to a resume provided to me by Angelika, in 1901 he founded the Mitteldeutsche Papierwarenfabrik situated in the Hanauer Landstraße and the Rheinische Sackfabrik.  Moritz was a member of the board of directors of several companies throughout Germany, including the Kostheimer Cellulose und Papierfabrik (Kostheim-Mainz), the Danziger Verpackungsindustrie at Danzig, the Fabbrica Italiana Sacchi Ercole at Villanovetta, the Mechanische Papiersackfabrik A.G. at Saarbrücken, the Sankt Georg Verlag at Berlin and the Bayrische Reitschule at Munich.

Emma Neuhoff and Moritz James Oppenheimer photo courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

Emma Neuhoff and Moritz James Oppenheimer
photo courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

Sometime before 1902, Moritz married Emma Katherina Neuhoff, who was not Jewish.  According to Angelika, she was a descendant of Theodor Neuhoff, born in Cologne, Germany, who traveled throughout Europe and was at one time the king of Corsica.  According to Wikipedia, “At Genoa, Neuhoff made the acquaintance of some Corsican rebels and exiles, and persuaded them that he could free their country from Genoese tyranny if they made him king of the island. With the help of the Bey of Tunis, he landed in Corsica in March 1736 with military aid. The islanders, whose campaign had not been successful, elected and crowned him king. He assumed the title of King Theodore I, issued edicts, instituted an order of knighthood, and waged war on the Genoese, at first with some success. But in-fighting among the rebels soon led to their defeat.”

Theodore Neuhoff

Theodor Neuhoff

Emma Neuhoff was a gifted musician and an excellent horsewoman, according to her granddaughter Angelika.

Emma Neuhoff Oppenheimer

Emma Neuhoff Oppenheimer  Photo courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

Here are two pages from a German magazine discussing M.J Oppenheimer and his wife Emma.  I think it’s a publication about thoroughbred breeding and racing, but I cannot read the pages.  Perhaps some kind German-speaking reader can help?

Familiengeschiche 2 Familiengeschichte3

(Angelika told me that the drawing of Emma illustrating this article was commissioned by the Historical Museum of Frankfort based on Emma’s reputation as an excellent horsewoman.)

Moritz and Emma had two children: Paula (1902) and Walter (1904), Angelika’s father.  Paula married a Catholic man named Rudolf Spiegler, a doctor, and converted to Catholicism; they had two children, Gabriele and Wolfgang. Paula and her family did not face any persecution during the war.

As for Angelika’s father Walter, he married Suzanne Zier on December 23, 1933.  Walter had been raised and baptized as a Christian, and his wife also was not Jewish, yet Walter faced substantial discrimination during the Nazi era.  In April 1945, as the war in Europe was ending, he wrote the following essay, describing both his own life and what happened to his father Moritz after the Nazis came to power:

27 April 1945

Biographical memorandum

I was born on 10 July 1904, son of the industrialist and thoroughbred horse-breeder Consul M.J. Oppenheimer, in Frankfurt am Main. After three years at preparatory school, I attended the Goethe Gymnasium in that city for nine years; I left school, having obtained my school leaving certificate (Abitur), at Easter 1923. After studying for six terms at Frankfurt University (Law and National Economy), I sat the examination for articled clerk at the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court [Oberlandesgericht]. After a period as an articled clerk at the court in Frankfurt, in 1927 I took my doctorate under Professor de Boor. After a lengthy period of practical training as a fitter in an engineering works, and as a paper-maker in paper-mills, I then joined my father’s paper-products company, the Mitteldeutsche mechanische Papierwarenfabrik, in Frankfurt. From 1931 I was Chief Company Secretary of this company belonging to my father as sole owner. At that time it was the largest company of its kind in Germany, and for a period employed together with its subsidiaries more than 1,000 people. In 1932 I built a major subsidiary factory for my father’s company in Berlin.

My father was arrested in the autumn of 1933, at the instigation of two [NSDAP] party members (August Hartmann and Helmut Vögler) working in collaboration with the NSDAP. His entire assets were put in the hands of the lawyer [Rechtsanwalt] Max-Ernst Cuntz as prospective administrator. A bankruptcy was thus brought about, and the assets liquidated at the lowest rate, the said lawyer Cuntz selling each item at a rate far below its value, for the most part at one twentieth of purchase value. The stud farm and stables, for example (probably the biggest and best of their kind in Germany), were disposed of at a price below the level of profits from racing for the following year. The case was similar in respect of the factories, share portfolios, Hippodrome A (whose director I also was, and all shares in which belonged to my father), etc. I myself was immediately removed without compensation from all my posts by the lawyer Cuntz, on the grounds of my non-Arian status. I was also compelled to surrender my own stables, representing an approximate worth of between 70,000 and 100,000 Reichsmark, without receiving any compensation. My father was also quite illegally disqualified from receiving the stud prize. To satisfy the rules in this latter regard, for years my mother and I continued to hold two mares for my father, so that he could legally be assigned 10% of all racing prizes won by horses bred by him, in accordance with stud rules: except with the proviso that no stud prizes could be paid out to a Jew; the authorities retained this annual sum, comprising up to 100,000 Reichsmark, and finally had it credited either to themselves or to the Union Klub. My father, who was perfectly healthy, became ill owing to ill-treatment during his detention. He was declared unfit for detention in 1934/5, and finally took his own life when he was about to be arrested again in 1941 preparatory to being sent to a camp.

I myself with my mother had founded the company Paverk, Gesellschaft für Papierverarbeitung in December 1933. As I could not appear in person as a holder of shares in a limited company, an Arian uncle of my mother acted for me. Then, in 1937, I transferred this share in trust to my father-in-law Otto Zier, now [April 1945] of Friedberg in Hessen, Dieffenbachstrasse 25, together with a further 20,000 Reichsmark of shares created in settlement of my assets, so that, of the total sum of 40,000 Reichsmark in shares of the above company, 10,000 Reichsmark of my mother’s and 30,000 of mine belonged in trust to my father-in-law. By the beginning of the war, however, with a nominal capital of 40,000 Reichsmark the company had an actual value of some 250,000 to 300,000 Reichsmark, as, thanks to the diligent efforts of my employees, the company had been highly successful under my stewardship.

My wife having died suddenly from pneumonia in April 1935, at the beginning of 1941 my father-in-law saw fit to attempt to misappropriate the shares that had been transferred to him in trust. As, owing to my status as a person of mixed blood, I myself could not appear as a plaintiff, I assigned my claim to my mother, who instituted legal proceedings and won her case, at both first and second instance. The papers relating to the case are still available in their entirety: reference 2/5 2/9 0 30/41. These papers clearly demonstrate how Zier attempted to influence the court using the entire gamut of National-Socialist arguments, with reports against me and the company being sent to all sections of the Party, including district and financial counsellors (Kreis- und Wirtschafts-berater – [advisors to the Gauleiter under National Socialism]) Eckhardt, Degenhardt, and Avieny, the DAF [Deutsche ArbeitsFront – national trades union organisation under the National Socialists], the Gestapo, etc. At last instance, the High Court [Reichsgericht] awarded my mother only 10,000 Reichsmark unconditionally, while presuming improper concealment [unsittliche Tarnung] in respect of the remaining 20,000 Reichsmark. This finding is the subject of a new trial before the District Court [Landgericht] in Frankfurt (2/5 0 36/44), over whose outcome in my mother’s favour there may be little reason to doubt. Quite apart from these machinations on Zier’s part, which caused not only the Paverk company but also my mother and myself endless spiritual and material harm, we had also much else to suffer at the hands of the NSDAP.

When the company was heavily bombed in 1943, and totally bombed out in February 1944, Herr Hermann of the Gauwirtschaftskammer [regional economic organization under National Socialism] prevented the rebuilding of the plant and re-acquisition of machines. In addition, I myself was arrested by the Gestapo in the autumn of 1942, the only charge against me being my engagement to an Arian woman in contravention of the rules. I was not released again until 28 May 1943. My entire household effects to the value of about 70,000 Reichsmark (peacetime value), including art collections etc., had meanwhile been taken, and the Gestapo official Wildhirt installed in my flat. In 1943, my fiancée was conscripted to work at the Mayfahrt company under the harshest of conditions at the direct instigation of the Gestapo. The main initiator in these matters was Zier, who did not, however, proceed in his own name, but employed the services of his friends Fabian-Gramlich (insofar as I have been able to determine up to now), while my furniture was removed by a painter by the name of Baumann, who did work for the police.

I married on 11 April 1945, immediately after the liberation by the Americans. I was allocated a flat at Freiherr vom Stein Strasse 56/1, which I immediately had redecorated and furnished with furniture belonging to my wife, only to have the flat abruptly requisitioned by US soldiers on 26 April 1945.

Initialled “W.O.” at Frankfurt am Main on 27 April 1945

I, David M.B. Richardson MCIoL, certify this to be a true and fair translation of a photocopied document in German provided to me by Frau Angelika Oppenheimer, daughter of Walter Oppenheimer.

Westcliff-on-Sea, 11 August 2015.

Walter’s essay reveals so much about the hate-filled and carefully plotted system used by the Nazis to crush, humiliate, and destroy the Jews.  First, they stripped them of their property, then they stripped them of their dignity, and finally they killed them and stripped them of their lives.  Moritz Oppenheimer, a man of great wealth, was brought to his knees by the Nazis and demoralized to the point that he took his own life rather than be subjected to further humiliation and abuse and ultimately murdered. One aspect of that humiliation and abuse not mentioned in Walter’s essay was the forced annulment of his marriage to Emma Neuhoff because of Moritz’s Jewish background.

Moritz and Emma’s son Walter, a highly educated and successful man in his own right and not even raised as a Jew, was denied his property and his rights and had his own father-in-law betray him and his trust after his first wife died in 1935.  According to Angelika, Walter’s brother-in-law was in the SS.  Only because Walter had a non-Jewish mother who bribed the local Nazi official in Frankfort was he allowed to survive.

As he wrote above, Walter married his second wife, Elsa Lina Wiegandt, in 1945, and they had a daughter, my cousin Angelika.   In 1946, Walter sought the return of the property that had been taken from him by the Gestapo, primarily the books he treasured so much.  Here is the letter he wrote and Angelika’s translation of that letter:

Walter Oppenheimer letter

Dr. Walter Oppenheimer                                  Frankfurt a. M., den 25. Oktober 1946          Niedenau 45

An das Archival Depot

Offenbach am Main

Mainstraße 167

Concerning: stolen books

With polite reference to the notice published the 22nd October under the above mentioned headword in the ‘Frankfurter Rundschau’, I take the liberty of presenting you the following:

I was arrested by the Gestapo the 26th October 1942 for purely political and racial reasons. My apartment was handed over to the Gestapo officer Wildhirt while my furniture was first and foremost transferred by a Gestapo agent to the second principal of the Gestapo here, Mister Grosse. The biggest part of my library was taken away with it. A part of the books was rubber-stamped with my name but the bigger part of it was without the name of the legitimate owner.

If there are any books of mine in your office, I ask you nicely to furnish information to me. Especially the following books mean much to me:

A 17-vlume gilt-edged edition of GOETHE in red morocco leather;

A complete half leather edition of HAUFF with gold ornament on the spine;

A half leather edition of KLEIST’s writings with gold ornament on the spine;

MUTHER: 3 volumes of history of painting, green cloth binding;

SPRINGER: 5 volumes on art history, half cloth binding and cloth binding respectively;

20 – 25 volumes of monographs on artists, partly half leather editions, partly with half cloth binding and cloth binding respectively, red with gold ornament, edition of the Stuttgarter Verlagsanstalt;

A five volume edition of HÖLDERLIN, grey pasteboards.

Many thanks indeed for your efforts in anticipation.

With all due respect to you!

I was impressed by the diversity of subjects in his library and by how much he valued his books. I also was struck by how polite and almost deferential he was in asking for the return of what was already rightfully his own.   At least some of the books were returned and remain today with Angelika.  Here is a photo of her father Walter.

Walter Oppenheimer 1972 courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

Walter Oppenheimer 
courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

Angelika shared this photograph of her family and friends at her Lutheran confirmation celebration taken in about 1961.

Angelika's confirmation Courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

Angelika’s confirmation c. 1961
Courtesy of Angelika Oppenheimer

From left to right: Paula Oppenheimer Spiegler (paternal aunt) , Emma Neuhoff Oppenheimer (grandmother), Christiane Wiegandt (Angelika’s maternal cousin), Christiane Bott (classmate), Sylvia Berres (classmate), Elsa (nee Wiegandt) Oppenheimer (Angelika’s mother), Angelika,, Walter Oppenheimer (Angelika’s father), Karl Wiegandt (Angelika’s maternal uncle), Karli (Angelika’s maternal cousin), Annie Wiegandt (wife of Karl), Herta Dorner (friend), Gabriele Spiegler (Paula’s daughter), either Wolfgang Spiegler or Gabriele’s husband.

I feel very fortunate that Angelika was able to find me through this blog.  Her family’s story is yet another lesson in the destructive power of prejudice, on the one hand, and the ultimate power that human beings have to survive and overcome those destructive forces, on the other.

Angelika and I have lived very different lives; we grew up with different religious backgrounds, we live in different countries, we speak different languages.  My immediate family lived through World War II in relative safety; hers was scarred forever.  But despite those differences, we know that we share a common history that ties us together as cousins.  Isn’t that remarkable?

 

Introducing Chloe and Zoe—New Leaves on the Pet Family Tree

Chloe and Zoe 8 21 2015

As many of you know, we lost two pets in the last twelve months.  First, we unexpectedly lost our sweet cat Luna, who died without warning last September.  Then in June we had to put down our fifteen year old dog Cassie.   I knew we would eventually get a new cat, but I really wasn’t ready until after we lost Cassie as well.  So for my birthday, all I really wanted was a kitten.  Um, I mean kittens.

We were very lucky to find an amazing animal shelter in Provincetown called CASAS.  It’s a no-kill shelter where the cats have free run of a house, no cages.  It’s run by volunteers and supported by donations.  It’s the only shelter I’ve been to where I did not leave in tears, worrying about all the cats and dogs left behind.

We first saw our new kittens the first week in August and decided we would adopt one.  Then a few days later, we decided we should get two.  We had to wait until today for them to be ready to go home.  These poor kittens were orphaned at four weeks old when their mother was killed by a car and were bottle-fed by the shelter volunteers.  They are as sweet as they are pretty.

So without further ado…

Here is Chloe.

Chloe in focus 8 21 2015

Here is Zoe.

Zoe 8 21 2015

Here they are on my lap.

zoe chin up

And here’s big brother Smokey checking them out  while they slept.

smokey checking them out

And here are a few more  as they check out their new surroundings.

After they both tried to eat the crystal-type kitty litter, we had to use newspaper until we could get some traditional litter.

After they both tried to eat the crystal-type kitty litter, we had to use newspaper until we could get some traditional litter.

Chloe says not bad testing the quality of the accommodations

We are so excited to have our new babies join our family!

 

Lotte’s Story, Part III: Coming to and Settling into America

In Parts I and II of Lotte’s story, we saw how my cousin Lotte’s idyllic childhood as the daughter of a successful doctor in Mannheim, Germany, was shattered after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933.  By 1937, her sister Doris had left for the US, and a year later, Lotte and her parents Joseph and Anna (Winter) Wiener had moved to Luxembourg, where Anna’s parents, Samuel and Laura (Seligmann) Winter had already relocated.

After visiting her daughter Doris in the US, Anna returned to Luxembourg and convinced Joseph that they also should relocate there.  First, they had to obtain visas to travel to the US.  Lotte wrote:

The nearest American consulate was in Antwerp, Belgium, necessitating a fairly long trip. My grandparents were rather disabled by that time and in no condition to undertake the long journey. Reluctantly, we had to leave them behind when we made the trip. After a long wait we were admitted to the consul’s office where he sat, pipe in the corner of his mouth and feet on his huge executive desk. A most unfriendly man, he asked my parents all the necessary questions. When my turn came up, he quizzed me in some of the simplest arithmetic questions. When he was satisfied that I was not imbecile, he condescended to tell us that we could expect the visas in “six months to one hundred years”. Fortunately it took only a little over six months before we could sail.

While waiting for the visas to come through, Lotte worked at a baby hospital in Luxembourg.  She worked long hours taking care of the infants, and in the end she earned a Red Cross certificate, which proved to be quite valuable when she later applied to nursing school in New York.

The atmosphere in Luxembourg grew increasingly tense.  After the Munich agreement allowed Germany to take over the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in the fall of 1938, more and more Jewish refugees were leaving Germany for Luxembourg.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R69173 / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Signing the Munich Agreement
From left to right: Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini, and Ciano pictured. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R69173 / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As Lotte described it:

Many Jewish refugees had arrived in Luxembourg, many only with their fur coats and jewelry in assets. Having nothing else to do but to wait for the possibility of a visa, most unlikely on the Austrian and Hungarian quotas, they spent a lot of time in the local cafés. That in turn aroused a certain amount of the latent antisemitism in the population. Or maybe it was not so latent. My roommate at the hospital, a devoutly Catholic young lady who went to mass almost every morning, confided in me that she needed to “confess” to the priest that she was sharing her room with a Jewish girl. She had to admit, however, that I neither had horns nor did anything evil as far as she knew.

It was becoming very clear that there would be a war in Europe, and the events of Kristallnacht in November, 1938, also frightened those who were still in Luxembourg.

The aftermath of Kristallnacht, Jewish shops v...

The aftermath of Kristallnacht, Jewish shops vandalized. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finally, in April 1939, Lotte and her parents received their visas and could leave for the United States.   There was, however, no way to take Lotte’s grandparents, Laura and Samuel, with them.

Tickets for the voyage were booked, and soon my parents and I found ourselves on a train to Le Havre without them. We never were to see them again. As we found out later, Oma died of a heart attack while looking for an apartment, having been evicted when the German army took over Luxembourg in the spring of 1940. Opa was deported to Theresienstadt where he reportedly died “of natural causes”.

When I think about these separations, it tears me apart.  I cannot imagine leaving my parents behind, as Annie Winter Wiener was forced to do.  Anyone who has seen the recent movie “A Woman in Gold” will remember the scene when Maria Altmann leaves her parents behind in Vienna for similar reasons.  It’s a scene that breaks your heart and stays with you long after the movie ends with Maria victorious in her legal battles over the Klimt painting.  Maria was a real person, just as Lotte is a real person.  These are not Hollywood stories written just to wring tears from viewers.  These are the lives and the experiences that thousands and thousands of people endured.

But somehow these people, including Lotte and her parents, survived and found the strength to move on.  Lotte’s description of her sea voyage to America, leaving her grandparents and her homeland forever, reveals that tenacity, the strength, that courage.

Below is the ship manifest listing, on lines 6,7, and 8, Lotte and her parents (her real first name is Leonore) and a photograph of the George Washington, the ship that brought them to the US.

Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6313; Line: 1; Page Number: 176

Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6313; Line: 1; Page Number: 176

The George Washington, the ship that Lotte and her parents sailed on to the US in 1939 Ancestry.com. Passenger Ships and Images [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Various maritime reference sources.

The George Washington, the ship that Lotte and her parents sailed on to the US in 1939
Ancestry.com. Passenger Ships and Images [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: Various maritime reference sources.

Lotte chose to write this section in the third person, which I found interesting and revealing.  Was she distancing herself from that teenaged girl who was herself distancing herself from her past?

It was a grey and rainy day in April of 1939. A wet and blistery wind blew, adding to the girl’s anxiety. The security of her world had been shattered, slowly at first, but then with increasing speed and ferocity. Her best friend had been left behind – without her being able to say a proper good-bye – perhaps they would never have a chance to see each other again. Here she stood at the pier in Le Havre, ready to embark on the longest journey of her young life. Slowly she and her parents stepped on the planks of the ship, the ocean liner which would bring them from a Europe threatened by the certain relentless march toward war to the vast and unknown entity of America which lay before her.

The voyage was stormy and rough. The ship rocked from side to side with the huge waves. Most of the time she felt sick. Staying in the cabin was awful. When she stepped on deck, she felt even worse. Looking at the ominous grey sky above as well as watching the wildly moving waves below made her dizzy. Eating became a nightmare. Keeping any food down was impossible. They suggested broth. That wouldn’t work. Eating a baked potato– who had ever heard of a baked potato before? The English spoken on board did not sound at all like what she had learned in school. The ship’s entertainment was provided by an enormously fat and very jolly man with the incongruous name of “Tiny”. Was everybody crazy?

Finally, during the fifth night, the storm passed, and in the morning the sea was calm and the sun shone brightly. She stepped outside and saw to her right the exhilarating sight she had been told to expect: New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty. Suddenly she felt well. Her excitement grew. Soon she would be able to set foot on the land which would be her new home. She resolved that she would accept whatever there was. She would not compare things with what had been.

Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Isl...

Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Island and Liberty Island, Manhattan, in New York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lotte seemed to stay true to those resolutions.  She quickly adapted to life in New York City, working as a babysitter while awaiting acceptance to a nursing program.  She was accepted into Cornell University-New York Hospital’s nursing program for the fall of September, 1939, less than six months after her arrival in New York.  Lotte wrote about some of the culture shock she experienced when she began her nursing studies in New York:

Once I was notified that I had been accepted at the prestigious Cornell University – New York Hospital School of Nursing, it took me exactly one week to purchase the few required items and to pack my suitcase. Actually admissions had been closed quite a while before, but they had made an exception for me. Of course I had lost no time getting all my documents together and to have my credentials translated and notarized. I had taken a six-week crash course at a private school in Manhattan, located on Sixth Avenue behind the Public Library. How I had sweated that summer, taking the Subway from Kew Gardens to Times Square and back, and then to take the Regents exams! The courses, American History, 4th Year English, and Civics, were required in order to obtain a “Nurse Qualifying Certificate”.

So one fine September morning in 1939 my father and I, all of 18 years old, set out to travel from Kew Gardens, Queens, to the nurses’ residence on York Avenue in mid-Manhattan. With two big suitcases we walked to the subway station, went downstairs, took the  train to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue, dragged the suitcases back upstairs, walked to the Second or Third Avenue Elevated which was still running at that time, and then walked to the York Avenue address. As we entered, we saw several taxis pulling up, bringing some of my new classmates to the same destination. Only they did it the easy way. It had never occurred to us to take a cab as money was very tight. I said goodbye to my father and went about to register and to get settled in my new quarters.

The schedule of activities for the first day included a four o’clock tea for all the newcomers in the formal and somewhat stuffy library. True to my nature I was there right on time, the first one to appear, to be exact. All the others were still busy taking showers and changing into the kind of clothes you were supposed to wear for an afternoon tea. Little did I know that that was the thing to do. I was still in my travel outfit and felt rather sweaty. Well, I entered the library and found a stunning-looking white-haired woman in a gorgeous red dress seated at the solid oak table, “pouring” tea. I learned that she would be one of my nursing instructors. Soon the other students came, and we began to get acquainted.

*****

During the first six months the emphasis was on academics. Actually one of the entrance requirements had been one year of chemistry. Most of my classmates had two years of college with all the needed requirements behind them, while I had barely obtained my high school equivalent certificate. My European education had been superior in some ways, but badly missing in science. I did not even know how to balance a chemical equation. So here I was supposed to obtain a basic knowledge of inorganic as well as organic chemistry in all of six weeks. It seemed like it was going to be a disaster. But with the help of a fellow student who had dropped out of medical school, and with the kindness and understanding Miss Rynbergen, my teacher, showed to me, I did overcome that hurdle and even managed to get an “A” in the course. None of the other courses presented any problems, at least not academically.

 

Obviously, Lotte was an extremely gifted student.   She had neither the academic background nor the social benefits of most of her classmates, yet she excelled in her studies, even though English was her second language.  In fact, Lotte did so well that she tried to be admitted to NYU Medical School and met with the dean to discuss her application.  Here is what happened:

I had mustered a lot of courage. After two years of practicing hospital nursing I really wanted to pursue the ambition I had nurtured since childhood – to become a doctor like my father. Thus I marched up the long corridor at my hospital’s medical school and entered the dean’s office. Of course the visit had been properly scheduled ahead of time. The dean, bespectacled, grey-haired, lean and stern-looking, listened to my brief story: that I was dissatisfied with the prospect of my future nursing career, and that I really would like to find out how I could be admitted to the medical school. The man just took one look at me and smiled. “My dear, you are asking for the impossible. First of all, you are a woman. There is quite a limit placed on the number of females at our school. Secondly, you lack the necessary college preparation. It would take several years for you to catch up with our requirements. Thirdly, you are Jewish. Do you know what that means? All kinds of difficulties along the way! You’d better forget about it.”  

Lotte must have been devastated.  She was being discriminated against as a woman and as a Jew.  The fact that she had excelled in the nursing program was not enough to outweigh her limited pre-nursing school education.  She had left Germany to escape anti-Semitism, and here it was, thrown in her face again.

In 1942, as World War II was in full force with the US now itself involved, Lotte graduated from nursing school and began working the night shift in the internal medicine department at New York Hospital.  The family received news of Samuel Winter’s deportation to Theriesenstadt, and the news overall was quite disturbing.  Lotte somehow kept a positive outlook.

Terezin

Terezin

My mother was desperate. This war is going to end in a terrible nightmare of defeat, she stated. But I, being young and more optimistic by nature, I just KNEW that good had to prevail over evil, that things would eventually come out all right. I knew that history had its ups and downs. This was a down. Sooner or later there would be an up. I wrote so to my friends. I never gave up hope. In the end, I was right.

How incredible is it for Lotte to have concluded, after all she had experienced and all she would soon learn about her relatives in Europe, “that things would eventually come out all right?”  It truly takes a real strength of character and a positive view of the world to see things that way.  I greatly admire her for that depth of character and strength.

There is much more in Lotte’s memoirs—stories about how she met her husband, their courtship and wedding, and their happy marriage of 58 years.  There are stories about their travels and anecdotes about various events in Lotte’s adult life.  But I will end Lotte’s story with one that I think says so much about her—who she was as a child and who she is today.  It’s a story that brought tears to my eyes.  It has nothing to do with the Holocaust or the war per se; it’s about an incredibly sensitive and generous woman.  I hope you find it as powerful as I did.

A PRIZED POSSESSION

There was a piece which was part of me. Ever since I was a teenager it went with me wherever I moved. But it is no longer in my possession. I gave it away. But I do hope that whoever uses it now appreciates what I did and gets as much enjoyment from it as it gave me at one time. It was my violin, my beautiful Italian violin bearing a label, glued to the inside, reading

 “Matteo Albani fecit Bolzano anno 1698″.

How did I receive this beautiful instrument, and why did I dispose of it the way I did? It’s a long story which began in 1937 when my parents began to make preparations for our eventual emigration from Germany to the United States. Since they had been able to put aside a sizable sum of money which could not be legally transferred abroad, they had to find various ways to buy objects of value which might be suitable for a later sale in the U.S. or which might be useful to us. My mother schemed and bought a trousseau for my sister and also for me. They bought two Leica cameras, modern lamps, clothing and many other articles. But my father, who had at one time played the violin, insisted that he wanted to buy me a fine instrument which hopefully would not have to be sold so soon.

That’s why he traveled with me to Stuttgart, a city about two hours away, where, with the help of my violin teacher, he had located an internationally known dealer of fine string instruments, Hamma & Company, which incidentally is still in business at the present time. I did not have much to say in the matter, but between my father and my teacher they found a suitable violin, full size but not too large, for the acceptable  price of DM 3,000.00, bargained down to DM 2,200.00, a substantial sum of money at that time. Proud as a peacock I traveled home with my new possession, my princess, carefully wrapped in a blue silk cloth and placed in a light brown leather case with light blue plush lining.

Now I must describe my pride and joy: It was beautiful to look at with its light orange-brownish varnish. The top was made of spruce with fine, even grain. The back, pleasantly curved for an aesthetic feel of form, was made of two pieces of maple with small, faint flames. The label, mentioned above, was found on the inside, to be seen through the F-shaped openings on the top. Later on I was assured that the label was authentic, and that the violin really was the work of Matteo Albani, a highly respected violin maker, and that it was a fine example of his work.

Yes, it was beautiful to look at, and beautiful to feel. But the most important quality of such an instrument is, of course, its sound. Played by my teacher it sounded magnificent. My own technique left something to be desired, but I had received the impetus to improve, and I worked hard at it. Friends in my chamber-music group admired it, envied me for it. I took good care of it. I treated it like the princess it was, what with the silk wrap and plush lining of the case.

From now on the violin went with me wherever fate took me. In 1938 we left Germany. After one year in Luxembourg we embarked for New York where I ended up living in my hospital’s Nurses’ Residence. I did not have much time to practice or to play, but I did have my own private room where I could do so at various times. I also once participated in a talent show where I played something or other in a miserable performance. My fellow student nurses were not very kind. They made a number of nasty cracks about my playing, but assured me that it was all meant in good humor.

My violin was with me on Pearl Harbor Day. I had been playing some chamber music on a rare, free Sunday afternoon and found myself on the platform of the A-train subway in Washington Heights when the terrible news broke. I will never forget it.

Later on, while raising my family and through most of my married years, I played only sporadically, sometimes in orchestras, sometimes in chamber music groups. At one time I even took some more lessons. But I found that I did not have it in me to work at it the way I needed to in order to really improve. Most of the time my precious fiddle was locked up in a hall closet. Yet I knew it was there.

And then disaster struck. At pretty much the same time I developed arthritis and a great clumsiness in my fingers along with a noticeable loss of hearing. The latter distorted many of the higher frequency sounds, thus making it impossible for me to play with the required accuracy. I grew discouraged and finally gave up. Much as I loved my violin, I knew that it was no longer of service to me. I also knew that it had appreciated greatly in value. Thus I made a very painful decision.

Selling my violin would have been like selling a piece of me. Leaving it to my children might create problems and certainly cause unnecessary difficulties. Yet it was not doing me any good. So I decided that I would give it to someone who would truly appreciate it. I made a number of inquiries and soon learned that there was a place for my intended gift right here in town. The non-profit Colburn Foundation collects instruments for use by aspiring artists, to be loaned and returned when they can afford to buy their own.

The decision was easy, the execution was hard. On one rainy afternoon in 1996 my husband and I traveled to the magnificent Colburn mansion in the Hollywood Hills. We were greeted quite cordially and even received a tour of the estate. That’s where we left my beautiful princess, still wrapped in blue silk and in her blue plush-lined leather case, to be given to someone who really needed it. I never found out to whom it was given, but I do hope he or she is taking good care of it. After all, although the wound has healed, it was a part of me.

For me, that final sentence says it all.  It is not only about her lost violin, but also about every other loss she suffered:  her grandparents, her home, her friends, her school, her country, her language.

An Albani violin

An Albani violin

Perhaps someone reading this will know the fate of Lotte’s beloved violin.  If so, like Lotte, I hope it is being well taken care of and played with all the heart and soul and passion that Lotte herself has demonstrated through her writing and throughout her life.

Thank you, Lotte, for sharing your life story with us.

Lotte’s Story, Part II:  Life in Nazi Germany

This is the second part of a three-part post about the life of my cousin Lotte, who was born in Germany, left in 1938, and came to the United States in 1939.  You can read Part One here.

Although Lotte was only eleven years old on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, she has vivid memories of that day and the events leading up to it.

Lotte wrote:

For years, the Nazis had been a minority party. Many people thought they could not possibly rise to power. But in 1933, Germany was in the grip of the world-wide depression precipitated by the crash of the American stock market and an enormous scandal involving Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish Match King, whose pyramid scam had caused the collapse of the European markets. Unemployment was widespread and severe. In addition, Germany’s pride, so badly hurt by the harsh and unrealistic provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, was crying for revenge. Thus the stage had been set for the dramatic rise of the Nazis whose promise of hope, and whose message of antisemitism, fell on accepting ears. In November of 1932 they succeeded in winning an election and joined up with the “German National Party”, a very rightist holdout of frustrated generals and army protagonists, frustrated because the German army was severely limited by the peace treaty. …But then, on that ominous day in January, President Paul von Hindenburg, a tottering and senile ex- general, appointed Adolf Hitler to be the chancellor.

Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring performing the...

Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring performing the salute at a Nazi party rally in Nuremberg (ca. 1928) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like many Jewish residents of Germany, Lotte’s father at first was not overly concerned about Hitler and his party.  Her mother was more worried.

My father, who was a decorated veteran of World War One, owner of the Iron Cross medal, and a respected physician in the community, kept on stating that nothing could really happen to us. That the whole thing would blow over. My mother, always a realist, an activist and somewhat of a pessimist, painted a different picture. She was a convinced Social Democrat with a leftist leaning, whereas my father supported the more centrist “Zentrum” party. There had been many heated arguments about politics in our house, and both Doris and I were quite up-to-date on what had been going on.

It did not take long for Lotte’s mother to be proven right about her concerns about the Nazis.  By February, 1933, the father of one of Lotte’s close friends was sent to Dachau, and when he returned, he and his family left Germany.  While the father was still in Dachau, his daughter and Lotte were assaulted on the street by three boys, leaving Lotte with a bloody lip.

Lotte soon became fearful of saying the wrong thing and getting her family into trouble.  Lotte wrote:

A few days into February [1933] I found that a large picture of Adolf Hitler was hanging in my classroom. Without thinking I exclaimed more or less to myself: “Does that guy have to stare right into my face?” The boy sitting in front of me, known to be a “Nazi”, turned around and said “what did you say?” I don’t remember what I answered, but I was scared to death about the possibility that some harm could come to my father. Fortunately, the boy did not report the incidence, and nothing happened. But from there on I knew that I had to be extremely careful with what I said or did. There was always a certain pressure, a certain fear looming over my head, not a very healthy state for a child and then a teenager. And that fear increased as time went on.

By April, the Nazis had instituted a boycott of Jewish businesses, and Lotte’s father was directly affected by this:

A yellow sign with a Magen David (Jewish star) bearing the inscription “Jewish Enterprise” was plastered over my father’s medical shingle. An S.A. man (Nazi stormtrooper) was planted at the entrance to the building with instructions to prevent anyone other than residents from entering. But one well-meaning elderly woman told him to be ashamed of himself, that my father, who handled many deliveries, had actually brought him into this world, and the young man shamefacedly trotted away.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABoycot_of_Jewish_shops_april_1_1933.jpeg

A stormtrooper stands in front of a store being boycotted (Not Lotte’s family) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABoycot_of_Jewish_shops_april_1_1933.jpeg

In her memoirs, Lotte describes the various ways that life for Jews in Germany became increasingly intolerable between 1933 and 1935, when the Nuremberg Laws were enacted.  Jews were not allowed in restaurants, theaters, and concert halls.  They could not ice skate or swim in public pools.  Blatant expressions of anti-Semitism by storm troopers and others became commonplace.  Even one of Lotte’s teachers espoused anti-Semitic rhetoric:

My French teacher, who had been known to have been a Social Democrat and who had quite opportunistically converted to Naziism, actually had the gall to try to console me by stating that none of the shenanigans were really meant to be antisemitic, but that the day would come when it would be discovered that the blood in Jewish veins actually was different from that of “Aryans”, the true Germans.

Although most Jewish children were forced to leave the public schools, Lotte was able to stay at the Gymnasium because her father had served in the army during World War I.  However, she knew she was facing discrimination:

At the end of each school year the three best scholars received prizes donated by local merchants. Being Jewish, I never received such a prize. My home room teacher used excuses, or I was given an undeserved “C” in a minor subject. Twice I just received an “honorable mention”.  Later on they no longer bothered to cover up, and I knew why.

Another incident occurred when Lotte attended a concert, violating the prohibition:

I attend a concert by the fourteen year old Yehudi Menuhin who, wearing shorts, looks like a little boy but plays beautifully. Of course being Jewish I am not supposed to be in the concert hall where I meet the grandmother of one of my non-Jewish friends. The lady looks the other way, completely ignoring me, although I have spent many hours at her house in friendlier times.

Meanwhile, Lotte became more interested in learning about her Jewish identity.  As described last time, her father had left the Jewish community, and Lotte’s upbringing had been completely secular.  Her limited exposure to Judaism had occurred when she had visited her maternal grandparents in Neunkirchen.  But once Hitler came to power, Lotte’s father Joseph rejoined the Jewish community, and Lotte felt a desire to learn more about what it meant to be Jewish.

First, she tried a class for Jewish religious instruction.  Her description may seem familiar to many who attended Hebrew School growing up in the US:

The teacher had one look at me and promptly asked what I was doing there, but condescended to let me stay. There was a lot of noise in the classroom, nobody was paying any attention, and the teacher could only try to keep some order by slapping the faces of some and shouting louder than the others. After attending twice I was completely turned off and never went there again. Nobody ever asked me to come back.

Lotte then enrolled in a Zionist youth group, Die Werkleute, where she found a group of like-minded Jewish youth and learned a lot more about Judaism.  Although her parents did not support the Zionist movement, for Lotte it became a political, religious, and social outlet.

As far as I was concerned, the concept of Zionism fell on fertile ears. I remembered the KKL box on my grandparents’ chest, and I needed something positive to look forward to, seeing how my future in Germany was being destroyed systematically. A few of my friends actually went to Israel by enrolling in the Youth Aliyah program which was in full force by then and was instrumental in to rescuing Jewish children. Others were planning to spend some time in preparation for their move to the Kibbutz by gaining work experience in agriculture, gardening and some of the trades. I was not quite ready to do just that, but I certainly expected to emigrate to Israel somehow at some time in the future. Fate had it that things worked out differently for me. But more about that later. 

I learned a lot about Judaism at that time. Some of the members were very observant, and everybody respected that, but on the whole religion was downplayed. It was discussed in a more or less theoretical context. Jewish history, especially the history of Zionism, and Jewish peoplehood were the thrust of our education. At the same time the value of our background of German culture was stressed. We took our mission very seriously.

Werkleute group in Frankfort, Germany 1927 (not Lotte's group) http://www.infocenters.co.il/gfh/multimedia/GFH/0000065842/0000065842_1_web.jpg

Werkleute group in Frankfort, Germany 1927 (not Lotte’s group)
http://www.infocenters.co.il/gfh/multimedia/GFH/0000065842/0000065842_1_web.jpg

In 1936, Lotte’s father was excluded from the state-run insurance system which had provided him with many of his patients.  He finally realized that it might be time to leave Germany before it was too late.  First, the family arranged for Lotte’s older sister Doris to emigrate; she left for the United States in 1937.  Lotte’s parents then began to make plans for their own emigration.  .

Lotte’s grandparents Laura (Seligmann) and Samuel Winter and her great-uncle Jakob Seligmann had already left Germany for Luxembourg a few years earlier.  As explained by Lotte, Neunkirchen was located in the Saar region, which had been under French control after World War I, as agreed to in the Treaty of Versailles.  In 1935, there was a plebiscite to determine whether or not the region should be returned to Germany, and the residents of the Saar region voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Germany (over 90%).  Under the terms of the Treaty, however, anyone dissatisfied with the result could leave the area.  Thus, Lotte’s grandparents and great-uncle had gone to Luxembourg, where German was spoken.  Lotte beautifully described where her grandparents lived in Luxembourg:

With my mother’s help they managed to move to a lovely small apartment at the foot of a hill in the fairytale-like city of Luxembourg. The view toward the skyline silhouette, way above, was breathtaking. The ruins of an ancient watchtower and of fortifications lay on the way up to the city. Grand-duchess Charlotte ruled the country which had an army of about 100 men. At times you could see two or three of the soldiers marching behind each other, rifles on their shoulders. Had it not been for a shortage of funds, it would have been an idyllic place to live.

Luxembourg

 

Lotte’s mother Anna persuaded her husband to move to Luxembourg when they made the decision to emigrate. Lotte wrote:

Once the decision was made, all the following steps fell into place. I had to leave school and take the courses needed to prepare me for a different life. My father closed his office. We obtained the necessary passports featuring the addition of the name “Sara” for my mother and me. “Joseph”, my father’s name, was sufficiently Jewish to avoid any changes. The passports were not hard to get since one of the officials at the office was known to oblige when a DM 10.00 note was slipped into each application. Ours was the last family in Mannheim to be allowed to pack most of its belongings.

Lotte remembers what this meant for her education.

Unfortunately my schooling was rudely interrupted when my parents began to make preparations for emigration. Much to my chagrin I had to quit school in the middle of the equivalent of my junior year. Instead, I took courses in English and French shorthand, typing and commercial correspondence at a private school. I also learned the rudiments of using a sewing machine, courtesy of a school run by nuns. I must add that for a couple of years I had also studied English with a very proper Oxford-trained teacher at the private Berlitz School.

On a more positive note, Lotte’s parents saw to it that she would have a good violin before they left Germany.

In preparation for eventual emigration my father and I travel to Stuttgart to buy a new violin for me. Or rather, it is a beautiful old Italian instrument, bearing a label stating that it was made by Matteo Albani in 1698. It has a gorgeous flamed wood back, gracefully molded. The sound is magnificent. My teacher assists in the purchase which also includes a light brown case lined with light blue plush. A piece of matching blue silk serves as a wrapper for the instrument. It will soon become a part of me. I am ecstatic.

An Albani violin

An Albani violin  http://www.bromptons.co/reference/articles/details/sears-danelectro-history.html

 

I would imagine that that feeling of ecstasy was tempered by some sadness about leaving behind her childhood home, the city of Mannheim where she’d grown up, and her birth country.  But Lotte’s memoirs do not convey sadness, just relief.

On the day scheduled for the packing, an inspector appeared whose job it was to supervise what we were doing. He was quite a jovial man. At lunchtime he attached a yellow ribbon across the doorway and announced that he was now going to be gone for about one hour. My mother took the hint and promptly hid a box with jewelry and cash in one of the suitcases destined for Luxembourg. After exactly one hour the good man returned. Luckily he did not ask any questions and did not inspect anything.

For a few more days we stayed at the home of some friends. On May 9, 1938 my parents and I boarded a train heading for Luxembourg. Again luck was with us. Our compartment was shared with a gentleman who turned out to be the Luxembourg consul posted in Stuttgart. The German border control officers of whom we had been afraid and who might have made a lot of trouble for us, they tipped their hats in deference and did not search the compartment very thoroughly. The Luxembourg officials were considered harmless.

Not long after settling in Luxembourg, Lotte’s mother traveled to New York to attend her daughter Doris’ wedding.  When she returned better informed about what was going on in Europe, she persuaded her husband that they should leave Luxembourg and immigrate to the United States.  How fortunate it was that Doris had moved to the United States a year earlier and that her mother had come to the US to attend her wedding.  If the Wiener family had not left Luxembourg, it is very likely that Lotte would not be here today to share this remarkable story.

Next, the family’s departure from Europe, journey to America, and Lotte’s life in the new country.

 

 

My Cousin Lotte’s Story, Part I: A Childhood in Germany during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933)

It has been a true blessing to connect with my cousin Lotte.   Lotte is the daughter of Joseph and Anna (nee Winter) Wiener.  Her mother Anna was the daughter of Rosina Laura Seligmann. Laura was the daughter of Hieronymous Seligmann, brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard and son of Moritz and Babetta Seligmann, my three-times great-grandparents.  Thus, Lotte is my third cousin, once removed.  Her story is a remarkable story.

Relationship_ Amy Cohen to Leonore Lotte Wiener

Lotte was born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1921, and she left Germany with her parents in the late 1930s to escape Hitler and the Nazis.  Her education in Germany was cut short as a result, yet she came to the United States and successfully completed a nursing program in New York City shortly after immigrating.  But I cannot do Lotte’s story justice.  Fortunately, I do not have to because Lotte shared with me her memoirs and much of her other writing as well as some anecdotes she shared by email.  With Lotte’s permission, I am going to share some excerpts from her own writing and some of those anecdotes.

I am also including a link to her memoirs for anyone who wants to read them in their entirety.  You won’t be disappointed.  Lotte’s writing is poetic, evocative, and very moving.  This post will cover Lotte’s early life in Germany; subsequent posts will cover her life once Hitler came to power and then Lotte’s early years adjusting to life in the United States.  (To read Lotte’s memoirs in their entirety, click on My Story Lotte Wiener Furst. Copyright Lotte Wiener Furst 2015. Not to be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of the author.)

Lotte described her maternal grandparents Samuel Oskar Winter and Rosalind Laura Seligmann in these words:

My grandfather, born in Hülchrath, Westphalia, founded and owned a large dry-goods store. He had served his apprenticeship in a similar but larger store in Düsseldorf, having had to leave school at age fourteen because his mother was impoverished. He had a sister who never married, and a brother who later lived in Saarbrücken with his wife and two daughters, where he died quite young of syphilis. My grandfather was small of stature, but had a formidable mind and a keen, dry sense of humor. For quite a few years he served as a trustee of the local synagogue although he was not particularly observant.

My maternal grandmother was one of five siblings. Her family owned a vineyard in Gau-Algesheim, near Bingen, a place where my mother spent part of her childhood and which she always remembered very fondly. My grandmother also had left school at the age of fourteen in order to take care of her mother who was dying of tuberculosis, and to whom she had promised to always fast on Yom Kippur, and to observe Passover, promises she kept very faithfully. She loved poetry and could recite beautifully many of the sometimes very lengthy poems by the beloved German poets Goethe and Schiller. While my mother was growing up, my grandmother kept the books and otherwise assisted in the store. Keeping house was the task of Tante Yettchen, her spinster sister-in-law.

Laura Seligmann Wiener with two of her sisters, Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld and Johanna Seligmann Bielefeld Courtesy of Lotte Furst

Laura Seligmann Winter with two of her sisters, Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld and Johanna Seligmann Bielefeld
Courtesy of Lotte Furst

Samuel and Laura Winter had two children, Lotte’s mother Anna and her uncle Ernst.  Ernst was killed fighting for the Kaiser’s army in World War I:

My mother had one brother, Ernst, one year her junior. At the beginning of World War I he enlisted in the German army along with all of his classmates, much to the horror of his parents. He was killed six weeks later in the first Marne battle. My grandparents never recovered from the shock. I never saw my grandmother in anything but grey or black clothing. My uncle’s room was left untouched, and I was never allowed to enter it. My grandfather lost all his drive for maintaining the business, gave up his large store and became a partner in a much smaller one which was now mostly run by my grandmother’s brother, Uncle Jack, a very distinguished-looking but not very capable gentleman.

(“Uncle Jack” was Laura’s older brother Jacob, about whom I wrote here.)

Ernst Winter Courtesy of Lotte Furst

Ernst Winter
Courtesy of Lotte Furst

How painful it must have been for Samuel and Laura to lose their son and then have the country he fought for betray them less than twenty years later.

As for Lotte’s mother Anna or Aennie, she was afforded a fine education as the daughter of a successful merchant:

My mother’s higher education consisted of a year or two in a finishing school, followed by some time in England where one of my grandmother’s uncles had established his residence. Her stay there was cut short, however, because this uncle, who owned several hotels and was very wealthy, made some unsolicited advances, and she fled in terror. The time spent in England provided her with an excellent chance to learn the language, which turned out to be quite an asset later on. She also was an accomplished pianist. Actually she aspired to become a concert pianist or at least a teacher of piano, but my grandparents felt that to be entirely inappropriate for a young lady of good bourgois upbringing. Their denial made her very unhappy but was mitigated somewhat when she received a beautiful black Bechstein grand piano as a wedding gift.

Samuel, Laura, and Anna Winter and Jakob Seligmann

Samuel, Laura, and Anna Winter and Jakob Seligmann (Laura’s brother) Courtesy of Lotte Furst

The uncle in England referred to above was, of course, James Seligman, born Jakob Seligmann, the younger brother of Hieronymous and Bernard Seligmann, the same James Seligman whose estate created quite a ripple of activity in the family and provided me with all those Westminster Bank family trees.  Lotte also shared with me her own memories of James Seligman.  According to Lotte, “[James] owned one or several hotels in Scotland/England. He lived in one of them. Together with his wife Hedy he visited his family on the continent once. She was a big and very pompous woman. After her death he visited the family again to distribute her belongings. Everybody went out of the way to serve him fancy dinners. My mother hired a caterer and we had “omelet surprise” for dessert. My grandmother Laura made a very simple home-cooked meal which he found the best he’d had. “

James married Claire, his second wife, shortly after his first wife Hedy died.  Claire had been his nurse.  When James died, Claire had the right to the income from his estate for her life; when she died, the principal was distributed to the various heirs found by the Westminster Bank.  According to Lotte, her mother’s estate received $200 in 1985.  I guess I can’t cry too much over the fact that the Westminster Bank failed to find my father and my aunt while doing their investigation since it seems their inheritance would have been about $100 each, if that much.

My heart went out to Lotte’s mother Anna Winter, a young girl with dreams of being a concert pianist, whose dreams were thwarted by society’s limited ideas of what a woman could be back in those times.  Anna married Joseph Wiener in December, 1915.  Joseph was a doctor, and after completing his service during World War I, he and Anna and their first daughter Doris moved to Mannheim where he established his medical practice.  Lotte was born there a few years later during the years of the Weimar Republic.

Lotte’s description of her childhood home creates a vivid picture:

We lived on the second floor of a six story apartment building. There were two units on each floor. Our living quarters occupied one of these units while my father’s office and the maids’ quarters were situated in the other half. The office consisted of my father’s consultation room and a large waiting area where 20 – 30 chairs were lined up along the four walls, together with a coat rack and a spittoon. Doris and I shared one of the two family bedrooms, while the maids had to sleep in a very small and primitively furnished room, I am ashamed to say. They were not allowed to use our toilet, I am ashamed to say. … In addition to the maids, we had a part-time nanny and, for a few years at least, a part-time chauffeur who was mostly busy driving my father who had to make innumerable house calls. In 1923 or 1924 my parents had bought their first car, a black Benz, which unfortunately came to a sad ending when the chauffeur “borrowed” it for a joy ride and totally crashed it. The car was replaced by a green Buick, the driver was fired, and my father did his own navigating from then on.

****

Originally we had separate stoves in the various rooms, one of them a real pot-belly stove called “Der Amerikaner”. But in approximately 1928 my parents obtained permission to remodel our two apartments, and central heating was installed. The furnace, placed in the kitchen, had a large flat surface on which to keep pots of hot water and to make baked apples at times. It also provided a lot of soot. The noise of one of our maids stoking the fire early in the morning usually woke us up.

The living room featured three wall-to-ceiling bookcase units, separated by two bay windows. There was a wealth of information in those books, and my parents placed no restrictions on our choice of reading material. I devoured almost everything: fiction, classics, history, you name it. But I certainly did not retain most of the material I read. Other furniture included three caned armchairs, a round coffee table with marble top, a green velvet-upholstered sofa, and a large oak desk.

A doorway, equipped with a curtain, led to the dining room half a small step above. For a while Doris and I used this setting to put on some improvised shows. The oak dining room table was large and massive. Other than for dining we used it as an improvised ping-pong table when extended. Of course the proportions were not right, and the ball would bounce off when it hit the extension crack in the middle.

…  My parents’ bedroom had mahogany furniture and yellow wallpaper with green and red intertwined garlands. I would stare at them at the times when I was allowed to lie on Mutti’s bed when I was sick, and I thought they were ugly. Doris’ and my bedroom was not so fancy. It was equipped only with two iron beds, a dresser, a night stand, and a clothes closet.

Between the bedrooms was a bathroom, used only for bathing. We had a separate toilet a little further down the hall and next to the kitchen which featured to a stove, oven, furnace, table and two chairs and an icebox, later replaced by a Frigidaire which was usually kept locked.

By Snapshots Of The Past (Parade Place and Kaufhaus Karlsruhe Baden Germany) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mannheim, Germany  By Snapshots Of The Past (Parade Place and Kaufhaus Karlsruhe Baden Germany) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Lotte also wrote about her parents’ various responsibilities in the household:

My father (Vati) was a very busy general practitioner. He had long office hours and also made numerous house calls every day, frequently to people who lived on the fourth, fifth or sixth floor of walk-up apartments. Elevators were non-existent in the working-class neighborhood where we lived. But he was always home for lunch, the main meal of the day, which was served at 1 PM. Breakfast was not a family affair – Doris and I had rolls with butter and jelly, delivered fresh every morning from the bakery across th street, and a cup of tea before leaving for school which started at 8 AM. During morning recess we had a “second breakfast” consisting of a sandwich which we brought from home. The light evening meal was served at about 7 PM. 

My mother (Mutti) attended to the household: instructing, supervising and hiring and firing the maid(s), and doing the marketing which in itself was a very complicated job. Because many of the nearby merchants were my father’s patients, she had to keep track of with which grocer, which butcher, which baker she had done business last in order to keep all of them happy. Butchers were especially difficult. There were some who had the best and most aged beef, suitable for roasts, and some who carried a poorer quality and therefore were only good for meat that had to be boiled or braised. Sausage came from other sources: regular, ordinary sausage was bought at a nearby store, but kosher sausage with its distinctively different taste came from a Jewish butcher who lived quite a distance away. Vati frequently questioned where the meat came from, and Mutti, quite peeved, would answer “from the fish store”.

In addition to the household chores, Mutti kept my father’s books. At the beginning of each calendar quarter she had to add up all the patients’ slips pertaining to their insurance coverage, and submit them to the local health insurance office and to the few private insurance companies involved. Since Bismarck’s time in the 1880’s Germany had compulsory and comprehensive health insurance laws covering most of the working population. Self-employed and professional people took out their own private insurance. During those busy quarterly events Mutti was extremely nervous and tense. We knew better than asking her any silly questions.

After lunch, Vati usually took a short nap on the living-room sofa, followed, at least in the early years, by a cigar which I helped him light. He then resumed his afternoon office hours while I went back to school or to my music lessons or other activities. At some time during the afternoon I did my homework, never too much of a chore, and practiced my violin music for which I did not need any coaxing because I enjoyed it.

Lotte and her sister spent school vacations visiting Anna’s parents Laura (Seligmann) and Samuel Winter in Neunkirchen:

My grandparents’ (Oma and Opa’s) house had four stories: a large basement with a fruit cellar, a downstairs “salon” and formal dining room with a large veranda which was hardly ever used, another floor with the actual living quarters (living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), and three more bedrooms above that. The rooms were rather small, however. A rarely used dumb waiter connected the kitchen with the downstairs dining room. A mostly unkempt and unplanted  backyard, except for some large clumps of rhubarb, was also featured. The house overlooked a large and frequently used soccer field.

There was not very much to do at the house. I usually accompanied Opa to the store where he spent most of his time. The salesladies and the office help all were very nice. They gave me odds and ends of fancy yarns, remnants of cloth, and various sundries. The secretary let me use the typewriter where, one index finger at a time, I would compose never to be published letters and poems.

Oma meanwhile would be busy with her household chores. Once a week she attended meetings at a housewives’ club, and I would come with her whenever I was visiting. I believe they did some charitable work, but all I know for sure is that they gossiped a lot and always had a big “Kaffeeklatsch”. Every time they saw me, some of these ladies would ask whether I remembered who they were, followed by “my, how you have grown”. The club was the only outside activity Oma allowed herself.

By Daniel Arnold (Photo taken by Daniel Arnold) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Town Gate, Neunkirchen By Daniel Arnold (Photo taken by Daniel Arnold) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Lotte wrote a wonderful description of a day she spent with her Opa, but it is quite long, so I will leave it for those who wish to read her entire memoir.  I do want to include this description of her Oma, Laura Seligmann Winter:

My grandmother, Oma, was a fairly short, fairly plump woman. Her body, always dressed in rather shapeless grey clothes and bulging a bit in the center, did not seem to have any remarkable form of its own. But her oval face was kind and full of expression. Severely myopic, she had protuberant grey eyes. To help her poor eyesight, she used a lorgnette for reading. I don’t recall her ever wearing glasses. She also suffered from rheumatic heart disease, the result of rheumatic fever early in life, which incapacitated her a lot and finally contributed to her death.

To maintain her wavy, well-coiffured hairdo, Oma allowed herself the only luxury I was aware of. Once or twice a month she used the services of a hairdresser who came to her home to wash and set her hair, embellished by the use of a hot iron. She probably coordinated those appointments with the meeting dates of the “Hausfrauenverein” ( housewives’ club), a gathering of mostly Jewish old – or so it seemed to me – women who fairly fell over me when Oma took me along during my visits, exclaiming how I had grown and wondering if I still remembered their names. Whether the club members did anything socially worthwhile I do not know. I suppose they did. But I do know that they gossiped a lot while enjoying afternoon coffee and cake.

Oma’s most remarkable talent was her gift to recite poetry. With only a grade-school education, she had managed to memorize a great many of the famous German poems written in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, noticeably poems by Goethe, her hero, and also by Schiller. A glorified picture of Goethe adorned a wall in her kitchen, leading, to her bemusement, to a question by her milkman who wondered if that handsome man had been her father.

Laura Rosina Winter nee Seligmann

Rosina Laura Seligmann Winter, Lotte’s grandmother

For more on Lotte’s grandparents and their home, read MY GRANDPARENTS HOUSE by Lotte (Copyright Lotte Wiener Furst 2015. Not to be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of the author.)

Lotte, an exceptional student, also wrote about her early school experiences:

From first through fourth grade I attended the Hildaschule, the public school for girls in the district where I lived and about three blocks from our apartment. My first impression of the first grade classroom was that it smelled bad and was very noisy, featuring an enrollment of about 40 anxious little girls. The teacher was very strict – a real no-nonsense person by the name of Mrs. Seltenreich. The slightest kind of misdemeanor was usually punished by a sharp blow with a cane on the poor kid’s outstretched fingers. It required a great deal of courage to oblige her. I must admit that I never was in that predicament since I was a very good little girl. But I had one great shortcoming: From the very beginning my handwriting was very poor. I never earned anything better than a “3″ (on a scale of 1-5) in that course. Later, when we started to write with ink, I did not produce one paper without a smudge or an inkblot. I never could shake that weakness, and only with the advent of the computer did I learn to produce more or less perfect papers without any visible corrections.

Mrs. Seltenreich was replaced by Fräulein Unger from second to fourth grade. She was a very kind, stout elderly lady who really loved teaching, trying some innovative methods, thus commanding respect without the cruelty shown by her predecessor. I had one girlfriend at that time but did not spend much time with her. Once I accompanied her to the Catholic church across the street from the school, and she showed me how to make the sign of the cross and how to kneel, which I did because I did not know any better. When I told my mother, she instructed me never to do that again. I, however, knew hardly anything about my own religion except for the fact that I was Jewish and therefore different.

School hours were during the morning.  In the afternoon I usually went to a park with my nanny during the early school years. There I mostly played by myself or perhaps with one other child, sheltered kid that I was. In school we also had to attend an outdoor playtime session once a week. I did not like it too much because I did not know the games which most of the girls had played frequently. I was rather ignorant in social skills and did not participate very well.

In fourth grade I befriended a girl by the name of Johanna who lived on a river boat which made periodic stops in Mannheim, traveling up the Rhine from Holland. During those stops she attended my school. I proudly presented her to the handicrafts instructor (embroidery, crocheting and knitting were compulsory and part of the curriculum), only to be asked if she was also a Yid (which she was not). My mother was infuriated when I told her about this, so much so that she went to the School Board to complain. After all, we were living in Germany during the time of the democratic Weimar Republic. Discrimination supposedly was not allowed. I never found out if the teacher was reprimanded.

Reading this made me realize how drastically German society changed once Hitler came to power.  Here was Lotte’s mother, a Jewish woman, daring to complain about an anti-Semitic remark made by a teacher.  Just a few years later such anti-Semitism was the official law of the land.

After her early years in the girls’ school, Lotte was one of a small number of girls who were admitted to the almost all-male Karl-Friedrich Gymnasium, where she had to work extra hard and even box some of the boys in order to prove herself and win approval from her teachers. Lotte also spent many hours in the nearby art museum. She loved music and was exposed to music throughout her childhood.  She started taking violin lessons when she was eight years old and had the same teacher for nine years until she and her family emigrated.

Karl-Friedrich-Gymnasium Mannheim

Karl-Friedrich-Gymnasium Mannheim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although her grandmother Laura always fasted on Yom Kippur and observed Passover, as she had promised her mother, Lotte grew up with very little exposure to Judasim.  She wrote:

Prior to the Nazi rise to power I had a very cursory knowledge of the fact that I was Jewish. My parents were totally non‑religious. They agreed with Karl Marx that religion was “the opiate of the masses”. My father even resigned from the Jewish community since he did not see why he should pay the obligatory cultural tax. In school I was listed as “without religious affiliation.” None of the Jewish holidays were observed at our house.

But Lotte’s grandparents and other relatives of her grandmother Laura did provide her with some knowledge and experience with Jewish rituals and holidays:

But at my grandparent’s house I learned a little more about Jewish customs. My grandmother fasted on Yom Kippur. They only ate matzot during Passover. Best of all, they had a blue and white KKL (Jewish National Fund) box on their living room chest. Only pennies were inside, as I found out when I tried to fish out the money with a crochet hook (I always replaced the money, I only did it because 1 was utterly bored and had nothing else to do). But I do remember the outline of Palestine on the box, and I learned that it was the Jewish homeland far away.

Gilabrand at en.wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Gilabrand at en.wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

There also were some more observant relatives in Neunkirchen. One, a cousin of my grandmother, was married to the orthodox owner of a dairy store who did not make much money but beat up his poor wife and his three children every once in a while. I remember their son celebrating his bar‑mitzvah. A lot of complete strangers (to me) were assembled, including a very distinguished‑looking rabbi. Following the ceremony and the lunch people sat around talking and telling jokes. Since the rabbi looked so distinguished with his white beard, I asked him to write a word on a slip of paper as part of a puzzle I wanted to present. Well … The good rabbi told me very kindly that he did not write on schabbes, and that’s how 1 learned one of the basic rules of Judaism.

Lotte told me that the bar mitzvah boy was Heinz Goldmann, son of Anna Seligmann and Hugo Goldmann.  Anna was the daughter of August Seligmann, my three-times great-uncle.  Anna, Hugo, and their children were all killed in the Holocaust.

Overall, Lotte’s description of her childhood suggests that she had a very happy and comfortable childhood: a childhood free of economic or other struggles, a loving family, vacations and trips, school and art and music, and grandparents whom she adored.  All of this would come to what must have been a shocking, heart-wrenching, and tragic end as Lotte entered adolescence and Hitler came to power.

 

 

 

 

The Last of the Children of Marx and Sarah Seligmann: Mary Kornfeld and Her Descendants

In this post I will complete the story (as far as I know it thus far) of the descendants of Marx and Sarah (Koppel) Seligmann.  Marx, the younger brother of my three-times great-grandfather, came to the US with his second wife Sarah in 1849 and had four children:  Sigmund, Jacob, Charlotte, and Mary.  I have already written about the first three.

As I posted before, the youngest child of Marx and Sarah Seligmann, their daughter Mary, was the first to marry.  She and her husband Oscar Kornfeld, a cigar maker, married in 1873 and by 1882 had four children: Marx (later Max) (1874), Rose (1877), Carrie (1879), and Lillian (1882).  In 1900 Mary, Oscar, and their three daughters were living at 1883 Madison Avenue.  Their son Max had already married Emma Pisko that year prior to the 1900 census.

Two of their daughters also married during 1900. On March 22, 1900, Carrie Kornfeld married Berthold Weiss.  He was the son of Sigmund Weiss and Rose Hecht, who were Hungarian immigrants.  Sigmund was a woodturner, according to the 1900 census, and Berthold was a hosiery salesman.

On December 23, 1900, Rose Kornfeld married Joseph Cohn.  Joseph was the son of Philip and Adele Cohen, German immigrants.  His father was a baker. Joseph was born in New York in 1876.  In 1900, before marrying Rose, he had been living with his parents and brother and working as a printer.

New York, Marriages, 1686-1980," , FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6HY-Z96 : accessed 8 August 2015), Joseph Cohn and Rose Cornfeld, 23 Dec 1900; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 1,570,443.

New York, Marriages, 1686-1980,” , FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6HY-Z96 : accessed 8 August 2015), Joseph Cohn and Rose Cornfeld, 23 Dec 1900; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 1,570,443.

Thus, within one year, three of the four children of Mary and Oscar Kornfeld had married.  Their youngest child, Lillian, married two years later.  She married Emil Nardin on May 4, 1902.

"New York, Marriages, 1686-1980," , FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6QW-TVL : accessed 8 August 2015), Emile Nardin and Lillian Kornfeld, 04 May 1902; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 1,570,816.

“New York, Marriages, 1686-1980,” , FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6QW-TVL : accessed 8 August 2015), Emile Nardin and Lillian Kornfeld, 04 May 1902; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 1,570,816.

Emil was born in France, the son of Fredric and Susanne Nardin, and had arrived in the US in about 1886 when he was about twenty years old.   He had been married previously to Lena Chavey, also French born, and they had had three children together: Ida, born in 1888, whom I cannot find on any subsequent record, Henri Arthur, who was born in 1892 and who died in 1895 from scarlet fever, and Helen Edith (known as Edith), born in 1896. On the 1900 census, Emil and Lena were living with just Edith.  The census record reported that although Lena had had three children, only one was alive, so Ida must have died also.  Emil was working as a cook. (A French chef in the family!)  The family was living at 627 Amsterdam Avenue in New York. Sadly, Emil’s first wife Lena died from tuberculosis on December 4, 1900, leaving him with four year old Edith.  Lena was 39 years old.

Nardin, Arthur death Nardin, Lena

Thus, Emil had lost two young children and his wife before marrying Lillian Kornfeld in 1902.  Lillian and Emil had a child of their own, a son named Arthur, born on June 26, 1903.

Mary and Oscar Kornfeld had two other grandchildren born in the early years of the 20th century.  Carrie and Berthold Weiss had a daughter, Edna Hazel, on February 27, 1903. Rose and Joseph Cohn had a son Harold, born on January 18, 1905. Arthur Nardin, Edith Weiss, and Harold Cohn were the only grandchildren Mary and Oscar would have.

Overall, these should have been happy years for the extended Kornfeld family. Unfortunately, Max Kornfeld soon ran into serious legal problems.  In 1903, he was convicted on several counts of insurance fraud and sentenced to Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York.  As reported in the November 20, 1903, edition of The Standard, an insurance industry trade publication, Max Kornfeld was a public fire insurance adjuster and had been convicted of making a false insurance claim for $2000, claiming that his wife Emma’s wardrobe had been destroyed in a fire at the Hotel Richelieu.  A later article dated December 10, 1903, in The Spectator, another trade publication, reported that Max was in fact part of a much larger insurance fraud scheme.  It reported that Max had confessed to over 300 fraudulent fire insurance claims.  He had testified that in these claims the adjuster received 40% of the proceeds, and he described some of the methods used to make these claims.

Sing Sing Prison

Max was admitted to Sing Sing prison on July 17, 1904, and according to the admission record below, it looks like he was sentenced for three to nine years;  he was still in prison at the time of the 1905 New York State census.  One thing I found interesting on the Sing Sing admission record is the recording of his religion as Protestant and Hebrew.  There is also a detailed physical description; Max had a number of scars on his head as well as on his hand.

New York State Archives; Albany, New York; Sing Sing Prison, 1852-1938; Box: 14; Volume: 36

New York State Archives; Albany, New York; Sing Sing Prison, 1852-1938; Box: 14; Volume: 36

As for the rest of the family in 1905, I could only find Mary and Oscar Kornfeld and their daughter Rose on the 1905 NY census.  In 1905, Mary (nee Seligman) and Oscar Kornfeld were living as lodgers without any of their children in the household of a woman named Anna Bohl, residing at 274-276 West 19th Street in Manhattan.  Oscar was still working as a cigar maker.  According to the 1905 NY census, their daughter Rose, her husband Joseph Cohn, and their son Harold were living at 10 West 118th Street, and Joseph was working as a printer.

Although I could not find Carrie Kornfeld Weiss or Lillian Kornfeld Nardin on the 1905 NY census, I had better luck locating all the Kornfelds but Mary and Oscar on the 1910 census.  Max was out of prison, and he and Emma had moved to Philadelphia, where Max was working as a real estate broker.  They did not have any children.  Rose and Joseph Cohn were living on West 148th Street with their six year old son Harold, and Joseph had his own printing business.  Carrie and Berthold Weiss were living on Lenox Avenue with their seven year old daughter Edna, and Bert was still a hosiery salesman.  Lillian and Emil Nardin were living on West 17th Street with their six year old son Arthur and Emil’s daughter Edith, who was now fourteen; Emil was a chef in a hotel.  Thus, it appeared that all four of the Kornfeld children were doing fairly well in 1910.

The next five years were harder. Their father Oscar died on November 27, 1911; he was 58 years old.  He died from cirrhosis of the liver.

Kornfeld, Oscar death

Then Lillian’s husband Emil died on March 28, 1914, also from cirrhosis of the liver as well as a uremic coma; he was only 48 years old and left not only Lillian, but his daughter Edith, who was only 18, and his son Arthur, who was only ten years old.

Nardin, Emil death

Poor Edith Nardin had lost her mother Lena in 1900 and now her father in 1911. By 1915 she was married to Arthur Downing Holmes, and the couple was living with Edith’s stepmother, Lillian Kornfeld Nardin, and Edith’s half-brother, Arthur Nardin, on West 92nd Street.  Arthur Holmes was 25 and working as a real estate agent. He had been born in New Haven, Connecticut, and was a graduate of Yale.

New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 10; Assembly District: 17; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 14

New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 10; Assembly District: 17; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 14

According to his World War I draft registration, Arthur D. Holmes was in the construction business.  At the time of his registration and on the 1920 census, their address was on West 84th Street.  By 1920, Arthur and Edith had two sons, William and Lawrence.  In 1922 they had a third son Robert.  (Although Arthur and Edith were still together on the 1930 census, by 1940 Arthur was married to a much younger woman named Ann.  I cannot find what happened to Edith after 1930 except for a 1974 Florida death record for an Edith H. Thomson with the same birth date.)

Meanwhile, eighteen months after Emil’s death, his wife Lillian Kornfeld Nardin remarried.  On September 27, 1915, she married Arthur Rosenberg.  He was born in England in 1885 and had immigrated to the US in 1898 with his parents.  In 1910, he had been a chauffeur for a private family.  According to his 1918 World War I draft registration, he and Lillian were living at 3440 Broadway, and he was now a rental agent for L.J. Phillips, a real estate company.

Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1786675; Draft Board: 141

Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1786675; Draft Board: 141

 

Carrie (nee Kornfeld) and Bert Weiss and their daughter Edna were living at 2400 Seventh Avenue in 1915.  The 1915 NY census reports that Bert was working in the wholesale dental supplies business, but according to his draft registration for World War I three years later, he was back in hosiery sales in what appears to be his own business, Weiss and Goldstein.  The family was then living at 555 West 115th Street.

Registration State: New York; Roll: 1786805; Draft Board: 146

Registration State: New York; Roll: 1786805; Draft Board: 146

In 1920 Rose and Joseph Cohn were living at 253 West 146th Street, and Joseph had his own printing business.  Their son Harold was now 15.

According to his World War I draft registration, Max Kornfeld and his wife Emma were living at 1628 Diamond Street in Philadelphia in 1918, and Max was self-employed as a merchandise man and insurance adjuster. I was surprised to see that he was back in the insurance business, given his criminal record for insurance fraud.  In 1920, however, Max reported his occupation as a real estate adjuster.

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907649; Draft Board: 29

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907649; Draft Board: 29

Mary Seligman Kornfeld must have moved in with her son Max and daughter-in-law Emma sometime after the 1920 census because when she died on January 13, 1921, her address was 1628 Diamond Street in Philadelphia, where Max and Emma had been living in 1920.  Mary was 64 years old and had died from cardiac dilatation and pulmonary edema. I thought it interesting that she had moved from New York where her three daughters and her grandchildren lived to live with her son in a city where she had never before lived.  I also thought it odd that Max could not provide the name of his mother’s parents as the informant on her 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.

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.

Two years later Mary’s youngest child, Lillian Kornfeld Nardin Rosenberg, died at age 41.  (Her death certificate says she was 39, born in 1884, but that is not consistent with the birth records from the NYC birth index I have for her.)  She died from chronic endocarditis and cerebral edema.

Rosenberg, Lillian death page 1 Rosenberg, Lillian death page 2

 

Lillian’s son Arthur Nardin was 20 years old when she died.  On March 6, 1925, Arthur married Jane Burns; they were both 21 years old at the time.  Their son Arthur Nardin, Jr., was born two years later.  According to the 1930 census, Arthur, Sr., was a car salesman.  The family was living on West 181st Street at that time.

In 1930, Lillian’s sister Rose and her husband Joseph Cohn were living on West 90th Street, and Joseph was no longer a printer, but now an investor in securities. Their son Harold had married Tillie or Teddi or Theodora Kremenko, a Russian immigrant, on October 6, 1928.  Thus far, I cannot locate Harold or Tillie on the 1930 or 1940 census, but did find that Harold died on January 31, 1944.  He was only 39 years old and died from coronary thrombosis.  I am now following a lead to someone who might be Harold and Tillie’s son, so I hope to get more information and some photographs.

Cohn, Harold death page 1 Cohn, Harold death page 2

The third Kornfeld sister, Carrie, and her husband Bert Weiss were living on West 103rd Street in 1930, and Bert was still a dry goods salesman.  Their daughter Edna had married Harry Rosenberg on December 14, 1924.  Harry was born in New York City, and in 1920 he and his father Edward were both selling dry goods.  In 1925, Harry and Edna were living on West 176th Street, and Harry was selling real estate.  Unfortunately, as with Harold and Tillie, I cannot find them on the 1930 or 1940 census.

Finally, Max Kornfeld and his wife Emma had moved to Atlantic City by 1923, according to the directory for that year for that city.  They were still there in 1926, and Max was working again as an insurance agent. I could not find Max and Emma on the 1930 census.  (What is it with this family and the 1930 census? How did they elude the census takers?), but they were still living in Atlantic City when Max died on October 25, 1931.  Max was 57 years old. He was buried at Rodeph Shalom cemetery in Philadelphia.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1112

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1112

Thus, by 1931, two of the Kornfeld siblings had died, Max and Lillian.  I cannot find Rose and her husband Joseph Cohn on the 1940 census, nor can I find their death records, and thus I do not know anything about them after 1930.  The only Kornfeld sibling I located on the 1940 census was Carrie and her husband Bert Weiss.  They were then living at 607 Broadway, and Bert was still selling hosiery.  I do not have any information about them after 1940.

As for the three grandchildren of Mary Seligman and Oscar Kornfeld, as noted above, I cannot find Carrie’s daughter Edna and her husband Harry Rosenberg on either the 1930 or 1940 census, nor can I find Rose’s son Harold and his wife Tillie on any census after their marriage in 1928.  I only know that Harold died in 1944.  The only grandchild about whom I could find any real information after 1930 was Arthur Nardin, the son of Lillian and her husband Emil Nardin.  In 1940, Arthur and his wife Jane and his two children, Arthur, Jr. and Edith, were still living on West 181st Street, and Arthur was a car dealer.  By 1958, Arthur and Jane had moved to Miami, where he died in 1983 at the age of 80.

That brings me to the end of the line started by Marx Seligmann and his wife Sarah Koppel, who immigrated to the United States in 1849 shortly after Marx’s divorce from his first wife.  Marx and Sarah must have come to the US to begin their lives together as a married couple in a new country, far away from their home country of Germany.  From that marriage came four children, eighteen grandchildren, and fifteen known great-grandchildren as well as many great-great-grandchildren, all my previously unknown American-born Seligman cousins, including my wonderful cousin Steve who supplied me with so many family stories and photos.

 

 

 

 

 

More Photographs of Gau-Algesheim

My friends and former colleagues Barbara and Rene just returned from a trip to Germany.  Rene’s family lives not too far from Gau-Algesheim, and he and Barbara were kind enough to travel to my ancestral town and take some photographs.  Some of these have text that I need to get translated.  As I’ve observed from other photographs of this town, it appears to be a charming, small town with lots of character.  I think that Barbara and Rene have really captured that impression of the town.  Thanks so much, Rene and Barbara!

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[Ralph tells me that the sign lists the hours of the mayor of Gau-Algesheim.]

 

 

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[According to Ralph, this is a list of local businesses in Gau-Algesheim.]

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[Translation by Chip:

JACOB’S PILGRIMAGE

Pilgrim Hospitals

Pilgrim Hospitals, also called Hospices, were, in the Middle ages, the only place where destitute Pilgrims could find a bed for the night, a bowl of soup and care for their suffering. Often consisting of only a sleeping hall (large communal bedroom), the kitchen, a dining room, and a small chapel, as well as stalls and barn.

Many pilgrims often had to share the sleeping area, and follow very strict “Rules of the House.”

In cities, the hospices were often better equipped, or were part of a cloister. Here in Gau-Algesheim you have to imagine a rather meager hospital which, possibly, had to provide for the poor and sick of the place.

 

 

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[According to Chip, “The sign over the “1726” (from the photos, the sign appears to be in the Town Hall), loosely translated, means that Lothar Francis, the elected Archbishop, built (financed the reconstruction of)) the building.”]

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