The Family of Max & Alma Heimannsohn BACHMANN
We know very little about Alma and Max Bachmann. Alma was born in April 1874 in Pyritz in Pomerania (now Pyrzyce in Poland), about 135 km northeast of Berlin. Max was born in Münster in August 1871, over 700 km to the west. One hint of Max’s background comes from Manfred Rosengarten’s history, Themar, Thüringen: My Hometown: “Max served two hitches in the French Foreign Legion and fought in North Africa, Madagascar, and in Indochina near Hanoi along the Red River.”
When and where Alma and Max met and married is unknown but they were married by the early 1900s, as a postcard to them was found in a collection of postcards of Max Müller II. (Max had taken charge of Max Bachmann’s few belongings upon his death in March 1942.) At that time they were living in Spandau in Berlin.
Although we have no formal records, we are quite certain (99%) that the Bachmanns had a daughter, Sophie or Sofia. Oskar Stapf’s 1962 list of the “Jews of Themar from 1900 On” has “1 Kind/1 child” against the Bachmann name. In Themar, several eyewitnesses recall that the Bachmanns had a daughter who lived in Berlin.
Another postcard in the Max Müller II collection, from Walter Bachmann to his uncle Max, includes fond greetings being sent to Aunt Alma and “dear Sophie,” an additional trace. In a letter to Willy Müller, who emigrated to Palestine in 1938, his parents, Max and Clara Müller, asked if he had made contact with Sofia [sic their spelling] who was also in Palestine.
Why and exactly when Bachmanns came to live in Themar (about 500 km south of either Pyritz or Münster) is also unknown. But it is clear that, from the 1920s on, they were an integral part of the Themar community. Until 1933, they rented living space from cabinetmaker Schieppel at Schlagetererstr 11 (Römhilderstrasse) on the road to Wachenbrunn (see map). Max is identified as a ‘Kaufmann’/merchant in the Nazi records of the 1930s and Alma as a house wife.
When the Nazis took power in January 1933, Alma was 59 years old and Max 62.
Max immediately attracted the attention of the Nazis; according to Manfred Rosengarten’s account, Max had a “habit of coughing and spitting. Once he did this in front of the city’s display box of Der Stürmer, the Nazis’ antisemitic newspaper. He was arrested and charged with something like insulting the Nazi Party. He got off because enough people testified that he always coughed and spit without thinking. For people to do this,” Manfred remembered, “was rare in those days” — other eyewitness statements confirm his account and opinion.
Max’s luck did not continue: in the 1938 November Reichspogromnacht (known as ‘Kristallnacht’), Max, aged 68, was rounded up with the other men of Themar and hauled off to Buchenwald. Owing to his health and age — and sadly not because he and Alma had any hope of emigration — Max was released by the beginning of December. There is nothing in the official records to indicate that the Bachmanns attempted to emigrate, and their fate was therefore more or less sealed.
In December 1939, the SS forced the Bachmanns to move in with the Frankenberg and Sander families at Strasse des SA 20. Every day their living conditions worsened — both Bachmanns were ill and had to beg repeatedly to receive medical attention.
On November 10, 1941, Max Bachmann was denounced for not wearing the “Judenstern” (the yellow Star of David required of German Jews as of September 1941) and rearrested and sent back to Buchenwald.
Alma died shortly after Max’s arrest, on November 27, 1941. Max did not survive Buchenwald and died there on March 14, 1942, age 71. Not knowing that Alma was already dead, the Gestapo returned a pathetic cluster of Max’s clothing to her address.