The Jacoby & Bertha Grünbaum SECKEL Family
In his 1898 portrait of the Jewish communities in Thüringen, History of the Jews of Sachsen-Meiningen, R. A. Human identifies the Seckels as one of the long-established families of Marisfeld; who exactly these Seckels were and their relationship to the family of Jacoby Seckel, however, is at yet unknown.
Jacoby Seckel was born in 1862 in the town of Gross Munzel, near Hannover. Our first definite trace of Jacoby is his marriage in 1890 to Bertha Grünbaum of Walldorf in Themar. In 1898, a ‘J. Seckel’ was one of the governing committee of the Jewish Gemeinde/community.
Jacoby and Bertha had at least four children in Themar — in his 1962 list, “Themar’s Jewish families after 1900,” Oskar Stapf tells us that there were seven (7) Seckel children. Given the proven accuracy of Stapf’s memory, there probably were but we have yet to confirm this with other documentation. Research continues.
The Seckels lived at Bahnhofstrasse 154 (today Bahnhofstrasse 54). In the spring of 1905, Seckel sold his business to Hugo Grünbaum, related to him by marriage. After a huge ‘going-out-of-business’ sale, the business closed on April 1, 1905, and the family left for the city of Zeitz in Saxony-Anhalt. Situated about 40 km south of Leipzig, Zeitz was a city of about 33,000 inhabitants in 1910, although its Jewish population was very small. Seckel, age 45 at the time of the move, probably hoped that he would enjoy greater prosperity in the larger centre.
In 1906, their 18-month old daughter, Charlotte or Lottchen, born in Themar in 1904, died. Their roots were still so deep in Themar that they placed a notice in the local Themar newspaper. Another daughter, Gertrud, was born a year later. Sometime after that, the Seckels moved north to Altenburg and Jacoby Seckel died there on 12 January 1911, 49 years old. Again, the established ties to Themar led to the placement of an announcement in the Themar newspaper.
In 1911, therefore, at age 44, Bertha Seckel was a widow with four children under 20 years of age. Where they lived and how in the 1910s and 1920s, we do not know, but by at least the middle of the 1930s, Bertha and her children were all, we believe, living in Leipzig. Berta, who had not remarried, lived at Kohlgartenstrasse 38. Her children, all of whom had married, lived elsewhere in the city. Klara Seckel and her husband, Max Wohlgemuth, lived at Leplaystraße 10; and Heinrich Seckel and his family lived at Waldstrasse 72. Max and Heinrich ran a clothing store at Leplaystrasse 10. Sophie Seckel and her husband, Friedrich, and Gertrud Seckel and her husband, Alfred Siegfried Münzer, also lived in Leipzig.
By mid-June 1938, at the latest, the Seckels were seeking to emigrate: according to his daughter’s account, Heinrich travelled alone to the United States in June to seek sponsors for his family. He returned and was in Leipzig in November 1938 when the clothing store was burned during Kristallnacht. Heinrich was imprisoned in Dachau and was released sometime in December. On December 23, 1938, Heinrich Seckel registered the addition of the names, Israel and Sara, for family members directly connected to Themar: for himself and his two sisters, Klara and Sophie, who had been born in Themar, and for his mother, who had been married in Themar.
Heinrich Seckel left for England in August 1939, just before WWII started, in the hope of making arrangements for family members to follow. A year later, he left England for the United States on 20 July 1940.
Two of his sisters and his wife and two children got out in the nick of time: Sophie Seckel and her husband, Friedrich Fernich, were able to leave Europe from St. Nazaire, France, on 19 May 1940, just weeks before Germany took control of France. A year later, on 22 May 1941, when time was running out fast, Gertrud Seckel Münzer left Lisbon with her daughter, Ingrid Dorothea; according to the ship’s manifest, they were en route to the Dominican Republic to join Alfred Münzer. It is possible that they did so and then came to the States in 1947. The fact that both Alfred Siegfried and Gertrud became American citizens in 1952 suggests that they had just completed the residency requirement for citizenship, indicating that they may have spent the years from 1941 to 1947 in the Dominican Republic. The last Seckels to escape were Heinrich’s wife, Edith Glassmann Seckel, and their two children, 10-year old Ilse and 11-year old Joachim — they left from Barchelona on 13 July 1941. (Nanett Levinstein was also a passenger on this ship, the Villa de Madrid.) The Seckels joined Heinrich in Dainesville, Ohio
The Deposit Card in the Jewish Transmigration Bureau records tells us that Bertha’s children tried to bring her to the States. But her number did not come up in time. Bertha and her eldest daughter, Klara, were trapped in Germany. Both remained in Leipzig, being forced out of their homes and into the ‘Judenhäuser,’ the houses for the Jews. They could not live together — Klara lived at Gustav-Adolf-Strasse 7 while Bertha lived at Keilstrasse 5. Deportations from Leipzig started on January 21, 1942, but neither Bertha nor Klara were on these transports.. Klara probably avoided the 10 May 1942 transport to Belzyce Ghetto because her forced labour as a seamstress (furrier) was deemed essential.
Bertha, age 75, was be deported to Theresienstadt. This transport took place on 20 September 20, 1942, Bertha was deported to Theresienstadt, where she died just over two months later. From the death certificate, we learn that she arrived in Theresienstadt just as her brother-in-law, Hugo Seckel and his wife, Else, were being deported from Theresienstadt to Treblinka. Her sister-in-law, Rosa Herzberg, née Seckel, was also in Theresienstadt when Berta arrived; she died the following March.
On February 17, 1943, Klara was rounded up with at least 116 other Leipziger Jews and taken to Berlin; on 26 February 1943, most of this group — including, we believe, Klara — were deported to Auschwitz. The German National Archives Memorial Book does not give an official date of death.
- Jacoby SECKEL, b. 1862 Gross Munzel, d. 1911 Altenburg
- +. Bertha GRÜNBAUM, b. 1867 Walldorf, d. 30 Nov 1942 Theresienstadt [n1]
- 1. Klara SECKEL, b. 1893 Themar, d.  Auschwitz
- +. Max WOHLGEMUTH, b. 1894 [n2]
- 1. Sophie SECKEL, b. 1897 Themar, d. 1983 Los Angeles/Ca
- +. Frederich FERNICH, b. 1893 Klotten, d. 1962 USA
- 1. Heinrich SECKEL, b. 1902 Themar, d. 1981 Oakland/Mich.
- +. Edith GLASSMANN, b. 1903, d. 2002 Oakland/Mich. [n3]
- 2. Ilse SECKEL, b. 1929 Leipzig
- 2. Joachim SECKEL, b. 1930 Leipzig
- 1. Charlotte/Lottchen SECKEL, b. 1904 Themar, d. 1906 Zeitz
- 1. Gertud SECKEL, b. 1907 Zeitz, d. 2001 Los Angeles/Ca.
- +. Alfred Siegfried MUENZER, b. 1904 Brandenburg, d. 1992 Los
- 2. Ingrid Dorothea MUENZER, b. 1935 Leipzig, d. 2010 USA
n1. The relationship between Bertha Grünbaum, b. 1867, and Hugo Grünbaum, b. 1868, both born in Walldorf, is yet to be clarified. We know that Bertha’s father was Loeser Grünbaum, b. 1839, d. 1904 in Themar but do not know the relationship between him and Noa Grünbaum, Hugo’s father.
n.2. We do not know the story of Klara Seckel’s husband, Max Wohlgemuth. Ellen Bertram states that he emigrated and the Yad Vashem Page of Testimony above indicates that Klara was married, not widowed, at the time of her deportation.
n2. The online biography accompanying the Stolperstein for Arno Glassmann, Edith Glassmann’s brother, in Hamburg, has provided much of the information about the Heinrich Seckel family. Edith Glassmann Seckel lost all three of her brothers in the Holocaust. (Click image at right to enlarge.)
- Sources include:
Ancestry.com. Public Family Trees.
Ancestry.com. Jewish Transmigration Bureau Deposit Cards, 1939-1954 (JDC) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
Ancestry.com. New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Bertram, Ellen. Menschen ohne Grabstein: Die aus Leipzig deportierten und ermordeten Juden. Leipzig: Passage-Verlag, 2001.
Human, Rudolf Armin. Geschichte der Juden im Herzogtum Sachsen-Meiningen-Hildburghausen. Hildburghausen: Kesselring, 1898/reprinted Weimar: F. Fink, 1939.
German National Archives. Memorial Book online version.
Themar City Archives
Yad Vashem. Database of Shoah Victims’ Names.
Zeitung für Themar und Umgegend, 1904-1934. Kirchenarchiv Themar, with many thanks to Pastor and Mrs. Winfried Wolff