1941 & the Jewish Community in Themar
In early 1941, around 34 people in the small city of Themar were targets of the Nazis racist laws. Nineteen (19) were members of the families that had first settled in Themar over 70 years earlier: Grandsons of Solomon & Karoline Müller, Max Müller I and his wife, Frieda Freudenberger; and Max Müller II and his wife, Clara Nussbaum; and their eldest son, Herbert, and his new wife, Flora Wolf Müller. Hugo Grünbaum, his wife, Klara Schloss, and their daughter, Else Grünbaum Neuhaus, who had a 5-year old daughter, Inge, with her husband, Arthur. Sisters Sara Frankenberg and her widowed sister, Meta Frankenberg Krakauer. The daughter of Hulda and Josef Kahn, Elsa Kahn Rosenberg, her husband, Markus, and their son, Julius. The most recent arrival among the Jewish families was the Bachmanns, Alma and Max, who had arrived sometime in the 1920s.
Others — the estimate is about 15 — in Themar were also vulnerable to the Nazis’s racist laws as articulated in the 1935 Nürnberg Laws. Members of several long-established Jewish families had married non-Jews and raised children: the Walther family, for example, included a number of children of Jewish/non-Jewish marriages born between 1910 and 1920. Several of the young men fought in the German army in the early years of WWII. Erna Kahn married Wilhelm Haass in the mid-1920s and converted to Protestantism, and their twins, Günther and Johanna, were born in 1928. Two of Erna’s brothers had children with non-Jewish women: Erna’s brother, Julius Rosenberg, married Elsa Pabst, a non-Jew, in August 1933, and their daughter, Lotte, was born in 1934, before passage of the Nürnberg Laws. The authorities kept increasingly detailed records about the background and whereabouts of all these individuals.
Outside of Themar, but still in Germany or occupied Europe, were around 127 members of the Jewish Families of Themar, as identified in the attached list. We know of another 23 individusals (listed here) whose birth dates mean that they may have been alive in 1941, but for whome we do not presently have any information.The map below indicates their location where members of Themar’s Jewish community were living in early 1941. A particularly large group of Themarerjuden lived in Berlin where they had moved in order to be ready to leave the instant the precious emigration papers arrived.
- February 2, 1941: Norbert Sander, b. 1921 in Themar, the son of Hilde Frankenberg and Louis Sander, is murdered in the euthanasia program at Hadamar. Norbert suffered from epilepsy and was considered ‘schwachsinning/weak in the mind’ by the Nazis.
- April 1941: Sara Frankenberg dies of natural causes. She was 83 years of age.
- June -August 1941: During the spring and summer of 1941, there was some good luck: between June and end of August, nine (9) more members of Themar’s Jewish families received their visas and left for the United States. Julius Gassenheimer, b. 1869 in Themar, and his wife, Johanna, left Lisbon in June 1942; they were both in their 70s. The last of the Themarerjuden to leave Europe were Elly and Hanna Plaut, daughter and granddaughter of Selma Schloss Bär Stern. The three had moved to Berlin in the spring of 1940 to wait for their visas. When the documents arrived, there were only visas for Elly and Hanna. They left Berlin to travel through France, then Spain, finally to reach Lisbon. On August 20th, they left Lisbon on one of the very last, if not the last, ships to bring refugee Jews out of Europe. They arrived in New York City on September 2 and Arthur Plaut, who had left for England in 1939, was able to join them a year later.
- mid-September 1941: Hitler changed his mind about when to deport German Jews. He allowed top-ranking Gauleiter/regional leaders, such as Joseph Goebbels in Berlin and Karl Kaufmann in Hamburg, to go full steam ahead with planning the physical removal of the Jews from Germany before the end of the campaign against Russia. Instead of voluntary, albeit forced, emigration to whichever country would offer refuge, the German Jews were now to be sent forcibly ‘east’ and settled in inhospitable ghettos and squalid conditions where they would die of disease, starvation, cold or cold-blooded murder. The first transports were planned for mid-October 1941 to coincide with the official prohibition on emigration overseas.
The story of what happened to the members of Themar’s Jewish community in the three and a half years from September 1941 on is one of relentless pain. The photograph below takes us to the heart of this story: shortly after the July 1938 wedding pictured below, Willy Müller, the groom’s brother, emigrated to Palestine and a new life. Herbert Müller and his bride, Flora Wolf, and her mother, Frieda Mayer Wolf (next to the groom), were able to leave Europe from Lisbon in July 1941 for the United States. But the parents of the groom, Max Müller and his wife, Clara Nussbaum Müller, failed to receive their visas in time, despite the determined efforts of their family. As of 23 October 1941, the day when all voluntary emigration from Germany was banned, they were trapped in Themar.
- October 15, 1941: The deportations of German Jews begin.
- November 8, 1941: The first deportation train leaves Germany for Minsk.
- November 12, 1941: Martha Katz Hahn, b. 1889 Themar, the daughter of Adolf and Meta Katz, was deported from Frankfurt am Main to Minsk.
- November 10, 1941 Max Bachmann is denounced in Themar for not wearing his star. He was arrested and sent to Buchenwald. He did not survive this reimprisonment — he had been rounded up in the Reichspogrom of November 1938 and released — and was dead by March 26, 1942.
- November 27, 1941: Alma Heimannsohn Bachmann, 70 years of age, dies.
- November 27, 1941: The deportations to Riga begin.
- November 27, 1941: The first deportation included a Themaren, Lucie Frankenberg Heinemann, the daughter of Nathan and Bertha Rosenthal Frankenberg. Born in Themar in May 1895, Lucie had married Leopold Heinemann and moved to Berlin. Both she and Leopold were deported on November 27, 1941 and perished.
- November 29, 1941: This transport to Riga, and the first deportation from the city of Nürnberg, took one of the families of the Salomon & Karoline Müller family. This was the Sebald Müller family: Sebald, Laura Jüngster Müller, Susanne, their daughter, and Laura’s mother, Clara Jacobs Jüngster. All were murdered on March 26, 1942.
- December 11: USA declares war against Germany and Italy
- December 15: Last transport of 1941 leaves Hannover for Riga. A total of approximately 28,145 German Jews have been deported in the three months since October 15.
- Ida Frankenberg Katz, born in 1884 in Themar, had moved to Hannover and married Julius Katz. They were both deported from Hannover to Riga on December 15, 1941 and perished in Riga.
- December 31: In Themar, the number of individuals under threat is 28.
* We know of another 24 individuals whose birth dates mean that they may have been alive in 1941, but we do not presently have any information.