The Albert Abraham Hellmann Family
The Hellmann family is one of the oldest of the town. The patriarch, as far as the Kirchenstraße is concerned, is Hänlein Simon Hellmann. His grandson Albert Abraham Hellman was a businessman and headed the SPD party in the Gunzenhausen town council from 1919 to 1929.
Albert Abraham Hellmann
In 1988 his daughter, Frieda Baer, sent this photo with the following accompanying letter to Richard Schwager, who has kindly made these documents available to us.
Dear Mr Schwager,
Please forgive me for replying only today to your letter but I was away and only received it some weeks later.
My dear father was a Town Councillor in Gunzenhausen and unfortunately I cannot tell you very much as I was only young then. But I do know that when there were council meetings in the Town Hall, the mayor had him escorted home, for his safety.
I am enclosing the requested photo and also a copy of the speech the mayor made at my dear father's funeral. Mr Schwager, you are only 40 years old and cannot know how terribly the Jews were treated. I myself had several siblings who died in concentration camps.
Albert Hellmann and his wife Fanny, née Brandeis, had 10 children who all grew up to young adulthood and experienced the persecutions of the Third Reich. Three died in concentration camps, five emigrated to Argentina, Chile, USA and Switzerland.
The children of Abraham and Fanny Hellmann :
|Business man, married 23.6.1929 Therese Weinmann *30.09.1890 in Altenmuhr. The couple emigrated to Argentina on 03.05.1938.|
|Bookkeeper, married the business man Siegfried Schloss (*10.02.1896) on 16.05.1922
+24.07.1943 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp
|Cook, moved to Nürnberg in 1917 and was living at Possartstrasse 6, Munich in 1939|
|Business man, married Selma Theilheimer (*14.10.1904 Spitalstrasse 9, Gunzenhausen) on 14.06 1938.
On 1.12.1938 Ernst, together with many other Jewish men, was taken away to the Dachau concentration camp. On his release the couple emigrated to Valpareiso, Chile
|Cook, registered her move to Langheim on 10.10.1938. Dora lost without trace in Riga|
|Moved to Lucerne on her marriage in December 1928. Her husband Noa Holtz had hotel and restaurant there.|
|Married the business man Julius Graf (born in Munich on 28.04.1897) on 29.11.26. The couple probably lived in Bretten|
|Married a certain Mr Sternschein|
The family of Hermann Hellmann
Albert's brother, Hermann Hellmann (09.08.1876-24.06.1930), a commercial and livestock trader, lived with his family in the same house Kirchenstrasse 13/15. He was married to Bertha (01.06.1875-16.07.1938), née Lauchheimer, from Schopfloch. They had three sons.
The eldest son Julius died in the Izbica concentration camp, whereas his two brothers Richard and Heinrich managed to leave the town in time and emigrated to the USA.
Son Richard married young Betty Löwensteiner (20.09.1911- October 2005) from Markt Berolzheim in August 1936.
Mrs Berta Hellmann made the following announcement one month later:
Please take note that my business, which has been managed by my son Richard on my behalf, has now been transferred to my son as of 1 September 1936. The business will continue unchanged.
A daughter Ruth was born in 1937 and despite increasing reprisals, the family continued to live in Gunzenhausen. Only following the tragic events of Kristallnacht (the night of broken glas) on 9 November 1938 did they decide to immediately leave the town.
A man from Gunzenhausen who lived through the Kristallnacht in 1938 reported that in the Kirchenstrasse; the Helmann family suffered especially. "The Hellmann were poor, he remembered. The men were beaten up and chased through town. Young Mrs Hellmann was driven out of her house into the cold night in her nightgown She was in her mid twenties."
Stanley Hellmann from Baltimore, son of Betty and Richard Hellman, informed us that this man must have been talking about his great uncle's family, who also lived in the Kirchenstrasse.
Betty, Richard and their small daughter Ruth officially left Gunzenhausen on 1 12 1938, for Nürnberg.
In the year after the marriage, the young couple had taken in Betty's mother. According to her grandson Steven M. Lowenstein, Helene Löwensteiner, née Firnbacher from Markt Berolzheim, lived in Gunzenhausen from 1937 and emigrated to the USA in 1939 together with her daughter Betty and her family. She died in Baltimore in 1961.
This grandson Steven M. Lowenstein, whose parents had also emigrated to the USA from Markt Berolzheim, grew up in the Washington Heights and became a professor of Jewish history. He taught at Columbia University, Monmouth College and the American Jewish University in California, among others. He has also worked for YIVO and the Leo Baeck Institute. Some of his many books on Jewish history have also been translated into German.
In the picture on the left he recognized his grandmother Helene Löwensteiner.
It is noted in the housing register that the house of the Hellmanns at Kirchstrasse 13 was deeded to the town of Gunzenhausen for the sum of 4000 RM. The family emigrated to Baltimore, Maryland USA in 1939.
Son Stanley was born there 24.02.1946. He found our website in the internet and wrote to us :
My parents stayed in Gunzenhausen until Kristallnacht. They fled in the middle of the night. That by itself is a long and interesting story. My mother has told that story on video tape twice. One version is in the Yale University Holocaust archives. The other is part of the Stephen Spielberg project to preserve those memories.
We asked, why the family left Germany so late - almost too late - and Mr Hellman replied at length.
Excerpts from his letter illustrate the dramatic situation of these times for his family :
It wasn't so easy to leave Germany in the 30's. With hindsight, it was stupid not to have left. But never in the annals of civilization had a so horrendous, planned massacre of innocent people, facilitated by highly developed technology, taken place as was carried out by the Nazis in the Second World War. How could one have imagined that something like that would happen. Despite all the discrimination, how could my father have left a town where his family lived and had such deep roots? Many people thought the escalating anti-semitic measures of the Nazis would later subside and no one ever imagined mass murder.
Nevertheless, my father recognized the need to emigrate. But in order to enter the United States a written, sworn statement by an American citizen was required, attesting that the immigrant would need no government support.
Betty Hellmann's sister had already emigrated to the USA with her husband in 1934. An uncle who was also living there wrote at that time: "America at its worst is better than Germany at its best"
Just a few years later the couple was in a position to provide the so-called affidavits, in other words the sworn statement of responsibility for German family members.
But the emigration guarantees were numbered and specified the date of departure. Whoever had a higher "quota" had to wait. My parents' number only allowed them to leave in September 1939.
And so the family had to stay through Kristallnacht, but were able to escape to a friend living at Weinmarkt in Nürnberg.
My mother went back to Gunzenhausen after the Kristallnacht to pick up clothes and personal belongings. Mayor Appler asked her where her husband and his brother were. She lied, saying she didn't know. Appler didn't believe her. Finally he proposed not to carry on asking if she would sign a document transferring the house to the town. Hence the deed of 1938. The claim that 4000 RM was paid is a lie. My father received nothing …. In fact while my mother was packing, town officials turned up and took away whatever they fancied. She still particularly remembers the town treasurer who arrived, unscrewed lamp bulbs and took them with him. That was justice and fairness in 1938 in Germany.
The family managed to travel by train to Belgium via Cologne.
„At the border Nazi officials took everyone's passports and searched each person. A female official interrogated my mother. My mother was blonde and really didn't look Jewish. The woman asked her why she was travelling with a Jew. When my mother replied that she too was Jewish, the official made a body search to be sure that she wasn't smuggling out anything of value.
Their passports were only returned through the window as the train left the station. When the train crossed the Belgian border my parents were happy and felt free, for the first time in many years they were no longer afraid. They arrived in Antwerp, where they were supposed to be sailing with the 'Veendam', a ship of the Holland-America line.
But war had been declared on 1st September and the British were now blockading the port of Antwerp. They had arrived in Antwerp on 20th September 1939, my mother's 28th birthday, and in that night Yom Kippur began, the most holy day of the Jewish year. Jewish law says that one should fast on this day, from 30 minutes before dawn until 30 minutes after sunset.
The Nazis hadn't yet invaded Belgium. Antwerp is a centre of the diamond industry. The Jewish community there was very wealthy. The whole train full of Jewish refugees was supposed to go on board ship but the ship couldn't leave port. What could they do? The Antwerp Jewish community pitched in.
A very tall man came up to the group at the station and asked where the woman with the baby was.
My sister was the only infant in the group, she was just 2 years old. My mother took my sister and followed the tall man. Then she suddenly thought "what have I done? I'm going off with an unknown man. Where is he taking me? Will I ever see my husband again?"
He brought her to a hotel where the Holland-America line had organized accommodation for the refugees. They were put into a room and my mother ran up and down the hallway, waiting what would happen next. Then, a long time later, she heard a man with a Viennese accent talking, he had been with them in the train, and right behind him came my father. He was very excited because the tall man had gone back to the station and had taken the men to a Synagogue where the Yom Kippur service was beginning.
My father came from a small town and had never seen such a large Synagogue, he was very struck by the lights and the whole atmosphere there. My father was a very religious man, and although he hadn't eaten anything since leaving Germany, he fasted until the following evening in accordance with Jewish law.
The refugees stayed six weeks in Antwerp and were looked after by the Jewish community. At long last, at the end of October, the Veendam was able to sail. They arrived safely in the port of New York exactly one year after Kristallnacht, on 9th November 1939. There they were met by my mother's brother and caught a train to Baltimore, to start a new life…..
My father's first job was in a department store, assembling toys for Christmas. Then he worked in a bakery, afterwards in a meat-packing factory. Later he sold clothing, until his death in 1973. My father had begun with almost nothing and yet earned enough to build a wonderful house, put two children through college, take good vacations and lead a comfortable life in a country which allowed him religious freedom.
In Baltimore Richard's brother Heinrich married Sylvia Schuster, born in Bad Brückenau near Würzburg.
In 1980 Heinrich died and afterwards Sylvia moved back to Germany - to Würzburg, where her brother David was living. He was the chairman of the Jewish comunity there. Since 2014 his son Josef Schuster is the chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Mr Stanley Hellman today lives as a lawyer in Towson, Maryland. He is married to a Jewish teacher and has two children. His sister Ruth lives in Baltimore. She is married to a pharmacist and has three daughters.
Within the context of the restitution programme instituted by the American military government on behalf of the former owners, the Hellmann house was returned to the family in 1954, a most exceptional occurrence. They sold it in 1956 to Andreas and Emilie (née Bleicher) Schwarm.
Betty Hellmann celebrated her 90th birthday in September 2001 and we very much appreciate her willingness to answer our many questions, as the events and people are still very clear in her memory.
In November 2005 we got the message that Betty Hellmann was died.
Despite all the terrible experiences, Richard and Betty Hellmann have already visited Gunzenhausen many times, also their children and grandchildren. And they exchanged letters with some town residents.
In August 2018, granddaughter Jennifer Greenfeld visited Gunzenhausen along with her husband Joshua Gordon, son Noah and daughter Lea. Jennifer is a forest ranger and responsible for trees and greening for the city of New York. She also looks after Central Park. Her husband Joshua is a neurologist and a research scientist at Columbia University. There he was a colleague of Oliver Sacks, which turned out to be the case when we showed them Dr. Sacks ancestor's house at Waagstrasse 1.
Stanley Hellmann wrote:
The efforts by the Nazis to eradicate Jews did not work. Proudly, if he were still living, Richard Hellman would tell you that he has two children, 5 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren variously living in Baltimore, Washington and New York. In October 2019, we received a message from Jacob Hellman, a grandson of Richard and Betty Hellman from the United States.
"...In 2014, 5 of us made the trip from America to Gunzenhausen to meet the mayor, see the house on Kirchenstrasse and tour the town - Stanley Hellman (Betty's son), Rachel Hellman (Betty's granddaughter), Jacob Hellman (Betty's grandson/me), Helaine Greenfeld (Betty's granddaughter/daughter of Ruth Hellmann Greenfeld), and Abby Mintz (Helaine's daughter/Betty's great-granddaughter).
Currently, there are 5 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. We live in Baltimore, Maryland; New York, New York; Silver Spring, Maryland; Washington, DC; and Middleton, Wisconsin..."