The Moritz Joelsohn Family

Moritz Joelsohn born 30. May, 1865 in Gunzenhausen is the son of merchant Joel Joelsohn and his wife Therese born Neuburg. He became well known as a cattle trader in Gunzenhausen. His wife was Karolina born Kocherthaler, born 21. May, 1872 in Ernsbach.
The home address of the Joelsohn family was Hensoltstrasse 4 from 1897 to 1913. In 1900 Moritz inherited his father's property at Waagstraße 2. He moved there with his family in 1913. His brother Elkan (*06.17.1867) lived there for several years with his wife Olga and daughter Nanette (*09.18.1897). Later, however, this family moved to Rathausstraße 1, until they left Gunzenhausen in 1912 to live in Nuremberg. Elkan was murdered in Treblinka extermination camp in 1942. We did not find out where his wife Olga died.

Hensoltstrasse 4
Hensoltstrasse 4

The couple, Moritz and Karolina Hoelsohn, had four children:

Ludwig Born 2. October, 1894 in Gunzenhausen. 27. November, 1921 he gets a Christian Baptism in Munich. After the war (WWII) Ludwig Joelsohn became personal Special Consultant for the State Commission for racial, religious, and political victims of persecution in Gunzenhausen.

Alfred Born 19. August, 1895 in Gunzenhausen. In WWI he received the Iron Cross-second class.He also earned the military’s “distinguished service cross 3rd class with swords”. In 1939 he was registered as a resident in Berlin-Neukoeln.

Erwin Born 14. May, 1897 in Gunzenhausen. He worked as a cattle trader. In the war he was a machine Gunner and also earned the military’s “distinguished service cross 3rd class with swords” in November 1917.In 1929 he emigrated to the USA.

Nanni Born 8. October, 1899 also in Gunzenhausen. On 18. April, 1922 she married cattle trader Sali Bacharach of Fellheim born 30. May, 1892. The couple emigrated to Hartfort/Connecticut in 1938 with their children Henry, Werner, Margot and the grandmother.

Source: Documents of registered Jewish citizens of Gunzenhausen. Compiled by Werner Muehlhaeusser, City Archivist

The children of Moritz and Karoline Joelsohn
The children of Moritz and Karoline Joelsohn: Ludwig, Alfred, Nanni, and Erwin (left to right) © Walter Joelsen

In 2004 a descendent of the Joelsohn family got in touch with us. He was Walter Joelsen from Munich, son of Ludwig Joelsen. Even though he was baptised as an evangelical Christian, he was considered a “Half Jew” and was discriminated against during WWII. He was sent to a work camp. Later he found a position as evangelical pastor for students and then worked for German TV for many years.

In April 2004 he sent us an e-mail with information about the fate of his family.

Dear Students,
An article in the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung“ caught my eye, because it led me back to your website. There I saw that the story about my family had been published. I would like to give you some additional information which I had already sent to Mr. Muehlhaeusser two years ago.

I am the son of Ludwig Joelsen, the oldest son of Moritz Joelsohn. My father had chosen to be baptized in the Evangelical church and consequently lost close contact with his natural family. He also changed his name’s spelling to Joelsen, so I grew up as Walter Joelsen.

My grandfather, Moritz Joelsohn, died in 1929 in Gunzenhausen and is buried in the Jewish cemetery there. I don’t know where exactly the grave is. The grave stone however still exists and is located at the cemetery wall. My Grandmother Karolina born Kocherthaler remained behind alone. After the Pogrom of 1934/1935 the family of her daughter Nanni took her from Gunzenhausen. to Fellheim near Memmingen into their home.

Her son Erwin had already emigrated to the USA in 1929, so he was in a position to get visas for his mother and the families of his sister and his brother to come to America.

In June 1938 Sali and Nanni Bacharach with their children Henry (1923 – 1975), Werner (1925 – 1991), and Margot (born 1926), all born in Fellheim, and Nanni’s mother Karoline Joelsohn emigrated to Hartfort, Connecticut. Karoline died there in 1954 and is buried there. In 1953 the Bacharachs moved to New York, where Nanni died in 1984. I don’t know when her husband died.

My cousin Margot married Mr. Silverman in America. (He was born in Oberelsbach nearby Wuerzburg.) He had come to the USA with the last ship that carried passengers before WWII. He died in 1996. They had a daughter Karen, who has four children. Erwin Joelsohn died in 1974/75.

Alfred Joelsohn, the second oldest son in the family of Moritz and Therese Joelsohn, lived in Berlin with his wife Anni and daughter Ruth, born 1928. In November 1939 they too emigrated to Amerika and Hartfort, Connecticut. Alfred died in Hartfort in 1966, his wife Anni died in 1997. Their daughter Ruth lives in Simsbury CT. She is a widow, and has two sons and a daughter. Since her mother Anni was not Jewish Ruth had an evangelical baptism.

Margot and Ruth are my cousins. Joan Zuckerman is a second cousin. Her grandmother was Therese, married to Mr. Reinstein, stepsister of my grandfather Moritz Joelsohn. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is in the process of compiling an extensive family tree and has a large network of contacts in many branches of the family, even in Isreal, where some of them live.

My father, Ludwig Joelsen, as you know, had a Christian evangelical baptism. Since my mother was not Jewish either, I did too. (I was born in 1926). My father had worked for a Swiss insurance company, but was let go, after the November-pogrom, without previous notice. The reason given: He had hidden the fact that he was a Jew. He became unemployed, and my mother had to work as a saleslady to support the family. With the help of a minister my father got a job as a packer in the Evangelical book dealership, until the forced labor began. During the last three years of the so-called Third Reich he had to wash street cars in Munich. Of course he was not allowed to drive the street cars, but he had to wash them. In February 1945 he was scheduled to be transported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, but he was too ill to be transported (a lung condition). After the war he first worked in the Employment office in Munich. After that he got a job with the Office of Reparation/Restitution and Property Compensation/Indemnification.

I remember that he went to Gunzenhausen with my mother once after the war. I am not quite sure if I remember correctly, but I believe the city had invited him to spend a few days in the city of his birth. I had already left Munich when my mother told me in a very happy letter, that they had been received with kindness everywhere. My father was a very peace loving man, and I could not imagine him as being vengeful.

Nowadays I work for the Dachau Memorial and the Church of Atonement which are located on the site of the former concentration camp. As a witness to the history of that period I tell visiting groups of students four stories about my youth:
1. How I found out in school (not from my parents) that I am considered a Half Jew by the NAZIs.
2. How the local NAZI officials told the parents of my friends, not to let them play with me anymore.
3. How I was excluded from attending school in 1943.
4. How I ended up in three different forced labor camps in 1944.

I kept quiet about my background/story for a long time. Now I feel it is important that I tell it because I want to give today’s young people the courage to fight back the next time somebody wants to split up their world into those who belong, and those who don’t (are not allowed in).

If you have any further questions, and if I can answer them, I will be glad to help. I think it is remarkable that these young people put such an effort into making sure, that the people who were condemned to oblivion by the NAZIs, will not be forgotten history, but that their history will remain alive.

Walter Joelsen

Regarding the invitation to Gunzenhausen. It could very well have been issued by Ludwig Joelsen’s office, the Commission for victims of racial, religious, and political persecution. We reported about our subsequent meeting in Dachau in the daily paper, “Altmuehl Bote”.

Students meet with witness of the history in Gunzenhausen

In 2004 visited our class  Walter Joelsen in Dachau
In 2004 visited our class Walter Joelsen in Dachau

For years now school classes and other visitors from the region go to the former concentration camp Dachau, many of them without realizing that, the docent in the Church of Atonement, who is there to tell them about the history, is a descendent of a Jewish family from Gunzenhausen.

Walter Joelsen, whose father Ludwig Joelsohn grew up in Waagstrasse 2, invited our class from the Stephani school in for a talk, because we had been researching the history of his family.

In a report in the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” he had read about the research our class has been doing and went on the internet to check our site. There he found the story about the family of the merchant Moritz Joelsohn, his grandfather.

He contacted the students via e-mail and provided them with the complete story of his family specifically about the period of the “Third Reich”. To that effect he wrote: The NAZI’s goal was to eradicate the Jewish people and erase all memories of them. The work your students are doing is an uprising against this trend. This makes me very happy, and not only for personal reasons.

While his father’s three siblings and their mother could emigrate to the USA he stayed behind in Munich, because he had married an evangelical woman and had himself converted to Evangelism. As the only son, he attended the “Gymnasium” (high school) until he was branded a Half Jew and was deported to a forced labor camp in the vicinity of Buchenwald concentration camp.

His description of the life with his family, his father who had already changed his name, his childhood and his youth as Half Jew was vivid and very moving. The students were very surprised at his chosen vocation. He became an Evangelical minister.

After he had worked as a students’ minister for many years the ZDF (Television station) became interested in him. So he took a leave of absence and became a moderator for them. He stayed with TV from 1965 – 1985 and hosted for example the “Treffpunkt” show.

Since he had always enjoyed working with young people he was all set to be retired, so he could work with young people again. He accepted a position as docent in the Memorial for Dachau Concentration Camp, so he could tell them about the things he witnessed in the ‘Third Reich”. For many years he would not speak of his experiences, but then it became very important to him to tell his story. He wanted to encourage young people to stand up against those who might again try to divide the world into those who belong, and those who are prevented from belonging.