The History of the Rosenau Family

Visitors from Israel identified this house Burgstallstrasse 7 right away as a Jewish house, because of the two arched windows, which are said to represent Moses' Tablets of the Law.

This magnificent house at Burgstallstrasse 7 was built in 1866 by young Joseph Rosenau from Obernzenn, a merchant of iron products, and his wife Rosa, née Kreglinger.

His parents were Model and Jette Rosenau. They were originally from Gunzenhausen (Auergasse 4) but had resided in Obernzenn from 1830 to 1850. The couple then returned to Gunzenhausen with their ten children, living in the family house. Three years later they exchanged this house for number 18, Hafnermarkt. In the following years six of the children emigrated to America.

The children of Model and Jette Rosenau:

Berta (Berl) *sometime before 1830 in Obernzenn, 1854 emigrated to the USA
Isaak *13.12.1832 in Obernzenn, 1850 emigrated to the USA
Samuel *15.11.1833 in Obernzenn, 1850 emigrated to the USA. 
Hirsch/Herman *1837 in Obernzenn, 1852 emigrated to the USA
Sigmund *ca. 1838 in Obernzenn, 1853 emigrated to the USA
Elklein (Elka) *ca. 1839 in Obernzenn, 1854 emigrated to the USA
Leopold *ca. 1842 in Obernzenn
Joseph *ca. 1843 in Obernzenn
Jacob *ca. 1845 in Obernzenn
Caroline *1848 in Obernzenn, left Germany after her fathers death together with her mother. They moved to the USA.

Burgstallstrasse in 1885.  The family of Max Rosenau was living there at that time.  Source: memories of Gunzenhausen from Max Pfahler.

Their son Joseph stayed in the town and married Rosa Rauh *28.07.1834, daughter of a merchant from Friesen.

The couple lived in the house at Burgstallstrasse 7, where their 7 children were born:


Friederika, called Rieka *06.08.1868, married Isaak Altmann, a businessman from Nuremberg, in 1890

Max * 01.11.1869, murdered on Bloody Palm Sunday, 25.03.1934 in Gunzenhausen

Samuel * 26.10.1870, merchant in Gunzenhausen. (See entry under his name).

Lina * 16.11.1871, married the factory owner Leopold Rothschild from Nuremberg in 1897

Ida * 07.02.1873, married the merchant Isaak Heilbrunn from Wetzlar in 1899

Berta * 27.03.1875, married the banker Otto Mann from Frankenthal in 1900

Emma * 14.01.1882  +26.10.1884


Because of the excellent reputation Joseph Rosenau enjoyed in Gunzenhausen, he became a member of the magistrature  and the leader of the Jewish community. The daily newspaper Altmühl-Bote reported in a short note around 1900 that Joseph Rosenau was elected as a juror.

Gunzenhausen, May 22. For the second session of the jury court at the royal district court in Nuremberg, which begins on June 13, Mr. Josef Rosenau, an iron trader from here, was determined by lot to be a jury member from our district.

Max Rosenau

The daughters left Gunzenhausen after they got married. The two sons, however, ran the business dealing with iron products at Hensoltsstrasse 7. Samuel and his wife and three daughters also resided there. Max stayed single, living at the parental home at Burgstallstrasse. He rented out part of the house to the Lehmann family.

His fate was sealed on the so-called Bloody Palm Sunday in March 1934 when the Nazis hounded their fellow Jewish citizens, and the hunt resulted in his death.

To this date, it is not entirely clear whether he was murdered or whether he ended his own life. To read about the exact sequence of events at that time, please refer to the History of the house at Nuernberger Strasse 4.

For a long time, we were not able to find survivors of the Rosenau family. It was however known that brother Samuel had emigrated to Palestine, and that his daughters and their families went to the United States or to England.

In the city archives, there is the record of the sale of the house on May 28th, 1935 to the lawyer Michael Amrhein. As early as 1915, Mr. Amrhein had opened his law office at Burgstallstrasse 2. He now moved his office to Burgstallstrasse 7. His granddaughter Karin Albert resides in the United States and is married there to a Jewish man. In a letter to us, she recalls the stories about her grandfather she was told as a child.

'He was a popular attorney, a member of the city council, and a known opponent of the Nazis. He had many friends in the Jewish community ... My mother often told us children that during the 20’s and 30’s, Jews frequently came to him for advice. That after 1933, he only reluctantly greeted people in public with the „German greeting“, and then only in the sequence „Gruess Gott, Good Morning, Heil Hitler“ or something like that. That my grandmother lived in huge fear of him being arrested and taken away to Dachau, etc. Stories like these fascinated me and evoked a certain pride, even if I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t more of a hero and didn’t display enough courage to defend his friends openly.'

This is what Mrs. Albert told us about the ownership change of the house:
'As you know, Michael and Frieda Amrhein (my grandparents) bought this house in 1935 for 23,000 gold marks from the heirs of Max Rosenau, who had been murdered there. His heirs were his sisters Lina Rothschild, Friedericke Altmann and Bertha Mann.  My mother told us kids that the house was acquired at a fair price.  She said that Jewish friends even implored my grandfather to buy it. .... In November of 1938, Mrs. Rothschild wrote my grandfather that she needed to call in the loan because she wanted to emigrate. A last payment took place in January of 1939.

After the war, the American military government placed the house under property control. My grandfather wrote to the Jewish community in Nuremberg to find the sellers’ current address. He hoped to obtain a statement confirming that they had sold him the house voluntarily and at a market price. The Jewish community could not provide information regarding this matter.

Half a year later in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Lina Rothschild contacted the military government in Germany and requested help regarding an estate there: She and her sisters had sold the house at Burgstallstrasse 7 under duress and for a very low price.

Now I really don’t know where to look for the truth ... Of course it’s easy to understand that the Rosenau heirs felt they’d been forced to sell. Like most German Jews, they would have much rather remained in Germany, and they would not have emigrated if the terrible situation in Germany hadn’t made it necessary.

In November of 1948, an appraiser estimated that before the war, the house would have been valued at 18,413 reichsmark. Unfortunately I don’t know what happened then because most of the relevant documents are missing. In May of 1952, the house was released from property control and escrow.'

Meanwhile Karin Albert has found further documents pertaining to the purchase of the house:
The property deed from May 28th, 1935, reveals that three sisters of Max Rosenau, obviously his heirs, were present when the sales transaction took place.

For the first time we learned more about Rika, Lina, and Berta Rosenau:
Rika was married to Isaak Altmann, a privatier from Nuremberg.
Lina appeared with her husband Leopold Rothschild, a businessman in Nuremberg, Pillenreutherstrasse 50.
Berta Mann, née Rosenau, is listed as the wife of a privatier in Munich, Elisabethstrasse 19/0.

These three sisters, as joint inheritors, sold the house to the attorney Amrhein for 23,000 gold marks. The following explanation has been added: 'With regard to this document, one gold mark is the equivalent of 42.790 kg pure gold ...but at least one Reichsmark.’ We don’t fully understand this explanation.

Both sides agreed that there would be three payments of 8,000 gold marks each.
On November 21st, 1938, Lina Rothschild writes to the Amrhein family and asks for an earlier payment date. She wants to emigrate. On January 7th, 1939, the requested payment is made to an interim account that had been frozen (by the government). By that time, it had already become difficult for Jews to actually obtain the money due them from the sale of their homes.

Eight years later, after the war, Michael Amrhein tries to find the sellers:
'I now need the address of the sellers listed below so I can request their confirmation that I have not bought the house under pressure but voluntarily and at an appropriate price.’ (January 27th, 1947)

In June of 1947, Lina Rothschild contacts the American military government with the following writing:
... Because it was not possible for Jews to live in Gunzenhausen, we sold the house under duress to attorney M. Amrhein ... for a very low price. We would not have sold the house if the prosecution of the Jews by the Nazis hadn’t forced us to do so.

From the same letter we learn something about the two sisters and their descendants:
My sister Mrs. Bertha Mann, née Rosenau, has passed.  Her sole heir is Mrs. Claire Simson, née Mann, who became an American citizen on December 30th, 1946 ... She resides at 425 Central Park West, New York 25.

My sister Friedericke Altmann, née Rosenau, has also passed. Her three children are:
Theo Altmann, I don’t know his whereabouts
Paula Pariser, née Altmann, Beth Hakerem, Paris
Robert Altmann, Ber Tuviah, Palestine

In summer 2009 we got a mail from Yoav Etsion, the grandson of Paula Pariser, who sent us information about his family.

I am a great-grandson of Friederika (Rieka) Altmann (formerly Rosenau), through her daughter Paula Pariser, and a proud descendant of Joseph and Rosa Rosenau.

I would first like to apologize that a few months had passed since Icame across the project you lead with the Children at the school about Jewish life in Gunzenhausen, and the writing of this letter. I was deeply moved to read about the history of my ancestors. I think this is wonderful way for the kids in the school to learn about humanity and tolerance, as well as learning about our shared history.

My grandmother used to spend her childhood summers in Gunzenhausen. She had very fond memories of these times, spending time with her grandparents and playing with her cousins. She was also very fond of her uncle Max Rosenau, and was very saddened to hear of his death - the information she received during the 1930s clearly statedhe was murdered by Nazi supporters.
Following is some information about our branch of the family. Please let me know if you have any further questions, and I will ask my mother and uncles. I can also see if we have any pictures of Friederika and Isak Altmann.

Isaak Rosenau in den USA © Rosenau family

In June 2016 we got a message from descendants of Isaak Rosenau in the USA. They were looking for their German ancestors and thought they might find them in Gunzenhausen.They are indeed descendants of Isaak Rosenau and so we were able to learn interesting facts about some of Mendel Rosenau's children in the USA:

Our great great-grandfather was Isaac Rosenau, born in 1832, came to the US with his brother Samuel in 1850. They departed Hamburg on the ship 'Elizabeth' and arrived in New York, May 22, 1850. Brother Herman came in 1852.

Samuel Rosenau's grave in the Temple cemetary in Louisville KY indicates his place of birth as 'Gunneshausen,'  and his year of birth as 1832.  We believe that 'Gunneshausen' may be an alternate spelling of Gunzenhausen.

After moving here, the Rosenau brothers became successful merchants. 

Isaac (Ike) fought for the Confederacy during our US Civil War.  None of our Rosenau family members ever owned slaves, or were in favor of racial inequality - quite the opposite. 


Prof. David Lee Rosenau jr © Rosenau family

It was said our grandfather once received death threats for his role preventing a lynching in the 1930s.  He was a a true lover of all people. Our grandfather was David Lee Rosenau, Jr.  He was born in Athens AL, USA in 1903. He was both a judge and a business and finance professor at Athens State College (now Athens University) for much of his life and then he became the longest serving judge in Alabama state history, and a greatly loved man.

From Bobby Ray Hicks we got more information:

"After arriving in the United States Isaak, Samuel and Herman (Hirsch) moved about somewhat.  During the American Civil War, Isaak and Herman, although not slave owners, served in the Confederate Army.  Following the War, Izaak and Samuel settled in Athens, Alabama and Herman moved to Pulaski, Tennessee.  All three became successful merchants and Herman moved once again to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and he and his sons, David and Monroe, owned three textile mills -- one making cloth and two making socks.

Isaak remained in Athens, Alabama until his death.  He and his wife, Hannah Cohn/Cohen (spelled both ways at different times) had a number of children.  Two of their sons, Max and David Lee remained in Athens and entered the retail business.  David Lee had two children, David Lee, Jr. and Margaret.  David Lee, Jr. became a lawyer and judge.  David Lee, Jr. was known as one who upheld the law no matter the consequences.  Indeed, he was just and fair and once prevented a lynching.  He was appointed a judge at a young age and was re-elected to numerous four year terms until mandatory retirement age.  He had one of the longest judgeship tenures in the State of Alabama.

After seeing a picture of David Lee, Jr.'s cousin, Rosenau, Samuel it was noted by family members what a strong family resemblance appeared of the two."

A Sewing Machine goes on a Journey

In the summer of 2020, a woman from Weißenburg contacted us. She wrote “… I have an antique sewing machine from J. Rosenau Gunzenhausen. It is beautiful and maybe there is interest ... I would be very happy if the sewing machine were to go back into your family's possession ... "

Two family members of the Rosenau descendants then got in touch and showed interest.

Bobby Ray Hicks from the USA wrote: „…My research has told me the Rosenaus were in some sort of iron works.  I have not been able to determine exactly what they produced. So I am wondering if they manufactured this sewing machine?...“

Yoav Etsion from Israel wrote: „Bobby Ray was gracious enough to let me negotiate with the seller first…I hope we can agree … so I can ship the machine to Israel. This can be a fantastic way to commemorate my ancestors!...“

And after ten weeks the news came:

„… The sewing machine has arrived, and I am restoring it. It is a great family heirloom. Thank you so much…“

The company name is still clearly legible today.