Stadtarchiv Ulm: Zeugnisse zur Geschichte der Juden in Ulm

Stadtarchiv Ulm (Ed.). Zeugnisse zur Geschichte der Juden in Ulm: Erinnerungen und Dokumente. Ulm: Stadtarchiv Ulm, 1991.

Rarely does a book make such a large impact on its readers. The brainchild of Otto Hilb, this publication was born out of the 1988 reunion of Jewish citizens of Ulm, put together by that city's Stadtarchiv (city archives) and city council. Hilb recalled that as several of his friends talked about that reunion, they wondered if their former Jewish neighbors would be willing to document their memories from the Third Reich, especially how life for them was different than it had been for their non-Jewish friends and neighbors.

The Stadtarchiv handled the notification of those who had participated in the reunion. Thirty responded almost immediately, some by including memories that had been documented in 1982 in a book entitled Lebenszeichen, Juden aus Württemberg nach 1933 [Signs of Life, Jews from Württemberg after 1933] published by Bleicher Verlag. Otto Hilb, writing from Tel Aviv in 1991, was surprised by the enthusiastic response (and credited Bleicher Verlag for their permission to use those testimonies).

My copy is marked up, dog-eared, underlined, highlighted. The memories of these Ulmers or their descendants grip you, hold you fast, tear your heart out. They refuse to spare us the emotions that had clearly been pent up for decades. For some, these "memories" represented the first time they had been able to talk about what they saw.

The book is organized by age of the writer. The multiple editors - among them Dr. Maja Fassmann of Tübingen and Dr. Uwe Schmidt of Ulm - left Swabian peculiarities, as well as grammar mistakes and misstated dates owing to distance of time, alone. They gently edited these documents, letting us feel the raw emotions.

Because this book review is contained in the historiography of the White Rose, I will draw attention to the stories that relate to the friends of the White Rose. Doing so in no way diminishes the other stories. Please understand that before you continue to read.

That said: The first recollection was written by Alice (Lisl) Haas nee Strauss, who married a Münchner named Kurt Haas. Lisl's first husband had been a Stuttgarter. My reaction upon reading her short essay: Was she related to Eugen Grimminger by marriage? One of Grimminger's sisters had married a Haas. Open question!

Alice had a funny story about her experience at Ellis Island in 1938. Her passport had expired, so her cousin went to the German consulate on her behalf to get it extended. The consular official happened to be from Ulm. When Alice's cousin spoke with that official, the woman recognized her name. "My God, poor Lisl must be terribly afraid! I'll take care of this immediately!" (pp. 34-35)

Kurt Wallersteiner's memories, on the other hand, have an indirect, if not direct, connection to the White Rose friends in Ulm. Inge Scholl used Anneliese Wallersteiner as part of her philo-Semitic mythology. It's unclear from Kurt's memories whether Anneliese were his cousin.

Professor Dr. Wallersteiner described his Jewish youth in Ulm in terms many Jewish Americans would understand. He confirmed what I read in Leo Baeck's January 1933 newspaper: Some Jewish Germans initially believed that Adolf Hitler could be good for Germany. Kurt was the same age as Hans Scholl, and like Hans, shared the optimism and idealism regarding the overthrow of the Weimar Republic.

Wallersteiner even remembers some of the Nazis in Ulm fondly. Reichstag member Wilhelm Dreher for the NSDAP in Ulm defended his father Dr. Hugo Wallersteiner, gastroenterologist and star soccer player. Julius Streicher defamed good Dr. Hugo in an early piece in the Ulmer Sturm (newspaper). Mrs. Wallersteiner sought out Dreher's wife, asking her to do what she could to quash the negative piece. Dreher spoke with Streicher, who retaliated at Dreher's weakness by including him in the article as well as Wallersteiner, entitled Der Musterjude von Ulm [The Model Jew From Ulm].

Kurt Wallersteiner emigrated to England via Switzerland in 1936, where he became a professor of chemistry. Kurt Wallersteiner mentioned many non-Jewish Germans in Ulm who helped him or his family. He did not mention the Scholls.

However, he did relate a story that would have been one the Scholls witnessed (and never mentioned). A few years after the death of his father, Kurt's mother remarried - another medical doctor named Ludwig Stoβ. They moved across the river to Neu-Ulm, which meant that Kurt had to cross the new bridge over the Danube, where he met up with a non-Jewish friend and fellow Gymnasium student named Albert Schrode. The two boys then would walk down the Olgastrasse, where the Scholls lived, to the Gymnasium, a few doors down.

One day as he had just crossed the bridge, before he was joined by Albert, three Hitler Youth boys jumped him. He successfully fought off one; the second one attacked him with a knife; and the third ran away. The third boy fetched the police, who then took Kurt to the police station. To his surprise, that same Wilhelm Dreher who had defended his father in 1930, now yelled at the three Hitler Youth boys. "You want to be heroes. You're washrags!" (pp. 137-142)

Lottie (Lotte) Greenwood nee Barth? Her story is one that renews my ire at the Scholl-centric telling of the White Rose story every time I read it. Born in 1920, barely older than Sophie Scholl, Lotte lived in that same house on Olgastrasse as the Scholls. She was able to remain in a German school through 1936, because of her father's service in World War I. It was not the same Oberrealschule that Sophie attended, but they would have left every day for school at the same time. No way Sophie Scholl did not know Lotte.

While Kurt Wallersteiner told us of the brutal beating and death of Ulm's Rabbi Julius Kohn - secondhand, from his mother's memory - Lotte recounted the events of Kristallnacht for her family. Her story is searing, terrible.

Lotte's father Heinrich Barth and her uncle Julius Barth were both transported to Dachau. Her uncle was beaten to death there. Her father was able to return to Ulm, but only after Lotte had already left for America on the ship Washington. Otherwise, her entire family - father, mother, sister, younger cousin - were all deported to Riga, where they were taken to the forest and shot.

Lottie's -- the proud American Lottie -- short account began with the words, "My first reaction to the circular from Otto Hilb and the city of Ulm on October 5, 1989 was only that of sad emotions. But then I thought: But I am still alive! But my dear parents Heinrich and Eda Barth, were murdered at the ages of 54 and 46, along with my 13-year-old sister Suse, and my 11-year-old cousin Beate Bärtig. They were not as lucky. They did not live long enough [for me] to be able to portray their lives. My sister wrote a poem, How nice it would be if they could come to America."

The Barth family, residing at Olgastr. 81, deserves to be remembered. (pp. 142-143)

Anneliese Wallersteiner, born in 1921 same as Sophie Scholl, also recorded her memories of life in Ulm. Like Kurt Wallersteiner's family, Anneliese's also enjoyed a prominent place in Ulmer society. Their house and store were located directly next to city hall [Rathaus]. Anneliese remembered being proud of their big glass windows displaying fabrics and clothing. She also remembered being proud of their family's long history in Swabia. Her great-great-grandfather Samuel Gronum Wallersteiner was one of twelve Stammjuden [native Jews] to have received a letter of protection from Princess Maximiliana in 1793.

She also remembered life getting even better when her father was able to build his own factory. They moved to Bismarckring 42, a beautiful 10-room house in a upscale part of Ulm's downtown. In addition to the large yard, their neighbor allowed the Wallersteiner children to play on his big lot as well. Plus the park of the Martin-Luther-Kirche was across the street. "Heaven on earth," Anneliese wrote of their home at Bismarckstrasse 42.

Apparently Fritz Hartnagel's brother-in-law was the architect who designed the factory for Leopold Wallersteiner, Anneliese's father. The new factory employed between 200-225 workers. Aware of his responsibility to treat workers fairly, Anneliese recalled her father figuring out ways to compensate his workers over and above the legal limits allowed by the "tariffs" (which prescribed min-max wages). She started as intern in her father's factory in 1936, learning from both father and mother how to run a business and retain workers. Her lessons included ensuring that every worker had a job year-round, although theirs was a seasonal business. Leopold Wallersteiner paid workers even in summer when there was no business. That made an impression.

Anneliese wrote of happy days, days when she was German. Yes, they went to synagogue. They were a good Jewish family. But they also celebrated Christmas (their seamstresses all stitched their own decorations at the beginning of the season). Anneliese recalled attending Mass with Catholic friends, while being required to take Lutheran catechism in school. Their family worked with charities of all faiths. One of her most vivid memories: Assisting Franciscan nuns with feeding the poor. Part of their civic duty as Ulmer.

But. She completely skipped the horrors of Kristallnacht. One minute she is sitting in school learning Lutheran catechism. The next she is getting married in America, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to earn a living in freedom. (She eventually settled in Louisville, Kentucky.)

Anneliese Wallersteiner emigrated to the United States in 1939. The entire family - father Leopold, mother Else, sister Charlotte, and Anneliese - left Ulm in May 1939. They first lived in England until they could get sponsors for the United States. By December 1939, they were well on their way to the USA.

She saw her account as a way to reclaim the honor of her German family. Despite Hitler, despite Kristallnacht, which she could not write about, Anneliese remained proud of her German ancestors, those Jewish citizens of Buchau who enjoyed the protection of Princess Maximiliana.

Not one word in nine pages about the Scholls. (pp. 145-153)

Andrew Einstein (born 1969 in "West Orange, USA") gave a great deal more information about the Buchau Jews, to which not only the Wallersteiners, but also the Einsteins could trace their lineage. His great-gggggg-grandfather was Baruch Moyses Ainstein. On March 16, 1665, Baruch Ainstein was accepted as a citizen of Buchau, the first Jewish person to be so recognized. He was not the first Jewish person - the synagogue of Buchau existed before 1659, its first known mention. Baruch was simply the first to gain official recognition, which came with the promise and assurance that he would always be able to purchase kosher meat.

Once the Emancipation Proclamation of April 25, 1828 had been passed in Württemberg, the Ainstein family was able to leave the Jewish quarter of Buchau and join other German families. In 1838, the Jewish community of Buchau had grown so prosperous, they could build a new synagogue. As demonstration of his favor, Württemberg King Wilhelm I presented the synagogue with a carillon. Einstein noted that the synagogue of Buchau was the only German synagogue to have one. "Clearly Wilhelm I was unfamiliar with Jewish traditions."

Next to the new synagogue, the congregation built a house for their rabbi. Andrew Einstein's great-grandfather Salomon Jakob Einstein lived next door to the rabbi. Four houses down lived the parents of Albert Einstein. Yes, that Albert Einstein.

Andrew Einstein related how the Ainstein-Einstein and Guggenheimer and Feigenbaum families slowly but surely moved to larger cities. Ulm and nearby Wiblingen were two regular choices for these families. Andrew's grandmother was Irene Einstein nee Guggenheimer. 

Andrew's great-grandfather Jakob Guggenheimer saw his business prospering, so he invested in a four-family home located at Olgastrasse 81. Yes, that Olgastrasse 81. Andrew's grandmother Irene Einstein nee Guggenheimer, born in 1902, lived at that address from 1910-around 1938, according to Andrew.

Irene went to the same Oberrealschule that the Scholl sisters would later attend. Her brothers Heinrich and Lothar were able to attend the Realgymnasium, the school where Susanne Hirzel would be the only girl about twenty years later.

In 1936, Andrew's grandfather Arthur Einstein finally left Buchau for Ulm. His first wife had died of cancer in 1935. Arthur and Irene married on July 5, 1936, fully under the oppressive thumb of Nazi laws forbidding Jewish Germans to vote, forbidding non-Jewish Germans from greeting Jewish neighbors, forbidding intermarriage between Jewish and non-Jewish Germans, forbidding so much as selling something as innocuous as a cow to a Jewish neighbor. Andrew's father Fritz Salomon Einstein was born to Irene and Arthur on November 3, 1937, in the middle of all these restrictions.

Andrew noted that his grandparents and infant father lived in one of the homes beneath the apartment occupied by the Scholl family. Andrew said the Einstein family's memories of Robert Scholl were good, that Robert Scholl would help them despite all the laws forbidding his doing so. Arthur and Irene were able to reclaim the house at Olgastrasse 81 after the war, because Robert Scholl testified that Jakob Guggenheimer had been forced to sell it against his will. [Always hold on to positive stories like that, as they are rare. It is refreshing to see one Scholl, who may otherwise have been deeply flawed, earn praise from a Jewish family from Ulm.] The Guggenheimer-Einstein families sold Olgastrasse 81 (now Olgastrasse 139) shortly thereafter.

The very next paragraph destroyed Inge Scholl's philo-Semitic tales about Jakob Guggenheimer post-Kristallnacht. It is impossible that Robert Scholl visited Jakob Guggenheimer as a "Mensch" - as the story has oft been told - because Jakob Guggenheimer had died in June 1938, five months before Kristallnacht.

Andrew's grandparents and father were spared the worst of Kristallnacht, because of the sale of the four-residence building to an "Aryan" (who had paid a small percentage of the house's value). Following that sale, the Einstein family was forced to move. Those responsible for rounding up every Jewish male in Ulm clearly did not have Arthur Einstein's new address, so he was not arrested with the rest, nor was he sent to Dachau.

From Andrew, we learn that one year later, to celebrate the "anniversary" of Kristallnacht, Nazi leaders in Württemberg ordered all Jewish males rounded up once again. Arthur's grandfather was not sent to Dachau along with most of the others, because he had already obtained exit visas for the entire family. He was "merely" held at the city jail until the authorities could confirm the exit visas.

The Einstein family was further assisted by the Jewish community in Rotterdam, Holland. The family of Arthur Einstein received a telegram stating that their ship was due to set sail earlier han anticipated, so they should travel from Ulm post haste. When they got to Rotterdam, they learned it was a ruse to get them out of Germany more quickly. The ship was not ready to sail. But the Jewish community in Rotterdam cared for them, kept them clothed and fed.

One more interesting bit of "trivia" that was anything but trivial to the family: Karl Lämmle, the famous director of the Universal Studios movie All Quiet on the Western Front [Im Westen nichts Neues] happened to be a friend of the Einstein family in Laupheim, near Buchau. Lämmle had remained loyal to family and friends in Laupheim (per Andrew Einstein). Despite having emigrated to the USA in 1884, Lämmle returned annually to support Jewish friends in Laupheim.

Shortly after Kristallnacht, Irene asked the Einsteins of Laupheim if they would ask Lämmle to be their sponsor for the US. Lämmle agreed, but US Immigration rejected him as sponsor. He had already sponsored 380 individuals, most of whom were strangers to him. So Immigration said he had sponsored enough refugees. Lämmle then contacted a cousin of Irene, an attorney in San Francisco named B. J. Feigenbaum, who agreed to sponsor the family of Arthur and Irene.

As well as things worked out for Andrew Einstein's grandparents and two-year-old (in 1939) father, the rest of the family wasn't as lucky. Arthur's siblings and their spouses could not find sponsors. All of them perished in concentration camps. His family alone made it out alive.

Unlike the two Wallersteiner families, Andrew Einstein's account of his grandparents' lives in Nazi Germany has no light, no happiness, no joy. He sees himself as an outsider in the country his family inhabited for over three hundred years.

He concluded his report as follows: "For me, Swabia is now a foreign country and its inhabitants are not my compatriots [Landsleute]. Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit southern Germany with my father as participants in a program commemorating Kristallnacht 50 years prior. We stayed in Ulm. It hasn't changed much since my grandmother grew up there. There is little that points to the cruelty perpetrated there, to the destruction of war. Nonetheless, the memories of the abysmal evil in mankind will continue to gnaw at the picturesque façade. These memories will always trouble me." (pp. 168-173)

Andrew Einstein's account concludes the "testimony" portion of the book. Pages 177-267 contain documents that nail down the specter of life in Ulm from 1933-1945, the ever-tightening noose, the laws restricting every-day life. The Stadtarchiv reproduced signs, photographs, newspaper articles, proclamations, all related to clear evidence of the destruction of Jewish life in the city of Ulm.

If you are serious about wanting to understand the context for the lives of the Scholl family, Heinz Brenner, the Hirzels, and others, you may not neglect the close study of this book. Eyes wide open. The antisemitism was strong, it was virulent. Except for a handful who played the Nazis' games (Anneliese Wallersteiner's family comes to mind), most Jewish citizens in Ulm were excluded and brutalized.

Hear their voices. If you don't, you'll perpetuate an unworthy fairy tale.

Postscript: Neither the Nathan family nor the Dannhausers contributed to this anthology. Otherwise, I would have included their stories here as well.

Book review © 2023 Denise Heap. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.