The Story of the Blumenstein Family

Translation by Lesley Loy

Merchant and master weaver Joseph Blumenstein was born in Gunzenhausen on 11.04.1828, the second son of Enslein Blumenstein and Getti, nee Bernheimer. He married Doris Dormitzer, born on 12.10.1837 in Baiersdorf. In 1863 the couple moved to their newly acquired house at Marktplatz 5, where they ran a weaving shop, sold meter goods and traded in hops. Their ten children were born here.

Clara *14.10.1861 in Gunzenhausen, married to Max Reiss of Munich
Gerda *19.02.1865 in Gunzenhausen, moved to Nürnberg on 19.11.1935 and died there in 1936.
Rosa *15.08.1866 in Gunzenhausen, married to a certain Mr Kugler
Pauline *14.10.1867 in Gunzenhausen, died in 1940
Eugen *08.03.1869 in Gunzenhausen, emigrated to America in 1885
Louis *03.09.1870 in Gunzenhausen, emigrated to America with his son in 1913
Berta *20.04.1872 in Gunzenhausen, moved to Nürnberg on 19.11.1935 where she lived in the Jewish Old Peoples' Home at Johannisstrasse 17. She was deported from there on 10.09.1942 to Theresienstadt where she perished in the concentration camp on 14.01.1943.
Max *23.08.1874 in Gunzenhausen, died on 17.12.1878
Lina *15.01.1877 in Gunzenhausen, was living in the Ansbach sanatorium in 1939 and died in 1940
Adolf *23.07.1879 in Gunzenhausen, married to Bella Heilbronner from Ichenhausen. The couple lived only briefly in Gunzenhausen. Their two children were born in Aachen, Lisel *04.07.1913, and in Nürnberg, Emil *28.09.1918.

Joseph Blumenstein died in 1891 and his wife continued with the business until 1915, selling fashion accessories. Four of her daughters then took it over. The people of Gunzenhausen always talked of the "Blumenstein Ladies", who ran a well-known business for made to measure and off the peg clothing.

Source : Documentation on the Jewish residents of Gunzenhausen, compiled by Werner Mühlhäuser, town archivist.

The four Blumenstein sisters ran a shop dealing in textiles there until 1933.

In that year they rented the business out to the Reichel sisters, although they continued to live in Gunzenhausen. Probably they gave up the business due to their age, as at this time they were all over 60.

It was only in 1935 that they moved to Nuremberg, where one of the 10 brothers and sisters was running a toy shop.

In the meantime the Gunzenhausen address was no longer Marktplatz 5 but was renamed Adolf-Hitler-Platz 5. The three Reichel sisters Gertrud, Luise and Johanna were still their tenants and first paid 150 RM a month, later 110 DM a month.

In 1938 Berta Blumenstein was sole owner of the house, as her sister Lina had to be hospitalized in a nursing home in Ansbach and her other sisters were either sick or had died.

On Reichskristallnacht 9 November 1938 all Jews living in Gunzenhausen were chased out of their houses and locked up in the stairwell of this house. The next morning they were taken from there to Gunzenhausen railway station, where they were loaded into freight wagons and transported to a concentration camp.

Passport of Berta Blumenstein
Passport of Berta Blumenstein

In 1942 the Reichel sisters met Berta Blumenstein in Nuremberg to negotiate the sale of the property. She was wearing the yellow Star of David and had to use the name Berta Sara Blumenstein.

Gertrud, Luise and Johanna Reichel bought the house for 19.500 RM, but it is pretty sure that Berta Blumenstein never received the money as shortly afterwards she was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where she died on 14.01.1943.

All four Reichel sisters, daughters of the Gunzenhausen District Architect Carl Reichel, had learned a profession. Luise Reichel was an interior architect in Berlin, Gertraud Reichel was Directrice in Coburg, Mathilde Reichel had trained as a nurse and Johanna Reichel was employed in the commercial department of the Loos company, later in the Gunzenhausen Tax Office. But at this time, with the exception of Mathilde, they were all unemployed so they decided to open a business.

Their mother, Ernestine Reichel, née Prosiegel, from Markt Berolzheim, had been one of the first women town councilors of Gunzenhausen in the twenties.

Mrs Johanna Müller, née Reichel, the last surviving Reichel sister, told of several attempts by a Gunzenhausen businessman to boycott the shop in the early years. Signs saying "Don't buy from Jewish lackeys" were put up several times in front of her shop window, because the house had previously belonged to Jews. But the Gunzenhausen mayor at that time, mayor Appler, always spoke up for her, despite the fact that he was a National Socialist.

None of the Blumenstein ladies survived the Third Reich, but their nephews and nieces claimed reparation from the Reichel family in 1946 as they had never received any money.

The verdict was passed in 1957 and they had to pay another 21.000 DM plus damages.

The family ran the business until 1969 and then leased it out. As the Reichel family lived in Sichlingerstrasse, the upper floors were always rented out.

Some years later the town demanded that an old hop barn in the courtyard behind the house be demolished. Mrs Müller resisted this vehemently, but eventually gave up and in 1994 she sold the entire property to the builder Bromm from Theilenhofen.

To the students she said "This Jewish house was not blessed".

Student Franz Diller and Johanna Müller, nee Reichel