History of the family Lehmann from the Burstallstrasse 7
Noted of Hazel Green from London (in February 2005)
Dear Emmi, teachers and students of Stephani,
I apologise that I am unable to write to you in German. It is a deep regret of mine that my dear Mother, Ilse Lateman (nee Lehmann) would not bring me up bilingual, but when I was born, she decided that she would only speak German when absolutely necessary, for example, when communicating with relatives who did not speak English. My mother was an excellent linguist. Unlike many immigrants, she spoke English with hardly a trace of a foreign accent. When English people met her, they did not realise that she was not a native English person. She also spoke Spanish & Yiddish. She did not oppose my younger sister Carole taking German at school when she was about 14.
First, a few words about the Lehmann family. It was painful for my Mother to speak of her youth so I do not have much information.
Ernst Lehmann my Grandfather.
I never knew him because he died before I was born. My Mother spoke of him as a proud German who had served his country in the army in World War 1. Despite all the dreadful things that happened in the 1930s, he could not accept that they would have to leave until it was nearly too late in 1939.
Julie Lehmann my Grandmother. She came from Goppingen from the very large Dorzbacher family. I have a family tree going back to Lob Samuel Dorzbacher whose sons were born in 1781 & 1783. Having left Germany in 1939, she travelled from Buenos Aires to visit my mother after I was born in 1950 and stayed in England for several months, before returning to South America sometime in 1951. I do not remember her at all. My Mother visited her and her brothers in Buenos Aires in the winter of 1967/8
Julie died in June 1975, a month before my wedding.
My Aunt Susi Sadler (nee Lehmann).
After leaving Germany, Susi & husband Otto lived in Kenya for many years. She also visited my Mother when I was born in 1950. After she came to live in England in the 1960s, we saw her and my cousins Eva & Elizabeth occasionally. Susi died in 1983. My cousins will be sending you more information.
My Aunt Gertrud Schwarz (nee Lehmann).
She & her husband Eugene went first to Palestine (then under the British Mandate) then to New York. She lived in Palestine during the struggle for Jewish independence and served in the Haganah, the Jewish underground army. I met Gertrud when she visited England in 1972. I & my husband Colin visited her in New York in 1978. I met her son, my cousin Eli for the first time in Los Angeles in 1979. Gertrud moved to LA to be near her son, and we took our children to see her there in 1997. She became very ill not long after and died in 1998. I travelled with my parents to visit her just before she died. Gertrud worked hard all her life. She was a fantastic cook and catering was her profession. I have written to Eli about your project, but I don’t think that he has access to a computer.
My Aunt Lisbeth Lehmann.
I never knew her as she died of leukaemia before I was born. She was married but I don’t think that she had any children. Her courage, when the Nazis broke into their apartment during the 1934 pogrom and she tried to defend her father, was legendary.
My Uncle Walter Lehmann.
I heard that he married Inge in 1950 in Buenos Aires, while his mother Julie was away visiting my mother in England. Walter & Inge travelled to Europe in the 1960s and I met them then. He spent some months in Germany, working to make up the number of contributions for his pension. He was a quiet, very cultured man.
They had no children. My parents visited him & Poldi in Buenos Aires in 1991. He died in 1997 in Buenos Aires.
My Uncle Poldi (Leopold) Lehmann.
His first wife Vera died quite young. They had two children Marcelo, who now lives in Mexico City and who will be writing to you, and Isabella, whom I have never met. I met Poldi when he visited my Mother in England in 1978. He was a lovely man, very gentle and with a good sense of humour.
He died within a few weeks of Walter in 1997.
Poldi was the closest in age to my Mother and she was very very fond of him. He taught her to swim by throwing her in a lake. He and Walter were both regional swimming and diving champions. My Mother recalled them being presented with laurel champions’ wreaths. She was also an excellent swimmer and diver and was always the first one to go into the water (sea or pool) when away on vacation.
Ilse Lateman nee Lehmann my dear Mother.
Mum died three years ago on 31st January 2002 and we miss her very much.
She found it very painful to speak about her youth, but her early experiences marked her whole life. I think that she had a happy early childhood until the rise of the Nazis.
She spoke about ski-ing parties in the winter, swimming in nearby lakes in the summer and her older sisters went out with young men from the University with duelling scars!
When the Nazis came to power, life became very difficult for the Jews of Gunzenhausen. Mum always said that Bavaria was the source of much of the anti Semitism in Germany as evidenced by the infamous Nuremberg Rallies & Nuremberg Laws.
Eventually, life became so difficult that my mother was unable to attend school and she was sent to live with an aunt & uncle in Goppingen. Her cousin Betty Greenberg (nee Dorzbach) who now lives in New York State, remembers Mum living with them. My mother was able to come to England only because some in-laws of her sister Susi agreed to be responsible for her. The reason why Mum came to England is complicated. At 18, my mother was too old for the Kindertransport.Her brother in law Otto Sadler (Susi's husband) had a brother Alfred Sadler who had escaped to England much earlier in the 1930s. To get in to Britain, a refugee needed someone who would sponsor them - i.e. be responsible for them. Alfred & his wife Else agreed to sponsor my mother, although she lived with another family in Manchester at first. Alfred was interned as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man during the war. Eventually, Ilse came to London with the Sadlers. She met my father and they married after the war on December 23rd 1945. My father, now 88, was born in London in 1916 of Russian Jewish parents who escaped from Russian pogroms to Britain from Vitebsk, now in Belarus (also home of the artist Chagall). My parents had a long & happy marriage. I was born in May 1950 & my sister Carole in December 1954. My mother worked hard all her life. She & my father had a number of businesses ranging from a sweet shop to a fish & chip café. Eventually, they moved to Bournemouth, a holiday resort on the South Coast of England, where they ran a small hotel for many years.
My mother did all the cooking on her own – sometimes for as many as 60 people.
As well as being a fantastic cook, Ilse had many talents and was good at everything she did. She was very organised, efficient & hardworking. She had learned to be a dressmaker with professional results and made many of our clothes, as well as being brilliant at alterations. She made curtains and hung wallpaper. Apart from being a great swimmer, as mentioned previously, she & my father were fantastic ballroom dancers and they won many amateur trophies, their tango being particularly wonderful.
But the experiences of her youth took a toll. Can you imagine what it must have been like to leave your country alone at the age of 18 to travel abroad for the first time with very little money & one suitcase – all that was allowed? Or to say goodbye to your parents at a railway station, not knowing if you would ever see them again? (In fact, Ilse never did see her father again, and all her life, she had an intense dislike of railway stations. She hardly ever came to meet my train when I returned to Bournemouth, and if she did, would not come on the platform but stayed in the waiting room) Or what it was like to get married with none of your parents, sisters or brothers present?
My mother suffered from nightmares all her life. She would say very little about growing up in the 1930s in Bavaria. She loved classical music, especially opera, and told me that, as a Jew, she was not allowed to attend concerts, but she sometimes took a chance and sneaked in. She told me that the family had had a pet dog. One day the dog went missing for several hours, and when it eventually came home, it had a Nazi swastika branded into its skin. She also mentioned that someone had been murdered in their apartment and on the same day, her sister Lisbeth had tried to defend their father. (I subsequently learned that his was the pogrom in 1934 – please note that my mother NEVER used the word “suicide”)
All her life, my mother suffered from an inferiority complex and was very nervous of anyone in authority. She was uncomfortable near anyone wearing a uniform, especially wearing a cap. I do not mean just soldiers or policemen, which is understandable, but also traffic wardens, bus conductors & postmen who used to wear uniform with caps in Britain until about 20 years ago.
My mother was bitter about what had happened to her family and refused to visit Germany. One year in the late 1960s or early 1970s , Susi & Gertrud did go back to Gunzenhausen, where they still knew some people. They were supposed to stay 2 days but found the experience so upsetting that they left after a day. My mother said that it was seeing all the people, their former neighbours, whose lives had not been disrupted, who had recovered from the war – this made their own trauma that much more intense.
My mother was extremely upset whenever she read or heard about an anti-semitic incident, as it made her feel that everything the Jews had suffered during the Third Reich had been in vain. She loved Israel which she & my father visited frequently and could not comprehend the mentality of those who compared Israel’s actions of self defence against cruel enemies, to those of the Nazis. She would say, “the Nazis attacked us, innocent, defenceless people – the Israelis are being attacked by suicide bombers & murderers sending rockets into cities and the world denies them the right to defend themselves.” She accused Israel’s critics of hypocritically mourning the dead Jews of the Holocaust, but being indifferent and even hostile to the fate of the living Jewish nation, embodied in Israel.
She passed away three years ago and thus has been spared from witnessing the current shocking upsurge in European anti-semitism. Here in England, a recent report revealed that in 2004 there was a record number of anti-semitic attacks including desecrations of 17 synagogues & 5 Jewish cemeteries, as well as 83 violent assaults. In London recently there were eight attacks on Jews in the street.
We, the descendants of survivors, congratulate you on your excellent Project.
It is only through educating future generations about the Holocaust of European Jewry that the lessons can be passed on. Never Again!
Daughter of Ilse Lehmann of Gunzenhausen & Bournemouth, UK