The Joseph Seller Family
Joseph Seller was born in Altenmuhr on 08.09.1852, the son of Nathan Seller and his wife Ella, née Wollner. In 1878 he registered a livestock and produce business in Gunzenhausen, which he later extended into hop trading. But he only received civil rights from Gunzenhausen on 27.05.1887. Shortly afterwards, on 03.07.1887, he married his second wife Martha Herzog, born on 16.03.1866 in Roth. The couple lived at Bahnhofstrasse 33, where their eight children were born.
Nathan *25.03.1888 in Gunzenhausen, +12.08.1891 in Gunzenhausen
Elsa *26.03.1889 in Gunzenhausen, + 13.08.1937 in Gunzenhausen
Max *25.11.1890 in Gunzenhausen, + killed in battle 24.06.1915 in Belgium
Emma *22.01.1892 in Gunzenhausen, + 04.04.1932 in Gunzenhausen
Oskar *13.08.1893 in Gunzenhausen, + 26.07.1918 Military hospital Wevelghem
Friedrich * 04.12.1894 in Gunzenhausen, + 03.11.1903 in Gunzenhausen
Wilhelm *19.06.1896 in Gunzenhausen, + 03.11.1896 in Gunzenhausen
Ludwig *15.11.1898 in Gunzenhausen, + killed in battle 08.08.1917 in France
Joseph died on 17.7.1907. The sons took over the care of their mother and their two sisters. However Max and Oskar were immediately called up for service at the beginning of the First World War in 1914.
A lieutenant in the 7th infantry regiment, Max had been awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and had been nominated for the Iron Cross 1st class. But he died in battle on 24th June 1915. His brother Oskar died of his injuries in a military hospital in 1918. The youngest brother, Ludwig, who had served a commercial apprenticeship in the Gunzenhausen company Faulstich, was called up as a soldier towards the end of the war and died in 1917 in France, aged 18.
Source : Personal documentation of the Jewish citizens of Gunzenhausen, compiled by the town archivist Werner Mühlhäuser.
Robin Schäfer and Mike Edwards, both historians, researched the history of Lieutenant Max Seller and his two brothers. They campaigned to have Max’ tombstone belatedly engraved with the Star of David.
An article on this was published on the following site :
An enemy is honoured.
Campaign to have the engraving amended on the headstone of a soldier killed in the First World War.
By Daniel Eastermann June 13 2014
Two historians are campaigning for a star of David to be engraved on the headstone of a Jewish soldier who died fighting for Germany during the First World War.
Lieutenant Maximilian Seller was killed in 1915 as he led an assault against a British trench near Ypres. A British sergeant, Victor Rathbone, who was also Jewish, ordered that he be buried with a Jewish burial service. But his grave, in Hyde Park Corner British military cemetery in northern France, does not have any outward display of his Jewish faith. Mike Edwards, a former engineer in the Royal Air Force and German historian Robin Schafer have sent requests to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and its German equivalent for the grave to be changed, but so far have received no response.
"If Victor was still alive today, he would want that headstone changed," said Mr Edwards.
A spokesperson for the CWGC said: "It is the judgment of our German sister organisation to decide whether any changes should be made."
In the paper “Der Israelit” the following article appeared on 26th August 1915 :
Gunzenhausen 16th August. The London Jewish Chronicle published the following extract from a letter from an English Major Rathbene to his brother: I was 24 hours in the trenches, with one hour rest. We caught a German officer, Lt. Max Seller, from a Bavarian infantry regiment. He and around 50 men attacked us with hand grenades and the officer was killed by a bayonet. I helped him to be buried, together with our own men. He was Jewish, so I had the chaplain change the service. Perhaps his family will be happy to hear this and you can ask the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish World to mention it, so that it is known. He was really daring and despite his trying to bomb us, my men admired his courage. The brave officer was a representative of the company (ich kann’s nicht lessen)in Bayreuth and was the oldest son of a widow living in Gunzenhausen, Maria Seller.He was a distinguished, hard working and educated man, and was well liked for his modest and polite manner. He had already been decorated with the Iron Cross for his exceptional bravery.
The death announcement of Oskar Seller appeared in the Altmühl-Boten on 1st August 1918.
The Star of David is engraved on the headstone of Ludwig Seller, the youngest son.
The widow Martha Seller now had only her two daughters Elsa and Emma. Elsa earned their living with piano lessons. Her neighbour, the doctor’s son Max Rothschild, told of the very pleasant piano lessons that he had in their house as a child.
In 1932 Emma died, so that only the mother and daughter Elsa remained. Max Rothschild writes in his memoires that he remembers having often seen his piano teacher going for walks with the married business man Ludwig Faulstich. The affair between the two was well known in the town and at the latest following the Nürnberger Laws of 1935, everyone knew what consequences such behavior would have. In 1937 Faulstich even took Elsa to the Franconian Day, organized each Whitsun on the Hesselberg by Julius Streicher.
On that same day Elsa Seller was arrested and committed to the Gunzenhausen Prison on a charge of disgracing the race. During her imprisonment she hanged herself in her cell on 13.08.1937.
Her lover Ludwig Faulstich hanged himself on the 16th May 1941.
Thomas Medicus has written the story of the couple in his book “Heimat” as of page 196.
The widow left for Würzburg on 7th October 1937, where she lived in a Jewish old people’s home in Dürerstrasse 20. She probably died in Würzburg. No exact proof is available as all Würzburg registry office documentation pre.-dating 1945 was destroyed in a bombing raid. She is not mentioned in the Gestapo deportation lists that still exist.
Source : Information from the municipal archive of Würzburg to the Gunzenhausen town archive. Biography of Würzburg Jews 1989.
Contemporary witness Karl Strauss recognized Martha Seller and her daughter Elsa on these photos.