The History of the Rosenau Family

Haus Burgstallstraße 7 today

This magnificent house at Burgstallstrasse was bought in 1866 by Joseph Rosenau from Obernzenn, a trader of iron products. On April 9th, 1866 he had acquired residency in the town of Gunzenhausen. We assume that the house was constructed by the builder Schlennert for the Rosenau family. The parents were Model and Jette Rosenau. They were originally from Gunzenhausen (Auergasse 8) but had resided in Obernzenn  from 1830 to 1850. Then they returned to Gunzenhausen with three of their ten children. Six of them emigrated to America.

The children of Model and Jette Rosenau:

Berta (Berl) *ca. 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.

Visitors from Israel identified this house Burgstallstrasse 7 right away as a Jewish house, because of the two windows formed like Moses' Tablets of the Law.

So we think it's sure that it was built for the Jewish family Rosenau.

When he was 23 years young, son Joseph and his wife Rosa *28.07.1834, daughter of merchant Rauh from Friesen, bought the house in 1866. But obviously they had arranged for the house to be built.

Their seven children were born there:
Rieka * 06.08.1868
Max * 01.11.1869
Samuel * 26.10.1870
Lina * 16.11.1871
Ida * 07.02.1873
Berta * 27.03.1875
Emma * 14.01.1882 +26.10.1884

Because of the excellent reputation Joseph Rosenau enjoyed in the Jewish community, he became a member of the magistrate and the leader of the Jewish community.

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 remained single and stayed at the parental house at Burgstallstrasse. He rented part of the house to the Lehmann family.

Burgstallstrasse around 1885. At that time the Rosenau family resided in this house. (From ‚Gunzenhausen Reminiscences’ by Max Pfahler)
Max Rosenau

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 been able to find survivors of the Rosenau family. We just knew, that brother Samuel emigrated to Palestine, and that his daughters and their families went to the United States or to England.

In the city archives, the only record is the sale of the house on May 28th, 1935 to the attorney 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, nee 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, nee Rosenau, has passed.  Her sole heir is Mrs. Claire Simson, nee Mann, who became an American citizen on December 30th, 1946 ... She resides at 425 Central Park West, New York 25.

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

In summer 2009 we got a mail from Yoav Etsion 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 summer 2016 we got a message from descendants of Isaak Rosenau in the USA. They were looking for their German ancestors and found some of them in Gunzenhausen. So we learned interesting facts about some of Mendel Rosenau's sons in the USA:

Isaac Rosenau, who was 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.

The picture of Samuel Rosenau (born in 1870) on the site Rosenau, Samuel has a definite resemblance to our grandfather.