Jewish Life in the Community of Oberwinter in the Rhine Valley
Reasons for and Beginning of my Investigations
10 years ago my husband, who was then chairman of the “Rathausverein Oberwinter” (a society for local history), received a letter from Prof. Micha Levy, Jerusalem, in which he was told that the professor’s ancestors originated in Oberwinter and was asked if he knows anything about the Levy family.
In my youth I had learned much about National Socialism in Germany and the persecution of the Jews, but I have to admit that I never had any idea that in my community Jewish people had lived before. Now I wanted to find out more. First I spoke with the eldest inhabitants of Oberwinter and experienced that, with the exception of a lady then 97 years old, nobody in Oberwinter had known any Jews personally. The old lady had gone to the Protestant school together with some Jewish children and she told me that a young Jewish man had been the first person killed in action during World War I.
A lot of older people remembered the Jewish cemetery, but I was not able to find out about its exact location for a long time. In conversations with contemporary witnesses I was told about different houses, where Jewish people had lived, and again and again the name “Levy” was mentioned. People did not remember any other names. It became obvious, that the last Jews from Oberwinter had left the village between 1910 and 1920. Continuing my interviews with contemporary witnesses, I have come up with a lot of valuable information for my investigations, but it also became obvious that in some heads many prejudices still remain. For example, people thought that very rich or more educated persons must have been Jews. Thus, ultimately founded on grounds of mere prejudice, many a suggestion turned out not worthwhile after careful consideration.
The archivist of Remagen (Oberwinter having become a part of that city in 1968) gave me some names of Jewish families, which he himself had collected. And with this I began my investigations in different archives. I went to the archive of the city of Bonn (about 20 km from here) and thus set out for my research work, at first in a rather aimless way. I reviewed the catalogue under the heading of the word “Jews” and I ordered all books which seemed to be promising. For years I borrowed all these books, perused them and searched for names and genealogical data referring to Jewish people from Oberwinter in the name rolls and lists of villages, double checking the information I thus gained in other books about Jewish cemeteries in the region. In this work, Klaus H. S. Schulte’s “Bonner Juden und ihre Nachkommen bis um 1930”1 proved especially helpful. Unfortunately the registration file of Oberwinter has not been preserved, and so it was impossible to trace who had moved whither. In the memorial publication for the victims of the holocaust in Germany2 I learned about the terrible lot of many Jewish people who had been born in Oberwinter. As the locations of deportation are listed in the memorial book, I could in some cases retrace the story of the lifes and sufferings of these people.
Sometimes by mere chance I found out more. Thus among our own possessions I came across a document bearing the date of 1884 which regulated the sale of a garden belonging to the Jewish brothers and sisters of the Wolf family to one Peter Vogels, an ancestor of my husband. Resulting from this document I learned that Fanny and Sibilla Wolf had succeeded as owners of a shop dealing in haberdashery goods and wool to their brother Isaac, who had died a bachelor.
Renovating an old house, under the floorboards in his attic one of the members of our society for local history found a tiny old bottle of hair tonic stained with mortar, to which stuck a page out of a Jewish prayer book. Realizing that he had found something quite out of the ordinary, the man took care to preserve it. Three years ago, once again just by chance, I came in contact with a Lady now living in Cologne whose grandfather, Ferdinand Stausberg, had lived in Oberwinter from 1871 to 1879 and had, in the time between 1914 and 1918, recalled his memories of that period in a diary. He had been a close friend of Julius Levy and so the diary provided us with many details concerning the Levy family that were not to be found in official documents3. In addition to my own studies of land registers and to research on the internet, personal contact to authors who have written books about the Jews of our region has been of great help in many cases, not to mention the valuable suggestions from those working in the various archives. I hereby wish to express my gratitude to all of these people.
A Short history of the Jews in the Rhineland and in Oberwinter
As early as the year 320 a Jewish community must have existed in Cologne4, about 50 km north of here. Documents dating back to the 14th century5 provide us with first evidence of Jews living in Oberwinter.
In Frankish and Carolingian times Jewish merchants were yet held in high regards, but in the 11th century the crusades lead to pogroms, concomitant phenomena of the spirit of that era. Both the legal and the social situation of the Jews began to decline dramatically. The Christian craftsmen then united and founded guilds, the membership of which was barred to any Jew, thus excluding them from many professions. The few fields of activity still accessible to them, such as the lending of money, the cattle-trade and the skinning of animals, were ill-reputed and abhorred. Though under the reign of Emperor Friedrich II (1212-1250) they were taken under the Kaiser’s protection and proclaimed royal menials of chamber (servi camerae), this also meant that they had become the Emperor’s property. He could deal with them as it pleased him, burden “his” Jews with taxes or even sell or give them in pawn to others6.
In the middle of the 15th century the Jews were held responsible for the Black Death. Carl Brisch wrote that “hatred raged against the Jews until it became sheer madness, turning the Christian population into Jew-strangling angels of death. From one end of Europe to the other a horrid slaughter of the Jews commenced.”7 Also in many communities near Oberwinter Jews were murdered in those days, but no testimony extant today would tell us anything relating to this matter about our own village. Many Jews were expelled from the cities and, out of fear of further excesses, began to live in the woods or wandered about the country.
Due to the Reformation of the 16th century the Jews had to suffer considerably. Martin Luther, believing at first that he would be able to convert the Jews to Protestantism and eventually failing to do so, soon turned into a terrible enemy. It was also in this time, though, that he translated the Jewish Bible into German, thus familiarizing the Germans with the text of the Old Testament. In the 16th and 17th century the situation of the Jews, especially in the cities, improved a little.
During the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648, big parts of central Europe were devastated and for a short time the Jewish could profit from the situation as merchants, sutlers or moneylenders. Oberwinter escaped being burned and pillaged in the war, for on their march through the village the Swedes realized that parts of its inhabitants were protestants, and so they refrained from ravishing the place. In the 17th and 18th century a few Jews of long-term residence in the Rhineland met with chances to rise in the world economically, especially in the cities. But the vast majority lived in poverty, wandering through the land as beggars, musicians, hucksters or teachers8.
Documents of Protection and Regulations for Jews
Until the end of the 19th century, Jews in the Rhineland remained “2nd class” citizens who had to face repression, exploitation and social exclusion. Special regulations for the Jews (Judenordnungen) issued by the respective sovereigns, were to regulate the life of the Jews. Jewish people who wanted to settle down in a community first had to acquire a document of protection from the sovereign. Anybody not in possession of such a document could be expelled at any time. Aiming at keeping the number of protected Jews as low as possible, those in possession of a document of protection were ordered “to sever all bonds with their adult children” and were subject to all sorts of restrictions. The Regulations for the Jews of Cologne e.g. do not entitle Jews to the acquisition of real estate unless provided with a special letter of approval from the elector himself. Here it was among other things also expressly set down that “a noticeable difference between Christian freedom and Jewish servitude is to be observed”9.
Since the village repeatedly came under the rule of different sovereigns, we cannot state exactly as to which extent the Jews of Oberwinter were affected by protective taxes and special regulations. In 1318 the village became fief of Gerhard von Landskron, to whom, on the first of September 1336, the privilege “always to keep and protect 12 Jews in his territory” was granted by Emperor Ludwig. The political climate regarding the Jews is said to have been very restrictive in the dukedom of Juelich, to which one half of Oberwinter had belonged since 1567, until by 1593 the entire village was added to its territory. In 1608 a 1554 Police Rule was reissued which was to regulate the “keeping at bay” of Jews in the dukedoms Juelich and Berg, but nonetheless documents of protection continued to be issued until, in 1779, the last of these document were granted to 221 families in Juelich and Berg10.
With the French occupation of the Rhineland in 1794 the legal situation slowly began to change for the Jews. In 1798 the French Civilian Status Law was established in the departments of the left side of the Rhine. In 1808 the Emperor Napoleon (in what became known as the “shameful decree”) once more limited the rights of the Jewish population, in some respects even drastically. In the same year he issued another decree in which all Jewish subjects were requested to adopt definite names and surnames within three month’s term.
And so, Oberwinter being a part of the “Landbuergermeisterei Remagen” in those days, on October 26th, 35 Jewish persons, among them the Jews of Oberwinter, came to the City Hall and declared their new names11. The names of the Jews of Oberwinter have been set down as follows:
Salomon Levy and Veronique Levy kept their old names,
Fromet Barauch became Veronique Schoen,
Abraham Levy became Germain/Hermann Levy,
Jakob Levy became Jacques Levy,
Teubgen Levy became Josefine Levy and
Scheidgen Levy became Francoise Levy.
As for the Christian population, all births, weddings and deaths are documented in the church registers. But, registration of civilian status for all parts of the population having begun as late as 1798 in the lands left of the Rhine, until this year we do not have any official records about the civilian status of the Jewish population. Both the old Jewish tradition to use the surname of the father as a first name for the child and the declaration of new names in 1808 turn genealogical research into a cumbersome task, allowing only occasionally and always with great difficulty to relate persons who are mentioned before 1808 to their respective families. To aggravate matters even more, the new German Data Protection Act seriously complicates research in this field, because personal data from 1876 onwards are inaccessible for the general public and, as a consequence, very difficult to get hold of.
In 1814 the Russian Cossacks expelled the French and, together with all the lands on the left shore of the Rhine, Oberwinter became a part of Prussia.
In 1869 a new Prussian Law for Jews abolished the repressions Napoleon’s Decree of 1808 had imposed upon them. With the foundation of the German Reich in 1872 all Jews in the entire territory of Germany gained complete equality. It wasn’t long until many of them took leading positions in economy, culture and science.
For centuries, if not for thousands of years, people in Oberwinter have earned their livelihood by agriculture, winemaking, and fishing. Oberwinter and the smaller neighbouring villages are being mentioned as fiefs of monasteries and feudal lords, which means that the inhabitants had to give large parts of their income to the liege lords. Because of the village’s geographical position on the shore of the Rhine, it was destined to be used as a transit camp for all sorts of armies on the move, pillaging and plundering it time and again, thus adding to the many afflictions of the destitute population, whose lives were all but easy. In fact, most of the people were exceedingly poor.
Throughout the centuries, the Rhine functioned as a major route for transportation. Sailing ships carried merchandise down the river and were, on their return journey, towed up stream with the help of horses. The village had a stable where the horses could rest or be exchanged and an inn called “The anchor” where the “Rheinhalfen”, the men who made a living by leading the horses, could stay. With the onset of steam navigation on the Rhine, these men lost their income.
In 1857 a train station was built in Rolandseck, a northern part of Oberwinter, to be followed in 1899 by a second station in the village itself. From now on Oberwinter was to profit from the growing network of transportation and the ever increasing number of tourists that came for holidays. At the same time a major means of income suddenly failed. Winemaking had to be given up entirely, since large parts of the vines had fallen prey to the wine pest and repeated efforts to limit the damage had proved in vain. Together with the recently founded Society of Winegrowers, many families went bankrupt. For a few years, the construction of a little shelter harbour in 1891 provided the male inhabitants with an opportunity to earn a meagre income, loading and disembarking the goods as day labourers.
It seem especially worth mentioning that, unlike most of the communities in the predominantly catholic Rhineland, the history of Oberwinter has been shaped by the Reformation. As the religion of the population depended on that of its sovereign (“Cuius regio, eius religio”), at times Oberwinter was catholic, at other times protestant. Throughout the centuries, a relatively large protestant parish could establish itself alongside the catholic one, and this lead to many conflicts between the confessions.
Written evidence of Jewish inhabitants in Oberwinter
On page 622 of the “Germania Judaica” it is mentioned that Jewish moneylenders lived here in the twenties of 14th century12.
In 1612 Uri Veibesch from Oberwinter died in Leutesdorf (a little village on the other bank of the Rhine) and was buried in Hammerstein13. In 1647 Sebastian Dunkhass bonded real estate to the Jew Joist14. Between 1710 and 1714 the Jews Brosius, Hirz, Leiser and Moyses from Oberwinter were registered as they went to the market in Linz15 where they had to pay “Judenleibzoll” (body tax for Jews). In 1717, when all the male heads of families had to pledge loyalty to their sovereign, “Moyses Judt” was mentioned as one of them16. In 1819 Rosa Cahn of Oberwinter became midwife of the “Landbuergermeisterei Remagen” (i.e. of Oberwinter and the other smaller villages in the neighbourhood)17. In 1782 the journal “Rheinischer Antiquarius” listed two Jewish families with 10 persons.
Statistics about the Jewish population in the communities belonging to the district of Koblenz (“Juedische Bevoelkerung in Gemeinden des Regierungsbezirks Koblenz“) of the years 1858, 1895, and 1929 list the population of Oberwinter according to confession18:
According to the “Rheinischer Antiquarius” of 1862, in this year three Jewish families of 10 persons altogether were living in Oberwinter.
In January 1863 mayor Beinhauer wrote a letter to the county commissioner von Groote in Ahrweiler, stating that “4 [Jewish] families with 20 souls” were then living in Oberwinter19.
In 1857 the families of Jakob Levy and David Heymann were listed20. A paper dated 1866 offers a list of 23 persons, but regretfully no names21. The tax register of 1879/1880 shows 5 Jewish families22.
These are the families of
Heymann, David (later called: David, Hermann)
Religious Life and School for Jewish Pupils
As the highest number of registered Jewish persons in Oberwinter amounts to a total of 23, it is to be assumed that no divine service according to the Jewish rites was ever held here, since the required presence of at least 10 adult men could in all likelihood not be realized. The few families who lived here were to poor to build a synagogue or to pay a rabbi. In 1859 a Synagogue Association was founded it Sinzig, to which nine individual parishes belonged, Oberwinter being one of them23. In 1869 the Jewish parish of Remagen, which included the Jews of Oberwinter, celebrated the official opening of the newly-built synagogue24. According to the fashion of the times, the synagogue was erected in oriental style. On this occasion together with the Jewish population, the mayor and the town councillors participated in the celebrations, Jews and Christians had decorated the streets with garlands. The people from Oberwinter had to walk for about 5 kilometers until they reached the synagogue, about 1 hour one way. The parish of the synagogue also organized social events, for instance a Hanukkah-party in December 192025 and a meeting of the “Handwerkerchewra”, a society founded to encourage young Jews to learn a trade or a craft.
The education of Jewish children
For a long time education in Germany had been a privilege for the children of the ruling classes. Jewish teachers were wandering through the land and were teaching school wherever they stayed and to whoever could afford the fees. For the protestant parish of Oberwinter the first teacher was hired in 1580 at the latest, in 1645 the catholic parish also employed a school master. Of the 107 Jewish children required to attend school in 1823 in the county of Ahrweiler, 78 went to Jewish schools, 5 to a protestant school (probably in Oberwinter), whereas the remaining children did not go to school at all. In 1824 the state issued regulations for the education of Jewish children, criticising the bad level of education on the side of the teachers, the absence of any subject taught with the aim of enhancing general education, and the fact that girls were excluded from school to a large extend. By 1824 education for Jewish children in Germany had become compulsory. In our region most of them went to Christian schools, where due consideration is said to have been given both to their holidays and to the customs and regulations of their religion26.
I came across the first testimony about a Jewish boy attending school in Oberwinter in a letter of the Protestant priest dated1839. The priest criticised that several pupils, among them Salomon Levi, had failed to attend the instructions in November and that their fathers had consequently been ordered to account for this in the town hall27. Though in 1850 a Jewish teacher of primary and religious education was working nearby in Remagen, the children of Oberwinter still attended the two Christian elementary schools of the village. Lessons in Jewish religion were given to 10 children in 1897 and 1898 in Remagen by the teacher Mannheimer. From 1899 on teacher H. Friedmann gave lessons for 13 children in Sinzig, from 1901 onwards also in Remagen28.
The Jewish Cemeteries in Oberwinter and Rolandseck
Though countless witnesses have given incontestable evidence for the existence of both cemeteries, yet so far it has not been possible to find a written document to account for the location of the cemetery in Rolandseck. The cemetery in Oberwinter was situated opposite of today’s train station and covered only 55 square meters of ground. It is set down in the original land register of 183429 as owned by the “Israelitische Gemeinde” (Jewish parish). Old people spoke about very old and flat tombstones in Oberwinter. In 1936 during the Nazi-regime, a new main road was built there and all the tombstones have disappeared. Nothing has so far been found out about the whereabouts of these stones.
We do not know why a second cemetery was founded in Rolandseck. Was no vacancy left in the cemetery of Oberwinter or was the rule of the French occupation, which forbad burials in areas likely to be submerged during high water periods of the Rhine the reason for the foundation of a new cemetery in another place? (Because of the French rule, the Christian confessions closed their cemetery near the Catholic church and founded a new one in 1808 on a slightly elevated territory. Also the old Jewish cemetery of Oberwinter had been located near the Rhine and was periodically flooded during high water season.)
The Jewish cemetery of Rolandseck had been situated on an area in the property of Julius Levy. Later he was to sell this land, which nowadays has become property of the “Stiftung Bahnhof Rolandseck”. (On a parcel of land bordering on this, the New York architect Richard Meyer is building a new Museum for the works of the German artist Hans Arp and his wife Sophie Taeuber-Arp). In 2001 seven tombstones which had been removed from their original graves lay in the slope behind a large steel entrance gate. In a protocol the forester of Rolandseck gave witness that he had marked the burial grounds by planting conifers. As the stones were found under conifers it is to be supposed that this is the very place where the Jewish men and women had been buried. In 2002 on orders of the Jewish parish of Koblenz the remaining 7 tombstones were forwarded to the old Jewish cemetery in Remagen.
The tombstones of Rolandseck were manufactured from sandstone with rounded edges in the time between 1883 and 1900. Three stones belong to the family David/Wolf, four to the Levy-family, two of which are embellished with remarkably beautiful Levites’ pitchers. The four stones of the Levy family alongside with a German inscription also bear an extensive text in Hebrew, honouring the deceased person. They also feature a Hebrew blessing: “May his (her) soul be wrapped up in the bundle of life”. On the gravestone of Adelheid David we find a star (not the Star of David) and a palm leaf, alike to those being used as a symbol for rebirth and immortality by the Christians. The tombstone of Fani Wolf is decorated with a Star of David (this symbol usually signifies the tomb of a man), but this stone is the only one without any text in Hebrew. The mixture of German and Hebrew texts and the use of symbols, which can be both of Jewish and of Christian origin, implies an advanced state of assimilation of the reciprocal cultures of the persons buried here.
Witnesses of the time period remember that both on this ground and on another piece of land bordering on that until about 1970 25-30 Jewish tombstones were still standing. In spite of every effort I could not come up with any information as to where the other stones may be found. A former owner of the area, obviously lacking even the slightest trace of respect for the sleep of the dead and the eternal irrevocability of a Jewish cemetery, had the stones removed, because he intended to erect a private building on the place. Even though a theory has been put forth according to which the stones found in Rolandseck had simply been removed from Oberwinter, transported to the neighbouring village to be stored there, and that consequently no cemetery had ever existed in Rolandseck, a large number of witnesses object this theory.
The relationship between Jewish and Christian Population
Today we only can speculate as to the quality of the Jewish-Christian relationship in former times. A lot of non-Jewish authors, who have written books about the Jewish population of their home-villages, marked the good relationship between the religious groups. This may have resulted from the wish to believe that there simply could not have been any anti-Semitism in one’s own community, or at least in one’s own social environment. However comprehensible such a wish may be, it still might not go much beyond mere wishful thinking. As for Oberwinter we certainly do not find ample material which would answer the question concerning the quality of the mutual relationship of the religious groups. Studying documents from villages and cities in the vicinity from the middle-ages, we come across much evidence that especially by the common folk the Jews were regarded as unwelcome competitors in the fight for food and survival30.
Beginning with the attendance of Jewish children in Christian schools in the 19th century, at least some degree of social approximation must have occurred in the different groups, transcending the mere economical rivalry of the past. The Christian farmers liked to do business with the Jews who traded in cattle, for they knew them as reliable partners in business.
A lot of anti-Jewish prejudices in the Christian society were grounded on religious differences and fed by ignorance about the Jewish religion. As I have already pointed out, the mutual coexistence even of the two Christian groups in Oberwinter was not always uncomplicated, too, no matter what people may say today. Perhaps the existence of two different Christian parishes in a region where only pure Catholicism was to be found elsewhere, led to some more tolerance for the third religious group, the Jews.
So-called inter-religious marriages have been unthinkable for a long time, not only Jewish-Christian marriages but also marriages between Catholics and Protestants. The newspaper “Bonner Zeitung” wrote on October 12th 1854: “Today in Niederbreisig a catholic girl who has married a Jew will be excommunicated. The local synagogue is also said to have decided to exclude the Israelite from the parish, because he married a Christian girl”31. For many Jews the way to social promotion and complete equality was only opened for them if they consented to Christian baptism. For a long time proselytizing Jews and convincing them to receive baptism was considered highly praiseworthy among Christians. In 1843 in Cologne the “Rheinisch-Westfaelischer Verein für Israel” (“Rhenish-Westphalian Society for Israel“) was founded, a society for the “Befoerderung des Christentums unter den Juden” (Promotion of Christianity among the Jews). In the protestant church of Oberwinter funds were raised for this purpose and the protestant priest informed his colleague, that “the ever so brave supporter of the mission of the heathens [!], local tailor master Pertz, is also already engaged in ardent endeavours ….”32 Nonetheless in Oberwinter nothing was ever know about any conversion of Jews to Christianity. Predominantly, conversion took place in the cities, where families and the neighbourhood executed less control of social matters than in the country.
By the end of 19th century both sides increased their efforts for mutual acceptance, as the example of Christian authorities participating in the celebrations for the inauguration of the new synagogue in Remagen shows. At the inauguration of the new Catholic Church in 1872 both Jews and Protestants decorated their houses with flags and leaves.33
The only woman of our parish who went to school together with Jewish children told me that they were treated like all the other pupils and had been exempt from attendance on Sabbath. The diary of Ferdinand Stausberg speaks about his friendship to the Jewish boy Julius Levy. The children of both families where intimate with members of the other family and the Levy-family gave matzo to the Christian children on Passover. Ferdinand and Julius stayed friends when they moved to Cologne.
Another witness of the time, though, reported the shady prejudices of her parents: “My mother told me, that she used to run quickly past the Jewish houses, because it somehow felt uncanny for her, particularly when a person in that house has died.” The dialect-nickname “Juedde-Jul” (Jew Julius), commonly used for Julius Levy, gives reason to suppose that people, distinguishing him from others of the same (and in those days quite popular) name by this attribute, were aware of the fact that he was a Jew and that, together with this, there must have been some notion of him being “different in some way or the other”.
Therefore I venture to say that a factual, complete emancipation of the Jews had never been realized in the heads of Christian Germany. Had it been otherwise, how then could we account for the fact that after only a short interval of legally vouchsafed equality the terrible ideas and notions of National Socialism fell on such fertile ground in most parts of Germany?
Jewish Families and Individuals in Oberwinter
The limited space of an article in a journal excludes remembering all the Jewish people who once lived in Oberwinter. The material I have collected is extensive and includes, along with data pertaining to individual families, further information about e.g. professions, houses, cities where people moved to, and some anecdotes. Only in few rare cases could I obtain a photograph of the people. Even though the archives of the Rathausverein conserves countless photographs of school classes dated before 1900, there is now nobody alive who could tell us who is to be seen on them. So for each family I would like to give a short survey.
As already mentioned before, the percentage of Jews in Oberwinter’s population was not very high. Most of them worked as butchers or in the cattle trade and almost all were poor. In the early 19th century, when the land registers were begun, they owned unpretentious houses which quite often they shared with other families, and also small gardens, fields and vineyards, because, just like their Christian neighbours, by working in their professions they could not cover their expenses and earn enough to make a living. A striking fact to the modern observer, Jewish wives were often older than their husbands and it was also not unusual that distant relatives, for instance cousins, would get married.
When the Jews were granted equality in the second half of 19th century, many of them moved to the bigger cities where they hoped to find better schools for their children and better opportunities of earning money in their own professions. So industrialisation, rural migration, and the slow impoverishment of the population of Oberwinter due to the vine pest might well be the main reasons why the Jews moved away from Oberwinter in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Some families or persons lived in Oberwinter for a short time only, like the sisters Rosetta and Berta Hermanns, who came here at the age of 4 and 6 from Rheinbreitbach34, a village situated on the right bank of the Rhine. We do not know for how long they lived here, for their mother had died shortly before coming to Oberwinter, where they might have found temporary accommodation before their father remarried and took them with him to Inden-Lucherberg35 where they then grew up.
Crossing the river, the David family, too, had moved to Oberwinter from Unkel on the right bank of the Rhine. Hermann David is a good example to show how difficult it is to find out about what happened to Jewish people once they had come here, because we have various names for him. In 1821 he was born under the name of Hermann Nathan in Unkel. In 1846, the year of declaration of names on the right side of the Rhine, he revieved the name Heumann David. In different written documents his name is Heymann David or David Heumann. He was working as a butcher, married Adelheid Wolff from Muenstereifel and had six children with her. One child (Fanny I) died in infancy. Adam David emigrated to Chicago. Isidor founded a family in Muenstereifel and became a merchant. Gustav became a merchant in Duengenheim near Kaisersesch. Fanny II became the wife of Adolf Aron (or: Aaron), a master-glazier from Waldenburg in Silesia who founded a glazier-shop in Bad Honnef (right side of the Rhine, 2 km from Oberwinter). Isidor, Gustav, and Fanny II died a natural death. Most of their descendants were murdered by the National Socialists.
At the age of 75 Adolf Aron returned to Bad Honnef as a survivor of the concentration camp Theresienstadt. Two years he died later in the Hospital of the “Sisters of Dernbach”36 who had granted him accommodation upon his return.
Three granddaughters of Gustav David managed to escape from Nazi-Germany and to emigrate to England and America, their youngest sister and their mother were deported and perished in Poland37.
Daniel Meyer and his wife Jeannette, née Cahn were running butcher’s shop. Their stay in Oberwinter is testified from 1893 to 1910. Near the house with the butcher’s shop they owned vineyards, meadows and a little wood. In 1899 two of their children attended a Christian school in Oberwinter. Daniel Meyer was a paying member of the village’s volunteer fire-brigade. Six children were born to the couple while they lived in Oberwinter, one died in infancy. Their eldest son, Walter, married one Frieda Harf from Hochneukirch38, in January 1914 their only child Erich was born. Walter became a soldier in the Reserve Infantry Regiment nr. 98 and, when World War I started, he died on September 17th, 1914. He is buried on the cemetery for fallen soldiers in Troyon (France). His wife Frieda was deported to Riga on December 10th, 1941, where she perished. Their son Erich could emigrate to Colombia in 1937, where he married Alice Nathan from Cologne. They had 4 children and returned to Germany in 1950.
Rosa und Mathilde Meyer were deported with their husbands to Auschwitz and Minsk and perished there. Max Meyer escaped to the Netherlands, but was caught there and also deported39. Leo Meyer emigrated to Chile and came back to Germany about 1970. He settled in Duesseldorf40.
The Wolf/Wolff-family is found among those who appear on the tax-list of 1879. To Isaak Abraham and his wife Sibille Nathan was born a boy with the first name David in Oberwinter on January 29th 1779. Later his name was David Wolf. He married Adelheid Abraham from Flamersheim. Between 1815 and 1823 the children Isaak, Sibilla and Veronika (Fanny) were born to them, all of which died unmarried. When Isaak died in 1884 he left a parcel of land to his sisters, who sold it to Peter Vogels41. The document provides us with the information that the sisters were running a little shop for haberdashery goods and wool and, furthermore, that Sibilla could not sign the contract, because she did not know how to write. The sisters died in 1886 and 1898.
The Levy family lived in Oberwinter for at least 200 years. The first family member we learn about is Moyses, who is mentioned as head of the family in the homage-list of 171742. Apart from Moyses we find Brosius, Hirz and Leiser mentioned in the “Judenleibzollregister”43 of Linz between 1710 and 1714. Since these three men are not to be found on the homage-list of of 1717, they might have been sons of Moyses. Meanwhile I could trace back the names of more than 100 people who belonged to the Levy-family of Oberwinter, though not all of them were born here. The family’s profession in former times was the cattle trade, but they also worked as butchers or shohet (Kosher butcher). In the 19th century they became active in other professions as cooks, commercial assistants, hucksters, accountants, and merchants. In the middle of 19th century the members of the Levy-family gradually moved to the bigger cities in the vicinity like Bonn, Cologne, Duesseldorf and Wuppertal, where some of them, like Siegmund Levy, born in Oberwinter in 1876, met with good economical fortune. He became a publisher of the journal of chamber of commerce in Duesseldorf. In 1908 he married in Bonn Julie Ursell from Muelheim, who had founded a shop form female fashion goods called “Ursell” in Bonn, which was kept running until 1995 and had remained in the property of her nephew. Siegmund and Julie Levy could afford their son Maximilian (Mordechai) to study at University, and he received his PhD in Cologne in 1933 as one of the last Jewish students and emigrated to Palestine. Siegmund Levy, who was an ardent German patriot, fought for Germany in World War I. Germany showed no sign of gratitude for his patriotism. He and his wife visited their son in Palestine in the 1930th and they came back to Germany, because they did not want to become a burden for the young family in Palestine and also, because they still hoped that anti-Semitism would turn out to be a temporary phenomenon. Both were deported to Izbica in 1943 and perished, like so many other members of Levy family of this generation.
Besides these families we know of three other Jewish people with the names Veibesch, Joist, and Cahn who lived here. Uri Veibesch from Oberwinter died about 1612 in Leutesdorf and was buried in Hammerstein. He and his daughters are mentioned in the memorial book of Niederbreisig44. His daughters Gitle/Guetle and Saerchen were buried on the old Jewish cemetery near Castle Rheineck in Bad Breisig, his daughter Rechle in Trier. The memorial book also mentions that Uri Veibesch, son of Mosche Jischai, was arrested two years in a tower (“Wohlluft-Turm”) and that he had to pay 400 pieces of gold before he could leave his prison. The book praises him for his studies of the Torah and the charity of his sons.
Sebastian Dunkhass bonded his manor to the Jew Joist in 164745. Further information about Joist could not be produced.
Rosa Cahn became a midwife in Oberwinter and the villages around in 181946. Even though she did good work, some Christian women avoided her, because she was Jewish. By 1821 she was called “Widow Cahn”, received a salary of 10 Taler, free accommodation and firewood47.
About 1910 two Jewish girls with one or two Jewish parents were adopted or taken into care by Christians in Oberwinter. Both have been baptized and married Christian man. They survived the times of persecution relatively unmolested, but who can imagine today the fears they and their families had to undergo during the Nazi times?
In the beginning of 20th century an elderly couple, the protestant butcher Gustav Nowack and his Jewish wife Sabine Nowack were owners of a little slaughterhouse and running a butcher’s shop for oxen in Oberwinter. Quite a few anecdotes about Sabine have been handed down to us. The couple moved away in 1933, because the house with the butcher-shop had burned down. It is said that they were getting up in years by then and it remains unknown to this day whither they went after they had left Oberwinter and what befell them afterwards48.
Rosa Doerflinger and her son Karl-Heinz from Cologne found refuge and help at the end of World War II in the house of a farmer in Oberwinter. Mrs. Doerflinger was born in Muehlheim on June 18th 1887 and had married the Christian master-tailor Wilhelm Doerflinger from St. Goarshausen. Their son Karl-Heinz was born on June 21st, 1920, and was baptized. After the end of the war the Doerflinger family moved into an apartment in Oberwinter, Mr. Doerflinger opend a tailor’s shop and trained some apprentices. Among them was a daughter of one of the adopted Jewish women mentioned above, another one was Kaethi Gickeler, whose mother Rosalia had been nursemaid in the Jewish family of Professor Otto Loewenstein in Bonn. Rosalia Gickeler assisted the Loewenstein family in forwarding their furniture to Switzerland after emigrating and she went once more to live with the Loewenstein family in the years 1952-54, to become a nursemaid for the next generation. Even today, descendants of the families are in contact.
With the help of her later husband Robert Murmann (1901-1984) Johanna Kirchhoff (née Wolff) could survive the Nazi era in Oberwinter. Mrs. Wolff was born on May 27th 1902 in Bremverhaven. Robert Murmann was a Steward on a KdF-steamboat (the KdF, i.e. Kraft durch Freude, which literally means "Strength through Joy", was a large state-controlled leisure organization) and got to know his wife in Bremerhaven. When the Nazis confronted him with the alternatives of either becoming a member of the Nazi-Party or losing his job, he changed to the Hamburg-America-Line. Because the transatlantic traffic was shut down for some time during the war, he came back to Rolandseck, where his family was running a very successful petrol station called “The Friendly Man” (“Zum freundlichen Herrn”). In permanent fear of death Mrs. Kirchhoff spent the years of persecution on the run between Bremerhaven and Rolandseck. Supposedly she found refuge in Cologne, too. One of the local higher members of the Nazi party repeatedly warned them in the nick of time that Mrs. Kirchhoff was detected, but also there have been cases of denunciation. After the war Mrs. Kirchhoff and Mr. Murmann married in the Protestant church in Oberwinter. When they had grown old together, Robert Murmann nursed his wife with dedication. Both died very poor in 1984. One brother and a sister of Mrs. Kirchhoff perished in a concentration-camp. Another sister owned a petrol-station in Duesseldorf after the war.49
Also in Rolandseck the elderly couple Salomon and Henriette Jacoby, together with their daughter Hildegard Schott (her husband having been deported and murdered) found refuge for some time. An entire network of rescuers helped them, among them the couple Heinz and Josefine Odenthal from Bonn who brought the Jewish family to the Hotel “Anker” in Rolandseck, which was then in the property of Mrs. Odenthal’s parents. Sibylla Cronenberg, mother of Mrs. Odenthal, hid the refugees there, when it became to dangerous for them in Bonn. For rescuing these three persons, Heinz and Josefine Odenthal and Sibylla Cronenberg were honoured posthumously in a Yad-Vashem-Celebration in the old town hall of Bonn by Mr. Ilan Mor, emissary of the embassy of Israel in Germany, on September 28th 2006.
After World War II., Maximilian Kirschberg together with his wife and children lived in Oberwinter. His descendants are now living in many different countries of the world. He had married a Christian woman, and his children had received catholic baptism and went to a catholic school. On a Spanish web-site50 I found a little article with the title “España honora, por primera vez, a las victimas del holocausto” (Spain honours, for the first time, the victims of holocaust). In this his daughter Alexandra reports that Mr. Kirschberg was deported to Auschwitz at the age of 15 together with his family and never saw any one of them. She supposes that he managed to survive due to his strength and intelligence, for he knew many languages, which probably saved his live. In 1945 he was freed by the Allies and for the decades to follow he used to be tormented by nocturnal nightmares. His daughter also reported that he was working hard and saving money excessively throughout all his life, because he did not want that all of his six children to stay in one place, as he was always afraid that some day something similar might happen again.
A few other Jewish persons (most of them married to a Christian partner) have lived in Oberwinter or Rolandseck since then, but none of them ever spoke about being Jewish. Still, the traumas of the few remaining descendents of German Jews are too immense.
Meanwhile most of the German Jewish survivors of the NS regime have passed away and the number of those who could still bear witness to the terrors of theses times both for the sake of keeping alive the memory of the victims and as a warning to the younger generation ever decreases. For this very reason I am myself working on a publication about the Jewish man and woman of Oberwinter, so that the victims may not be forgotten and no other such reign as the ominous “Third Reich” will ever be established on German soil.
Dr. Kai Mummenbrauer