Rome, 8th June 201

Dear Sylvia and David, 

I enclose something I have written about my father which might be interesting for Stein descendants and I also want to tell you about the latest developments:  Mr.Gernot Roemer,  former chief editor of the main Augsburg newspaper who did a lot of research and wrote a number of books about the fate of the Augsburg Jews and also edited the book “Vier Schwestern” with the stories of our lives,  wrote to me some time earlier this year that a group of women who call themselves Frauen Geschichtskreis, had decided to put a memorial slab on our house in Hochfeldstrasse 15 1/6.  In actual practice,  the present owners of the house refused permission and the slab is now on the chairlady’s house at number 15 ½ , a few doors away.  I have a lively exchange of correspondence with this lady who sent me photos of the slab and of its unveiling on April 10,  told me that when asked what she wanted for her 80th birthday, she asked for money to finance this initiative. This group has also been responsible for a street in Augsburg to be named  after my father’s sister Clemy Heymann,  another Stein descendant, and when I asked how they had come to the idea of putting up this memorial slab, they told me that one of the group,  a logopaedist, had  come across Sophie’s publication about how the youngest survivors of the Nazi concentration camps of whom she and Gertrud took care after their arrival in the UK, had learned to speak English

 

 

 

My father, being 30 years old and associate proprietor of his brother-in-law’s firm Gebrueder Heymann, Augsburg,  wanted to found his own family and it was Claer Landauer,  a very distant relative and highly cultured lady, excellent pianist, who advised him to have a look at the daughter of Samuel Kitzinger and his wife Ida née Duenkelsbuehler , Fanny, in Fuerth, a very intelligent,    very well brought-up girl who, among other advantages,  would also have a sizeable dowry.  My mother,  on the other hand,  then 22 years old, had made a pact with several of her friends that they would not marry but retire to a little room under the roof and spend their time reading, embroidering and doing other needlework.  There is also a story that my father went to Fuerth on December 8, 1898 because Franconia being mainly protestant, there would not be a holiday there while in catholic Bavaria it was   and thus he did not miss a day’s work. At any rate, my grandparents and   their daughter were invited to coffee after supper at Carl Hirschmann’s (who was my grandfather’s associate and co-founder of their private bank, Hirschmann und Kitzinger and whose wife, née Landauer, was Claer’s aunt). When leaving home to go for this coffee invitation, my mother took a shawl over her head and her father said: there, with the shawl you have dishelled your hair. From this,  my mother   guessed that she was being taken to be shown to a possible future husband, and therefore said: „I’m not coming with you“.  Eventually she was persuaded to come along and this is     where my parents first met.  That evening, my clever father talked almost exlusively to my grandmother. On the following days, my mother was told to show the young man the sights of Fuerth and on December 13, my father proposed. My mother asked to be given time to reflect.  Many years later, my father told me that was for two reasons: a) she had promised her superstitious father she would not be engaged on a Friday (13th, to boot) and b) she ran  to her older friend , Fraeulein Claus, her English and French teacher, to consult her, because, she said, she would love to marry this Albert Dann but was afraid that it was mainly because he was so good-looking.  And good-looking my father must indeed have been with his hair then auburn (I knew him only with white hair and goaty, but his moustache was still the deep copper colour when I was a child). He was tall and very upright until old age, and our aunt Tante Friedel, like him from Frankfurt, told us that she and her friends peeped out behind the curtains to see him pass.

Obviously,  Miss Claus endorsed my mother’s decision to become engaged, and my parents were married on 19th March 1899. I have no idea about how much they met between Decmber and March,  I expect very little if at all,  those were not times when one moved about for weekends.  Expect there was a frequent exchange of letters. At any rate,  my parents knew each other very little when they became husband and wife. In  fact, when my mother once told me about father having fallen ill on their honeymoon somewhere in Italy, having high fever and being delirious. She commented:  just think of it, in a foreign land and with this „fremde Mann“ (strange in the sense of unknown).

Was it then only good luck that this match was such a perfect success, as indeed it was? In fact, my parents were united for more than 6o years and as long as I can remember, I have not once heard between them a single word that was less than corteous and affectionate.   True, they were two  intelligent and well brought-up persons; my father venerated his wife and probably knew that she was more intelligent than he, although he, too, was well fitted with grey matter.  All their decisions were taken by mutual consent, and mother took care that this was obvious. Altogether I believe that having decided to take this step, both were determined to make it the  foundation of a solid building that should withstand every test.  As indeed it did.

 

Only at a very grown-up age did I realize that all four of us were allowed to choose in complete autonomy the professions we wanted to learn, and never once  was an attempt made to induce one of us to become capable of taking over the business of which father had become the sole owner after the death, in  1905, of his brother-in-law.  In actual practice this turned out to be a great advantage, because with the developments after 1933,  it would not have been a good thing if one of us had gone in to become a business woman, whereas it was good that we all had professions that could be practised abroad.  But this could not have been foreseen when we decided on our respective trainings.  Neither was an attempt made to find for one of us a husband that could take over the firm.  As far as I know, we – and certainly I myself -  took all this completely for granted, whereas we should have acknowledged it as a sign of great liberality and open mindedness.

However deeply our father loved and appreciated his daughters,  it must have been  a bit of a disappointment when one after the other only girls were born.  For sure, he never let us feel this, nor did he reproach his wife as I know to have happened in quite a number of families without  male offspring.  Father,  rightly, did not forgive a stupid gentleman who offered sympathy when I,  the fifth daughter,  was born.

Father had a lively sens of humour and I will never forget the conspiratory smile with which he would look up at us on Jom Kipur during the confession when it came to „laznu“ , this being a sin of which we all were guilty being rather good at spotting and imitating peculiarities in the behaviour of others.

Another important trait of our father was his public spirit and talent for organization.  When, on November 9 1938, he found himself in prison in a cell together with 6 or 7 elderly gentlemen, of whom he,  being almost 71, was certainly the oldest,  he at once created a time table: a quarter of an hour exercises in the morning,  then English lesson and conversation; everyone had to sacrifice a few buttons so that they could play chess or draughts on the tiled floor.  “The sanitary conditions” my father wrote later,  “were appalling”;  actually the “Sanitary conditions” consisted of a bucket with a lid, and when one of the gentlemen led this lid fall back with a bang,  father decreed that he had to open and close it noiselessly several times as a punishment.

From 1912 he was a member of the administration of the Augsburg Jewish community, and from 1916 he was responsible for the synagogue.  It was to a large extent his merit that the beautiful new synagogue,  started building in 1913,  was completed in spite of the war in 1917. Before, father had travelled all over Germany inspecting synagogues in search of details that might  be worth imitating. I don’t know if the schoolrooms in the wings where the rabbi, cantors and caretaker had their comfortable apartments, were the result of these inspections; there we had our lessons in religion and in preparation for our confirmations.  To some of the toilets, little  restrooms with a couch and a little wall-cupboard were added, in case somebody fell ill during service, and before Yom Kippur, Sophie, being the nurse and social worker of the community, always had to make sure that everything in those rooms was in order, and the appropriate medicines were there.

Father was also responsible for the Jewish cemetery,  and before every funeral he made sure that there was a heap of soft earth so as to avoid the horrible hollow sound when the mourners threw a shovel of earth on the coffin, as was the custom.

However,  father’s public engagements were by no means limited to the Jewish community. He was a member of a number of business associations, both local and national, mainly in the textile branch.  It is worth mentioning that little Gertrud,  having to fill in a form, was in great difficulty when she got to the box: father’s profession. She wrote with the smallest letters she could manage. Synagogenkomissaer, Friedhofskomissaer, Milchstelle, Fleishstelle and I don’t know what else,  but not “Kaufmann”-

Father was also  honorary (meaning unpaid) member of the Financial tribunal in Munich.  Of this he reminded the Nazi official who compelled him, 3 days before emigration, to pay an additional sum of 1877.50 RM; otherwise he would not give him his passport. Father said: I do not wish to use the term with which in civil life your request is defined.  The official replied “when it comes to paying taxes,  you are all crooks”; to which father replied: you have in front of you a man who was called to the “Hoechste Finanzgericht “ in Munich; it is not customary to call for such honorary service people guilty of tax evasion.”  Of course, he had to pay the 1877,50 marks, but at least had the satisfaction of telling the Nazi his mind at which all those present were open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

At the outbreak of world war one, Father being 46, was not called up, but volunteered immediately, and for 2 years acted as instructor for the recruits.  When this job was taken over by officers who had been wounded too severely to be sent back to the front,  Father took over the control of the milk and meat rationing coupons:  For this,  he took along his secretary, and some of his employees took advantage of the absence of control and cheated the firm badly.

During WWI, the school to which all the Dann girls went,  being a private foundation from early 19th century, was in great financial difficulty and during a meeting of the parents’ committee, of which of course father was a member,  it became clear that there was no more money to buy fuel for the heating and the debate was whether to go on teaching in the unheated premises or close the school until spring.  Father came up with the following suggestion: in every class there are daughters of directors of big industrial or other  firms: why not ask these people to divert  one or two wagons of their fuel assignment to the school. Immediately several of the gentlemen present took up the suggestion and promised to do as father had asked; as a result,  we went on going to school without freezing to death.

 

Tante Clemy was father’s only surviving sister. Born 24 February 1866, she was called Clementine  because our grandmother Thea Stein’s dear friend Therese Rothschild,  had asked her to call the child she was expecting with the name of her deceased sister Clementine Rothschild.  In his memoirs, Father tells about their childhood and how they got on well together but Clemy being older and very  clever was responsible for the little brother to be punished in her stead, because she passed the note of the teacher (because Clemy had been reading instead of paying attention) to him, asking him to deliver it only when Clemy was not at home and would not come back until,  it being Friday evening,  she would not be punished. Father did as his sister had asked him and got the punishment for that.

After Clemy got married to Siegmand Heymann, they suggested  that father should join them in Augsburg and become his brother-in-law’s associate.   This was a very good thing, because the firm       Leopold Dann, Furniture Trimmings had never been a great success  and was meeting with increasing difficulties.  Unfortunately, Clemy had no children (also  the other Heymann brothers, Eduard and Benno, were without offspring and at the time had already retired from business).  Even more unfortunately, Siegmund died very early,  in 1905, leaving Clemy a widow of only 39.   In our childhood, we were somewhat cruel to her.  She was an emotional person, as – I was told -also her mother had been and easily moved to tears. Therefore, my elder sisters called her “Breische”  =  porridge, mash.  We all  used to go and have lunch with her once a week and she came often to us; in the synagogue, she had her place next to our mother.  When conditions became very difficult during the early twenties with the galloping inflation, and Clemy could no longer live on the rent from her patrimony,  she learned to type and became father’s secretary  for many years

 

Clemy was very charitable and everybody knew they could always come to her for help and advice. She was also active in  the movement fighting for female emancipation (vote) and for many years was the chairman of  the Augsburg Juedische Frauenverein (Jewish Women’s Association).  During WWI  she invented and ran several organizations: the Brockensammlung, where one could bring things one no longer wanted or broken objects that were either repaired for a fee or could be sold; the Naehsaal, where women whose breadwinners were in the army, went to sew or repair clothing  and where one could have things sewn or repaired for a  fee;  and where things for the army were sewn.  Then,  Clemy founded the Hauspflege Verein, where women who wanted to earn some money registered and could be called to do housework for a day a week or for certain occasions, when the mother was ill, or a new baby was born, or other occasions.

Some time in the late twenties or early thirties,  Clemy became diabetic.  Sophie went every morning to give her her insulin injection (oral antidiabetic drugs had not been invented yet), but after some years, complications occurred and in 1936, one leg had to be amputated.  After that, Tante Clemy was confined to a wheelchair and to her apartment;  she spent much time in her loggia reading and doing needlework   She made two big rugs for father,  one for his 70th birthday with a long poem about their life  together as children, and subsequently; it is very worthwhile reading). Clemy never complained and always was thankful for any help and anything positive she could appreciate. When the complications came to the remaining leg  and it became necessary to amputate this one as well, mercifully Clemy died, on 16th February 1939,  a month before my parents, Sophie and Gertrud left Germany. It was a great relief to all,  first of all to her, and then to my father and all of us, since it would have been terrible to leave the sick old lady behind and yet it would have been inevitable.

                                                                                                        Rome,  8th July 2010

Dear Sylvia and David,

Yesterday I got a bulging envelope from Shula with  the timetable of the Stein Descendants meeting and a first report together with an enormous number of maps, prospects, folders, etc. and I am more than ever impressed, more than ever regretful that I did not participate and more than ever convinced that I was right in deciding not to participate, however much I would have loved to do so.  I could never have managed and would have risked to spoil things for you all.

But what I want to say most of all is that I really admire the way you organized everything,                                     indeed a colossal success.  I hope you enjoyed it all as much as Shula and Amos who tell me so in their enthusiastic letter. 

I hope you found everyone well when you got home.  My best wishes to you all and much love from all  of us.