Saga of a German-Jewish Family
In the 1920's, when Hitler rose to prominence, 566,000 Jews lived in Germany. Some 200,000 German Jews eventually fell victim to the Nazi extermination policy. Many were saved, mostly by emigrating from the country. The actual number of Jews who managed to flee Germany between 1933 and 1945 was 346,000. This includes 98,000 who emigrated to other European countries, later occupied by the Germans. Of this latter number, an estimated 70,000 were deported during the German occupation of these other countries. About 137,000 Jews were deported directly from Germany, of whom about 9,000 survived.
The following pages chronicle the saga of a typical German-Jewish family before and during the Nazi rise to power in Germany. The family members included Julius Lachmann, his wife Meta Sachs and their son Hans.
Julius was born in Schwersenz, Germany, in 1887. Meta was born in 1891 in Mannheim, Germany. Below are their respective birth certificates. Please note that Meta's record is a copy obtained in October, 1941. This certificate indicates that she has adopted a second surname, "Sara." The Nazis required all Jewish men to adopt the name "Israel" and Jewish women "Sara" in order to ease identification as Jews. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Birth Records" in the left frame to return.
In 1909, Julius was classified for military service by the Royal High Commission in Berlin and attached to the Landstrum Regiment. He served in World War I and received the Iron Cross with Linden Tree Branches for bravery in action. Below are thumbnails of the cover and interior page of his military service book. Also below is a thumbnail of a certificate issued in 1935 by Director of Police in Munich confirming the award of the Iron Cross with Linden Tree Branches to Julius for Bravery in World War I. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Military Service" in the left frame to return.
In 1910, Julius completed his religious studies at the Jewish Teachers College in Berlin. Below are thumbnails of two documents from the College which recommend Julius and confirm his qualifications. The first is a Jewish Teachers College document dated January 20, 1910, and the second is a 1910 Jewish Teachers College Certificate. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Julius Studies" in the left frame to return.
Julius and Meta were married on December 31, 1915 in Bingen, a city on the Rhine. Below is a thumbnail of a certificate of the marriage issued by the German authorities on May 10, 1939. This document was used by the Lachmanns in their attempts to emigrate. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Marriage" in the left frame to return.
Birth of Hans
Hans was born on April 10, 1917. Below is a thumbnail of a birth certificate issued by the German authorities on July 15, 1938. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Birth of Hans" in the left frame to return.
Julius worked for many years as a religious teacher and Cantor in Bingen. The Jewish population numbered 596 in 1933, and 222 in 1939. By 1942, only 169 Jews remained in Bingen. The majority were deported and only four ultimately returned. The synagogue was demolished in 1945, and the community was not reestablished after the war. After 1923, he worked in the chief synagogue of the Munich community. Below are thumbnails of three documents: the first is a Certificate of Employment from the Interior Ministry of Hessen and Rhein; the second and third are the cover page and an interior page from Julius' work record. This document was entitled "Arbeitsbuch", Employment Identification Document and was required pursuant to a labor law enacted in 1935. Its purpose was to create a portable work history that would follow each individual throughout their working days. See Papers Please, Ray & Josephine Cowdery (1996), P 49. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Employment" in the left frame to return.
As the situation for Jews in Germany continued to deteriorate, Julius and Meta attempted to emigrate from the country. As a result of the restrictive immigration policies of the United States government and the active anti-semitism of the State Department, it was absolutely essential for Julius to first secure employment in the United States in order to have any chance to obtain a U.S. visa. One method of isolating the Jewish population was to require carrying an identity card ("Kenkarte") with the letter "J" stamped in the card identifying the holder as "Juden" (Jewish). This card was required from July 22, 1938 onward. Also below are thumbnails of a letter from the Jewish Administration in Munich confirming the high professional qualifications of Julius and its English translation. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Visa Efforts" in the left frame to return.
In July, 1939, Julius was arrested and imprisoned at the state prison in Munich Stadelheim. Below are thumbnails of three documents pertaining to the arrest. The first is the document issued by the Munich authorities relating to the valuables confiscated from Julius at the time of his imprisonment; the second is Julius' release from prison in December, 1939; and the third is a claim filed after the war pertaining to the valuables confiscated from Julius at the time of his arrest, which claim was rejected in 1948. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Arrest" in the left frame to return.
In early 1939, Hans was finally able to obtain a visa. His new passport was issued on February 2, 1939, and his visa to the US was issued by the US Consulate in Stuttgart on March 22, 1939. He also obtained a transit visa from the British Counsel in Munich on April 5, 1939. He arrived in England on April 13, 1939, and the United States on April 23, 1939. Below are thumbnails of the first two pages of Hans' 1939 passport and the pages that contain his US and British visas. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Hans Visa" in the left frame to return.
Julius & Meta Visa Efforts
With Hans having left the country and the start of the war, Julius and Meta increased their efforts to emigrate. This required a great deal of documentation, including:
Passports-- Below are thumbnails of passports issued to Julius and Meta on March 7, 1940. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Passports" in the left frame to return.
Good Standing Certificates-- Below are thumbnails of good standing certificates issued to Julius. The first was issued by the Bingen authorities on August 8, 1940, and the second was issued by the Munich police on August 6, 1940. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Good Standing" in the left frame to return.
Employer Certificates-- Below are thumbnails of employer certificates issued to Julius. The first was issued by the Munich Rabbinate on January 4, 1940, and the second was issued by the Jewish Council in Bingen on May 20, 1941. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Employer Certificates" in the left frame to return.
Their efforts to emigrate having failed, Julius and Meta were arrested by the Gestapo in 1942. They were transported to various locations in the east and finally ended their journey in Riga, Latvia.
Although Jewish economic ties to Riga date from the 16th Century, Jews were not permitted to reside there until the 18th Century. From 1710-1917, the city was under Russian rule. After the establishment of the independent Latvian Republic, Riga became the capital of the new state, and its Jewish population grew from about 25,000 (13.6 of the total) in 1920 to 39,000 (11.68) in 1925, 42,000 (11.20) in 1930, and 44,000 (11.34) in 1935.
On July 1, 1940, nine days after their invasion of the Soviet Union, the Germans occupied Riga. At that time, there were about 40,000 Jews in Riga. Anti-Jewish attacks began immediately, including the destruction of the synagogues. In August, 1941, Jews were ordered into a ghetto in a suburb of Riga. About 30,000 persons were confined to an area of 96,875 square feet. On November 19, 1941, the Germans separated the working Jews from the rest of the ghetto inhabitants, moving them into a separate area that became known as the "small ghetto".
On the night of November 30, 1941, the "large ghetto" was surrounded by German and Latvian guards. The Jews inside were gathered into groups, each numbering a thousand persons. The next morning these groups were taken to the Rumbula Forest, five miles from Riga, where they were shot to death. Over the next few days, about 25,000 Jews were killed in this manner, leaving only the 4,000 Jews in the "small ghetto".
Having emptied the "large ghetto", the Germans began to repopulate it with Jews deported from Germany, including the Lachmanns. This new deportees were set up as a separate ghetto with its own Judenrat (Jewish Administration) and became known as the "German ghetto". Between December, 1941, and the spring of 1942, about 16,000 Jews were brought into the "German ghetto". Several Jewish labor camps were also established in Riga and the vicinity. On November 2, 1943, an "Aktion" took place, in which the old, the very young, and the sick were murdered. Afterward the ghetto was liquidated, and the surviving Jews taken to Kaiserwald concentration camp, near Riga. Latvian and other local inhabitants collaborated with the Nazis in the persecution and murder of Jews. In the summer of 1944, as a result of the Soviet offensive in the Baltic area, the Kaiserwald concentration camp was liquidated, and the remaining Jews deported to various camps in Germany; few of them survived. When the Soviet army liberated the area on October 13, 1944, only 150 Jews were found in various hiding places.
The depravity of the Nazis in the Riga area is illustrated by the following quote from an article by Stephen Tyas entitled Allied Intelligence Agencies and the Holocaust: Information Acquired from German Prisoners of War in the Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 22, Spring 2008, P.10:
"An April 25, 1945 bugged conversation in which Brigader General Walter Bruns describes a massacre in Riga has been widely quoted. During the Autumn of 1941, Bruns was stationed in Riga with a bridge-building unit of the Army Group North. On November 30, 1941, Bruns visited an execution site outside the city in the Rumbuli woods. The first victims of the day were 1,035 Berlin Jews, who had been brought directly from their train upon its arrival in at Riga and shot before 9am. More than 20,000 Latvian Jews from the Riga ghetto followed, marched out over the course of that day to be shot. In the recorded conversation, Bruns described what he saw: 'When I arrived those pits were so full that the living had to lie down on top of the dead; then they were shot and, in order to save room, they had to lie down neatly in layers. Before this, however, they were stripped of everything at one of the stations--here at the edge of the wood were the three pits they used that Sunday and here they stood in a queue on and half km long which approached step by step--a queuing up for death.' Bruns observes with surprise that although these Latvian Jews 'saw what was going on' only as they came near, the waiting victims surely had heard the shots long before they were able to see anything. As German Jews continued to arrive in Riga over the course of that winter, they were housed in the ghetto--which was now emptied of Latvian Jews. In another bugged conversation Lieutenant Colonel Erfurth, an army administrative officer, remarked: 'I always disliked seeing the Jewish women from Germany who had to clean the streets in Riga. They still kept on speaking German. It was revolting! That should be forbidden, and they should not be allowed to speak anything but Yiddish.'"
Fate of Julius and Meta
After the war, Jacob Lachmann, a relative residing in New York, sent an enquiry to the International Tracing Service regarding the fate of Julius. Below is a thumbnail of a letter, dated June 17, 1949, in the response to this enquiry. The letter confirms that Riga was an extermination center and implies that there was virtually no chance that Julius survived. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "ITS Letter" in the left frame to return.
Encyclopedia Judaica, CD-Rom Edition, Keter Publishing
Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, MacMillan Publishing, 1990, P. 1276-79
Das Nationalsozialistische Lagersystem, Herausgegeben von Martin Weinmann
Copyright © 1998-2008 Edward Victor