The family of Samuel & Charlotte (née Stein) Gassenheimer was one of the founding families of the Jewish community of Themar and and remained a core family in Themar for 80 years.The family was also but one branch of a strong and successful family who had lived in southwest Thüringen from the early 1800s and perhaps even earlier.
We presently know more about the background of Samuel Gassenheimer than of Charlotte Stein, his wife. We know that Charlotte Stein was born in Marisfeld in June 1840 but who her parents and grandparents were is not yet known, nor when and how she and Samuel met and married.
Samuel & Charlotte Gassenheimer came from Bibra to Themar in the mid-1860s as the rules about Jewish settlement eased. When exactly they moved is not yet clear: the Jewish records (the Matrikel) have birth entries for both Emma, b. 1863, and Bernhard, b. 1865, although an 1915 Identity Card of Emma Marcus, née Gassenheimer, the oldest daughter, shown here, identifies her birthplace as Themar. We know that Julius Gassenheimer was definitely born in Themar in 1869.
The 1875 ‘census,’ a listing of the residents of Themar, identifies Eisenhändler/iron dealer Gassenheimer living in Schuhmarkt 70, right near the market square. The family, according to the entry, includes a total of nine: five males and four females: exactly who was counted is not clear.
We know of seven living children of Samuel & Charlotte in 1875: five sons and two daughters. Four children — Elise, Rudolf, Joseph & Siegmund — were yet to be born. The eldest son, Bernhard, b. 1865, followed the older strategy of emigrating from Germany and seeking his fortune abroad. When he left as a teenager in 1880, the decision to emigrate was a sound one. It probably was not yet clear how many sons could be provided for in Germany, and Gassenheimers had followed the emigration route to the United States successfully since at least the late 1840s.
The Gassenheimer family prospered in Themar: initially, Samuel’s younger brother, Salomon Gassenheimer, b. 1840, carried on the family business in Bibra, but was also co-owner of Firma Gassenheimer in Themar. Samuel built up his business into a company handling agricultural machinery, one that he could hand on with pride to the sons who lived in Germany. In 1892, the outlook was so good that Salomon and his family moved to Hildburghausen, not far from Themar, and established a agricultural machinery factory.
Samuel & Charlotte had more children: six sons and two daughters were born in Themar between 1869 and 1882 — Bernhard left Germany before his youngest brothers — Sigmund (left in photo with father and Rudolf) were born!
The late 1880s/1890s saw a series of rapid changes in the Gassenheimer household. In 1888, 25-year-old Emma Gassenheimer married Simon Marcus and moved to his hometown of Dessau. On 19 February 1889, 48-year-old Charlotte Gassenheimer died. Minna, Emma’s younger sister, was 16 years old and would have had her hands more than full with trying to care for four younger brothers and one sister. One hopes that other members of the community — both Jewish and non-Jewish — pitched in to help. On 26 May 1891, Samuel, age 54, married again — 33-year old Betty Frankson of Marisfeld. But a year later, Samuel died, and Betty became a single parent with five children under the age of 16 — Georg, Elise, Josef, Rudolf and Siegmund.
With his father’s death, twenty-three-year-old Julius Gassenheimer became director of the Gassenheimer company in Themar. In the mid-1890s, Julius married Joanna Joseph of Michelstadt in Hessen. Initially, the couple lived in Themar and a daughter, Lucie, was born on 9 November 1898. In 1899, Bernhard Gassenheimer visited Themar with his wife and one son — did he consider returning to Themar to take charge of the family business? Or was it simply to visit the family?
Julius Gassenheimer’s decision to stay in Germany — that is, not to follow his older brother and other cousins (see, for example, the family of Samuel & Pauline Gassenheimer, in which all the children left) to America — marked a change in the Gassenheimer’s strategies to achieve socio-economic success. With the unification of Germany into one state, and the granting of constitutional rights to German Jews, prosperous Jewish families such as the Gassenheimers believed that Germany offered them as much opportunity at home as elsewhere. All of the children of Samuel and Charlotte Gassenheimer born after 1865 chose to remain in Germany.
The family strategy became one of spreading out and establishing branches of the family business elsewhere. Julius, the eldest, was the first to leave: in 1900, he, Johanna and Lucie moved from Themar to Nürnberg where, according to the invoice at right, he set up a factory producing stoves and ovens as well as handling agricultural machinery.
Thirty-year-old Ernst Gassenheimer took over leadership of the Themar business: in 1900, Ernst was married — on 15 March 1898, he had married 20-year-old Rosa Rosenbacher of Ebelsbach, Bayern — and was the father of two children, Herbert and Charlotte/Lotte. The E. Gassenheimer Co. of Agricultural Implements was one of the most successful businesses — Jewish or non-Jewish — in Themar, and the Gassenheimers participated widely in political and social activities in both the religious and secular worlds. The family lived in the fabulous house in Friedensstrasse 9 near the railway station and Samuel’s widow, Betty, lived with them.
The other siblings left Themar as they moved into full adulthood: Josef married Gertrud/Trude Cohn and moved to her hometown of Plauen in Anhalt-Saxony to establish a business. Elise married Max Ney of Halberstadt and moved there. Georg and Rudolf married two sisters who had moved from Berkach to Themar around the turn of the century; on 14 April 1901, 26-year-old Georg Gassenheimer married 20-year old Selma Schwab. In 1903, the couple moved to Halle/Saale where their daughter, Ruth, was born in 1904. Five years later, 28-year-old Rudolf married Selma’s younger sister, Thekla, and they moved to Görlitz in Schlesien. The youngest son, Siegmund, married Amalie Levy of Posen and they moved to Dresden in Saxony.
Over time a cluster of Gassenheimers settled in Halle/Saale: Minna moved from Coburg with her husband, Nathan Frankenberg, and their two sons, Siegfried and Walter (who died in November 1908). In 1912, Emma and her husband, Simon Marcus, moved from Dessau with their three sons, Paul, Siegfried and Erich. The final arrival was Elise, who moved from Halberstadt to Halle with her son, Hans, sometime after the break-up of her marriage. Ironically, Georg and Selma Gassenheimer, who had been the first to move to Halle, left the city and moved to Berlin in 1925.
The map below indicates where the children of Samuel & Charlotte Gassenheimer lived in the 1930s.
The family in the 1930s reflected natural change: Ernst Gassenheimer’s wife, Rosa, died in January 1925; Simon Marcus died later that year in November — his burial was the occasion of the group photo above, a fact that explains the sombre tone. Emma Marcus (née Gassenheimer) died in 1932. Betty Gassenheimer (née Frankson), Samuel’s second wife, died in 1935 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery of Marisfeld. In March 1937, Margarete Jäger, Ernst’s youngest child, gave birth to twins, Ruth and Johannes.
The Holocaust shattered the first generation of Samuel & Charlotte Gassenheimer’s children, namely, the eight children who were still in Germany when Hitler came to power. One son, Josef, died of natural causes in August 1938. Only two sons — the eldest and youngest of those in Germany — were able to leave before the deportations began in fall of 1941. In June 1941, 72-year-old Julius and 71-year-old Johanna (née Joseph), left on one of the last boats to leave Lisbon. Johanna’s brother, Julius, sponsored their immigration. Their daughter, 41-year-old Lucie Reis, had died in 1940 (of causes unknown). Siegmund, the youngest son, and his wife Amelia, managed to escape from Dresden just six weeks before WWII began; they arrived in London “with a small amount of possessions and 10 marks each. They lived a in a house my mother [Ilse] who left in 1934 and uncle [Heinz] in 1933 found for them,” Barbara Mason, their granddaughter relates.
The other five — Ernst, Elise, Georg, Minna, and Rudolf — were all deported ‘east’. Ernst was deported on 27 January 1942 to Riga with his daughter-in-law Edith Gassenheimer, née Schettmar. Gertrud Gassenheimer (née Cohn), Josef’s widow, was deported from Plauen to Belzyce Ghetto in May 1942. The others were initially deported to Theresienstadt: Georg and Rudolf with their wives, Selma and Thekla, from Prague; Minna and Nathan Frankenberg from Halle/Salle. Elise Ney was also deported from Halle/Saale, while her ex- husband, Max Ney, was deported from Magdeburg to Theresienstadt. Nathan Frankenberg, and Elise and Max Ney, ‘died’ in Theresienstadt while Georg & Selma Gassenheimer, Rudolf & Thekla Gassenheimer were transported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz — to be murdered outright by gas rather than by typhus, starvation or the other means of murder within the Ghetto. Minna Frankenberg (née Gassenheimer) was the only one of Samuel & Lotte Gassenheimer’s children to survive. She returned from Theresienstadt to Halle/Saale after the war and died there in 1961.
As in the previous century, the Gassenheimer family hoped to save the future of the family — particularly the second and third generations — through emigration, albeit forced and involuntary. And in this endeavour, the second generation of Gassenheimers achieved the goal of finding refuge. Twenty-nine (29) grandchildren of Samuel & Charlotte — and their families — were alive in the Third Reich: of those whose fate we know (26),one, Lucie Reis, died before the deportations began; twenty (77%) escaped the Holocaust, finding refuge in England, South Africa, the United States, Uruguay, and Brazil. Two — Charlotte Rosenbaum and her son, Walter, made it through the war in Barcelona, Spain, immigrating into the United States in 1946. We do not yet know the fate of three men: Charlotte Rosenbaum’s ex-husband, Siegfried; Margarethe Jäger’s husband, Siegfried, and Lucie Reis’s husband, Sigmund.
In 2016, seventy-one (70) years after the end of World War II, Gassenheimers live throughout the world, probably all in some manner related to the family in Bibra. A presentation in Themar in June 2015 — albeit in German — on the occasion of this anniversary provides some visual material about the Gassenheimer family at the end of World War II with some added English text.
The information below comes from sources identified below as well as from family members throughout the world. We thank everyone and welcome further contributions, comments, and corrections. If you have any information or questions about the Samuel & Charlotte Gassenheimer family, which you would like to share, please contact Sharon Meen @ firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We would be pleased to hear from you.
The Nachkommenliste/Descendants List identifies the children and grandchildren of Samuel & Charlotte Gassenheimer, including the family formed by Bernhard in the United States. The information hints at the complex process by which a large German Jewish rural family made and implemented strategic decisions within the changing context of the status of German Jews.
- Samuel GASSENHEIMER, b. 25 Jan 1837 Marisfeld, d. 04 Nov 1892 Themar
- ∞ (1) Charlotte STEIN, b. 1840 Marisfeld, d. 10 Feb 1889 Themar
- ∞ (2) 1891 Betty FRANKSON, b. 26 Oct 1857 Marisfeld, d. 16 Dec 1935 Themar
- 1. Esther Emma GASSENHEIMER,[1.The entry for Emma’s birth in the Bibra Matrikel is for Esther (Emma) Gassenheimer.] b. 16 Apr 1863 Bibra d. 15 Oct 1932 Halle a. d. Saale
- ∞ Simon MARCUS, b. 14 Jun 1861 Mittenwald, d. 22 Nov 1925 Halle/Saale
- 2. Paul MARCUS, b. 1891 Dessau, d. 18 Jan 1961 Uruguay
- ∞ Hertha LOEB, b. 13 Jan 1906 Neuwied, d. 4 June 1994 Uruguay
- 3. MARCUS
- 3. Renate MARCUS, b. 08 May 1935, d. June 1937
- 2. Siegfried Marcus, b. 03 Jun 1893 Dessau, d. 29 Apr 1979 NY
- ∞ Emma BECKER, b. 16 April 1904 Halle a.d. Saale, d. 05 Sept 1974 NY
- 3. Erich MARCUS, b. 1927 Halle/Saale, d. 1998 West Virginia
- 3. Dieter MARCUS b. 1932 Halle/Saale
- 3. Peter MARCUS, b. 1936 Halle/Saale
- 2. Erich MARCUS, b. 04 Mar 1896 Dessau, d. 22 Mar 1975 NY
- ∞ Karola MENDEL, b. 12 Aug 1907 Halle/Saale, d. 19 Jul 2002 NY
- 1. Bernhard GASSENHEIMER, b. 25 Mar 1865 Bibra, 1880 to USA, d. [bef 1920] USA1, m. 13 Apr 1890/NY
- ∞ Ella Marie HOLLAND, b. June 1868 NY, d. aft. 1930 NJ
- 2. Bernard E. GASSENHEIMER, b. 03 Nov 1890 Hoboken/NJ, d. [USA]
- 2. NUK, b. 18 Nov 1894 NJ, d. 18 Nov 1894 NJ
- 2. Charlotte GASSENHEIMER, b. Jan 1896 USA
- 2. Florence GASSENHEIMER, b. Feb 1898 Hoboken/NJ, d. 07 Oct 1898 Hoboken/NJ
- 2. Thomas GASSENHEIMER, b. 03 Feb 1897 Hoboken/NJ, d. bef 1900?2
- 2. Rudolf GASSENHEIMER, b. 14 Mar 1901 NJ, d. Oct 1967 Hudson/NJ
- ∞ Gertrud FUHRMAN, b. 26 May 1904 Guttenberg/NJ, d. 1975 Guttenberg/NJ
- 3. Grace GASSENHEIMER, b. 08 Aug 1927 Bergen/NJ, d. 07 Jul 1971 Wayne/NJ
- 2. Gertrud GASSENHEIMER, b. abt 1904 USA
- 2. Walter GASSENHEIMER, b. 07 Apr 1906 NJ, d. Aug 1958 USA
- ∞ (1) Marion LNU, b. 1911 NY/NY
- ∞ (2) Eleanor H. HURLEY, b. 07 Apr 1906 NJ, d. Aug 1990 NY/NY
- 2. Josef GASSENHEIMER, b. 04 Feb 1908 NJ, d. Aug 1963 USA
- ∞ Marguerite LNU, b. 16 Jan 1909 NJ, d. Mar 1972 Bergen/NJ
- 3. Gertrude GASSENHEIMER, b. 1938 NJ
- 1. Julius GASSENHEIMER, b. 11 Mar 1869 Themar, d. aft 1949 USA
- ∞ Johanna JOSEPH, b. 16 Feb 1870 Würzburg, d. 12 Dec 1945 USA
- 2. Lucie GASSENHEIMER, b. 09 Nov 1898, d. 08 Jan 1940 Nürnberg
- ∞ Sigmund REIS
- 1. Ernst GASSENHEIMER, b. 14 Nov 1870 Themar, murdered 1942 Riga
- ∞ Rosa ROSENBACHER, b. 26 Nov 1877 Ebelsbach, d. 23 Jan 1925 Themar
- 2. Herbert GASSENHEIMER, b. 16[1.Themar Family Register states 16 Nov as birthdate; SSDI records states 26 Nov] 1898 Themar, 1939 to England, d. 10 Apr 1978 Alameda/CA
- ∞ Edith SCHETTMAR, b. 05 Mar 1911 Gelsenkirchen, murdered 1942 Riga
- ∞ 1946 Gerda Loewy, b. 18 May 1912 Waldhaus, m. 1946, d. Sep 1973 Alameda/CA
- 2. Charlotte GASSENHEIMER, b. 29 Sept 1899 Themar, d. 24 June 2001 USA
- ∞ Siegfried ROSENBAUM, b. 24 April 1877 Hennef-Geistingen
- 3. Walter ROSENBAUM, b. 31 Dec 1924 Bremen, d. 08 Aug 2002 USA
- 2. Albert GASSENHEIMER, b. 20 Apr 1901 Themar, d. 12 Jun 1993 S. Africa
- ∞ Hilde SACHS, b. 07 Nov 1912 Themar, d. 17 May 2001 San Francisco/CA
- ∞ 1938 Helene SPITZER, b. Berlin
- 2. Margarethe GASSENHEIMER, b. 23 Aug 1902 Themar, murdered 1942 Belzyce
- ∞ Siegfried JÄGER
- 3. Johannes Lothar JÄGER, b. 15 Mar 1937 Glauchau, murdered May 1942 Belzyce
- 3. Ruth Fanni JÄGER, b. 15 Mar 1937 Glauchau, murdered May 1942 Belzyce
- 1. Minna GASSENHEIMER, b. 01 Dec 1872 Themar, d. 07 Mar 1961 Halle/Saale
- ∞ Nathan FRANKENBERG, b. 05 Sept 1863 Marisfeld, murdered 06 Dec 1942 Theresienstadt
- 2. Siegfried FRANKENBERG, b. 04 Nov 1895 Coburg, murdered  Auschwitz
- ∞ Hertha MEYER, b. 04 June 1909 Berlin, murdered  Auschwitz
- 2. Walter FRANKENBERG, b. 20 Oct 1897 [Cobourg], d. 24 June 1908 Halle a. d. Saale
- 1. Georg GASSENHEIMER, b. 18 Aug 1874 Themar, murdered [Oct] 1942 Auschwitz
- ∞ Selma SCHWAB, b. 24 June 1880 Berkach, murdered [Oct] 1942 Auschwitz
- 2. Ruth GASSENHEIMER, b. 07 Nov 1904 Halle/Saale, 1939 to USA, d. 1994 Brazil
- 1. Elise GASSENHEIMER, b. 10 Jun 1876, murdered 06 Oct 1942 Theresienstadt
- ∞ Max NEY, b. 28 Feb 1873 Halberstadt, murdered 28 Oct 1943 Theresienstadt
- 2. Hans NEY, b. 12 Dec 1913 Halberstadt, murdered 1942 Piaski
- 1. Josef GASSENHEIMER, b. 21 May 1878 Themar, d. 01 Aug 1938 Leipzig
- ∞ Gertrud COHN, b. 05 Mar 1884 Plauen, murdered [1942-3] Belzyce Ghetto
- 1. Rudolf GASSENHEIMER, b. 27 Jul 1880 Themar, murdered [Oct] 1944 Auschwitz
- ∞ Thekla SCHWAB, b. 13 May 1884 Berkach, murdered [Oct] 1944 Auschwitz
- 1. Siegmund GASSENHEIMER, b. 15 Oct 1882, d. 1957 [England]
- ∞ Amelia LEVY, b. 19 Sept 1884 Posen, d. Feb 1980 [England]
- 2. Heinz GASSENHEIMER, b. 17 Apr 1911 Dresden, d. Jun 2000 London/UK
- 2. Ilse GASSENHEIMER, b. 11 June 1914 Dresden, d. 1998 London/UK
Gassenheimer Family Archives (England, Switzerland, United States, Uruguay)
City of Themar Archives, Ordner 1-109
German National Archives, Memorial Book.
Hoschek, Jutta. Ausgelöschtes Leben. Juden in Erfurt 1933 – 1945. Biographische Dokumentation. Erfurt: Verlag Vopelius; Auflage: 1. Aufl. (9. November 2013)
Human, Rudolf Armin. Geschichte der Juden im Herzogtum Sachsen-Meiningen-Hildburghausen. Hildburghausen: Kesselring, 1898/ reprinted Weimar: F. Fink, 1939.
Jüdische Gemeinde Bibra (Kr. Hildburghausen). Matrikel 1838-1937, Koblenz: Bundesarchiv 1958.
Jüdische Gemeinde Marisfeld (Kr. Hildburghausen). Matrikel 1768-1938, Koblenz: Bundesarchiv 1958.
Jüdische Gemeinde Themar (Kr. Hildburghausen). Matrikel 1820-1938, Koblenz: Bundesarchiv 1958.
Schwab, Sabine. Lebenslinie. 2014
Themar newspapers. (Tägliche Nachrichten, Zeitung für Themar)
Wolf, Siegfried. Juden in Thüringen 1933-1945: Biographische Daten. vol. 1. 2000.
Gassenheimer Family Archives