Last updated Oct. 20, 2010
Tree: Salomon Herz Hirschland (one of the three original brothers) >>Levi Hirschland >>Joseph Hirschland >>Max Hirschland >>Margot Hirschland Panofsky
Margot Hirschland, and her brother, Karl (later taking the name Charles), fled Essen on the kindertransport in 1939. What follows is a detailed history Margot provided the Essen Old Synagoge in 1988 and 1992. Margo died in 2008. Her brother is still alive and the author of several books about his experiences.
The English translation is a combined effort of IGoogle’s translate page, my limited German and help with the idioms from my friend Patricia Linderman. I hope to be adding some comments from my correspondant about his step-grandmother’s experience. — Victoria Hess
Translated from the Archive of the Alte Synagoge, letter of Margot Hirschland Panofsky (1988)
My father, MAX HIRSCHLAND, was a banker, and after the death of his brother, Louis H., sole owner of the bank company LEVI HIRSCHLAND. This bank, which was founded in 1840 by my great-grandfather, Levi H., was located, as well as the much larger bank, Simon Hirschland on Lindenallee.
My mother, Gertrude Elizabeth’s, parents, were Louis and Ernestine (Lieberg) Freudenberg. My grandmother was from Kassel, and my grandfather from Lipstadt. My grandfather Louis, along with his brother Heiman Freudenberg, founded the firm of H. & L. Freudenberg, a rather elegant department store, on Limbeckerstr. The building still stands today. Louis and Heiman’s sons, Eric and Walter later became co-owners of the company. Another uncle, Erich Freudenberg emigrated to Argentina, where he died around 1950. Walter’s widow, lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. – My grandmother, Ernestine, died in 1936 at a rare disease that took my mother a year later. Heiman died in Freudenberg in 1928, of pneumonia, and my grandfather, Louis F. died in 1943 in Theresienstadt, at the age of 88.
To my own story: I was born in May 1920 in Essen. In 1926 I came to the Jewish elementary school where my teachers were Mr. Levinsohn, in second grade, and in the third and fourth grade, Miss Margaret Steinfeld. Through research, I found that all three perished in concentration camps. In 1930, I started in the Essen-Bredeney secondary school as a sixth-grade student, and left the school after passing the one-year testing in Spring 1936. Under normal circumstances, it would have been obvious for me to finish school and then go to a university. This, however, was made impossible by the Hitler years. Instead, I spent a year in the Advanced Business School of West Essen. There, I passed the exit exam only on the condition that I would not seek a position in Germany. Nevertheless, this training in my later years has come in good stead. Then I studied a year in an art school in Dusseldorf.
In May, 1939, my brother and I finally left Germany. The later one tried to emigrate, the more difficult it became to find a country willing to accept Jewish refugees. My brother was only 13 years old and came with a school transport to England. What he found in England, he has described in his book. I was 18 and was lucky to find a job as a maid in an English household. Three months later, war broke out, and all emigration came to a standstill.
After two years in England, I was able to get out of housework, and found a job in London, as a draftsman. The work was badly paid, but I had fun. I was young, and was able to adjust to everything. In 1942 I met Alfred Panofsky, my future husband. He came from Berlin, and was the brother of Mrs. George Hirschland, born Panofsky. Someone once asked how Margaret Panofsky, born Hirschland and Elsbeth, born Panofsky related. This is the answer. Alfred and I were married two years later, in 1944. In early 1948, we decided to continue our emigration, moving to the United States. If one has already emigrated once, continuing on becomes much easier.We lived several years in New York where my husband worked as a partner in an export company, and I as a bilingual secretary in the office of a large chemical factory.
In 1957, we left New York and moved to the then very small town: Tucson, Arizona. We both loved Arizona with its beautiful scenery and wonderful climate. We found many nice friends and settled there. In 1973, my husband died of a heart attack. I decided not to leave Tucson. I worked 25 years as an accountant, and retired at 65. I have no children.
In your letter, you asked whether 1933 signified a sharp change for us. No, actually, it didn’t. Many new regulations were announced, but we believed we could live with them. In Germany, the change was not as sudden as it was in Austria. It was more like a net that was dragged closer and closer. Professors, lawyers, and other intellectuals lost their jobs early, and had to emigrate soon after 1933. In retrospect, these people were better off. It was easier to go to a country like America. Those who emigrated much later found it hard to find a country that would accept us.
Anti-Semitism: It seems almost unbelievable today, but I have not personally experienced anti-Semitism. My girlfriends from school had known me since 1930 and remained friendly, nearly up to 1936, when some of them pulled back. I looked as if I were not Jewish, I also had no unpleasant experiences on the road. My brother, (Charles Hannam of England) however, the 5 years younger than I am, however, had very different experiences, about which he wrote.
About my father: Max Hirschland was on 10 July, 1881, born in Essen, the son of Josef and Regine Hirschland, born Emmanuel, from Cologne-Deutz. My grandmother was the 14th of 14 children. My father attended the Burg-Gymnasium through high school. Then he went as an intern to a colleague’s bank in London, to learn international banking for two years. His father died at the age of 56, so my father became co-owner, with his brother Louis, of the LEVI HIRSCHLAND company. My parents were married in June 1919, and my mother died in 1937. In the summer of 1942 my father was taken away along with my grandfather Freudenberg to Theresienstadt. My father died there in June, 1944.
Mrs. Martha Herz, born Schwarz, also of Essen was was a close friend of my mother and likes to talk about the past. She emigrated to England, but returned to Essen with her husband after the war. She lives in Augustinum [….] in Recklinghausen. Her husband, the lawyer Dr. Walter Herz died a few years later. Mrs. Herz was 94 years old on 11 January, 1989, still good health and mentally together. I last visited in July, 1987, and sometimes telephoned.
Siblings: Louis Freudenberg had six Brothers and a much younger sister. The first five children were from the first marriage of his mother, with my great-grandfather, Freudenberg. The younger three siblings were from his marriage to the second husband of my great-grandmother, Soesterberg. Of the Freudenberg brothers I knew only Heimann, who was older than Louis, and with whom he founded the H. & L. Freudenberg, in Essen. I still remember Robert Soesterberg, who lived in Berlin and at best I remember his youngest sister, Flora Soesterberg, who married Eugen Maier in Aachen. She survived the war in Belgium, adding she and her husband was kept hidden by a Belgian colonel in a cellar until the war was over. She lived then in Brussels until 1967, where she died at the age of 96.
Education: Louis Freudenberg went to school until he was either 14 or 16 years old. He had no university education but became an apprentice to a Kaufmann(businessman/trader). Occupation: businessman/trader.
Marital status: Louis Freudenberg was married to Ernestine Lieberg from Kassel, on 3 September 1871.
Number of Children: My grandparents had three children, two sons and a daughter (my mother).
Children’s birth years::
Erich Freudenberg, born 1890
Gertrud Freudenberg, born 1893
Kurt Freudenberg, born probably in 1895, died at the age of four (4) years
Information about the children: Erich Freudenberg emigrated to Argentina, where he died in 1952 of a heart attack. Gertrud Freudenberg went to the Luisenschule and completed high school. Then the First World War broke out. My mother was a nurse in Huyssenstift in Essen, where she used to nurse war wounded. She must have been very good because she once showed me a box full of letters and photographs of previous patients who uttered their gratitude. She made it to head nurse, and had many good friends among Essen’s doctors, who appreciated her very much. After the war ended, she married my father, Max Hirschland in 1919. They had two children, first me and then, five years later, my brother Karl (now Charles Hannam). In early 1937 she contracted a very unusual and painful illness from which she died the end of that year. The only good thing was that she was spared the persecution of Jews. It was a terrible blow to us all, but even more so for Louis Freudenberg, her father, who had lost his wife less than a year before the same disease.
The youngest son, Kurt, died as a small child, aged four years.
Hobbies & Habits: As long as I can remember, my grandfather spent his days in his shop, where I had often visited with my mother. In his office was a large double desk, which he shared with his brother Heimann. Every afternoon, just before closing time, he picked up my grandmother and they went home together. My grandmother was always anxious and afraid of what would happen to Louis if she did not take care of him. No one could have protected him from what really happened. In the evening they were often with friends and entertained.
Appearance: Louis Freudenberg was a small man in stature. He always looked neat and proper. Always wore a dark blue suit, white shirt with starched collar and a black tie. He had a small white goatee and mustache, but was otherwise clean-shaven. His blue eyes twinkled and he was always friendly and happy. As a young man he liked dancing and was very proud of his beautiful, much younger wife.
Professional life: Louis Freudenberg founded, along with his older brother Heimann Freudenberg, the department store H & L. Freudenberg, Limbecker in the street. The store was known for elegant men’s and women’s clothing, as well as children’s clothing, linen and everything that belongs to a household. They started out small. As the business prospered, they expanded and moved into the five-story department store that I knew. They were known for good, reliable merchandise, good service and absolute reliability in dealing with customers, as well as with the staff.
After this interruption, I will tell more. So, as I said, the business was successful and when the sons of the two brothers had grown up, they came to do business, as was once so common. This went very well for many years until the year 1928; The world war had been over ten years and the Great Depression was still in the future. The two young sons had big dreams of modernization and conversion. They made big plans, rather against the advice of the older generation, but they got their way, and a huge renovation was undertaken. The fifth floor now had a refreshment room, where you could eat lunch when you were tired of shopping. There was an escalator. The first in Essen. It all looked quite wonderful. Unfortunately, two years later, they were taken over and joined the business in bankruptcy (1930). It was the beginning of the Great Depression and the best refreshment room and the latest escalator could not bring the customers to shop. This was before the Hitler years started, but the Depression meant that Hitler was elected.
In this period Louis Freudenberg’s life was more difficult. My grandparents had to give up their beautiful house and moved us into the Alfredistraße. My grandfather’s profession as a businessman had been his life. My grandparents could not travel as much as they had wanted to do. But they had each other. My parents spent most evenings with them and invited many guests to play cards or rummy. But the very next year, Hitler came and life was much more limited. Jews were not allowed to go to the movies or the theater. In 1936, my grandmother was very sick, my mother a year later, the Pemphigus and died after several very difficult months. Now my poor grandfather was alone. My mother, his daughter spent so much time with him, as she could, but after nearly 48 years of happy marriage, he was very depressed and lonely. He made himself useful as always, shopping, worried for our budget and walked a lot. He had always been a very active man and he did not give up.
He liked wrapping packages and was very accurate with it. A well-packed package it could still be fun.
When I think of my grandfather, I think of “Job” in the Bible. His sufferings were not over. Scarcely a year after my grandmother died, my mother died, his only daughter from the same disease as I have already mentioned. It was heart-breaking to see the sobbing old, broken man. But that happened only once, for he was very composed in front of us children. Next year, 1938, came the Kristallnacht, with all its horrors and uncertainties. We had to leave. My brother, Charles Hannam describes this night very well in his book. If your students are seriously interested in what happened, I would recommend this book very much. My brother wrote this autobiography for his then 13 – and 15 year old children. It contains a very accurate description of those times when he was still a little boy.
The following year, 1939, my brother and I emigrated to England. My grandfather said nothing, but I’m sure he knew better than us, that we would never see each other again. That was in May, 1939. I was 18 and my brother 13 years old. It was just before the start of World War II. My father had had an opportunity to leave Germany, because a business friend had offered him a visa. (I think for a small country in South America). That would be a big deal, but the visa was for him alone. He declined because he did not want to leave his father back in Germany back. This cost my father his life.
The following year, 1940, the two men were moved from our house to my aunt’s house, Cilly Hirschland, the sister of my father. There they could stay for a while until they were expelled from there and were forced into the first camp on Hindenburg road. From there to the next camp in the Segerothstraße. There, they were left until 1942, when all passengers were evacuated from the camps in cattle cars to the concentration camp Theresienstadt. Theresienstadt was not a death camp, people there died a “natural” death, dying from malnutrition. Louis Freudenberg survived almost a whole year, until he finally died in 1943. Like my father, he is buried there in a mass grave, without any marker.
You ask about contacts with Jewish or Aryan people. My father’s bank (Levi Hirschland) had an outstanding attorney, Otto Sohn, who was a personal friend and at his own great peril visited in the Segerothstraße. My father wrote me of this. The family’s son survived the war and just after the war I resumed contact with them. Otto’s son died shortly after the war, but his widow lived for several years in Hamburg, where I visited her twice. The son of Wolfgang and his wife Gila are now my good friends and we visit each other, in Germany and here in Arizona. Recently, I received a letter from two of my former classmates who still remained my friends after Hitler [came to power], a fact which I have always appreciated greatly.I still visited a Christian friend of my mother in Essen after the war, and I am still friends with her son and daughter-in-law today. I always visit them when I travel to Essen. We sometimes talk on the phone in spite of the huge distance.