Max Eis has remained in the Memory of Bingen
The visit of his daughter Andrea Jacobs
by Gabriele Thielmann
Being a newcomer to the project 'Jewish Life in Frankfurt' I was given the free choice of a guest I desired to look after during their visit. Different to other members of the group who have had close contact to numerous families over a longer period of time, I had no relationship to any name of the visiting guests. My interest was drawn to the Eis Family, whose ancestors came from the town Bingen, located at the river Nahe, due to the fact that I was born in the town Idar-Oberstein, situated at the river Nahe as well.
During my research about the Eis Family, I noted the initiative 'Jewish Bingen' which has attempted to make the people aware of the Jewish history of their own town. A phone call to the registry office confirmed the origin of the family in Bingen. Mr. Frick, the registrar, could even well remember the visits of Max Eis about 40 and 20 years before. Max has remained in memory because of his lively nature.
In a kind of 'preliminary expeditlon' I walked through the old part of Bingen together with my husband. We found the former house of the Eis Family in the Rupertus street and then paused for a coffee break in a small bakery at the street corner. There the shop assistant as well as two customers were quite interested in our research. They confirmed the fact that earlier many Jewish families lived and had teir small shops and businesses in this part of town. They recommended that we took a walk up the hill to the Jewish cemetery! Neither my husband nor I had expected such positive reactions. After having found the cemetery high abouve the town of Bingen and the river Rhine, my mind was made up to bring Andrea Jacobs to this place.
The History of the Eis Family:
Leopold and Leah with Max, Moritz and Martha
The father Leopold was born in Bingen and the mother Leah in Odessa, Russia. They lived in their own house in the Nonnengasse in the eastend of the city of Frankfurt together with their sons Max, born in 1911, and Moritz, born in 1914, and their daughter Martha, born later in 1919. Leopold was a German soldier during the First World War who returned home as an invalid. Finally in the year 1935 he was honoured in the name of the “Führer and Chancellor”. He was awarded the Cross of Honour, instituted by the German President Hindenburg in 1934, for participants of the War.
As it seems they lived without being bothered in the beginning. The parents operated an antique shop located in the same house in which they lived. After graduating from school, Max worked in the business together with his parents. Moritz made an apprenticeship in the shoe factory Ada Ada in the town of Offenbach in the field of commerce. In the evenings he attended courses in the English language and in shorthand writing.
After the year 1933, there was a drastic worsening of the conditions for Jewish people so that many decided to leave their horne country. Moritz applied for a visa to the USA, because relatives of his mother from Odessa lived there. To his great disappointment he would not get this visa till at the earliest in four years. He had already purchased an undated ship passage to America, so as a precaution he kept this ticket.
In the summer of 1938, Moritz lost his job in the factory. The situation escalated in the “Reichkristallnacht” (Crystal Night). On November 9, Leopold and Max together with numerous other Jewish men were taken to the concentration camp Buchenwald. One day later Moritz was sent to the KZ Dachau. Since the ship passage ticket was still valid, Leah used this as an issue to achieve the release of her husband and sons. She succeeded after three weeks, but only under the condition that Moritz left Germany within ten days.
He exchanged his ticket for a passage to Shanghai since he had heard that no visa was required to enter China. Arriving in Shanghai at the end of December, Moritz realised the chance for his complete family to escape the terror in Germany. He sent a telegram stating that they should follow him immediately. So in the end, his parents, Max with his wife Else and son Rolf, and sister Martha were together in safety in the city of Shanghai, China.
Very soon Moritz again applied for an entry visa to the USA since his mother's family could provide him with the required affidavits. He went to the USA by ship via Yokohama, Japan, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in the summer of 1940. Very soon thereafter he was drafted into the US Army, hastily recieved American citizenship and was transported to Great Britain on a troop transporter, already on December 12, 1942. From there he took part in the D-day invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 and then fought in Germany with the Allies up to V-day (Victory Day) in 1945.
After his return to the USA he finally had the possibility to apply for entry visas for his entire family from China to the United States of America. And again – it'salmost unbelievable – because of his service in the army, all members of the family were brought to the USA at public expense.
In 1947, the Eis Family began a new life. Leopold spent his last years in a senior citizens residence; apparently Leah was full of energy and moved to Chicago where she lived to the age of 94. Max and his family resumed work in the antique trade. Max soon remarried and his daughter Andrea was born in 1950.
On her trip to Frankfurt Andrea Jacobs (62) was accompanied by her partner Richard Slavett (72). They both live in California and are still gainfully employed. Originally her cousin Margie Eis Aghion, Moritz’ daughter, had intended to come as well, but unfortunately she had to cancel her trip to Frankfurt because her son had fallen iII.
Andrea spoke about her father who always in his lifetime was a very active person with a joy of life. She knew that he had always been athletic and in his youth had very often played soccer. According to a story he had even participated with the German National Team at the Olympics of 1936.
Herr Frick took the time to look into the old registers with us. Alone the size of these books with the most exact handwriting were most impressive. One has to state that the science of archiving for an outsider is most confusing. We found the entry of Eis, Aaron – ironmonger – from the year 1766. His son Philipp, born in 1813 and his wife Charlotte, had their first child, a daughter named Caroline, born in March 1847, who was Andrea’s great grandmother. According to the register, Caroline wasn't married, but she had two illegitimate children, Rosa, born on June 13, 1871 and Leopold, born on November 25, 1873.
Leopold Eis is the father of Max, Moritz and Martha who went to Frankfurt and reached the USA via Shanghai with his family. He died there at the age of 86 in the year 1959.
After this spectacular discovery, Herr Frick told us more about the significance of the Jewish inhabitants of Bingen in the past. He explained that the flourishing wine trade was to a good deal based upon the trading skills of the Jewish fellow citizens of Bingen. Especially during the 19th century they were accepted as important and popular citizens of the town. They enriched daily life with varied cultural impulses and they also took part in Christian traditions. A local historian remembered that an ancestor of the Eis Family had been the commander of the Bingen Kleppergarde, a carnival guard, for a time. But nevertheless the Jewish community did not escape persecution during the time of the Nazis. Many of the approximately 700 Jewish citizens foresaw the threats and fled into exile in time. The remaining 152 persons were deported in 1942; all of them but 2 died in the extermination camps including Leopold Eis (62) and his wife Hedwig (62) who were also members of the Eis Family.
After having visited the archive, we walked the Rupertusstrasse with special attention given to house Nr. 4, a former home of the Eis Family. The present owner told us that in earlier times the street had been situated outside of the town walls and that during the time of the Roman occupation there had been a cemetery, which has been confirmed by continual archaeological findings.
Together we walked up the hill passing the Christian cemetery where we borrowed the key to the gate. Then, high above the town with a view out over the Rhine valley, we reached the fence around the Jewish cemetery. It has existed for almost 500 years and there are about 1,000 graves. The new gates led us to the newer graves of the 19th and 20th century with the inscriptions in German. The graves of the old part have inscriptions in Hebrew. With great curiosity and a certain tension, Andrea examined the tombstones and she was happy and contented when she found the grave of her great uncle Adolf Eis (1848 – 1923) and his wife Judith (1848 – 1919).
Andrea said that now she could imagine her father as a child having walked up here together with his grandparents to visit the graves of the family. With these feelings and experiences, she now thinks that she can talk with her family about the past of the Eis Family.
Returning next year
Andrea looks forward to return together with her sister Carol Fels and cousin Margie Eis Aghion in the near future, within the framework of the visiting program. At that occasion she would like to experience the placement of a stumbling stone in front of the house in Bingen. Meanwhile Andrea has applied for German citizenship.
In her letter of thanks, Andrea writes that the visit to Frankfurt was an exceptional experience and a unique adventure in life. Before the trip she really could not estimate whether or not the pragram would offer more than just an interesting journey to the town of her ancestors. But this visit “has exceeded my expectations by far!” Especially the search for the footprints of her ancestors in Bingen were experienced as “mystical, spiritual and very personal.”
Andrea writes also how grateful she is for the close contact that the two of us have developed within this short period. I can only agree that from the very first moment we were on warm terms with each other. The days of Andrea's visit have been a very emotional experience for me, too, and I am already looking forward to meeting more descendants of Max and Moritz Eis from Frankfurt.
Andrea Jacobs, née Eis, lives in the USA
Participation in the Visiting Program: 2012
Participation of the Cousin: 2013
Max Eis, born in 1911 in Frankfurt; his brother: Moritz and his sister: Martha
Leopold Eis, born in Bingen, Leah Eis, born in Odessa
The family lived in the Eastend of Frankfurt.
After November 9, 1938 Leopold and Max were deported to Buchenwald, Moritz was deported to Dachau.
The family managed to escape to Shanghai, China, after their release. Later on, they moved to the USA.
Andrea was born in the USA after WW II.
Dr. Josef Götten, Arbeitskreis Jüdisches Bingen: Der jüdische Friedhof von Bingen,
Handzettel ohne Datum (www.juedischesbingen.de)
Standesamtliches Archiv der Stadt Bingen Herr Frick
Maurice Eis: „My Memoir 1914-2004“, Manuskript
Andrea Jacobs: persönliche Mitteilungen
Gaby Thielmann and Angelika Rieber
Text and Translation: