Harriet Mayer, Renata Levy, Natalie Green Giles
„Wie kann nor e Mensch net von Frankfurt sein!“ (Friedrich Stoltze)
(Friedrich Stoltze: A famous local poet from the 19th century. He is asking a rhetoric question: “How can it be that there are people who are not from Frankfurt?”)
From Martina Faltinat Natalie Green Giles, Renata Levy and Harriet Mayer
*Harriet Mayer, Renata Levy and Natalie Green Giles from the United States of America are descendants of the families Mayer und Marx, who had lived since generations in Frankfurt. Stoltze’s declaration of love to the city by the Main river was certainly spoken from their hearts.
Frankfurt was more for them than work and income. Here Frankfurt’s Westend and Eastend came together because of the love between Martin Mayer und Aenne Marx, here arose a home for both families, which got lost for all forcibly 1933.*
The descendants of the Mayers visit the homestead of their ancestors
Harriet Mayer, born in 1942, Renata Levy, born in 1938 and Natalie Green Giles, born in 1965, are descendants of those two families from Frankfurt. Renata Levy took part in the visiting program of the Magistrate in 2014, Harriet Mayer and Natalie Green Giles in 2016.
Harriet Mayer, née Glickman, is the daughter-in-law of Martin and Aenne Mayer, née Marx.
Harried was married to Richard Mayer (1934 Frankfurt – 2010 New York), the son of Martin and Aenne.
Renata Levy, née Lewy, born in Genoa, Italy in 1938, is the niece of Martin and Aenne Mayer. Renata is the only child of Hilde Lewy, née Mayer, Martin’s sister (1909 Frankfurt – 1956 USA).
Natalie Green Giles, née Green, born in New York in 1965, is the grand-daughter of Martin and Aenne Mayer and the daughter of Marguerite Mayer, born in New York in 1940, daughter of Martin and Aenne Mayer.
The Mayer Family
Family Mayer in Frankfurt: 1870 to 1938
The beginnings of the Mayer family in Frankfurt go back to about 1870, when Isaac Mayer founded the company “E & I Mayer Game-Poultry-Featherbed products”, together with his sister Elise in Heusenstamm, county of Offenbach and in Frankfurt.
The founders – Isaac and Mathilde – 1870 to 1918
From Neuleiningen/Frankenthal into the metropolis of Frankfurt
Isaac Mayer, Martin Mayer’s grandfather, born in 1837 in Neuleiningen/Frankenthal (then: Bayern; today: Rheinland-Pfalz) probably moved to Frankfurt in the 1860s. Like many Jewish citizens in this area and at this time he moved for economic reasons, e.g. to Frankfurt on Main river. He founded the company mentioned above, together with his sister Elise, first in Heusenstamm, where they raised poultry. Gradually there came into being several halls for selling and storing the main goods, namely game and poultry for the ex- and import business in Frankfurt’s Kleyerstrasse, in the Neue Mainzer Strasse and in the Mainzer Landstrasse.
On the birth certificate of the oldest son of Isaac and Mathilde Mayer, Jacob, the profession of the new father Isaac is noted as „game dealer“. Mathilde Mayer, née Güldenstein, came from Buchau in Württemberg, a village with a large Jewish population. Mathilde and Isaac married 1875 in Frankfurt. He was divorced before and 16 years older than Mathilde. Their first-born son Jacob was born in the Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse 13 in 1876, and four more children were born in the following years.
Elise and Isaac are planning the future
The two company partners Elise and Isaac Mayer took care in time that the company should be carried on. As Elise’s husband had died early their only son Gustav, born in 1867, entered the company. Together with him Jacob was supposed to work in the company, first as managing director, then as partner. The plan succeeded, the company owners were at first Isaac, his son Jakob and Gustav, Isaac’s nephew and later on Gustav’s son Ernst, and Lothar Gutmann, Jacob’s brother-in-law, a brother of Julia Gutmann, his wife. When Isaac Mayer, the founder, died in 1918, he left a well-to-do business that enlarged continuously, had over 80 employees, and supported the four owner-families.
The followers – Jakob and Julia – 1876 to 1938
Frankfurt, September 22nd, 1876, two a.m., Fressgass’ 13
Jakob was born in Frankfurt in 1876 in the Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse 13. He grew up in a business household, in the middle of a business street.
The Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse at that time was one of the most important shopping areas for groceries in Frankfurt, especially for the inhabitants of the westend, because that was the connecting street between the westend and the town centre. Still today this street is popularly called „Fressgass“ (guzzle lane).
School and further education
Jakob attended the Wöhlerschule in the years 1887 to 1890. The school in those days was situated in the southern part of the westend, in Lessingstrasse, easily accessible from the flat of the Mayer family.
The Wöhlerschule had been founded in 1870 as a „Realgymnasium“ (grammar school) for boys , six years prior to Jacob Mayer’s birth. „Realgymnasiums“ were schools for further education with a modern concept. Different from the traditional grammar schools, the main subjects were not Latin and Greek, but modern languages such as English and French, natural sciences and economics; that was also the concept of the Wöhlerschule which had also had a „Trading/dealing department“.
Jakob was transferred to the „Obertertia“/OIII in 1890 which can be compared with form/grade 9 of today, but he left the school at Easter 1890 in order to continue his training in the company of his family. He was 14 years old then.
The new site of the company E&I Mayer: Neue Mainzer Straße 75
The business of the company developed very well in the last 20 years of the 19th century. Therefore the owners appealed to the „Bauamt“ (planning department and building control office) to get the permission for extending their business by another building on the site of the Neue Mainzer Strasse 49 and in 1901 for building a new, big house for living and business on their own vacant site in the Neue Mainzer Strasse 75.
Apart from the poultry raising business on their own sites in Heusenstamm, in the Kleyerstrasse and Mainzer Landstrasse in Frankfurt the European Import-export-business for game and poultry grew continuously. The Mayer company was the leading business in that area in Germany. A large cold storage facility was built for storing their own products and for renting to other companies that dealt with meat, butter, eggs and other perishable goods. And a factory for making artificial ice came into being to make use of the by-products of the poultry raising.
With the new building in the Neue Mainzer Straße 75 several departments of the firm were brought under one roof: A big, modern office department with the latest telephon equipment, rooms for visitors and enough room for the audit and personnel department of the company; a big retail shop for game, poultry and feather beds with show rooms, generous car entry and large flats for the Mayer families with modern bath rooms and heating system.
This new building that was not finished until 1905 was to become the centre of company and family. Isaac and Mathilde moved there with Jacob and his siblings; in the second, big flat lived Elise Mayer and her son Gustav Mayer, Jakob’s cousin, with his wife Emma and their three children, Ernst, born in 1887 in Frankfurt, Paula and Augusta.
Jakob moves out
Jakob married Julia Gutmann in 1903 in Stuttgart. She was born in Stuttgart in 1885. First they lived in the Liebigstrasse 27c, a new building in the Westend. Here their two children were born, Martin Erich in 1906 and Hilde Anna in 1909. Soon the family moved into a larger flat at Westendstraße 92.
From here the distances to the childrens’ school were very short. Like his father, Martin attended the Wöhlerschule that was around the corner in the Lessingstraße. His sister Hilde had a five minutes’ walk and one crossing of the Senckenberganlage to her school, the Viktoriaschule, a high school for girls (today called Bettinaschule in the Feuerbachstraße).
The 3rd generation – Martin and Aenne – 1906 to 1970
“… in order to dedicate oneself to the commercial profession…“
From 1916 to 1924 Martin Mayer, born in Frankfurt in 1906, attended the Wöhler Realgymnasium like his father Jakob.
Martin finished his schooldays with the graduation in 1924 as the best of his age group (primus omnium). He succeeded with the mark „very good“ or„good“ in all subjects except for the subject „Drawing“. Because of that achievement he was exempted from the oral examinations.
With this fine performance, all possibilities could have been open for him. But his professional future was already planned: He would follow his grandfather and father into the company. In his graduation certificate from February 28th 1924 there is a sentence expressing this: „The examination committee of this certificate has acknowledged his maturity in order to dedicate himself to the commercial profession and dismisses him with best wishes.“
First Martin learned the various branches of the firm in a few weeks in order to go to the firm’s branch in Paris afterwards for further training and for learning French. The year 1925/26 he spent in New York in order to get insights into other firms and to learn English. At the end of 1926 Martin returned into the parental business in Frankfurt and took over a leading position. According to plans he was supposed to enter the company as partner at the age of thirty which was to be in 1936. It was not to be.
7 January 1934: Martin Mayer and Aenne Marx get married
On 7 Jan 1934, Martin Mayer married Fanny Anna Marx, called Aenne, from Frankfurt. She came from a strictly religious family who lived in the Wittelsbacher Allee in the east of Frankfurt. They belonged to the IRG-Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft, the neo-Orthodox group, which, as their founder Samson Raphael Hirsch once described it, „…wanted to combine the learning of the Tora with middle-class business activity.“ The Jewish citizens of Frankfurt should above all else be accepted and at the same time be able to practice their Jewish faith openly and actively. Aenne attended the Samson-Raphael-Hirsch-School „Am Tiergarten“ as elementary pupil and afterwards changed to the „Elisabethenschule“, then a College/High School for girls in the northend of Frankfurt.
Martin and his family who lived in the westend were not religious. Therefore the scepticism of both families about the partner choice of their children was great. Dr. Lion Marx and his wife Martha, Aenne’s parents, feared that Aenne would distance herself from her religious ties and Jewish traditions by this marriage.
Jakob and Julia, Martin’s parents, were afraid that their successful integration into non-Jewish society could suffer. The names they had given their children, Martin and Hilde, accorded with their wish to be part of the majority society. Also the spelling of Jakob’s name may have been an expression of the second generation’s wish to assimilate: In his birth certificate Jacob’s name is still spelled with a „c“ as also his father Isaac’s first name. In all later documents as also in his „Abitur“certificate Jakob is spelled with „k“.
But the love of the young couple overcame all those reservations, connected east and west and two richly traditional Frankfurt families.
The newly married Mayers moved into a modern flat in a newly constructed building in Raimundstraße 109, a living quarter in the Dornbusch area that at that time had arisen completely new. As Frankfurt’s inhabitants continuously increased new living accomodations had to be created. The Dornbusch area at that time was situated at the outer edge of town.
A beautiful life seemed to lay in front of Martin and Aenne. They loved each other, they were young and had a good income, their own flat. They had many contacts with friends and business partners, they enjoyed the cultural life in Frankfurt. At the end of 1934 their first child Richard was born.
1933 and the consequences
1933 was not only the year in which Martin and Aenne were planning their wedding, but also the year of Hitler’s takeover and the beginning of boycotting and suppressing the Jewish population of Frankfurt.
By the year 1936 the Nazi measures against Jewish companies were felt even in Mayer’s well-to-do business so that Martin decided not to be a partner of the business any longer. On July 26th 1937 he was given dismissed from his post as managing director by the firm owners, his father Jakob, his cousin Gustav and his uncle Lothar.
In the year 1937 Martin and Aenne made an “exploratory” trip to New York City. They were beginning to plan leaving Frankfurt and wanted to see New York and where they might live. They traveled on the ship “SS President Hoover”. They left Richard back in Frankfurt with his grandparents.
On October 1st 1937 the family sells the firm to Max Neumann, a self-employed businessman from Berlin, catholic, born in 1902. He moves into the living and business house in the Neue Mainzer Strasse 75 with his wife and three children on October 1st, 1937. The name Max Neumann is noted in the address book of the city of Frankfurt of the year 1939 as the new owner of the well known firm E & I Mayer.
What is to become of Mathilde?
Mathilde Mayer, Jakob’s mother, who after the death of her husband Isaac in 1918 continued living at Neue Mainzer Straße 75, had to move out after the firm was sold to Max Neumann. She did so on September 9th, 1937, three weeks after the new owners had moved in.
She moved into a flat in the Liebigstraße 44 in the Westend. Mathilde was 84 years old. For Jakob, her son, and Julia, her daughter-in-law, it was unthinkable to flee from Frankfurt without taking her along. But her bad state of health and certainly also her attachment to her home town spoke against such an enforced emigration. In April 1938 Mathilde Mayer died in her hometown Frankfurt, shortly before her 85th birthday, only eight months after her moving into Liebigstraße which she certainly felt as an enforced measure.
Jakob and Julia were very sad about Mathilde’s death on the one hand, but also relieved at the same time, because they knew that they had not all too much time to leave Germany without harm to body and life. Two months later, in June 1938, they left their home town Frankfurt for good. They travelled to Genoa to join their daughter Hilde, their son-in-law Walter and their grand-daughter Renata who had just been born. They were hoping to stay in Italy until the problems in Germany were resolved, but with Hitler’s agreement with Mussolini in August 1938, they again faced moving on. Soon afterwards they all together fled to the USA.
„We lived together, we lived well, we were assimilated Jews, fully integrated members of the middle-class society.“ (Hilde Mayer about her life in Frankfurt before 1933)
Hilde Anna Mayer, born in 1909 in Frankfurt, was Martin’s younger sister. In 1928, after her Abitur at the Viktoriaschule, she studied architecture in Darmstadt. She was one of the few women in that faculty.
Discrimination and flight
Hilde was not allowed to finish her studies, because she was Jewish. In 1933 she had to leave the university. In 1934 she left Frankfurt to marry Walter Lewy (from Breslau) in Genoa. He had already arrived there in 1933. He was Jewish and the Nazis had excluded him from his profession as a lawyer. In Italy he now tried to build a new existence.
In 1938 Italy also introduced race laws on pressure by the German Reich government which were directed against the Jewish population. Registration, discrimination, professional bans, ghettoization and deportation into concentration camps – the prospect of which had driven Hilde and Walter out of Germany, now caused them to fear for their lives again in Italy.
In flight with baby Renata
Together with Renata, their daughter, who was born in Genoa on June 20th 1938, their parents Jakob and Julia from Frankfurt and Julia’s mother, Friederike Kern Gutman, they left Genoa in February 1939 on the “MS Vulcania” for New York.
What is to become of Martin, Aenne and Richard?
The life of the family Martin and Aenne Mayer on this document is summarized in ten lines such as official documents do. But one cannot conclude from the document and the handwriting that says “done” that here a family, father, mother, child did not voluntarily emigrate to the USA, but were driven forcibly into exile. The entry in the registration list of the town council of Frankfurt only records: “Registration cancelled on June 27th 1938 for New York”.
In July 1938 Martin and Aenne left their home in the Raimundstraße 109 in Frankfurt, together with their three-and-a-half-year old son Richard. They travelled first to Italy to see the family there, assuming they would not be able to see them again for a long while, and then to Le Havre and from there on the “SS Manhattan“ to New York.
The Marx Family
Marx-Schames Family in Frankfurt: 1809 to 1938
The story of the Marx family that is told here, begins in 1809 with the birth of Isaac Schames.
The family had settled in Frankfurt generations before his birth. 41-year-old Isaac Schames, according to the registration lists of the council of Frankfurt a „trade’s man“, had married Jeanette Dinkelspiel, born in Mannheim in 1823, in Bockenheim, then still an independent village, on June 23rd, 1850. They lied in Brueckhofstrasse 8 in the centre of Frankfurt and founded a family there. Between 1851 and 1859 six children were born. Their son Ludwig is the grandfather of Aenne Mayer, born Marx, wife of Martin Mayer.
The grandparents: Ludwig Schames 1852 to 1922 and Fanni Lewisohn 1859 to 1895
Ludwig was born in Frankfurt on August 11th, 1852 as the second child of Isaac and Jeanette Schames. At the age of 19 he left his hometown in order to work as a banker in Paris. He was interested in contemporary French art which he also collected.
In 1880 he married Fanny Lewisohn from Hamburg in Paris. Their first child Leon was born in Paris in 1882. In 1885/86 the family returned to Frankfurt where their daughter Martha was born in the Ostendstraße 12 on February 3rd 1886. Ludwig travelled frequently, to Paris and Hamburg amongst various other places. Between 1885 and 1895 he lived in various places in Frankfurt, but always in the east end of town: Ostendstrasse, Rückertstrasse, Uhlandstrasse, Seilerstrasse, Hanauer Landstrasse, to be near the Orthodox synagogues. Here his wife Fanny died at the age of 35 in 1895.
In the same year Ludwig moved to Baumweg with his children , then 13 and 9 years old, and in 1913 to Wittelsbacher Allee 7. There he lived with Leon, with his removed daughter Martha and her husband Lion Marx and their children, Aenne, born in 1910, and Gretel Clara, born in 1914. Ludwig died here on July 3rd 1922.
When Ludwig Schames had returned to Frankfurt from Paris in 1895, he knew that he wanted to be active as an art dealer. In the same year he had founded the art trading gallery „Posen & Schames“, together with a colleague, at Opernplatz 10.
From 1906 on he ran the gallery on his own which he now called „Art Salon Schames“. In 1913 he moved to Boersenstrasse 2. Ludwig Schames first showed French Impressionists. From early on he supported Picasso and Max Beckmann who worked in Frankfurt from 1915 onwards.
After World War I the Art Salon Schames became an important centre of German expressionism. One of its most important artists, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Schames met personally. In 1916 he showed the first single exhibition of the artist, in 1919 his complete work in his gallery. Further exhibitions followed, even after the death of Ludwig Schames in 1922. On the occasion of the death of his business partner and friend Ludwig Schames, the artist Kirchner published in the art magazine “Querschnitt” the wood engraving portrait of Ludwig Schames which he had made in 1918 and said farewell with the following words: “This was the art dealer Ludwig Schames, the fine and unselfish friend of the art and the artists. He enabled others creativity and life in the noblest/most noble way/kind“. (E.L.Kirchner, 1922)
The parents: Martha Schames (1886 to 1957) and Lion Marx (1879 to 1948)
Martha married Dr. Lion Marx on October 18th, 1907 and moved from the flat in Baumweg to Wittelsbacher Allee 7. Nearby in Friedberger Anlage 25 he had a doctor’s practice.
Lion Marx had been born in Darmstadt in 1879. His parents were the Rabbi Asher Lehmann Marx and his wife Riekchen, née Bodenheimer, who came from Biblis. They had four other children. Rabbi Marx was the orthodox rabbi in Darmstadt and the area around it, and headmaster of the Jewish school there.
Lion Marx studied medicine at the University of Würzburg, where he concluded his studies in 1902. From 1905 on he worked in Frankfurt as a general practitioner in his own practice and soon was well-known in Frankfurt and successful. The family Marx lived modestly in accordance with their religious beliefs. They were active members of the IRG (Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft) in Frankfurt, cultivating their religious ties and traditions, but were open for other influences from the patients of Lion Marx who came from all social levels and walks of life and from their connection to art by Martha’s father Ludwig. Lion Marx had fought as a soldier for the German Reich in World War I and was decorated with the Iron Cross for this. It was not imaginable, neither for him nor for his family to be excluded from this society.
The children: Aenne Marx (1910 to 1992) and Martin Mayer (1906 to 1970)
On February 3rd, 1910, Fanny Anna Marx, called Aenne, was born. As her parents were religious and belonged to the Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft in Frankfurt, Aenne was educated in the Jewish-orthodox tradition. She attended the Samson-Rafael-Hirsch-School „Am Tiergarten“ (at the Zoo) as primary pupil and then changed to the Elisabethenschule which then was a secondary school for girls in the Nordend.
Aenne was a beloved and very well cared for child. Her sister, Gretel Clara was born in 1914. They were very close. Gretel died of a middle-ear infection in January 1927. That was a heavy burden for the whole family. Aenne loved going out, celebrating parties, and meeting other people. She was known for her beauty, and was often photographed. Her picture appeared in some magazines.
As open as Aenne was, established with a solid education and a strong tie to the Jewish tradition, Martin Mayer, the handsome, well-travelled, young business man, who considered himself part of the Frankfurt society, was a good match.
1933 and the consequences
Lion Marx and his wife Martha felt the changes after the takeover of the national socialists (Nazis) in 1933. Jewish doctors’ practices as well as Jewish lawyers, business people, shop owners were affected by the suppressing measures of the Nazi regime. From September1933 on more and more Jewish doctors lost their health insurance accreditation and after september1938 the Jewish doctors were allowed treating only Jewish patients.
Patients of the Marx practice were increasingly confronted with intimidations when consulting Dr. Marx. Patients decreased as many started leaving Frankfurt. When others had been planning to leave, Dr. Marx felt that he didn’t want to abandon his patients, and that at his age it would be difficult to move. After Reichspogrom Nacht he obviously had no choice.
Reichspogrom Night, also called Kristallnacht
On November 10th, 1938 Dr. Lion Marx was arrested and taken away from his flat in Wittelsbacher Allee 7 by the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei/Secret State Police) and, together with other Jewish men, was taken to the Frankfurt „Festhalle“ (Festival Hall) on a lorry. During that day many Jewish inhabitants of all ages, exclusively men, were taken to that place and, on the same day deported to the concentration camp (CC) of Buchenwald.
The Gestapo spread fear and terror from the beginning. In the Festhalle the Gestapo officials picked out prisoners for some kind of running the gauntlet. They forced the intimidated men to perform exercises according to military drill, made them to run around, do knee bends, until the prisoners could not go on or broke down. The Gestapo took great pleasure in picking out older and unhealthy men.
Lion Marx who was 59 years old and had a weak heart was tormented until he broke down. In spite of that he was deported to the CC Buchenwald on the same day. There he suffered another heart attack after he had to stand in the yard for roll call (Appellplatz) for hours without water and food and afterwards had again been forced to do jogging and knee bends. When he returned home after four weeks – he was dismissed early because he had fought in World War I and received the Iron Cross – he was so ill that he had to stay in bed until his emigration in January 1939 to London and also after his escape to the USA he did not fully regain his health.
Emigration? No, flight!
The arrests and deportations to CCs after the pogrom night on November 9th, 1938 were aiming at further intimidating the Jewish population, especially the wealthy class. Those who survived the terror as Dr. Lion Marx were impressed upon at their dismissal from the CC to leave Germany immediately.
The Marx couple arranged to get out of Germany at once in the weeks after Lion’s return from Buchenwald. They could escape to the USA, to their family in New York, with a stop in London with other relatives there until passage to New York could be arranged. Lion and Martha Marx wanted to leave Germany as quickly as possible, but not leave everything behind. They wanted to take their furniture, their objects of value, especially the equipment of Lion’s practice. It was unimaginable for them to leave their home with only two suitcases, not to take along anything of all they had created and to start in a foreign country at their advanced age.
All that they wanted to take along in assets and objects had to be controlled and approved by the Golddiskontbank, the Prussian Statebank and the Finance-and Customs authorities. Assets such as cash on accounts, stocks and shares, insurances, real estate were registered or sold by their own bank or the Prussian Statebank. Those valuables were reported to the Golddiskontbank which after deducting a certain sum credited the amount left on the account of the emigrants. For removal goods and other assets a special tax was introduced after the pogrom of 1938, the so-called „Judenvermögensabgabe“, Jews’ property levy. Lion and Martha Marx payed beside the costs for hauling contractor, shipping agency etc. 637, – Reichsmark for the permission alone to be allowed to take along their furniture and books etc. abroad.
The regulations of the authorities strictly ruled which objects and how much was allowed to take along, e.g. only basic consumer goods, utensils that had been acquired before the year 1933, only exactly numbered quantities. Instructions by the Foreign Exchange Office S Frankfurt for Jewish emigrants said for example: „It is inadmissible to state a collective term such as „One lot of laundry“ in the list. There are rather exact details required such as 5 table cloths, or, 12 kitchen towels etc.”
No objects of luxury as for example musical instruments, and only little precious metal and jewelry, e.g. a little table silver and the wedding ring were allowed. After the approved removal goods had been packed, there was an after inspection in order to test, whether the regulations had been obeyed. This happened through a firm ordered by the authorities which also had to be paid for by the Marx spouses. They also had to hand in a detailed list to the foreign exchange office on which you can see that all pieces of jewelry had been crossed out and had to remain in Frankfurt.
As the Marxes had already escaped to London by January 2nd, 1939, they had engaged and paid a tax consultant to settle the formalities. At the end of January 1939 he acted as the Marx couple’s representative and sent all papers to the foreign exchange office for their approval, but not before April came the approval. On May 8th, 1939, Martha and Lion Marx arrived in New York.
Their jewelry, the table silver, the whole surgery practice equipment remained in Frankfurt. Lion and Martha Mary had entrusted everything to Rosalie Strohmeier, their longstanding household help and appointed her as their representative. She had to deliver table silver and jewelry to the foreign exchange office and got about 10% of the value that was 475,- Reichsmark for the silver; for the jewelry she also got 2000,- Reichsmark less than its value.
The surgery equipment stored in Frankfurt, its low estimated value being 20.000,- Reichsmark, had been sent to Hamburg in order to be shipped, but this did not happen because of the war. In 1941 the Gestapo confiscated everything, allegedly to take it to a hospital.
Lion and Martha Marx were able to safely join their family in New York and lived with Martin and Aenne and the children there. Lion Marx tried to pass the very difficult and extensive examinations to practice medicine in New York, but because his English skills were poor and his health was too bad he was unsuccessful. His many Frankfurt patients in New York continued to consult with him informally and relied on his advice.
He died of a heart attack in 1948. His wife Martha, also badly strained psychically and physically, died in 1957 at the age of 71 in New York.
New start in exile
The „gudd Stubb“ (good lounge in Frankfurt dialect) of Frankfurt in New York
Jakob and Julia Mayer were able to take most of their possessions with them when they left Frankfurt for Italy in June of 1938. Aenne and Martin left in summer 1938 with all of their belongings in the “lift”, which arrived after they had settled in New York City. Lion and Martha Marx could take little to New York, but they lived with Martin und Aenne.
Thus there was something close to them in the foreign country. The furniture, maybe it was just the living room that reminded them of their old home in New York, the „gudd Stubb“ of Frankfurt. By „gudd Stubb” the Frankfurters not only mean their best, most comfortable room in their flat, but also the Römerberg (the ancient town centre) and the Festhalle (festival hall). This intimate, almost tender relationship to Frankfurt that is expressed by this term, was destroyed forever by the enforced exile, the discriminations experienced, the deportation from the Frankfurt festival hall to Buchenwald, the excesses of violence and the consequences for these people.
1941 – Expatriation and plundering the emigrants
On April 25th, 1941 the Gestapo in Frankfurt wrote a „strictly confidential“ letter to the director of the foreign exchange office. Jacob Mayer and his family were supposed to be expatriated and their possession confiscated in favour of the German Reich/Empire.
On May 12th and 14th, 1941 the foreign exchange office Frankfurt commented on the back of the file “Expatriation Mayer” the following in handwriting:
“…The lists of moving goods Mayer were forwarded with permission to the main customs office Frankfurt on July 12th, 1938. The Middle German Credit Bank, branch of the Commerz- and Creditbank Frankfurt held an account of Mayer in June 1938. Whether this still exists today and contains a credit cannot be determined from the documents.“
These documents show that the national socialistic authorities in Germany further oppressed the persecuted and escaped citizens. The background of this was the ”Eleventh regulation to the Imperial German Civil Law from November 25th, 1941” by which each Jew lost his/her citizenship with the transfer of his usual residence abroad. This meant that all German Jews who had already settled abroad in this way were later deprived of their citizenship and their whole possessions which had remained in Germany went to the German Empire.
This regulation concerned a quarter of a million emigrated Jews to which also Jakob Mayer and his family belonged. In their case the authorities had obviously been unsuccessful as far as the withdrawal of their possessions is concerned as Jakob Mayer had saved his family and their possessions in time. The loss of the complete medical practice equipment of the Marx family that was stored in Hamburg because of the beginning of the war and confiscated by the Gestapo in 1941 can presumably be put down to the tightening of the Imperial Civil Law.
“Expellees, displaced persons we are, banned.“
The US authorities treated the Mayer family and Marx family and all the other refugees from Germany like immigrants of their own free decision according to the “Immigration Act“ of 1924. That meant that only a fixed quota of applicants from each country got an entry visa, and in addition they had to have an affidavit or had to prove their financial security. Immigrants could apply for the American citizenship after five years. Martin, Aenne and Richard became citizens in 1944.
The livelihood of Jakob and Julia in their New Yorker exile were guaranteed. They could lead a good life, comparable with their standard of living in Frankfurt, although they had many relatives living with them at various times, including Julia’s mother Frederika, and then Jacob’s sister Selma. They had known very early that they had to leave Germany and had prepared themselves well.
On the other hand, quite differently Lion and Martha were physically and psychically badly impaired by the persecutions after November 9th, 1938 and their complicated escape via London in the last minute. Lion and Martha had very little with them when they came to America, and very little financial resources. They lived with Aenne and Martin and the children, Richard and Marguerite, in a two-bedroom apartment. It was very crowded and stressful for everyone, and a big change from the comfortable, upper middle class lifestyle they were accustomed to in Frankfurt.
Richard – a “Frankfordder Bubb“ (“boy from Frankfurt“ in Frankfurt dialect) in New York
Martin and Aenne also had made provisions. On their flight in summer 1938 they didn’t know how they should live in future. How would life be in America, for Richard, their 3 and-a-half year-old son? A child grows quickly. They didn’t know whether they would be able to care well for him in USA. Therefore they had bought clothing for little Richard, who would roam the New York streets as a genuine „Frankfordder Bubb“, large enough for him to grow into, before they left Frankfurt.
The suitcase with the children’s clothing was approved by the customs investigation department in Frankfurt at the departure of the Mayers in 1938. For this the family had to pay an amount to the Dego, the German Gold Discount Bank that was exactly as high as the value of the goods.
On November 15th, 1940 Marguerite Mayer, Richard’s sister, was born. An American was born into a family that had been driven out of their German home country and had not yet found a new home in their exile country. With the new family member Marguerite, a genuine American, the family settled into becoming an American family.
The family of six had to be provided for. Martin tried to use his knowledge and experiences in the Mayer’s firm in Frankfurt and founded a food trading company of which he was the sole owner. „Farmella Food Products Corporation“dealt with the cleaning, packaging and sale of honey.
The company was not successful and didn’t bring in very much income. The buying power of the dollar had sunk strongly especially in the city of New York and the American customers didn’t know much about honey. Under these conditions Martin Mayer gave up the firm in 1949. Later he worked as an employee, but couldn’t achieve the position and the income that he could have expected in the company of his father in Germany.
The financial circumstances eventually compelled Aenne, who had never worked or planned to work in her previous life in Frankfurt, to enter the workforce to help the family cover the basic expenses. After attempting a series of ill-suited jobs, including working in a bakery, Aenne found her true calling as a salesperson at the very glamorous Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the fanciest department stores in New York City, located on the famed Fifth Avenue.
Saks was owned by the Gimbel family, a wealthy Jewish family of German origin that had emigrated to America in the 19th century, and who hired many European immigrants in the post-war period. Aenne, who loved fine things, proved to have a natural gift for selling luxury items, and eventually worked for Saks, primarily selling luxury handbags for more than 30 years, retiring when she was in her 70s. She died 1992, when she was 82 years old.
Martin as well as his father Jakob and his mother-in-law Martha, she died in 1957 and his father-in-law Lion already had died in 1948, applied for compensation in 1957 “for damage in economic progress” to the German Federal Republic of Germany. The application procedures were complicated, lengthy and involved costs for legal expenses. They afforded written evidence about the living and income situation before the escape that were difficult to come by because of the war.
In 1961 after the procedures of four years the application was decided positively: Martin got barely 10.000 Marks as compensation for insurance obligations not paid, pension back payments and a monthly pension of barely 100,- DM for life, at the time $ 25,-. Since 1957 he needed medical treatment and died already in 1970, at the age of only 64.
After spending a few weeks in New York with the senior Mayers, Hilde, Walter and Renata settled in Atlanta, Georgia, to be near Walter’s sister and brother-in-law, who had procured a position at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia in the Department of International Law. Having been an attorney in Germany, Walter hoped to resume a legal career in America.
He studied United States law and passed the difficult examinations (Bar Exam) to practice, but his German accent at the time of World War II limited his career possibilities. As a result he also pursued additional business ventures in order to provide for the family. The Lewy family eventually enjoyed a comfortable economic existence, and were able to buy a small house, take trips and take advantage of cultural and social opportunities, such as they were at that time in Atlanta. Hilde died in 1955 when Renata was just finishing high school.
Living, learning … feeling at home
Both Martin and Aenne spoke fluent English. Martin already had proficiency in English when he arrived in America; for Aenne it was more difficult, but eventually she both read and wrote English well, in addition to speaking. Aenne and Martin spoke only German at home with their children, Richard and Marguerite, but Richard in later years spoke mostly German with his mother and mostly English with his father. Marguerite did not teach her children, Natalie and Jonathan, to speak German, even though she continued to speak always in German with her mother, Aenne. Richard’s children, likewise, were not taught to speak German.
The Mayers and the Marxes all lived near each other in a community in Kew Gardens, Queens (New York), that was filled with German Jewish refugees. Their social life was active and supportive. Because so many Frankfurt Jews settled in New York they had a wide circle who had been friends for many, many years. They spoke German with each other and were able to reconstruct many aspects of their former lives in Frankfurt. Dr. Marx attended synagogue in Kew Gardens, a congregation that, once again, was primarily for Orthodox German Jewish refugees. The Mayers were not religious and did not participate in organized religion.
The Future begins in the past
The next generations
New York and Atlanta
Martin and Aenne Mayer’s children Richard and Marguerite, grew up as New Yorkers, went on to university and settled in New York.
Richard went to Harvard University, won a Fulbright Scholarship, and returned to study at the University in Frankfurt. He lived on Schwindstraße, Westend with his family’s former housekeeper, Rösl. He spoke very fluent but a very “Frankfurterisch” Deutsch, and finally learned some formal German.
After law school, he entered the field of “Patent Law”, where his command of German became an asset. He went on to write a widely-used textbook on American patent law in German, which had several editions, and represented major German companies. Richard married Harriet, née Glickman, in 1971. They had two daughters, now both married and two grandsons, Richard died in the year 2010.
Marguerite married William Green in 1960. They had two children, Jonathan and Natalie. Natalie is married to Doug Giles, and they have two daughters. Jonathan is married to Hilary Thomas, and they have one son.
Renata Levy, the daughter of Hilde Mayer and Walter Lewy, grew up in Atlanta/Georgia. There she married Ted Levy, who died in 2014. They had three children and four grand children.
Thus the former Frankfurters Martin and Aenne Mayer had five great-grandchildren who all are American citizens and live in America.
Visits in the home country of grandparents and parents
In 2014 Renata Levy, the niece of Martin and Aenne Mayer, took part in the visiting program of the city of Frankfurt for the former Jewish Frankfurters and their descendants. Two years later, in 2016, Harriet Mayer, the daughter-in-law of Martin and Aenne Mayer, and Natalie Green Giles, their grand-daughter came to Frankfurt.
June 2014: Renata in the Bettinaschule, the Wöhlerschule and the Liebigschule
Renata Levy visited the Bettinaschule where her mother had passed her final exams, the Abitur in 1928.
There is a memorial which remembers the Jewish pupils who had been forced to leave the grammar school that before the war was called Viktoriaschule and had been a High School for girls only. It also had been situated somewhere else, not far away from the site of today, namely at the Senckenberg Anlage.
Renata visited also the Wöhlerschule where her grandfather Jakob Mayer and her uncle Martin Mayer had been pupils. The Wöhlerschule that had been situated in the Westend was destroyed during the war and rebuilt about 1957 in the Dornbusch district. Renata found the hand written entry of the entrance of Martin in 1916 in the School entry book of the Wöhlerschule that had got through the war unharmed.
In the Liebigschule Renata was invited into a history lesson to talk about the Frankfurt roots of her family.
June 2016: Harriet and Natalie on the tracks of the Mayer and Marx ancestors in Frankfurt
A sightseeing tour on the tracks of the Mayer and Marx ancestors was a highlight during their visiting week in May 2016. Already the first stop in the Dornbusch district, in Raimundstraße 109, where Martin and Aenne had moved into their first own flat in 1934, was exciting.
It had been difficult to find the house at all because of contradictory details as to the house number. The inhabitants of the third floor addressed the visitors and finally asked them into the house, the garden and even into their flat.
Mr. and Mrs. Magin who have been living here for 40 years showed Harriet and Natalie the flat in which Martin and Aenne lived over 80 years ago and in which Richard had been born, Harriet’s future husband.
Elated by such great hospitality the tour went onto more stops in the westend where parents and grandparents had lived (Westendstraße 92, Liebigstraße 27c, Liebigstraße 44) and where the schools of the children had been (Senckenberganlage, Lessingstraße), crossing the Opera square and along the Fressgass’ to the Neue Mainzer Straße 75, the residential and business house of the Mayers after the turn of the century, through the town centre, along the Zeil to the Friedberger Anlage 25 where Dr. Marx had had his practice since 1905 to the flat of the Marx family in Wittelsbacher Allee 7.
… and a trip to the Rhein river, which Martin and Aenne had undertaken with friends shortly after their wedding in the summer of 1934.
A further highlight for Harriet and Natalie during the days in Frankfurt was the visit of the Wöhlerschule. The time table of June 23rd 1916 was as follows: Welcome 9 o’clock; 9.15-10.15 guided tour through the school; 11 – 12.30 history lesson.
The history teachers, Frau Dauscher and Frau Rathmann and a small group of pupils welcome the visitors Harriet and Natalie. In a perfect English they showed them on a tour around the school the architecture and some of their specialities : the Wöhler jungle and bee hives, the memorial garden for former Jewish students of the school who were murdered by the nazis, the new swimming pool, the canteen, the photovoltaic installation on the roof and the bike workshop in the basement.
At 11 o’clock the history lesson started: Natalie and Harriet told the 9th grade of Mrs. Rathmann the story of their family in English. Questions and conversations were also carried on in English.
Harriet’s and Natalie’s parting was sweetened with a present: Honey of the Woehlerbees. That honey had not sweetened Martin Mayer’s comeback into the professional world after his flight into the USA was probably not in anybody’s mind at this moment: The pleasure about the successful and interesting morning at the Wöhlerschule was written on their faces.
August 2016: Frankfurt and Darmstadt
Renata Levy visited Frankfurt at the end of August 2016 for three days on her way from London. That was a good opportunity for her to have a look at places for which there had not been time during the visiting program in 2014.
Three program items were soon agreed upon: a visit of the TU (Technical University) Darmstadt and the „Mathildenhöhe”, a visit to the Institute of Frankfurt’s History (Institut für Stadtgeschichte), in order to look at the completely preserved construction plans of the residential and business house in the Neue Mainzer Straße 75 and an extensive round tour through the Westend.
At the TU Darmstadt Renata’s mother Hilde had started studying architecture in 1928. She was one of the first women in that field. Because she was Jewish, she had to leave the university after 1933. Renata had a look at her mother’s former place of studies, the main building and the buildings of the technical fields. Furthermore Renata wanted to find out, whether the College of Technology (TU) had an archive keeping documents about Hilde’s time of study and her being forced to abandon her studies.
A visit of the famous “Mathildenhöhe” in Darmstadt followed, in order to view the centre of Art Nouveau.
The file “Mayer – Construction plans for the new building Neue Mainzer Strasse 75” were waiting for Renata in the Institute of Frankfurt’s History, the Town Archive. The views and the ground plans of the building were especially clear. As there is no photo of the completed building these drawings were a good substitute. A very helpful member of the staff also showed Renata plans stored in the Town Archive’s basement of some of the houses in the Westend in which her family had lived before 1938.
The round tour through the Westend of Frankfurt, a walk on the tracks of the ancestors, led to many thoughts and conversations about the past, the changes of the town, but also about the question: “Where would they be today if they had not been forced to escape?”
Letters from America
Natalie, 2th of June 2016
“Harriet and I have both been very slow to adjust to being back—a combination of the jet lag, as well as the physical and emotional exhaustion of the trip. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the profound impact of my week in Frankfurt. Just to try to explain what it all meant to family and friends back in NYC has been such a challenge. To fully capture everything—from the personal understanding of my ancestors and their daily life, to the historical context of Frankfurt from 1933-1945, to … the passionate commitment to the Project, to enjoying the vibrant, progressive, sophisticated city of Frankfurt today -it is almost impossible to convey to anyone who wasn’t on the program.
In some ways the experience seemed almost magical. I feel as though I truly traveled back in time, … For being my guide on that journey, I am forever indebted to you. And for your unmatched kindness and sensitivity, and your ability to balance our experience by also bringing us into the current world—in your home, in the Rheingau, at the Monastery, and at the Woehlerschule – …
… you have opened up a whole new world of understanding for me and a deep desire to return to Frankfurt, which now feels like a second home. And for the ultimate expression of the success of our visit … I am now encouraging my college-age daughter to consider studying in Frankfurt when she chooses a place to study abroad for a semester next year …
My many many thanks to you, once again, for everything you gave to us, did for us, and meant to us. Your friendship is the greatest gift we took from Frankfurt.
All my best,
Harriet, 6th of June 2016
“… We are still recovering from our wonderful trip to Frankfurt; I came back with laryngitis and a sinus infection but I am finally better now. I was very unhappy because I had no voice, and could not continue to tell other people about our adventures in Germany.
… Many thanks again for your friendship and warmth and all that you did for us while we were there. Your presence made the trip so memorable.
… I went through a lot of the papers I had, and found more with the address for Martin and Anne Mayer at Raimundstraße 109. So I guess we really “lucked out” in that find. I still find it interesting that I don’t recall ever hearing from my mother-in-law that the building was still standing; perhaps she never went to that neighborhood when she was in Frankfurt in 1986. If she had reported that the building was still there, I am sure that Richard would have visited it on one of his many trips to Frankfurt… So a Puzzle!!!
All the best
Renata, 2th of September 2016
“I loved the leisurely stroll through the Westend to see the houses and locations where my family lived and where my mother grew up. The meal at Isoleta was delicious and a lovely introduction to Frankfurt dining out style. Despite the heat, the visit to Darmstadt was extremely meaningful; even the architecture building where my mother was student still existed. Needless to say, the archive was absolutely amazing – unbelievable the material they have there all carefully stored and documented. It will take me some time to absorb all these wonderful experiences….”
All my best
Renata Levy, née Lewy,
- born in Genua/Italy in 1938
- lives in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
- niece of Martin Mayer, born in Frankfurt in 1906
- daughter of Hilde Mayer, born in Frankfurt in 1909
Taking part in the visiting program: 2014
Harriet Mayer, née Glickmann
- born in New York City in 1942, lives there today
- daughter-in-law of Martin and Aenne Mayer, née Marx, born in Frankfurt in 1910
- Harriet was married to Richard Mayer
son of Martin and Aenne Mayer,
born in Frankfurt in 1934
died in New York City in 2010.
Taking part in the visiting program: 2016
Natalie Green Giles, née Green
- born in New York City in 1965
- daugther of Marguerite Green, née Mayer, born in New York City in 1940.
- granddaughter of Martin and Aenne Mayer, née Marx
Taking part in the visiting program: 2016
- Martin Mayer (born 1906 in Frankfurt, died 1970 in New York City)
- Aenne Mayer, née Marx (born 1910 in Frankfurt)
Grandparents on father’s side:
- Jakob Mayer (born 1876 in Frankfurt, died 1968 in New York City)
- Julia Mayer, née Gutmann (born in Stuttgart 1885, died 1967 in New York City)
Grandparents on mother’s side:
Dr. Lion Marx (born 1870 in Darmstadt, died 1948 in New York City)
Martha Marx, née Schames (born 1886 in Frankfurt, died 1957 in New York City)
Great-Grandparents on father’s side
- Isaac Mayer (Neuleiningen 1837 – 1918 Frankfurt)
- Mathilde Mayer, née Güldenstein (Frankfurt 1853 – Buchau 1938)
Great-Grandparents on mother’s side:
- Ludwig Schames (1852 – 1922 Frankfurt)
- Fanny Lewisohn (Hamburg 1859 – 1895 Frankfurt)
Former places of residence in Frankfurt:
- Westend: e.g. Westendstrasse
- Ostend: e.g. Wittelsbacher Allee
- Dornbusch: Raimundstrasse
Former business sites:
- Neue Mainzer Strasse 75
- Friedberger Anlage 25;
- Opernplatz 10
- Börsenstrasse 3
- Viktoriaschule (today: Bettinaschule)
- since 1933 by means of boycotts, intimidation and professional prohibitions
- since 1935 by means of racial laws, economic decline of company/practice
- imprisonment of Dr. Lion Marx in CC Buchenwald on November 9th 1938
All family members escape starting in the middle of 1933 up to 1939 throuhg Genua or London to the USA
- Oral and written informations by Renata Levy, Harriet Mayer, Natalie Green Giles and historical sources from the family
- Lecture by Natalie Green Giles in the Wöhlerschule 2016
- Institute for Frankfurt’s city history
- Hessian Main State Archive Wiesbaden
- Archive of the Wöhlerschule Frankfurt
- Informations by Ms Maike Brüggen about the gallerist Ludwig Schames and the following publication: Expressionism and Exile. The collection Ludwig and Rosy Fischer, ed. by Georg Heuberger; Samson Schames, Jewish Museum Frankfurt 1989
Martina Faltinat, Natalie Green Giles, Renata Levy, Harriet Mayer, Liebigschule
Martina Faltinat, Natalie Green Giles, Renata Levy, Harriet Mayer
Martina Faltinat, Angelika Rieber