Mari Ann Schwartzenberg visits Frankfurt

By Gretel Ghamsharick

This was Mari Ann Schwartzenberg´s first visit to Frankfurt, as participant in the Visiting Program for Former Jewish Citizens of Frankfurt and their Children. Her parents, Lotte and Ludwig Adler, who had coincidentally shared the same family name even before their marriage, though unrelated, had lived in Frankfurt. She vividly remembers their stories about the good times they had in Frankfurt. She was therefore eager to visit Frankfurt, but not quite sure what to expect. In 2015, together with her husband, Alan, she stepped into the world of her parents and made the journey to Frankfurt and Nieder-Florstadt, a small village 25 miles northeast of Frankfurt.

Lotte Adler – the mother

Mari Ann Schwartzenberg's mother, Lotte Adler, had lived with her family in the Grüneburgweg 96, in the Westend district in the center of Frankfurt. She remembers her mother talking about her parents giving large parties in their apartment.

Lotte Adler and her two sisters attended Viktoriaschule (now Bettinaschule) and belonged to the congregation of the Westend Synagogue.

On the morning of their last day in Frankfurt Renate Rauch from the Project “Jüdisches Leben in Frankfurt / Jewish Life in Frankfurt” took Mari Ann and Alan to the Bettinaschule (former Viktoriaschule) to see a memorial with the names of former Jewish students. Mari Ann Schwartzenberg was deeply moved to see her mother´s name on the memorial.

Lotte's father, Adolph (Aron) Adler, was a stockbroker for 50 years until his dismissal in April 1933. After this he changed his name from Adolph to Aron.

Their mother, Maria Anna Adler (née Stern), died shortly later in June 23rd, 1933. So Lotte, the oldest
daughter, took over her duties. Her youngest sister, Gertrude, called “Trudel”, left for Chicago on May 8, 1934 to stay with relatives. The middle sister, Erna, left for the USA in 1937.

As well as taking her mother´s place in the household, Lotte worked for the Allgemeine Transport- & Schifffahrtsgesellschaft from January 1st, 1932 until her dismissal on August 21st, 1938. From the time her father lost his job in 1933 until her own departure in 1938, she was the sole breadwinner in the family. In October 1934, they moved out of the Grüneburgweg home to an apartment in the Beethovenstr. 5. By this time, she was taking care of both her father and the father of her fiancé Ludwig in the new apartment.

Her father, Adolph (Aron), died in October 1938 and her fiancé´s father, Albert, died in January 1939. Adolph (Aron) Adler was the last of his family to be buried in Frankfurt. Albert Adler was buried in his home village of Nieder-Florstadt.

Mari Ann Schwartzenberg's father, Ludwig Adler, escaped to London in 1938, at the age of 47. A year later, Lotte Adler obtained a permit to work as a maid in London. At that time she was 32. In a letter dated February 28, 1936, her sister Trudel mentions a failed attempt to get Dodo (Lotte's nickname) out of Germany. Increasing pressure to leave Germany, especially after Ludwig's escape, and the responsibility for two elderly fathers, combined with the constant realization of increasing danger, must have weighed heavily on Lotte.

Ludwig Adler – the father

Mari Ann Schwartzenberg's father was born in Felsberg near Kassel. The family moved to Nieder-Florstadt, a village 25 miles northeast of Frankfurt, to run the family grocery store formerly owned by the grandfather.
Ludwig went to the Realschule (Middle school) in Kassel and completed his education to become a civil engineer in Cologne and Darmstadt. He fought in World War I and was awarded four medals of honor. After the war, he founded a company in Frankfurt, called “Adler Schweißanlagen”. The business, which involved the production and sale of welding equipment, was started in Kaiserstrasse 2, then moved to Bleichstraße and later to Hanauer Landstraße 18. Over the years, it expanded substantially, eventually consisting of 30 employees, eight of whom were travelling salesmen with company cars. During those years, Ludwig travelled extensively outside Germany and successively obtained large, important commissions in many European countries.

In 1929, he met Lotte. Mari Ann remembers her parents telling her stories about their frequent travels.

The most dramatic one was of their escape from the ever-increasing dangers of Nazism. It began on the evening of November 9, 1938, Ludwig was out walking with Lotte, when a friend warned Ludwig not to go home to escape incarceration during the “Kristallnacht”. He jumped into his car and drove to Cologne, where he hid in the attic of his acquaintance, a Hebrew teacher. Later Lotte went to his boarding house, packed his things and brought them to him by train. Ten days later, when the situation seemed sufficiently safe, he left Germany. With his business visa as cover, he was able to travel through Holland to England. When Lotte was finally able to join him a year later, they got married and ,in April 1940, they boarded a ship to New York, where Mari Ann was born. Eventually they relocated to Chicago, where Ludwig Adler opened a new welding equipment business.

His brother, Siegmund Adler, who lived in Karlsruhe, was not so fortunate. He and his wife managed to send their two young daughters to Palestine. But they were subsequently interned in Gurs. Through the Chicago Jewish organisation Selfhelp, Ludwig Adler was able to send money to his brother there, and he eventually received a letter from the Quakers who had delivered the money confirming that it had reached his brother. Sadly the same letter reported that his brother and sister-in-law had been deported to Auschwitz. Siegmund and his wife were sent first to Drancy and then on to Auschwitz on August 10th, 1942 where they both perished. The letter is now in the archives of the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

Ludwig´s sister, Jenny, who lived in Nieder-Florstadt was deported from Darmstadt on September 30th, 1942 to Treblinka.

Nieder-Florstadt

One of the places Mari Ann Schwartzenberg wished to see was the village of Nieder-Florstadt, where her paternal grandfather had owned a grocery store. Angelika Rieber, chairwoman of the project “Jüdisches Leben in Frankfurt”, contacted a network of local historians in that area. She had cooperated with them before on behalf of previous visitors. They recommended Monica Rhein, who actually lives a few houses away from the house where Mari Ann´s father grew up. Monika Rhein was excited to meet Mari Ann and Alan and had a special surprise for them: A photo of her grandfather's building complex taken after the war, before it was torn down. Only one small house on the property remains from the original complex.

Mari Ann and her husband Alan were overwhelmed to stand in front of the place where her grandfather's store and house had once stood. Monika Rhein took them on a tour of Jewish life in the village: together they visited the site of the former synagogue and houses of other Jewish families. Jews who had not managed to flee Germany were forced to live in designated houses called “Judenhaus” before their deportation. The small house on her grandfather's property served as “Judenhaus” for the last six Jews living in Nieder-Florstadt. One of them being Jenny, her father´s sister.

FRANKFURT MEMORABILIA

Struwwelpeter

Before looking up Beethovenstraße 5, the last address of Mari Ann´s mother, the Schwartzenbergs visited the nearby Struwwelpeter Museum. As a child, Mari Ann was given a copy of the popular German children´s book by her Aunt Erna in New York, and she has fond memories of her mother reading it to her in German. Later on, Mari Ann read it to her own daughters, but this time in English. She was overjoyed to find a cardboard cutout of Struwwelpeter at the museum and sent her daughters a picture of herself as Struwwelpeter.

Ginnheim

While enjoying a meal at “Zum Adler” a traditional restaurant in Ginnheim, Mari Ann recalled one of her mother´s favorite sayings: ”Lieber den Magen verrenkt als dem Wirt geschenkt.” (Loose translation: “It is better to sprain your stomach than give something back to the innkeeper.”). She also remembers her aunt Trudel Grossman inviting the family to “a Ginnheim”, which was usually a picnic between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. She had long found the name puzzling, until she found out that Ginnheim was an idyllic part of Frankfurt where her family used to go for picnics. Later in Chicago, they kept the name Ginnheim. After observing Frankfurters barbecuing on the banks of the Nidda in Ginnheim, she could imagine what her aunt meant. One of Aunt Trudel's granddaughters continues the tradition of Ginnheim in Chicago to this day.

Eschenheimer Turm and Frankfurter Adler

Ludwig Adler´s business in Chicago was called “Eagle Welding Equipment Company”. The logo showed the Eschenheim Tower and an eagle. The Eschenheim Tower was a city gate and part of the late-medieval fortifications of Frankfurt. The tower is one of the oldest buildings standing in the city center and a city landmark. Mari Ann had never understood why her father had chosen the “Eschenheimer Turm” as his company´s logo, but she very much wanted to see it. Her husband took pictures of the tower from all sides, and they were very pleased to discover Frankfurt's heraldic eagle on the tower. This seemed to Mari Ann to be a probable explanation for her father´s decision to use the Turm in the logo.

Points of departure

Following the footsteps of Mari Ann's parents, the Schwartzenbergs were happy to see the places they had heard so much about. Walking down the same streets as her parents, brought to life for Mari Ann many memories of her parents´ early lives in Germany. It also made the couple realize how much more they wanted to learn. They left Frankfurt after a busy week, eager to find out more. They promised to stay in touch with the members of the project “Jüdisches Leben in Frankfurt”, hoping that a joint effort on both sides of the Atlantic will produce more information about Ludwig, Lotte and the lives of their families.

Name:
Mari Ann Schwartzenberg, née Adler
born in 1940 in New York;
Participation in the Visitors Programme 2015

Father:
Ludwig Adler
born in 1890 in Felsberg nearKassel
emigrated to England via Holland in November 1938

Mother:
Lotte Adler
born in 1907 in Frankfurt
emigrated to the USA via England in 1939

Last home of the family in Frankfurt:
Beethovenstr. 5


Sources:
questionaire Mari Ann Schwartzenberg

Interview and private documents

photos:
private

text:
Gretel Ghamsharick