Biographical Notes

Max Mader, born 1932 in Frankfurt am Main
Visiting Program 2005
Emigration: Kindertransport to Holland in November 1938 and England in April 1939
End of 1950th to Israel

Sister: Edith Mader, born 1931 in Frankfurt am Main

Father: Gerzson Mader, born 1900 in Belz in Galicia, later Poland
Mother: Rosa Mader, born Schönberg, born 1907 in Berlin
Emigration in Juni and Anfang September 1939 to England

Adresses: Seilerstraße, Hanauer Landstraße 16 a

Grandmother: Beila Slotwiner-Mader, born 1870 in Belz – 30.09.1942 in Theresienstadt
Greataunt: Regina Wertheimer, born 1874 in Krakow/Krakau/Galicia, later Poland – 06.02.1944 in Theresienstadt

Hessisches Landesarchiv
Online Gedenkbuch Bundesarchiv und Deportiertendatenbank Frankfurt
Abschiedsrede von Max Mader im Frankfurter Römer am 20. Juli 2005
FR vom 28.7.2005: „An einem Tag ist eine ganze Welt zusammengebrochen“ von Andreas Kraft
Private Berichte, Briefe, Fotos, Texte und Dokumente der Familie Mader

Text und Researches: Angelika Rieber

Max Mader

„Music, I thank you “

By Angelika Rieber

At the invitation of the city of Frankfurt, Max Mader visited his birthplace in 2005 with his two sons and with ambivalent feelings and doubts. At the age of six, he and his sister Edith had left Frankfurt with a Kindertransport. First the two children were in the Netherlands, later they were sent to the UK. Their parents fled to England separately, and met up with their children again only a year later. Max’s father, Gerszon Mader, became a British soldier. He passed away in 1941 at the age of just 41. Max lived in England for 20 years before emigrating to Israel.

From Galicia to Frankfurt

Max’s family was originally from Belz in Galicia, a part of Austria-Hungary that became Polish after the First World War. There Gerzon was born in 1900. In 1904 the family moved to Frankfurt am Main. Gerszon became a merchant and ran a laundry mail order business. His future wife Rosa Schönberg, born in Berlin, was brought up by her widowed and childless aunt, Regina Wertheimer in Frankfurt from the age of 13. Both Rosa’s parents were deaf and dumb. Perhaps they hoped for better development opportunities for her daughter with the aunt.

In 1930 Rosa and Gerszon married. Rosa gave up her position as secretary to devote herself to the education of the two children Edith, born in 1931, and Max, born in 1932. The family lived first in Seilerstraße, later in Hanauer Landstraße. The rise of the National Socialists had a negative impact on Gerszon’s business, he had to give up his laundry business and started a busines selling fruit. In 1935 Rosa returned to work as secretary of the Israelite orphanage in Röderbergweg where Gerszon had lived for some time “as a pupil”.

Max has few memories of Frankfurt. But he still remembers the marching songs of the NSDAP. When he heard them, he would run excitedly to the window but was immediately pulled back by his mother.

A world is collapsing

Max will never forget November 10, 1938, because it was the day changed his life. He had started school shortly before this. November 10 was Gerszon’s 38th birthday. Tante Regina was taking care of the children because both parents were at work. Gerszon did not go to work that day, not because of his birthday, but because it was too dangerous to leave the house. Rosa was working in the orphanage. Gerszon, Regina, Edith and Max were sitting together when the doorbell rang. Four men stood at the door and ordered Gerszon to accompany them. With the arrest of their father, the world collapsed for the whole family.
Tante Regina and the children ran to Rosa at the orphanage and told her about the arrest of her husband. When they arrive there the SA was trying to arrest Isidor Marx, the head of the orphanage but he was protected by the older boys of the Waisenhaus who hid and saved him.

Saved by the Kindertransport

The orphanage was overcrowded because of the pogrom. Children from other orphanages and boarding schools such as the Jüdische Bezirksschule in Bad Nauheim and the Kinderheim in Dietz had fled to Frankfurt. The managers of the orphanage were trying to get as many children as possible abroad to safety as quickly as possible.
That evening, Max remembers, Max and Edith were in the first group which was sent to the Netherlands. Max has no memory of saying ‘Good-bye’ to their mother, who, in addition to caring for her own children and taking responsibility for the children of the orphanage, still had to find out where her husband was taken and make an effort to free him. He was taken to Buchenwald near Weimar together with 35.000 other men and boys and was imprisoned there for more than a month.

In the Netherlands, the children were received with a warm welcome. They were sent to a Jewish children’s home in Den Dolder, a large house in the middle of a forest. Max remembers that the day after their arrival an article appeared in a Dutch newspaper with his photo. Max remained at Den Dolder until 18 April 1939 when he was sent to England. There Max lived in different towns, in hostels, or billeted with families and went to ten schools. His sister Edith arrived in England in June 1939. Like her brother, she, too, did not have a real home until 1941. The life of both of them was very unstable.

Meeting again in Devon

After the weeks of detention in Buchenwald, Gerszon was released. He was given six months to leave Germany, and threatened with re-arrest if he did not. He travelled to England in July 1939 with a visa for Colombia.

The “Umzugsgutliste” reveals that he smoked, because tobacco and cigars are listed. The list also includes a bicycle-raincoat, which reminds Max of the bicycle he used to deliver groceries and vegetables when he was selling them.

His wife Rosa remained in Germany and joined Isidor Marx and his wife who were working hard to send children abroad. She took care of passports and emigration permits for them, working closely with the Palestine Office. She also sometimes accompanied groups of children abroad.

Isidor Marx assessed her work in retrospect: “Rosa Mader was not only an office assistant, but a consultant, employee, ‘right hand and left hand’ of the head and the manager.”

Rosa reached England at the last minute, with a Domestic Servant visa, on 3 September 1939, the day Britain’s declared war.

Her aunt Regina Wertheimer then had to deal with the “Zollfahndungsstelle” (Customs Investigation Office). “Before you left, you had to list every item you wanted to take with you, including the date of purchase and the value at the time.” The lists and luggage were strictly checked and, if you were lucky, released. Drawing up these lists and the constant demands and deletions were understandably perceived by the emigrants as harassment.

The Customs Investigation Office accused Rosa Mader of not having included all the items on the “Umzugsgutliste” (removal goods list) and of giving false information about the purchase price and timing. Such accusations often led to enquiries and threats, and all too often to confiscation of the entire property. Eventually, some of the items like a pair of pyjamas were confiscated. But surprisingly two large trunks full of household goods arrived in England two years later

In England, Rosa lived in a refugee hostel, before working as a domestic helper for a Jewish family in London. When Gerszon’s army unit was posted to North Devon, she moved there.

For two and a half years, the family members had lived separated from each other in different parts of the country until they were reunited in May 1941 in Ilfracombe, Devon. But sadly Gerszon died of a heart attack six months later, in November 1941, at the age of only 41 years.

Rosa, Max and Edith Mader survived the Holocaust, but many of their relatives did not. Tante Regina and Oma Beila Slotwinder-Mader were deported to Theresienstadt on September 15, 1942. Regina Wertheimer died there after a few weeks. Oma Beila survived till February 1944. They are both remembered on the Memorial Wall at Boerneplatz.
Rosa’s two sisters escaped to Shanghai with their families but only Paul, one of her four brothers, survived camps and a “Death march”, and lived in New York till 1975.

A life of music

Once the children were living with their mother again, their lives became more stable. At his school in Devon Max remembers having music lessons for the first time. From that time music became an important part of his life. He vividly remembers the School Song “Hills of Devon”, which he sings occasionally today.

In May 1946 the family moved to London. At school, Max started to learn the cello and played in the school orchestra.

The memory of Beethoven’s “Egmont” and Mozart’s “Little Night Music” is connected with the house in which they lived. On the upper floor, a couple lives in a small apartment that offers no space for their voluminous gramophone. So they put it in the hallway. The house regularly reverberated with Beethoven and Mozart, because these were the only two records they had.

After leaving school, Max spent two years compulsory National Service which he served as a cellist in the Royal Air Force Band. He considered going to the Academy of Music after this, or to start training – Hachshara – in Agriculture at the Eder farm, and then to emigrate to Israel. He decided to go to the Eder Farm. There he met his future wife Joy.

Rosa moved to New York in 1953. Her daughter, Edith had already emigrated to New York. When Max declared his intention to emigrate to Israel, Rosa decided to leave Britain join her brother Paul in New York and her two sisters, who had left Shanghai and lived on the West Coast with their families. In New York Rosa returned to her original work, as secretary to a director of the United Restitution Organization.

20 years after his arrival in England, Max and Joy emigrated to Israel and to kibbutz Kfar Hanassi. He was looking forward to working with the cows as he had trained. But the kibbutz decided that he would become the music teacher of the children of the kibbutz. He took lessons briefly in the Oranim Teacher Training College to learn how, and began to teach music to children of all the kibbutzim in the Northern Galilee.

After twelve years teaching, he asked for an overdue Sabbatical which he divided between studying and working in the Education department of the Kibbutz Movement, developing music programs especially for Secondary-school pupils.

At the same time, he enlisted in the Music Department of Tel Aviv University. He joined the Opera Workshop and the Early Music Ensemble in addition to vocal training and music theory

A few years after he returned home with his Music degree and continued to teach in the Emek Hahula Secondary School, he was asked to create a special 3-year Music Course for 10th – 12th grade pupils in all four secondary schools in the Northern Galilee. He taught and headed the course for ten years.

When he reached the age of 70, Max decided to retire at the end of his varied and fulfilling career teaching children and young adults, introducing them to the wonderful world of Music.

But then he was asked to open a Music class, not for children but for Pensioners of the kibbutz, the people he had lived with most of his life, many of them parents of the children he had taught in the past, he agreed. He is still doing it today.

Back in Frankfurt

Max hald almost no memories of Frankfurt, his birthplace, and thoughts of the Holocaust from which he had been saved, still accompanied him. He had submitted an application to be invited by the City of Frankfurt as part of the annual visit program. When the invitation came, his first impulse was to cancel.

It had been 67 years since he had left Germany. “Ich hab nichts in Frankfurt verloren!” he used to say. He talked to former Frankfurters with similar histories to his. Most emphasised that it is important to talk to youngsters and teachers. Max also felt the obligation to tell his story and experiences.

His wife, Joy, was unable to undertake the journey. His sons, Gershon and Adam, accompanied him to Frankfurt. Joy and his sons persuaded him, “Your roots are in Frankfurt. Frankfurt is a part of you,” they argued.

The letter of the Project Jewish Life in Frankfurt confirmed Max’s decision to return to his birthplace. He was invited by the Musterschule, where he told his life story. The opportunity to talk to young people in Germany was one of the most significant parts of his visit. And music wasn’t missing either. Twice they went to the opera and were impressed at the high standard and informality there.

The memory of Tante Regina and Oma Beile is important to them. Together they went to the house in Hanauer Landstraße 16a and put up a letter about the arrest of their father/grandfather in November 1938.

They lit a candle and said Kaddisch. A woman came out of the house and said, “The chestnut tree in front of the house is 100 years old, and was witness to all these events.” Gershon photographed the “tree that saw everything”.

Max was very impressed by the Remembrance sites in the city, particularly the Memorial Wall in the Boernerplatz where Tante Regina and Oma Beile were remembered. Most personal for him was the “9th of November Museum” in the Bunker, which recalled people and places from his childhood. He also noticed the classes of children visiting the Jewish Museum and becoming acquainted with Jewish life as part of the history of Frankfurt.

At the end of his stay, Max Mader talked about his experiences in the Römer, the city Hall. He had come without expectations, without resentment. He found that the Frankfurt visit had strongly affected him and that he recognised that Frankfurt was part of his life. He even said: “Ich bin ein Frankfurter!”

For Max’s two sons, the visit has not been free of distressing feelings. But they noticed that the encounters and conversations reduced their negative feelings and helped them look to the future. “How do we learn from the past for a better future?” Gershon Mader asked, and he sees it as a task, “to encourage Jews (and Germans of the first and second generations to bring closure to the horrible events they encountered or witnessed in the Holocaust. … The trip with my father to Frankfurt touched and moved me.”

With a touching Video film “They’re playing my song”, Adam not only pays tribute to his father achievement, but also focusses on the music that has accompanied him in his eventful life.
“Music, I thank you!”