Biographical Notes

Ernst Sommer
born 1885 in Heinebach
profession: merchant
Adresses: Schneidhainerstraße, Taunusstraße 40 III
Deportation: 15.9.1942 to Theresienstadt
Death date: 23.1.1943 Auschwitz

Link to see: Ron Sommers

Johanna Sommer, born Löwe
Born 1892 in Peckelsheim
Death date: 1937 in the psychiatric clinic Weilmünster

Helmut Sommer
Born1921 in Frankfurt
Emigration to England 1938, USA 1940
Death in USA

Margot Sommer
Born 1924 in Frankfurt
Deportation: Mai 1942 to Izbica
Death date: unknown

HHStAW, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt (City Archive), Standesamt Marktflecken Weilmünster
Information, documents und photos of Leslie Mc Cormick and Walter Sommers
Further photos: Majer Szanckower
Koessler, Gottfried; Rieber, Angelika; Guersching, Feli (publisher) (1993): “…dass wir nicht erwünscht waren“ (…that we were not welcome). November pogrom 1938 in Frankfurt am Main. „Reports and documents”, Frankfurt
Rieber, Angelika (2004): Wir bleiben hier! (We will remain here). Life histories of Oberursel families of Jewish descent, Frankfurt

Rieber Angelika (2013): They were proud Germans. Ron Sommers, in: Unsere Wurzeln sind hier in Deutschland (Our roots are here in Frankfurt). Encounters with former Frankfurt citizens of Jewish descent and their children. Publisher: Rieber, Angelika, Karben, pages 166-193

Text and Research: Angelika Rieber
Translation: Peter Ormond

Ernst, Johanna, Helmut and Margot Sommer

A locket with a moving story remains as a memory to
her aunt

by Angelika Rieber

Ernst Sommer originally came from Heinebach in the north of the state of Hesse. He came to Frankfurt at the beginning of the 20th century together with his brothers Julius and Salomon. The merchant was married to Johanna Loewe, who also came from Frankfurt, and the couple had two children. Johanna died in 1937 in the state sanatorium in Weilmuenster. Their son Helmut left Germany in January 1939, but their daughter Margot was unable to flee to England with one of the Kindertransports due to the start of the war. She was deported to Izbica in Mai 1942, whilst her father Ernst was deported to Theresienstadt in September 1942.

Ernst Sommer was born in Heinebach in 1885. His father, the butcher Moses Sommer, their uncle and one of his brothers took part in the war against France in 1870-71 as soldiers, and were proud of their medals.

At the beginning of the 20th century several of Moses Sommer’s children moved to Kassel respectively Frankfurt, amongst them Ernst Sommer, his brothers Julius and Salomon and their sister Miriam, known as Mimi. The photo shows the three brothers shortly before the 1st world war.

Ernst Sommer worked in Frankfurt as a merchant, partly in the business of his brother Julius and his brother in law Alfred Mayer. The two businessmen were the owners of the Wittwe Hassan chain of stores, which had more than 34 branches in and around Frankfurt and were well known for coffee, cocoa and delicacies. (see Ron Sommers)

Walter Sommer, Julius‘ son, well remembers his uncle Ernst, whom he enjoyed listening to as he proudly told him about his experiences during the 1st world war. Ernst Sommer lived with his wife Johanna née Loewe and the two children Helmut (born 1921) and Margot (born 1924) in the Schneidhainer Strasse in Frankfurt, and later on in the Taunusstrasse no. 40.

Death in the Weilmuenster psychiatric clinic

Johanna Sommer was taken ill and admitted to the Weilmuenster sanatorium in October 1933, where she died four years later on 14th August 1937. It is quite possible that her death was directly due to the increasing negligence and inadequate care in particular of Jewish patients in the psychiatric clinic. No further details of her illness and the circumstances of her death have been made available until now, but according to her granddaughter it may have been multiple sclerosis. She was not buried in the sanatorium’s cemetery in Weilmuenster, but rather moved to Frankfurt as a resident of that city and laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery in the Eckenheimer Landstrasse.

The family is torn apart

Ernst Sommer was now a widower and had two children to look after. In order for his son to receive an adequate education he sent Helmut to England early in 1939. As he was not allowed to study in Germany at this time, he had started a commercial apprenticeship. In England however, the teenager had to work in order to earn his living instead of going to school or learning a profession. According to the son of a cousin, whose father had already emigrated to England earlier, he found work in a factory for baby food and was more or less adopted by the owners, an elderly couple. Helmut visited his father fairly often. In May 1940 he was able, with help from his uncle Julius Sommer, to emigrate to the USA from England. Julius Sommer had fled from Germany with his family in 1939, immediately after his release from Buchenwald. Helmut Sommer lived in New York for some time with his uncle’s family. He returned to Germany as an American soldier and participated in the interrogation of German prisoners of war, but his hopes of a reunion with his father and sister Margot were not fulfilled.

The beginning of the war prevented Margot Sommer’s escape with the Kindertransports

In 1939 Ernst Sommer attempted to have his daughter Margot enlisted on one of the children’s transports to England and so to safety. All the preparations had been made and the “Umzugsgutliste” (“removal lists”) filled in. The apparently arbitrary deletion of certain objects in the completed forms is particularly noticeable. Ernst Sommer and his daughter Margot signed the “Antrag auf Mitnahme von Umzugsgut” (“application for accompanied removal goods”) on 27th August 1939.

Martha Wertheimer signed a confirmation that Margot Sommer had been registered as a participant in one of the Kindertransports organized by the Jewish welfare. The receipt of the application was confirmed on 1st September 1939 by the Jewish community and passed on to the Oberfinanzdirektion (Chief Financial Directorate), the very day the German Army invaded Poland. Two days later, on 3rd September 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany. The Kindertransports which had been planned and could have saved Margot Sommer’s life were no longer possible due to England having entered the war.

Julius Sommer’s family managed to escape the nightmare

Although the members of the closely connected families Sommer and Mayer had not at first planned to leave the country in 1933, Alfred Mayer fled to the Netherlands in 1937 where he survived in hiding. Ernst Sommer’s brother Julius was arrested in November 1938 and taken to Buchenwald, from whence he returned a few weeks later as a broken man. Seeing his father in this state was the saddest experience for his son Walter in Frankfurt. “He could never understand that something like this could happen in the Germany he knew.” From then on the family prepared feverishly to emigrate, and their days were filled with clearing up and visiting the relevant authorities.

The two remaining branches of the Wittwe Hassan chain were affected by the destruction during the November pogroms. Since Jewish people were forced to clear up the mess themselves without delay Walter Sommer and his uncle Ernst, who had not been arrested, had their work cut out to clear up the damage caused by the riots. At the beginning of January Julius Sommer’s family made their way to the American Consulate in Stuttgart and were able to obtain the necessary paperwork. On the very same day, 10th January 1939, they left Germany and so were able to escape the nightmare, as Walter Sommer put it.

„I have no fortune and am dependent on social security”

Ernst Sommer and his sister, who was disabled from birth, remained in Germany and in 1939-40 dealt with the winding up of the Wittwe Hassan businesses under extremely difficult circumstances. Ernst Sommer had taken over the work of the authorized representative of the company who had left in 1938 and was supposed to manage the continuing operations of the remaining branches which still existed after the November pogrom under sequestration and “fell into other hands” in 1939. A legal battle ensued on the subject of protection against dismissal and the continuation of the payment of Ernst and Miriam Sommer’s salaries. Miriam had worked half days in the company for 15 years as an office clerk. (see also and see Ron Sommers

Correspondence with the ”Devisenstelle” ( “currency authorities”) in November 1941 shows that Ernst Sommer had become destitute and was dependent on support from the Jewish welfare. He also mentioned that he was ill and therefore unable to work.
Only very few members of the family had remained in Frankfurt. His sister Miriam died in Frankfurt in 1941. She was the last member of the family to be buried in the Jewish cemetery in Frankfurt.

Abducted to Izbica

It is interesting to have a look at the Household ledger. It shows Hanna Sommer’s death in the State Sanatorium Weilmuenster, Helmut’s emigration to London and Ernst and Margot Sommer’s move from the Taunusstrasse to a “Jew’s house” in the Sandweg
Despite all the efforts of their relatives, Ernst and Margot Sommer did not succeed in leaving Germany in time.

In 1941 they had to leave their flat in the Taunusstrasse and move to Sandweg 14 in the East End of Frankfurt, into a so called “Ghetto house” where antisemitically pursued people were grouped together before being deported. According to the latest information in the Federal archives Margot Sommer was deported to Izbica, a small town in the Lublin district which had been prepared as a transit ghetto, in May 1942. From there various transports took place to the extermination camps. The date and place of Margot Sommer’s death are unknown. It is possible that her uncle Salomon Sommer and his wife Betty were deported on the same transport to Izbica in May 1942. From there Betty Sommer sent a postcard to her brother Alfred Mayer in Tilburg, Netherlands. His family survived the second world war because an employee had hidden them.

Ernst Sommer was deported to Theresienstadt on 15th September 1942, and later on to Auschwitz. According to the Federal archives he died there on 23rd January 1943, although a witness claimed to have seen him later in Theresienstadt. Two commemorative stumbling stones were placed in front of Betty and Salomon Sommer’s former dwelling in the Schleidenstrasse 26 on the initiative of residents of the house in 2010.

In 2013 two further stumbling stones in memory of Margot and Ernst Sommer were laid in front of their house in the Taunusstrasse. Nancy Sommer, Ernst Sommer’s great niece and granddaughter of Julius Sommer, took part in the ceremony.

The locket

Before her deportation Margot Sommer had entrusted an acquaintance with a locket containing a photo of her brother. Margot had always worn this locket and had asked her friend to try and find the whereabouts of her brother and give it to him.
The two women knew each other through Margot’s uncle Salomon Sommer. Ida Leiser had been an employee in his butcher’s shop in the Alte Gasse. She lived in a so called “mixed marriage.” She and her three children had been baptized as protestants. As they came from a Jewish family however, they had not only to wear the “gelber Stern” (yellow star) but also to carry out forced labour in various companies in Frankfurt, amongst others Osterrieth in the Gallus district and later Bykopharm in the Friedberger Anlage.

Ida Leiser’s daughter Emmi remembered that her mother had supported Margot Sommer and had later received two letters from her. “Oh God, now the Sommers also have to leave”, this statement of her mother’s had a firm place in Emmi’s memory.

Towards the end of the war, on 18th February 1945, Ida Leiser was still sent “to forced labour in Theresienstadt” and was released there on 23rd June 1945 from whence she returned to Frankfurt. As two of her daughters had emigrated to the USA in 1947 and married there, she spent part of the time with them in America. For many years she tried to find the whereabouts of Helmut Sommer. In 1993 Ida’s daughter Emi visited her mother’s former hometown at the invitation of the city of Frankfurt. During her stay she was presented with the book ”…dass wir nicht erwünscht waren” (…that we were not welcome), which members of the Projekt Jüdisches Leben in Frankfurt (Project Jewish Life in Frankfurt) had published shortly beforehand. In this book she discovered the life story of Martha Hirsch, one of the daughters of Salomon and Betty Sommer, as well as a photo of her mother’s previous employer. With the help of other participants in the visitors programme Emmi Enxuto-Leiser managed to seek out Martha Hirsch in New York, who then put her in touch with Helmut Sommer’s widow.

That is how Emmi Enxuto was able, more than 50 years later, to present the locket to the family in 1995. Today the locket is owned by Helmut’s daughter Leslie and serves as a memory to her aunt Margot, who she was never able to meet.