Family Simon – Katz
Visiting progam 2002 (Ernst Simon) and 2022 (Vivian Simon)
Johanna Simon, geb. Katz
1896 in Aschenhausen – 1975 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
1889 in Jastrow/Westpreußen – 1962 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
1927 in Schwanheim – 2007 in Argentina
visited schools: Varentrappschule, Philanthropin
Ellen Simon, verh. Zarnawitzer
1931 in Frankfurt am Main – 2019 in Argentina
Silcherstraße 2 in Frankfurt Schwanheim
professions of Johanna and Georg Simon: Dentists
Emigration to Argentina: December 1936
parents of Johanna Simon:
1868 in Aschenhausen – 1937 in Frankfurt am Main
teacher in Stadtlengsfeld
1935 moved to Frankfurt, latest address: Feldbergstraße 22
Sophie Katz, geb. Schmidt
1869 in Aschenhausen – 1948 in Argentinien
daughters of the couple: Johanna, verh. Simon (1896), Irma (1899), Gertrude, verh. Cohn (1903), Hertha, verh. Scheuer (1905)
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Wiesbaden
Gespräch mit Ernst Simon in der Carl von Stauffenberg-Schule 2002
Gespräch mit Vivian Simon in der ERS1 am 14. Juni 2022
Feedback der ERS 1
Informationen, Fotos und Dokumente: Familie Simon
Informationen von Geschichtsverein Stadtlengsfeld, Rolf Leimbach
Text and research:
Family Simon – Katz
From Aschenhausen via Frankfurt am Main to Buenos Aires
Johanna Simon was an emancipated woman. She was one of the first dentists in Germany. The daughter of the head teacher Willy Katz studied dentistry and practiced in Frankfurt-Schwanheim since 1924. Her husband Georg Simon was also a dentist. Both were hit hard by discrimination from 1933 onwards, and so in 1936 they decided to flee to Argentina with their two children Ernst and Ellen.
Ernst Simon visited his former home several times, in 2002 at the invitation of the city. His daughter Vivian took part in a visit program for future generations in 2022.
Senior teacher Willy Katz
Johanna Simon was born in 1896 as the eldest daughter of the teacher Willy Katz in Aschenhausen.
Her mother Sophie Schmidt also came from Aschenhausen. The couple had three more daughters:
Irma (1899), Gertrud (1903) and Hertha (1905).
Willy Katz was a teacher in Stadtlengsfeld for 30 years. The united community school there was founded in 1850 by a merger of the Christian and Jewish schools, at that time still fairly unusual. “Children of all religions were taught together in one class by teachers of all religions. Stadtlengsfeld therefore made school history.” (kgv-stadtlengsfeld.com)
Willy Katz taught there until his retirement in 1926. He was the last Jewish teacher of the undenominational Bürgerschule, because the proportion of Jewish residents in Stadtlengsfeld and consequently also of Jewish students was getting smaller and smaller. “After 30 years of work at the local undenominational city school, teacher Willi Katz has retired. The vacant position will hardly be filled again by a Jewish teacher, since the number of Jewish children has declined considerably.” (Swe Israelit)
Willy Katz was active not only as a teacher, but also in the Jewish community and was named in 1924 as one of the community leaders (alemannia judaica).
After the beginning of the Nazi era, the situation for the Jewish residents in Stadtlengsfeld became more and more unpleasant, which is why Willy and Sophie Katz decided to move to Frankfurt to join their daughters. Willy Katz died there two years later, on 22nd February 1937. He was buried at the Jewish cemetery on the Eckenheimer Landstrasse in Frankfurt. His wife Sophie managed to escape to Argentina in 1938, where their daughters were already living.
From Aschenhausen to the Main metropolis
Johanna Katz spent a carefree childhood in Aschenhausen and attended the local state school until she was 14 years old.
She then moved to Frankfurt, where she worked for various banks after two years of training at a commercial school.
But Johanna, always eager to learn, wanted to study further. After one and a half years of preparation at the Darmstadt Padagogium, she passed her A level examinations at the Realgymnasium in Darmstadt in 1919. She then began to study dentistry in Frankfurt and Hamburg. Johanna Katz passed her exams in November 1922. In March of the following year she received her doctorate and was granted a license to practice medicine. She wrote the scientific thesis under Professor Bluntschli on the subject of “The form of the palate in newborn children”. In doing so she showed that, contrary to the assumption that the high palate does not develop until later years, this palate form is already inherent in infants.
After her exams, the young physician went back to her parents in Stadtlengsfeld for a year. From 1924 on Johanna Katz practiced as a dentist with health insurance approval in Schwanheim. (UAF, HHStAW)
On 25th May 1926 she married the dentist Georg Simon, who was born in Jastrow in Poznań, at her parents’ place of residence. He had studied in Berlin and completed his studies in dentistry there in 1922. Like many young men, Simon had served as a soldier in World War I. His grandson now has his grandfather’s prayer book from the war, a precious memory for him.
After the wedding, the couple lived together in Schwanheim. There, Johanna Simon worked successfully as a dentist. Her husband worked from 1929 at the school dental clinic in the Carolinum and from 1931 as a school dentist. At that time, the Carolinum Foundation was commissioned by the City of Frankfurt to carry out school dental care in all municipal schools. The School Dental Clinic, at that time the most extensive institute of its kind in Europe, was headed by Professor Tholuck. (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Joachim_Tholuck). There Tholuck created the so called “Frankfurt system” of school dental care, in which examinations were carried out by full or part time school dentists, but the treatment took place in private surgeries.
Initially, Georg Simon worked in his own surgery, and later on in locations in Frankfurt Niederrad and in the Ostendstrasse. His son Ernst remembered that his father rode to his places of work by bicycle. Simon also worked as an independent dental examiner and also practiced at his own practice in Sossenheim. (HHStAW)
The couple had two children, son Ernst, born in 1927 and daughter Ellen, born in 1931. Ernst’s twin brother, Hans Johannes, died only 11 days after birth. The family lived at Silcherstrasse 2 in Schwanheim. Johanna Simon practiced there, supported by a dental assistant. Her husband assisted with difficult tasks and operations. “I have always tried to treat the clients conscientiously, correctly and financially appropriately and believe that I have done this to their satisfaction.” The successful dentist even thought of expanding the practice with an extension. Construction plans had already been drawn up and submitted. (HHStAW)
The Simons were probably the only Jewish family in Schwanheim. Therefore, Ernst attended the nearby Protestant kindergarten. At the weekends the family members went on excursions to the Taunus.
1933: Deprivation of livelihood
In 1933, this happy and successful time came to an abrupt end. Johanna Simon’s health insurance license was revoked and Georg Simon was dismissed from his position as a school dentist, citing the “Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums” (“Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service”), although he had been a frontline fighter in the First World War. Johanna Simon tried to appeal against the withdrawal of her health insurance license, but without success. “I have been licensed for Schwanheim since 1924 and have never done anything wrong.” Georg Simon also reports on an action of the DAF Sossenheim. “I would like to emphasize that on the notice board of the Dtsch. Arbeitsfront in Ffm.-Sossenheim an announcement was made, according to which those health insurance members who go to Jewish doctors and dentists would no longer receive subsidies for social security: my name with the address of my surgery, which was located next to the post office, was specifically mentioned.” (HHStAW)
Deprived of their livelihood, the family had to move to Schwindtstrasse 12 in Frankfurt’s Westend. There, the couple hoped for better job opportunities. Johanna Simon fell into a deep depression and suffered a nervous breakdown. Her husband tried to support the family with various activities.
In addition, the Simons received financial support from their parents.
Their son Ernst now attended the Varentrappschule, because Jewish entrance classes had been set up there as well as in the Holzhausenschule. Later on he changed to the Philanthropin, the liberal Jewish school in Hebelstrasse.
Even if Ernst Simon did not remember having been personally attacked, the discriminatory signs were still in his mind: “Do not buy from Jews”, “Jews undesirable”, “Admission forbidden for Jews” or “German house”. On the Sabbath, on Friday evening, the family walked from Schwindtstrasse to the liberal main synagogue in the Börnestrasse. Even though Jewish traditions were of great importance to them, they did not adhere very strictly to religious commandments and so also rode on the tram on Saturdays.
The family often went hiking in the Taunus at the weekends. From Westbahnhof they went to Kronberg or Königstein. The family members enjoyed these excursions because they were not harassed there. Ernst Simon also well remembers visits to the Palmengarten.
The decision to leave the country was difficult for the Simons. They felt like proud, modern Germans well integrated into the culture of this country. Music, literature, philosophy, sports and exercise in nature played an important role in their lives. Although Johanna Simon worked, she often attended concerts and lectures. Johanna Simon was supported therein by her parents in law.
Johanna Simon suffered greatly from the fact that she had lost her job, which is why she wanted to leave the country in 1933. She made contact with relatives in Argentina, but the hope that the situation in the land of poets and philosophers could change again prevented them from emigrating early on. In 1936 the decision to leave Germany matured. In order to finance the emigration costs, they had to terminate their life insurance prematurely. On December 1936, the family sailed to Buenos Aires with the Hamburg-South American Steamship Company.
Irma Katz – Workshop for modern women’s clothing
Irma Katz was born in Aschenhausen in 1899 as the second daughter of Willy and Sophie Katz.
After school in Stadtlengsfeld, Irma began an apprenticeship in Frankfurt at the women’s education association in the Hochstrasse, later on with Clara Scheuer in the Oederweg until her fellowship examination as a seamstress. She continued her training on a one year course with Professor Beyer in Darmstadt, and then worked at the Beyer-Haag company in Darmstadt.
Like her elder sister Johanna, Irma was hungry for education. From 1917 on she attended the School of Applied Arts in Magdeburg. There she completed her training with the master craftsman’s examination.
Back in Frankfurt, Irma became self employed and founded the company Irma Katz-Werkstatt für moderne Fraunenkleidung (wordshop for modern women’s clothing). She employed 8-14 seamstresses and one tailor who worked from home. Her studio was located in Klüberstrasse, and subsequently at Leerbachstrasse 42.
There she had, in her 5 room apartment, a fitting room, a waiting room and a study. The apartment and studio were furnished with Bauhaus furniture, which had been made partly in Kalten-Nordheim, her home in Thuringia, partly in a furniture studio in the Grosse Friedbergerstrasse in Frankfurt.
The rise to power of the National Socialists had an imminent negative effect on Irma’s business. The non-Jewish customers avoided her, and the economic situation worsened due to dismissals and boycott measures, made itself felt by Jewish customers. “The Jewish clientele was no longer able to have their clothing fitted, some emigrated, and the other customers no longer bought from me.” (HHStAW)
Therefore, Irma Katz tried to explore employment opportunities abroad. On 6th April 1934 she left Germany on the steamer “Monte Pasoal” from Hamburg to Buenos Aires, where one of her sisters already lived. Although it was only supposed to be a temporary stay, Irma actually never returned to Germany.
In Argentina she became self-employed again after a short period of employment, but could not really build on what she had achieved in Frankfurt.
In 1935 Willy and Sophie Katz decided to leave their home in Thuringia, where they had lived and worked since birth, and move to Frankfurt to join their daughters. Finally, Sophie Katz lived at Feldbergstrasse 22 in Frankfurt’s Westend. Willy Katz’s health was severely impaired. He died on 22nd March 1937 and was buried at the Jewish cemetery on the Eckenheimer Landstrasse.
Three months later, Sophie Katz was confronted with accusations of a foreign exchange offence. The background to this accusation was that she and her husband had paid the freight and transport costs for the emigration of her daughter’s family and had taken over the last outstanding rent payment. In doing so, she had made payments for a non-resident, according to the accusation of the tax authority. As compensation for the payments made, however, Willy and Sophie Katz had agreed with their son in law that they would receive his outstanding claims. “I cannot see any unjust act in all these processes and first ask for inspection and consultation with the competent authority. I furthermore plead that I am 68 years old, have lost my husband 3 months ago and only have a small pension to live on.” Further inconvenience arose when a patient refused to pay the cost of dental treatment.
Despite her objections, Sophie Katz was found guilty in the “Devisenstrafsache” (“foreign exchange criminal case”) of “continuing to act in 1936 and 1937 by making payments in local currency for the benefit of a non-resident to local residents … without the authorisation of the “Devisenstelle” (“Foreign Exchange Office”) and thereby infringed the “Devisengesetz” (“Foreign Exchange Act”).
Sophie Katz faced further harassment whilst preparing for her own emigration. She had to go to the consulate in Düsseldorf several times to obtain her visa.
In addition to the high cost of emigration, she was charged high “”Golddiskontabgaben” (gold discount levies”) and the “”Judenvermögensabgabe” (“Jewish wealth tax”). In order to avoid paying the “Dego-Abgabe” (“Dego levy”), the so-called gold discount levy for jewellery and other items considered to be valuable, she wanted to donate a wrist watch, an ornamented brooch and other objects to her brother Leo Schmidt in Bruchsal. However, these specific items as well as important papers, which were already part of the removal goods stored at the forwarding company, were stolen. Sophie Katz managed to emigrate to Argentina on 9th November 1938 on the vessel “Monte Rosa”, penniless and deprived of her widow’s pension, which went into a “Sperrkonte” (“blocked account”).
After the November pogrom, she was already on her way to Argentina at that time, she was asked to pay further taxes. She was accused of not having properly declared her assets for this purpose. This resulted in a detention order which, however, could no longer take effect because Sophie Katz was destitute and had already left the country. (HHStAW)
Although the members of the family had managed to save their lives, the start of their new life was hard and beset with difficulties. They did not speak Spanish, had problems adapting to the climate, could not practice their professions and had difficulty gaining a foothold. However they did feel comfortable amongst their relatives who had also come to Argentina: the three sisters of Johanna Simon and her mother. Initially, the Simons were accommodated by relatives and were supported by a great uncle. Georg Simon earned his money as an employee and his wife tried to get permission to work as a dentist, but without success. So Johanna Simon decided to work illegally as a dentist until she had to stop working due to a police order. Her patients were mainly immigrants from Germany. “Here in Buenos Aires, because I was not licensed here, I was not allowed to practice. Since we could not get by with my husband’s low salary, I tried to work illegally with some success until I was denounced.” (HHStAW, conversation with Ernst Simon)
The neighbourly assistance of the emigrant community was a great support for the Simons. Together they built a synagogue with the support of sponsors. They set up a Jewish club alongside the river, where they met for picnics and bathing.
Despite all the difficulties they had in their new homeland the grandparents, according to granddaughter Vivian Simon, were grateful that Argentina had taken them in. In 1970 Johanna came to Frankfurt again to visit her father’s grave. She died five years later in Argentina.
Her son Ernst was finally able to study and become a dentist, and was able to take on many patients from his mother. He met his future wife in a hockey club. She came from a Sephardic family, from Damascus in Syria. But Ernst Simon was only able to marry her 10 years later, because he did not have a degree at first. His future father-in-law tried to marry his daughter off with a better match, but without success. Then he sent the daughter to America, where he hoped she would forget her fiancé. Obviously, he did not succeed. When Ernst Simon graduated, his father-in-law finally agreed to let him marry his daughter.
Ernst Simon worked hard to provide his three children, two daughters and a son, with a good education.
Visits to the old homeland
Vivian, his eldest daughter, became a landscape architect. She accompanied him in 2002 when he took part in the visiting program of the City of Frankfurt. Ernst Simon was particularly impressed by his encounter with Lilo Günzler in Schwanheim. Lilo Günzler, persecuted during National Socialism as a “Mischling (half-caste) 1st degree”, worked as a teacher at the Minna-Specht-Schule in Schwanheim and was involved in the Heimat- und Geschichtsverein. In 2021, a street was named after her.
20 years earlier, Ernst Simon had already made a trip to Thuringia, to Aschenhausen, where his maternal family came from. Unlike in Frankfurt, he found everything as he knew it from childhood, the avenues, the houses and the streets – just a little run down.
Since 2012, the City of Frankfurt has also invited the children of former Frankfurters. In 2022, Vivian Simon participated in the visit program. It was important for her not only to pursue the sad part of the family history. Above all, she sought out the places associated with her father’s positive memories. So, accompanied by Margitta Köhler,a volunteer, she undertook a trip to Kronberg. From there, her father’s family started their hikes to the Taunus. Visiting Schwanheim, Vivian was particularly keen to see the house where her family had lived and where her grandmother had practiced as a dentist, the kindergarten where her father went, the surrounding area, the river Main.
At the Ernst Reuter School, she talked to students about her family history and answered their questions. Birgit Ausbüttel’s class was very impressed by the open and cordial way Vivian Simon approached them. The fact that she was very moved in some places showed the young people how much the traumas of the parents’ and grandparents’ generation influence the thinking and feelings of subsequent generations.
But after the conversation in the classroom, the encounter with the school class was not yet over. Together, the students then explored the school with their guest and proudly showed the landscape gardener the school garden at the Ernst Reuter School.
What Vivian would like to leave them, a student asked. “Never again! Respect each other!”, was the message of the well-travelled guest, much like her father 20 years earlier: “War is not a solution. People must learn to live together”.
Vivian’s brother Daniel is also interested in the family history. He owns many of the memorabilia his family brought back from Germany, a prayer book owned by his grandfather Georg Simon from the First World War, the unrealized blueprint with which Johanna Simon’s practice was to be expanded, and many other documents. They have great emotional significance for him. Now he has applied for stumbling stones for Johanna, Georg, Ernst and Ellen Simon, with which he wants to remember the fate of the family, and is looking forward to visiting his father’s birthplace on this occasion.