Metzgerstrasse 16 (The house has been torn down)
Both had a strong and fighting spirit…
In 1859 David Geschmay was born in the Bohemian town of Ronsperg, the son of Karoline and Samuel Geschmay.
Six years later Pauline Schlossberger was born in Hollenbach near Kuenzelsau, and her parents were Halma, née Strauss, and Moses Baruch Schlossberger. Nothing has been handed down about their childhood and youth.
Anna Laura Geschmay Mevorach writes about her grandparents who had been married in 1888 in Mergentheim, “In the opinion of my grandfather David, my grandmother Pauline Schlossberger was the most beautiful woman he had ever met. Both had such a strong and fighting spirit that they could break a chair leg in the heat of an argument.”
At first they settled in Windsheim, and two years later their daughter Milly was born. Erna followed a year later, then Irma was born in 1893, and in 1900 a son, Hans Walter.
While living in Windsheim, David Geschmay dealt in textile goods, and in 1884 he opened his own store, selling ‘cloth, ready-to-be-cut materials, and fashion goods.’ But he was also interested in modern user technology, and during the 1890’s he also dealt in sewing machines and bicycles. Besides all the activities connected with his business, David Geschmay also served for 15 years as a volunteer fireman in Windsheim and as a trainer in a gymnastics club.
The ‘Wuerttemberg Felt Cloth Factory’
In 1910, the family moved to Goeppingen, where David Geschmay purchased a felt cloth factory that had been founded there in 1860. David Geschmay, and later his son Hans, restructured the original factory which had been based on individual craftsmanship.
The new company became a modernized industrial factory under the name of ‘Wuerttemberg Felt Cloth Factory D.Geschmay o.H.G.’
It was located in the Metzgerstrasse, where the Geschmays also lived. Industrial felt was a much-sought-after material needed for paper production, and the Geschmays became successful business people and highly-regarded citizens of Goeppingen. In 1927, Dr. Taenzer wrote in his book about the Jewish citizens living in Jebenhausen and Goeppingen: “The company was considerably enlarged during the past few years and now has its own turbine-driven power plant, facilities for washing wool, spinning and weaving mills and a finishing facility, with some of the looms being 12 meters wide.” At that time, David’s son Hans, as well as Leo Neuburger, husband of his daughter Irma, were already partners in the company.
Dr. Anna Laura Geschmay, David’s granddaughter, attested to his dedication when it came to his work, “One of my childhood memories, or something that might have been told to me, is that one day ice blocked the turbines that carried electricity to our factory. My grandfather made his way out onto the ice until he reached the turbine, bravely putting himself into danger and ripping the ice off with his hands until the turbine worked again. I don’t know in which year this took place, but it literally testifies to the courage of my grandfather. Work was sacred to him, and nothing should stop it".
Dr. Geschmay also remembers the personality of her grandmother: “Oma Pauline was a woman of strong character, and she wanted to have her granddaughter, little Hannelore (Anna Laura), grow up with a sense of self-discipline and self-control. Almost every afternoon she would come up the hill leading to our house to visit and bring some sweets with her. One day she gave me a little cardboard suitcase with strict instructions not to open it without her permission. Later I realized that this served to teach me self-control.”
Their granddaughter describes her grandparents’ religious beliefs: “It should be noted that at our house the Jewish ‘Easter’ (Pessach) was not observed at all. However, this does not mean that maybe my grandparents did not observe it in some way. I heard that there was talk of a lot of dinnerware being used during Easter: there were two sets of dishes.
The ‘Neuburger Affair’ – Lynching Justice in Goeppingen
During the first months of Nazi rule, one of the family members, son-in-law Leo Neuburger, already found out what it meant to be a Jewish person in the Nazi state. David Block, a Jewish refugee from Goeppingen, described intimidation perpetrated on him on July 6, 1933, in a letter written to Georg Weber in 1966: “You probably have heard how Mr. Neuburger, the son-in-law of felt-cloth factory owner Mr. Geschay, was dragged from his house by a jeering crowd lead by Oesterreicher [notation – Ortsgruppenleiter Wilhelm Oesterreicher]. This was done under the pretense that he had a relationship with a woman working in the factory, which would have violated ‘racial purity standards’, etc. Oesterreicher strung a long rope around Mr. Neuburger’s neck, knotted it and dragged him through the streets of Goeppingen, accompanied by the raging mob. Mr. Neuburger was made to wear a placard on his front and back reading ‘I am a Jew and a defiler of racial purity.’ He had to stop and repeat this statement under each street lantern, and if he did not do it, Oesterreicher would kick him in the back with his big boots until the poor man fell down. Then Oesterreicher would pull him up again by the rope. This went on until they reached police headquarters, where police took him into protective custody. But Oesterreicher pulled Mr. Neuburger back with the rope so hard that he nearly choked to death. Police commissioner Wolf, whom I knew personally, took out a knife and cut off the rope. Neuburger was sent to Dachau and later died.”
Irma and Leo Neuburger moved to Stuttgart in April 1935, where Irma probably died the same year. It could not be determined if Leo Neuburger was taken from Stuttgart to the Dachau concentration camp after Pogrom Night (Night of Shattered Glass). However, most likely he was able to flee from Stuttgart to (South) America in 1939.
‘Euthanesia’ – Murder of Daughter Milly Rosenwald
The first murder victim in the family was the oldest Geschmay–daughter, Milly, who had married Justin Rosenwald in 1913. The couple lived in Nuernberg, where Justin Rosenwald had been one of the two partners in the ‘Nuernberg Stuffed Toy Goods Factory’ since 1912.
In May 1914 their child Bruno was born. Toward the end of the 1920’s, Milly became mentally ill and lived at the sanatorium and mental institution Erlangen since 1929. She was released from there several times on a trial basis. When the Nazis decided to murder mentally ill patients (T4-Action, defining euthanasia as ‘beautiful death’), Milly was moved on September 16, 1940, to the sanatorium Eglfing-Haar near Munich, which of course was only a transit point on the way to her murder. Four day later she was already deported to the official destination of the ‘insane asylum’ in Cholm (Chelm) near Lublin in occupied Poland. However, this institution did not even exist at that time. It was only a misleading cover address. Most likely Milly was murdered by carbon monoxide in the extermination institution Hartheim near Linz in Austria.
In 2007, a Stumbling Stone was laid in front of the former sanatorium in Erlangen in memory of Milly Rosenwald. Unfortunately, Milly’s name and birth and death dates are listed incorrectly on the stone.
Her husband Justin and son Bruno already lived in Goeppingen since May 1935. Justin, who had to close his Nuernberg company, worked as manager for his father-in-law, David Geschmay. He passed away in May 1938, probably due to insufficient medical care, which lead to his early death. His grave is located in the Goeppingen cemetery.
His son Bruno Rosenwald fled to Palestine, which was under British occupation and would later become Israel. He and his wife Ruth, née Gutmann, had three children there.
Escape to USA and to Italy
Not much is known about the life of the second-oldest daughter Erna. She also was married to a Mr. Neuburger and had two sons, Franz and Paul. The family, who lived in Munich, was able to flee to safety in time. Their descendants live under the name of Newton in USA.
However, the lives of Hans and Anneliese Geschmay, née Hecht, and their children Hannelore (born 1931) and Dorothea (born 1935) were in danger. In 1936, they had moved from Goepppingen to Mussolini’s Italy. Before the family’s move, Hans Geschmay had already spent considerable time in Italy in order to start a new factory there, which was meant to provide a living for him and his family. The company was named Feltrificio Veneto.
This factory and their close-by rental house were located near the Venetian city of Marghera. While there, little Anna Laura Geschmay (Hannelore) learned first-hand about Anti-Semitism which was becoming more pronounced because of the alliance between Italy and Nazi Germany. She could no longer attend the public school but could at least take her final exams. However, in 1938, Hans Geschmay already was able to favorably clear up the residency status for his family in Italy. With the help of a respected Fascist attorney it was confirmed that his factory in Marghera ‘was crucial to the country’s economy and that he was the only qualified person be its director.’
A happy event occurred in 1937: their third daughter was born. She was named Silvia. However, the family’s lives were endangered after September 8, 1943, when Italy dissolved its alliance with Nazi Germany. The family had to stay concealed from the German occupation troops and lived in fear and hiding for 20 months. They moved from one safe house to another, which had been arranged for them by the Antifascists. For some time the three daughters found refuge in an orphanage where their parents could only see them once a week. The family could only return to their destroyed house in Marghera at the end of April 1945, but their factory had been nearly completely demolished by bombs.
In 1945 Giovanni (Hans) Geschmay had to try to get back the company assets of his Italian factory which had been taken over by Nazi ‘commisar’ Robert Klingeisen.
Alone in Nazi Germany
Pauline remained courageous and involved during Nazi times: in 1935 she collected signatures against the so-called ‘Nuernberg Laws’, by which Jewish citizens were declared inferior and lost many of their civil rights. Through this brave action she became the hero of the Jewish community in Goeppingen.
During the same year she also visited her son and family in Italy in the hope to find a cure for her arthritis. David Geschmay’s attitude towards the Nazi regime was typical for many of the older Jewish people living in Germany. His son reflected on this in a letter to Georg Weber: “My father never wanted to emigrate because he never felt different from any other German.” With typical ‘German honesty’ he defended the company, his family’s property which by all rights should have belonged to his son now living in Italy. Because David was the one they could get their hands on, the Nazis put him under tremendous pressure to sell. This forced sale happened in December 12. 1939.
Anna Laura Geschmay Mevorach writes the following: “As it was the case for so many Jewish people, the authorities tried to force my grandfather to sell the factory. However, he continued to refuse to sign a certificate of transfer and stated, “Whether I sign or not, you are going to take it away even though by all rights it belongs to my son. The factory was then taken over by someone named Haefele, whom my grandfather strongly criticized because of his shady behavior. He already could tell that Haefele was not qualified to run the company. Finally, my grandfather refused again to sign the document that was placed before him, and then, at the age of 80, he was pushed down the courthouse steps.”
Nuertlingen historian Steffen Seischab’s research shows that the non-Jewish competitors of the Geschmay Wuerttemberg Felt Cloth Company made a determined effort to purchase it. In 1905 they had formed a cartel-like organization called the ’United German Felt Cloth Manufacturers’ (VDF). The Geschmay firm did not belong to this consortium. Their goal was to close the factory down because this would cut down the over-production of this industrial sector. Because David Geschmay refused persistently to sell to the VDF, they increased their pressure on him by trying to influence the local authorities to cut back his supply of raw materials. (Raw wool materials were in scarce supply and strictly rationed during the Third Reich.)
If the VDF had been successful in their attempt, the Geschmays would have had to stop production at their Goeppingen factory and sell it quickly in order to save any the firm’s assets. However, this strategy by the influential VDF did not succeed because the State Ministry for Economics wanted to stop the already powerful cartel to become even stronger and therefore favored another buyer, worsted-yarn weaving company Haefele in Ebersbach on the Fils which was not a member of the VDF. Mr. Geschmay eventually sold to Haefele.
Soon other Jewish families were forcibly moved into the house of the Geschmays in the Metzgerstrasse.
It became a so-called ‘Jewish house’, and this is documented in a well-known photo of the house taken by Berthold Auerbacher at the end of 1940. It shows his daughter Inge surrounded by the last Jewish children still living in Goeppingen.
Like almost all Jewish citizens of Goeppingen, the Geschmay couple became very isolated and suffered because they were not allocated sufficient food. However, it was fortunate that the grocery store of the Gassenmayer family was in the house right across the street. They were faithful neighbors and supplied them secretly with food. The Heer family, at that time owners of the Hotel Post near the railroad station, also stood by their Jewish guests and made it possible for the Geschmays to dine secretly and get together with friends in a back room.
However, on August 22, 1942, nobody could help them any longer. 1,200 Jewish children, women and men were transported in trains from the transit camp at Stuttgart Killesberg to Theresienstadt. 77-year-old Pauline, suffering terribly from arthritis, had to be taken by cart to the gathering place in the Schiller school. David, who had been so strong in his life, died miserably on September 4, 1942, only a few days after his arrival at Theresienstadt camp. On September 26, his wife Pauline was transported to the extermination camp Treblinka and later murdered there. Her exact date of death is not even known.
The parents of Anneliese Geschmay, née Hecht, are other close family members who died a violent death: Ludwig and Rosa Hecht, née Thalmessinger, who lived in Ulm, were deported to Theresienstadt and died there under murderous conditions.
After the war, Giovanni (Hans) Geschmay and his daughter Anna Laura decided to rebuild the factory in Goeppingen that had been returned to them. The memory of David Geschmay’s uncompromising courage may have been one of the reasons they encouraged them in this decision. The firm remained in the family’s possession until 2000. The new owner, the Albany-Group, still conducts business under the name of the original founders at their new place of business in Goeppingen-Faurndau.
In February 2008, Stumbling Stones for David and Pauline Geschmay were placed in front of their former residence at Metzgerstrasse 16. At the laying of the stones, their granddaughter, Dr. Anna Laura Geschmay Mevorach and her sons were present.
In May 2015 Stumbling Stones were layed for the married couple Hecht in Ulm .
Much of the information about the fate of the Geschmay family was obtained from the book entitled ‘From the Swabian Alb to the Venetian Lagoon,’ which was written by Dr. Geschmay Mevorach and which is available since 2011 in the German translation (available in the Goeppingen city archives).