A Magician and a Wanderer
“I can remember Jakob Frankfurter best of all because when he visited us he brought along a big suitcase from which he made wonderful things appear as if by magic. He also brought surprises out of the pockets and sleeves of his suits or coats, as if by magic. We were delighted by this and jumped all around the room. He also was a wonderful story teller. He took my parents, my brother and me on short hikes on the Alb Mountains, and we often sang songs together”.
This is how Doris Doctor, née Bernheim, born in 1923, remembers her great-uncle Jakob Frankfurter. The get-togethers she describes probably took place in the year 1930, when Jakob Frankfurter was 62 years old and would still remain in his position in the family company for two more years. From 1901 to the end of 1932 he was a full partner, together with his brother Sigmund, in the company of Frankfurter Brothers OHG which had been founded in 1896. It is hard to determine how much involvement he had in the actual operation of the company. Even though his brother Sigmund was socially very active, Jakob is not remembered like that. The unmarried entrepreneur moved to Stuttgart after leaving the company, but his official address in Goeppingen (Burgstrasse 12) remained active. The rented apartment belonged to Julie Wortsmann, a widow, until 1937, and later to the Dittus family. But neither the Dittus family nor other neighbors remember Jakob Frankfurter, which leads to the conclusion that the apartment was rarely used. But according to records of residents’ registration office, his niece, Marie Bach, lived for several weeks in her uncle’s (empty?) apartment in Goeppingen in 1936. ‘Bach’ was the married name of Jakob’s sisters Ida and Mathilde, who were both not living in Goeppingen. Jakob must have felt close to the family of his sister Mathilde Bach because in photos of Bach family gatherings Jakob appears as the only ‘Frankfurter’, and the childhood memories mentioned above confirm this assumption because Doris Doctor’s grandmother was Mathilde Bach.
Retirement in Stuttgart
In the time during which Jakob Frankfurter lived in Stuttgart, his first address of residence is listed as Vogelsangstrasse 103, and according to the restitution records (State Archive Ludwigsburg) it was a four-room apartment. From May 1940 on, a new address appears in the Stuttgart city directory (Werfmershalde 12), and which can also be found on the Stuttgart ‘Jewish list’.
Most likely Jakob Frankfurter was forced to make this move since the Nazi legislation of 1939 forbade Jewish citizens to live with ‘Arians’, which was gradually being enforced. Jakob’s living conditions must have become an increasing worry for his sister-in-law Hedwig Frankfurter, who was living in Goeppingen. In a letter dated June 26, 1941, she writes: “Hopefully my brother-in-law will not lose his Clara.” The reason for this worry must have been that Jakob’s housekeeper Clara was not Jewish and that the Nazis did not allow ‘Arian’ women under the age of 35 to work in Jewish households. Clara meant much more to Jakob than just a housekeeper. More than religious differences, class and social differences would have prevented a marriage. For the time being Clara can stay with him, but already on November 4, 1941, his sister-in-law mentions: “Jakob had to leave his apartment immediately, and if he receives permission, we will take him in so he has a home again. Right now he is living with Babette M.” The writer of the letter had to assume that it would be opened and read by the Nazi authorities, therefore she would have used this neutral wording because most likely her brother-in-law would not ‘suddenly have left his apartment’ out of his own free will.
By the way, Babette M. (= Marx) was a Jewish business woman in Stuttgart in whose company Leopold Fleischer, a distant relative of Jakob, was an authorized representative. Later, Mrs. Marx will also be murdered by the Nazis. In this same letter the only mention ever made can be found that Jakob Frankfurter was planning to flee Germany: “He is being sponsored by Johanna as well as Ida, but it is useless right now. Even the route through the intermediate country of Cuba is closed.” The sponsor involved is probably his niece Johanna Bernheim, née Bach, who had lived with her family in the USA since July 1939.
Involuntary Return to Goeppingen
The move to Goeppingen happens quickly, and in a letter dated December 3, 1941, his sister-in-law Hedwig writes: “Uncle J. has settled in well. He lives like a clock, in the morning he reads the paper, then he studies Italian, takes a walk for an hour, and in the afternoon he does the same again. He does not disturb me much since he spends most of his time in his room. Clara and I cook peacefully next to each other…”
In January 1942, she still writes: “My brother-in-law is glad that he can be with us”, but in June 1942 they are all threatened by a forced move to Oberdorf near Bopfingen, where it is known that the living conditions are miserable. Hedwig writes: “Jakob is very depressed and sees a gloomy future. His Clara takes care of him lovingly.” But the move to Bopfingen does not happen, something much worse comes about.
On August 28, 1942, Jakob Frankfurter, together with his older brother Sigmund and his sister-in-law Hedwig, is deported via Stuttgart to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt and dies there at the age of 74 on December 10 of the same year under murderous prison conditions.
His brother Sigmund dies a few days after him, and his sister-in-law Hedwig is murdered at the concentration camp in Auschwitz in 1944.
Murdered: Brother, Sister-in-Law, Sister, Niece
Jakob’s widowed sister Ida Bach, who had lived in Augsburg, also dies in Theresienstadt concentration camp. His niece Marie Bach, the daughter of his sister Mathilde, is also murdered in Auschwitz. Marie Bach, who was born in 1902 in Augsburg, worked as a home economics teacher first in Esslingen in the Jewish boarding school ‘Wilhelmspflege’, and later in Switzerland. Her refuge in Paris did not provide her safety after the beginning of the war, and in May 1940 she is interned in Camp Gurs in southwestern France. There Marie Bach, a religious, unmarried woman, dedicates herself unselfishly to the care of the other internees and receives high praise. She would have had a chance to escape but declined because of her feelings of responsibility. Doris Doctor has the following childhood memories of her aunt Marie: “She was a small, slender person who was shy and did not talk very much with me, but when she did, she was friendly and loving. I was impressed that she would only eat from glass dishes. She explained that she felt very close to God. That impressed me, and I admired her. My mother, not Marie herself, explained the reason for this." As an orthodox Jewish woman, she did not want to use the dishes of her relatives who did not separate meat and milk products.
The surviving sons of Hedwig and Sigmund Frankfurter, who lived in exile, had the name of Ida Bach engraved on the tombstone of their parents and Uncle Jakob, which is located in the Jewish cemetery in Jebenhausen.
On November 25, 2011, Gunter Demnig installed a Stumbling Stone for Jakob Frankfurter in front of the house at Lutherstrasse 11, in the presence of his great-nieces Ruth Adler and Doris Doctor.
(Jan. 29, 2012, kmr/ir)