The Daughter of a Cattle Dealer from Haigerloch
Helene Simon’s maiden name was Hirsch, and she was born in the Jewish community of Haigerloch where her father was a cattle dealer. Her birth date is known exactly: she is born at 10:30 a.m. in the morning on June 3, 1863, the youngest child of the married couple Jette and Samuel Hirsch. Jette died at the young age of 58 when Helene was only 15 years old. Three of Helene’s siblings emigrated to America and one of her brothers, Max Hirsch (see Stumbling Stone-biography), moved to Göppingen / Jebenhausen, from where his mother Jette, née Dettelbacher, came. It is not handed down when she left Haigerloch. In June 1889 she married Isidor Simon, three years older than she and from Göppingen himself. Isidor, who came from Jöhlingen near Durlach, was cattle dealer by profession and ran his own business from at least from 1907 to 1924 together with his brother Adolph. His private residence and business address was at first Querstraße 13, then Schloss-Straße 16, right north to the ‘Alter Kasten’ building.
In the following first two years after the marriage of Helene and Isidor their daughters Julie (1890) and Sofie (born August 30, 1891) were born. In 1894 their son Arthur was born, and then in 1896 their last child, a daughter named Elvira, who died in this same year. At least since 1893 until his death in 1897 Helene’s aged father Samuel lived in Göppingen, and most likely Helene was responsible for his care. Besides her duties as businesswoman and mother, Helene still took time for volunteer work in the Jewish community life. Her name is listed in Dr. Aron Tänzer’s book as a committee member of the Israelite women’s club which was recognized for its considerable aid activities during World War I. Helene lost her son Arthur during that war who had signed up as volunteer. In 1918 Arthur died of influenza while on home leave.
Since approximately 1920, the family Simon lived on the second floor of the house at Schloss-Straße 16. The large city house had purchased in 1904 by Gertrud and Rudolf Keppelmayr.
On the ground floor was the family’s furniture business and their living quarters, and the second up to the fourth floors were rented - mainly to Jewish families, as their daughter Hildegard Nagel-Shutler, née Keppelmayr, remembered.
Until his death in 1924 Eugen Ries and his family lived on the third floor. The fourth floor was occupied by the six-member family Srodek. Mrs. Nagel-Shutler remembered that Mr. Srodek had a perfect view on the clock of the tower of the Stadtkirche (town church). This way he could estimate the exact time he spend on each garment which he was tailoring while sitting with crossed legs on the work table. Because of their friendly relations with Jewish people the Keppelmayrs were treated with hostility by the Nazis of Göppingen. As harassment the accounting books of the furniture business were frequently – and unnecessarily – examined, however no irregularities could ever be found by the Nazi officials. Mrs. Nagel-Shutler also recalled the Simons, including their small dog. When Mr. Simon returned home from work, he whistled and the dog ran to greet him. She also remembered that when she was a small girl she visited the Simon family on the second floor and played with their dog. She loved eating the ‘Mazzos’ which were always offered to her.
In 1922 Julie Simon, the oldest daughter, married Salomon Heilpern, who came from Hamburg. She was known as a gifted singer in the “Liederkranz” (Singing choir). The couple settled down in Kassel, and in 1923 Julie bore twins who died shortly after birth. Julie and Salomon Heilpern were deported to concentration camp Buchenwald after the Pogrom Night. In 1938 and 1939 they fled to New York where Julie died childless in 1959.
A Woman of Elevated Position
Sofie Simon remained single and was professional and highly qualified. Mrs. Dr. Calisir, née Kapphan, remembered to this day that her “Aunt Sofie” was gifted in foreign languages. Sofie Simon was a classmate of Mrs. Calisir’s mother and visited frequently the Kapphans. Since 1932 Sofie Simon worked as a foreign correspondent / translator for the Schuler Company in a position with many responsibilities. That is where she became a target for the Göppingen Nazis. “Flammenzeichen” (The Sign of the Flame), an inflammatory newspaper distributed in Württemberg, published the following statement in its January 1937 edition: “The Jewess Simon is employed by the L. Schuler Machine Manufacturing Company, a factory which is important for weapon production, and she handles lots of foreign correspondence there! She is rumoured to have plans to leave for America. Honest Göppingen citizens will be glad not to have to see her defiant face any longer.”As Mrs. Calisir remembered, that the self-confident Sofie resisted this outrageous pressure to drive her out of her job. That is why Sofie did not accept the offer of her employer to be transferred to a factory in another country. The worries about her widowed mother (Isidor Simon had died in 1930) may also have played a part in her decision not to emigrate.
And Helene? Most likely she was not willing to consider a step into an uncertain exile at her age – with over 70 years of age. Would the widow even have had the financial resources for an escape? At the end of 1938 Sofie’s professional and financial situation had worsened too. Company president Louis Schuler stated for the official record in 1945: “After endless, for me personally dangerous wrangling, Miss Simon was relieved of her duties eventually on December 31, 1938.”
Anyone who had researched on Louis Schuler during Nazi times knows that the pressure the Nazis exerted on him personally and on his company was indeed heavy. However Louis Schuler did not mention in his official statement an additional fact that indeed Mrs. Nagel-Shutler had complemented: When Sofie could no longer work ‘officially’ for the Schuler Company, translation work was secretly delivered to her home and picked up again, at considerable risky danger to everyone involved. One can assume that Sofie Simon was also secretly paid for her work. It is not known how long this arrangement lasted.
Expelled, Robbed and Murdered
In the following years Helene and Sofie Simon were forced to move out of their four-room apartment in the Schloss-Straße. A large part of their furniture had to be left behind, an indication of the cramped conditions at their new address at Lutherstraße 11, where they found shelter with Hedwig and Sigmund Frankfurter (see Stolperstein-biography). The remaining furnishings were appropriated by the German state, among it the piano of the music-loving family. The pieces were auctioned off and the proceedings went into state treasury.
On April 1942 mother and daughter were listed for deportation to Izbica in occupied Poland. But only Sofie was sent to her death via this route. Hedwig Frankfurter writes in a letter dated April 10: “To our great sorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Oppenheimer and Miss Simon will have to leave us after we had formed such a harmonious house community. (…) Old Mrs. Simon probably will have to go to a nursing home.” Mrs. Dr. Calisir can relate an oppressive situation about which she had learned of from her mother. The departure of the deportation train in Stuttgart had been delayed. Members of the railroad station mission were able to make contact with the occupants of the train. By chance one of Sofie Simon’s former classmates was one of the mission members. When she discovered Sofie on the train, she advised her to flee and offered help and place of refuge. But Sofie could not accept this offer. - She did not want to endanger her former schoolmate.
Izbica in occupied Poland was a place where Jews were murdered, but mainly it was a transit hub from which people were transported to extermination camps in Belzec and Sobibor. It is unknown in which of these German places of mass murder Sofie Simon’s life ends.
Helene Simon was at first placed into a compulsory nursing home at Schloss Eschenau which today is in the community of Obersulm near Heilbronn. From there she and her brother Max Hirsch were deported to Theresienstadt Ghetto - which is not actually considered an extermination camp, but where the living conditions were so terrible that it amounted to death sentence for the majority of the old people. It can be assumed from the death certificate which has been obtained that Helene Simon was housed in the attic of the ‘Dresden Kaserne’- a place without insulation for warmth and the toilets were located several floors below.
There she stayed alive for only four months; the date of her death is recorded as September 8, 1942. The Jewish woman doctor and the doctor, who had to record her cause of death, had to list the cause as “old-age infirmity”.
The life of Helen’s brother Max Hirsch ended in Theresienstadt too. His two daughters and a son became victims of the Nazi Terror as well. (See Stumbling Stones biographies).
In May 2009 the Stumbling Stones for Helene and Sofie Simon where installed in front of the former house in Schloss-Straße 16.
We thank late Mrs. Dr. Calisir and Mrs. Ingrid Rockwell (Keppelmayr Family) for sharing their family memories. Mrs. Rockwell made available the photo of the house.