by guest author Sebastian Zimmer, Oranienburg, Germany
In 2021, my wife and I began to take a closer look at our two family stories. The decisive factor was a death that moved us very much and made us realize how little we actually knew. We set ourselves the goal of learning from the living everything there is to learn in order to collect and document these findings. We created family trees and quickly received many hits on the Internet. For the first time, we were able to view documents and public registrations about our family.
It was a lot of fun and increased our motivation to continue searching. We searched the Internet for family members descended from the Löwenhardts. Here we came across the page of John Löwenhardt. Through the data on the Löwenhardt Foundation website, we originally concluded that the family came from West Germany / Oberhemer and did not fit in with our Löwenhardt family from Berlin / Brandenburg. We therefore did not establish a connection, which would later turn out to be wrong.
A few years ago, we received additional information about our family from a cousin of my grandmother. Marion Lubina had documents, photos and records. From her and the documents, we learned that we are of Jewish descent. I was very surprised because nothing hinting at this had been passed on in our family. Many questions were asked and my search went in a new direction.
Later I also learned important details from closer relatives. Again and again, the question arose, are we really of Jewish descent? How do you determine this and were our ancestors also aware of it? There was disagreement in the family about this. Some could not understand the connections properly. Only one point was clear, namely that my great-grandmother Gerda Eischleb was Jewish. On her, they had a death certificate in Hebrew script.
At that point, I was summarizing what data I had. I knew my great-grandmother Gerda was Jewish and was married to a non-Jew, Curt Eischleb. They owned a typewriter shop in Berlin Charlottenburg. My maternal great-great-grandmother was Selma Löwenhardt. She lived in Kleiststraße in Berlin Schöneberg.
When developing the family tree, I noticed that for the most part the women’s names were known, but those of the husbands were not. This is also the case with my great-great-grandmother Selma. No matter which relative I asked, I always got the answer that they were sure, her name was Selma. However, nobody knew her husband’s name. This is exactly what awakened my ambition to find the name of Selma’s husband and to have clarity. Of course, I was also interested in other details such as Selma’s birth name and how she had passed away. About the cause of death, there was only speculation. At the same time, I continued to be concerned with the “Jewish question”, to what extent all ancestors were aware that they were Jewish and how intensively they lived out Jewish customs?
With the information I had collected up to that point, I searched the Internet for more. I found what I was looking for faster than I thought. In an old phone book, I found Selma’s last name. The maiden name was Dobriner, living at Kleiststraße 3. The entry confirmed my previous data. The reference to her last name made it easier for me to get more details.
Now I searched a genealogy portal and found matches linked to documents that proved that in 1942 she was deported in “Welle Acht” (Eighth deportation Wave) from Berlin to the Riga ghetto and murdered together with a Heinz Löwenhardt.
But who was this Heinz Löwenhardt? Was he Selma’s child – or her husband? A child of whom the descendants knew nothing first raised skepticism. We were looking for more evidence of who Heinz Löwenhardt was. It was difficult to find out anything about him at first. There were several references to the name Heinz Löwenhardt.
Soon after, I found the marriage certificate of Selma Dobriner. It was written in Sütterlin [old German] script, which was not so easy for us to decipher. After several attempts, we read about the marriage between the wife Selma Löwenhardt, née Dobriner, born 1870 in Filehne and descending from Hermann and Ernestine Dobriner, née Leiser. The husband was Salomon Löwenhardt (merchant), born in Oberhemer in 1873, descended from Levy Löwenhardt and Pauline Lennhoff. They married on 28 August 1903 in Berlin Schöneberg.
Such a find! A single document that told us so much. We had found the name of the husband, his parents and those of Selma, as well as the date and place of marriage. Suddenly we became aware that Salomon was the firstborn son of the Löwenhardts from Oberhemer and that therefore the connection to John Löwenhardt had been the right track from the start. It was also clear that Heinz Löwenhardt could not be her husband. We now suspected that it had to be her son.
On the homepage and Facebook page Löwenhardt Foundation, we searched for further hints. We discovered the image of the garden party in Woodstock Illinois in 1956. The picture first steered our research in a different direction since we recognized other family members. Käthe Meyerowitz, daughter of Selma and Salomon Löwenhardt, and Alfred Meyerowitz sat together with their daughter Alice Meyerowitz at a table in the countryside. The youngest person Gerda Meyerowitz was only known to us through the naturalization notices. The Meyerowitz family members from Berlin had been in hiding separately from each other throughout Germany to survive. Johanna Löwenhardt had to be their aunt. Finding a family photo from the USA was a stroke of luck and overwhelming.
The story The firstborn on the picture and its aftermath can be read here. Suddenly I was linked to the widely extended Löwenhardt family from Oberhemer. That was more than I had ever dreamed of. A lively exchange of information now took place with John Löwenhardt.
To be continued: 1. The Tomb of Great-grandmother Gerda; 2. The grave of Great-great-grandfather Löwenhardt
A big thank you to my wife Tamara for the research and support in writing the texts.
Translated from German to English by John Löwenhardt