- The Falkenstein Family -
The Falkenstein family’s story can be traced back to the early 18th century when Jacob Faist and Greta Resge raised their young child in the quaint western German village of Meudt. Interestingly, the family first adopted the surname ‘Falkenstein’ — German for ‘Falcon of the Castle’ — due to the Prussian law of 1866 requiring all families to bear Germanic names. The surname itself, although unique in its meaning, was actually selected to match the head of household’s name Falk at the time. Unfortunately, much of the family’s story in the 19th century has been lost to history.
The family’s recorded past picks up again five generations later with the birth of Salomon Falkenstein on July 19th, 1882. By then, the Falkensteins had become important farmers in the Meudt region and were the sole producers of Kosher meat for all the surrounding villages. Although Salomon felt very Jewish, like many German Jews at the time, he also had a deep allegiance toward Germany, serving in the 88th infantry of Mayence during WW1. Quite incredibly, Salomon would be one of the few Jewish Germans to be personally honored in 1933 by President Hindenburg, receiving the Iron Cross a few months before Hitler assumed the chancellery and presidency. Salomon and his wife lived in Meudt Bertha would had 9 children.
Interestingly, Hitler’s ravages were a strongly external concept to the village of Meudt. Salomon's son Ludwig would sing both in the village’s synagogue and church. Many years later, Salomon’s son Kurt would reflect on his time spent in Meudt: “We all had our differences, but these did not seem to matter to anyone.” However, on the eve of Kristallnacht (the Night of Crystal) on November 7th, 1933, this way of life was about to be shattered for many years. Kurt and other young Jewish men in Meudt received word of the Nazis' impending arrival the next day. That night, the Jewish community jumped to action, burying the Torah scrolls and other holy items in the depths of the village graveyard, saving them from the Nazis' flames. Ludwig and Kurt hid an ancient Sefer Torah that the Falkensteins had offered to Meudt in years past before Jurt left with his sister Ruth to Birmingham in the United Kingdom, secretly transporting the family heirloom. Luckily, the family treasure successfully avoided British border control inspection, finding its new home at the Birmingham Synagogue on Pershore Road, where it resides to this day. Kurt and Ruth successfully escaped the horrors of the Shoah, working as a butcher and cleaner, respectively, and founding families that reside in the United Kingdom to this day.
Kurt’s parents, Salomon and Bertha, along with the youngest siblings, would know very different fates. The family initially attempted to flee to the United States through Hamburg but was denied due to the Nazi restrictions on the Jewish movement. They returned to Meudt before being deported and brutally murdered in concentration camps. Kurt’s other siblings, Ludwig and Julus, were both arrested and interned for a few months in 1938. By then, they were given the option to either leave Germany immediately or remain imprisoned. Both left for Brussels in January 1939, leaving their childhood landscapes behind them forever. In Brussels, Ludwig and Kurt immediately began planning their escape to the United States. After a final visit to the American consulate, Ludwig was required to have a medical procedure completed before having his VISA approved. The two brothers were sadly forced to part ways as Julus left for Marseilles with the then U.S. Territory of Cuba as his final destination. Julus would then start an extremely successful diamond business on the Caribbean island before relocating to New York City during the Cuban revolt.
Ludwig, who stayed behind in the Belgian hospital, never reached America. By the time he was discharged, Hitler’s forces had invaded Belgium, and the United States terminated Ludwig’s VISA application. Ludwig then went into hiding in the Belgian capital until being sold out by the notorious Jacques, a Jewish man who denounced other Jewish families in hiding for personal gains with the Nazis. On January 4th, 1944, Ludwig was deported from Malignes to Auschwitz through convoy 24. On his way to the death camp, Ludwig miraculously escaped from the train, roaming through the woods in the German region of Magdeburg. He was unfortunately recaptured by the Nazis, who believed him to be a British parachutist. Ludwig admitted he was Jewish and was transferred to Leipzig before being once again sent to Auschwitz. Ludwig survived the horrors of the camp, only to be forced through the infamous death march in -10C weather on January 18th, 1945. Ludwig yet again survived the horrors of Nazism and was abandoned for a few weeks in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt. He was then transferred to Melk, Austria, where the Nazi regime subjected him to forced labor, digging tunnels. On May 5th, 1945, the U.S. troops defeated Austria. The Americans brought Ludwig back to Brussels on a U.S. army plane. After the war, Ludwig returned multiple times to his childhood village of Meudt, where he worked hard to keep the memory of Jewish victims alive. There are now two memorials in the village, one for the Jewish citizens who never returned and one for the synagogue that was burned to the ground. The village also honored Ludwig’s work with a street named after him. The Falkenstein family also started a beautiful tradition, allowing the past to meet with the present.
In fact, for every family member’s bar mitzvah, the old Sefer Torah saved by Kurt is brought to the ceremony so the young adult may read their parashat from the original Sefer Torah itself. The Falkenstein family now counts numerous descendants that span from Argentina to Israel, passing by the U.K. and Belgium.
Street named after Ludwig Falkenstein in Meudt, Germany.
International organizations’ post war attestations to Ludwig Falkenstein’s deportations.
Saved sefer torah from Meudt brought to England, used for family bar/bat mitzvahs
Beatrice Falkenstein, daughter of Ludwig Falkenstein, holding a pre-war family portrait.
Belgian government’s post war certification of Ludwig Falkenstein’s deportation.
Letter announcing to Ludwig that the travel authorization for the United States has been revoked due to the U.S. Consulate’s closure after Germany's invasion of Belgium.
Falkenstein Family Tree
- The Hausmann Family -
The Hausmann family has a long and complicated history that cannot be summarized in one page. As such, this article will illustrate the abridged family stories of Britta and Ernest Hausmann, both Holocaust survivors and both profoundly accomplished individuals. Focusing heavily on Holocaust victim Antonia “Toni” Marie Marcus, this article honors her memory.
Britta Hausmann was born in Berlin, Germany in 1928. Both of Britta’s parents were physicians with their own practice. However, when the Nuremberg Race Laws were imposed in 1933, restrictions were placed on their ability to continue practicing. The laws restricted Jewish doctors from receiving reimbursements from state health insurance funds and prohibited Jewish doctors from treating non-Jewish patients.
Shortly after, Britta’s parents emigrated to the United States to protect themselves from the deadly Nazi Regime. Britta and her parents came to New York City in 1939. Despite being medical professionals, for a
short time, her parents worked as household help as they were unable to find any other jobs. However, they eventually both received their medical licenses to practice in the United States. After some time, Britta’s mother even became the director of a hospital in New York City.
While Britta and her parents arrived safely in New York, her grandmother, Antonia “Toni” Marie Marcus, declined to come with them as she had become Catholic and felt strongly that the priest would protect her. Toni lived in the countryside with Reverend Joseph Emonds for some time before she was taken to Theresienstadt and later transported to Aushweitz to be killed in the gas chambers on May 15, 1944.
Toni’s legacy continues to live on through Britta, Britta’s four children, and Britta’s fourteen grandchildren.
Britta met her husband, Ernest Hausmann, while studying at New York University. Ernest Hausmann
was born in Heidelberg, Germany in 1929. His father was a successful shop owner, but in November 1938, on Kristallnacht, Crystal Night, Ernie’s father was taken to the Dachau concentration camp. Thankfully, he was released after two and a half weeks and with much diffulty, Ernie’s family was able to obtain a VISA to escape to the United States.
After graduating from NYU, Britta and Ernie moved to Boston where Britta received her masters degree in social work from Simmons School of Social Work and Ernie received his medical degree from Harvard Dental School. Britta and Ernie eventually moved to Buffalo, New York where they raised their children.
One of their four children, Robert Hausmann, has been a cellist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for forty-one years and an active member of the Buffalo Jewish community. With a passion for the importance of his family history, Robert sought to honor his parents, grandparents, and specifically his great-grandmother Toni, in his own way, through
music. In 2018, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra traveled to Poland and Robbie took this opportunity to do just that. He decided he was going to play his cello at Auschwitz, the place of his great-grandmother’s death. This was no easy feat as performances of any kind are not allowed at Auschwitz, but an exception was made for Robbie.
On a frigid day in March 2018, shortly after the passing of his father, Robbie played the Kaddish, a Jewish prayer for mourning. It was necessary to play inside as the weather was so bitter that it made it impossible to play outside. Robbie played in a room called “the Sauna,” the only place where prisoners were allowed real showers. A picture of his mother, Britta, sitting on Toni’s lap was placed next to his music as he filled the room with the sound of his cello, immortalizing the two women.
Britta Hausmann is currently 94 years old and resides in a memory care facility in Boulder, Colorado. Although memory loss has eroded almost all she has known, including her grandchildren and at times even her children, she still remembers her grandmother, Toni. When her daughter, Lori, recently showed her a portrait of Toni, Britta exclaimed “that’s my grandmother!” She will never be forgotten.
Toni Marcus and Britta Hausmann, Germany Circa 1936
Robert Hausmann, Poland Circa 2018
Robert Hausmann playing the Kaddish in Auschwitz, Poland Circa 2018
- The Judkowski Family -
Silvia Judkowski’s parents were born in Poland and emigrated to Argentina in 1937, two years before the start of the Second World War. By then, they were each 20 years old and were already married. But when Sylvia was asked “Why Argentina?” she explained that, in Poland, her parents were poor. In Argentina, however, there were plenty of opportunities for upward socioeconomic mobility. In addition, her father had four brothers who had previously emigrated to Argentina. This greatly simplified their arrival and the process of adjusting to their new country. Afterwards, two of her grandparents and an aunt arrived too; however, another aunt and grandmother stayed in Poland, where they would tragically be subjected to the hateful violence of the Nazis.
An interesting fact regarding the Judkowski´s family story is about their surname. During the 20th century, millions of people immigrated to Argentina from Europe, most of them from Italy or Spain. As their surnames were easy to spell, pronounce, and write for Argentinians, when these new immigrants arrived, their surnames were written in the proper manner. In the case of the people who immigrated from Poland or other Eastern European countries, however, there were problems at the time of writing due to the difficulty that many Argentinians had in understanding their proper spelling and pronunciation. As a result, Silvia´s brothers and cousins have another surname with slight variations.
During the initial few years during which Silvia´s parents were in Buenos Aires, life in Argentina were not easy for them. They had to do several jobs in order to have a decent life. It was in 1949 (the year of Silvia´s birth) when they managed to buy the house in which Silvia still lives.
Silvia’s family never recanted being Jewish and never renounced their people, origins, and culture. They helped form a community with other Jews in the neighborhood of Villa Lugano. They took care of the tradition and Silvia had a robust Jewish education, where she learnt Yiddish and a little Hebrew. Silvia has always made significant efforts to preserve and celebrate the Jewish tradition with her family.
Silvia’s parents didn't talk about their time in Poland due to the fear of being persecuted as a result of their faith, being Jewish in Argentina was never a problem for her (except for some years in the 1960s, when Tacuara, a nationalist group, committed a series of small-scale but violent antisemitic acts). She also said that young people should preserve and celebrate their family, cultural, religious, and other identities to keep learning about our own story. One day, we too, can pass it on to the next generations.
Marriage certificate of Silvia´s parents. Dated October 19th, 1936. Translated to Spanish.
Passport signed when arriving in Argentina, dated 1937.
Passport signed when arriving in Argentina, dated 1937.
Passport signed when arriving in Argentina, dated 1937.
- The Lee-Levi Family -
The Lee-Levi family traces its history centuries back to the birth of Loeb Levi, estimated between 1759 and 1819 CE in Kochenddorf, Wurtteinberg, Germany.
By the 1880s, Berthold Levi left his homeland to find a more prosperous future in the United States, immigrating to New York City. In 1882, Berthold founded the Berth Levi & Co sausage casing factory, quickly gaining prominence. Berthold Levi and his wife Anna Strauss raised their children Arthur, Florence, and George in Manhattan’s lavish Upper East Side neighborhood as their company gained much regional success.
George Levi was born in 1893 and later attended Williams University, eventually becoming CEO of the family business. By 1942, the Berth Levi & Co factory patented a novel sausage casing method with the U.S. government, granted on December 22nd. Interestingly, George Levi changed his family name from Levi to Lee to better assimilate with the Anglo-Saxon American culture, causing a ripple effect throughout his family. He is also known to this day by his descendants as being a man of refined taste, enjoying Romeo & Juliette #4 and Monte Cristo #2 cigars exclusively. His family still possesses one of his gold cigar cutters with the company logo. George also immensely enjoyed skiing with his wife Margareth, known by her relatives as “Mickey.” George Lee, though, unfortunately, led to the ultimate bankruptcy of the family sausage packing business.
His son Roger grew up in New York City and studied at Yale University. Roger then chose to leave the American East Coast forever, moving to Calabasas, California, and his descendants currently reside in the Orange County area. In a unique plot twist to the family story, Roger’s son decided to change the family name back from Lee to Levi in 1994.
Portrait Photograph of Margareth Lee, New York City Circa 1920
George and Margareth Lee with friends, New York City Circa 1925
George Lee on Ski Vacations, Circa 1930
- The Mevorah-Uziel Family -
The Mevorah family story starts in Bulgaria in the early 1900s. Eliezer was a man from a modest family in Varna who married Melanie Uziel, a woman who, on the other hand, came from a wealthy family in Sofia. Nevertheless, Eliezer worked hard to provide a comfortable and prosperous life for his wife and children, Dory and Lony. Initially, the family had a strong relationship with Germany; Eliezer was fluent in German and attended the University of Heidelberg. During the Second World War, the Jewish people were protected mainly by the king of the time, who didn’t let the Nazis take over the Bulgarian Jewish people. This was because he saw them as citizens of his country, rather than just members of a separated and isolated Jewish people. In 1944 Russia entered Bulgaria, and the communists took over. The Mevorah family had a company and a whole building in which they used to live. After a few months, Russian people seized all their property and valuables and sent Eliezer and Melanie to Siberia to be “reeducated’. Meanwhile, the family’s company wasn’t going well, so they had to bring them back to Bulgaria to let them work. Thanks to his Job, Eliezer could travel to Italy, where the company conducted a portion of its business operations. Eliezer soon understood that the situation in Varna wouldn’t improve. Therefore, during one of his trips in 1948, he decided to remain in Milan, Italy. He organized the escape of his family from Verna to Trieste. Melanie had attempted to escape twice before actually arriving in Trieste. The only way to do it was by taking the train and discreetly bribing the guards and police who checked the documents, as leaving the country without approval was highly prohibited. After months apart, the family finally reunited in Milan, where they discovered a big Jewish Community. Dory and Lony eventually went to the Jewish school and were later influenced to become closer to their religion. Even though they left with nothing, the family thrived once again. Eliezer became one of the biggest exporters of tractor change parts, and Melanie, thanks to her cleverness and looks, took care of all the bureaucratic problems they had, as they were without a passport and had been classified as “apolidi,” people without a motherland. Eliezer was later falsely and unjustly denounced as a communist spy and deported to a camp near Rome in 1951. Melanie later took on several jobs to sustain her two children. After many months Eliezer was proven innocent and could return to Milan. The two children, Dory and Lony, grew well together with a solid Jewish identity. They took charge of the family business initiated by their father and expanded it. Upon their passing, Eliezer (11 September 1990) and Melanie (5 May 1993) were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Milan. On the 24th of December 2002, Dory died of an unknown cause, thereby becoming reunited with his parents in the Jewish Cemetery of Milan.
- The Sadovitch Family -
I was born in Mexico City, on Granada Street 131, interior 3, in the neighborhood of Tepito. From there, we moved to Alsace, and then to Golfo de Campeche Street 3 in Tacuba. We lived there until I got married. I attended primary school at Escuela Tres Guerras and later at Joaquin Baranda. After that, I went to Yavne School on Jesus Maria Street in third grade. I then moved to Yucatan Street 15 until 6th grade. I had to leave Yavne School and continued to Alberto Einstein Secondary School, which was donated by the Jewish community.
I started working at the age of 14 to have some money because my father didn't provide much. He was very reserved when it came to money — as he said, "a penny is a penny." They came from Lithuania, where there was hunger and persecution. They arrived after the First World War, and my mother was pregnant on the ship.
My family comes from Vilna. My father, Meyer Kauffman, was the son of a rabbi in the shtetl. He was supposed to serve in the military but refused, so he ate tobacco and died. He left his wife, who was a widow with many children, so Meyer had to leave home in search of fortune. He ended up in Siberia at a sawmill, where he lived for one to two years. He returned to his mother with a little money to make the Passover dinner. That is why Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday.
All of a sudden, however, the whole world changed as the First World War broke out. My father joined the Russian army; however, being Jewish, they sent him to the frontlines as cannon fodder. He deserted, escaped, and returned to his mother's house, where he lived for years in the attic, surviving on tea and a loaf of bread a day. When the war ended in 1918, he came out of hiding. They all, including his siblings, changed their last name to Sadovitch, which means "man of the field" in order to avoid suspicion.
He met an acquaintance from the army who was a sergeant. The government provided them with prisoners, and they went to Siberia to cut down trees and sell the firewood to the government to earn some money. That´s how he accumulated over 1,000 dollars and met Luisa Dvoyakin Saremba, who was also from Vilna. They got married, and with the money he had saved, he told her, "Europe Shtinkt" in Yiddish, meaning Europe stinks due to the pogroms and anti-Semitism. He wanted to go to America, but 1922 they were told they couldn't be accepted because America had already received six million European immigrants. So when he left, he stumbled upon the Mexican embassy, went inside, talked to the consul, and got a visa.
Luisa didn't want to leave and leave her entire family behind, but he told her he would go anyway. She accepted, and they came to Mexico, a beautiful country that welcomed them with open arms. They didn't know what Mexico was like; they thought people here were cannibals. When they arrived at the port of Tampico, they encountered a tropical climate, friendly people, and an amazing atmosphere.
They knew there was a Jewish community in the capital of Mexico, so they arrived and looked for work to take care of their little daughter. "My father knew how to do everything, he was capable of doing it all and he did it well... Necessity led him to that."
On my mother's side the story was different, “One of my mother's sisters was one of the pioneers of Israel, named Isie Lepathe. When she was young, she went to work on the land, and one day she reconnected with her and came to Mexico for a while.”
My mother's parents made cigars, my father would roll them and my mother would cut them.
Their parents experienced pogroms, a lot of destruction, rapes, and burnings. On the anniversary of the czar, the Cossacks would enter.
In our generation, we didn't have family. We grew up without grandparents, without uncles, alone. Some privileged ones brought their relatives.I lived as a child during World War II, but I was safe in Mexico. We heard a lot about what was happening, they talked about Stalin, Roosevelt, Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito. We knew that being Jewish was risky there, but we didn't know exactly what was happening, there was a lot of uncertainty.
The reality in Mexico was different, the Jewish community was united. We had the synagogue on Justo Sierra 71, and next to it was the one for Arab Jews. There were many disputes between the Jews and the Arabs. But over time, the resentments were forgotten. One of my brothers married an Arab girl, which was very uncommon at that time. There was a lot of rivalry between the two groups, but thanks to the JCC, those resentments ended between Arab Jews and Europeans.
I worked with my brother-in-law, Mr. Jose Goldaber. They paid me 50 cents a day. I worked with them until I was 23. Then I started working at a prominent fabric company called Textiles Kadima. It was during that time that I met my wife.
My wife, Anita Titievsky was born on December 8, 1940, in Mexico City. We lived on Madero Street. Unfortunately, her father was the most wonderful man in the world. He came from Odessa, in present-day Ukraine. His story is amazing, he fought in World War I, was wounded, and was left for dead, when they found him, a Red Cross nurse took him to her home and healed him. He hated communism influence in his country thats why fleeing from Russia, he walked to China, which took him two years. When communism came to China, he took the first ship to Mexico. Upon arriving in Mexico, he met Rosa Strostañevsky in 1932, marry her and had four children, with Anita being the youngest. She was a wonderful, kind, and beautiful woman.
I met her, and at 16 years old, we got married when she was in her third year of secondary school. We got married in 1956. We had 4 children: Miguel, Fany, Samuel, and Elias. Currently, have 10 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Anita passed away on March 25, 2012, and I was married to her for over 55 years.
Mexico was the most wonderful country. There were freedoms, we walked without fear, we worked, and we lived very well. Her parents were grateful to be in Mexico. We never suffered anything as Jews; we were received with open arms and could do anything. We had no fear. Here, we were able to build our lives, despite being immigrants who arrived in this blessed country over 100 years ago. I am grateful to God for giving me the family I have, who all support me. I just turned 90 years old, and we remain united.
Portrait Photograph of Solomon Sadovitch Circa 2023
Documentation of Solomon and Anita's marriage
George and Margareth Lee with friends, New York City Circa 1925
Solomon Sadovitch and his Family
- The Steingold Family -
Samuel Steingold was born in Ukraine in 1900. While growing up in Ukraine, he aspired to be a Rabbi even though he apprenticed as a tailor. When he was 14 years old, his family moved to the United States just two weeks before the outbreak of World War 1. They entered the United States through Ellis Island and settled in Rhodes Island. As a young boy, Sam needed to work to help provide for his family, he got a job in a textile factory using the skills he learned as a tailor’s apprentice. Although, the only skill he really knew was to make button holds. Because he worked during the day, he attended night school where a teacher tutored him to speak unaccented English. Samuel would later become a plumber before he and his brothers entered the automobile business. In Rhode Island, he married his wife Jesse and they bought an apartment building. Jesse’s parents also came from Odessa, Ukraine but Jesse was born in the United States. She was the eldest of 12 siblings and took on a motherly figure as they were extremely poor growing up. Many family anecdotes about Jesse tell stories of her scooping the last bit of egg out of egg shells with her fingers and paying for whole meals entirely with coupons. Jesse dropped out of school at 8th grade to work, but still grew to be an astonishingly smart woman. Samuel and Jesse lived in the top apartment while they rented out the two lower levels. Their first child died at childbirth but they soon had Harold and raised him in that apartment. Soon after Harold was born, the Great Depression hit and the two lower levels would be left empty. As they were making no money off of their apartment, Samuel started a junk collection and rag picking business where he and Jesse would sort through used items and textiles and sell what was salvageable. This business was how they survived the depression. In the 1930s and 40s, the Steingolds auto business picked up again. During World War II, the selling of cars was made illegal in the United States as all resources were meant to be dedicated to the war. However, many businesses had to find ways around these laws to maintain their livelihood, including Samuel. Meanwhile, Samuel is still known in his family to be an honest man, so even while he broke the law by selling cars under this shutdown, he would still report and pay his taxes while many other entrepreneurs would not report these dealing on their taxes.
Harold grew to be extraordinarily smart and attended Brown University at the age of 16 and became an engineer. He later had a job in aerospace engineering and moved to Southern California.
The next child they had was Gerry. Gerry was born with a congenital heart condition and was not expected to live. At the time of his birth, babies with this condition would have been kept in an incubator. However, the less advanced technology led to many babies kept in incubators to become blind and Jesse was suspicious of this. Therefore, Jesse insisted on bringing Gerry to their home and care for him there. So dedicated to keeping Gerry healthy, even when the doctor suggested that bacon may be good for him, Jesse fed him bacon even though they kept a kosher household. Gerry grew to be an extremely bright mathematician and graduated from Boston University. When he was 22 years old, he underwent a surgery that would fix his heart defect, but because of the poor condition that his kidneys were left in, Gerry passed away of kidney failure after the surgery successfully cured his heart. Harold would later name one of his sons Joel after Gerry.
Their last child was Linda. When Jesse was pregnant with Linda, she had visited the doctor thinking she had an issue with her gallbladder and was surprised to learn that she was 5 months pregnant with a baby girl.
On a trip that Samuel took to visit Harold in California, he learned he had a heart condition that prohibited him from taking another flight, therefore keeping him stuck in California.
Jesse stayed with Linda as she finished Junior High and then moved their family out to meet her husband in California. Samuel could no longer drive because of his heart condition and Jesse never learned to, so they were sure to buy a house next to a bus station. Linda reflects on this summer when they moved as a dreadful summer with no friends to keep her company. She started high school at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and after a few weeks, made a group of friends who had all been new to the area for high school. She is still in touch with many of these friends.
Many families still have mysterious corners. It is believed that the Steingold family has relatives that may or may not have perished in World War II. A Steingold family was turned away at Ellis Island because one of the young girls was deaf. It is not known where this branch of the family ended up.
Samuel and Harold, 1937
Samuel and Harold, 1938
Harold, Samuel, Linda and Gerry Circa 1930s