Selma Schloss Bär Stern lived for thirty years in Themar. She married twice and was twice widowed. She had a daughter, Elli, with her first husband, Emil Bär, and a son, Adalbert, with her second husband, Hermann Stern. Selma Stern left Themar reluctantly in 1940, hoping to emigrate and escape the Nazi tyranny. While she herself was not successful, her children, son-in-law and grandchild, all in the photograph above, were successful, and their families continue to thrive in England and the United States.
Through them, we have a sense of the rich tapestry of Selma’s life, not only in Themar but elsewhere in Germany where her parents and siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived. While still incomplete, we now have both outline and detail of 30 of Selma’s nearest and dearest who lived in Germany between ca.1800 and 1944. This page tells some of that story.
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We start with an overview of Selma’s life and family, beginning with her maternal great-grandparents and grandparents, parents and siblings and a brief overview of her own life between 1888 and 1942. Following chapter will the story of Selma’s aunt, Rosa Reis, and her family between 1872 and 1944 and provide a detailed look at the life of Selma, her husbands, and her children in Themar between 1910 and 1940.
Maternal Great-Grandparents & Grandparents: The Reises of Oberwaldbehrungen.
At present, we know more about the family of Selma’s mother, Philippine Reis, than about the family of her father, Samuel Schloss.
Selma’s maternal great-grandparents were Nathan and Sara Reis. Nathan was a merchant in the small town of Oberwaldbehrungen, Lower Franconia, Bavaria. Jews had settled in Oberwaldbehrungen in the mid-18th century: in 1816, the town’s population of 323 included 107 Jewish residents (33.1%); by 1837, the Jewish population had grown to 130, 38% of the town’s total population of 340. By the mid-1800s, the Jewish community had a synagogue, an elementary school, a Mikva, and its own cemetery (est. 1842).
Selma’s grandfather, Alexander Reis, was born in Oberwaldbehrungen in 1835. He married Jette Schloss and they had four children, two sons and two daughters, all of whom were born in Oberwaldbehrungen.The eldest was Philippine Reis, Selma’s mother, b. in 1861. Then followed two sons, Louis, b. 1866, who lived only three years, and Salomon, born in 1869. The youngest daughter, Rosa, was born in 1872.
Alexander and Jette lived their lives in Oberwaldbehrungen and had deep roots within the town’s and the Jewish community. Their daughters lived in other towns: Philippine 4 km. to the north in Sondheim vor der Rhön and Rosa in Obbach, 40 km. to the south. Sadly, they lost both their sons: as mentioned above, Louis lived only three years, and Salomon died of a heart attack in 1915. Jette died in 1917 and Alexander in 1918.
Parents: Samuel & Philippine Reis Schloss
Selma’s mother was Philippine Reis, b. 1861 in Oberwaldbehrungen. Her father was Samuel Levi Schloss, who was born in the same town in 1856. Samuel’s parents were Jakob Schloss of Oberwaldbehrungen and Marianne Bär of Marisfeld. Jakob and Marianne lived in Oberwaldbehrungen and Samuel was born in 1856.
In December 1886, Philippine Reis and Samuel Schloss married. In July 1888, Selma, their first child, was born. The following year, Samuel, Philippine, and Selma moved 4 km. north to the town of Sondheim vor der Rhön.
Here they owned House No 9 (now Bad Neustädter Str. 2) at the corner of two busy streets, Bad Neustädter and Nordheimer streets. Their business license permitted them to sell textiles and “Kolonialwaren,” that is, imported foodstuffs such as coffee, tea, sugar, tobacco, and so forth. House No. 9, which at that time did not include the addition at the back of the main house, served as both shop and living quarters. Entry to the shop in the early 1900s was at the side (a window has replaced the door). The property extended to the end of the white fence. The building at the back, whose door has awning, was added after the war.
Samuel and Philippine raised Selma and her three siblings – Rosa (1891), Julius (1893), and Minna (1895) – in Sondheim. The Schloss family was the only Jewish family in Sondheim and was considered part of the nearby Jewish community of Nordheim vor der Rhön.
As their mother and aunt Rosa before them, the daughters who married left home: in 1910, Selma married Emil Bär and moved 50 km east to Themar where his family had established a successful business, S. J. Baer. Selma and Emil had a daughter, Elli. When Emil died in 1913, Selma remained in Themar and married Hermann Stern, with whom she had a son, Adalbert, in 1917. Minna, the youngest daughter, married Carl Katzenstein of Fulda and moved 50 km to the west to his hometown in 1919. Rosa, who remained single, continued to live in Sondheim.
Samuel and Philippine lost their son to war: 22-year old Julius went to war in February 1915 and died in the Battle of the Somme in late July 1916. His name was inscribed on the War Memorial placed in the Sondheim cemetery, which happened to be across the street from Samuel and Philippine’s house.
Samuel and Philippine continued with their business in Sondheim, with the help of Rosa, until 1925 when the business license expired. Samuel and Philippine retired and stayed on in Sondheim.
But, after living in the town for over 40 years, Samuel and Philippine decided to leave Sondheim – probably because of the changes being implemented by the Nazi government.
In July 1933, the three moved to Themar where they rented an apartment at Georgstrasse 3. Their names were included in the March 1935 listing of the 75 Jewish residents of Themar. Selma, whose second husband, Hermann, had died in 1933, lived nearby in the market square (Markt 8). Her daughter, Elli, and son-in-law, Artur Plaut, shared this house with her. Her granddaughter was born in June 1935.
In October 1935, Philippine, age 74, died and was buried in the Marisfeld Jewish cemetery. For the next three years, Samuel, age 79, and Rosa, age 44, moved among various households: Samuel moved regularly between the households of Selma in Themar and Minna in Fulda. Rosa did likewise, but she also moved for a spell to the town of Geroda bei Brückenau – why and for how long we do not know. In spring 1938, Rosa was in Themar, living with Selma at Markt 8, as her name is included in the March 7 census of Themar Jews.
In January 1939, Samuel moved from Fulda to Bad Nauheim to live in the ‘Israelitisches Männerheim’ (Old Men’s Home). In the early 1900s, when the spa had blossomed into one of most desirable of spots, both a ‘Männerheim’ and a ‘Frauenheim’ had opened in Bad Nauheim with great fanfare. The homes were located in the Frankfurterstrasse, one of the town’s most elegant streets (left photo). By 1939, however, both the Männerheim and the Frauenheim had become one of the last refuges for elderly Jews and soon they also became the refuge for Jews, particularly single Jews, who could no longer rent from non-Jews.
In the months before WWII began, the children and grandchildren of Samuel and Philippine Schloss made plans to leave Germany and Europe. Minna and her husband, Carl Katzenstein, acquired papers and left in February 1939. Selma’s son, Adalbert Stern, and her son-in-law, Arthur Plaut (the husband of Elly Bär), also emigrated to England in early 1939.
By May 1939, Samuel Schloss, his daughters Selma and Rosa, and Selma’s daughter and granddaughter remained in Germany. In mid-May 1939, Rosa Schloss came to Bad Nauheim where, forbidden to live on her own, she moved into the ‘Frauenheim’. Selma remained in Themar with her daughter, Elli Plaut, and granddaughter, Hanna Karola Plaut, making plans to emigrate.
Samuel Schloss died on August 3, 1939. Selma travelled from Themar to organize his burial in Frankfurt am Main in the ‘new’ Jewish Cemetery in Eckenheimer Landstrasse 238. Selma returned to Themar after the funeral, and it seems probable that Rosa went with Selma, as her name is on the list of “Jews still living in Themar October 6, 1939.”
After war began in September 1939, the situation became starkly worse: sometime in late 1939 or early 1940, Rosa Schloss returned to Bad Nauheim to live once again in the Frauenheim, now officially designated a “House for Jews.” In spring 1940, Selma Schloss Bär Stern left Themar for the last time. She made her way to Berlin with her daughter, Elli, and granddaughter, Hanna Karola, in order to be ready to leave the moment they got their exit papers. After eighteen months of waiting, Elli and Hanna Karola, but not Selma, received the necessary papers and left Europe via Lisbon in August 1941. Five months later, on 25 January 1942, Selma Schloss Bär Stern, 54, was rounded up in Berlin and deported to Riga. No official date of death is recorded.
In mid-September 1942, Rosa Schloss was rounded up with Jews of Bad Nauheim and other small towns in the area and taken to Darmstadt. Here, over two thousand Jews were imprisoned in the Justus Liebig School from September 15-30. The German authorities operated the school as a ‘transit camp,’ and there was no possiblity of escape. The deportations began on 27 September 1942; Rosa was deported ‘to the east’ on 30 September 1942 with 883 other Jews; the records do not tell us the exact destination of the transport but indicate that it was Treblinka. No official date of death is recorded.
In the USA and in England, where Selma’s son, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter and son were able to emigrate, the families grew. Both of Selma’s children have now passed: her son, Adalbert, in 1992 and her daughter, Elli, in 2009. Their children and many grandchildren continue to thrive.
See also: The Rosa Reis Schloss Family of Obbach
We would like to thank Elisabeth Böhrer of Sondheim vor der Rhön for her generous assistance in telling the story of the Reis and Schloss familes.
- Alemannia-Judaice, “Das Israelitische Frauen- und das Israelitische Männerheim“
- Alemannia-Judaica, Oberwaldbehrungen (Stadt Ostheim v.d. Rhön, Landkreis Rhön-Grabfeld) Jüdische Geschichte / Synagoge
- Alemannia-Judaica, Obbach (Gemeinde Euerbach, Kreis Schweinfurt) Jüdische Geschichte / Synagoge
- Alemannia-Judaica, Bad Nauheim (Wetteraukreis) Jüdische Geschichte/Synagoge
- Ancestry.com Databases.
- Deutsches Bundesarchiv. Gedenkbuch.
- Jüdisches Museum, Frankfurt am Main.
- Stadtarchiv Ostheim
- Stadtarchiv Themar
- Nothnagel, Hans, hrsg., Juden in Südthüringen geschützt und gejagt:eine Sammlung jüdischer Lokalchroniken in sechs Bänden, 1995.
- Wolf, Siegfried et al. Juden in Thüringen 1933-1945: biographische Daten, 2000-2002.