Chapter 5: Bahnhofstrasse/Railway Station Street

Here you are! Manfred Rosengarten’s birth place, 15 July 1921.



This is the house where I was born, second floor in the corner room. My parents lived with my grandparents then. The landlord’s name was Sam [Saam], he was a watchmaker and jeweler. Who knows? Maybe it had something to do with my life and future profession. On the bracket in front hung a cutout of a pocket watch.

33. Manfred Rosengarten at 3 months, October 1921.

[Editor’s Note: In 1983, 80-year old Karl Saam asked the photographer for whom she was taking photographs. Upon hearing the reply, he asked that his kind regards be sent to Manfred and an invitation to write his home town. Manfred did so, encouraging any of his former schoolmates interested in learning about each other’s feelings and lives since WWII to respond. And they did. The result was, as the rabbi at Manfred’s funeral in 1987 said, “an avalanche” of letters crisscrossing the ocean between Manfred and the small group of classmates still living in Themar. The letters ceased with Manfred’s death in 1987 but the story has not stopped there: the development of this website to honour Manfred Rosengarten and the Jewish community of Themar stems from the quite extraordinary history of this one photograph.]

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35. Bahnhofstrasse looking toward Saam House, 1983 (#1 on map). Photo: Arnhold.
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36. Bahnhofstrasse & Saam House, 1983 (#1 on map). Photo: Arnhold.

I remember quite a bit about this house and it was not told to me by anybody. I told my parents many years later what I remembered and they were surprised about it. In the back of the house was a yard, surrounded by buildings. A veranda-like walkway went around on the second floor. Our kitchen faced this yard and was very dark and the front room (three windows on the right, second floor) was a tile stove for warming the front room and cooking in the kitchen. My mother had a grey cat, there was a sofa on which I made somersaults before I could walk. Once I ended up in a rattan crib, filled with my mother’s cactus collection. There was dirt all over the room.

My parents’ room was the corner room on the left. I learned to walk at 10 months and my mother took me to the street once, leading me by the hand. Somehow I got away and ran almost to the corner at Kaufhaus Stern. My poor mother had a heck of a time catching me. We moved to another place shortly after my brother was born. I was about 2 years old then. The new place was on Meininger Strasse, not far from “Thüringerhof,” more about this later.

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37. Looking back toward City Hall on Bahnhofstrasse, 1976.

The house with the little turret was a hardware store, the house across with chimney is Stern’s Department Store, next to it is Müller’s Dept. Store. Three houses were interconnected. Max Müller was a distant relative by marriage through Frieda Schwab. His wife was a sister. He had a son by the name of Sammy, who was a little meshugge, he was murdered by the Nazis in their Euthanasia Program. Max had a very good and large stamp collection. All these people were transported to the east and killed. The two houses behind the truck are part of a complex.

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38. The former S. M. Müller Department Store, 1983 (#57 on map). Photo: Arnhold.

[Editor’s Note: Max Müller was known as Max Müller I as he was already living in Themar when Max Müller of Marisfeld moved to Themar. Max Müller I co-owned the S.M. Müller department store with his brother, Leopold. Both men were born in Themar, Max in 1873, Leopold in 1882. Max married Frieda Freudenberger Müller and had two children, Semi, b 1903, and Martha, b. 1906. Leopold married Pauline Steindler, the sister of Frieda Steindler; Frieda married Oskar Schwab, the brother of Berta Rosengarten, Manfred’s mother! The family of Max Müller I all died in the Holocaust, as did Pauline Steindler Müller, who had become a widow in 1924.]

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39. Bahnhofstrasse and Schulstrasse, 1976 .

On the left lived a cartwright or wagon builder, named Weigand, I watched him for hours. In the back house, an old man lived for free. He traveled the countryside and handed out religious literature. We called him “Heiliger Gustav” (Holy Gus). He was a local character. The next house with beams was the machine shop Haass [#40 on map].

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40. View from Bahnhofstrasse down little street (Wassergasse),1983. Photo: Arnhold.

Down this little street [Wassergasse], on the right, was “Heubner Beer,” the brewery [#86]. A little further down lived Merkel, the horse butcher [#87]. People called horse meat “Trap Trap.” — “Rind fleisch ist teuer and Schweinefleisch ist knapp, da gehn wir zum Merkel und kaufen Trap Trap” was a popular song during the Depression in Themar. One of the Merkels gave me some boxing lessons together with his son Erich who was about my age.

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41. Eishaus/Ice House, 1983 (#59 on map). Photo: Arnhold.

Now we are looking back down the little street, Wassergasse. The house with the platform on the top was the brewery icehouse. In wintertime, iceblocks were cut in a frozen pond (our skating pond), and stored here covered with sawdust. They lasted all year. The ice was then used in cooling the beer, in the pubs and so on. The little street to the right, [Rosengasse] went to the Market Square. Willi Förster lived in a house [site #58] next to the icehouse on this street.

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42. Continuing toward the left on Bahnhofstrasse, 1983. Photo: Arnhold. Note the direction signs (toward Marisfeld and Meiningen).
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43. Bridge across the Weissbach/White Creek, 1983 (#88 on map). Photo: Arnhold.

At the bridge across the Weissbach (White Creek). The signs point north to Marisfeld and northwest to Meiningen. The house behind the telegraph pole is the Gassenheimer house, about which more later. Behind the tree, you can see a double garage on one side where Kerner’s Mercedes Benz Limo was stored. There was an electric plug between the doors, my friend Karl Heinz Kerner and I would stick our fingers into it to get shocked, the chauffeur stopped us.

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44. Bahnhofstrasse & Hotel Drei Rosen, 1983 (#48 on map). Photo: Arnhold.

Hotel Drei Rosen (Three Roses) belonged to the father of Karl Heinz Kerner, we were quite inseparable for a long time. The garage is to the right. The tree is a horse chestnut tree. What a dump it turned into. It was quite elegant at one time. During my mother’s and uncle Oskar’s youth, the Jews from quite a long distance away would come here for an annual Purim dance, so young Jewish people could meet. Hans Gelfand’s mother was one of them. There was a large beer garden in the back, where Karl Heinz and I played Robinson Crusoe and built tree houses. Most everyday when I was there, the chef would give me a sandwich and he often sent one for me with Karl Heinz to school. He thought that I was too skinny, which was true.

Opposite the Hotel were the Schützenplatz and Schützenhaus [site #50 on map]. Every year on my birthday, the week-long Schützenfest started with all kinds of wonders like carousels, Punch & Judy shows, games of skill, etc. Shooting competitions were held every year to find the “Schützen König” or Shooting King. There was always a parade, the Schützen/shooters marched in their uniforms and match rifles. The old geezers, 3 or 4 of them, rode on a horse-carriage. I always helped the show people with running errands and cleaning up, also handing puppets to the puppeteer. I always had free ice cream and rides. I also befriended a tribe of Gypsies, who camped next to the fairground. They repaired pots, pans and sieves. They had monkeys and I sat at their campfire and listened to their singing.

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45. Up the Weissbach, 1983 (#89 on map). Photo: Arnhold.

We are up the Weissbach a little ways, and are looking back at the hotel. The bridge is between the Thüringer Hof [site #43] and the Gassenheimer house [site #46]. On the right lived Dr. Schmitz [site #47], who helped bring me into this world. Behind all the growth in the creek is a neat little wall, like a quay. My father, when he was unemployed, helped to tame this little creek. It would flood like you wouldn’t believe.

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46. Friedensstrasse looking southeast, 1983. Photo: Arnhold.
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47. The former Gassenheimer House, Friedensstrasse, 1983 (#46 on map). Photo: Arnhold.
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48.Gassenheimer Factory — I’m not 100% sure. (#46 on map). Photo: Arnhold, 1983.

As a 14 year old boy [1935], I started here as an apprentice mechanic. After 3 months, I was thrown out because, as a Jew, I could not join the Nazi Arbeitsfront (union), although I worked for a Jewish firm. About the Gassenheimer family, I will write later.

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49. Themar Bahnhof/Railroad Station c. 1900. (#51 on map). Credit: Mittag Collection.

Finally, the end of the Bahnhofstrasse. The Bahnhof or Railroad Station. The main building contained a very good restaurant, so I was told. The main track is between the two small structures with rounded roofs. It was completed 125 years ago, ca.1859, along the Werra Valley. The line on the near side of the structure on the left, went to Ilmenau, by way of Schleusingen, where Uncle Oskar [Schwab] lived. (Between the two little structures was an underground passage.) Ilmenau is on the crest of the Thüringer Wald/Forest, very similar to the Black Forest. Toward the top it got so steep, the engineer on the locomotive lowered a gear into a toothed rack, so the train would not slide back to Themar. Sometimes it was so slow, you could walk next to it and pick flowers. Toward the end of the train was a car called 4th class, it had a potbellied stove in the middle and benches around the sides. People would carry chickens, goats, big baskets and bicycles along with them in there. It was cheap and a lot of fun. Once I rode in it after a long hike in the mountains and a fellow with an accordion entertained us royally. A little poem in dialect, that I remember partially….”Geht her und setzt euch un mich röm ich will euch eppes söh. Die reiche Streite, bröm, dröm, die könne net geklöh, drum fange hold die Bauer ab und quatche von der Eiseboh….Die Eiseboh Maschinerie, die fährt den Werragrund ähne hie, mit Mensche, Säu und anner Vieh.”

Chapter 6: Schulstrasse/Home & School in School Street

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Material from M. Rosengarten, Themar, Thüringen: My Home Town may be reproduced in part or whole, in any print or electronic format for non-commercial purposes provided that the author, editor, copyright holders, and publisher ( are acknowledged.
© 2011 Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. © Sharon Meen, Vancouver, British Columbia