Werner Rothschild born on January 12th, 1928 in Frankfurt / Main
Participation in the visit program
2004 with his wife Audrie (September 18, 1929 – September 5, 2016)
2019 with his children Amy Manheim, Dori Fishbin and Gary Rothschild
Attended school: Philanthropin Frankfurt / Main
Elementary School 1934-1937
Eschenheimer Anlage 31
March 1939 to England with a Kindertransport
Summer 1940 to USA
Profession: Teacher, referee, director of a summer camp
Parents and brother:
Father Dr. Siegmund Rothschild born on March 4th, 1884 in Waltersbrück/ Vogelsberg
Profession: Senior teacher at the Philanthropin and president of the main liberal Synagogue
Arrested on November 9, 1938
Deportation to Buchenwald. Discharged after three weeks,
1939 emigrated to England and 1940 to the USA,
Mostly working in mini jobs in New York, died in 1952
Mother Elise Block Rothschild born on April 4th, 1892 in Ratibor, Silesia,
1911 exam as a teacher, with interruptions active at the Philanthropin and in the Jewish Lehrhaus
emigration to England and the USA in 1939
worked in the laundromat in New York, gave private language lessons, died in 1994
Brother Ernst Rothschild born on March 1st, 1922
Schwarzburg School 1928-1931
Elementary School Philanthropin 1931-1932
High-School Philanthropin 1932 – 1937
1937 – 1938 training as a leather dresser, 1938 dismissal due to Aryanization
1939 emigrated to England with his father and to the USA in 1940
active in various industries in New York, married to Margot Ochs, a son Alex,
died on December 11th, 2011
Grandparents of Werner Rothschild
Gerson Rothschild born on May 1st, 1855 in Waltersbrück, died on April 17th, 1930 in Waltersbrück
Fanny Kugelmann born on September 11th, 1857 in Wohra / Hessen
emigrated to the Netherlands on March 6th, 1939
deported to Sobibor on May 9th, 1943
murdered on May 14th, 1943.
They had eight children, two sons and six daughters, four died in the Holocaust.
Hessian Main State Archive, Wiesbaden
Interview Werner Rothschild with pupils: in the Lessing-Gynmasium June 17th, 2019
Family tree – compiled in 2017 by Hans Peter Klein
Angelika Rieber: Süßlächelnd auf den Freier warten? (Waiting for the suitor with a sweet smile?) – Mädchenbildung in Oberursel 1864-1945, in: Jahrbuch Hochtaunuskreis 2019,
Private photos and documents of the Rothschild family
Photos from the visit to Frankfurt 2019: Family Rothschild and Lessing-Gymnasium
Photo cemetery: Brigitte Hofacker
Research: Angelika Rieber/
Text: Brigitte Hofacker
I felt like an American from day one
von Brigitte Hofacker
Werner Rothschild was born in Frankfurt on January 12, 1928 as the second son of Dr. Siegmund Rothschild and Elise Block Rothschild. He also had a brother Ernst who was six years older than him. The family lived in Eschenheimer Anlage 31. The parents were active as teachers in the Philanthropin and the sons were also taught there. In Werner’s memory, life before the Nuremberg Laws were introduced in 1935 was wonderful, as he reported in an interview with young people. In 1939 the family had to leave Germany and reached the USA via Great Britain.
In 2019 Werner came to his old hometown with his children Amy Manheim, Dori Fishbin and Gary Rothschild as part of a visit program, after he and his now deceased wife Audrie had first accepted the invitation from the city of Frankfurt in 2004.
Werner and his children were very impressed by the sightseeing program and their many meaningful experiences, especially the meeting with students from the Lessing-Gymnasium and their teacher Martin van Kampen.
The “Reichskristallnacht” and its consequences for the Rothschilds
The Rothschilds always felt they were Germans first, and secondly their religion was Jewish. This view could no longer be maintained in the 1930s. The carefree life of the family ended with increasing discrimination. The children were now not only marginalized by their Christian friends, but also verbally abused. One friend particularly disappointed Werner, because when he joined the Hitler Youth, he stopped speaking to him. Werner also remembers an incident when he was 8 years old. During a visit to Borken in North Hessen, he and his cousins were hunted by Hitler Youth. With great difficulty and great fear they escaped.
School in Germany ended for Werner with the November pogrom of 1938. Many of his teachers were arrested and could no longer teach. It was the same with his father. Werner received a good leaving certificate on January 31, 1939 and was dismissed with best wishes for the future.
For Werner, however, the worst day of his young life was the so-called “Reichskristallnacht”. He saw furniture fly out of the windows and buildings burn. Immediately afterwards, his father was picked up by the Gestapo. They gave him 10 minutes to pack his things, then they deported him to Buchenwald. Fortunately, his brother was not at home or he would have been arrested too. His mother Elise was desperately looking for ways and means to get her husband back. As a recognized historian, his father was networked across Europe, so she turned to the Swedish consulate and even to a former war comrade from the First World War. This man was an alcoholic and had major problems during the war. Siegmund helped him out of a jam back then. Under the Nazis, this man had made a career in the Hitler Youth. When Siegmund came out of the concentration camp in December with the order to leave Germany quickly, the family wondered if this man might have been helpful. However, at that time fighters from the First World War were mostly released after a short time.
Siegmund was a broken man when he came home and it took weeks and intensive care from his wife before he regained his strength. As soon as his health permitted, he traveled to England with his son Ernst, with 10 Marks in his pocket. More was not allowed per person. The only contact there was with two of Elise’s brothers who had emigrated from Ratibor in 1935 and opened a dental practice in London.
Mother and Werner stayed behind in Frankfurt.
With the Kindertransport to England
Elise Rothschild found out that the English wanted to evacuate 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. She registered Werner and when he got permission she took him to the main train station. He traveled to Hamburg without knowing anyone. Werner had to endure a particularly unworthy situation beforehand. The Gestapo ordered the 10-year-old to strip naked to check that he was not wearing anything prohibited on his body. From Hamburg he went with the American ship SS Manhattan via Le Havre to Southampton. Werner calls this trip his “first cruise” today. In Margate the children were accommodated in a youth hostel. The 7-15 year olds lived there undisturbed on the coast, but there were no school lessons, so they hardly learned any English. Werner has fond memories of the visit to the amusement park near the accommodation.
When the war broke out, the children were moved to the north of the country.
Since Elise had meanwhile been able to leave Germany, the parents brought Werner to them and the family lived in an apartment in London. Now he could go to school too. The nights were threatening. The family was often forced to take refuge in a shelter due to heavy bombing. While the brother was allowed to work in a tannery during this time, the father did not have a work permit. He was supported by a Jewish organization. His mother, who worked as a nanny in England at a young age, gave English lessons to the Jewish exiles and was able to earn something extra. In Germany, Elise Rothschild had applied to the American consulate in Stuttgart for a visa registration number for entry into the USA. 16 hours of waiting gave her the number 42,000. In view of the fact that at that time only 20,000 people were allowed to enter from Germany annually, this meant certain death. The family’s escape to England in early 1939 enabled them to survive. When their number came up in the summer of 1940, Werner and his father emigrated to the USA in a convoy of 60 ships. After 30 days of voyage, they arrived in Boston. Ernst and Elise followed soon afterward.
Siegmund and Elise Rothschild née Block
Both parents came from large families. The branch of the Rothschilds came from Waltersbrück in Northern Hessen. The family tree can be traced back to the beginning of the 18th century. Waltersbrück, today part of the Neuental commune, was a small Jewish branch in Zimmerrode in the 19th century, consisting of only a few families with their own prayer room in a private house. The Jewish school was in Zimmerrode, the central cemetery for all surrounding communities in Haarhausen.
Siegmund was born in Waltersbrück in 1884 as the eldest son of Gerson Rothschild and Fanny Kugelmann. Gerson died in Waltersbrück in 1930 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Haarhausen. His grave is one of the few well-preserved graves. Fanny emigrated to the Netherlands in 1939, where she was deported to Sobibor in 1943 and on May 14th, murdered the same year.
Siegmund came to Frankfurt in 1911 and taught at Philanthropin until 1939. He was a valued historian with good contacts abroad and president of the liberal main synagogue in Frankfurt.
Werner’s mother Elise, née Block, was born in Ratibor on 1892. Less information has come down from her. Elise passed her exams as a teacher in March 1911 and in May received the teaching certificate from the teacher training institute of Miss Martha Prusse in Ratibor. How she got to Frankfurt is not known.
According to her own statements, Elise taught at Philanthropin from 1913 to 1939 with interruptions. The question of whether she gave up teaching there when she married in 1921 remains unanswered. Teacher celibacy, introduced in 1880, required female teachers to be celibate. In 1919, the Weimar Constitution ended discrimination against female teachers. All exemptions have been eliminated. But just four years later, a regulation stipulated that married civil servants could be removed from school service. The economic times were difficult and the jobs were primarily to be reserved for men. Elise still gave private lessons and worked at the Jewish Lehrhaus in Frankfurt, where she taught English, according to a certificate from Professor Ernst Kantorowizc, a well-known historian at Frankfurt University.
Elise was an energetic woman. She not only made sure that her husband was released from Buchenwald, but she also organized the trip to England and the USA. The relocation lists prepared by the family from February 1939 have been handed down. It had to be meticulously listed what the family wanted to take with them. These documents not only provide insight into the Rothschild household effects, but also into the reading habits of intellectuals and their children. From the banal slip box under “Miscellaneous” to Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist from Ernst’s list with the note “Confirmation gifts”, the entire household, purchases made before 1933 or after, was noted. Numerous notes and children’s songs testify to the musicality of the family. But all the effort was in vain. The moving boxes never arrived at their destination. On February 3, 1939, Elise signed an affidavit that there were no debts with the Reichsbank, that there was no foreign depository for securities and that incorrect information would lead to criminal prosecution.
Most of the relatives were murdered
Siegmund had seven siblings, six sisters and one brother. His sister Klara was able to emigrate to the USA in 1939, and thanks to her affidavit, Werner’s family managed to come to the USA. Klara lived in New York, while brother Max emigrated to Argentina. Their sons Fritz and Richard were named from then on Frederico and Ricardo. All other siblings did not survive the Holocaust. The fate of Ludwig Hirschberg, sister Käthe’s son, is tragic. He escaped on the St. Louis. But on arrival in Cuba, the ship was rejected. In New York, too, passengers were not allowed to go ashore. The same thing happened on the way back to Germany in England and Belgium, where only a small number were able to leave the ship. That didn’t apply to Ludwig. He was murdered in Auschwitz.
Elise had seven siblings. One brother died as a toddler. The three sisters perished in the concentration camp, one brother went to South Africa and two other brothers – as already mentioned – built a new existence for themselves in London. Edith Moses Geller, sister Grete’s daughter, emigrated to the USA and lived in Las Vegas. Werner, the son of Sister Trude, settled in Denver, Colorado. From then on he called himself Warren Torrington and had no contact with the family.
Living in the USA
The new beginning in the USA was associated with challenging times for the couple. Neither of them could ever be active in the profession they had learned. Siegmund, with a doctorate in philosophy, first worked as a dishwasher. Until the end of his life he mostly kept his head above water with mini jobs. His last job was as the head of shipping for a major company in New York. In 1952, at the age of 68, he died of a heart attack as a result of a contaminated needle from an injection at a routine medical appointment. He never broached the experiences in Buchenwald.
Elise outlived her husband by 42 years and died very old at 102. She led a very independent life; It wasn’t until the age of 90, after a hip fracture, that she was admitted to the Margaret Tietz Nursing Home. This facility was established in 1971 with the misison of serving Holocaust survivors. Elise worked in the family laundromat, taught English to German immigrants, and volunteered at the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, YMHA, library. She fought for compensation for many years and got a small pension from the 1950s onwards. Of course, this amount could not even come close to compensating for the enormous financial losses that had arisen as a result of the Nazi era and emigration and that shaped her life from then on. The grandchildren Amy, Dori and Gary had a very close relationship with their grandmother. They remember that at the end of her life, she switched back to her native German language while talking to her sons. Upon arriving in the USA, Elise encouraged the family to speak in English as a way to acclimate to their new life. The Rothschilds settled in Washington Heights, New York, a district that was then inhabited by many German emigrants. This is why the area was humorously referred to as the “Fourth Reich.”
The older brother Ernst, born in 1922, suffered particularly from the persecution. Even as a small boy, he was certain that he would study dentistry after graduating from high school, as a friend and colleague of his father’s confirmed in 1957. As a Jew, Ernst was no longer allowed to study. Finding an apprenticeship position alone was almost impossible. Only through personal connections was his father able to place him in a leather dressing shop after his secondary school leaving certificate, where he began an apprenticeship at Easter 1937. In 1938 the dismissal came because the company was Aryanized. This emergency job, as Ernst called it, was what he had to do in England and America even after emigrating to feed himself and support the family. In 1948 he opened a laundromat with his mother, which after difficult early years did not enable the family to earn a viable income until 1954. For Ernst there was no doubt that, without persecution, he would never have had to earn his living in an imposed profession, and also associated with hard physical work. In later years Ernst ran his own cigar shop, but after a fire broke out in the building, he worked for the Dunhill Company on 5th Avenue until retirement. Ernst married Margot Ochs, also a native of Germany. They lived in Washington Heights, NY and have a son, Alex. Ernst died on December 11, 2011 at the age of 89.
Werner was 12 years old in 1940 and felt like an American from day one, he emphasized. In order to contribute to the family income, he took various jobs. Early in the morning before school at 5:30 a.m. he delivered bread rolls, delivered meat to the households or brought the clothes from the dry cleaners to the apartments, seven days a week, upstairs and downstairs.
He immediately felt like an American in his school too. He studied with 35% Afro-Americans and classmates of different nationalities. Something like normal came back to life. While in 1938 the class at Philanthropin was getting smaller every day, and friends started leaving without saying goodbye, lessons took place here as usual. Football was and is Werner’s great passion. He played football from an early age and Brother Ernst was also a member of the Schild Club in Frankfurt. (Please refer biography Max Eis)
According to his own statements, Werner had various professional activities. After finishing school, he trained as a teacher. He also ran a summer camp for many years, played soccer and coached a university team at the age of 22. He was also a successful referee. He whistled five international games, including Bayern Munich against Kilmarnock Scotland in New York and FC Santos with Pelé. He was active in sports for almost 70 years.
Werner married Audrie Max in 1958, who was born on September 18, 1929 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. They met while on vacation in Florida. She also learned the teaching profession, but later worked in the administration of various companies. She passed away on September 5, 2016. The couple has three children and eight grandchildren. The family is in close contact with one another.
Nazi Germany was not an issue that Werner discussed very often with his children. It was only in later years that he asked his son Gary, a CNN producer/editor, to make a film about the family to help preserve the memories.
Today Werner has his retirement home in Florida. Many emigrants live there which allows for ongoing connections among the survivors. Every year on November 9th, Kristallnacht is commemorated.
Werner’s children are also shaped by the experiences of the family. They feel immensely grateful that they have been given a different life and are involved in charity projects to support people who are underprivileged and have suffered persecution.
Visit to Frankfurt – back to the past with your own children
Werner, Amy, Dori and Gary visited Frankfurt from June 12th to 19th, 2019. As they repeatedly made clear, they were very touched by many encounters. From the first get-together to the final dinner, they were impressed by the offers and contacts: The reception in the Palmengarten with the speech by Mayor Peter Feldmann, the warm welcome in the Jewish community, the visit to the old Jewish cemetery, the Großmarkthalle memorial, the exhibition “Ostend. View into a Jewish Quarter ”in the bunker and the photo documentation“ Jews in Germany ”by and with Rafael Herlich, all of these program items were very well received by the Rothschilds.
Werner and his children were particularly pleased and emotional when the family was allowed to enter his former apartment in Eschenheimer Anlage 31. Today the house belongs to the St. Katharinen- und Weißfrauenstift. Ursula Poletti, the director, accompanied the family through the rooms. Many thoughts of the past came up again. And the Falk Café, at the corner of Eschenheimer Anlage/ Oederweg, was associated with sweet memories for Werner.
A special highlight was the meeting with the students of the Lessing-Gymnasium.
The advanced course under the direction of their teacher Martin van Kampen had prepared itself thoroughly and the young people were very interested in the life story of Werner Rothschild. In a period of two hours, Werner reported on his childhood under National Socialism, the Kindertransport to England and the tough starting conditions in the USA. He was sure of the captivated attention of the audience, which was also shown by the many questions after the event.
Conclusion: Werner is grateful that he had the opportunity to tell young, open-minded people his story during his visit. He knows about the danger of growing nationalism and anti-Semitism worldwide and hopes that society is and remains vigilant against anti-democratic tendencies.
For Amy, Dori and Gary it was the first time in Germany. They were impressed by the friendliness of the people and saw the new Germany very positively. According to their own statements, this week was a big win for the Rothschilds. That was also particularly true for me as their companion during this time.