Updated: Jan 29, 2021
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an international memorial day, commemorates the tragedy of the Holocaust. The Holocaust significantly affected both my immediate and extended family with both my maternal grandparents, and their families, being forced from their homes. For this Remembrance Day I wanted to talk about my great grandfather Markus Rothstein.
Markus was born to Józef Rothstein and Laura Krochmal on April 28, 1897 in Tarnopol. Tarnopol, now in Ukraine, was part of what was the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. Markus was third of five children - Gusta (1891), Yetta (1894), Anna (1902) and Irving (1905). The family lived in Tarnopol up until at least 1910 where they can be found in that year's census with Józef's father Michel and Laura's mother Pessie living with them.
According to the above Meldzettel it looks like they moved to Vienna in 1911. In June of 1914, Jozef, the first of my mother's direct ancestors came to the US to live with his brother Schaje/Osias/Oscar and his family who had immigrated to the US at around the turn of the century. Two years later Jozef and Oscar's father died.
Some time between then and 1920 Markus met my great grandmother Bertha Tillinger. Markus, like his father and uncle in the US, was a Dry Goods merchant and had his own store in the 21st district of Vienna at Wagwamerstrasse 113. When I visited Vienna in 2011 I was able to see the building where his store was. At the time it was a Taekwondo studio however while I was writing this it appears that as of a June 2019 Google Street view the building has been demolished.
In 1921 his mother and siblings went to the US to join Jozef while Markus, Bertha, and his infant daughter Paula stayed behind. On May 19, 1924 my grandfather Harry was born. As far as I can tell life was uneventful for them leading up to the Anschluss in March of 1938. Two months later Markus was arrested and sent to Dachau where he was for three months before being transferred to Buchenwald that September. During this time Bertha, with the sent her two minor children to live with Markus' brother already in the US. According to Markus' niece, her father was active in the Democratic party and was able to get the help of New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and New York Senator Robert Wagner Makus was released from Buchenwald through a prisoner exchange in January of 1939 and in February he and Bertha had left everything behind and were in America, never returning to Vienna even after the war.
This is one of the few stories my family has from this time that turned out the way it did. Both maternal grandparents, as well as family members on my paternal side, lost aunt's. uncles and cousins to the Nazi's.