A Loeb Family History

Excerpted from Julian Loeb’s letters / book (with a few corrections)

Siegfried Loeb was born in a small town in Scherfede, Germany on October 23, 1886. He was a proud, patriotic German. His religion was Jewish, and his father was a kosher butcher. He went through school in his hometown, high school in a nearby town, two years of obligatory military training, college and law school.

Germany was a relatively new country—Otto von Bismarck helped the King of Prussia become the Kaiser of the “new” Germany, which united the provinces such as Westphalen, Prussia, et al, in 1871, and it was losing it’s relationship to its European neighbors.

War broke out in August of 1914. Seigfried, who was an attorney at the time, found himself on the Seigfried Line, close to Düsseldorf. He was a good soldier and became a lieutenant. In a war that introduced the world to artillery tanks, mustard gas, and left more than nine million dead, Siegfried survived. He was awarded the iron cross for bravery and came back to Düsseldorf. Unfortunately, three of his brothers did not live through the war. The only other brother to survice was Salomon (Salo).

After the war, his law practice flourished.

It’s not clear how Siegfried and Else Feibes met. One possible scenario: a blind date? Else’s brother Henry Feibes, a physician, was married to another physician, Elsie, and was living in Düsseldorf. They had a daughter, Anna Marie, in 1920. Else may have met Siegfried when visiting her brother, his wife and their new child.

An interesting fact: Siegfried’s brother Julius was married Else’s older sister, Johanna in 1887. (“My aunt married my uncle, or I’m my own grandpa”, says Julian Loeb.)

Siegfried (called “Fritz” by his wife) and Else Feibes were married on August 5, 1922 in Münster West and set up household at #75 Scheibe Strasse, Düsseldorf. On June 24, 1923 she gave birth to Werner Leopold Loeb, followed by Ulrich Julian on July 8, 1926. Franz (Frankie) joined the family on March 16, 1931. Human rights were still pretty much okay then in Germany. The Loebs were successful. They were building a fantastic new house. They vacationed in Switzerland in 1932. Like many other boys his age, Werner wore a uniform and marched with the Hitler Youth. But the situation was rapidly changing, becoming more oppressive.

The published diaries of Victor Klemperer, a Dresden Jew, might help to paint a personal picture of what the Loebs left behind. Excerpts of his book, I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, appeared in the April 27 and May 4, 1998 New Yorker magazine:

"March 30, 1933 - I feel shame more than fear, shame for Germany. I have truly always felt German In a toy shop: a childrens ball with the swastika.

January 16, 1934 - I am afraid after every lecture, every seminar exercise. If one of my half-dozen students were to betray me after all… I never raise my arm when I enter. And in the seminar and in a couple of minutes of conversation afterward, dangerous words slip out.

August 4, 1934 - At nine o’clock on August 2nd, the President dies: one hour later his office and the Chancellor’s office are united in Hitler’s person. By half past six the troop in Dresden have sworn their allegiance to Hitler, and everything is completely calm. Our butcher says indifferently, “Who needs to vote first? It just costs a lot of money.” The people hardly notice this coup d’état; it all takes place in silence, drowned out by hymns to the dead Hindenberg. I would swear that millions upon millions have no idea what a monstrous thing has occurred. Eva (his wife) says, “And we belong to this band of slaves? Since when does one swear in the Army and have an “election” afterward?”

May 2, 1935 - On Tuesday morning, without any previous notification: “On the basis of Para. 6 of the Law for the Restoration of Professional Civil Service I have… recommended your dismissal… The Commissary Director of the Ministry for Popular Education.” I telephoned the university; no one there had a clue. At first I felt alternately numb and slightly romantic; now there is only bitterness and wretchedness."

Similar warnings may have presented themselves to the Loebs. There was financial depression around the world and Germany had just suffered catastrophic inflation. Although they had always thought of themselves as good Germans, they were thinking about leaving Germany.

Siegfried and Else initially sought passports in order to take vacation trips with their children. Else’s passport was issued on April 15, 1930. At that time, Hitler was active, but not empowered. But by 1933, the Nazis were becoming a powerful force in Germany. Else convinced her Fritz to make America their new homeland. He wanted to go to Palestine, but Else convinced him that the United States was a better choice for the family, although she still went to Berlin to obtain a 12-month temporary visa to Palestine, possibly as an alternative plan. America was reeking of anti-Semitism, but it certainly beat being back in Germany. She intended to bring her 3 children to America as soon as she had the proper documentation and required proof need for legal immigrant status in the United States.

Seigfried and his family were ready to go. He had scraped some monies together (about $20,0000 U.S. in gold coins) to “carry (them) into the unknown”. To keep things “all kosher” he went to the Düsseldorf police station to make sure he was clear of warrants (which are issued in case on is stopped for a speeding ticket or spitting on the sidewalk, for example). The family and their governess, Tina, fled to Holland on September 1, 1933, after the visa was granted. They drove a couple of hours from their home in Düsseldorf to a boarding house in Utrecht. Else was no longer traveling with her husband, he being on the “most wanted” Gestapo list, per Goëbbel's propoganda machine.

Else finally got the proper documentation for immigration later that year. Using French and Dutch visas, she went to America alone in February of 1934, leaving the children at the boarding house with Tina. She made a total of three round trips in order to obtain the propers documents for approval from immigration in New York. In April of 1934 she came to fetch her children. After embarking from Rotterdam aboard the Vollendam, a Holland-America liner, Else,Werner, Frankie and Ullie arrived in the U.S. on May 1, 1934. Seigfried was already there to greet them.

Details of Else’s passport:

  • April 15, 1930 Passport issued
  • August 18, 1933 British Passport Control Officer in Berlin grants a visa for Palestine. It must be used within 12 months of issue date.
  • September 4, 1933 French Consulate in Rotterdam grants a visa
  • November 2,3 1933 Passport stamped by Belgian consulate in Rotterdam
  • September 25, 1933 Children’s names written on passport in Holland
  • February 6, 1934 Visa granted by French Consulate in Rotterdam
  • April 11, 1934 Passport stamped in Rotterdam
  • May 1, 1934 Admitted to New York upon Reentry Permit
    # 955207

Once in America, they moved into the Carlton Court Apartments, #1-M, in New Rochelle, New York. Werner was ten, Frankie was three, and Ullie was in fifth grade at Roosevelt School, just a short walk from the apartment.

Siegfried was struggling. He went to night school at Albert Leonard Jr. High to learn English. He could not become a lawyer here—the U.S. system of law was not equal to that of Central Europe. In time he founded Ames Metal Moulding. He had 4 or 5 workers at Ames, and commuted by train each morning (including Saturdays). Siegfried was also helping others come to this country. He got Else’s parents, Gustav and Hedwig Feibes out of Münster on what was probably the last steamer to leave Europe (from Genoa, Italy). He also aided his only surviving brother, Salo, and Salo’s two adult children, Erna and Ernst, in coming over. Julian remembers his grandparents as being unfazed by this transplantation: “This eighty one year old grandpa and wife looked just as little harried as they had while we visited (their) dark house in Münster. Same clothes, same cane, same Opa and Oma.”

Excerpted from a letter to Gusti (what is Gusti's last name?) from Julian Loeb. March 2001:

“As I think of it presently, how could my father afford to send his two oldest sons at college at the same time? Also, he once again had no qualms about picking up and moving his family without much fanfare.

As to affording, Werner had run up hospital and doctor bills due to his terrible motorcycle accident while away to Bucknell College in Lewisburg, PA. He had a cast over his broken leg with only his toes peeking out on up to his waist. His upper leg, above his shattered knee, had an open wound—complex fracture of the bone being treated with sulphur for healing. Werner spent months in the hospital followed by more months in our dining room—converted to a Loeb Hospital private room.

I had accelerated two school years into one—11th and 12th grade, Sept. ’41 to June ’42. Pearl Harbor was on 12-7-41. Frankie was attending Roosevelt Elementary—he had Miss Wine (6th grade) who remembered me.

So as I think back now, it all sort of fits my father’s disposition. He was 58 and had nothing to prove. No one was judging him, no one but himself. Sure, Mom and he yelled at one another often, but that was his way of letting off steam. Mom knew that. In fact, she would add some fuel to his ire at times.

Pop had self-esteem. He believed in himself. He had good reason to. Leaving Germany early on was wise. To not endanger that exodus by trying to take much money with him was truly wise ad reflected his self esteem. He believed that Else and he could handle things in America. His law practice in Düsseldorf included some representation for American filmmakers (Hollywood).

Add to the wise moves: to rent a house in New Rochelle instead of settling in New York City. That was brilliant! New Rochelle was but an hour away from Times Square, yet light years from the tenements, the hassle, the dirt, the confusion, the BIG CITY.

How my parents decided on New Rochelle, I do not know. Mom’s brother, Dr. Feibes, had his home and office in the Bronx. Possibly Henry Abenheimer, mom’s younger cousin already living in NYC, financially well off, suggested it. The rented house was in a decent neighborhood. It was but a short walk to North Avenue, which had a city bus line that took him to the railroad station. The train ride to Grand Central Station took less than an hour.

It was less than two months that he had checked out immigration and had Mom get all the affidavits so that upon her return (end of January ’35) from her solo trip to Germany they became LEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

I can explain how Dad’s money held out in 1933, 1934 into 1935. America was gripped in trying to recover from the depth of its depression. FDR had taken office just six months before my parents landed in New York. The banks had been closed, manufacturing was at a standstill, unemployment was horrific. Dad knew this. Knew it from his law practice. Dad knew how to handle a depression and inflation which had gripped Germany before they had left. Renting living space had to be extremely inexpensive. Same with buying a car. Even Mom’s two ocean voyages had to be cheap.

Moving from the little house to the Carlton Court apartments was also most wise. The only apartment house on that side of town (the better side) except for another two near the high school. You see, it had its own bus—took us to school, took the daddies to the train station, just made getting around easy. This let mom learn to drive (she never did in Germany) and use the family car. But not to grocery shop… oh no, Pop loved to do that with her. Pop never was one to go to the city early, early.

My book covers our life in New Rochelle plus the confusion that beset me when we moved to Forest Hills in that summer after my 16th birthday -- July 1941. We moved to 7820 Kew Forest Lane Leaving the town I grew up in was rough but moving was most wise. Our country was at war. It was ill prepared. There was rationing of gasoline, meat, butter, you name it. All physically fit were either enlisting or were drafted. All of Detroit was making armaments.

I cannot tell you if Dad bought the little house in Forest Hills or whether we rented. Since Werner had healed sufficiently, he started back at college at New York University on Washington Square near the Village. He lived down in that area. Dad won’t let me go off to college out of town so I got in NYU—its engineering school up in the north section of the Bronx. A good, tough school. I was able to commute by two subway lines plus a trolley (1-1/2 hours).

NYU was not free, not a state or a city school. Somehow Dad managed to pay not only both our tuitions plus our upkeep.

We lived one block from Queens Boulevard, which was a wide (3 or 4 lanes in each direction) thoroughfare. In on direction it was a twenty-minute drive to the Queensboro Bridge, which exited around 57th Street in Manhattan's east side. We had an A&P, a newspaper store (magazines, candy, cigarettes) a Jewish deli, and a subway station just down the street that dead-ended at our corner lot.

Forest Hills’ main commercial street was Continental Avenue. Ritzy stores for women’s and men’s clothes—professional offices upstairs on second and no more than third floors—banks and such—suburbia within poorer sections of queens. The tennis capital of the USA—all the big matches held at our country’s Wimbledon. No golf course, but snooty and private except when the big tournaments took place. Continental Avenue was about twelve long blocks from where we lived. I hardly ever went there.

My whole life had changed. Werner was gone, he lived in the Village, which I sort of knew, but he hardly ever came home. I knew next to no one in the neighborhood. Frankie being five years younger—he and I had little in common. There were Saturday classes most every term, the first two terms anyhow. The classes were cut throat competitive. I had taken no chemistry in high school. That was serious. Flunk one course and you’re gone! The lectures were in an auditorium with 200 students (maybe only 150). All boys—young men. But I was the youngest. Still had a German accent.

Three hours a day commuting—about six hours of classes—then heavy homework—quizzes, tests… and no friends to speak of. I do not recall one fellow student’s house I visited… maybe one or two. No girl friend.

But, you know what? I learned to live by myself. Found out how to manage challenges. Sure the other students were New Yorkers. Knew each other’s high schools, plus PS 106 in this borough or PS 296 in another. But they were struggling too. I was no longer trying to be top dog in any one subject. It was survivor training. A term lasted about 15 weeks. I passed organic chemistry with a “C”. I felt proud. Somewhere between ¼ and1/3 of my class flunked out. Ouch!

Weekends were really only Saturday night. I usually went to the Village to Eddie Condon’s. A fine group of jazz musicians in a small bistro. I’d wandered the streets some. Then come home by one, one-thirty. Mom had a maid come in once or twice a week. She had the worst body odor I have ever experienced. It lingered in the house for hours—almost taking her shape. Mom also had a "Fleischmann” who brought us meat. It was was rationed along with sugar…

So how about the war? It was part of life and had been since, say, 1940 for me. Pop followed the every move in Europe. The NY Times had it all—day by day. The only thing that had changed was there were casualty lists. The radio commentators were excellent. One in particular, reporting from London. Because of Dad’s interest, the war in the Pacific was secondary until xxx (don’t know what that word is). The Japanese were like from another planet. Kamikaze pilots in their Zeros. But the war was not personal. I knew no one in uniform, saw plenty of them, but having left New Rochelle, knew no one in the service.

I recall the summer of 1943 because we went to Jones beach a few times. It is out, not to far, on the ocean shore of Long Island. Big waves, lovely sand—Mom loved to swim. Dad was afraid of the sea, he never ventured out very far. As for me, swimming in the ocean—sand and all, I plain loved it.

Having turned 17, Dad really let me know he’d shoot me in the foot to keep me from going into battle. He meant it… but did not do it. Understand that he was a stickler for “keeping order”. His legal papers, his business papers at the shop, his bank account. But he screwed up as to my identity! All he had was my birth certificate in German plus the verification of same my Mom had brought over. It had me as Ulrich Julian Loeb. Yes, I had a driver’s license in my name—some health records, my high school diploma.

Not good enough for the US Navy. Both the Army and Navy of our country at war had programs to let you sign up to become an officer with specialized training if you were in college. Engineering was particularly a plus—talent the services needed. For some unknown reason, Dad had me apply to the Navy. (It had two programs—V-12 and V-5). Jack Zeiden was Dad’s accountant—he worked with his brother, Louis, who was a lawyer. They called their partnership Zeiden and Zieden. Odd!

Jack Z. came to Dad’s office once every month or two. Dad had taken me to the two brothers’ office in the city off Park Avenue. No big deal… very friendly, both thought the world of Dad. They did have a secretary but Jack did all the bookwork himself. At the time, Dad had a partner (Mr. Fine) and the shop had three or four employees.

I still have the documents, which have my dad and mom certifying their citizenship, my birth certificate translated into English and my (unofficial) name change. I also have Jack Zeiden attesting to this personal data duly notarized.

Bear in mind, I was good at taking tests. Good at math. I know I did well on the Navy’s tests. But I was rejected. Dad, Mom too, were convinced the decision had something to do with our being Jewish. That may have been the case. The Navy was then, still is almost like a fraternity. I sensed it while being interviewed. Other kids at NYU had similar bad luck.

We are in April 1944—ok? You had turned 15. The US is sending troops and armaments to England, the Italians are no help to Hitler, the Russians have untold manpower but the Nazi war machine remains quite positive. I have no idea what kind of propaganda surrounds you and yours. Were your friends and relatives being bombed? Gusti, I just do not know where your home was (still standing, I believe).

How about June 6, 1944? That was when the Allies landed at Normandie. Odd, I remember Pearl Harbor vividly, but not June 6th. The radio commentators must have gone nuts with hour per hour accounts. The newspapers too. Sure, I did go to the movies and saw the Pathe news… but have no idea: what was my reaction? Did Dad and Mom get into it? I truly do not remember. This I do remember: Pop knew it was not the end of the war. He knew it wouldn’t be easy.

Six weeks later I registered with Selective Service. That office was in Forest Hills. “Uncle Sam Wants You!” I knew I’d be called up by the army. Seems like nobody was drafted into the navy. I had turned eighteen and that allowed me to drive in the five boroughs of the city. Yes, I drove Pop to work a few times on Grand Central Parkway past La Guardia Airport over the Triboro bridge.

I had not registered for the next term, which started in August. Most of all that is in my book… Gusti: I was not scared… even when I got my orders to report on October 7 (1944)—US Army—somewhere way downtown in NY City—Manhattan. We were sworn in, bussed to Fort Dix in New Jersey. After getting a uniform, boots, a quickie physical—off to Camp Croft, SC.

I really took basic training seriously. Would you believe my days at Boy Scout Camp back in 1938, ’39 really helped? So did Pop’s foretelling the war was not over… even though Paris had been recaptured. Pop knew the Siegfried line’s defenses. He knew the terrain, the weather. He also knew the British problem with Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, Patton.

I was at Camp Croft 'til early January 1945. I was platoon leader of twelve of the nicest young men—we got along, they listened to me. I knew they were going to France, and also knew some of us would be fighting shoulder to shoulder. It did not turn out that way. But Dad was right, “It was not over!”

Julian was discharged from the U.S. Army in July of 1946. Because Harry Truman has blessed veterans with a G.I. Bill of Rights, he was allowed to go to Cornell without financial help from his family.

After working for a time at Ames, Werner attended law school. (Where was Frank?)

By 1954 the Loeb’s were still living in the small house in Forest Hills, Queens. It was a block from Queens Boulevard where there was a subway stop for the “E” and “F” trains into Manhattan and other boroughs. Julian had moved to a sparse bachelor apartment in N. Bergen, New Jersey, overlooking Manhattan across the Hudson. He and and Otto Holland had recently moved Ames’ relatively new fabrication to Paterson, N.J.. Seigfried still went to the loft in the Bronx during the transition.

That year, Else and Seigfried went back to Düsseldorf after the Marshall plan helped to put Europe back on a positive economic course. Germany was able to give “Wiederguttmachen”, a sort of pension, to those who had given up everything in exiting because of the Nazi regime. Having obtained a three-month visa through England, they traveled to Germany to arrange for their compensation while on this trip.October 18, 1954 Germany

Excerpted from Julian Loeb’s notes:

“It was my pleasure to chauffer them to the pier to see them off. Boarding is hectic—700-800 passengers, family members, gangplank farewells. The scene is a zoo! Gangplanks are down. Passengers are loading (guests can come on for a little while). My folks' baggage is taken with labels applied as to their stateroom. Next step: go to the passport agency but to make sure the Loebs have their credential (needing their permission to board). Would you believe? Pop left his in the apartment. Time enough to get it, come back? Yes, if we had a helicopter. Pop took it pretty well (he had mellowed by now, 67 years old.) They took next week’s sailing. The steamship line said “no charge”. My folks and I had a nice supper that evening. The agenda was easy. Touch base with the SS line, unpack, keep cool and set sail the week after. The ode below reflects my thought at the time. I was pleased to be part of something both my parents deserved.

I, May I Rest In Peace

I, may I rest in peace—I, who am still living, say,

May I have peace in the rest of my life.

I want peace right now while I’m still alive.

I don’t want to wait like that pious man who wished for one leg

Of the golden chair of Paradise, I want a four-legged chair

Right here, a plain wooden chair. I want the rest of my peace now.

I have lived out my life in wars of every kind: battles without

And within, close combat, face-to-face, the faces always

My own, my lover-face, my enemy-face.

Wars with the old weapons—sticks and stones, blunt axe, words,

Dull ripping knife, love and hate,

And wars with newfangled weapons—machine guns, missile,

Words, landmines exploding, love and hate.

I don’t want to fulfill my parents’ prophecy that life is war.

I want peace with all my body and all my soul.

Rest me in peace.

—Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

After their sons moved out, Else and Seigfried moved to an apartment on Cabrini Boulevard in Washington Heights, Manhattan, two blocks north of the entrance to the George Washington Bridge. Its windows unveiled the panorama of not only the bridge, but also the Palisades across the Hudson on New Jersey’s shore. Uncle Henry was living in an apartment in an adjacent unit of the same complex. Henry’s daughter visited frequently. She had divorced her husband and had one son. His wife Elsie worked for Western Union.

In October of 1956 Seigfried and Else made another trip to Europe, (link) two weeks after Julian’s marriage, where Siegfried did a fun, happy solo dance at the reception.

Details of Else’s U.S. passport:

  • July 14, 1956 Re-stamped by Dept. of State, valid through March 17, 1958
  • August 8, 1956 Germany
  • September 25, 1956 Italy?
  • October 12, 1956 Belgium
  • October 12, 1956 France ?
  • October 17, 1956 France
  • October 22, 1956 Re-admitted to the U.S.

Seigfried passed away in 1957. Else’s brother Henry and his wife Elsie moved to California shortly thereafter, to a garden apartment in Santa Barbara. When Henry passed away in 1958, Else went to stay with Elsie to help and console her.

Frank was 23 and had just completed his undergraduate work at Hofstra University. After some “fun” days, he went to Syracuse, then went on to graduate Harvard Law. He wed Dorothy “Dotty” Pearl Caesar on June 26 1955 in Forest Hills. They had two children, Matthew Stuart on February 1, 1960, and Eric Victor on April 5, 1963.

(Where was Werner at this time? Law school?)