upheimand its Annihilation
Book Pages 90 - 99
Clothing Store, 6 + 7 Mittelsrasse
Translated by: Ursula Volwiler
Clara Hofheimer, neé Bergmann, born September 18, 1882 in Laupheim, died March 20, 1967 in New York, OO Hugo Hofheimer, born February 14, 1882, died June 4, 1928 in Laupheim.
– David Friedrich “Fritz“ Hofheimer, born June 10, 1908, died May 13, 1999 in Pennsylvania,
– Helene Hofheimer, born September 20, 1910, died January 26, 1989 in Florida,
– Elisabeth Ruth “Liesl“ Hofheimer, born December 21, 1917, died April 2, 1993,
– Martha “Martl“ Hofheimer, born January 28, 1920, died June 5, 1972 in Kibbuz Hasorea, Israel.
Emigration of the entire family to the United States or Israel between 1933 and 1940.
When R. Hofheimer’s “Clothing and Linen Store” advertised its going-out-of-business sale in November 1934, a 125-year-old business tradition came to a close. Following the premature death of her husband Hugo in 1928, Clara Hofheimer managed the business, which had been in the family for four generations, with her brother-in-law Rudolf Hofheimer. The business was one of the oldest in Laupheim at the time and one of the first Jewish establishments to cave in to Nazi pressure.
His son Raphael Hofheimer built the commercial building on Mittelstraße (shown here) in 1856. Since all of Raphael’s children died prematurely, the house passed into the hands of David, his brother Samuel’s son, in 1880. David finished the attic and added a cross gable toward the street still visible today. David was followed in 1906 by his eldest son Hugo, born 1882, who married Clara Bergmann. They had four children. Fritz, the eldest son, also completed a business apprenticeship. He helped manage the business after the premature death of his father, and would, no doubt, have continued it into the fifth generation. As early as 1933 he realized, however, that Jews would have no future in Nazi Germany. After closing the business on January 1, 1935, the widowed Clara Hofheimer rented out the business space and later the residential part as well, and in March of 1939 sold both to businessman Karl Doss, who was renting the property at the time.
Today, direct descendants of the Hofheimer family can only be found in Israel, but no contact has been established. There are, however, reliable sources which provide a vivid image of the living conditions in the 1920s and 1930s thanks to, above all, the written records maintained by Clara Hofheimer’s nephews, John H. Bergmann and Ernest Bergman.
The Family in the 1920s
Cousin Hans (John H.) Bergmann’s reminiscences convey a beautiful atmospheric image of a carefree childhood in the Laupheim of the 1920s. Shown here is the rear of the Hofheimer property facing Rabenstraße, today’s location of the Doss business (now WM-City-Mode). It was the adventure playground of the extended Bergmann family. Only a small part of the barn described in the text below remains in the photo from the 1950s: the building on the right with a makeshift shed roof.
“As most Jews engaged in some sort of trade that involved travel, barn and stable were needed for horses, coaches, for storing hay, wood, and coals. The Hofheimer family was no exception. They sold textiles from their store to the farmers and had to deliver the merchandise out in the country. Their barn must have been designed by an architect over many sleepless nights. For us children it was a castle. Stairs led up and down to false floors, nooks, and mysterious rooms where we could hide and nobody would find us. In the courtyard of the Hofheimer property we founded a sports club called “Frischauf” (translator’s note: a name used by many sports clubs meaning “Let’s go”) and staged competitions. Whatever we needed to run our sports club was created out of materials found in the Hofheimer barn, as we had no money at our disposal.”
The Four Hofheimer Children
In the 1920s, all four Hofheimer children attended secondary and grammar schools in Laupheim. Helene Hofheimer, the eldest daughter, completed secondary school in 1926, which was the occasion for the class picture showing her seated on the left in the front, her arm slipped through that of her classmate, Lotte Beck. According to oral reports, three of the four Hofheimer children performed at the top of their individual classes. Martha, called “Martl”, was always presented by her Latin teacher as a shining role model for her less Latin-inclined cousin Ernst Bergmann, and she often tutored her cousin in Latin. Very few boys at the grammar and secondary school managed to live up to teacher Zepf’s rigorous standards of Latin. Student Fritz Hofheimer was that kind of rare exception!
After completing secondary school, Liesl
Hofheimer, born 1917, went to Geneva, Switzerland, where she studied to be
an neonatal nurse. In 1938 she emigrated to the United States, where she
married Ralph Ross, a textile engineer, in 1941. Martha, the youngest
sibling, was not able to finish school in Laupheim. She made the most
radical decision based on the continuously deteriorating living conditions
for Jews in Germany, and turned toward Zionism. Instead of being a model
student and cramming Latin vocabulary, she completed a short agricultural
training course in Wolfratshausen, near Munich, in order to go to Palestine
illegally with Youth Aliyah in 1937, when she was only 16. She lived in the
newly founded Kibbuz Hasorea near Haifa, where she later started a family
and had two daughters. Her older siblings in the United States never had
January 30, 1933: Hitler Seizes Power – Closing of the Business in 1934
appears that the decision to give up the business despite its long-standing
tradition must have been made early in 1934. The clearance sale began on a
Saturday morning, November 3, 1934. The entire family, supported by many
friends, served as sales staff in order to meet the expected onslaught of
customers. Indeed, it surpassed all expectations: Not long after the store
opened it was crowded to such an extent that the doors had to be closed for
safety reasons and in order to keep track of customers. The next throng of
people, already waiting in front of the store, was permitted to enter an
hour later. This scenario repeated itself all day long until the shelves
were largely empty.
Sale of the House 1939 – Restitution 1951
After the war, sales transactions concluded under duress were declared
invalid and the respective properties were returned to their rightful owners
or heirs, a process called restitution. In exchange for paying an
appropriate higher price, however, the new owners were generally able to
remain in possession of their properties, since none of the former owners
returned to Laupheim. Thus, the Hofheimer/Doss business was sold by the
Hofheimer family to Karl Doss for a second time in September of 1951. Doss
had returned in 1949 after having been a prisoner of war. He soon sold the
former business property toward Mittelstraße to Carl Obstbaum, most likely
to be able to finance the restitution payment, and in the mid-50s built a
new residence and business in the rear part of the property toward
In the United States
After emigrating, three of the four Hofheimer children changed
their first names. David Friedrich, called Fritz, became Frederic David, and
Helene was Americanized into Helen. Elisabeth was the only one who didn’t
have to change much. Martha, called by the Swabian abbreviation “Martl”, was
a devoted Zionist. She grew roots in Israel and adopted the biblical name
Tamar, although her original name was of biblical origin as well. Most
likely she wanted to make a point of consciously leaving behind her German
identity and starting completely anew in Israel. None of them has ever
stepped on German soil again.
Ca. 1980: Helen Hofheimer (left) visiting her sister
Tamar Speier (Martl) in Kibbuz Hasorea (Israel).
The child is Tamar’s grand-daughter. Helen spent her golden years in Florida. She owes her Americanized first name to her grandmother Helene Hofheimer, neé Einstein.
Adressbuch (address book) 1925: company logo. Archive Theo Miller: Photograph ca. 1900.
Archive Günter Raff: SA-Boycott, April 1, 1933.
Archive Ernst Schäll: Family Picture 1921 – Helen and Tamar, ca. 1980 – the four Hofheimer children. Museum files: Invoice Hedwig Steiner 1928 – advertisement of going-out-of-business sale.
Traudl Ganser, neé Doss: Clothing Store Doss, ca. 1950 – rear view from Rabenstraße. Josef Braun: Alt-Laupheimer Bilderbogen I, pg. 193 : graduation 1926 of secondary and grammar school students.
1. John H. Bergmann: The Bergmanns from Laupheim.
A Family Chronicle, 1983.
2. Nathanja Hüttenmeister: Der jüdische Friedhof (The Jewish Cemetery), Laupheim, 1998.
Time period witnesses:
Ernest Bergman, Traudl Ganser.