Elsa, Nathan und Edith Wertheimer

Themar – Coburg – Rivera/La Pampa, Argentinien

Elsa, Nathan and Edith Wertheimer

Elsa Frankenberg was born in Coburg in October 1897 and was called Else by her family. She was the second child of Max Frankenberg and his wife Meta, née Rosenthal. Her elder brother Arthur Frankenberg gave his life for “the Fatherland” as a Jewish soldier on the battlefields of the First World War.

Else Frankenberg’s parents originally came from the region around Themar, a small town in Thuringia, as did Nathan Wertheimer’s family. Both families were engaged in horse and cattle trading. Nathan’s brother Milton also lived in Coburg. You’ll find separate “Lebensbilder” (biographies) for him and his wife Bella Wertheimer on this website.

The wedding of Else Frankenberg and Nathan Wertheimer took place in October 1922 in Themar, and shortly thereafter the couple moved to Coburg to Löwenstraße 23, where Else’s parents also lived. Their daughter Edith was born in 1926 and so three generations lived under one roof – nothing unusual in those days.

Elsa und Nathan Wertheimer

Edith Wertheimer

The school Edith attended for primary education was the “Rückert Schule” on the opposite side of the street. She felt no difference between herself and her numerous friends until one day they started to turn their backs on her and were no longer allowed to play with her, because she was “Jewish.” Edith’s stay at this school ended when Jewish pupils were no longer allowed to be taught there. From then on, she attended Hermann Hirsch’s “Jewish Elementary School”in Hohe Straße, which was originally conceived as a Jewish boarding school, but eventually had adapted to the requirements of the time. (Foto)

In cultural terms, Edith was strongly influenced by her parental home; she was familiar with classical music, especially Mozart, Bach and Wagner.

Life after the change of power

Else Wertheimer’s mother, Meta Frankenberg, had been suffering from depression for a long time, which became increasingly severe and made it necessary for her to be treated in the Kutzenberg sanatorium and nursing home from 1931. There is more about Meta Frankenberg in her own biography.

Even before the Nazis came to power, the situation for Jewish families in Coburg had deteriorated significantly. Nathan’s cousin, Julius Wertheimer, sold his business and emigrated to the USA in 1936 with his wife and two sons.

Nathan Wertheimer was hesitant about possible emigration, perhaps also because of his wife Else’s close ties to her mother and the necessity of a prolonged treatment in the sanatorium.

Apartment at Raststraße 6

In the meantime, the family had moved to Raststraße 6. On the eve of the notorious pogrom night (Kristallnacht) of 1938 “men in black uniforms” forcibly entered the house, as twelve-year-old Edith described them. They were looking for her father, who had apparently been warned and was hiding with friends. After this incident, Nathan Wertheimer urged them to leave Germany as quickly as possible. However, the desired destination, the USA, was out of reach, so they chose Argentina as the only remaining alternative.

Escape to Argentina

Nathan, Else and Edith Wertheimer sailed from Hamburg to Buenos Aires on the “General San Martín” in 1938. In Argentina, Jewish emigrants were assigned their own settlements. In Rivera in the province of La Pampa, several families who had fled from Germany were already living with the most basic facilities and without a suitable infrastructure. With the Wertheimer family there were twelve in total – Edith was the youngest of the children.

Although life was hard and full of privation, Edith later called it a great a great blessing that the family was safe and able to find a new home with Argentinian Government support. She met Arthur Levy in Rivera, who had also escaped from Germany. They married and had four children.

Edith’s parents Nathan and Else Wertheimer never returned to Germany and died in Argentina. Edith Levy, née Wertheimer lived to the age of 90 and died in Buenos Aires in 2016.

Looking back on her experiences in Germany, she said:

We have learned to forgive and move on.
But there are wounds that never heal.

Edith and Arthur Levy’s children now live in Argentina and Israel.

Text: Gaby Schuller

Elsa Frankenberg
Edith Wertheimer
Nathan Wertheimer

Text gelesen von Gaby Schuller: