The Gottfelds

My Grandpa Sally Gottfeld was born in 1891 in Culmsee (or Kulmsee, Chelmza in Polish), also in the Posen region.

After the first Partition of Poland (1772) Chełmża was taken over by the Kingdom of Prussia. At that time, it had only 600 inhabitants. For a short period in early 19th century, during Napoleon’s reign, it became part of Duchy of Warsaw, but returned to Prussia after the Congress of Vienna (1815). The city’s population was 1200 in 1831 and 3000 in 1871. Its economic situation improved as it became a center for local villages, which benefited from the good soil. The building of agricultural manufacturing plants as well as railway terminals, completed in 1882, further enhanced the city. The population rose from 3400 in 1880 to 10600 in 1910. The development of the city was halted by the start of the World War IThe living conditions declined and street riots became widespread. Poles rose up against Germans and protests took place against forced teaching of the German language in schools.

Jews made up 8 % of the local population around the last part of the 19th century; they built a synagogue in the 1880sThe Half-Hectare Jewish Cemetery was established in 1792 on a small hill (currently on 3 Maja Street). The cemetery, which was destroyed completely in 1939 by the Nazis, is now rebuilt. The site had a wall and a pre-burial house at the entrance. In 2004 the parcel was returned to the Union of Jewish Religious Communities.

Sally was 4 years older than his wife Emma. We have more data on his ancestors, going back to the beginning of the 19th century. Actually, we know who his great-grandfather was and some details about the Gottfelds.

Sally’s great-grand-father was Abraham Gottfeld, a glazer who married Vogel/Voegelche Salomon in Tuchel (Tuchola). They had 6 children, all born in Tuchel: Simon (1815), Baruch (1818) (who died at infancy), Nanke, (1819) Gelle, (1823), Salomon (1825) and Bune (1828). For Simon and Nanke we have a record that they went to school in Tuchel in 1828.

Simon Gottfeld, the oldest of Abraham’s children and the grand-father of Sally, married Maria Stargardter in Tuchel. He and his brother Salomon were glaziers. Simon Gottfeld died before 1899, his wife Maria died after 1899 and before 1920 (records of exact dates are missing). Both Simon and his brother were members of the synagogue in Czersk. From 1854 to 1876 they lived in Karschin (Karszyn), and then in Bruss, where Isaak Gottfeld, Sally’s father was born in 1856.

Simon and Maria Gottfeld, Sally’s grandparents

Simon and Maria Gottfeld, Sally’s grandparents

Isaak moved from Bruss to Culmsee (Chelmza), where he was a member of the Jewish Community for many years. He married his first wife Minna Zadek (or Zadeck) –Sally’s mother, in Culmsee. Their address in Culmsee was Kirchenstrasse 9 and later Wilhelmstrasse 34. Minna Zadek was born in Bruchnowo in 1866 and died in 1898 (at the age of 32) in Culmsee. Her parents were Aron and Julie Zadek (maiden name Tobias). Aron Zadek was a merchant in Culmsee; he died after 1910 (exact year not found). His wife Julie was born in Fordon (today a part of Bydgoszcz – Bromberg) in 1834 and died in Culmsee in 1910.

Isaak & Minna had 8 children: The oldest, Tobias was born in 1889 in Plywaczewo. All the other children were born in Culmsee: Pauline (1890), who died at infancy; Sally, my Grandpa (1891); Simon (1893), Ella (1894) who died in infancy; Georg (1895) who died at infancy, Leo (1897) who also died in infancy and Selma (1898). Their mother Minna died that year, 4 months after giving birth to Selma.

Isaak and Minna Gottfeld with children (from left) Tobias, Pauline, Sally, Ella and Simon

Isaak and Minna Gottfeld with children (from left) Tobias, Pauline, Sally, Ella and Simon

Four of Isaak and Minna’s children died at infancy. Given the fact that the mother, having 8 pregnancies in 9 years, died at the age of 32 – it is very likely that either she was ill and was unable to care for her children or there were other circumstances that prevented the family to protect them.  Thus, Sally lost his mother at the age of 7. According to a story told by a neighbor from Culmsee, Mrs. Steinhardt, when his mother died, Sally wore a sack and put ashes on his head, following an old custom in the Jewish tradition as a sign of mourning.

An interesting document is the will of Minna Zadek’s parents – Sally’s parents-in-law, signed in 1910 by Aron Zadek after his daughter already had died. The inheritors of his assets were his living children (Henriette, Wilhelm and Adolf) and their four grand-children – children of their deceased daughter Minna: Tobias Gottfeld, who was described as a tailor, son of glazer Isaak Gottfeld, living in Culmsee, Sally Gottfeld, living in Culmsee, Simon Gottfeld, described as a glazer-apprentice, living in Culmsee and Selma Gottfeld who lived in Bruss. Their son-in-law Isaak is not mentioned.

Sally’s father Isaak remarried in Unislaw in 1899 a woman 16 years younger than him. His second wife, Friede Cohn, was born in 1872 in Toporzysko. She was the daughter of Louis Lippmann Cohn. Isaak and Friede had no children together but she had at least one child (probably from a previous marriage) and he had four. From stories we heard, the second wife did not treat Isaak’s children well. according to one story she gave her own child more and better food to take to school for lunch than to Isaak’s children. They divorced in 1907. Isaak left Culmsee after World War I; he moved to Berlin in 1920.

When he finished his primary education, around 1905, Sally moved out of his father’s home. He was sent to live as an apprentice at a house of a sheet metal “master” (Klempnermeister), where he would live, work and learn a trade. This was customary at the time among people living in small towns, who had no means to send their children to the schools in the larger cities. We have little information about that part of his life, except that he apparently learned the trade well and later became an excellent sheet-metal specialist. At the age of 19, in 1910, he left Culmsee and moved to Thorn (Torun). A few years later, in 1914, he joined the army and fought in WWI.