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Address Book Owned by Richard Weilheimer

Like most German Jews,1 Maximilian Weilheimer and his family became the target of increasingly violent antisemitism under the Nazi regime in the 1930s, and eventually faced deportation and imprisonment.2 Maximilian was eventually able to arrange for his young sons Richard and Ernst to escape persecution and live with aunts and uncles in America. The address book featured here bears the traces of the family's ordeal.

In October 1940, the Weilheimer family was deported from their home in Ludwigshafen, Germany to the Gurs internment camp in the south of France. Richard’s first memory of the camp was that there was mud everywhere because the barracks had no floors. On the first page of the address book, Maximilian wrote his barrack numbers, adding the barrack number for his brother, Sigismund ("Muni"). Maximilian did not include his wife's name in the book because she had passed away in July 1941 in the camp from cancer, without any possibility for treatment or pain relief.3 Had she lived, her own barrack number would be listed, as women and children were separated from men in the camp.

Two organizations, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Organisation de Secours aux Enfants (OSE), worked to help families in Gurs by negotiating for children there to be placed in children’s homes.4 On page seven of the address book, Maximilian wrote down the address of the AFSC in Marseille. In February 1941, both Richard and Ernst were brought with around 50 other German Jewish children to the Maison des Pupilles de la Nation in the town of Aspet. Richard, a boy of only ten years old, suffered from malnutrition and was unable to communicate in French when he arrived. But Alice Resch-Synnestvedt, who worked with the AFSC and spoke German, comforted him. On page eight of the address book, Richard wrote down the address of this “Angel of Aspet."5 Her address appears in Richard’s own handwriting. In Aspet, Richard was able to receive letters from his father, attend school, and recover his strength. The address of the school's headmaster, Monsieur Couvot, is listed on page three.

In June 1942, Richard and Ernst, along with four other children from the Maison des Pupilles, sailed from Marseille to America by way of North Africa. Parents were given permission to leave Gurs to visit Marseille the day before the departure. Maximilian was able to spend a day with his sons. During this visit, he gave Richard the address book. He added the inscription, “To my beloved little Richard, a memento for his departure. June 22, 1942.”

Maximilian had turned this small notebook—likely acquired with great difficulty in the camp—into an important source of information and contacts for his son's journey. He also gave Richard stamps for his collection. Richard began to record his stamp collection in the address book while in Morocco, starting with the last page. Many years after the war, Richard said that the address book “is the only memento I have of this final farewell.” Maximilian was not allowed to accompany his sons to the port. Although he remained optimistic in letters he was able to send his sons, a report from the AFSC states that Maximilian felt his life was over and hoped emigration would give his children a future. 

When Richard and Ernst arrived in America, they lived in Plainview, New York, and then in New York City. Their aunts Alice and Nelly, who had immigrated to America in 1937, greeted them. Richard lived with Alice and Maurice ("Mor") Strassburger and Ernst went home with Nelly and Kurt Stern (addresses on page one). Their father was deported from Gurs and murdered in Sobibór in 1943. It is likely that Richard understood Maximillian's fate: his address in Gurs is crossed out in pencil.

This address book is a unique and personal record of the Weilheimer family's imprisonment, loss, and rescue. At the same time, it helps show how victims of the Holocaust often navigated an uncertain future by forging or deepening connections and relationships. This gift from his father held both practical and sentimental value for Richard—a child far from his home and his loved ones. The address book also provides a window into Richard’s memories of his family and his own experience of persecution under Nazi rule.

The Weilheimer family lived in Ludwigshafen, Germany. For more on the family's ancestry, see Richard Weilheimer, Be Happy, Be Free, Dance: A Holocaust Survivor's Message to His Grandchildren (Pasadena, CA: Intentional Productions, 2005), 5. See also this 1933 photograph of Maximilian, his wife Lilly, and their son Richard. 

Maximilian, along with Richard's uncle and grandfather, were arrested in 1939 and sent to Dachau; they were released a few weeks later. See the USC Shoah Foundation oral history of Richard Weilheimer for more details.

Found among Maximilian Weilheimer's personal papers at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum is Lilly Weilheimer's unofficial death certificate made by her friends before she was buried at the camp. Other items include a photograph of Maxamilian lighting a menorah in his barracks. For more on the experiences of Jews imprisoned in Gurs, see the related items Passover Haggadah from the Gurs Camp and USC Shoah Foundation Oral History with Peter Feigl.

The AFSC was organized by an American religious movement known as the Quakers. For more on the ASFC's activities, see the related items in Experiencing History, "Report on the Work of the Refugee Committee" and Correspondence between Franz Blumenstein and the American Friends Service Committee. On children and memory of rescue, see Ruth Schwertfeger, In Transit: Narratives of German Jews in Exile, Flight, and Internment during the "Dark Years of France" (Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2012). Richard's cousin gave him this booklet, "Memories of Gurs Camp" (Erinnerungen an Camp Gurs) painted by a child during the same time Richard was in the camp.  

 

See Weilheimer, Be Happy, Be Free, Dance, 53. See also Resch-Synnestvedt's memoirs, Over the Highest Mountains: A Memoir of Unexpected Heroism in France during World War II, (Pasadena, CA: Intentional Productions, 2004), and Resch-Synnestvedt's photographs of Gurs that she took in secret.

This address book does not follow the typical alphabetical order of most such documents. Although it is unclear where Maximilian Weilheimer may have obtained this it, another child who was rescued Gurs also describes a small address book that his parents gave him when he left the camp and in which he also wrote Alice Resch-Synnestvedt's address. Hal Myers, quoted in Resch-Synnestvedt, Over the Highest Mountains, 258. 

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[2] Richard Weilheimer
To my beloved little Richard [Richardle] before his departure, as a memento. June 22, 1942.

[3] [Entries for Max Weilheimer and Siegmund Weilheimer crossed out; both at camp in Gurs] Business friends of Uncle Muni in Switzerland, who may effect a placement:

Schmoll A.G.S.A.
Basel – Basle
Family of Rudolf Kuhnert
Basel, Rütlistrasse 53

[4] [Entries for Emmy Rosch [Resch?] on Audubon Ave. and Moritz Strassburger on Haven Ave. crossed out; both in NYC]

Kurt Stern
25 Post Ave., Apt. 32 [?]
N.Y. City

[part of a page that has been torn out]

Limoges
Haute-Vienne

[5]  Dr. Joseph Frank
113 Promenade de la Corniche
Marseille
Bouche-du-Rhône 

Josef Frank
Rue Pétiniaud-Beaupeyrat
Limoges

Haute-Vienne

[6] [In a different hand—young Richard?]

Mme A Better
Rue Pavillon 7
Marseille
Bouche-du-Rhône
FRANCE

Mlle Paula Pfeifer
c/o Kurt Herk
730 West 283 Street
New York City

Mr. A. Couvot [Couvet]
Maison des Pupilles de la Nation à Aspet
Haute-Garonne
FRANCE

[7] Mr. Ludwig Weilheimer
Portet-sur-Garonne
Camp de Récébedou
Pavillon 79
Haute-Garonne

Siegfried Pfeifer
Camp de Noé
Pavillon 34
FRANCE

Bernard Ross
51 rue Nationale
La Châtre
Sunre [maybe Centre? La Châtre is in the Indre department, Centre region; or Sevvre?] France

[8]  Alwin Wetzler
New York
Bronx, 691 Gerard Ave.
U.S.A.

Emil Mayer
St. Louis, 1245 Telephone Building
U.S.A.

[crossed out: address of Alfred Weilheimer on Kenyon Street]

[9] [crossed out: part of address in New York]

Simon Stern
Rua Braamcamp 86/4
Lisbon
Portugal

Dora.
Le château Decormis,
les Caillols par St.-Marcel
Marseille

[10] Bouche-du-Rhône

FRANCE

American Friends Service Committee
American Quakers
108 Boulevard de Paris
Marseille
France

[crossed out: address for Franzi Weilheimer, Grand Hotel du Levant] 

[11] [crossed out: Marseille, France]

Miss Resch
Service Committee, American Quakers
Toulouse, France

[crossed out: Franzi W.]

J. Neuburger
542 West 112 Street 

[12] New York City, U.S.A. 

Mr. Max Weilheime[r]
Quaker Block
Camp de Gurs
Basses-Pyrénées
France

Rolf Hess
c/o Mrs. Rosenfeld
[crossed out: 1718 Holyoke Ave.]]

[in a different hand:] 1718 Holyoke Ave. East Cleveland (Ohio)

[13–15, blank]

[16–20] Stamp collection of Richard Weilheimer, Morocco, July 9, 1942

[These pages list countries and colonies, almost all misspelled, and the numbers of stamps from each,
as well as the total number of countries and colonies and the total number of stamps]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2007.336.1
Date Created
1942
Dimensions Height: 4.1 inches (10.41 cm) - Width: 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) - Depth: .25 inches (.635 cm)
Material Paper, ink.
Owner
Maximillian Weilheimer
Richard Weilheimer
Language(s)
French
German
Location
Gurs, France
Aspet, France
Marseille, France
Plainview, New York
Object Type Equipment
How to Cite Museum Materials

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