The Ringels in Berlin—time of prosperity

Hermann Ringel’s partner is identified

A couple of years ago, I found the names of two clothing businesses owned by our grandfather Hermann Ringel listed in a database of Jewish businesses expropriated by the Nazis. One was his own outerwear manufacturing company, Hermann Ringel & Co. The other, an export-import menswear wholesaler, was co-owned with a partner. The database gave us something we hadn’t known—the name of the wholesale business.

The company was Reichenthal & Ringel, with addresses in the heart of the Scheunenviertal, first on the Spandauer Bridge and then at Schönhauser Allee 8. We never knew much about this partner, except for his own treacherous act of stealing the money Hermann had set aside to get his family out of Germany. Walter recorded our mother Helga’s account of the thievery in his Ruby Family Histories.

But we never had a name for the partner who took Hermann’s money after he died in 1938, and nearly scuttled the desperate escape of Hermann’s widow and daughter. The database told us his name was Reichenthal, but I had not tried to identify him precisely. 

Today, in compiling a list of Berlin addresses associated with Hermann Ringel, I looked for the first time for a telephone directory listing for Reichenthal & Ringel. I found several listings, dating back to 1921. In each case the business listing was associated with a residential listing for Isser Reichenthal.

So now we have the full name of the man who helped to establish Hermann in business, but who betrayed him in the end when it was a matter of life and death. I’ll be looking further into the life and postwar fate of Isser Reichenthal during my upcoming trip to Berlin.

Meeting our long-lost Ringel cousins

I googled "Kissler in New Jersey" and immediately discovered Kissler & Co., a plumbing supply store in Carlstadt, N.J., with a Barry Kissler and Glenn Kissler as the top executives. Bingo! These brothers had to be the grandsons of Bella Giesskann, nee Ringel. They would be my third cousins. 

The Kissler & Co. web site offered a contact page, where I could send in a message. I wrote:

Hi Barry and Glenn, Unless my sleuthing is wrong, your maternal grandmother was Bella Ringel, Born in Scotland of parents previously from Hamburg. Her father was Jacob Schia Ringel, who was born in Rzeszow, Austria. Jacob’s older brother was Schia Ringel, Born in Rzeszow. Schia relocated to Berlin when Jacob went to Hamburg. schia’s son Hermann Ringel was a businessman in Berlin until his death by natural causes in 1938. He was my grandfather. His wife Elly and my mother Helga Ringel fled Berlin in September 1938 and made their way to New York in 1941. So that makes the two of you my third cousins. Let me know if I am right and if I can tell you any more. — Dan Ruby, 66, in Oakland, Calif.

Barry replied the next day. He thought my information sounded correct, but he had sent my info on to his sister, Sharon Goldstein, whom he thought would know more. Sharon then called her second cousin Madalyn Kates, nee Brody, on Long Island. They agreed I had identified their two grandmothers correctly, but that I hadn't mentioned the third sister, Betty, whom Madalyn remembers meeting as a child. They vaguely knew about Scotland, but had no idea about Hamburg or Rzeszow or any other Ringel family members in Germany. A few days later, I connected with Madalyn's 36-year-old daughter Dani Kates, who was the one who had posted the helpful tree on Ancestry. 

Dani wrote to me in email:

When my grandpa passed away (Morton Brody) I was helping my mom go through the house, and in my grandmas things I found a journal. It was Leahs or Bella's I cant believe I dont remember whose, but I think Leah since that was my great grandma. It was her journal while they were on the journey from Glasgow to Montreal. It has dates and everything. I gave it to my mom and it is packed away somewhere with their things so we will have to look for it again. Finding that journal was what first sparked my interest in learning about our past. 

A few months later, we Rubys were all going to be in New Jersey for a wedding. We hoped that we might arrange a meeting with some of the Kissler family. Barry was interested and tried to make it happen, but it turned out our schedule was too rushed. and it didn't come off. I know that he and his family members appreciated learning more about their Ringel family history from me. I regret I didn't post about thiis at the time, but I got very busy with my book project after that New Jersey trip and I stopped blogging altogether until restarting last week.

I'll look forward to hopefully meeting some of the Kissler and Kates family members on a future trip to New York, whenever that becomes possible again. 

The first Ringels in America

Four of the five Ringel siblings from Rzeszow relocated to Berlin and the German capital became the center of Ringel family life for sixty years. The fifth sibling, Jakob Schia Ringel, went instead to Hamburg. I figured out his story a year ago, and it led to making a connection with a branch of American Ringel relatives that we had not known of. Someimes in this work there are happy endings. 

Jakob Ringel married Rosalie Saffe in Hamburg in February 1890 when he was 29 years old. They had four children in five years (two survived) in Hamburg. Their address during part of this time is in Altona, which is the old city of Hamburg, probably the Jewish district. I don't know how long the family remained in Hamburg but they next show up in a census record in Glasgow, Scotland. That may have been an interim stop on an intended journey to America. Another daughter was born in Glasgow in 1901, and then they emigrated to Montreal, Canada, in 1908, according to a 1911 Canadian census. 

The oldest daughter Bertha was 18 years old when she arrived and I don't know what became of her. The two younger daughters, Leah and Bella, went to school in Montreal and both of them married Jewish men in that city. Leah married Hyman Irving Shear in 1922, and they had a dughter Jacqueline there in 1924. In 1926, Hyman came to the U.S. and established the family in Booklyn. Jacqueline married Morton Brody in 1946. They had a son and a daughter, Madalyn, who later married Steven Kates. 

Bella marrried a former Austrian, Frederick Glesskann, in 1929 at age 28. This couple came almost immediately to the U.S., because they show up in the 1930 U.S. census in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. They had a daughter Renee in 1934. She may have shortened her name to Gilkan. In 1954, she married Gerald Kissler in New York City.  The Kisslers had four children—Sharon, Barry, Glenn and Steven—born between 1957 and 1963. 

All of this I figured in a few hours one day in early April 2019. Besides my usual databases and search tools, I benefitted from a public family tree posted on Ancestry. It was a revelation to discover that my mother had two first cousins (once removed) who lived in the New York area at the time she and my grandmother arrived. 

But it was what happened next that was even more rewarding.  


Hermann had many Ringel cousins in Berlin

I have known for a while that Schija's brother Leib Ringel also moved to Berlin because he served as a witness on some of the vital records I have. Recently, with the availability of record searches of the Berlin Landesarchiv, a slew of new records show the extent of the Ringel family in and around Berlin's Jewish Scheunenviertel district. 

Leib Ringel married Pessel Apfelbaum and they had seven children, four girls and three boys. One of the sons, five years younger than our Hermann Ringel, was his cousin Hermann Ringel. After his birth I have nothing else on him and four of the other children. But one of the sons, Moses, named for his grandfather, died at age 6. The eldest child was Zierel, or Tziril, who we have encountered before as a listing in the Yad Vashem victims database. Now we know about her husband, Josef Apfelbaum, also a victim, and their son Leon Apfelbaum, born in Berlin in 1902, who escaped to the United States and died in Dade County, Florida, in 1983.

Leib and Pessel and their seven children lived at Strasburgerstraße 57, just a few blocks from the Ringel home on Lothringer Straße where Hermann later lived. (I don't yet know where Hermann lived as a boy, but it must have been around these same few blocks.)

Daughters are usually harder than sons to track, but the Landesarchiv records show us the married names of Schija's two sisters, Reisel and Basze Sure. For Reisel, who married Arye Reich, we also have her four children, Rosa Lea (named for her grandmother), Rubin, Amalie and another Hermann, born between 1887 and 1893. The Reich family lived at Rosenstraße 27, on the south side of the quarter. Reisel died at age 53 in 1917. I have marriage information for the two Reich daughters. Amalie married Salli Sinzheimer in 1910 and Rosa Lea married Franz Julius Mau in 1916. In 1923, the Sinzheimer family lived at Lothringer Straße 54, apartment 2, downstairs from our Ringel family members. The records seem to show that Salli Sinzheimer emigrated to Palestine. That bears further study. 

The youngest of the original Ringel siblings, Basze Sure, married in Berlin in 1899. Her husband Josef Herzig may have been an egg and poultry dealer. They lived at Lothringerstraße 12. I don't have information about any children or their future fate. 

So besides Schija Ringel's three children (and a fourth who died), his siblings accounted for at least 11 other Ringel cousins in the neighborhood, more than that if the Herzig's had children. They were all Hermann's first cousins, and their numerous offspring were Helga's second cousins.

My point is there were a lot of Ringel relatives in Berlin, and most within a four-block radius. When Helga was born in 1924, in the more upscale Jewish neighborhood of Charlottenburg, she was a part of an abundant family network that had been flourishing in Berlin for almost 50 years. .


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