Ruby Family History Project Blog

Hermann in database of liquidated Berlin businesses

There are two Hermann Ringel businesses listed in this database that was fairly recently compiled at Humboldt University in Berlin. The second one has a partner's name, Reichenthal, that is new to us.

The compilers produced a wonderful museum exhibit and catalog titled "Final Sale in Berlin" that tells the story of expropiation and profiles about 25 or so businesses. The exhibit was first shown at Humboldt University and later traveled to several places, including the Leo Baeck Institute in New York. Unfortunately, it is not now on display. However, you can browse through the book at the link. 

  • Hermann Ringel & Co, Herren-, Burschen- und Jünglingskonfektion
    Herren-, Burschen- und Jünglingskonfektion (textiles and clothing)
    Founded 1924 , Possession Transfer 1938 , Liq.: 1939
    Memhardstrasse 12 (Mitte)
  • Reichenthal & Ringel Herrenkonfection Engros-Export
    Herrenkonfection Engros-Export (textiles and clothing)
    Founded 1919 , Liq.: 1939
    Schönhauser Allee 8 (Mitte)

Ruby-Rehms at Schlüterstrasse 12

Dan, it's a beautiful building.  The front door was open.  There is construction going on, but I didn't find a person to talk to.  I phoned and sent email just now to the agent showing the units.  Hope to hear back so we can tour and see how much is left from the 20s-30s. - Jo

Ringel home and business directory listing

Dan replies to Joanne questions about the synagogue:

I don't think I have anything about their synagogue. As for the address, see the attached 1937 phone directory page with both home and business listings. The home listing reads "Kfm. Chlb 2, Schlüterstraße 12". Kfm is short for Kaufmann, or merchant. Chlb is Charlottenburg. The 2 could be a division of Charlottenburg, or possibly it is an apartment number. That's the best I have on the apartment. 

The business listing reads "Herrenkonf. en gros", which means wholesale ready-made men's wear. Some earlier listings also mention boy's clothing. The business address is Memhardstraße 12. There are similar listings in 1935, 1937 and 1938. Earlier listings from the mid to late 20s show a business address at Alexanderstr. 55 and a couple of other home addresses. Both business addresses are in the old Stralauer district, which was later in East Berlin. The district was heavily damaged in the war and was rebuilt with Stalinist high rise apartments.

I am also finding listings for S. Ringel, who could be Hermann's father Schija. The last listing for him is 1928, which might indicate a death date. The listings identify him as a butter wholesaler. Whether this S. is our relative is uncertain but we can be fairly sure of the Hermann info.

Looking for Hermann's shul

Joanne is in Berlin, ailing from an infection she may have caught in Budapest. She is looking to visit the Berlin locations where our Ringel relatives lived their lives during the 1930s—namely the Ringel apartment at Schüterstrasse 12, the orthodox synagogue Hermann Ringel attended, the Weissensee cemetery where he is buried, possibly the school that Helga attended.

Today, she visited the address of the synagogue on Pestalozzistrasse, near to the apartment, which Helga had mentioned in her interview for Walter's Ruby Family Narratives. However, all she finds is a plaque on the wall and a cluster of memorial Stolpersteine in the street.

The synagogue is marked but not here now to see.  Do we think Herman came to this shul? I have not had time to find out if these stone markers are here because they were members of this shul or if this was later a large apartment building.  The dates of deportation vary.  Chilling.  We later saw other gold stones.  Need to read more about it.

Rabbi Spektor letters discovered in Paris

The following was posted as a comment in March 2014 on the old Ruby Family HIstory Project blog. It sounds like M. Malthete has discovered an important trove of Rabbi Spektor papers.


When I travelled to Kovno for the 1st time in July 2007, and when visiting the "Green House" (Jewish Museum) in Vilna, I learned that Rav Itschak Elchanan Spektor had written to the Alliance Israelite Universelle (Paris, France), asking for material help for the Persian Jews. The very day after we came back, I began to search in our archive (I am librarian, in charge of the Hebrew manuscripts at the library of the Alliance Israelite Universelle). I did not find this letter, but I discovered 15 years of correspondance between Rav Itschak Elchanan Spektor and the AIU, from Aug 1881 unto 3 weeks before his death, in Feb 1896. I have numerized all these letters and their draft answers. The letters are in Hebrew and the responses in German.

Epigraphist & Paleograph
in charge of the Hebrew manuscripts
and of the funds of ancient Hebrew printed books
Library of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Paris, France.

Recapping the corkscrew chronicle

Other than having posted an artsy image of the Walter Ruby Jim Crax corkscrew, I see that I never gave a full account of how I came to acquire that precious bit of family memorabilia. So I'll recap the start of it and then resume posting with more recent related developments.

In July 2013 I was having a lot of success finding images and resale transaction records for Ruby patent corkscrews, but so far had not had a solid lead on how to possibly acquire one. Then Google revealed that one had sold on eBay just three months earlier in April. Looking at the transaction record on eBay I found that it did not identify the buyer but that I could contact the seller. I wrote to him with my story and asking if he would identify the buyer. He did, and soon I was in touch with Robert Leopardi, who turned out to be an active collector and trader in vintage corkscrews.

Fortunately, Robert still had the piece and it was a duplicate of another in his collection, so he wrote that he would be willing to sell it to me but that he was traveling and needed to research other sales before setting a price. I also soon left on a trip and thus it took till the end of August to complete the transaction. Meanwhile, I also wrote to another collector, Josef L'Africain, who runs a blog about vintage corkscrews and had posted an item about a Knudsen corkscrew based on the Ruby patent.

This had fed my conviction that Knudsen had acquired the bottle opener design patent rights from my grandfather and then proceeded to manufacture and sell an updated version of the device. I wrote to Josef with questions and the gist of my patent-right transfer story. He got back promptly expressing interest but was also on a collecting trip in Europe. He said he would look into it later, but I didn't push him on it till some months later.

Robert got back with information on comparable sales in the range of $125-$225, and thus set his price at the midpoint, or $175. I probably could have asked him to go lower but I was more excited about owning the object. I didn't object to him making a nice profit on his earlier purchase. He had done me a service by buying it and holding it for me for a few months. I accepted his offer and made arrangements for payment and shipping. I'll describe my reactions upon receiving it in the next post.

Jim Crax corkscrew

I should have posted this in August when I received the Jim Crax corkscrew in a private sale. This is the Walter Ruby designed and manufactured pencil corkscrew. I also have hopes of acquiring a copy of the Knud Knudsen version of the device, but for now I am happy to have this family artifact. I am not a great photographer but here is my attempt to show it off in its environment.

Closing the loop with Rebe

I was embarrassed to say that a full three years had elapsed since I had met Rebe Eisenstein in her Hackensack apartment and that I had not been back in touch to give her any kind of update. The truth was until connecting with Warren I had no new information. But that did not excuse my not having followed up. At her advanced age, there is no time to wait to follow through on promises. My delay already had cost any opportunity to speak with her cousin Elliot.

So it had been weighing on me for some time. Now after having spoken directly with Mark, I was happy that I could call her with first-hand good news. She picked up on the first ring and knew who I was before I finished saying it. We should all be so sharp at 93. I began by apologizing for my absence but she told me not to worry, and that things happen in their time and with a reason. Then I told her the news about Mark. She was thrilled. I recounted the various details that I gave in the previous post.

I then expressed my condolences for the loss of Elliot. She told me that, compounding their grief, Isolde's only son Jonathan also died just weeks after Elliot's death. I followed up by sending Mark's address and phone number to Isolde the next day and sharing my sympathy with her as well. I was happy to relieve my conscience and close the loop with the two of them. I believe by now Mark and Rebe have spoken directly but I have not heard a report.

Mark Zimkin fills in the gaps

As promised, Mark knew about my family research and eagerly took my call when I reached him after returning home from Pittsburgh. Actually, I should say he hadn't read the blog since he prefers not to use a computer. But Warren must have told him the relevant parts. We had a rambling two-hour conversation that covered quite a lot of ground in no particular order. Since the first call, we have had a followup conversation. I have a few notes from the calls but most of the following is from memory.

First, given our prior fears that he may have been deceased, it was wonderful to find him in more or less decent shape. He does have health issues, including some vision loss resulting from his chronic diabetes. Financially, he is not necessarily thriving but is well set up with his Canadian pension, co-ownership of the condo where he lives, and occasional work selling ad space for a Las Vegas publisher.

As a Canadian citizen, he would have better access to health care there than in Nevada and he worries that he would have to return to Toronto if his health deteriorated. He says he loves the Southwestern climate and wants to stay put in Las Vegas. How he landed in Vegas is a long story that I will not be able to do justice to, but it goes something like this. The last we knew of Mark was in the late 1980s when he visited Zimkin relatives in New York. At that time he continued to live in Toronto following the death of his mother and divorce from his wife. He was a merchant in women's accessories, running a showroom named Jonathan Marks and later another using his first and middle names, Mark Raymond. Scarves, purses, ladies' accessories.

I don't have a lot of detail about these businesses, but Mark says he remained in Toronto until 2008, when he joined up with a real estate publishing enterprise that put him on the road selling realtor ads across the western United States. He would go into a region, Tucson, say, and set up shop for a few weeks or months at a time, staying in residence apartments in Vegas, the Napa Valley, Taos, you name it. He drove a nice car and he loved the adventure of it, racking up memories wherever he went. Since I live in Oakland, Calif., he went into detail to recall the Buttercup Bar and Grill in Jack London Square.

Eventually the publishing business failed to pan out. Mark was on the road and short on options when he met by chance with a Canadian-Greek businessman, who hired him and set him up in Las Vegas to sell toilet systems to hotels. That lasted for a few years and unfortunately went belly up, as well. The apartment that he rented was available for sale at very low price in the distressed 2010 market. Mark's buddy from Toronto, Steve Rosen, agreed to go in on it with Mark, putting up most of the capital investment. Mark pays the condo fees and utilities, but otherwise has very comfortable apartment. The Village Green borders right on the Las Vegas Country Club, he noted to me.

In addition to Mark's personal journey, our conversation covered new information I had for him about some of his Zimkin relatives, his memories of his father Arthur and mother Frieda Zimkin, his limited knowledge about his Rabinowitz family line, and more. Having just reconnected with his Safter cousins from Frieda's family, he was anxious to also reconnect with his Zimkin kin. I gave him the sad news that Elliot Wineburg, his father's cousin who he had been close to, had passed away after an accident in 2011. However, two other cousins, Elliot's sister Isolde and Rebe Eisenstein, now 93, were alive and well. Mark also wanted to know about Rebe's sister Floral and especially her daughter Jeannine, but I said he would need to speak directly to Rebe.

Since then, I had a wonderful call myself with Rebe and I put the two of them together for a direct conversation. I will have a short post about my call with Rebe coming up. For now, back to Mark. He has many warm memories of his grandfather David Zimkin. Mark would visit his apartment near Yankee Stadium. He could not remember having been told anything about David's wife, his grandmother. Of course, by the time Mark was a boy, Sadie Rabinowitz Zimkin had been deceased for more than 20 years.

The one Rabinowitz family member that Mark has any memory of at all is Harrison Cannold. On several occasions, he went with his father to the store where Harrison worked, Maxie's Hats in Time Square. Once Harrison gave Mark a college sweatshirt as a gift. He recalls Harrison talking about his trips to Mardi Gras, somehow connected with the hat business.

Mark proudly recalled his father's intellectual bent. He thought that the classmate's inscription in Arthur Zimkin's Morris High yearbook said it best: "From A to Z, a man of letters." Mark recalled Arthur's photography passion. Every print was stamped Photo by Arthur J. Zimkin. Once on Mark's grandfather's birthday, Arthur filled every picture frame in the house with his images of David Zimkin. Mark also recalled that Arthur's best friend was Edwin Schlossberg, the uncle of Caroline Kennedy's husband.

Mark recalled that Arthur planned to pursue his many hobbies and interests after his retirement from the Post Office. That is why it was so shocking that he had a stroke and passed away overnight just two months after the retirement. Mark got the news by phone.

As much as he admired his father, Mark was really a mama's boy. Frieda carried on her life in New York for several years, but then moved to Toronto to be near Mark and his wife. She helped out in the business and lived in her own apartment. She was a great help and comfort to Mark until one day in 1977, getting out of a car and feeling weak, she said to Mark, "You know, mothers don't last forever." She was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Mark was by her side throughout. He brought her food that she said she craved—Chinese or Coney Island hot dogs—but then she couldn't eat. She did not hold out for even as long as the doctor had prepared them for.

After that time, he mostly fell out of contact with his Zimkin and Safter relations. Other than the 1987 visit to New York, Mark had fallen out of sight to both sides of his family. Now partly through my interest in his Rabinowitz relationship and also the active searching by Warren Safter, he has turned up alive and fairly well. All the parties—Mark, Warren and his two cousins, Rebe, and myself—are happy to be reconnected and intend to maintain the ties. The Safter cousins are planning a trip to Las Vegas for Spring 2014, and I expect to join them and Mark for a reunion there.

Warren discovers Mark in a real estate transaction

In late August, after having exchanged emails with me, Warren Safter ran a Google search on Mark Zimkin and found a new bit of information buried in the records of Las Vegas real estate transactions. RS Capital, a limited liability corporation with a Mark Zimkin listed as a member and registered agent, purchased the property in December 2010. When Warren sent me the link for that, I was able to also find a Clark County property parcel record showing it was a unit in the Village Green Condos in East Las Vegas. It was current as of May 2013 and still showed Mark Zimkin as one of two owners.

Rosh Hashanah was coming up in a few days, so Warren decided to use the occasion to send Mark a greeting to the Village Green address. He told me he had done so, but it was not top of my mind a week or two later. One thing I was distracted by was the excitement of a baseball pennant race. My Pittsburgh Pirates were finally going to the post-season for the first time in 20 years. My sports-mad nephew Zach even convinced me to go with him for the two playoff games in Pittsburgh.

It was there, in the hotel the night after the team won the first game, that I got Warren's email that Mark had replied to his New Year's card and that the two had spoken at length. Warren had told Mark about me and my research, and he said that Mark looked forward to speaking with me. The Pirates lost the second game and eventually lost the series to St. Louis. I waited to get home to place my call to Mark. More on that in the next post.