Rose Spiegel was my maternal grandmother. Born in Semarang, Java on October 19, 1903, she was the second daughter of Herman Spiegel and Sophie Weiss. Her sister, Claire Theresa had been born on January 3, 1901. Her brother, Emil Gerrit, would be born on July 7, 1905.
|Rose Spiegel - Semerang, Java - approx. 1904|
Rose’s father, Herman ran at least two department stores in Java. The Spiegel family lived in Java until 1908 when they returned to Vienna. Herman passed away in 1911, leaving Sophie to raise their three children on her own.
|Project book created by Rose |
during her student teaching.
Rose attended elementary school from 1913–1916 in Vienna, Austria. Rose then attended Öffentliches Cottage-Mädchenlyzeum (Public girl’s high school) in Vienna, Austria. After graduating from high school, Rose attended the New Vienna Commercial Academy in Vienna. She enrolled in a "one-year specialized course for trade for Women and Girls". Following the trade-school course, Rose began attending the Federal Teachers Training Institute in Vienna, training as a Kindergarten teacher. The completion certificate states that Rose had worked with "...the games and occupations of the kindergarten…and... was introduced into the nursery operation and has been working independently with children." Rose received her certificate on June 25, 1927.
|Rose - 1923|
In October 1929 Rose requested to run a private child-care business in her mother’s apartment at 43 Silbergasse. On February 1, 1930 her request was approved for a term of one year.
|Paul Lichtenthal - 1931|
Shortly after, on August 12, 1930, Rose married Paul Lichtenthal. One must wonder when and how they met. Looking through photo albums from 1924 - 1930 there are numerous photos of Rose with her family and various gentlemen. Not one of Paul can be seen nor have I found a wedding photo. The couple moved into Sophie’s apartment on Silbergasse.
Paul’s parents were so against the possibility of a grandchild that they went to extraordinary lengths to prevent such an occurrence. According to my mother, Paul and Rose took a trip to Salzburg, Austria in 1931. Despite the intervention of Sigmund, Paul's father, who traveled there purposefully, a child was conceived and on March 5, 1932, their daughter, Doris May was born.
Rose and her family lived a very comfortable life in Vienna. They made a good living from the Lichtenthal family business, LITAL, which was supplemented by Rose’s private child-care operation. (A future post will share information about the family business.)
Their lives would soon change dramatically as the situation in Europe became more unstable for Jewish families. In 1938, the family decided to escape to America by way of Holland. Sophie Spiegel (Rose’s mother) still retained her Dutch citizenship from her earlier life in Java. Rose would travel with her mother and daughter. Paul would stay behind to tend to the family business with hopes of following soon after.
Unfortunately, in May 1938 Paul was taken by the Nazis as a “political prisoner”. He spent time in Dachau and Buchenwald before being released in February of 1939. (More on this in a future post.)
As described in a letter to Rose from the Holland-America ship line, they were to travel on the Staatendam on September 2, 1938. After a short stay in Holland, at the home of Ignacz Bäck, a family friend and former business partner of her father, the trio traveled to America arriving in New York on September 18, 1938.
|Rose's Passport - 1938|
Upon arriving in the United States, Rose, her mother Sophie, and daughter Doris lived at the home of the Sveds in Merrick, Long Island. Alexander Sved was married to the former Irene Oppenheim. Irene was the granddaughter of Emanuel Weiss (see blog post: Emanuel Weiss) and was Rose’s first cousin. (Yikes! Just realized I neglected to post about Rosa Weiss, Irene’s mother, born in September 1868. Owe you a post, Rosa!!)
In 1939, Rose’s brother Emil was managing Beechmont Towers, an apartment building located at 30 Eastchester Road in New Rochelle. NY. It was decided that Rose and her family would move into his apartment. The two-bedroom apartment was a bit strange in design, as one of the bedrooms did not have a closet. This room became the bedroom for Rose and Paul. Doris shared a room with her grandmother, Sophie, until Sophie’s death in 1949. Rose resided there for the rest of her life.
|30 Eastchester Road New Rochelle, NY - 1939|
Rose became a naturalized US citizen on May 30, 1944. During this time she and her husband Paul were building their business, D’Orette Linens, named for their daughter. They opened the business in 1940, manufacturing woven plastic mats.
|Newspaper article about D'Orette Linens|
Rose created over 40 designs and sold the mats, with matching napkins in linen and specialty shops across the country. (At some point, I will create a post dedicated to their business.)
|Line drawing by Rose detailing an idea for placemat|
Running the business proved very stressful and not entirely financially beneficial. Rose managed the business, working with the four employees to create and sell their products. Paul supplemented the family income by working first at a hat factory in Danbury, CT, then at the local E.J. Korvette department store.
In February 1960, Rose became quite ill, suffering a coronary occlusion and pneumonia. As a result, she was unable to continue working. Her husband had died just months before in August of 1959. She applied for, but was denied disability. According to records, Rose was denied benefits because she had not worked for a covered employer. Financially, life got even more difficult. Rose began working from her home as a “market researcher”, otherwise known as a telemarketer. To help with expenses, Rose shared her apartment with a woman named Ricka Bergmann.
|Rose on her couch - Apt. 5D 30 Eastchester Rd. 1960s|
I remember that couch - filled with horsehair and VERY itchy!!
|Omi and Dean - May 1965 - visiting her daughter and grandchildren in Hamden, CT|
I have so many memories of my grandmother. She was a quiet, reserved woman, always nicely dressed, always wearing her lipstick. When I picture her, I always see her dressed in her gray skirt with her pink wool sweater. Maybe she wore that a lot…..I truly have no other image of her in my mind. Wait…I do have one more image. I was sitting on the floor at the bottom of the stairs leading down to the basement at my mother’s house. Omi (that’s what we called her…it’s a derivative of the German “Oma” which means grandmother.) and I were both sitting on the floor…no idea why. We were laughing so hard at…..who knows…..when my Omi said, “Wait…..I just wet my pants.” Thanks a lot, Omi. You passed that lovely trait on to me.
I guess I’ll accept the inherited “weak-bladder” as Omi also most likely passed on her creativity gene. I would credit her with the cooking gene as well, but I’m pretty sure that went from her mother to my mother to my girls, skipping me entirely! Omi did have a few “specialties” however: “vanilla milk”- warm milk mixed with vanilla to help us get to sleep, “bread balls” to dip in the yolk of soft-boiled eggs are two I can think of.
I regret that I never had “deep” conversations with my grandmother. I never asked her about what her life must have been like – living a fairly comfortable life, then losing almost everything due to the war, just because of their religious affiliation. We spend so much time with our family members, but do we really get to know each other on a deeper level as a “real” person- with hopes, disappointments, and dreams?
Rose Spiegel Lichtenthal died of congestive heart failure on October 29, 1972. She was 69 years old.
Next post: Sigmund Lichtenthal "Expert"