Sigmund Lichtenthal was my maternal great-grandfather. While I don't remember him at all, I have definitely formed an impression of his personality. My mom used to tell me that Sigmund's business card identified him as an "expert" - no mention of what he was an "expert in, however.
I figured she was exaggerating. After all, who would have had such a high opinion of himself that he would print up cards purporting to be an expert?
Then....I found it.
Sigmund was born on October 20, 1875 in Tarnopol Poland. He was the third of six children born to Rachmiel Lichtenthal and the former Taube Beller. Sadly, all three of his brothers are presumed to be victims of the Holocaust. His sister, Fiege (born 1869) would marry, but die at the young age of 33. Rachmiel and Taube’s fifth child, sex unknown, was a stillborn (1880).
|This book is online and lists the|
students attending the school in 1883
In 1883 Sigmund was a high school student in Tarnopol, Poland
In 1892 he was studying to be a hat manufacturer in Budapest, Hungary. His "Arbeitsbuch" (workbook) which contains dates beginning in 1892, appears to delineate his work experience, first in Hungary then later in Austria (1895).
Named Jerychem (Jerichem) “Joachim” Schlome at birth, he formally changed his given name to Sigmund. The documentation I found related to this was dated October 14, 1930. However, many documents show that he was using the name “Sigmund” much earlier than that.
On December 10, 1899 he married Rosa Berger. They were married in the largest Jewish synagogue in Vienna, Tempelgasse. Exactly one year later the couple's first child was born, a son they named Paul. On October 11, 1902 their daughter Valerie was born. (see post: Valerie Lichtenthal)
I have very little information about Sigmund's life during this time, however it is clear that he was becoming quite successful in the hat-making business. In 1907, he received a Grand Prize at the Paris Exposition for hat-making.
|1907 Paris Exposition - Grand Prize|
Sigmund was at least part-owner of the family business, Lital, in Vienna, Austria. In 1927,the business was located at VII Mariahilferstrasse 88a. His family residence at that time was listed as IX Nordbergstrasse 6 Vienna, Austria.
|The shop on Mariahilferstrasse. Paul Lichtenthal is standing in door way on the right.|
Date unknown. Others in picture also unknown.
I am unsure whether other family members worked at the business with Sigmund, but I suspect that to be the case. There are several “stories” unfortunately unknown to me, alluding to problems in the family that resulted in a rift between the brothers. One of my “projects” is to find out more about the family business and what caused parts of the family to no longer speak. My mother’s “Cousin Bob”, as we always referred to him, harbored such resentment of my mother’s grandfather, that when he passed away, he donated much his estate to charity and gave me a substantial inheritance rather than giving it to my mother. I, of course, gave the money to my mom, as she certainly should not have suffered for whatever “misdeed” her family committed against Bob’s. (Sorry, Bob – hope you forgive me)
|Sigmund Lichtenthal - approx. 1941|
Perhaps some of the impressions I have developed of my great-grandfather were formed by another story my mother told me. As the situation in Europe became more and tenuous for those of Jewish descent, the family began discussing the need to leave the country. My mother's maternal branch (her mother and grandmother) felt it was time to emigrate to the United States to ensure their safety.
Sigmund, on the other hand, felt that "nothing was going to happen...it would all blow over..." and determined it best to stay and watch over the business. Within a matter of months, his son, Paul was taken as a political prisoner and thrown into the Dachau concentration camp. The family business, by that time a factory and five shops, was "purchased" by Hitler's SS and the Lichtenthals were removed from ownership.
I do feel a bit of kinship with Sigmund. I think he (like myself) might have had a "touch" of OCD (obsessive- compulsive disorder) Following the "theft" (because that's what it really was) of his business, Sigmund set out to detail everything he had lost. He listed every minute thing one could imagine - inventories of the factory, shops, his residence. He created detailed accounting sheets of the money lost and the damages that resulted. Sigmund spent the remainder of his life attempting to get reparation for his losses.
While he was only partially successful, his extremely detailed information, all which had been kept by my grandparents and mother, allowed me to apply for reparations on my mother's behalf. This will be a subject for a future post, but suffice to say, I was successful. Mostly due to Sigmund's "expert" record-keeping!
On March 15, 1941 Sigmund and Rosa finally left Vienna. They emigrated to the United States by way of Portugal, arriving in New York on March 30, 1941.
|1941 passenger mainfest - Serpa Pinto -|
Upon entering the US, Sigmund wanted to change his last name to Lital. The immigration officer discouraged him, saying, "You got enough ink in your pen. Write it out." This may partially explain the business card shown above on which his last name is written as Lital. Maybe he intended to pursue a name change anyway but never did?
Once in the United States, Sigmund continued inventing, receiving US Patent No. 435.390 in 1942 and #2348079 in 1944 for a "Fur Substitute and Felt Hat Material."
|Sigmund and grand-daughter, Doris.|
Sigmund Lichtenthal died on May 30, 1957 at the age of 81 in New York City, NY at 485 Central Park West. He was buried on May 31, 1957 at Cedar Park Cemetery in Paramus, NJ.