Ken’s maternal uncle, Bernard, married Betti Fuchs Sternberg in New York City in the 1930s. However, unlike Ken’s mother and father, Bernard and Betti did not meet in New York. Before emigrating to the United States, both families lived in Herborn.
Betti Fuchs Sternberg was the second child of Ida and Max Sternberg. Ida was the middle daughter of Rosalia and Lazarus Fuchs (originally from Bad Salzschirf), while Max was one of ten children to Solomon and Yetta Sternberg. Betti’s older brother, Fred, attended private school in Herborn.
World War One
Max Sternberg served in the German army during the First World War, earning an Iron Cross for bravery in battle. Betti’s uncle and Ida’s brother, Hugo Fuchs, was killed during his service in the war. Betti and Fred lived with Ida’s parents in Dieburg throughout the war, before returning to Herborn in 1918.
It is unknown when Ida and Max were married, but Betti was born in 1913 so it is assumed her parents were married before the war. Before having Betti, Ida and Max would have a son, Fritz. Living in Herborn at the time, Max opened a haberdashery in the center of town that the family operated.
As a child in Herborn, Betti would become enrolled in a variety of athletic and gymnastics programs, particularly a Jewish Sports School located in Stuttgart. In her interview with family, Betti recalls some memories from this time. This time would be inspiring for Betti – and after working some time as a housedaughter in her adolescence – she would seek employment as a physical education teacher, dance and gymnastics instructor.
After her time at school, Betti would be employed as a housedaughter for a family near Berlin before moving back to Herborn for some time. She would then find work at a variety of schools and sports camps working as a gymnastics instructor and physical therapist. A number of letters of reference outline this journey:
Betti would diligently pursue the field of physical therapy, and she began seeking certification as a sports masseuse during her last years in Germany.
Persecution and Emigration
As Nazi rhetoric spread across Germany, its tendrils crept even into smaller towns like Herborn. As reported from Party documents, Party members began punishing or harassing non-Jewish employees of Max Sternberg’s shop in 1938, with the District Business officer publicly stating:
I request that you order and make clear very energetically to the people concerned from the Office of the District Group, the position of National Socialism. If a Party member is found to be named, it is in accordance with Party regulations to take action against him. Should one of them hold an honorable public office, a recall should immediately be executed.
With the pogrom in 1938, it was evident to Jews across Germany that the country was no longer safe. Max himself was deported to Buchenwald following the events of Kristallnacht. As Betti herself stated:
… In the so-called National Kristallnacht all the windows in our house were smashed with big stones. My father was taken into so-called protective custody and was locked up for 2 days in the Herborn Town Hall.
From there he was transported to Frankfurt into the armory and then to Buchenwald concentration camp. Thanks be to God, he came home from there, half starved and sick in body and soul. He was only set free because I sent in his decorations and the Iron Cross from the first World War and then only on condition that he would remain in Germany no longer than 3 weeks.”
It is understood that many German Jewish veterans of the First World War–including other recipients of the Iron Cross–were not spared the horrors of the Shoah. Stories such as that of Max’s release are a reminder of the often-arbitrary manner in which German Jews were persecuted. To learn more about the Jews of Herborn that were not so fortunate, please click here.
While Betti and her parents would eventually arrive in New York, her brother Fritz would instead emigrate to Argentina. It is not known precisely when he emigrated to South America, but it is believed he did so sooner than the rest of the family.
Betti and Bernard Sternberg would meet (or re-meet) in New York. They would marry and live together in New York – but it is understood that they may have lived in Ohio for some time, based on Bernard’s naturalization (dated 1944) listing his residency in Ohio.
Betti and Bernard would have a daughter, Rosalie, before Betti would continue her pursuit of being a sports masseuse. In the 1960s she acquired new certification in the United States, that she would maintain up until the 1980s.
Rosalie Sternberg would marry Tom Schwab, and they would have two daughters: Tara and Tori. Meanwhile in Argentina, Fritz would marry Fanny Ullman and have three daughters: Sandy, Linda, and Debi.