The Wesly Siblings from Aachen
My attention was first drawn to 6 of the Wesly siblings from Aachen when I came across information about our distant cousin Sophia née Hirsch (1841-1920) and her husband Lodewijk Weslij (1838-1922) on the Familienbuch Euregio website, a phenomenal genealogical database run by volunteers who have accumulated details of more than 640,000 individuals, including those of many Jewish families on both sides of the German-Dutch border.
Lodewijk was born in Maastricht in the Netherlands. Sophie married him in 1871 and the couple settled in her hometown of Aachen, where Lodewijk was known as Louis (and also Ludwig) Wesly. The first mention of Louis in Aachen address books in 1872 describes him as a “Eisenbahn-Assistent” (railway assistant) but from 1875 onwards his occupation is described as “Metzgermeister” (master butcher).
As I now know, the couple had 8 children in the first 15 years of their marriage: 5 daughters (Pauline, Leonie, Maria, Seraphine, and Berta) and 3 sons (Hermann, Bernhard and Heinrich). Sophia died in Aachen in 1920 at the age of 79, Louis two years later at the age of 83. Both are buried in the Jewish cemetery in Lütticher Straße in Aachen.
Maria Pitzer née Wesly
On this day 145 years ago, Maria (b. 1878), the fourth child of the family, was born. Maria and her siblings were third cousins (once removed) to my mother Edith and descendants of our Bruch ancestors.
In June 1915, 11 months into World War I, 37-year-old Maria married 31-year-old Eugen Pitzer. He was a Catholic lawyer from Traunstein in Bavaria, who would go on to have a successful career as a judge, initially in Nürnberg (Nuremberg) and later in München (Munich).
Eugen had already been a soldier in earlier years, when he was a university student. A few months after the wedding, in September 1915, he was injured in World War I near Arras, France. I wonder under what circumstances Maria from Aachen and Eugen from München had met while he was a soldier.
The couple initially lived in Schwabmünchen, about 30 km from Augsburg. By 1926 and until at least 1936, Eugen can be found in Nürnberg address books. By 1938, he was listed as living in München.
In preparing this story, I was keen to find more about what had happened to Maria during the Nazi period. From the details shared by Familienbuch Euregio, it seemed clear that she had been killed in the Holocaust. After all, she was listed as a victim in one of the authoritative sources of such information, the Memorial Book: Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933-1945:
In searching for details of her deportation, I found Maria mentioned in two Nazi era lists available on the Arolsen Archives website. The first document confirms her presence in München at the relevant time. Here Maria is referred to as Sara in a list of Jews registered with the “Arbeitsamt München”. During the Nazi period, “Arbeitsämter” (employment agencies) managed the placement of forced labourers and it seems likely that Maria was included in this list for that very reason. The date provided next to her name is 30 September 1942, presumably the date when her index card was created.
The second document is a “Gestapo directory on Jews from Munich” which appears to been attached to a 1946 letter from the UNRA Tracing Bureau in München. The address mentioned for her in this list is the same as one I found in post-war information about her husband Eugen. So it appears the couple were still married when the list was prepared.
While the list has been categorised by the Arolsen Archives as belonging to a collection of documents regarding deportations from München, Nürnberg and Würzburg, it does not actually confirm that Maria was deported, especially given the absence of specific deportation details, like the transport numbers added to the names of others in the document. In fact, each person with the abbreviation “pr.Mi.” at the end of their details is missing an annotation about their deportation or death. This abbreviation stands for “priviligierte Mischehe” (privileged mixed marriage), a special status assigned to couple where one spouse was Jewish, the other non-Jewish.
Whenever the exact details of the deportation of a Holocaust victim or survivor in my mother’s family tree cannot be found in any of the usual authoritative sources, I have a closer look at the online copies of deportation lists. For Germany, these have been made available by Statistik des Holocaust. In the case of Maria, I considered all available deportation lists from München, both to Auschwitz and to Theresienstadt, the more likely destination for a Jew with a non-Jewish spouse. Despite multiple attempts, I did not find any mention of her.
Then, during another round of searches in online archives, I suddenly came across an entry in an August 1945 issue of Aufbau, which listed her as one of several hundred Jews found alive in Munich by the US army.
The introduction to this list states that those included in the list were without exception all spouses in “Mischehen”. So it seems highly probable that Eugen being Catholic, and also his position as a judge, had saved Maria’s life by giving her sufficient protection from being deported or, if she was indeed deported (which now seems unlikely), from being murdered.
I have been able to find evidence of Eugen’s life in Munich after the war. He retired as “Landgerichtsdirektor” and died in 1966. I also found that had he been awarded the German “Bundesverdienstkreuz” (Order of Merit) in 1953. But I have yet to determine how Maria had survived and what became of her after the war ended. What is sadly clear is that she was the sole survivor of the eight Wesly siblings from Aachen, six of whom were known have been alive when the Nazis came to power in 1933.
Key aspects of the life of Maria’s older brother Hermann Wesly (b. 1871), the first-born of the siblings, have been documented very well in two publications (see below under ‘Sources’). Hermann married Bertha née Rosenberg in Halle in 1907. The following year their daughter Margot (1908-1990) was born. In later years, Hermann had a publishing house for ‘Musikalien’ in Leipzig, where the family had moved in 1920. Hermann was repeatedly imprisoned by the Nazis and was forced to sell his business. He and Bertha intended to emigrate and tried to obtain Dutch citizenship, which Hermann had had in his childhood due to his father’s birth in Maastricht. However, the couple did not manage to leave Germany, at least partially due to a serious car accident in 1939, which left Hermann with severe injuries.
Hermann and Bertha were deported from Leipzig to Theresienstadt on 20 September 1942.
On 18 May 1944, the couple was transported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, where they perished on or before 10 July 1944, when the last to be alive from that transport were taken to the gas chambers. No official date or place of their deaths has been determined.
Hermann’s and Bertha’s daughter Margot was able to escape to England, where she died in West Yorkshire in 1990.
Pauline Wesly (b. 1873) was the second-born child of the family. She married Dutchman Samuel Diependaal (1861-1924) in 1896, but in 1906 they divorced, and by 1912 Pauline had reverted to using her maiden name Wesly. I have not found evidence of any children from this marriage.
Pauline was listed in Aachen address books over multiple years as either a sales representative or travelling saleswoman. In 1928, her 25th anniversary as sales representative of a Leipzig manufacturer of corsets was celebrated in an Aachen newspaper.
Pauline was deported to Theresienstadt on 25 July 1942, on the same transport as my mother Edith, her parents and another 80 of our (close and distant) relatives. Pauline was then transported to Auschwitz on 15 May 1944, three days before a deportation took her brother Hermann and her sister-in-law Bertha to the same destination. She too would have perished on or before 10 July 1944, when the last to be alive from that transport were taken to the gas chambers. There is no official date or place of her death.
Apart from a newspaper announcement of her birth, the only information I have found to date about Maria’s second-eldest sister Leonie Lesly (b. 1875) is that she died in November 1914 while in the care of the “Provinzial Heil- und Pflegeanstalt” in Düren.
Several decades later, many of the patients of this institution fell victim to the systematic murder by the Nazis of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses or other medical conditions.
The fourth daughter Ludwig and Sophia had was Seraphine Wesly (b. 1880). I have yet to find any trace of her other than the newspaper announcement of her birth. She may have died as a child or young adult or may have moved to a location which has not yet seen any vital records made available online.
Berta Asch née Wesly
Maria’s youngest sister, Berta Wesly (b. 1882), was married twice. In 1906, she had married Moritz Vasen (b. 1880). Three years later their daughter Ruth was born in Krefeld, Moritz’s hometown. I have yet to determine when the couple divorced but what is certain is that Berta later married Leopold Asch (b. 1882 in Frankfurt am Main).
Leopold and Berta were deported on 30 October 1941 from Köln (Cologne) to Ghetto Lodz, together with 49 other relatives in my mother’s family tree.
Leopold died in Lodz on 18 January 1943 (or, as some sources say, on 13 January 1943). Berta was deported from there to Chelmno (Kulmhof) in June 1944 and would have perished there by August 1944. While Chelmno is the official place of death for Berta, the specific date has not been determined.
Berta and Moritz’s daughter Ruth Vasen had married Hermann Krebs (b. in 1896 Pleß, now Pszczyna in Poland) and was living with him in Berlin when she was deported to Theresienstadt on 1 July 1943. Hermann was transported there a few months later, on 10 September 1943. The couple were then transported on the last deportation from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz on 28 October 1944. It is likely that they were murdered shortly after arriving in Auschwitz on 30 October 1944, but it is also known that some men and women were transported on to labour camps. Ruth’s official place of death is Auschwitz but no date has been determined. There is no official date or place for Hermann’s death.
In 1947, Moritz, the only survivor of the family, arrived in the US from Shanghai with his second wife, Erna Kempinski, whom he had married there in June 1945. I have yet to determine how and when he had made his way to Shanghai.
Bernhard Wesly (b. 1884) was Maria’s second-youngest brother. He married Johanna née Frohwein (b. 1890) in Aachen in 1923. In 1926 the couple had a son, Hans. Familienbuch Euregio shares several photos of Johanna, including one with Hans.
Johanna is listed as a victim in the Memorial Book, with a mention of her deportation from Trierer Straße in Aachen, the location of one the “Judenhäuser” the local Jewish population was confined to from April 1941. Bernhard and Hans are not included in the Memorial Book but can be found the “List of Jewish Residents of the German Reich 1933-1945”, for instance on Mapping the Lives. The dates and places of the deaths of the family are not provided.
In reading through relevant deportation lists available on Statistik des Holocaust, I found the family listed in the reconstructed deportation list for the transport from Koblenz via Aachen to Ghetto Izbica on 22 March 1942.
Based on what is known about Ghetto Izbica and about this particular deportation, which also included 20 other relatives in my mother’s family tree, we can assume that the Bernhard, Johanna and Hans were murdered in Ibzica, Belzec or Sobibor sometime between March and November 1942.
Heinrich Wesly (b. 1886) was Maria’s youngest sibling. He was listed as a sales representative in Aachen address books until 1937.
I have not found any information about how Heinrich came to be in France by the early 1940s but what seems certain is that he died in the Gurs camp on 1 June 1942, having been in the Saint Cyprien camp prior to this. The latter detail was submitted to the Relief Committee of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva by a person called “Pauline Wesly”. I have yet to determine how she was related to Heinrich.
No Other Known Survivors
Apart from Maria, I have not found traces of any other surviving siblings of the Wesly family. If you know of any descendants of the Wesly family from Aachen, I would love to hear from you.
Thank you for helping me commemorate the lives of the Wesly siblings on the 145th anniversary of Maria’s birth.
* Where applicable, images are hyperlinked to their source website.
- Aachener Adressbuch 1937 – Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bonn
- Aachener Anzeiger – zeitpunkt.nrw
- Abteilung Rheinland, PA 3103 (Personenstandsregister Sterbefälle) – Landesarchiv NRW
- Adressbuch für Aachen – Verein für Computergenealogie
- Adressbuch für Nürnberg – Verein für Computergenealogie
- Adressbuch für München – Verein für Computergenealogie
- Aufbau – archive.org
- Bayerische Bibliographie: 1968-1970 – Google Books
- Bavaria, Germany, World War I Personnel Rosters, 1914-1918 – ancestry.com
- California, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1843-1999 – ancestry.com
- Central Database of Shoah Victims – Yad Vashem
- Death certificates for Ludwig, Sophia, Leonie and Heinrich
- Deportations from Munich, Nuremberg and Wuerzburg – Arolsen Archives
- Der Thalia Muskverlag, Petra Drehmel, in: Journal Juden in Sachsen, May 2010 – Deutsch-Russisches Zentrum Sachsen [about Hermann Wesly]
- Divorce certificate for Pauline and Samuel
- Echo der Gegenwart – zeitpunkt.nrw
- Gedenkbuch für die Opfer der Shoah aus Aachen, Gedenkbuchprojekt für die Opfer der Shoah aus Aachen e.V., 2019 – also online
- Hermann Wesly, Sophie Fetthauer, in: Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit, Claudia Maurer Zenck, Peter Petersen (eds), Hamburg: Universität Hamburg, 2007 [about Hermann Wesly]
- Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958 – ancestry.com
- Izbica Ghetto – Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
- Mapping the Lives
- Marriage certificates for Hermann and Bertha, Pauline and Samuel
- Memorial Book – Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 – 1945
- PA 3103 – Sterberegister 1874/1876-1938/I – Landesarchiv NRW
- Statistik des Holocaust
- Transports to Extinction: Holocaust (Shoah) Deportation Database – Yad Vashem
- WikiProjekt Bundesverdienstkreuz/1953
NB: I only provide links to online sources that are available free of charge
Published 19 Feb 2023
© Ruth, www.ruthsfamilyhistory.net, 2023