Leib Wolf Herbstmann (Obstfeld) was born in Gorlice, Poland, on April 16, 1886 to Izaac Obstfeld and an unknown mother. He had 2 siblings, Hersch and Jozef. His father Izaac then married Ella Herbstmann and they had six other children.
Feiga Sara Zins was born in Nowy Sacz, Poland, on August, 30, 1884 to Leib Zins and Esther Liebe Schwalb. Feiga was the oldest of 9 children.
Feiga and Leib Wolf were married in Nowy Sacz, Galicia (today’s Poland), on the 1st of Adar 5668 (February 3, 1908).
Their oldest daughter, Ester Liebe Herbstmannn, known as Erna, was born on April 14, 1909, still in Nowy Sacz.
Life in Fulda
When Erna was just a few months old, they immigrated to Germany. Their second son, Heinrich (known as Henri) was born in Karlsruche
The family settled in Fulda, then Prussia.
In Fulda, Feiga gave birth to 4 more children:
Maurice/Moritz (born Jan 27, 1913 in Fulda),
Robert/Benno Baruch (born June 10, 1918),
Tauba/Toni (born June 30, 1915) and
Paul/Pinkhas (born December 28, 1923).
It is unknown why or when Leib changed his name from Obstfeld to Herbstmann. In Erna’s birth registry from Nowy Sacz, he signed Leib Wolf Obstfeld but in his Ketubah (traditional Jewish marriage document that catalogs a husband’s obligations to his wife, and makes provisions for her protection in the event of divorce or her husband’s death; the religious equivalent to the contemporary pre-nuptial agreement of secular civil law). it says Herbstmann. Herbstmann was the name of his stepmother.
Leib was a Merchant/Kaufmann, and his brother, Hirsch Obstfeld was a Watchmaker/Uhrmacher. They all lived in the 3-story house where the store was located, on Kanalstrasse 13.
The Herbstmanns were an extremely religious family.
One of Feiga’s sisters, Jochwett (known to her family as Yetta, or Yetti) Zins, came from Nowy Sacz when she was a teenager (13 years old), lived with them from 1911 to 1914, in Fulda, and then emigrated to the USA, where some of Feiga’s siblings had settled. Some of the Zins cousins told that life in the Zins house back in Nowy Sacz was not easy for the kids. Leib Zins remarried and the second wife did not want his kids in the house, because they were all “grown”, so they slowly left for the USA. They had been raised by Feiga, who was the oldest, since their mother died in childbirth. Yetta was the last one to leave.
My grandmother, Erna, always spoke dearly of growing up in Fulda. They were happy times for the family. Having moved when she was only a few months old, she considered herself German and a Fuldaer; German is the language she learned to speak and in which she received all her formal education. They were very close to the family of Moshe Yehuda and Necha Herbstmann.Claudia Zimmer, granddaughter of Erna Leistner, née Herbstmann
The years in France – Holocaust
The Herbstmanns left Fulda on Nov 8, 1932 and settled in France. First in Gerardmere, then Epinal dans Les Voges, in the French free zone. They worked with textiles. Paul went to school and worked as a carpenter. Maurice and Benno enlisted in the French army. In 1938, the family was forced to move from Epinal to Clermont-Ferrand, a Vichy ghetto of sorts.
Henri, a chazan and professor of philosophy, but also a talented draftsman, settled in Vichy after marrying Frida Sussman. With the start of Jewish persecution, he lost his job as a Chazan in a small village, and joined his in-laws in Vichy. He had an engraving shop. At night, he would join his two brothers-in-law, Roland and Jacques, in the printing shop where they worked (Imprimerie G. Collon), to do work for the Resistance. My grandmother told us he was a remarkable forger.
After leaving the army, Benno was also part of the French Resistance, under the pseudonym Robert Fournet.
Benno was probably shot dead. He was deported on 15 May 1944 to Kaunas (Lithuania) or Reval (Estonia). With regard to this convoy, No. 73 dated May 15, 1944, Serge Klarsfeld writes in the Memorial of the Deportation of the Jews of France: “Of these 878 men, only 12 aged 12 to 17 years. The others are in the prime of life. The year 1944 is stingy with documents regarding the anti-Jewish section of the Gestapo; but this exclusive presence of men suggests that it may be a convoy of retaliation.”
According to Ève Line Blum-Cherchevsky these men were sent to Kaunas (Lithuania) or Reval (Estonia) to erase the traces of previous massacres. They were themselves executed in turn to preserve the secret.
Maurice was still in the French Army and ended up imprisoned in 3 different Stalags, since he would escape every time and be sent to a different one. Apparently, that is why he survived and came back to Vichy to find everyone gone.
My uncle Samuel was born in Gerardmere, and my mother, Roseline, was born in Epinal, before the family was forcibly relocated to Clermont-Ferrand. Erna’s husband (my grandfather Efraim Leistner) was arrested and sent to labor camps (Muriac and then Nebousat). Erna left the children with non-Jewish farmers and kept moving around with fake papers.
Feiga, Leib Wolf, Paul and Henri
Feiga, Leib Wolf, Henri and his family (wife, Frida, née Sussmann and 2 little children, Maurice and Leon), and Paul were interned in Drancy and later deported to Auschwitz/Birkenau where they all perished. Henri first escaped when his wife and children were sent to Drancy, but was eventually arrested and sent there as well.
The last sign of life from Paul
comme tu le sais déjà nous sommes partis. Pour le moment le moral est bon. Nous partons à Drancy. Pour le moment nous dans le train pas loin de Paris. Dans l’ésperance de bientot tous vous revoir en bonne santé. Je vous embrasse bien fort aussi que papa et maman.
As you already know we left. For the moment morale is good. We are leaving for Drancy for the moment. We are on the train not far from Paris. In the hope of seeing you all in good health, I give you a big hug as well as mom and dad.
After the war
My grandfather Froim (Efraim) passed away about a year after the camp was liberated, in 1944. Erna buried him in Clermont-Ferrand and then emigrated to Brazil and settled in Porto Alegre, in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, with her two children. Roseline married and had 3 children. She passed away from breast cancer in 1993. Sami married and had 2 children. He passed away in 1993 as well, from a heart attack. Erna, after burying her 2 children, passed away quietly in her sleep in 2002. She was 93.
Maurice survived the war and settled in Antwerp, Belgium, with his Belgian wife, Laure Mahler. They had two children, Sylvain and Solange. Sylvain still lives in Belgium; Solange lives in Israel.
Toni, her husband Joseph Newmann(who also served in the French army) and daughter Marceline, emigrated to the USA in 1953 and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Marceline married Sam Newmark and had 4 children. After Sam’s passing, Marceline moved to Israel, where 2 of her children reside.
Recorded by Claudia Zimmer, granddaughter of Erna Leistner, née Herbstmann and daughter of Roseline.
Many thanks to the family Claudia Zimmer for providing pictures and documents.