Charles E. Smith

Life Communities

Martha Strauss

Once a Resident of Jewish Community in Speyer, Germany

Martha Strauss_2000Martha Strauss, born in 1913, grew up in the small picturesque German town of Speyer on the  Rhine River, famous for the Romanesque Speyer Cathedral, considered an architectural treasure. Her father, a cultured intellectual, musician and WWI veteran, owned a large, prominently located musical instruments store, A. Hildesheimer, which was one of a number of Jewish-owned retail stores situated along Speyer’s main street. 

Hitler’s 1933 seizure of power dramatically disrupted life for the town’s Jewish population, whose presence in Speyer dated back to 1090. Customers ceased coming to the Hildesheimer store, friends and acquaintances avoided the family, and relatives lost jobs. When Martha returned home from England in 1937 having earned a degree from Hybrie Nursery Training College, her parents swiftly undertook efforts to ensure the family's flight from Germany. Martha set off for the U.S. in September 1938; her younger sister Elsbeth departed for Australia in early 1939 following the Kristallnacht destruction of Speyer’s 100-year-old synagogue. Denied exit visas for themselves, her parents had few options. Her father was forced to sell his store, succumbed to depression and died prior to the war’s outbreak; Martha’s mother was arrested and taken to Gurs, a French internment camp. Miraculously she escaped and was reunited with her daughter in the U.S. in early 1941.

Martha Strauss1930s Strauss, Speyer store  MarthaStrauss_family
Martha Strauss, 1925 A. Hildescheimer, the Strauss family store,
circa 1935
Martha Strauss, 2012, with her son Sid Strauss
and his wife Rachel



All active news articles