Reminiscences
of Jacob Greenebaum, Sr. (cont.)



May the Heavenly Father grant her a happy hereafter for all this loving care! I remained four years without interruption in Odenbach. I suffered and endured much; the memory of those days pains me to this day, and I could tell several things, but I purposely refrain from dwelling on this epoch. Hardly had I attained my fourteenth year, when I assumed my independence and sought little by little to enter into business. I began on a small scale, but after a few years I had acquired a knowledge of all the products of the region and did a considerable business in all articles.

Even if business was not brilliant in all times, I was successful on the whole, and in all enterprises I observed the words of Solomon: "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy purpose shall be established." In this manner, by my dealings, I became recognized by all who knew me as a trustworthy and honorable business man. I found free access and friendly welcome in all gatherings, with a favor accorded to few. But I also had to resist many temptations; whichever way I turned the toils of allurement were laid.

There are snares especially prepared for a youth who is without parents, or far away from them, and for one who is not wholly without means. They sought to entice me to games of cards, drinking bouts, and other forms of pleasure, but it always appeared to me as though I heard a voice, that I thought the voice of my sainted father, calling to me: "Do not follow them, the path leads thee to destruction." Strengthened by this admonition, I tried to avoid everything that might injure my character and be detrimental to my honor. it may therefore truly be credited, that God helps him who helps himself.

Moreover, what that period of my life taught me, is especially to be recommended to youth. It is, that abstinence is the mother of virtue and is a principle to be heeded during our whole life. Whoever cannot acquire this one, becomes a prey to all vices. Faithful to this resolution and persevering in the conduct of my business, I continued the career I had begun until I was twenty and a half years old. Then a new epoch began for me. In order to record this fully, I must refer to events thirty years earlier.



rhe004a.jpg (34 KB) rhe004b.jpg (32 KB)

Entering the town of Rathskirchen
Photo, copyright 1995, Susan E. King. All rights reserved

Jews' Alley in Rathskirchen
Photo, copyright 1995, Susan E. King. All rights reserved





In the eighties of the eighteenth century, Jacob ISAAC (FELSENTHAL) of Rathskirchin, of whom I have spoken
before[7], gave his youngest daughter (Judith FELSENTHAL) in marriage to a young man by the name of Michael HERZ of Eppelsheim, canton Osterhofen, now in Rhenish Hesse[8]. Michael HERZ was a man experienced in the affairs and carried on his business during a number of years most successfully; but in the beginning of the nineteenth century his circumstances changed. In the first place he suffered much through the war, and in the second place, through an unsuccessful venture, he sustained such losses, that in a short time nearly his whole fortune passed into the hands of strangers.






In spite of all these difficulties and in the dreadful plight in which he now found himself, he did not lose his presence of mind, and with renewed strength he faced the future with energy.

Michael HERZ and his wife had twelve children, two sons and ten daughters, who were all living when the parents departed this life. That the losses of fortune were all the harder to bear with such a numerous family of children needs no further comment.

In spite of all hardships, their marriage was an exemplary one. Their dwelling was a true abode of contentment, and with confidence in God, he endured all with patience and submission. This man possessed every virtue. He was modest in his demands and faithful in the keeping of a secret and he was therefore the confidant of all in the surrounding country.

He was modest towards everyone and his word once given was sacred. He would swear to his own hurt, whatever the cause for which his word was pledged. About the year 1808, his business affairs improved somewhat and he gradually began to recover his fortune; he conducted his business honorably, enjoying the confidence of everyone, until the middle of the twenties.

In the meantime he married off six children-five daughters and the eldest son, which cannot be accomplished in Germany without means. As he had now no one to assist him in his business, and he himself became old and feeble, he was obliged to retire. He was well versed in the medical treatment of diseases in cattle and gave his services freely in the neighboring region. He had given his services gratuitously in his more prosperous days, but now his knowledge became partly a means of support. All the time which was not otherwise claimed, he devoted to the study of our Holy Law, in which he was quite at home.

I now return to an account of myself when I was twenty and a half years old. I was solitary and alone in life, with many a danger still threatening me, and no one near me who stood faithfully by my side. I resolved in July, 1817, to take a pleasure trip to Eppelsheim, partly to give myself a change of scenery partly to visit my relatives, the family above mentioned. It is only a distance of ten leagues and I had never been there before.

I do not wish to conceal either, what may have occurred to some, that I had a purpose in view; but everyone who knew my situation would not blame me, that I should have such intentions in spite of my youth.

I will therefore confess that the thought was not foreign to me, that among the many daughters of the worthy man it might not be impossible to find one, who would be a suitable companion for my whole life's journey, who would be at my side as my faithful spouse.

My meditations on this subject did not remain without success. I traveled thither and really found my Sara there. I was cordially received by my friends and stayed more than a week without disclosing my intentions, but through a later confession from her, I learned that the thought had not been a stranger to her either.

I made use of the time for observations, as Eleazer did with Rebecca. To avoid diffuseness, and considering it superfluous to relate the progress of events, I will no longer conceal that I became betrothed to Sara HERZ[9] (daughter of Michael HERZ). As I write this, it is now forty and a half years, and today I thank the Lord for His provident care, in guarding me from disappointment in my expectations.

In the year 1819, in the beginning of January, was our marriage. What happened in the meantime I will be pardoned if I do not explain. That at times the heavens seemed open and everything bore a bright and promising look, all will know, and they who have not had the sweet experience, may try for themselves.

It may seem strange to some that we were betrothed a year and a half, but this had its sad cause to the regret of both of us. We resolved to make our home in Eppelsheim; for this reason I had sold my property in Reipolskirchen, but when the civil marriage ceremony was to be performed, the Hessian government forbade it until I could bring a certificate of release from the Bavarian government; the latter would not issue it, until I could show definite acceptance by the former.

In this manner, I was chased to and fro for a year and a half, when the acceptance was sent me through the assistance of a lady, Madam Kallman of Darmstadt. Believing that now there were no further obstacles, we were married without waiting for the formal release from Bavaria, but this brought us still greater cares and worries.

We believed, now that we had achieved our aim, the unpleasant experiences were forgotten and happy days began for us; no dark clouds disturbed our domestic peace and all that we had suffered was forgotten. Not long were we granted unalloyed happiness, and our joy was unexpectedly interrupted. It was before the end of the year 1820, and my dear wife had scarcely left her first childbed, when I was summoned by a decree of the Bavarian government to serve as a conscript, and I had but a few days' time in which to appear before the provincial commission at Kusel, a distance of eighteen leagues.

I responded to this call. What impression this trip made on us, especially on my dear wife, every thoughtful person will understand. Fortunately I drew a high number, at which even the commissioner and recruiting officer were pleased, for, if I had not drawn a number that freed me, they might have treated me as a deserter according to the law, because I had settled in another country, and they would not have allowed me to leave the place. The only thing then left me would have been to supply a substitute, which at that time would have taken the greater part of my fortune.

After four sleepness nights, during which my wife sat weeping on her bed, I returned with the high number fastened to my hat. This number was also called, but in the meantime I had secured my release, thus escaping from this ill-fortune with the help of God. Now daylight began again to dawn in our home and even if at times a somber hour entered, it was as Goethe tells us; "if there were no rain, no one could appreciate the sunshine."


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  1. This family adopted the surname FELSENTHAL in 1808. Return
  2. Known as Darmstadt in Hesse, to be distinguished from Kassel or Homburg in Hesse, etc., since WWII mostly incorporated in the modern state of Hesse. "The situation of the Jews in Darmstadt was generally more favorable than in Kassel. Generally [apart from the expulsion of Jews from the cities by Ludwig (or, sometimes, Louis) VI for a short period [before his death in 1678.] Generally, however, the policy of the rulers was one of nonintervention in Jewish affairs, which stimulated the development of institutions of Jewish self-government. [Nevertheless] the Jews of  Darmstadt were subject to legal disabilities until the middle of the 19th century. Even the Hessian constitution of 1820 placed strict limitations on citizenship, and the majority of Jews remained Schutzjuden [protected Jews]; all legal disabilities were not finally abolished until 1848. The Jewish population of  Darmstadt was 19,530 in 1822, and reached a peak of 28, 0612 in 1849, declining gradually to 20,401 in 1925. Although their percentage of the total population declined from 3.04% to 1.52%, it remained throughout one of the highest in Germany. [The pre-Hitler Jewish population of what then constituted Germany amounted to some 504,000 out of a total of 66,000,000, or .76%) The Jews, who were settled primarily in rural areas, engaged in peddling, livestock trade, and dealing in wholesale agricultural produce; accusations that they exploited the peasants were endemic. The Jews of  Darmstadt (and Kassel as well) suffered during the Hep! Hep! disturbances of 1819 and again during the revolution of 1848. In both cases the rulers intervened vigorously on behalf of the Jews; later in the century they tried to moderate the anti-Jewish policies of the Russian czar, to whom they were related by marriage. In contrast to their rulers, the backward peasants of Hesse repeatedly elected to parliament the rabid anti-Semite, Otto Boeckel; the region continued to be a hotbed of anti-Semitism and actively welcomed the Nazi seizure of power." After "Kristallnacht", November 9-10, 1938, the Jews from rural communities left or were moved to the larger towns from whence the majority were deported to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. (Enycl. Jud. v. 8 p. 435) The post-war state of Hesse contained 1,508 Jews in 1970. Return
  3. Sara is Jacob’s first cousin, daughter of Sara FELSENTHAL HERZ, his mother’s (Miriam’s) younger sister. Return



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