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A quick history of the Ephraims and Neumeyers
Written by Tim Locke, Lewes, England; www.timlocke.co.uk
After my mother Ruth (nee Ruth Neumeyer) died in 2012, my brothers and I cleared the family house in Sydenham, London, where our parents had lived since 1956. We knew there was a big collection of photos, documents and letters relating to Ruth’s family’s life in Germany before the war, but we had never been through it. And we had heard so much about her parents’ tragic deaths in Nazi camps and her journey with her brother to safety in England through the Kindertransport. But there were, and are, so many loose ends. And though I’ve filed most of it and sorted the letters into date order, I’m not anywhere near finishing yet.
The story begins back in the 19th century with the rich industrialists, the Ephraims, based in the Silesian town of Görlitz, since 1945 on the German-Polish border (in fact the border slices the town in two). We can certainly go back to my great-great-grandfather Lesser Ephraim, the canny Jewish businessman who started off the family manufacturing enterprise there.
Then there’s his son and my great-grandfather, Martin Ephraim, who endowed the town with art, a museum, a synagogue and a railway station. He and his wife Hildegard and their four children lived in considerable comfort in a Jugendstil villa, still standing. They sold it in 1922 at the worst possible time, during the hyperinflation, when money received one day would be worthless the next.
One of their three daughters was my grandmother Vera Ephraim, who became a eurythmics teacher, and met my grandfather, Hans Neumeyer at Hellerau, a centre for eurythmics near Dresden. Hans was a blind teacher of musical theory and composition; he was Jewish and from Munich. They married and moved to Dachau, near Munich.
The family photo albums show an idyllic, rather bohemian lifestyle in their villa and its gardens, but all went downhill after Hitler came to power in 1933. My mother never thought of her family as Jewish till then, but they were sufficiently Jewish to face persecution under the Nazis.
The Neumeyer’s earning power dwindled, as Hans lost his job. They were told on Kristallnacht, the ‘night of broken glass’, on 9-10 November 1938, to leave their home before sunrise. The Neumeyers had contacts in England, Sweden and Switzerland, but only the children got out, on the Kindertransport (child transport) to England. Ruth and Raimund arrived with a few suitcases of family possessions, quite a lot of which are still with us.
Then they built a new life in England. It was years before Ruth told us much about what had happened, and I never felt I got the full picture. All those letters and documents were stashed away in a mysterious trunk on the landing: a collection of bundles, tied up with string and in an order only understood by my mother.
I have begun my own journey through archives, diaries, letters and conversations to find more.
A family tree
I find other people’s family histories very hard to follow, so I’ll keep it as simple as possible, as there were a lot of siblings about whom I know very little. The main cast list goes like this:
My great-great-grandfather: Lesser Ephraim (1820-1900). Married Henrietta Phillipson (1826-1904).
My great-grandfather: Martin Ephraim (1860-1944). Married Hildegard Rauthe (1860-1933).
My grandmother: Vera Ephraim (1893-1942). Married Hans Neumeyer (1887-1944). Vera’s sisters Marianne (1887-1972) and Dora (1885-1962) and her brother Herbert (1891-1950s?).
The two Neumeyer children: my mother Ruth (1923-2012) and my uncle Raimund [Raymond] (1924-2010).
Ruth Neumeyer married Ronald Locke; her three children were Stephen (b1952), Nic (b1955) and me, Tim (b1958).
Raimund Neumeyer anglicised his name to Raymond Newland and married Ingrid Netzbandt; their two children were Tobias (b1966) and Oliver (1969-88).
Schreiberhau, 1925: a family portrait
The above photo shows a few members I’ve not described.
Erika (top row), was Dora‘s daughter from her first marriage, with Robert Schweig; they had a son called Robert, who committed suicide.
Irmgard, or Irmi, was Dora’s daughter by her second marriage and became bitter in middle age and chain smoked; she was an active member of the Socialist Unity Party and is believed to have died in the 1970s.
Valerio was Janni’s son, who was in the Italian army during the war and was taken prisoner by the British; while a POW he sent letters to Ruth, which we still possess; he married late in life and died in the 1990s.
Gernot, Ursel and Eckhard were Dora’s other children from her second marriage. Gernot (‘Notti’) joined the German army and was killed in in action near Kirovograd in the Ukraine in 1942 or 1943. Ursel was killed in a motor accident in 1939. Eckhard married three times, and his children included Vera and Cornelia, who still live in Dresden and are in regular contact with us. Eckhard died 13 June 1991.
Serena, Janni’s daughter, died in the late 1990s in Berlin, where she worked for many years for the American army. She was raped by invading Russian soliders at the end of the war.
Do contact me if you have any questions or observations: tim [at] timlocke [dot] co [dot] uk. And do please feel free to add comments using the comment facility.
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