Born 30 September 1886 in Kassel
Died 1942, in New York/USA
Cäcilie Henriette Löser, geb. Erlanger
Born 11 November 1890 in Marburg a. d. Lahn
Died 13 February, 1984 in Massachusetts/USA
Hans Ferdinand Löser
Born 26 September, 1920 in Kassel
Died 15 May 15, 2010 in Massachusetts/USA
Rosa Elisabeth Löser (genannt Lisel)
Born 28 Juni 1922 in Kassel
Died 25 September, 2014 in Massachusetts/USA
Born in 1886, Max Löser was the son of Marianne and Ferdinand Löser, the founder of a major department store in Kassel, located at 27 Obere Königsstr. After commercial training and work he served in the German army during World War I. When the war was over, he married Cäcilie Erlanger and became the new owner of the family business upon the death of his father. In 1920 Max und Cäcilie moved into the modern duplex apartment on the top two floors of the building. This was their home for the next 17 years until they were forced by the Nazis to flee Kassel. Both of their children, Hans and Lisel, were born in their home and enjoyed a warm, secure and protected childhood. The family’s apartment was large and comfortable with three bedrooms facing the main street, two living rooms, a dining room, kitchen, and bathroom. There was central heating throughout, while both floors could also be reached by a lift. Behind the living quarters were the offices of the business and a roof garden where Max Löser regularly kept himself fit (Loeser, p. 30).
Max and Cäcilie were a socially active couple. They had many friends, including the well-known pediatrician Dr. Felix Blumenfeld. They often met for Sunday outings in Spring and Sommer. Max and Cäcilie loved theatre and opera. They were regular guests and hosts of many masked balls, which were so popular in their circle of associates and friends during the Weimar years. As tenor, Max sang in an a cappella choir throughout the 1920s in Kassel. Despite the fact that Cäcilie found it embarrassing (Interview 1980, p. 15), her husband Max was an enthusiastic owner and driver of motorcycles and automobiles.
As a contributing manager of the Löser department store, Cäcilie worked every day in the haberdashery section. She managed the family household and staff, engaged nannies, cooks, as well as music tutors for her children and others. She was an engaged, active member within the Jewish Community in Kassel.
In his memoir written for his children and grandchildren (Loeser, 2007), Hans described his childhood as carefree and active. He began school in 1927 in the Henckel’sche Privatvorschule, where he stayed for the first four years. From the Spring of 1931 he went on to school at the Wilhelmsgymnasium in Kassel, where he was a student until the end of March 1936.
Hans’s two-year younger sister Rosa Elisabeth (called Lisel, born in 1922) also started school at the Henckel’sche Privatvorschule. Lisel shared her bedroom with the children’s beloved Christian nanny Ida Beyer who stayed with the family until after she was married in 1934. Hans and Lisel visited her regularly after she was married. Lisel was an excellent swimmer; in summer both children spent hours swimming in their club the Kasseler Schwimmverein.
„As of January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), became Chancellor of the German Reich, the ideology of Antisemitism became the doctrine of the state. Despite the years long propaganda by the National Socialists, many Germans were still unaware of the seriousness and consquence of the new regime’s hatred of Jews.” (Benz, p. 24.) Life in Kassel for the Löser family of four changed radically as of the Spring of 1933. The Löser business suffered immediate consequences under the planned boycotts of the “Don’t buy from Jews”. SA men stood in front of the Ferdinand Löser & Co., preventing customers from entering the store (Klaube, p. 47). Max and Cäcilie persevered and attempted to carry on with business, but by November 1935 Max Löser was forced to sell his company’s inventory. He did not sell the building or land. According to Hans Loeser, the buyer Karlheinz Wiese, an acquaintance of his father, paid a fair rental price for the commercial space (Loeser, p. 58-59). Nevertheless, Max Löser suffered immeasurably from the loss of his father’s business.
In a 1980 interview with her grandsons Harris and Thomas, 90-year old Cäcilie mentioned that it had been Lisel who first complained of being bullied by her peers at school. Cäcilie went to talk with the teacher who confirmed the behavior but said there was nothing to be done about it. So, Lisel left the school at age 13 and had to travel alone via Munich to Meran where she was met and taken to the private Alpine school at Vigiljoch (for Jewish refugee children). Hans remained at Wilhelmsgymnasium until Spring 1936; one year later both Hans and Lisel were sent to England where they continued school together at the Stoatley Rough School in Haslemere/Surrey.
Max and Cäcilie had made sure their children were now safe, but life for them became increasingly dangerous, and the emotional burden unbearable. Between the years 1933 to 1937 they had generally assumed a strategy of wait-and-see. They even remained in the apartment above the store for another 18 months after they had lost it, until mid 1937. But when Max was accused of ‘Rassenschande’ (racial defilement) by the Nazi regime (Loeser p. 64), their days were numbered. They fled Kassel, moved furniture and other possessions to Berlin where they were not prominent. They dutifully registered at 22 Jenaer Straße, Berlin-Wilmersdorf.
In Berlin, Max Löser began the desperate search for a destination for himself and his wife, while looking for opportunities to send assets out of the country. But where to? They had few international contacts and they weren’t Zionists. Nevertheless, Palestina appeared to be their only real option.
Historical circumstances were quicker than their decision-making. From mid-1938 the racist methods against German Jews became even harsher. During the night of November 9/10 (Night of Broken Glass) and in the days that followed, many Jewish men were arrested by the authorities. As one of the so-called ‘Aktionsjuden’ (mainly wealthy Jews between 20-50) Max was arrested by the Gestapo while not at home. Cäcilie had no idea where he was or what had happened (Interview 1980, p. 23). In this special act of terror throughout the month of November 1938, arrested Jews were sent to the camps at Sachsenhausen, Buchwald, or Dachau. We do not know why Max was sent to Dachau and not Sachsenhausen, to the north of Berlin, only that the camps had become over-crowded. He was incarcerated in Dachau from November 17-December 6, 1938.
On finding out where Max was being held, Cäcilie travelled there, tearfully negotiated with overseers (Interview 1980, p.25), paid and signed for his release. Like the many hundreds of other ‘Aktionsjuden‘, he was free as long as he agreed to leave the country immediately. “The worst part of this experience, … to experience helplessness in the face of such crude brutality, being exposed to servants of a terror regime, who ignored common decency, lawfulness, and respect for human dignity,...” (Benz, p.178).
With transit visas in hand for the Netherlands and Great Britain, and permanent visas for Palestina, Max and Cäcilie travelled one last time through Germany, across dangerous borders (Interview 1980, p- 25-27). They visited with their children in southern England, and continued their journey to Palestina at the beginning of January, 1939. It was there that Max attempted impatiently to start up the retail business he knew best, but with little success. Quite unexpectedly, they received an affidavit about a year later, with visas for the whole family. So, early in January 1940, Max and Cäcilie, travelling from Palestina, Lisel and Hans from England, all arrived in New York City on the very same day. A new life for them all was to begin there.
For the children Hans and Lisel, this new life brought with it unknown challenges and hardships, but also many new opportunities. Both of them took full advantage of them and became very successful in their educational pursuits, their professional lives, and became engaged US American citizens. Cäcilie Löser persevered, found work and stayed close to her children. After the years of suffering insults and humiliation, being abused during his confinement at Dachau, Max Löser never recovered, and died in 1942.
Sources and references
Einwohnermeldekarte Max Löser
Hans F. Loeser, Hans’s Story, iUniverse, 2007
Hans u. Herta Loeser, „Since Then… “ Letters from former Stoatley Roughians, Boston,MA/USA, 1971
KZ Gedenkstätte Dachau, NARA Zugangsbuch Nr. 105 / 29476
Interview with Cäcilie Löser, Summer 1980
Wolfgang Benz, Gewalt im November 1938: Die „Reichskristallnacht“ Initial zum Holocaust, Metropol Verlag, Berlin 2018
Harald Jähner, Höhenrausch: Das Kurze leben zwischen den Kriegen. Rowohlt-Berlin Verlag, Berlin, Sept. 2022
Frank-Roland Klaube, Kassels Flaniermeile: Königsstraße und Königsplatz, Wartburg Verlag, Gudensberg-Gleichen, 2005
Heinrich Uhlig, Die Warenhäuser im Dritten Reich, Westdeutscher Verlag, Köln und Opladen, 1956
Michael Wildt, Zerborstene Zeit: Deutsche Geschichte 1918-1945. Verlag C.H. Beck oHG, München 2022
Cynthia Tilden-Machleidt, October 2023
ogether with students of Wilhelmsgymnasium, Kassel during their Project Week, July 2023.