Travelers at the Outbreak of World War I

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

The start of World War I on July 28, 1914, caused some upset for families whose relatives were in Europe when war was declared. For those who were traveling abroad on business or for pleasure, it was a singularly difficult time determining how to return home safely.

In regard to Americans abroad, inquiries were made and Ambassadors, Consuls and Ministers in the State Department attempted to locate those individuals for whom they had received inquiries from their relatives. A report was prepared and announced in the NYT issue of August 9, 1914.

Those families who had been found were the following, some of whom were Jewish:
Jacob Maybaum of NY at Berlin
The Forsch famiy, at St. Gall
Miss Ottilie Prochaska, at Edinburgh
Eleanor M. Hough, at Hamburg
Mrs. Thomas Legett, at London
? Martins, at Hamberg
Louis Reichardt, at Hamburg
Emily W. Davis, at Edinburgh
Margaret R. Davis, at Edinburgh
Mother of Florence Sackett of West Cornwall, at Hamburg
Dorothea C. Hess, M.A. Schnepel, and Miss Volckman, all of Newark, NY, at Florence
Additional families not located yet were several who were noted as visiting spa areas such as Bad Nauheim, Germany, which was forty minutes by rail from Frankfort. It was known to have possibly had Jewish occupation as far back to 1303. The spa was well-known for its mineral waters and hydrotherapy. In more recent times, President Franklin Roosevelt spent time there during his childhood and Elvis Presley had a home there during his military service.

The missing families listed were:
Emanuel and Mrs. Neuman and Regina and Sylvia Neuman at Bad Nauheim
Leopold Frankfurter at Vienna
Julius Van Vliet, wife, and daughter at Berlin
Mrs. Bertha Hirschfield and Hermione Hirschfeld at Rotterdam
Carl E. Conway and party at Lucerne, en route to Interlaken
Mrs. L.C. Williams (Nina Ratisbon Williams) at Bad Nauheim
E. Clarence Jones at Baden Baden
Prof. Richard Gottheil and wife at Paris
Prof. Richter at Cologne
Prof. Pratt at London
James L. Whitney and wife at Vienna
Mrs. Alex Behrend at Carlsbad
Mrs. Sophie Merckens at Bad Salzuflen, Germany
Mrs. Edward H. Clark and Mrs. Thomas A. Clark at Dresden
Mrs. W.J. Moses and James Moses at Sevres, Frances
Charles C. Weeks of Buffalo, supposed to be in Paris
Of interest amongst those who were missing in these lists were the following individuals:

Leopold Frankfurter (died 1916) – He was the father of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. He was found to have returned home safely to New York on September 23, 1914, according to his ship’s manifest.

Prof. Richard James Horatio Gottheil (1862-1936) - He was one of the first Zionists in America. He was born in Manchester, England, the son of well-known Reform Rabbi Gustav Gottheil. He was traveling with his Turkish-born wife, a widow, Emma R. Leon. The couple did manage to return to America and enjoyed much more traveling thereafter.

Bertha and Hermione Hirschfeld – This mother and daughter had been visiting Bertha’s brother-in-law A. Hirschfeld in Berlin at the time and they managed to return home to New York on August 17, 1914, according to their ship’s manifest on

In addition to these few individuals, researchers may find that their relatives became civilian internees during World War I or were Prisoners of War (POWs). This can be researched for a fee by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The form for requesting the research can be found online at the site.

The information held by the ICRC was a result of the formation of an International Prisoners-of-War Agency on August 21, 1914. This agency was tasked with restoring contact between people separated by war according to their mandate specified in their brochure. The brochure provides a detailed look at the work of the agency and the data it collected.

Another aspect of the topic of civilian internees was the Ruhleben Camp which was one of the 150 POW camps located in Germany during World War I. The camp was formerly a racecourse located seven miles from Berlin, and a mile from Spandau, Germany. Approximately 5,500 British subjects of military age, who had been caught in Germany after the declaration of war, were incarcerated there.

Amongst those interned in the camp were 300-400 Jews. One can read about them by going to Google Books where you will find the book by Israel Cohen entitled “The Ruhleben prison camp: a record of nineteen months’ internment.” The author, Israel Cohen was a journalist and author of “Jewish Life in Modern Times”.

The description of the Jewish aspects of the camp, starting on Page 40, is a fascinating look into the daily life of these civilians and how they managed to survive the war. It tells of the segregation of the Jews and how they spoke in English, German, Russian and Yiddish. There was even a synagogue. One of the Jews there was Yiddish actor Max Gusofsky amongst others who were businessmen, students, craftsmen, doctors, scholars, journalists, and the like.

For those interested in learning if their relative was interned in the Ruhleben Camp, there is an online site which can be utilized by clicking here. The database does not contain all of the internees’ names, but a good proportion of them are indexed therein. They are alphabetically arranged and information on each person is provided where known. For instance, one of the internees was Gustav Ginsberg, a dentist and father of South African jazz pianist Felix De Cola. His great great nephew is JewishGenner Adam Yamey who provided information on him for this database.

Much more can be researched on this topic, especially online. One has only to plug in, for instance, “civilian internees, World War One”, in a search engine to find a myriad of resources.

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