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Endstation Titanic – Die Story der Familie Straus

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This film tells the story of a true love. A love that’s larger than death. "They wanted to stay together up to their death." "And that, of course, is a kind of love we all wish to find for ourselves." Ida and Isidor Straus, both born in what today is the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany, emigrated to America as children, did not survive the sinking of the Titanic. Even though they were both offered a seat in one of the lifeboats, they both chose to stay of their own volition. In this film we will shed some light on this unusual love story. To do so, we’ll also visit their great grandson in New York. "These were very remarkable people, both Isidor and Ida, and I feel myself honored to be their descendant." This film also reports on the huge success of the Straus family. They created the arguably largest department store in the world. This is a film about Rhineland-Palatinate emigrants that were at the peak of their success. En route to their home in New York. Titanic Disaster The Story of the Straus Family A film by Heiko Wirtz-Walter Translation by Peter Klüfer Wednesday, April 10th 1912. Southampton. The Titanic is about to leave the port. On board: more than 2,200 people. Ida and Isidor Straus also board the vessel that is more than 160 feet high. After a trip to Europe they want to go home to New York. The couple travels first class. No surprise, given they are multi-millionaires. But it is going to be their last journey. The wedding picture of Ida and Isidor Straus. Both have their roots in what today is the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. Isidor originally comes from Otterberg. To this day, on the Main Street there is his childhood home. The house was just being renovated. It was not possible to film inside. But a person from the insurance agency knows the apartments quite well. "Some of the apartments have been preserved with original stucco, from 1740, I believe, when the house was built. " "Some apartments have the original wooden beams exposed, thus the walls have not been straightened but maintain the ancient architecture style." "In the top apartment, almost all of the roof beams were kept, and on the roof there are the original roof tiles from the 18th century." This is the house the Straus family lived in up until their emigration to America. In 1852, Isidor’s father – Lazarus Straus – set out to make his way in the New World. Two years later his wife and four children followed him. Isidor was nine years old when he arrived in America. "Once you know about the history of all of this, it is awe-inspiring." 20 years ago, the historian Roland Paul was mesmerized by the tragic history of the Straus family, and has been so ever since. Lazarus Straus was a purveyor of grain and seeds. He was committed to liberal principles. But his reasons to emigrate were not predominantly of a political nature. "As a business man, Lazarus Straus had debts, in part because he had to compensate his numerous siblings, as was the custom." "Also, the economy then wasn’t doing well. Industrialization had not begun yet in this area. All this affected Lazarus Straus’ business." "And thus, in 1852 he emigrated, during a period where many others in Rhineland-Palatinate emigrated as well." "These were the most difficult years, the 50s of the 19th century." "For a while, the population of Rhineland-Palatinate was actually declining." 1852, when Lazarus Straus left for the New World, more than 8,000 people from the same region emigrated. Many of them were Jews. "That is because Jews still did not have full civil rights." "They fought for it for years and years." "Gradually, in the 50s and 60s and then fully when the German Reich was established in 1871, they had been awarded full civil rights." "Before that, there were limitations, in particular with respect to trading activities." For emigrants, the first years in the New World often posed a hardship. In New York, a monument commemorates the trepidation, but also the hopes of new citizens. Also on Ellis Island pictures and exhibits are on display, a vivid testament to the beginnings in a New World. Also for Lazarus Straus, the Jew from Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, the first years were tough. "First, he settled in Talbotton, GA as a retailer. Then, he moved to Columbus, GA. " "Only after the end of the Civil War, when Columbus was destroyed, he moved to Philadelphia and eventually to New York." "Only there, the rise of the family Straus began." All three sons had remarkable careers. The youngest brother, Oscar Salomon Straus, in 1906 became secretary for Commerce and Labor and was the first Jewish member of the U.S. Presidential Cabinet in history. In Otterberg, this square is named after him. Nathan Straus was known for being the president of the New York Health Commission. And together with his brother Isidor he was very successful as a businessman. Eventually, Nathan and Isidor took over the already-existing department store Macy’s. In 1894 they wholly owned it and they turned it into the world’s largest department store – at least according to their own advertising. "We don’t know to explain it, was it in their genes? Let’s leave that open." "However, Lazarus, the father, had made sure that his sons obtained a good education. That of course was one of the reasons for the sons’ success.” To this day, one of the entrances of the New York store commemorates the two members of the family that died on the Titanic. April 14, 1912: Isidor, Ida and the other first-class passengers enjoy a first-class meal – various oysters and lamb, among other dishes. Isidor and Ida’s last meal. That same day they sent a telegram to son Jesse. The last sign of life. "Fine voyage, fine ship, feeling fine, what news." Ida Straus was born in Worms on February 6, 1849. Instead of her original home, today we find this building. In the city archive of Worms, registrar Gerold Boennen shows us the birth certificate of Rosalie Ida Blün. Finding the headstone of Elias Blün, Ida’s grandfather who is buried in the Jewish cemetery of Worms, proves to be more difficult. "The headstone is here somewhere, but the cemetery features 3000 headstones. Not easy to single out a particular one." At last we did find it. The merchant Elias Blün died 1824. Today, no descendant lives in Worms even though he had eight children. His son Nathan, Ida’s father, was the only one to emigrate to America. "Of course, nobody leaves his or her home-country easily." "In particular since Worms has been home to the Blün family, and to other Jewish families, for centuries." "They really left their ancestral home; that requires a lot of courage." "And as it happens so often, one person is first – that was the father of Ida who left Germany in 1850 - and he kept pulling over nephews and nieces up to the 1860s." "Thus, a big part of the family resides in the US in the 1860s." Only a few Blüns stayed in Worms after 1860. Those that didn’t flee from the Nazis in the 1930s were murdered. The Blün family was modern and committed to political and social causes. Ida’s father fought for the rights of Jews and women. "One was aware that women were not treated equally and wanted to reform and modernize that." "The process of shifting towards liberal ideas and equal rights for women, the Blüns were very much involved in that." "This is also demonstrated in the fact that the daughters obtained a good education and that such traditional divides within a family were overcome." Shortly after Ida’s birth, her father began to work as an emigration agent. He even ran ads in the Worms newspaper. His service was to help emigrants to make it to the New World. "It sure was a lucrative business, but also a highly competitive one since there were already others that were well-established in the domain." "Newcomer Nathan Blün obtained a license in 1849 and had to face a number of others who knew that trade well." "What is interesting is that we have indications from the early years that he was met with a lot of hostility. There was bad press about him." When Ida was one year old, it was her own family that emigrated. Once in America, the Blün’s dream came true – they made something of themselves. Nobody knew then that Ida’s life would later end on a ship. "This really is so very tragic. That is the only way I can describe it." "Because after such a fulfilled life, with so much history and all these fortunate circumstances – family, marriage, children, success, wealth, social standing - that a family, a couple, tragically dies like this." April 14, 1912. The disaster takes its course. “I can’t.” “Come on, we’ve got to go.” In Germany there are no descendants left of Ida and Isidor I could talk to about their fate and their last minutes. So I flew to New York to meet a great-grandchild of the two for an interview. He has a surprise for me, he says on the phone. I am flying over the area where, more than 100 years ago, the Titanic sank. A strange feeling … New York – the city where Ida and Isidor arrived in the middle of the 19th century. The great grandson, Paul Kurzman, is a professor of Social Work. His office is in the North of Manhattan. What moved me instantly was that Paul, born in 1938, has a very close and emotional connection to his great grandparents. "What a fortunate heritage I am privileged to enjoy." "These were very remarkable people, both Isidor and Ida, and I consider myself honored to be their descendant." The tragic demise of the couple gave rise to a Broadway musical in 2012 and to numerous films. Sometimes the great grandson is deeply moved when he watches one of them. "As strange as it may seem because of course they died in 1912, long before I was born, but that I miss them." The defining moment. It is inevitable: the Titanic will sink. First, women and children enter the lifeboats. Also Isidor as elderly gentleman at 67 years has a sure seat in one of them, but … “Isidor, get in.” ‘No. Ida, I can’t. There are still so many children and women.” “Children? What about our own children, what about our grandchildren?” “I know, but they are old enough. I can’t.” "Sometimes I’ve been asked, would I make the same decision as my great grandfather did?" "And my answer is: I don’t know." "I’d like to think I would, but until you’re actually faced with that situation, with death, it’s hard to really know whether you would have had the courage to do so." And Ida? She too makes a courageous decision. “We have lived together all this time. Where you go, I want to go, too.” "I certainly honor and respect Isidor’s decision." "And as much, or perhaps even more, respect the decision that his wife Ida made in the lifeboat to leave..." "...so that she could be together with her husband in union in death as they had been in life." "There were at least 1000 people in lifejackets, floating in the ice-cold water, screaming for their lives, screaming for help." "The screaming of a thousand dying people made a sound - that was like the sound of a siren." "That was the worst about the sinking, this screaming of the people." "My feeling was, my guess, I doubt Isidor and Ida made any such sound." "My guess is, although none of us will ever have the privilege to know..." "...my guess is they were whispering what we sometimes in English call “sweet nothings” to one another as the ship went down." "And they went to an honorable death, arm in arm." "And they experienced death as they had lived and experienced life, together." 1,500 people die in this disaster. The wreck of the Titanic will be discovered 70 years after it sank. For years the journalist Brigitte Saar has been absorbed by this tragedy. The story of Ida and Isidor moves her, too. "What makes this story so touching is the perfect love that these two have had. " "They grew old together, they built an economic empire together, and they were so close to each other that also in this moment..." "...where everything was about to end, they would not want to come apart. " "They wanted to stay together up to their death." And that, of course, is a kind of love we all wish to find for ourselves." In the late 90s, Brigitte Saar took part in a diving expedition in a submarine. Thousands of artifacts, some very personal, have been brought to the surface during several expeditions. "You see a plate on the ground; that gives you this heart-clenching feeling, it’s an item we all know and we all have had in our hands." "And when you image how many people aboard the Titanic had one of such a plate in their hands..." "...washing dishes, serving food, eating from it as a passenger..." "...that’s the moment where you understand how close all these people still are to yourself." "It wasn’t that long ago." "These were people like you and me." And now the moment has come. Ida and Isidor’s great grandson presents a surprise. "Here it is – Isidor Straus – I.S." "And inside are the pictures of their eldest son, Jesse..." "....and his eldest daughter Sara, my grandmother." The golden locket was found in a pocket of Isidor’s trousers when his body was discovered shortly after the tragedy. "When I have that locket in my hand and when I open that locket, I do have emotional feelings." "I know that when my great grandfather went down at sea, that in the pocket of his trousers was the locket that I am carrying in my hand." "That connection, to me, that’s the most powerful of all." Also, between the city of New York and the family Straus there is a strong connection today. This school carries the name of the well-known couple. And there is even a Straus Park. This little oasis was opened three years after their death. Back then the family lived right next to this park. Today there is an apartment building in that place. The park is situated on northern Broadway in Manhattan. We are about to meet Joan Adler from the Historical Society of the family. She knows everything about the park and the Straus family. "It was not like it is now. There were no apartment houses there at all. It was just private homes." "Most of this area was wooded, it was forest, and the children had a lot of freedom to play because there wasn’t traffic." The statue in the park wistfully looks onto the water. How appropriate the bible verse that commemorates Ida and Isidor: “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided.” "I love that it is a park in the middle of a busy city and that it’s so well used by the neighbors." "I think that people are very mindful that the Strauses died and people remember Titanic. " "But they also feel very peaceful here and it’s a place where you can come in the middle of the city to be at peace." "I think that Isidor and Ida would love this place." "I think they would be so happy to have provided a place where people could enjoy the environment in the middle of this busy city." In her office in Smithtown, on Long Island, Joan Adler has several boxes with documents, photos and newspaper clippings about the Straus family. We learn that Isidor Straus was a member of Congress for a year. Also, he held several honorary positions. And managing the well-known department store the Straus family set new social standards. That, in part, must have been the reason why the then-employees volunteered to give money for the memorial plaque to commemorate the manager and his wife. "It shows the love and devotion that the employees had for Isidor and Ida Straus." "I am sure that the family looked after them. They had services for their employees." "They were the first ones to have a restaurant where their employees could get free coffee." "They had a doctor and a nurse on staff to help people." "They even had their own camp where during the summer, the employees could go for a week to the country-side and have some fresh air with their families." "They did enormous and amazing things and the employees appreciated that." "And I must say that the Strauses knew every one of their employees by name." Today the Straus descendants have no say at Macy’s. In the mid-80s the family was pushed out of the stylish management floor and the board room. "Within the board of directors there were several people who started to quietly buy up stock until they got to a majority." "And then they just said 'You’re out and we’re in.' " " 'We are now the owners of Macy’s. We have the majority of the stock.' " "That was a difficult time. The family was very bitter for a long time." "There’s no family members within Macy’s, and many family members will not shop at Macy’s." Joan Adler herself is not related to the family. But as she has been working for the Historical Society for so many years, the down-to-earth person feels very close to the family. "The family is a truly remarkable family." "So many of them are moral ethical people who care not only for each other but the world in general." "They are extraordinary in that way." "The vast majority of them are very conscious of their heritage.." "...of the gifts they’ve been given from before and are so happy and ready and willing to pass that forward." Joan is particularly fond of Ida and Isidor. What would she do if the two came walking in the living room now? "I think I would just thank them." "I’m getting teary eyed." "It's terrible." "They have enriched my life and I would thank them for this legacy." At the funeral service many tears were shed. It is said that 40,000 people attended. The family mausoleum is on the Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx. This is where Isidor was put to rest. The body of his beloved wife Ida was never found. But one verse unites them forever. “Many waters cannot quench love – neither can the floods drown it.” "We feel we have an educational responsibility to future generations..." "...to keep alive the lessons learned from both the life and death of the members of the Straus family." The two emigrants Ida and Isidor have left their mark in the Old and in the New World. And they have more than 200 descendants. A tree of life that grows to this day. And the golden locket? "It is in the family and it will always continue to be in the family." "And I will pass it down to my children, as it was passed by my mother and her mother before." "The whole idea of it being out of my possession frightens me." "It is so precious." "Someone once said if we insure it, what’s it worth? And I said I have no idea." "It’s priceless to me." For the great grandson, even more precious is probably the legacy of Ida and Isidor Straus who lost their lives in one of the biggest maritime disasters. Thank you to Peter Klüfer for translating this film

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Duration: 29 minutes and 48 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: straushistoricalsociety on Sep 23, 2015

Titanic Disaster
The Story of the Straus Family
A film by Heiko Wirtz-Walter

This film tells the story of a true love.
A love that’s larger than death.

Wir folgen der Spur des Ehepaares Straus von Rheinland-Pfalz nach New York. Sie starben beim Untergang der Titanic.

Bekannt im Land | 30.8.2015, 18.45 Uhr | 29:48 min

http://swrmediathek.de/player.htm?show=dc663d00-4bc0-11e5-a703-0026b975f2e6

Straus Historical Society:
www.straushistoricalsociety.org
www.facebook.com/straushistoricalsocietyinc
[email protected]
@StrausHistory

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