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Maier and Gruber families papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2004.709.1

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    The papers consist of documents, photographs, passports, clippings, and identification cards relating to the Gruber and Maier families, their experiences in Austria, and their immigration to the United States during the Holocaust. The collection documents Erich Maier’s legal career in Austria through 1938 as well as Erich and Ella Maier’s attempts to facilitate their family members’ immigration to the United States in the 1940s.
    inclusive:  1875-1962
    bulk:  1934-1947
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Robert Jonas Gross
    Collection Creator
    Maier family
    Gruber family
    Erich Maier (1889-1963) was born on August 25, 1889, to Max and Julia Kohn Maier in Neunkirchen, Austria, where his father (d. 1929) was also born. The family was descended from the revered Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Eisenstadt (d. 1744, Hungary). Erich’s mother was born on August 6, 1854, in Lajtaszentmiklos, Hungary (now Neudorfl, Austria). Erich had five brothers: a twin Ernst, Otto, b. 1877, Leo, b. 1882, Benno, b. 1884, and Arthur, b. 1886, and three sisters: Flora, b. 1878, Helena, b. 1880, and Minna, (approximately 1892-1932). Erich had a law degree from the University of Vienna and was active in the Jewish community. He became an associate in a law firm with Leo Hermann Gruber, who died of cancer in 1934. His widow Ella (Elisabeth) Hochstadt Gruber (1908-1987) handled the firm’s business records and agreed to let Erich take over the practice. Erich and Ella married on December 15, 1935. Ella had two daughters from her first marriage, Amelia (b. 1929) and Gerda (b. 1931). Erich and Ella were a well-to-do Jewish family.

    Nazi Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and enacted anti-Jewish laws to disenfranchise Jews and remove them from many activities and professions. Erich’s law practice was forced to close in June, and the family’s home was often searched by the Gestapo. On one visit, they demanded to see Leo Gruber, and Ella had to give them directions to his gravesite to prove that he had died. They confiscated personal belongings, including a doll carriage.

    The Maier family decided to leave Austria. Ella found a cousin, Nathan Rennert, in America, who provided an affidavit of support for the family. The Austrian exit fees were extremely costly, but on November 8, 1938, they fled Vienna for Le Havre, France. They were not allowed to take anything of value, and when their train was searched by German authorities, Ella hid her jewelry in her soup. The family fled on the SS Normandie and arrived on November 24 in New York, where they remained. Erich’s brother, Ernst, his wife, Margit, nee Fleischmann, and 7 year old son Thomas escaped to the United States in 1939 with his help. Erich and Ernst's brother Arthur joined them in 1941. Their mother, Julia Maier, 85, had died in Vienna in approximately 1939.

    Ella’s parents Jonas (1875-1950) and Jetti Tannenblatt Hochstadt (1874-1952) were on the Romanian quota for the United States, which was very small. Ella arranged exit visas to England, which were so expensive they had to sell properties in Vienna, but the visas expired by the time the properties were sold. Ella then obtained transit visas for Bolivia via the United States and her parents arrived in New York in August 1940. They were allowed to remain and moved in with Ella and her family.

    Erich got a position with the World Jewish Congress and, by 1942, Ella worked there as well. Both Erich and Ella became naturalized citizens in 1944. Ella and Erich submitted 24 affidavits of support for relatives, and 15 family members reached the US. The others perished. After the war ended in May 1945, they learned that Erich’s other five siblings were killed in concentration camps: Benno in Jasenovac in Croatia in 1941; Leo in Gyor, Hungary, presumably during forced labor service; Leo's wife Sarika in Auschwitz in 1944; Otto in Theresienstadt in February 1944; Flora Frankl and Helena Salz in Auschwitz on October 12, 1944; and Helena’s husband Moritz in Theresienstadt in 1943.

    Erich Maier, who was fluent in German, English, French, and Yiddish, had been working as a censor for the US War Department since 1943. After the war ended, he was sent to work in the American zone of occupation in Germany. While there, he acted as the unofficial representative of the World Jewish Congress. He visited displaced persons camps in Germany to gather information and provide aid for Jewish refugees. He collected the names of all the children at Foehrenwald, Mittelbau, and Beth Bialik DP camps, so that the WJC could send letters and care packages. The WJC tried to arrange for Erich to remain as their official representative after his contract with the US War Department ended in 1946, but they could not get the permits. He continued to work for the WJC until 1948. He then took a position with the law firm of Rosenman, Colin, et al. Erich’s law license was not valid in the US, and he worked as librarian and researcher until his retirement. He also continued to volunteer with the WJC, coordinating shipments of books, clothes, and supplies, and searching for relatives of displaced refugees. Ella worked for the World Jewish Congress for over 25 years, retiring as chief archivist. Erich, 71, passed away on April 22, 1963. Ella, 79, passed away in May 1987.
    Leo Hermann Gruber (d. 1934) and his two brothers, Erich (1895-1942) and Fritz (1900-1939) were born in Vienna to Simon and Amalie Herzstadt Gruber (d. 1900). Leo was a well-known criminal defense attorney and outspoken opponent of the Nazi Party in Austria. He married Elisabeth (Ella) Hochstadt (1908-1987) on August 2, 1925. Ella was the only daughter of wealthy parents Jonas (1875-1950) and Jetti Tannenblatt Hochstadt (1874-1952). Ella’s mother Jetti was born in Usciebiskupie, Galicia, Austro-Hungary, (now Usti︠a (Ternopilʹsʹka oblastʹ, Ukraine) on November 8, 1874, and her father Jonas was born in Rostoki, Romania, on December 20, 1875. Leo and Ella had two daughters, Amelia, born September 24, 1929, and Gerda, born April 25, 1931. When Leo died of cancer at age 41 on December 29, 1934, Ella, who handled his law firm’s business records, agreed to let associate Erich Maier take over the practice, and she married him on December 15, 1935. The couple immigrated to the United States with Ella’s daughters in November 1938.

    Leo’s brother Fritz was married to Sofia Selinger (1894-1942) and had a son Siegfried (Fred) (1922-2014). Fred, 16, received a space on a Kindertransport to Great Britain, and fled Vienna on December 16, 1938. Fritz died due to illness on April 21, 1939. Sofia was deported on November 27, 1941, to Riga, Latvia, and then to Maly Trostenic killing site near Minsk, Belarus, where she was killed on June 15, 1942. Leo’s other brother Erich Gruber was deported in February 1941 to Kielce, Poland. Ella Maier received a postcard from him dated July 29, 1941, asking for food packages. The ghetto was liquidated in spring 1942, and residents were shipped to Treblinka killing center. Erich Gruber did not survive.

    Ella and Leo’s older daughter Amelia married and had two daughters. She passed away in 1967 while working on her PhD. Their younger daughter Gerda married Morton Gross and had three sons. She was a special education teacher, with a graduate degree in the subject.

    Physical Details

    German English Hebrew
    1 box
    6 oversize folders
    System of Arrangement
    This collection is arranged by individual family member and date.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Corporate Name
    World Jewish Congress

    Administrative Notes

    The papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by Robert Gross in 2004.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-28 09:13:56
    This page:

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