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Zehngut and Weiss families papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2018.504.1

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    Zehngut and Weiss families papers

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    The Zehngut and Weiss families papers consist of biographical materials, correspondence, photographs, and research material relating to the Zehngut and Weiss families from Austria. The papers document the immigration of Inge and Kitty Weiss among the “50 children” brought to the United States from Vienna by Brith Sholom and Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, as well as the immigration of their parents Stella Zehngut Weiss and Leon Weiss.

    Biographical materials include school records, a birth certificate and naturalization certificate, resumes, and a memorial program and obituary documenting Inge Weiss as well as an autograph book Inge used to collect signatures and poems from family members and friends before leaving Vienna. This series also includes Leon and Stella Weiss’ German passports “for foreigners” and American naturalization certificates and a family tree documenting the ancestors of Inge’s granddaughter Anya Coverman.

    Correspondence includes a letter alerting Stella Weiss that Inge and Kitty were well settled in America, a letter signed by Gilbert Kraus that enclosed vaccination certificates, and a congratulatory letter on the birth of Inge’s daughter, Tina. Later correspondence includes a 70th birthday reception invitation in honor of Louis Levine, a 1991 letter from Kitty to Inge commenting on their family’s fate, and a photocopy of a letter from Kitty to the Austrian Consulate asking to begin a restitution claims against Austria.

    Photographs primarily consist of prewar images of the Weiss family and their relatives and friends in Austria. They depict Leon, Stella, Inge, and Kitty Weiss; Ernestina, Julius, Olga, and Annie Zehngut; Herta, Ronnie, and Sheila Rennie; Joseph and Keith Uhrmacher; and Arthur, Emil, Grete, and Paulette Kronberg. The Kronberg family was related to Ernestina Zehngut’s sister, Carolina Kronberg. Several of the Zehngut photographs were taken at the Zehngut photography studio. The photograph album primarily depicts the Weiss family and their relatives and friends in and around Vienna before World War II. The album also includes photographs of Inge and Kitty and the other “50 children” with Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus aboard the ship that brought them to America in 1939.

    Research files include correspondence, notes, and printed materials documenting Inge’s search for information about the arrival of the “50 children.” Correspondence includes Inge’s letters to newspapers and the National Archives searching for copies of photographs and ship manifests documenting the arrival of the “50 children.” Notes include a name list of the “50 children.” Printed materials include original and photocopied clippings describing the arrival of the “50 children,” B’rith Sholom’s work, and Steven Pressman’s book about the “50 children.”
    inclusive:  circa 1900-2005
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Tina Michaels Coverman
    Collection Creator
    Zehngut family
    Weiss family
    Stella Zehngut Weiss (1903-1963) was born July 4, 1903 in Vienna, to Ernestina (née Deutsch) and Julius Zehngut, who owned a photography studio in Vienna. Stella had two sisters, Olga Zehngut Uhrmacher and Annie Zehngut Tager. Olga Uhrmacher had two children, Herta and Freddy. Olga’s husband left his family and moved to Caracas, Venezuela, Olga stayed with her parents in Vienna, and Herta and Freddy went to England on a Kindertransport. Herta lived with a family as their governess. Freddy lived with a tailor’s family and learned the tailor trade but was not treated well. He changed his last name to Harding, married, and later divorced. He had one daughter and twin grandchildren. Herta married a man with the surname Rennie and had five children, one of whom was disabled. Julius Zehngut died of natural causes in 1942. Ernestina and Olga were deported to Theresienstadt, transferred to Auschwitz, and killed. Annie Tager’s husband deserted her, and she had no children. She survived the Holocaust, possibly spending time in an internment camp in France, and immigrated to the United States after the war with help from her surviving sister Stella.

    Stella Zehngut and her husband, master carpenter Leiser (Leon) Weiss (1893-1980) from Knihynicze, Poland (now Kniahynychi, Ukraine), immigrated to the United States in August 1939. Their daughters Inge and Kitty had immigrated in June as part of the “50 children” rescued by Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus and the Brith Sholom organization. The family settled in the Bronx, and Leon operated a carpenter shop and invested in New York apartments. Leon and Stella resettled in Florida in 1958.
    Inge Weiss Michaels (1931-2002) was born February 1, 1931 in Vienna, Austria to carpenter Leiser (Layzer, Leon) Weiss (1893-1908) and his wife Stella Weiss (née Zehngut, 1903-1963). Inge had one sister, Kitty (born August 7, 1933, Vienna). Leiser was the oldest child and supported his large Polish family after the death of his father. He was talented and intelligent, worked as a carpenter, and owned real estate. The family lived in a home on one of the inner ring streets in Vienna and also had a summer home. Stella was always able to buy a new hat for the holidays, which was an important status symbol at the time.

    One of Leon’s apprentices was a member of the Hitler Youth and warned Leon of trouble. One day he let Leon know that the Nazis were coming, so the family hid at home with the lights out and were safe. Leon had previously received an affidavit from his mother and younger brother living in the U.S., who told him to immigrate first and then send for his family, but Leon secured a visa for Stella as well. Stella convinced Leon to send Inge and Kitty to America in June 1939 as part of the “50 children” rescued by Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus and the Brith Sholom organization. Stella and Leon sent jewelry ahead to his mother and brother, but his brother turned out to be a gambler and squandered their assets. Stella and Leon Weiss immigrated in August 1939 and were reunited with Inge and Kitty. They first lived with Leon’s mother and brother, then in another apartment, and later bought a house with a porch in the Bronx. Leon was initially angry about purchasing the house in a Catholic neighborhood until he realized what a good deal they had made. He rented a place near the Grand Concourse for his carpentry shop, and Stella was a homemaker.

    Inge and Kitty attended public schools in New York. Inge was initially placed in a lower grade at school while she learned English, but within a year she joined her own grade. After high school, Inge’s mother wanted her to learn a trade and become a seamstress instead of attending college. Kitty attended college, studied music and arts, and became an art teacher and artist. She married a man with the last name Penner and had two sons, Charlie and Jonathon. Charlie Penner lives in Ann Arbor and has two daughters, Julie and Leah. Jonathon Penner lives in LA and has two children, Cooper and Ava.

    Inge wanted to be independent from her family and got married young to Bernard Wagman. He was dishonorably discharged from the military, but Inge thought their marriage would survive because he was from a well-to-do Jewish family. His parents bought them a house on Long Island and a liquor store for Bernie to run, and their daughter Tina was born in 1950. Unfortunately, Bernie was a gambler, and when Inge learned he was spending the cash from the store to fund his gambling debts, she left him. She and Tina moved in with her parents, and Inge worked as a film editor and held another job to supplement her income.

    Inge married Charles Michaels, who had two children from his first marriage. In 1957 they moved to a town outside Pittsburgh where Charlie worked as a salesman and Inge worked for Alcoa. After a year, they moved to Florida where Charlie had family. Inge initially found it difficult to find a job, but eventually became a secretary in a real estate office and later obtained her sales and broker’s licenses. Her parents also moved to Florida in 1958, selling the New York apartments they had invested in and purchasing property in Coral Gables. Charlie also went into real estate, encouraged and tutored by Inge in the business. They established Michael’s Real Estate around 1960.

    Inge and Charlie were strict parents. Inge wanted Tina to become a teacher. Tina attended the University of Florida in Gainesville for one year, but her parents made her return home and attend to the University of Miami. In 1971, Tina married physician Michael Coverman. They lived in Seattle for four years while he was a resident and then two years in Nebraska while he served in the Air Force and she obtained her MA in Business Administration. They then moved to Texas and raised two daughters, Anya and Tess.

    Physical Details

    English German
    1 box
    1 oversize box
    4 oversize folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Zehngut and Weiss families papers are arranged in four series:

    Series 1: Biographical materials, 1931-2002
    Series 2: Correspondence, 1939-1991
    Series 3: Photographs, circa 1900-2000
    Series 4: Research, 1939-2005

    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

    Administrative Notes

    Tina Michaels Coverman donated the Zehngut and Weiss families papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2018. Tina Coverman is the daughter of Inge Weiss Michaels.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 14:36:08
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