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Walter Meyer Strauss (b. December 18, 1909, d. October 15, 1990)Walter Meyer Strauss (son of Isaak Strauss and Alice Guggenheim) was born December 18, 1909 in Frankfurt, A.M., and died October 15, 1990 in Interlocken, Switzerland.He married Louise Sara Loewenthal on November 11, 1935 in Basel, Switzerland, daughter of Siegfried Loewenthal and Henrietta Feuchtwanger.
Notes for Walter Meyer Strauss:
Walter Strauss was born in Frankfurt at the beginning of the 20th century. He was born to an illustrious German Jewish family that were proud members of the Friedberger Anlage Synangogue. His father, Isaak was a staunch member of the Chevra Kadisha as were his fathers before him. Isaak and Walter's older brother, Fritz, ran a business called Frankfurter Peling Co., a fake pearl company. The brother, Fritz was a door to door salesman for the company and was very successful as a salesman for people responded well to him due to his good looks. Walter's mother was from the family Guggenheim, which was a well known family from Worms.
Life in Pre-World War II Germany was not easy. There was tremendous anti-semitism at the time and the Jews were forced to assimilate in order to survive. In public as well as in synagogue, their heads would be covered with hats, and only at home would they wear yarmulkes. The German Jews kept their religiousity because of their traditions and their Rabbis.
In Frankfurt, the Rav over the Synagogue was Rav Shlomo Zalman Breuer who took over after his Father-in-law's death. (Rabbiner Samson Raphael Hirsch died in 1808) The German Jews held their Rabbis with the upmost respect and whatever the Rav said is what the people did. The Friedberger Shul, itself which was built in 1907, was said to have been the largest shul in all ofEurope and Frankfurt AM was the second largest community in Europe. It was monumental. People visited from many neighboring cities just to see this great structure. It was known for its great Choir and great Chazzon, Benno Pesachovitch. Rav Breuer felt that the singing is what brought the decorum amongst the congregants. The women sat in the gallery above the men but were not hidden from the view of the shul, for Rav Breuer believed that the women should be able to participate and not lose interest.
The Jews of Germany adopted many habits from their surrounding neighbors including compulsive cleanliness and punctuality. Walter Strauss at the age of nine learned quickly what it meant to be punctual. He came to shul one morning during the week and the Ba'al Tefillah was already past Adon Olam, his father when noticing his late arrival turned to him and said, "if you are going to come late, you are better off not coming at all!" He was never late again.
Walter went to the Hirsch Realschule for education as did all the other children in Frankfurt. Young Joseph Breuer, later the Rav in Washington Heights, was a teacher in the school at the time. When Walter was in his late teens, he got a job working for a woolen factory in Frankfurt. A few years later, when Walter was in his early twenties, his boss told him that he was moving his company to Switzerland and wanted him to come along. He moved to Basel, Switzerland got married to Louise Lowenthal who he had been dating for seven years prior, and raised a family in Switzerland during World War II.
During the War, they had two children, Judy and Michael. He became a member of the Chevra Kadisha in Basel and was very involved in the Synagogue there. During the War, friends from home that were now in the concentration camps sent him letters about the atrocities that were going on in the War and specifically in the Camps. Trying to help, he established a group consisting of himself, Samuel Eisenmann and a few other men from Basel. The group would send very small care packages periodically to the people in the camps. The packages consisted of food such as salami, sardines, and any other small items that the people requested or needed and was small enough that it could be sent. Every sunday they would load up the packages in a car and drive all over Basel putting them in many different mailboxes, for if they were all dumped in one mailbox they would surely not arrive at the camps.
Life was very tough during those years in Basel, but it spared him and his family from the war. His father, mother, brother, and sister-in-law, unfortunately did not survive and were killed in Sobibor Concentration Camp.
In 1945 He and his family acquired a visa to come to America. (The visa was acquired with the help of Max Stern who was married to the daughter of Julius Lowenthal, Siegfried's brother, who was Lou's first cousin. ) They decided to settle in Washington Heights where Rav Joseph Breuer was beginning a kehilla. He was once again a proud member of the Chevra Kadisha of this new community. He got a job at a woolen factory in Manhattan and worked there for the rest of his life. He needed to travel a lot on business during his lifetime and managed to go to Israel numerous times.
On one of his business trips, the plane he was travelling on had to make an unscheduled stop in Germany. The passengers were asked to please get off and transfer to a different plane, Walter refused. He said, "I will not step foot in Germany!". Since he was so fervent about it, in order to accomodate him, the airport arranged for a "cherry picker" to transfer him from one plane to the other without him having to stand on German ground or soil. When Walter had a belief or opinion about something there was no swaying him.
The Kehilla in Washington Heights grew tremedously. Rav Breuer established an elementary school, high school, teachers seminary, kollel, mikveh, and their own Schechita. Walter following in his forefathers footsteps had a tremendous amount of Emunas Chachomim. Whenever a question in halachah arose, he went striaght to the Rav and abided by the answer no matter what he might have thought personally. At the end of his life he was able to say that he sat in the gemoro shiur of four great German Rabbonim, Rav Shlomo Breuer, Rav Joseph Breuer, Rav Shimon Schwab, and Rav Zechariah Gelley.
During his lifetime because his son learned in Yeshivas Kol Torah in Israel for a year, he became very involved in the Yeshiva and acted as their bookeeper for many years. He was also very active in the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
At the end of his life he told his son that he wanted to be buried in America for he felt that one should not lug around a body unless it was absolutely necessary. However, he said that if he should die on a trip and one would have to move his body anyway, then he would rather be buried in Eretz Yisroel. As fate should have it, he died at eighty in Interlocken, Switzerland on a trip, and is now buried in Har Haminuchot inJerusalem. Rav Kunstat , the former Rosh Hayeshiva of Kol Torah, insisted on him having a Choshove burial plot for all that he did during his lifetime so he is buried in the new Nachalas HaRabonim.
More About Walter Meyer Strauss and Louise Sara Loewenthal:
Marriage: November 11, 1935, Basel, Switzerland.
Children of Walter Meyer Strauss and Louise Sara Loewenthal are:
- +Judith Strauss.
- +Michael Shlomo Strauss, b. January 29, 1944, Basel, Switzerland.