52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks–#5 Claire Theresia Spiegel

Here is my 5th post for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, a challenge posed by Amy Johnson Crow.

I love this undated picture!

I don’t know a lot about my Aunt Claire. I remember her as glamorous and funny. Her accent was thicker than her sister’s (my grandmother) and she always appeared so fashionable to me – so maybe that’s where the “glamorous” image came from. I also remember her freckles – I figured that’s where my extremely freckled face came from!

She once told me a funny story about walking around in town (Vienna, Austria) and ‘slipping in the violets.” It took me some time to realize “violets” was a euphemism for “horse doo-doo”!! Tante Claire was too ‘genteel” to use the everyday term, I guess!!

Claire Theresia Spiegel was born on January 3, 1902 in Semarang, Java. 

1903 or 1904, since Claire seems able to stand on her own

Her parents, Herman Spiegel and Sophie Weiss Spiegel had moved there from Vienna, Austria. Along with two partners, Herman owned several businesses, in the Dutch Indies, Toko Spiegel being one of them. (Toko means shop in Indonesian)

Life in Java must have been wonderful. The family lived in a beautiful home, maintained by several servants. (The story of Herman and his business will be the subject of a future post.) Claire’s sister, Rose (my grandmother) was born in 1903 and their brother, Emil came along in 1905.

Sophie Spiegel and children -java-with Back-luctor notes
Here you see Sophie, far left with her children: Claire, Emil and Rose.
Herman is the gentleman directly behind the ship wheel

By 1910, the family was back in Vienna and in 1911 Herman died, leaving Sophie to raise the three children aged 5-8 on her own.

undated_with family

I’m not sure when this picture was taken. Certainly before 1938. 
It’s a formal portrait of Sophie with the three children, taken at a studio. 
I find the photo above really interesting. It certainly is more relaxed than your typical studio sitting.What I love most about it though, is you can clearly see how happy Sophie was, to be with her three children. 

On April 2, 1928, Claire married Felix Schuster. Claire was Jewis and Felix was Catholic. The couple was living in Prague, Czechoslovakia when they had their only child, Klauss Peter in 1929. According to my mother, Claire may have gotten pregnant a second time, but chose not to have the child due to the impending war.
Claire- maybe wedding
Claire, in what I presume to be her wedding dress.
Felix and Claire

I’m sorry, but this photo just cracks me up….Claire, what were you thinking with that get-up??

The war years were difficult. There are several letters I have yet to translate which seem to detail problems that “Schuster” was having in Prague. (For some reason, my mother and grandmother always referred to Felix as “Schuster”) 

A partial text of one letter (Claire neglected to put the year on her letter unfortunately):

The [situation?] here has not changed, for all people with German language terribly. Felix doesn’t work anymore in the papermill (he was forced to leave W.) and has to return to Vienna, also Klaasje [the Dutch reference to her son, Klauss Peter].  We don’t know, whether he will get back all his furniture, clothes, piano, etc. It is terrible for a man with 57 years [?] to start a new life. As I heard, Vienna is nearly crashed and the people are without food. Now another question! Would it be possible to get a visitor permit for a few (3) months to see you my dearest mother and Rose? Please let me know that by cable, or at the earliest moment if there is any chance for me. There is so much to talk, quite impossible to say it by letter.

Claire’s sister and mother (and my mother) escaped Austria in 1938, but not before my grandfather had been imprisoned in Dachau. It was Emil (Claire’s brother) that provided a home in New Rochelle for his family to flee to. Emil had been sent to America in 1924 by his mother when he was 19 years old. (Emil’s story is pretty interesting in itself – again, a post for the future.)

By 1947, Claire and Felix had divorced.
I learned a little more about Claire in this passenger list from February 14, 1947.

  • Claire was divorced and using her maiden name
  • She was listed with first name of “Theresia”. This was something I had never seen before (or since) Theresia was the first name of Claire’s maternal grandmother.
  • She had no occupation
  • She intended to reside in the United States on a permanent basis
  • Her eyes and hair were brown. I mention this because my mother told me Claire dyed her hair red – which must have been striking with freckled face.

Peter followed in September 1947. According to his passenger information, his father, Felix was living in Vienna at that time.

Claire and PetU.S.Naturalization_ClaireTheresaSchusterer remained in the New York area at least through April 24, 1956 when Claire became a naturalized citizen.

I have a vague recollection that Claire and Peter moved from NY to the Midwest, but in 1964, she definitely was residing in Forest Hills, Long Island, NY.

Claire and Peter in Vienna

Claire moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina to be closer to her son, who had moved there for business.

On October 15, 1971, Claire passed away at the age of 69.

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