They Watch Over Us – Family Photos

Two family pictures have been hanging in our dining room for years.

Rosa Weiss Oppenheim




The first one is a portrait of my great-aunt Rosa Weiss Oppenheim. Rosa was born in Austria in 1868 and died at the very young age of 32, leaving two young children to be raised by their father Max. The sign of a good portrait is that the eyes will follow you. Rosa’s eyes certainly do! Every so often our daughter Caitlin would complain that she was freaking her out as Rosa “stared” at her during meal times!










The Spiegel Family Collage

All the photos in the frame are those of my grandmother Rose’s family – her sister, Claire Theresa, her brother Emile Garrett, and her mother,
Sophie Weiss Spiegel. Her father, Herman Spiegel who died in 1991, is noticeably absent!
Whenever I look at this framed collage (which is pretty much every day!) an image of my grandmother’s apartment flashes through my brain. In 1938, my grandmother, Rose Spiegel Lichtenthal and her daughter, Doris (my mother) arrived in America from Vienna, Austria. They moved to the apartment at 30 Eastchester Road in New Rochelle, New York after spending some time at her Aunt Irene’s house. (Irene is the daughter of Max and Rosa.) My grandfather, Paul joined them after his release from a concentration camp in 1939. My grandmother lived in that apartment until her death in 1972. It is a place that holds many special memories for me. (I must mention here that my other set of grandparents, my father’s parents lived across the hall in the same building!!)

Row 1 – Left to Right

The Spiegel children
Rose, Claire, and Emile
March 25, 1915 – Vienna, Austria
Rose Spiegel and her sister, Claire
Approx. 1908 – Semarang, Java

Rose and Claire
Approx. 1904-1905
Semarang, Java

Emile Spiegel – 1915 – Vienna, Austria
Emile later changed his last name to SPEEGER




















Sophie Spiegel (seated) with daughters Claire and Rose
The woman standing in the back may be a family friend (or a servant?)
Java – approx. 1904

Row 2 – Left to Right


I recognize my Aunt Claire (standing behind Emile), Uncle Emile (in chair),
and my grandmother Rose in this undated photo from Java. (Approx. 1908)
But who are the others?

Claire and Rose
Claire and Rose
Emile, Rose, and Claire
Vienna, Austria

Row 3 – Left to Right

Rose Spiegel
Approx. 1905 – Semarang, Java
Claire Spiegel
Approx. 1903 – Semarang, Java

Sophie Weiss Spiegel with her three children – Claire, Emile, and Rose
Approx. 1907-1908  – Semarang, Java
Claire Spiegel
Approx. 1903 – Sematang, Java
Claire Spiegel
Approx. 1908 – Semarang, Java

Why does the collection of photos evoke such a strong image for me? The picture, as framed, hung above my grandfather’s desk in the tiny little hallway of the apartment. Originally, the fabric was a purple/blue satin. The years had ravaged the fabric so I redid the frame using blue cotton. I was careful to put the pictures back in the exact same position. I do worry about whatever may in the fabric leaching into the photographs. I know I shouldn’t hang originals but the frame does not have direct sunlight on it. The oldest picture in the frame is probably 115 years old, so I say, “It lasted this long as it is, so I’m going to take my chances!” Don’t worry, I made high-resolution scans of all the photos!!

The Floorplan

I just couldn’t help myself… here is a “not to scale” floorplan of my grandmother’s apartment. The “Renter’s Bedroom” was originally the room shared by my mother and her grandmother, Sophie Spiegel. After my grandfather, Paul Lichtenthal’s death in 1959, my grandmother took in renters to help her cover the bills.

Floorplan (not to scale) of my grandmother’s apartment.

Considering I am writing about “Our Stuff” this year, it might be an interesting project to “place” the items we still possess in their original locations around the apartment. Uh oh! Do I see another book in my future??

This is the 8th post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. This year, I am focusing on telling the story of “Our Stuff.”

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