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Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust

Karola Epstein.
Karola Epstein

Name: Karola Frankenthal Epstein (nee Rosenfeld) (1925 – )

Birth Place: Schopfloch, Germany

Arrived in Wisconsin: 1946, Green Bay

It's always in the back of my mind that it can happen again.

— Karola Epstein

Map of survivor's journey in Europe.

Biography

Karola Frankenthal Epstein (nee Rosenfeld) was born on September 20, 1925, in Schopfloch, Germany. Her family enjoyed excellent business and social relations in this small Bavarian village. In 1936, anti-Semitic legislation by the Nazi Party forced Karola to attend a school for Jewish children in a different town. After experiencing anti-Semitism in that town, she felt unsafe. Karola convinced her parents to allow her to accompany her sister, Sofie, to the U.S to live with relatives. The two teenaged girls arrived in Chicago in August 1937.

Karola's expectations about life in America were shattered when she was forced to keep house and babysit for her relatives. In September 1938, Karola's parents immigrated to Chicago. The family worked hard to make a living. Before the war's end, Karola had finished high school and worked as a bookkeeper. She also met her first husband, Siegfried Frankenthal, a German-Jewish refugee. They met through her sister and brother-in-law, Herbert Zimmern, who were living in Green Bay. The couple married in September 1946 in Green Bay, where they established a cattle business.

From humble beginnings, Karola and her husband built a large commercial empire, which included farm real estate and four meatpacking plants. At the time of Siegfried's death in 1976, they were the fifth or sixth largest employer in Green Bay. They also raised four children, all born in Green Bay. After Siegfried's death, she married Aaron Epstein of Madison in 1979.

Audio and Transcript Information

Below are the highlights of each tape. They do not list all topics discussed. Recordings of only one tape side are marked: (no Side 2). Documents may be printed or downloaded at no cost. See Rights and Permissions


Listen to Karola's testimony and view transcript

Tape 1, Side 1
  • Childhood in Schopfloch, Bavaria
  • Family life, religious and secular education
  • Jewish cultural life in Schopfloch in the 1920s and 1930s
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 12.3 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 1, Side 2
  • Growing anti-Semitic legislation and behavior
  • German Jews disbelief that conditions could turn so terrible
  • Early reports of Dachau
Download Audio (MP3, 25 minutes, 11.8 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 2, Side 1
  • Immigration to the U.S., 1937
  • Exploitation by relatives
  • Social life of Jewish teenagers in Chicago
  • Arrival of Karola's parents, 1938
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 13.3 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 2, Side 2
  • Religious and social life in Chicago's Jewish community
  • Fate of relatives left behind
  • War news in the U.S., 1939-1945
  • Marriage to Siegfried Frankenthal and relocation to Green Bay, 1946
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 13.3 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 3, Side 1
  • Husband's family background
  • Starting and growing a business while raising children
  • Jewish community in Green Bay in the 1950s
  • Anti-Semitism in Green Bay
Download Audio (MP3, 26 minutes, 12.2 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 3, Side 2
  • Children and family
  • Running the family meatpacking business
  • Her second marriage to Aaron Epstein, 1979
  • Impressions of Madison and its Jewish community
Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 12.9 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 4, Side 1
  • Activities of her children
  • Jewish and Gentile friends
  • American attitudes toward Jews and the Holocaust
Download Audio (MP3, 26 minutes, 11.9 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 4, Side 2
  • Impressions of American culture
  • Religious life in Madison
  • Friends and neighbors
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 12.3 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 5, Side 1
  • Social life
  • Travels around Wisconsin, to Israel and Germany
  • Views on American government and politics
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 12.3 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)
Tape 5, Side 2
  • Issues facing the U.S. today
  • Return visits to Schopfloch in recent years
  • Travels to Israel
  • Persistence of anti-Semitism
Download Audio (MP3, 22 minutes, 10.4 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 436 KB)

About the Interview Process

  • The interview was conducted by Jean Loeb Lettofsky during two, two one-half hour sessions, on October 6 and 9, 1980, at the Epstein home.

    Karola relates her story in a straightforward manner, without a great deal of introspection. Her interview is mainly valuable for its depiction of the struggles that Jewish refugees went through as new immigrants, and for its details about life in Green Bay's small Jewish community in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Karola's English is infused with German words and phrases. Most are explained in either the text or footnotes of the transcript.


Audio and Transcript Details

  • Interview Dates: Oct 6, 1980; Oct 9, 1980
  • Interview Location: Epstein home, Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • Interviewer: Archivist Jean Loeb Lettofsky
  • Original Sound Recording Format: 5 qty. 60-minute audio cassette tapes
  • Length of Interviews: 2 interviews, total approximately 5 hours
  • Transcript Length: 88 pages
  • Rights and Permissions: Any document may be printed or downloaded to a computer or portable device at no cost for nonprofit educational use by teachers, students and researchers. Nothing may be reproduced in any format for commercial purposes without prior permission.

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