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October 04, 1985 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-10-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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2 Friday, October 4, 1985 •

1-HAF:L11)31

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

An historic drama has been re-
enacted. Location of the spot where the
Titanic was sunk, and the portrayal of
the remains of the great ship recalled
the heroic story of a member of the
famous Straus family and his wife —
both having relinquished places in a re-
scue boat for others they judged more
needed in the rescue operations; both
having chosen to die together as they
had lived together for more than four de-
cades.
Attention to the Straus episode was
recalled in a brief item on the Sept. 8
New York Times Op-Ed Page item by
Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, who is de-
scribed as having been a student at Bar-
nard when the Titanic sank on April 15,
1912. This recollection by a member of
the distinguished Ochs-Sulzberger
NYTimes family stated:
The discovery of the wreck of
the Titanic, more than 73 years
after its tragic sinking, brings to
mind one touching story that
seems to have been overlooked,
and I want, after all these years,
to pay tribute to a heroic and ex-
ceptionally kind and considerate
woman who went down with the
ship. She was Ida Blum Straus,
Mrs. Isidor Straus, and the story
was told to me many years ago
by her daughter Sara Hess.
When the survivors of the
Titanic arrived in New York,
Sara said, her mother's maid
came to her to bring her Mrs.
Straus' fur coat. The maid told
her that when it was announced
that there were insufficient
lifeboats and only women and
children could be saved, Isidor
Straus embraced his wife and
told her to take her place in a
boat. She said to him, "We have
had many happy years together
and, if you go down with the
ship, so will I, for life is meaning-
less without you."
Then, turning to the maid,
Mrs. Straus said, "You go," and.
taking off her fur coat added,
"Wear this, it will be cold in the
lifeboat, and F do not need it
anymore."
Sara told the maid to keep
the coat as it was her mother's
gift to her.
The Straus-Titanic story is as. fas-
cinating as it is dramatic. It is replete
with personality details and historic in-
cidents. It is lengthy and filled with not-
able achievements by both Isidore and
Ida Straus. .
'In 1955, Henry Holt Co. published A
Night to .Remember by Walter Lord.
(This story of the Titanic appeared later
as a Bantam paperback.)
In the Lord book appear these refer-
ences to the Strauses while on the
Titanic before its sinking:
Mrs. Isidor Straus also re-
fused to go: "I've always stayed
with my husband; so why should
I leave him now?"
They had indeed come a long
way together: the 'ashes of the
Confederacy ... the small china
business in Philadelphia ...
building Macy's into a national
institution ... Congress . and
now the happy twilight that
crowned successful life — advi-
sory boards, .charities, hobbies,
travel. This winter they had been
to Cap Martin, and the Titanic's
maiden voyage seemed a • pleas-
ant way to finish the trip.
Tonight the Strauses came on

'

.

Universa l Jewish Encyclopedia

Straus Family Epic In Drama Of Unsinkable Hospital,
Titanic
a member of the Ameri-

Nathan, Oscar and Isidor Straus



deck with the others, and at first
Mrs. Straus seemed uncertain
what to do. At one point she
handed some small jewelry to her
maid Ellen Bird, then took it
back again. Later she crossed the
Boat Deck and almost entered
No. 8 — then turned around and
rejoined Mr. Straus. Now her
mind was made up: "We have
been living together for many
years. Where you go, I go."
Archibald Gracie, Hugh
Woolner, other friends tried in
vain to make her go. Then
Woolner turned to Mr. Straus:
"I'm sure nobody would object to
an old gentleman like you getting
in ..."
"I will not go before the other
men," he said, and that was that.
Then he and Mrs. Strand sat
down together on a pair of deck
chairs .•.
For Isidor Straus there was
the irony of his will. A special
paragraph urged Mrs. Straus to
"be a little selfish; don't always
think only of others. Through the
years she had, been so self-
sacrificing that he especially
wanted her to enjoy life after he
was gone. Now the very qualities
he admired so much meant he
could never have his wish.
So much about the heroism of a not-
able couple. The biographical sketch of
Isidor Straus is in the Universal Jewish
Encyclopedia. It is so vital that it de-
mands reprinting in its totality, regard-
less of its length. Here is that account:
Isidor Straus, merchant and
CongreSsman, son of Lazarus
Straus, b. Otterberg, <Rhenish
Palatinate, Germany, 1845; d. in
the sinldng of the Titanic off the
coast of Newfoundland, 1912. He
attended Collinsworth Institute, a
higii school, and prepared to
enter West Point Military
Academy, when the Civil Wlr

.

46.

t.a

broke out. The Talbotton boys
organized a company of which
Isidor was elected first lieuten-
ant, but disbanded when it was
found that there was no equip-
ment. He went to London in 1863
as secretary to an agent of the
Confederacy who was to pur-
chase a vessel for blockade run-
ning. The trip was unsuccessful,
and Isidor stayed abroad for two
years, working as a clerk and
selling Confederate bonds in
Amsterdam and London.
When he returned to the
United States in 1865, his father
and brother had settled in New
York. On January 1, 1888, Isidor
Straus and his brother, Nathan,
became members of the firm of
R. H. Macy & Company. Later
Isidor became a member of Ab-
raham & Straus, the large Brook-
lyn department store.
In 1882 he became interested
in public affairs and practical
politics. In 1894 he was elected to
Congress to fill a vacancy, serv-
ing from January, 1894, to •the
end of the term, in 1895. He was
on friendly terms with President
Grover Cleveland until the Tat-
ter's death. Straus was a member
of the original New York and
New Jersey Bridge of Commis-
sion and became a director of the
Hanover National Bank, in 1882.
He was one of the founders of the
Reform Club of New York, and
was at one time vice-president of
the Chamber of Commerce of
New York State.
When the Educational Al-
liance was reorganized in 1893,
primarily to aid in the
Americanization of immigrants,
Straus assumed the active
presidency, which he held until
his death. He was also a trustee
of the Montefiore Home for
Chronic Invalids, vice-president
of the J. Hood Wright Memorial

pc.

rat







can Jewish Committee from its
inception, and a trustee of the
Birkbeck Company to loan
money at a low interest. When
the Jewish Encyclopedia was in fi-
nancial straits, he was one of the
guarantors who made its con-
tinuance possible, and when the
Jewish Theological Seminary
was reorganized, he joined liber-
ally in the establishment of an
endowment fund. In 1905 Wash-
ington and Lee University bes-
towed on him the LL.D. degree.
When, in 1912, he and his wife,
Ida Blun Straus (b. Worms, Ger-
many, 1849), to whom he was
married in 1871, were returning
from abroad on the Titanic, the
steamer hit an iceberg. Mrs.
Straus refused the rescue which
was accorded to women and
children, and went down to death
hand in hand with her husband.
She had been active in rec-
reational and hospital work in
New York city.
It was only in a matter of days that
this biographical note originally ap-
peared as a bylined article by Max J.
Kohler in the American Hebrew, April
26, 1912. Kohler was a leading social
scientist and communal leader.
Isidor Straus had two brothers who
were equally famous:
Oscar Straus was Secretary of the
Department of Commerce and Labor in
the Cabinet of President Theodore
Roosevelt and Envoy Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary to Turkey in
1887 as an appointee of President Grover
Cleveland.
Nathan Straus was among the most
respected philanthropists of both the
18th and the early 20th centuries. His
noteworthy acts included aid to the
Jewish community in Palestine. The city
of Natanya in Israel bears his name.
The Titanic story is one of the mos
dramatic of the century. The Strause
are an important element in it.

Robert Stolz: A Name
Among" Musicians
And Anti-Nazis

Studio One of Voice of America,
one of its programs conducted in Vienn
during the months of August and Se
tember, gave recognition and tribute to
great musician. While the performanc
marked the tenth anniversary of t
death of Robert Stolz at the age of 9
the audience recalled and, paid tribute
his Two Hearts in Three-Quarter Ti
and also his role as resister to Nazis
from which he personally suffered.
His Two Hearts — "Zwei Herzen
Dreivierteltakt" — captured the hea
of Stoh's confreres and the music lov
of his time. He had scribbled that co
position on a napkin in a Berlin res
rant in 1931. Since then the waltz
came the favorite of all nations and S
gained a place in the musical, spheres
"The Waltz King."
Deserved honors have been exten
. to Robert Stolz, the Austrian-born co
poser • who gained wide recognition
composer, conductor of operas a
operettas on screen and stage. Pos
stamps were issued in his honor by
government in the post-Nazi years.
ceptance of his recordings
worldwide, and they continue as pop
sellers throughout Europe.

Continued on Page 31

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