Harry was born Helmut Heilbronner on September 14, 1900, the son of Ludwig and Selma Weiss Heilbronner, in Stuttgart, Germany. He had two brothers, Frank and Ernest. During World War I, Harry was drafted into the German Army and received the Iron Cross for bravery. (His battalion commander, Erwin Rommel, also fought in the German Wehrmacht during WWII. became known as the Desert Fox.) Harry graduated from college as a textile engineer and on January 10, 1928 married Dora Loeb.
Dora was born on January 10, 1905, the daughter of Hermann Loeb and Mathilde Straus and their only child. She studied business practices which included one year of study in England. Her family was well-off: she belonged to a Jewish Sports Club where she excelled in tennis.They had two sons, Ludwig (Leslie) and Werner (Warren). The family had a live-in maid. (See also Warren Heilbronner)
Harry became superintendent of his father-in-law’s factory, Gebruder Loeb. As part of his job, he traveled extensively, allowing him to learn English. In 1936, he applied to emigrate to America. Although he received the number to allow his family to emigrate to the US in July 1938, an affidavit of support was required by the US Consulate. By November 8, 1938, the family was still waiting for the additional documents when the Kristallnacht Pogrom occurred.
At about five the next morning, Dora was awakened by a pounding on the door: two Gestapo agents had come to arrest Harry. He had spent the night at his in-laws, but was caught the next day and sent to Dachau. Meanwhile the affidavit of support had arrived from the US which would secure his family’s ability to emigrate. The post office, however, would not release the documents to Dora as they were addressed to her husband. After being refused for three days, she sent away for another copy, addressed to her, and, with that document, she was able to secure her husband’s release.
Harry and Dora then focused on leaving. The Nazis required that they turn over their silverware, make an inventory of all assets and pay all taxes. Although they were allowed to take their furniture, including a baby grand piano, they faced two more major roadblocks. The first potential, and possibly the most serious, roadblock occurred when Helmut went to the US Consulate to pick up the documents to allow the family to enter the country. Helmut had learned that two weeks before that meeting, his Uncle Max had died. They no longer had a sponsor, as they could not enter the country at that time without a sponsor. If the officials had become aware of that fact, those documents would have been pulled and the family might never have gotten out. The second roadblock occurred a month later. When Helmut went to get the papers from the Nazis, the official handling the matter demanded as a blackmail that Helmut pay him 10,000 mark. He was hard pressed to find that sum since the bank accounts belonging to Jews had been blocked Only by using the cash surrender value of his life insurance policies was he able to raise the sum and get our exit papers.
The family finally left Germany on March 3, 1939, traveling through Lausanne, Switzerland and Paris, to Rotterdam to board their ship, the Noordam, leaving March 18, 1939, and arriving in New York City on March 27, 1939, where they lived until the end of June.
At the recommendation of Harry’s second cousin, Ruth, they moved to the Rochester area where Harry could find employment in the textile industry. (Ruth was the widow of Rabbi Horace Wolf, Temple Brith Kodesh’s second rabbi.) The family settled in Perry where Harry worked at the Perry Knitting Mill, becoming, in 1940, the superintendent of its Mt. Morris branch. In 1948 he became Director of Research in Perry until December 1968 when he was dismissed by the new out-of-town owners but continued as a consultant. Harry died heartbroken on May 4, 1988, seventeen days after his son Leslie, the family support, had died.
Dora, who had to learn how to run a household, was a very good knitter, selling her work to a consignment store where she had many local clients. An avid gardener, she spent many hours as a Grey Lady at the Warsaw Hospital. In 1988 she was named citizen of the year by the Perry Rotary Club. She died on September 4, 1992.
Biography written by their son Warren H. Heilbronner, Esquire