Another picture on the display shows Max and Lydia May and their daughter Carmen in Frankfurt. The family had been in Germany for hundreds of years before the Holocaust. Max May was born in Horchheim, Lydia in Frankfurt, and Carmen in Worms. Max was an artist and architect and a decorated veteran of the First World War. A visionary, he saw that the situation for Jews in Germany would worsen after the victory of Hitler’s party in 1933. After someone dropped a rock on his granddaughter’s baby carriage from their apartment house in Frankfurt, he decided to make a new life for her in the United States. Max May was the first of his family to leave and came to New York in 1936.
Just after Kristallnacht, his wife, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter escaped from Frankfurt to Holland, then to England and finally to the U.S. in December 1938 to be reunited with Max. Other family members were not able to get out in time and were killed at Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Riga. Max May died in 1959 and his wife Lydia in 1988, both in Dayton.
The family thrived in America and still resides in the Dayton area, leading productive, community-enhancing lives. They sponsor the annual Max May Memorial Holocaust Art Contest for students.
Frankfurt, one of the largest cities in Germany, dates back to Roman times (it was the “ford of the Franks”). The medieval town grew up in the twelfth century around an imperial castle. The Holy Roman emperors were usually elected and crowned there, and it was a center of the Lutheran Reformation. In the Napoleonic era, Frankfurt was the capital of the Confederation of the Rhine, and the first national German assembly was held there in 1848. After the unification of Germany in 1870 it grew into a major industrial center. It was damaged heavily in World War II and afterwards was the headquarters of the American occupation forces. Today it is a global financial center and the site of one of the world’s busiest airports. Jews have lived in Frankfurt since the early Middle Ages, and before the war they were very numerous and active in the city’s cultural, educational and business life.