Max Blumenthal was born on 12 February 1878 in Samotschin (now Szamocin, Poland) in what was then the Prussian province of Posen. According to his birth certificate, his parents Ernestine (née Kronheim) and Heymann Blumenthal gave him the Jewish name Manasse; Max appears on the document in parentheses. Max Blumenthal went into trade, like his father. On 18 December 1906, at the age of 28, he married Paula Henschel in Culmsee (Chełmża), West Prussia. She was also from a merchant family. At the time, Max Blumenthal lived in Graudenz (Grudziąnz) on the River Vistula. This is where his daughter Ellen was born three years later, on 22 December 1909. By the time his son Gerd was born, on 24 February 1915, he was probably already in the army. He served in the First World War and rose to the rank of sergeant (Vizefeldwebel).
Max Blumenthal and his family lived for many years in Greifswald, where he and his wife ran a leather goods store, Schlesinger & Co., at Kuh Straße 25. In the early 1930s he bought out his co-partner Siegfried Schlesinger and became the sole proprietor. He registered the business in his wife’s name. A retail and wholesale company, it was a significant force in the region, where it only had one competitor. There was a company car, which a representative used to supply clients across Western Pomerania with leather goods and boot-making items.
On 24 August 1931, Max Blumenthal’s daughter Ellen married a Swiss man named Otto Herz in Greifswald. After the marriage, the newlyweds, who both worked in the family business, lived with the bride’s parents at Schlageter Straße 8. Shortly after the Nazis came to power, however, the young couple moved to Otto Herz’s home city Zurich, where Otto took over his father’s business. In April 1933, Max Blumenthal’s granddaughter Renate was born in Zurich; in October 1937, his grandson Peter Albert was born.
Consequent to the Nazis’ antisemitic measures, Max and Paula Blumenthal were forced to close their business, as their son-in-law later attested: “Due to the persecution, which was already severe in Pomerania in 1933, and had a more oppressive impact in the small towns than in the big cities, Herr Max Blumenthal was forced to dissolve his business under particularly unfavourable conditions.” Greifswald municipal records show that Max Blumenthal signed off the residents’ registry on 2 October 1937 and moved to Weydinger Straße, then named Horst Wessel Straße, in Mitte, Berlin. From here, he and his wife moved to an apartment at Tile Wardenberg Straße 2 in Moabit (then Tiergarten). At the time of the population census, on 17 May 1939, they lived here with Rosa Waller (née Blumenthal), born on 14 January 1889 in Szamocin. She was probably a sister or cousin of Max Blumenthal. His son Gerd had already emigrated to Colombia with the help of Ellen Herz, who paid for the crossing with money from her dowry. Ellen also financially supported her parents, Max and Paula Blumenthal, who had not had any source of income since moving to Berlin. In April 1941, they moved into a rented room at Solinger Straße 10 as subtenants. The following year, their granddaughter Renate died in Zurich of unknown causes, a few weeks before her tenth birthday.
On 4 October 1942, Max Blumenthal was deported with his wife on the “3rd major transport of the elderly” to Theresienstadt. His daughter Ellen received the news of his death in summer 1943. An aunt named Berta Cohn sent a postcard from Theresienstadt, dated 21 July 1943, saying: “Dear ones: Your dear father passed away on 18 July following a long illness. You dear mother is composed but very upset. Your father was overjoyed to receive your letter, which arrived last week, while he was still alive.” A few months later, Berta Cohn wrote another postcard to inform them of the death of Paula Blumenthal, who died on 29 October 1943.