In 1848 a certain Löb Strauss left the small Upper Franconian community of Buttenheim with his mother and two sisters and boarded a ship to America. It was not freedom that attracted the family – financial difficulties drove them abroad. Father Hirsch, who had provided the family’s income with his work as a peddler of fabrics and haberdashery, had died of tuberculosis two years earlier. Since the Jewish family was now threatened with poverty, mother Rebecca decided to emigrate with three children.
The Strauss family was not alone in making this decision. Between 1815 and 1848 around 600,000 people were drawn abroad from what was later to become the German Empire, one of the reasons for this being