KISS lead singer discovers his Jewish mother fled Nazi Germany

Paul Stanley turned to journalists for help in uncovering his family’s flight to the US


Members of the US rock music band Kiss (From L), Gene Simmons, AKA. The Demon, Paul Stanley, AKA. The Starchild and Tommy Thayer, AKA. The Catman perform during the Hellfest Summer Open Air rock festival in Clisson, western France, on June 15, 2023. (Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP) (Photo by SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The lead singer of the legendary rock band KISS often saw what he thought were phone numbers tattooed on the arms of his parents’ New York friends.

Now retracing his Jewish family history, musician Paul Stanley, 71, has discovered that at the age of 12, his mother was forced to flee Germany to escape Nazi persecution.

When she and her parents made it to the US, they lived in a community where their friends were fellow Jews who had not made it out of Germany in time and had instead endured the horrors of Hitler’s concentration camps, although somehow surviving.

Speaking to Germany’s Bild newspaper, Stanley said: “As a small boy, I always wondered why there were numbers written on the arms of friends and acquaintances of my parents. They told us children that they were phone numbers.”

Though born in Manhattan, Stanley, who was born Stanley Bert Eisen, had a German mother, Eva, who was born in Berlin in 1923.

And after a concert in Leipzig, Stanley approached journalists from Bild and asked them for their help in finding out more about his mother’s life when she was a child in Berlin.

After years of research, Bild came up with some surprising information.

This included identifying the grave of Stanley’s great-grandfather, Bernhard Kasket, who is buried in Europe's largest Jewish cemetery in Berlin.

Kastet’s grave reads: “Here rests in peace my dearest husband, our kind-hearted, faithful father and grandfather. You are not dead. Close your eyes too, in our hearts you live forever."

Another discovery was that Joseph Mandl, the second husband of Stanley’s grandmother Berthy, was beaten within an inch of his life by Nazis from the SA in April 1934.

A written account by Mandl reveals: “On Joachim-Friedrich-Straße, I was – without any provocation on my behalf – jostled by three SA men in uniforms. Without a word, two of them held me, and the third attacked me with horrible blows against the head, like with a club.”

This was more than enough proof for Mandl that he had to get his family out of Nazi Germany as soon as possible, and he quickly began setting up bank accounts abroad.

His family received a telephone tip-off in November 1935 that they were on a list of the secret police, the Gestapo. 

Mandl drove 12-year-old Eva and grandmother Berthy to a Berlin station, where they jumped on the next train to Prague, leaving their car in the street.

Four years later, the family finally made it safely to the US via Amsterdam.

Stanley said he remembered Mandl quite clearly, and that he was “a sophisticated man”.

He went on: “I learned a lot from him. He was cultivated.

“In the US, he taught me to eat with chopsticks, long before Asian food became popular. His apartment was full of books.

“In our home, German was not a language passed on to me by my mother. It remained a trauma for her -- the country that had been your home and then wanted to annihilate you.”

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