About Selma Salomea Weil (Reinherz)
Salomea Reinherz, or Selma as she called herself, was the daughter of a successful Jewish businessman who dealt in imports and exports.
She was born in Russia, but life there became hard after Russian Jews were attacked after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. The fact that the assassination was not by a Jew was not relevant as rumours circulated. In these difficult and dangerous times the Reinherz family decided to leave Russia and they emigrated to Belgium in the 1880s.
Selma's father was an artistic man who wrote Hebrew poetry. Her mother was a gifted pianist who lived with Bernard and Selma Weil in their Paris home after their marriage.
André was born on 6 May 1906 and Simone was born on 3 February 1909. The children were so brilliant and Selma wanted such high quality education for them that they attended around seven different schools in the space of five years. The Weils also employed several private tutors as Selma put every ounce of her energy into achieving her educational goals for the children. When she complained to one of André's teachers that he may not have a very good grounding in arithmetic, the teacher replied :-
No matter what I tell him on that subject, he seems to know it already.
André knew that he wanted to be a mathematician from the age of eight after he found a mathematics book in his aunt's house and studied it intently. From that time on he displayed a passion for mathematics which at first his mother discouraged, but after she saw how impossible it was to stop him thinking about mathematical problems she relented.
Selma not only had an obsession regarding her children's education but she also had an obsession about cleanliness. She had, as André later wrote :-
... a dread of germs that [she] would carry to an extreme.
Only close family members were allowed to kiss the children and by the time Simone reached the age of four even her parents didn't kiss her. The children had to wash their hands frequently and after doing so would have to open the door of the dining room with their elbows so that they touched nothing before eating their food.
Selma's obsession seemed to transfer itself to Simone who hardly eat any food at all. As a child she would cry if anyone touched her and in later life she could not bare physical contact.
Bernard and Selma Weil lived in a Paris apartment on the Rue de Strasbourg, south of the Gare de l'Est when the children were very young. In 1914 they moved to a larger home on the Boulevard Saint-Michel.
When Selma was young she had wanted to become a medical doctor but her father prevented her going to medical school. The frustration of being prevented from achieving her goals in her own career meant that she wanted desperately for her own children to have the best education and chance that anyone had ever had. Selma was highly intelligent, full of life, and dominated life in the home.
Selma Weil (Reinherz)'s Timeline
Rostov-on-Don, Province of Rostov, Russia
May 6, 1906
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
February 3, 1909