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Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Opticians appear to run in the family. A surprisingly high number of our ancestors took up the calling, too many to be coincidental.

Charles Jasmine Kahn (a great uncle) had a practice at 108 The Strand in London, although at some stage he jumped the boundaries and became a hearing expert, having purchased the business of F. C. Rein, one of the world’s first inventors and producers of hearing aids. His son, Leslie Victor, also became a hearing specialist and at some stage changed his name to Leslie Kahn-Rein, presumably for business reasons.

Grandfather Gaston Victor (Charles’ brother) became an optician sometime before the turn of the century. He joined the 2132 Egerton Masonic Lodge in Cheshire in 1898, describing his occupation as “oculist” and in 1904 he became a member of 1668 Samson Lodge in London, showing his address as Oxford Street and his occupation as “optitian.” I hope he was better at eye tests than spelling. In 1910, a year before his death, he appears in a London Trade directory as “Vickers & Kahn,” oculists, opticians and spectacle makers, still trading from 57 Oxford Street, London.

His brother, Arthur, was an optician by 1893 and he appears to have had a business at 19 Ludgate Hill, London. We know that by 1924 Arthur was a licentiate of the Chicago Opthalmic Hospital, USA, and had an interest in, or owned, the National Silex Optical Company.

Arthur’s son, Victor Leon, became an optician in 1926, trading in London, Penzance and Bromley. By 1967 he was registered as operating from 34 Greenwich High Road, London. Eric Saloman Kahn (Victor Leon’s brother) is also believed to have been an optician, as is another sibling, Cyril Maurice Kahn, who became a member of the College of Optometrists in March 1930. He traded from premises in Bromley, Twickenham and possibly Brighton.

One more optician was Moses Marks Samuels, the husband of Elmelia, a great aunt (Gaston Victor’s sister). In 1901, he was recorded in the census as an “optician shopkeeper” in Kinmel Street, Rhyl, north Wales.

I can’t help wondering why with all these eye specialists in the family I’m as blind as a mole if I remove my glasses. And as a final personal note, what annoys me is that I worked in Greenwich High Road from 1963 to 1965 and never knew that a close relation had a shop not far away. Perhaps I’d at least have earned a family discount.But then maybe not.

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Because of being involved with other things, this website has not been kept up to date in the past year or so. I hope you’ve found the site useful in some small way in spite of our neglect.  We’re pleased that researchers have left comments and hope that between you some answers have been found. Please continue to write and if we can help in any way, we’ll do our best. In the meantime, we’re picking up the reins again and hope to be able to solve some of the mysteries surrounding our branch of the Kahn family.

By the way, when I write ‘we’ it is the ‘royal we.’ Responsibility for the website being ignored rests with me solely. I shall make amends, when I know how.

Alan Kahn

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Thanks to PR of the Wirral and AL of Liverpool, we’ve now received new images of Tuebrook’s neglected Jewish cemetery. If you’re interested, please follow the link under BLOGROLL to the norfolkkahns gallery FLICKR page.

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Eureka! That’s probably the wrong word to use, but we’ve done it! Thanks to Stefan Roos of Trier in Germany, we’ve achieved a major breakthrough in our researches. Victor’s missing siblings have been traced.

Now we know that Victor’s parents Lazarus and Jeanette had six children: Raphael Louis (1818) and his twin sister who was stillborn; Salomon (1822); Joseph (1824); Victor (1827) and another stillborn daughter (1829) - all born in Luxembourg. Perhaps these siblings were not discovered during our researches at the Grand Duchy’s National Archives because Lazarus was registered in Luxembourg as Cahen, the French spelling of Kahn. I can feel another visit to Luxembourg coming on.

As a result of the email from Stefan, we also know that Lazarus and his wife (Jeanette Isaac Lazard) were first cousins, Jeanette being the daughter of Lazarus’s mother’s brother. This was an unsuspected link.

Furthermore, we now know that Lazarus died in Luxembourg in 1873. Perhaps we missed the record of his death because it was recorded under the name of Cahen while we were concentrating on Kahns. In fact, Lazarus appears to have used both spellings of his name, as evinced in the on-line listings of recipients of St Helena medals, the Napoleonic (and hence French) campaign award for those fighting as part of the Grand Armee. (www.stehelene.org/php/accueil.php?page=4&lang=en).

And yet more information: Stefan introduced us to an entirely new family: that of Elisabeth Alexander. She married Ralph Louis Kahn (Victor’s brother) in 1859 in Saarlouis. They had three surviving children: George (1861), Paul (1863) and Henriette (1864), all registered under the name of Cahen and born in Luxembourg. Elisabeth’s father was Lazard Alexander and her mother was born Fleurette Aron.

Finally, here is that elusive Welschbillig connection: Lazarus’s brother Levy and sister Johanetta both settled there with their respective families. So our last year’s speculative trip to that pleasant part of rural Germany was relevant after all.

When time permits, we’ll add this new data to the biographies section. In the meantime, we are very grateful to Stefan for this invaluable information. Of course, the search continues and we’d be delighted to hear from any descendants of Victor’s brothers, no matter how distant.

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Victor’s son Gaston Victor (or Alexander Gaston according to his birth certificate) joined the army. The sole proof is the photograph above; grandfather is second from the right. We have no information about the regiment or the location and searches through the usual sources have drawn a blank.

A contact of David’s has suggested that the men are gunners in an artillery unit, the main clues being the foreground cannon, insignia above the sergeant’s stripes, shape of the caps and the buttons. Now we’d like to know to which regiment this unit belonged.

Gaston was born in 1858 in Liverpool. The photograph was, therefore, probably taken any time from about 1875 onwards. Any ideas please?

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Great grandfather Victor in Uniform Liverpool REVERSE_1

By the kind diligence of cousin Viv, we were able to obtain a facsimile of the rear of the card on which Victor’s photograph was mounted. A copy was sent to Ron and he has dated the image to between 1880 and 1886, which would make Victor at least  57 years old. Not a great leap for Kahnkind but every snippet offers potential benefits. Thanks to all concerned.

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Genealogical research doesn’t have to be purely about members of our specific family tree. Fascinating perspectives can occasionally be uncovered through researches into dimly related subjects. For example, DK has looked into the history of a Liverpool photographer named Vandyke, the one for whom our Victor posed so proudly in his ‘Cunard’ uniform.

Like Victor, Aaron Vandyke was a German Jew, being born about 1843 in the Hanover district. Perhaps around the same time as Victor, Aaron arrived in Liverpool and in 1867 established a photography studio in partnership with a Richard Brown. The business seemed successful, although the partnership was dissolved 10 years later and each partner set up his own studio in the city.

Vandyke traded from Bold Street and his business expanded until 1892 when Aaron died at the age of 49. The studio continued under the name of Vandyke until at least 1902, probably operated by Aaron’s son Sidney before the allure of migration to the USA became irresistible.

What this tells us is that the photograph of Victor Kahn was certainly taken between 1877 and 1899 (when Victor died). The image we possess clearly blazons the studio as Vandyke and for the first ten years the business was known as Vandyke & Brown. Using the expertise of Ron at the cartedevisite website, we narrowed the dating of Victor’s pose to sometime after 1880. If we possessed the original card-mounted photograph, we could undoubtedly have defined a much narrower spread of dates, perhaps even pinpointing the precise year.

However, Ron didn’t give up at that point. He consulted a contact, a fashion historian. She ventured that judging by the neat trim of the beard, the photograph could well have been taken in the late 1880s or even 1890. How much can be gleaned from a modest image!

This is hardly a major breakthrough in our research, but we welcome every mote of information to help us eliminate supposition or guesswork and instead focus on hard facts supported by evidence. A few tiny pieces combined can add up to a significant event. Every brush stroke enhances the painting.

If you’d like to know more about Aaron Vandyke, or other contemporary photographers, or have a Victorian image you’d like to be able to date accurately, take a look at Ron’s excellent website: www.cartedevisite.co.uk. And if you have anything to add, please leave a comment or contactus@kahngene.org.uk. (AK)

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Mony a sair darg we twa hae wrought,

An wi’ the weary warl’ fought!

An mony an anxious day I thought

We would be beat!

Yet here to crazy age we’re brought,

Wi something yet.

(Robert Burns)

A day late maybe and not strictly relevant to the Kahn family, but I like this verse from Burns’ poem and in a small way it is appropriate. We haven’t been beaten and we’ve ended up the year ‘wi’ something yet,’ details of which have been reported in previous posts so do not bear being repeated here.

Annoyingly, Victor’s siblings are still hiding, but the more I think about the circumstances, the more I’m convinced he was not an only child. So what happened to his brothers and sisters? That’s the question to answer in 2012; that will be the focus of my genealogical year.

Thanks to all those who have helped us during 2011 and we wish you a very contented, healthy and prosperous 2012. (AK).

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In my last blog, I stated that we are supposedly 6 steps away from everyone else in the world. Or least we were, according to Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy in his 1929 short story ‘Chains.’ Then, in the 1960s, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram confirmed Karinthy’s idea as a reality in a study of 296 people sending postcards around the world. Thus six degrees of separation became enshrined in the human collective mind.

That’s all changed now. Apparently researchers from the University of Milan have conducted a new study, this time of a rather larger sample of 721 million Facebook users. The result is that today we are 3.74 steps away from everyone else in the world.

How we  should treat the odd .74 is beyond me. But the new study does raise a few other issues. Firstly, it seems a good enough reason not to be a member of Facebook. Secondly, the thought of my father being 3.74 steps away from Hitler is a little distressing. Thirdly, with Italy allegedly in dire financial straits, does it not warm the heart to see that funds can be found for such futile purposes?

Anyway, I take this opportunity to correct my earlier assertion.

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Here’s a question most amateur genealogists must ask themselves at some stage in their researches. How far do we go sideways with the family tree before we decide the relationship is just too distant to be meaningful?

It is not an irrelevent question for the Kahn line. A lot of time has been spent in the last couple of years identifying tenuous and far-flung links. We now have a very good idea of our German connections and the verdure of the tree in that area is fairly dense and bushy. Much more information is indisputably available if we continue the sideways move. But…

… take the case of Moses Marks Samuels, as an example. He’s on our ancestry.com chart and recently we noticed a waving fig leaf against his name, suggesting another had included the man in his family tree. On investigation, we found that the researcher’s wife was the granddaughter of the grandson of the brother of Moses Marks, the husband of the daughter of our Victor, the great-grandfather of me. Thus, a valid direct line can be drawn between a Philadelphian researcher and all of us Kahns.

A great thinker once posited that we are all just six steps away from everyone else in the world. If that’s right, I’d better upgrade my ancestry.com subscription to premium level. But how relevant is it for me to research the family tree of (for instance) the wife of the man in Philly? Countless new avenues would be opened and the nexus would become more and more complex, each additional entry opening several other avenues to be explored. It’s exponential and almost infinite. In theory, if time and space are indeed curved and limited only by infinity, we could travel down this road forever and end up back where we started, but we still wouldn’t have any idea what happened to Victor’s siblings.

So I’m resisting the temptation to keep adding distant names to the tree. On the other hand, the Philly man’s wife is a genuine relative… so…

… where do we stop? Or do we keep going until our subscriptions (and mortal tenancies) expire?

By the way, we’d love to hear from Amanda again. Please email us: contactme@kahngene.org.uk (AK).

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Three of our Kahns are buried in the Green Lane Jewish Cemetery in Tuebrook, Liverpool. Perhaps it’s four, but the gravestone for Philipp has not been found. As mentioned in an earlier posting, the cemetery has not been used for over half a century, is sadly neglected and has fallen into decay – it’s overgrown, vandalised and damaged almost beyond repair.

But perhaps all is not lost. The cemeteryscribes website has taken an interest in the place. They’ve posted a listing of all identified plots, giving names where known and appealing for subscribers to come forward with more information about those interred at Green Lane. This is good news for descendants and genealogists.

The link is: http://synagoguescribes.com/blog/2011/08/green-lane-cemetery-liverpool/

Nobody is suggesting that the cemetery will be refurbished. All local effort is going into the Deane Road project and presumably little is available for an undistinguished cemetery such as Green Lane. And I’m in two minds anyway – part of me says leave the dead alone; they’ve earned their rest and the living have enough on their plates without raising yet more monuments in need of upkeep.

Another part of me would like to see Green Lane Cemetery rejuvenated. But I think that’s just me being selfish and wanting somewhere to go once in a lifetime. Perhaps a more fitting tribute to our forebears would be to allow Nature to reclaim her dominion after the behaviour of man has induced us all to mourn so much. I still believe Nature does things much better than man ever has.

Please take a look at the website above, especially if your forebears became adoptive (or were born) Scousers. And as a final appeal, does anyone have a photograph of Green Lane Cemetery, old or modern? We, and cemeteryscribes, would like to have one. contactus@kahngene.org.uk or leave a comment. Thank you – and please note that the above views are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, living or dead. (AK).

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Jewish migration from the European mainland reached a peak during the last quarter of the 19th century. Desperate to escape religious persecution, prejudice and poverty, many thousands of Jews left their countries of birth to seek a better future overseas.

They travelled from all over Europe – Russia, Germany, France and many central Continental nations. Most had in their sights the USA where they expected to find (and found) a welcome in a more enlightened culture of tolerance and acceptance. Other favoured destinations included Canada, South Africa and South America.

The most popular routes brought the migrants across Europe to seaports on the north-western fringes of the continent. Hamburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam and various Baltic ports were often staging posts from where ships were taken to England, usually the Hull area or London.

After landing on the eastern coast of the UK, they travelled overland to Liverpool, the main port of embarkation for migrants going on to the Americas. A few of them were relatively well-off; many had enough to pay their way. Most travelled with poverty as a constant companion. But help was on hand for the poor, primarily through local Jewish communities.

One form of assistance came for the Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter in London, where migrants were provided with accommodation for up to two weeks while they found their feet after the crude and exhausting journeys from their original homelands. More help came from agents employed by transatlantic shipping companies. Their role was to make arrangements for transfers to the port of embarkation and the booking of eventual sea passages. These agents were multi-lingual and usually migrant Jews themselves; they therefore had an understanding of the needs and feelings of their charges.

Great-grandfather Victor Kahn was an early arrival. He settled with his family in Liverpool about 1856, having been born in Luxembourg and living for a while in Paris. He became a mercantile agent and an interpreter, working for the Cunard Steamship Company. The scant evidence that’s available points to Victor being one of the agents facilitating the movement of Jews across the landbridge from the east coast UK to Liverpool. But really that’s no more than conjecture based on census reports, birth certificates and the occasional snippet of contemporary news.

We’d like to know what persuaded Victor to adopt England as the family’s new country and Liverpool as his city of residence. Did he travel to the Mersey port intending to stay and work there, or did he simply seize an opportunity while en-route to the USA? Answers please on an electronic postcard to: contactus@kahngene. org. uk.

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From now on, we’ll see our distant cousins in a completely different light.

These two tanks were named after the music hall duo, presumably as part of boosting morale during the first world war. We’ve found several reports alluding to Beatie & Babs putting on entertainment for the troops across the UK between 1914 and 1918. If anyone knows of reports or anecdotes about them, we’d love to hear: contactus@kahngene.org.uk

Thanks to Roy & Vera Pritchard for contributing the photograph.

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We know very little about Pauline Kahn. She died in 1886 at only 32. Her biography page details what we do know and we’d now like to progress the enquiry with a little more vigour.

To help, we need to trace a different line: the Straus family in the USA.

According to the USA census report of 1880 for Manhattan, New York (district unknown) the family Straus comprised father born in Bavaria, mother born in France and two young children. On the same entry, living with the family, is a Pauline Kahn, described as single, born 1854 in France and having a French mother. Unfortunately, we have no more data.

This could be our Pauline, Victor’s daughter. She appears in the UK census of 1861 as a child, is missing from the 1871 UK census and reappears again in April 1881 age 27. One explanation for the gap is that she could have been abroad in April 1871 when the census took place. For some reason, UK census reports deliberately omit family members not at home on the relevant date, although they are perhaps away for only a couple of nights. Thus, our Pauline perhaps slipped the net.

Was she visiting in the USA when the census of 1880 was taken?

Who are the Straus family?  Could Mother Straus be a relative of Pauline’s own maman Mathilde (or as she often appears Madeline) Cahen?

This Pauline could well be an entirely different Kahn, but we’d at least like to be able to eliminate her from our enquiries. If anyone can help, we’d be eternally grateful and will happily reciprocate with information about own tribe. Does anyone have access to the full census report for this family?

Please email: contactus@kahngene.org.uk. Thank you.

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I now (believe I) have a clearer understanding of the derivation of the Kahn name.

The Cohens were an ancient Jewish tribe of priests, believed to be descendants of Aaron and entrusted by God with certain sacred rites within temples. Other tribes were, for example, Levy and Israel. Membership of the tribe came through the male line only, contrary to Jewishness which is passed down through the maternal line.

Hebrew has no vowels in the alphabet. Instead, vowels are indicated by accents or dots or small lines below the letter. Thus Cohen is written in Hebrew: kaf-hei-nun (although written right to left) translating to c-h-n.

To allow names to be written and understood in a non-Hebrew language, vowels replace the dashes, giving us Kahn, Kuhn or Kohn, as well as Cahen and Kahan. In fact, they are all variations of the same root name – Cohen.

In theory, all Kahns are descendants of the Kohanim, the priests. The Jewish priest is not to be confused with a rabbi. They complement each other. A rabbi is not required to be a kohein and a kohein can be a rabbi. The two religious roles perform different ritualistic functions within the Jewish faith.

Kohein graves often bear the symbols of the ‘blessing hands.’

This insight was courtesy of GB of cemeteryscribes.com. If you haven’t already, please take a look at this excellent website: www.cemeteryscribes.com

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In the 1990s, a German sculptor had an idea to commemorate victims of Nazi persecution. Gunter Demnig, born in 1947, embarked on an ambitious project to install a memorial to each murdered individual outside his or her last known permanent residence.

A brass plaque is mounted on a simple stone block which is then set into the pavement in front of the victim’s house. Inscription details typically comprise the name of the victim, dates of birth and deportation – and location (usually a death camp) and approximate date of death.

The blocks are called ‘stolpersteine’ (literally stumbling blocks) and so far many thousands have been installed in over 30 German cities and in 10 countries. They commemorate Jews, gypsies and others murdered by the regime during the holocaust.

In April this year (2011) Gunter installed 24 stolpersteine in Freudenburg, many of them bearing the name Kahn, probably distant relatives of our branch of the family. I believe Schweich also has a number of such memorials.

Perhaps you already know about this mammoth undertaking. I’ve only recently heard of it courtesy of MD in Amsterdam (to whom I say thank you) although I understand a British school undertook an academic project on the subject a few years ago.

My aim is to find out more. If you have anything to add, please do leave a comment. In the meantime, take a look at www.stolpersteine.com for further information. (AGK)

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We now have a new contact in Amsterdam, a distant relation of ours through the Freudenburg and Schweich branch lines. She is an enthusiastic genealogist and communications have proven to be immensely useful in filling in a few of the gaps in our tree. I hope what we’ve been able to provide in exchange has been equally useful. Thanks to MD of Amsterdam for making contact.

Thanks also to JM of Florida, USA. We found a link to him through Ancestry.co.uk. Included in his family tree was a reference to Moses Marks Samuels who married our Emily and is the starting point for a whole new branch line.

And I mustn’t forget RS in Paris. Thanks for the superb family tree schematic and batch of information which I hope I’ve now correctly incorporated into our mob’s tree.

That’s enough eulogies for now. I’m beginning to sound as tedious as an Oscar winner. (AGK)

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We’ve just added the following pages:

  • Pauline Kahn, Victor’s oldest daughter – see under biographies
  • the Matthews Family of the Wirral (Lucy Kahn) – see under biographies
  • Green Lane Jewish Cemetery, Liverpool – see under miscellany

ALL comments are invited and welcome: contactus@kahngene.org.uk

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Owing to other commitments (such as trying to overcome winter sadness and ennui), research on the family tree has been a little in abeyance lately. However, thanks to contacts in the UK, Germany, France, USA and (now) Holland, we are slowly expanding our store of knowledge about this wide-spread family of ours.

In common with all amateur genealogists, we face obstinate hurdles. Contradictions and inconsistencies increase with every piece of information. Forenames change; surnames are misspelt or misrepresented in some way. Dates are vague and sometimes surmised. Locations shift awkwardly. Children are omitted or wrongly ascribed to parentage.

Perhaps not unusually, we have several specific difficulties. The French Revolution altered dates and spellings of surnames. Kahn, for example, is spelt Cahn by French registering authorities. Then we have Kahen, Kaan and the infamous Kahnn. Nausen becomes Nathan. Some family members eschew their given names; Alexander Gaston has always been Gaston Victor to us – until recently. And some of our forebears have so many forenames we have no idea whether they’re diminutives, nick-names or good old-fashioned cock-ups.

Entire territories change hands. One minute Luxembourg is Prussian; the next it’s French. Schweich in Germany became French for a while. And we know what happened to European records and archives in modern history, from the middle 1930s to the end of the 40s. Did the politicians and generals of the day have no concept of the problems they’d cause future genealogists?

Despite confusions, we’ve made progress this year. Four paces forwards, two back, means we end the year in credit. In fact, that understates the case. 2010 has been a bumper year for the Moselle River crop of Kahns.

But we still haven’t traced Victor’s siblings. Each piece of evidence so far points to him being an only child, almost the sole incidence of such in the entire Kahn tree. And yet, intuition suggests otherwise.

Perhaps the New Year will bring the breakthrough we seek. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has kept our hunger assuaged with morsels, multiple-pages, articles and entire books of information. We do appreciate your help. May you all prosper in wealth, health and harmony throughout 2011and beyond.

AGK

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Hans-Peter Bungert’s book mentioned in my previous post is proving invaluable. Slowly (very slowly) the information is being extracted and positions on the family tree being defined.

 Because the task is so complex (and my brain so feeble) I’ve set up in Ancestry.com a family tree referring specifically and solely to our newly discovered Schweich/Luxembourg ancestors. So far details are scant but periodically new names and dates are added. If anyone would like to access our on-line tree, please leave a comment or email to: contactus@kahngene.org.uk.

 In the meantime, a fresh contact has been forged in the Trier area and I’m hopeful that soon we’ll have brand new information about Victor’s siblings. That will be the breakthrough we seek in the current phase of our researches. Many questions remain unanswered, but this expanding amorphous jigsaw is slowly taking shape.

 And we have new areas of research. Cryptic clues suggest that we can celebrate having potential relations in the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and Israel. Yet other hints bear more sobering overtones, with names bearing annotations such as Riga, Auschwitz, Theresienstadt and Lodz.

 We will keep posting. If you can help, or would like more information, please email.

 AGK

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