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Posts Tagged ‘germany’

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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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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Until recently, Victor was our earliest known ancestor. For many years, we knew he was born in “Luxemberg, Germany” but were unable to find any trace of him in what is now Luxembourg. Today, thanks to an unexpected brief e-mail from a contact there, we’ve found him.

 Victor Kahn was born in Luxembourg-Town on 17th July 1827. His parents were Lazar(d) Kahn and Jeanette Isaac Kahn (née Lazard). Lazar was born in Schweich (now Germany) in 1791 and Jeanette in Haute-Yutz, France, in 1794

 Nothing is known of Victor’s early years. The next record we have is his c.1851 marriage in Paris to Madeline (sometimes Mathilde) Cahen, born in Paris in 1833. They had two children, Pauline (1852) and Arthur (1854) before moving to Liverpool, England, where they had another five children, Charles Jasmine (1856), Gaston Victor (1858), Lucea (or Lucy – 1861), Elmelia (or Emily – 1863) and Phillip (born 1866 but died seven years later).

 Victor, his wife and his parents were all Jewish. We don’t know how involved he was with his religion; most known information relates to his secular activities. He was, for example, an interpreter for Cunard Steamship Company, we believe aiding the passage of Jewish migrants from Europe to the USA. He’s recorded in the Mersey area as being ‘a well known character’ to the extent that Reynold’s Amusements in Lime Street (Liverpool) displayed a wax work effigy of him. His wife died in 1883 and Victor moved to Liscard to live with his daughter, Lucy. He died in 1899 (age 72) and is buried alongside his wife and daughter Pauline in the old (and now sadly neglected) Jewish cemetery in Green Lane, Liverpool.

 We have more anecdotes about Victor and his family. They’ll slowly be added to sundry pages of this blog. New stories and snippets of his life will be very welcome.

 Having made the break-through to discover our German and Luxembourg origins, our next aim is to trace Victor’s siblings. We doubt he was an only child. Part of the story suggests we could have relations in the USA. Are they descendants of brothers and sisters of Victor? We’d like to know.

 If you have any thoughts, please contactus@kahngene.org.uk

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