Schweich is a small German town on the meandering River Moselle, about 6 miles from Trier. A few weeks ago, I visited and spent a couple of sunny days motor homing in the shadow of lush terraces of grape vines growing on the sides of the steep river valley.
My aim was to visit our homeland and, perhaps, find out more about family origins. The first I achieved easily – the motorway from Luxembourg flies (almost literally) past the door. I failed dismally in the second objective.
On Saturday, the town prepared for an al fresco party; Schweich Week was drawing to a close. Amid the haste and the bustle, I ambled into the synagogue. By pure serendipity, I collided with a local elder. He showed me around and listened to my story. He had patient English, far superior to my wavering German. Then he promised to carry out some private research into the Kahn family tree – and directed me towards the cemetery.
Unfortunately for my researches, I found only the Christian cemetery. Later I drank beer outside a bar at a fork in the road which was, unbeknown to me, no more than a few hundred metres from the entrance to the Jewish burial ground. Believe it or not, I had researched Schweich before I left for Luxembourg, yet somehow I hadn’t discovered the existence of the Jewish cemetery. My own pathetic searches are to blame.
Only after I returned home did I discover that the cemetery not only existed, but was catalogued by one Hans-Peter Bungert. Over ten years ago, he produced a booklet with the explicit title: “Die judische Bevolkerung im Einwohnerbuch Schweich 1669 bis 1880 (bzw 1938) mit Issel (ab 1803) & Haardthof.” I sent for a copy.
Herr Bungert painstakingly researched all officially recorded Jewish deaths in Schweich from 1851 to 1937, producing a chronological list. He then cross-referenced the records against existing gravestones and burial plots in the actual cemetery, where interments were made in strict date order. Thus, he achieved a record of all 88 burial plots.
The names are familiar. Kahn seems to be the most frequent. No fewer than 45 interments have a direct or marital relationship with a Kahn. Isay is another prominent name, as is Israel – both featuring in our family tree in the 18th and 19th centuries.
We have yet to trace the connection between our Raphael (born about 1725) and other Kahns in Schweich. In Herr Bungert’s listings appear another Raphael (born 1727 Freudenburg); Abraham (married Rachel in 1760); Joseph (born 1747 Freudenburg) and various other Kahns possibly part of the family, in addition to those we know already. So the tree can probably be expanded – if only we find the missing link.
With a fair northerly wind, I’ll make another visit to Schweich next year and this time go armed with better advance research and clues as to where to look for answers. And I’m now a card-bearing researcher at the Luxembourg archives – I think. I can’t be sure because my translations leave a lot to be desired. I suspect more answers to the questions about Victor’s immediate kinfolk are hidden within the Duchy’s national archives.
The quest continues. In the meantime, I’ve posted a few images of Schweich – follow the link to norfolkkahns’ Flickr page.