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Sub-title: our family’s part in his rise and fall

My simple philosophy is this: a true patriot recognises and appreciates patriotism in others. For that reason, many of the British had a sneaking admiration for Napoleon Bonaparte, even those gifted with the unenviable task of guarding him when he was deported to St. Helena towards the end of his life. I have an ambivalent attitude towards him. On my mother’s side, my ancestors opposed him; on my father’s side, my ancestors stood beside him (metaphorically). Indeed our GGG grandfather Lazarus Kahn (born 1789 in Schweich) was a recipient of La Medaille de Ste Helene, or the Napoleon Medal, which was issued to all survivors of his many campaigns (a euphemism for wars, not necessarily just). I’ve recently read an account of Napoleon’s sojourn on St. Helena by Julia Blackburn which left me feeling quite warm towards the ailing super-hero.

He had an impact on the Jews too. Not I imagine for purely altruistic reasons he introduced a series of new decrees relating to the Jewish population in the states he conquered. Again the ambivalence – some of them seem especially harsh and upset the Jewish community (annulment of all debts they were owed, for example) but others sought to proclaim the emancipation of Jews in order to improve their welfare and standing in the communities in which they lived by assimilation.

One which I found especially interesting is the “Imperial Decree Concerning the Jews Who Don’t have a Surname and Fixed First Name, 20 July 1808, No. 3589 at Baionne.” The full wording can be found under the tab “Napoleonic Decree 1808” The object was individual identification following strict Napoleonic rules; Jews often lacked a surname which presumably made life difficult for administrative bureaucrats and petty officials.

The Kahns in Schweich obeyed the ordinance from 17 October 1808. This was only just in time because they were given 3 months in which to comply and (perhaps out of reluctance?) left it to the last minute to register. They obviously didn’t learn from the tragic MacDonald of Glencoe who left his pledge until the final few days and by a litany of frustrations ended up missing the deadline. The consequence was the Glencoe Massacre, but that’s another story.

Under the tab “Napoleonic Decree 1808” I’ve also appended a list of all Jews at the time in Schweich registering their names with the relevant authorities. Whether their acquiescence is patriotism or not I can’t speculate, but considering what happened over a hundred years later, I’m tempted to think that these Jews were most likely patriotic to both their faith and their country in equal measure. I suspect many people overlook that point.

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Although taking more space than I usually like, the following is a list of all interments in the surviving Jewish Cemetery in Schweich, Germany. The Kahn name appears frequently along with many other names of Jews choosing to make Schweich their home during the relevant period. The role call is a translation from German in what I term “The Schweich Book” but in fact bears the more explicit title of “Die Judische Bevolkerung im Einwohnerbuch Schweich 1669 bis 1880 (bzw 1938) mit Isel (ab 1803) & Haardthof” produced by Hans-Peter Bungert, Grossrossein and Georg Wagner +, Schweich-Haardthof, published in 1999.

The complete listing, translated as best we can with a German-English dictionary and Babelfish, is given here in the hope that the information will be of use to those researching other Schweich Jewish families.

The cemetery was well maintained when I visited a few years ago. Gates are locked but the key can be obtained from the synagogue in the middle of the village, although for the reasonably agile climbing over is no problem.

 

Schweich Israelitische Friedhof – Schweich Jewish Cemetery

 

LOWER ROW:

U1        Jewish woman’s grave: George Wagner found evidence of the tomb of the great-grandmother of Selma KAHN. This grave is of Sara SIMON, died 13.3.1851 in Schweich, widow of Herz ISRAEL

U2        Maten LEVI died 25.9.1852 Schweich, wife of Leib KAHN

U3        Sprintz JACOB died 15.4.1853 Schweich, wife of Raphael KAHN (the gravestone belongs in the middle row M65 inscription Adelheid ISRAEL

Gap       Jachet LEVY died 23.12.1854 Schweich, widow of Abraham ISAY (this is probably the gravestone U5; Jachet-jocheved, wife of Abrele)

Gap       Elle KAHN died 9.3.1856, wife of Saloman KAHN

U4        Wolf ISAY (Benjamin LOEB) died 6.8.1860, husband of Vogel KAHN

U5        Vogel KAHN died 28.9.1860 , wife of Wolf ISAY (the gravestone is probably the remains of U3; Jachet wife of Abrele)

U5        Moses ISRAEL died 21.12.1862 Fohren or Schweich (Mosche ben Or), husband of Caroline KAUFMANN

Gap       Liefen LEVY died 8.1.1864 Schweich, widow of Derz ROBELL

More gaps, however no instances of death of adult Jews in the death registry

U7        Abraham RUBEN died 3.10.1864 Schweich, husband of Brendel ISRAEL

U8        Heba PELZER died 2.12.1864 Schweich, 2nd wife of Heiman ISAY

U9        Carolina KAHN died 13.12.1864, widow of Abraham Levy

U10       Israel KAHN died 5.3.1864 Schweich, son of Saloman & Elle KAHN

U11       Daniel GOMBRICH died 12.4.1867 Schweich, widower of Chaubgen ISAY and of Deborah ISRAEL

Gap, however no instances of death of adult Jews in the Schweich registry

U12       Abraham KAHN died 24.6.1867 Schweich, husband of Derz ISAY

U13       David Dublon died 16.9.1867 Schweich, husband of Jendel KAIN

U14       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Gamliel KAHN died 22.9.1870 Schweich, son of Saloman & Elle KAHN

Gap       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Guitana KAHN died 12.12.1870 Schweich, daughter of Salomon & Elle KAHN

Gap       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Leib KAHN died 25.3.1872 Schweich, widower of Maten LEVI

Gap       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Esther JACOB died 30.6.1872 Issel (nr. Schweich), daughter of Marx & Caroline ISRAEL

U15       Karoline KAUFMANN died 4.2.1873 not in Schweich, widow of Moses ISRAEL

U16       Raphael KAHN died 22.6.1873 Schweich. Widower of Sprintz JACOB

U17       Jettchen, wife of Jeschaja, probably here:

Henriette (Judgen) LIESER wife of Abraham ISAY – she died between 1867 and 1877, but no record exists in the registry office

U18       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Isaak KAHN died 8.6.1875 Schweich, son Salomon & Elle KAHN

Gap       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Simon ISRAEL died 16.4.1876 Schweich, son of Daniel & Johanna HIRSCH

Gap       Probably here in the cemetery is:

Heyman ABRAHAM from Bernkastel died 20.4.1876 Schweich

U19       Jewish, gravestone, similarly to U20 here lies:

Caronlina RUBEN died 21.7.1877 Schweich, 1st wife of Abraham ISAY

U20       Abraham ISAY died 11.1.1877 Schweich, widower of Judgen LIESER

UPPER ROW

O21      Bernhard KAHN died 19.2.1880 Schweich, husband of Carolina MENDEL. The symbol of the blessing hands on the gravestone is the same as the one on the grave of the family KAHN. Time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Robert Ruben died 25.4.1882 Schweich, son of Abraham & Brendel ISRAEL (he may well be still in the lower row where buried; the plot is however no longer discernible, probably next to U20)

O22      Levi KAHN died 12.5.1882 Schweich, husband of Esther Mendel

O23      Moses Gombrich died 26.6.1882 Schweich, husband of Philippina HERZ

O24      Mathilde LORIG died 17.4.1883 Schweich, wife of Feist ISRAEL

O25      Theresia KAHN died 3.2.1884, Schweich, wife of Philipp ISRAEL

O26      Henrietta MEYER died 5.11.1884 Schweich, wife of Marx ISAY

O27      Brendel ISRAEL died 26.1.1885 Schweich, widow of Abraham Ruben

O28      Moses ISAY died 23.12.18885 Schweich, husband of Helena ARENS

O29      Johanatta (Jenny) KAHN died 24.9.1886 Schweich, daughter of Levi & Josepha ELE

O30      Helena (Lea) ARENZ died 27.6.1887 Schweich, widow of Moses ISAY

O31      Klara (Babette) KEWIG died 22.10.1888 Schweich, wife of Lion MEYER

O32      Raphael ISRAEL died 17.10.1889 Schweich, husband of Fratgen KAUFMANN

Gap       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Herz WOLFF died 22.2.1890 Schweich, son of Abraham & Eva KALMANN, from Trier

O33      Karolina ISRAEL died 16.7.1890 Issel, wife of Marx JAKOB

O34      Fratgen (Fanny) KAUFMANN died November 1893, widow of Raphael ISRAEL

O35      Johanna HIRSCH died 11.8.1893 Schweich, wife of Daniel ISRAEL

O36      Jettchen FERVER died 25.12.1893 Schweich, wife of Heimrich FERMICH

O37      Abraham KAHN died 1.12.1894 Schweich, husband of Sybilla KAUFMANN

O38      Marx JACOB died 10.3.1895 Issel, widower of Carolina (Kailthen) ISRAEL

O39      Daniel ISRAEL died 20.6.1896 Schweich, widower of Joanna HIRSCH (son of Naftali ISRAEL)

O40      Berta SCHOEMANN died 1.9.1896 Schweich, wife of Hermann ISRAEL

O41      Johanetta LORIG died 3.12.1896 Schweich, wife of Joseph KAHN

O42      Malkay KAHN died 21.2.1898 Schweich, daughter of Saloman & Elle KAHN

O43      Hermann ISRAEL died 24.3.1898 Schweich, husband of Adelheid SCHWEICH

O44      Leib KAHN died 27.2.1899 Schweich, son of Salomon & Elle Kahn

O45      Sophia ISAY died 25.1.1900 Schweich, daughter of Marx & Henriette MEYER

O46      Jakob HIRSCH died 1900 (not in Schweich or Issel)

O47      Esther MENDEL died 24.9.1900 Schweich, widow of Levi KAHN

O48      Lion ISRAEL died 13.4.1901 Schweich, son of Philipp & Theresia KAHN

O49      Max (Marx) ISAY died 4.12.1904 Schweich, widower of Henriette MAYER

O50      Victor JACOB died 5.3.1905 Issel, son of Marx & Apollonia ISRAEL

O51      Josef KAHN died 30.10.1905 Schweich, son of Raphael & Sprintz JAKOB

O52      Abraham Wolf KAHN died 30.3.1907 Schweich, son of Bernhard & Carolina MENDEL

O53      Feist ISRAEL died 31.7.1907 Schweich, widower of Mathilde LEVY

O54      Marianna KAHN died 4.10.1907 Schweich, daughter of Isaak & Juliana LEVE, from Trier

O55      Heinrich FERNICK died 19.1.1909 Schweich, widower of Jetchen FERVER

O56      Abraham ISAY died 5.12.1910 Schweich, widower of Sara KAHN

O57      Jettchen MAYER died 29.3.1912 Issel, wife of Simon JAKOB

O58      Sybilla KAUFMANN died 20.9.1912 Schweich, widow of Abraham Kahn

O59      Sara (Fanny) FORST died 4.5.1913 Schweich, wife of Abraham ISAY

O60      Somon KAJOB died 5.8.1913 Issel, widower of Jettchen MEYER

O61      Agathe ISAT died 13.5.1914 Schweich, daughter of Mrax & Henrietta MEYER

O62      Josef KAHN died 18.6.1916 Schweich, widower of Henrietta LORIG

O63      Wilhelm KAHN died 13.9.1916 Schweich, son of Joanette KAH

MIDDLE ROW

M64      Alexander LORIG died 28.1.1917 Schweich, husband of Johanna KAHN

M65      Adelheid MARX died 12.1.1918 Schweich, wife of Philipp ISRAEL

(the gravestone stands in the cemetery in lower row U3)

M66      Moses ISRAEL died 9.7.1918 Schweich husband of Sara KAHN

M67      Klara SCHEUER died 11.7.1918 Schweich, wife of Raphael KAHN

M68      Abraham ISAY died 1.1.1919 Schweich, widower of Caroline RUBEN & Sara FORST

M69      Olga SALM died 17.5.1920 Schweich, daughter of Carl & Johanna KATZ

M70      Carolina MENDEL died 17.8.1922 Schweich, widow of Bernhard KAHN

M71      ??? (sic) in this period no adult Jews died in Schweich according to George Wagner, here in Schweich-Haardthoft lies: Pauline ISAY

M72      Philipp ISRAEL died 25.3.1926 Schweich Widower of Theresia KAHN, husband of Adelheid MARX

(agk comment – this seems to  contradict M65 above)

M73      Leopold KAHN died 9.11.1926 Schweich Husband of Ella Schomann

M74      Eduard ISRAEL died 29.9.1928 Schweich, husband of Setti WEISSMAN (Elijahu son of Gedalja)

M75      Nathan Raphael KAHN died 4.10.1928 Schweich. Husband of Fanny Klein

M76a     Samuel KAHN died 24.8.1929 Schweich, husband of Selma ISRAEL

M76b    Plaque for his son Joseph and his wife Selma, murdered in a concentration camp

M77      Raphael KAHN died 1929 or 1930 (not in Schweich or Issel), probably widower of Klara SCHEUER

M78      Babette BAUM died 15.12.1930 Schweich, wife of Jakob SALM

M79      Fanny KAHN died 23.12.1931 Schweich, wife of Philipp SALM

M80      Mathilde KAHN died 9.2.1932, wife of Raphael ISRAEL

M81      Klara LOB died 16.3.1932 in Issel?, wife of Siegfried JACOB

(no death registered)

Gap       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Artur Josef KOBLENZER died 5.5.1933 Schweich, son of Siegmund & Nanette KAHN

M82      Emilie (Esther) ISRAEL died 6.7.1933 Schweich (age 77, unmarried)

Gap       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Hermann ISRAEL died 6.10.1933 Schweich (age 81, widower)

M83      Siegfried JACOB died 4.5.1934 Schweich, widower of Klara LOEB, son of Simon & Jettchen MAYER

M84      Setty WEISMANN died 24.11.1935 Schweich, widow of Eduard ISRAEL

(Sara daughter of Elieser)

M85      Johanna MAYER died 8.12.1935 Schweich, daughter of Lion & Klara KEWIG

M86      Abraham ISAY died 15.1.1936 Schweich, husband of Pauline BLUM

(Abraham son of Mordechai)

M87      Julie Klein died 6.4.1936  ???, wife of Nathan KAHN

(no record)

Gap       time here has buried stones of the cemetery:

Johanna KATZ died 27.12.1937 Schweich. Wife of Carl SALM

M88      Raphael ISRAEL died 31.12.1937 Schweich, widower of Mathilde KAHN

 

END

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We should now turn attention to the brothers of our great grandfather, Victor Kahn.

Victor’s father Lazarus (or Lazar) married his (Lazar’s) first cousin Jeanette Isaac Lazard and they had six children, all born in Luxembourg and apparently registered under the name of Cahen, the French variation of the name Kahn.

Raphael Louis Cahen was born in 1818 – he had a twin sister but she didn’t survive.
Salomon Cahen was born in 1822.
Joseph Cahen was born in 1824.
Victor Cahen (Kahn) was born in 1827.
Another sister born in 1829 was stillborn.

Our understanding is that Raphael Louis Cahen married Elisabeth Alexander in 1859 in Saarlouis. They had three surviving children, George (1861), Paul (1863) and Henriette (1864), all registered in the name of Cahen and born in Luxembourg. Elisabeth’s parents were Lazard Alexander and Fleurette Aron.

If any of these names chime with you, please email: contactus@kahngene.org.uk. We’d like to know what happened to Victor’s brothers.

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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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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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For many years I’ve wandered through far-flung cemeteries looking for the name Kahn on gravestones. The Kahn name never appeared, partly because I was usually in Christian cemeteries and we have an undeniably Jewish name. That’s not to say all Kahns are Jewish; these days many are not, but in the 18th and 19th century, most Kahns would have been of the Jewish race and the Jewish religion. Hence, the majority of our forebears will be found only in Jewish cemeteries.

Freudenburg and Schweich Jewish cemeteries were enlightening. There our name is abundant in death. These little green plots on river valley hillsides are crammed full of Kahns, most of them distantly related to the founders of this blog.

At Schweich, the cemetery has survived since 1850 in a small tree-fringed hollow in gently sloping grassy banks at the end of a tiny and modern residential cul-de-sac: Im Gartenfeld. Almost entirely surrounded by well-groomed gardens, this small Jewish enclave is in the midst of Germanic horticulture.  Cherry trees, no doubt escapers from adjacent gardens, drop fruit on old graves and young silver birches lean in as if to observe in respect and quietude.

The cemetery is obviously tended. Graves have been repaired where possible; grass is mown short and somebody (probably a member of the local synagogue) keeps paths free of weeds. Browsing along the ranks of headstones is easy once through the gate (or over in my case because the entrance was locked). Kahn; Kahn; another Kahn; more Kahns. Some of the headstones are missing; many have been rendered indecipherable by weather and time. Here are three terraces of distant branch-line ancestors represented by the art of the stonemason.

Freudenburg Jewish cemetery is up a steep little slope on the outskirts of a picturesque and tranquil village. The gates were already swung open into a tapering sward of green meadow to reveal long lines of gravestones on the brow of a gentle hill. This is a more natural, maybe wilder, cemetery, but certainly not neglected. The headstones are perhaps in generally better condition than at Schweich. I walked along the ranks, taking photographs of silent Kahns. We’re related to a lot of them. I have a suspicion that our line actually started in Freudenburg and then moved to Schweich, but I have no proof. Something tells me we’ll never know.

Only distant relatives are here in Schweich and Freudenburg. Graves of the grandfathers of our grandfathers are missing. They’d died or moved on before these cemeteries were opened, but most of these Kahns I found are related to us in one way or another and feature in our continually expanding family tree.

Photographs of some of the graves will appear on www.cemeteryscribes.co.uk, a website recording residents of Jewish cemeteries in the UK and abroad.

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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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