Starting with the family

Last Updated 2010

In 1808 the Jews of Steinheim, Germany, were required to choose family names. One family chose the name Hirschland and the name is so rare that virtually everyone in the world with an ancestor named Hirschland (or Hirshland) is part of the family. The first Hirschlands were Herz Solomon, Jonas, and Markus.

In September, 2010, we met some second cousins who we had not previously met, and this web site, and a greatly expanded family tree produced by Daniel Kester, are the result of that meeting. A cousin asked me why I was doing this, and I started to tell him a long answer about this meeting and how exciting it was to meet so much family. When he interrupted me and asked again, I said, “Because I can.” How many reasons does one need to follow a family story?

Our family lore was that all the Hirschlands were saved from the Holocaust. After several months of research, we are no longer sure there is only one Hirschland family, and we know that a good number of Hirschlands were killed by the Shoah. Recently, we have become aware that there may have been a small non-Jewish Hirschland family that predates 1812.

The 1812 Hirschland tree, at 1300 plus and counting, was centered on Essen, and many were related to the Simon Hirschland Bank. The Simon Hirschland Bank branch was lucky to have survived WWII largely intact.

Simon Hirschland Bank

Simon Hirschland Bank, Essen. The building still stands today near Hirschland Platz. Check out this map of historical buildings around Hirschland Platz by Fabio. There are also modern day photos of the bank, which has been turned into part of a department store. (Scroll down for these.) Thanks to Manuel Hirschland for this link.

Thomas Hackett writes:

Your grandparents were really mythological figures in the family Pantheon. Firstly, as you comment on the web site, in their active philanthropy in helping so many family members escape to safety in the 1930’s. Franz Hirschland and Lutz Grunebaum (Peter’s and my uncle) were US citizens and were both very well-off – Franz by his own efforts and Lutz thanks to the fortune of his wife Doris (which he had judiciously preserved through the Crash and Depression – so some of the the merit was his own!). They could sign the so-called affidavits that they were prepared to support the family members coming over, many of whom – as you also mention Victoria – had just the clothes on their backs, when they arrived. And without the precious affidavit, the doors to the USA were barred.

Not all were so lucky, as some of the stories on this site attest. But we have found Hirschlands in Sweden, Germany, the UK, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, and more. I have also met, on-line, the “only Hirschlands in Israel,” plus others who no longer bear the Hirschland name. We are not done yet!

Tools we have used, in addition to email, Facebook, and the items listed on the resources page, include Geni.com, a free on-line genealogy site. Search for your known ancestor or for yourself. Ask to become family or collaborate with me, and I will let you have access to edit or add to your part of the tree.

Victoria Hirschland Hess

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