The Hirschland Bank’s Hobson’s Choice

Compiled by Victoria Hess from various sources. — updated Jan. 30, 2010

About 15 years ago, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Gaby Grunebaum, widow of Erich Grunebaum, one of the principles of the Simon Hirschland Bank. Erich had managed the Hamburg branch. Though Gaby was the wife of my first-cousin-once-removed, but she said to call her Aunt Gaby: everyone else did. Continue Reading

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The Lusitania

Contributed by Joan Meijer, granddaughter of Franz Hirschland, Oct. 15, 2010

In late April 1915 Franz Hirschland (Papa) was having lunch with a business associate. The paper was folded back either to an advertisement for the sailing of the Lusitania or an article warning that the Lusitania was carrying arms for the British war effort and therefore fair game for German U-Boats. Those warnings were appearing more and more often in the American press.

The two began to converse about the Lusitania and the yellow journalism surrounding the reporting on Germany in particular. During the conversation the associate said, “I have a friend who is shipping picric acid (an explosive somewhat like TNT) on the Lusitania.” Papa said that the conversation just glossed over the sentence.

Two weeks later, on May 7th, the Lusitania sank within sight of land off the shores of the Old Head of Kindsdale, Ireland, In 18 minutes 1,198 of the 1959 people aboard died.  America exploded with anger and headed for war (though it took them some time to get there). Continue Reading

A Close Pre-WWI Escape

Contributed by Joan Meijer, Granddaughter of Franz Hirschland, Oct. 15, 2010


In 1914 Franz (Papa) and Gula (Gonny) Hirschland took one-year-old Richard (Dick) to Essen to visit the family. With them were Susan Anderson (Omi) and Mary Sheridan (Nana to Richard and Herb). At the time Papa was President of the American branch of Goldschmidt Detinning – a recycling company that separated the tin out of tin cans so that it could be reused.

Franz’s Lineage
  1. Salomon Herz Hirschland (one of the three original brothers)
  2. Simon Hirschland
  3. Isaac Hirschland
  4. Franz Hirschland

Franz (seated) and Friend in uniform.

War was in the air and the family and friends were urging Papa and Gonny to leave. Papa was conflicted. He was the highest ranking Jew in the German Army and he felt that he had a responsibility to honor his commission. One morning in September, Mr. Goldschmidt asked Papa to accompany him to the local constabulary. The head constable showed Papa a telegram from the Kaiser (Papa’s father had been decorated by the Kaiser by the way). The telegram said, “All German nationals who wish to leave the country should do so immediately. The bluffing is over.” If Papa stayed, he not only would have been trapped with his family, but he would have had to fight. Continue Reading