Sending Babies to Switzerland

Contributed by Victoria Hess — Nov. 2010

Gaby and Erich Grunebaum, circa 1985, walking in Dobbs Ferry, NY

Oy vey! It can be very difficult to transcribe family lore when there are so many people who know about it, and they don’t always agree! In this case, I spoke 15 years ago with Gaby Grunebaum about her experience with her children in Nazi Germany. This is her story.

But that discussion was very brief, so last week, I was directed to her grandchild, Vicki Koppel, who was very close to Gaby. After making adjustments to my early draft, Vicki directed me to her Uncle Michael (my second cousin), one of the principles in this story, who modified it further. Some of this mess is untangled, but some of it isn’t. Enjoy! Continue Reading

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

From Records to Revolution

by Victoria Hirschland Hess — Added March 6, 2011

Frits Hirschland, 1988, Bern

Frits Hirschland, 1988, Bern

In the last minutes of 1986, my boyfriend and I returned early from our New Years Eve outing and the phone was ringing. It was a Frits Hirschland, calling from Amsterdam. I have never heard from him or of him before, and in fact, had not at the time known that Hirschlands still lived in Europe, having survived the war there. I still believed the family myth that my grandfather, Franz, had saved the entire family, while those who told that story were really talking only of our branch of it.

Frits was obviously quite drunk, and surprised that he had found me home, since it wasn’t yet midnight in Washington. He said he had looked through phone books, found my name, knew we were related, and decided to call and wish me a Happy New Year. We went through the “are we related” dance, and he debunked the family myth. I had the impression that he had not yet slept that night, though it was almost 6 a.m. in Amsterdam. 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

The Harveys

updated Feb. 27, 2011, with thanks to Peter Levitt, Richard’s cousin

The tree: Salomon Herz Hirschland (one of the three original brothers) >> Moses Hirschland >> Richard Hirschland >> Sydney Harvey (born Hirschland) >>Anthony Harvey >>Richard Harvey

I have found another renamed UK Hirschland family, the Harveys. The Harveys were actually known to several living Hirschland family members through their banking connections, though they were not listed on any of the family trees that I had in my possession. One evening while scrolling through many pages of Google search results for Hirschland, I found the following listing and opened the 50 page e-book that it referred to:

But I’m Jewish!
headmaster at his school told him, “Hirschland, in the future you will be known as Harvey.” The story goes that my grandfather recognised that a name like
jewsforjesus.org/resources/ebooks/archive/harvey/harvey.pdf Continue Reading

Walter & Ruth’s Escape

Contributed by Dan Olson … October 9, 2010

Tree:   Salomon Herz Hirschland (one of the three original brothers) >>Salomon Hirschland >>Levi Hirschland >>Otto Hirschland >>Walter Leo Hirschland (and Ruth).. >>Sandra Lee Hirschland Olson >>Daniel Olson

Otto’s son, Walter Hirschland (my grandfather, Opa). He left Germany in the late 1930’s with his girlfriend … (my grandmother, Oma, Ruth Kapizky). They went to England, where she had family (an uncle?) who ran a chemistry lab. They gave Walter a job as a janitor in the lab while he awaited the paperwork for his application to go to America. By mistake, he disposed of some chemicals in the incinerator, and they exploded. As a result, he spent a bit of time in the hospital.

Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. wikipedia

At one point during the war, England decided to kick out all the Germans who were temporarily residing there. While Walter was in the hospital, he received both the notice to leave England and the paperwork to go to America. He and Ruth went to the American Embassy to get everything in order. Walter’s hope was to go to America alone, then, once he had established himself, bring Ruth over to marry. He was informed the only way she would ever be allowed to America was if they were married in England, and if they went over together. Walter asked where the closest place was they could marry, and the ambassador volunteered to perform the ceremony. That was Joseph Kennedy. Continue Reading

On Tracing the Hirschland Family Tree

Contributed by Victoria Hirschland Hess — October 2, 2010

I set up this Hirschland family group after meeting my second cousins here in Jackson Hole last month, I recognized that there was so many more Hirschlands than we realized, even with the almost 300 descendants of Isaac Hirschland that Henry Hirschland identified. I became inspired to track down lost Hirschlands, and learn their stories.

Two versions of the Hirschland Family ring. Do you have one too?

But we don’t know much about the broken branches Hirschland family. The descendents of Simon Hirschland’s siblings — Levi, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, and Goltchen — were not recorded on the available family trees. So imagine my joy (and sorrow) when Karrie Hirschland Sundbom wrote me after I started to find Hirschlands on Facebook. In her words:

Unfortunately I personally do not know which of the Essen Hirschlands we are descended from. My great grandfather was Otto Hirschland and he was married to Lily. They were taken into Dachau I believe the day before they were to emigrate to England and then America to meet their child, Walter (my grandfather) and sadly never made it out. Walter and his fiancee (my grandmother Ruth) made it to America sponsored by Frank or Franz Hirschland … I would love it if you knew how we could trace Otto into the Hirschland family. All we know is that they (we) are Essen Hirschlands!

Continue Reading

Kinder Transport — Margot & Karl’s Story

Last updated Oct. 20, 2010

Margo Hirschland Panofsky

Tree:   Salomon Herz Hirschland (one of the three original brothers) >>Levi Hirschland >>Joseph Hirschland >>Max Hirschland >>Margot Hirschland Panofsky

Margot Hirschland, and her brother, Karl (later taking the name Charles), fled Essen on the kindertransport in 1939. What follows is a detailed history Margot provided the Essen Old Synagoge in 1988 and 1992. Margo died in 2008. Her brother is still alive and the author of several books about his experiences.

The English translation is a combined effort of IGoogle’s translate page, my limited German and help with the idioms from my friend Patricia Linderman. I hope to be adding some comments from my correspondant about his step-grandmother’s experience. — Victoria Hess

Translated from the Archive of the Alte Synagoge, letter of Margot Hirschland Panofsky (1988)

Auf Deutsch

My father, MAX HIRSCHLAND, was a banker, and after the death of his brother, Louis H., sole owner of the bank company LEVI HIRSCHLAND. This bank, which was founded in 1840 by my great-grandfather, Levi H., was located, as well as the much larger bank, Simon Hirschland on Lindenallee. Continue Reading