What might be called the "modern history" of this Cassirer family begins with Markus Cassirer and is reasonably clear from a wide range of documents, family knowledge, and is supported by the Family trust documents, amongst others. Before that the record is much more speculative forming a patchy historical picture. In the region where Markus grew up there were other Cassirers whose relationships, if any, to his line of Cassirers is less clear. Together with researcher "Expat" we have been progressively seeking to put together the pieces of this Cassirer "jigsaw'.
Please note the Caveat that in assembling this early Cassirer historical "jigsaw puzzle" we are of course riding over very thin ice. Most of the facts we have elicited here are derived from online sources, without serious scholastic work in relevant libraries. These would ideally be bolstered, tempered, and corrected by one or more scholars who read Hebrew, someone who devotes themselves to reading inscriptions on gravestones, someone knowing Yiddish or Czech (Bohemian and Moravian) and so on. We offer this in the hope that perhaps some such people with appropriate skills might read and add to these discussions, and in this way perhaps help thicken the ice!
The social development and geographic movement of the Cassirers
The Cassirer story in one sense must begin with the invention of the "Cassirer" name. Prior to the adoption of the "surname" (which in different places became mandated in the late C18 and C19) Jews had to that point been named by a Jewish patronym - which usually was created as "son (or daughter) of....". For example the son of Loebel could be named Moses ben Loebel. However, if that left ambiguity then additional physical, occupational, or locational characteristics could be added to form a nickname. Even before it was mandated, as Jews came into closer contact with modern life they found it useful to create a more contemporary style name with a recognisable surname. Often the name chosen was one relating to occupation. Although there are other possible explanations, in this case Cassirer (or Cassierer, Kassierer, etc), which initially related to the person in a Synagogue responsible for collecting money,1 probably in this context usually related to an occupation relating to finances (cashier, or similar). For Prussia - now Germany and parts of Poland - the change of name was mandated from 1812. As Prussia acquired additional territory the requirement was restated, being extended to Posen in 1833 and the rest of the Prussian state in 1845.2
Loebel Moses Cassirer (1738-1809) - is recalled as being known as Loebel Moses Bujakow - perhaps being named at birth Loebel Moses ben Jakob (or known simply as Loebel Moses [of] Bujakow) - is recalled to have been a cashier at a Grafen ("estate of a person of high rank") in Bujakow, Silesia.3 His son, Moses Loebel Cassirer was the father of Markus Cassirer, also born in Bujakow. However, to understand the challenges, opportunities and thinking of these early Cassirers it is also necessary to understand the context in which they lived. They lived as 'modern' Jews in Silesia - a historical region of "Central Europe" - but one which had from the point of view of identity, language, politics and culture, undergone a long series of tumultuous changes. This includes its emergence as a polish province, becoming a possession of Bohemia in 1335, passing with the Bohemian crown to the Austrian Hapsburgs in 1626, being taken by Prussia in 1742, and returned to Poland in the aftermath of WWII in 1945.4
In the course of considering the Cassirer history we are confronted with the historical distinction at one time of Silesia into Lower Silesia and Upper Silesia. It’s a historico-geographical problem: As mentioned above, Silesia belonged up to the middle of the 18th century (1742) to the Austrian (Habsburg empire), but was after that date until about 1919/20 entirely a Prussian province (with dukes etc.). After WWI the refounded Poland managed to force Germany and nearby Austria, loosers of this war, to have a referendum in counties with a notable polish minority or even majority about their identity: if they would rather belong to Poland. [See here for Maps of Silesia in the German Empire in 1870, and The German Empire in 1917 (right bottom quarter for area of interest), and German and Polish Place Name Equivalents.]
After the vote there was an amputation of certain counties at the former border in the coal belt around Kattowitz - they voted for Poland. And it's only after that date that the German started speaking of ‘Oberschlesien’ (Upper Silesian) and ‘Niederschlesien’ (Lower Silesian). In an encyclopaedia dating 1905 even the word ‘Oberschlesien’ does not exist. A history, primarily from the Polish point of view, is given here. Oberschlesien, for short often “OS” or “O/S”, became a separated part of Silesia, not the least to remind Germany of the forced loss of the rich southwestern “peak” of old Silesia. That’s why Zabrse, now just at the new boundary, was renamed ‘Hindenburg’ (after the famous german marshal of WW I). It was the faked polish invasion in nearby german Gleiwitz which gave Hitler the pretext of starting WW II. Breslau was thus in Silesia, and following 1921 it has always been in Lower Silesia (and even today again in its current setting within Poland).
Bujakow, where the Cassirer name was adopted by Loebel Moses Cassirer, is an interesting very little town (in the “Landkreis Rybnik”) because it is situated halfway between Kattowitz and Rybnik (all three went to Poland after 1920). Bujaków today belongs not to Rybnik but to nearby Mikolów (German: Nicolai). Looking around in modern Bujaków (with google images) it seems that perhaps only 4-5 historical buildings are still at a place where they perhaps were in Cassirer's times. Bujaków and Rybnik both were more or less forced to join Poland in 1922. Ironically this meant perhaps that from 1922 to 1939 (when the Nazi army rushed vengefully in) they weren't able to destroy Jewish culture as in the Reich. But then the local culture was hardly conducive to the Cassirer intellectual endeavours. It's more and more likely that the Cassirer moved very quickly after their registration as 'Cassirer' about 1820 in Rybnik. This is also attested to by the comment from a local correspondent.
Taking into account more what we know on the movements of the Cassirer family, as we note, as far as the Cassirer history is concerned, it appears that from a very general perspective they moved first from very poor rural places around Silesia (clockwise: Russia, i.e. occupied Poland, and Habsburg countries like Galicia, small remains of Habsburg-Silesia next to the southwestern border, Moravia and Bohemia) to rural places in Prussia, and as their mobility was less and less restricted they moved from Upper Silesia - first from little Bujakow to bigger Rybnik and then to industrial boom towns like Beuthen - to Breslau, Goerlitz etc. and then to Berlin.6
Thus Jews, such as the Cassirers, who were clever and busy in the 19th century, and up to 1918, were suddenly confronted with the unconfortable idea of becoming Polish citizens thus losing the ‘enlightened’ (more or less protestant founded) protection of the Prussian kings (and German Kaiser). For the now supernationalist/ strongly Catholic Poles the Germanophile jews were fellow-travellers (as in Austrian Galicia where, after 1918, ten thousand jews had to flee from there to Vienna and then to Paris, London or the US). So one has to have a close look: Breslau belongs to Lower Silesia only after 1920/21, whereas Kattowitz, Schwientochlowitz or Rybnik are simply Silesia before 1920 and then Polish till 1939 and after 1945, but Gleiwitz, Beuthen or ‘Hindenburg’ after 1920/21 are Oberschlesien, Upper Silesia, because people there decided to stay German.
In the “Regierungsbezirk Oppeln” [District of Oppeln] is the town of Guttentag (~’guten Tag’ = ‘good day’ = ‘hello’, ‘hi’). This ‘guten Tag’, Polish ‘dzien dobry’, reappears in the name of the town today (Dobrozien), where Jeanette Steinitz’s mother, a Guttentager (a jewish name derived from a place, like Posener) came from. In this “Regierungsbezirk” were also Ziegenhals (Isidor Cassirer), Oberglogau (Siegfried Cassirer’s brewery), and up to 1920 also Kattowitz, Schwientochlowitz, Beuthen, Königshütte, Rybnik and other places touched by the family Cassirer as they developed and relocated seeking opportunity and consolidating their business endeavours.
The role of Bujakow.
Markus Cassirer was born in “Bujakow” as it is recalled was his father Moses Loebel Cassirer and grandfather Loebel Moses Cassirer. This is an interesting very little town (in the “Landkreis Rybnik”) because it is situated halfway between Kattowitz and Rybnik (all three went to Poland after 1920). Walter Grünfeld recalls that as a boy he and his aunt met in 1920 in Kattowitz a large group of Berliner Cassirers, comming from Rybnik, where they had voted. (The law at that time forced people to vote for Germany or alternatively for Poland at the place where they or their family originated. Perhaps Bujakow was too small to manage such a vote with people from as far as Berlin). So, instead of Rybnik, Bujakow might have been also one of the places in the Kattowitz region where the Cassirers from Russian Poland and Austrian Poland, (that is, from Galicia, or Moravia and Hungary, Bessarabia, etc.) first settled. More on possible relationships between Bujakow and the early Cassirers (prior to the invention of the Cassirer name) is given here.
Several strands of development will have shaped the Cassirers from the C19 to WWII. One of these was the transition with German Jews becoming Jewish Germans. This started in the 19th century until the fatal outcomes after WW I.
Expat writes: "This is entirely speculative: It's somehow like the saying: Of course there must be a balance between nature and humans ... in favour of the humans. I mean over these years there was a slowly growing feeling on both sides: Germans and Jews are in a win-win-situation - in favour of the Germans (because in the beginning foreign Jews should be happy to be in some regular situation at all). Then, in the economic and societal ruins after the lost war 1918 (unfairly lost, they thought) there was a growing suspicion that the balance perhaps had 'worked' the other way around (even during the war!)."
In feudal times - the times we're so interested in - there was a very special Jewish figure or social type right in the middle of the shifting German-Jewish-win-win-relation: The "Court Jew" is described in a book, available on line.7 It is possible that panning across the notion of Court Jew to Dukes and even Kaisers and Kings 'down' to Counts and formerly humble Junkers in their woods who became tycoons in the upper Silesian boom period we perhaps will get a hint at the positions where confidants like Cassirer were situated, for example, in Bujakow.
So this raises the following possibility: Was it the case that the Cassirer family culture was one that was for a period both sufficiently literate in money matters (and calculation skills) and so reliable that they for some time became hereditary 'court-cashiers' for some count or duke? Around 1850 Bujaków seems to have belonged to the enormously rich Schaffgotsch family and then to one of the industrial 'magnates', the counts of Henckel von Donnersmarck.
The 'big idea' would be that these noble families had real estate with borders to both of the two bordering Empires (Zsar/ Kaiser), i.e. Russia and Austria and they, belonging as they were to the elite of the German Empire, would of course have had the influence to legalize relatives (of already residential, reliable 'Our Jews') who slowly, perhaps, 'percolated in' from occupied Poland/ Lithuania/ Belarus and Galicia/ Bukowina from the East or Bohemia/ Moravia and miniature Austrian Silesia from the West. The noble families and magnates in this period behaved like little states and their administration (perhaps already with some Jewish administrators, perhaps to avoid the danger of harming their reliability(!), could send Jewish inhabitants within their quasi sovereign territories from one corner to the other (e.g. from Gogolin to Schwientochlowitz). Of course, these employers or more or less owners (depending of the years we're speaking of) of Jewish professionals (for example, managers of aristocratic distilleries or breweries) were later on, in the general antisemitic mood, reluctant do admit how much they had come to rely on these Jewish officers (instead of less educated Germans and Poles who might well have less understanding of German than the Jews remembered of Yiddish).
Going Places - Finding more Cassirers in records of place
Crossen was a place quite near to Frankfurt/Oder and Berlin and was historically first Silesian, then Brandenburg (and part of Prussia).9 Expat has found in Google Books a book about the history of the Jews in Polish archives which is searchable. The number of Cassirers is not great (although there are quite a lot of Falks and many Cohns). A search for "Cassirer" locates 3 references, of which two are related together :
- Therese Cassirer: Baer, Therese Sara, nee Cassirer, from Crossen/Oder, 12/23/1869 - where she still lived when she was deported in 1942. [Sara was of course a generic name required by the Nazis to be adopted by all Jewish women.] She also is mentioned in another book Lehrerbuch: die Lehrer und Lehrerinnen des Leipziger jüdischen Schulwerks (the Jewish Institution for Jewish teachers at Leipzig, Saxonia) On p. 130 there's BAER, Siegbert Werner, Dr. phil., teacher of mathematics and physics, born 11/18/1890 in Breslau, disappeared 1943 in Auschwitz. He was the son of a ballet teacher in Breslau and his wife, Therese nee Cassirer was very probably the Therese Baer from the first book. Siegbert Werner, according to the internet, was prominent in mathematical research (solving the 'Waringsche Problem'). [At this point these people have not yet been able to be connected to the family tree.]
- In 1872-5, also at Crossen, there was the Krankenkasse bei C. & J. Cassirer (Rahmenfabrik) (health insurance fund of Cassirer - C.& J. timber-framing factory) J. Cassirer was perhaps Jacob Cassirer (1837-), or Julius Cassirer (1824-1924) or Joel Cassirer (see below). So this might have been the early timber business which became the mainstay of later generations.
- Gerson Cassirer, son-in-law of the merchant Mendel Burgheim concerning a bequest of 1000 Reichstaler (Rtl.) Gerson Cassirer is the son of Loebel Moses Cassirer and thus a brother of Markus Cassirer. That is interesting because we know so little about these other Cassirers. This raises the following question: was 1000 Reichstaler a lot of money or not much? A rough estimate of the contemporary equivalent of a sum in Reichsthaler gives 50,000 Euro. This is sufficient to suggest that Gerson Cassirer was a man of at least modest means.
We find a whole line of the Cassirer family developing from the town of Gogolin. Much more on them is recounted at One family - two lines: Loebel Cassirer → the Serck-Hanssen & Goerke families.
- Ernst was a son of Leopold Cassirer. We find a reference to an Ernst Cassirer who died in the Shoah. His birth date was 1895 which is consistent, with his mother then being 23 years old. The likelihood is that this is the son of Leopold. In the 1895 Gogolin Address Book we find that Ernst Cassirer is carrying on the lime quarrying and kiln work of his father with the following description: Adressbuch 1895 Gogolin: CASSIRER,ERNST Kalkbrennerei-Werk (limekiln) and CASSIRER,ERNST Steinbruch (quarry).11 We also find in the same address book a reference to CASSIRER, S. Distillation. Once more the brewing work of the Cassirer tribe appears. This may be a reference to the now 85 year old Salomon Cassirer (born in 1810).
- Jenny 1859 Cassirer who lived in Gogolin (1859-1939), married Moritz Berliner, and produced a daughter Else Berliner (born in Krappitz in 1880, and died in the Shoah in 1942) who married Fritz Laqueur.12 Once more there is another remote connection in that the family of Jeanette Steinitz (wife of Markus Cassirer) intermarried with the Levy family and they with the Laqueur family. Toni Laqueur also died in the Shoah in 1943 at Sobibor.
- Elisabeth Levy, born Elisabeth Cassirer in Gogolin (1876-1941). The connections of intermarriage between the Cassirer family and the Levy family have been mentioned above. Another victim of the Shoah, Elisabeth Cassirer died in Minsk.
- References on the history of the Jews of Gogolin and photos of gravestones from the Jewish cemetery are available at this site's page on Gogolin.
A second Moses Cassirer ("Moses 2 Cassirer") in Oberglogau and his descendants
Some 20 km from Gogolin in Oberglogau can be found references to other Cassirers including a Moses Cassirer (who, since this was not Moses Loebel Cassirer to avoid ambiguity we will call here "Moses 2 Cassirer"). A probable identification of Moses 2 Cassirer is based on Siegfried Cassirer (brother of Markus Cassirer) who married Henriette Fischer (1821-1891) and Henriette Fisher's sister Eva Fischer who married a "Moses Cassirer" who was probably Moses 2 Cassirer. Moses 2 Cassirer and Eva Fischer in due course had a son Loebel 2 Cassirer (7 Mar 1809-bef 1849)13.
The presence of Moses 2 Cassirer and his wife Eva has at times led to serious confusion as to the genealogy of the Markus Cassirer line. Thus for example, the genealogy reproduced by Harry Nutt, in his book "Bruno Cassirer", 14 has the parents of Markus Cassirer as Moses Cassirer (1771-1852) and Eva Fischer (1771-1852). This is replicated elsewhere. For example, the (largely undocumented) genealogical work of Edith Tietz15 identifies Moses Cassirer (1771-17 Sep 1852) and Eva Fischer (1771-22 Sep 1852) as the parents of Markus.
That the identity of Moses 2 Cassirer is different to Moses Loebel Cassirer (the father of Markus) is made fairly clear by the fact as mentioned elsewhere in this site, that there is a reference to a bequest (date unknown) to the Jewish-Theological Seminar Foundation in Breslau in memory of:
Moses Cassirer (d. 17 Sep 1852
Eva ? (d. 23 Sep 1852)
Oberglogau is one of our known Cassirer regions and only about 20 km from Gogolin. We have on record that Siegfried Cassirer (brother of Markus Cassirer) married Henriette Fischer (1821-1891) and her sister, Eva Fischer married Moses Cassirer who is tentatively identified here with Moses 2 Cassirer above. In due course they had a son Loebel 2 Cassirer (7 Mar 1809-bef 1849)18. We have no record of their other children but they could well have included Ida, Siegfried and daughter O or D Cohen (although mysteriously Siegfried and D Cohen are referred to as "Messrs").19.
Given these recorded children Moses 2 Cassirer seems NOT to be the father of Markus Cassirer. Further, we have primary documentary evidence that Moses Loebel Cassirer, the son of Loebel Moses Cassirer married Pesel bat Friedländer, daughter of Salamon Abraham Friedländer, in 1797. The conclusion that this is the correct identification of the parents of Markus Cassirer is shared by Cassirer genealogist Michael Geballe, and Historian Professor Peter Paret. As Prof Paret notes: "This link offers a clue worth pursuing. The Friedländers were among the early Jewish families to gain a firm position in the cultural life of Berlin, and the marriage suggests that by the end of the 18th century, the Cassirers had reached comparable social and e conic standing in the more circumscribed Jewish society in Breslau and Silesia."20
By the mid 19th Century we find more evidence of Cassirers in Breslau. For example, in the booklet: 'Verzeichnis saemtlicher Handelstreibenden zu Breslau, welche in Lit. A besteuert sind, der Mitglieder der Handelskammer, deren Stellvertreter und Beamten, der Boersenkommissarien (so wie der [...]) fuer das Jahr 1857, zusammengestellt vom Sekretariat der Handelskammer', which translates as: Inventory of all traders of Breslau, taxed in Lit. A [big, or bigger business, I guess], and of all members of the Chamber of Commerce, their deputies and appointees, the commissioners of the stock exchange (...) for the year 1857, compiled by the office of the Chamber of Commerce (page 8) we find the following:21
- name of the store/establishment - name(s) of the owner(s) - kind of business - address
- Cassirer & Cohn - Louis Cassirer, Adolph Cohn - manufacture goods - Bluecherplatz 16
- Cassirer broth. - Heymann Cassirer - gold-, silver- and jewel-trade - Am Rathause 14 [At the Town Hall !!]
- Joel Cassirer - Joel Cassirer - manufacture goods - Bluecherplatz 12
- Cassirer & Friedlaender - Samuel Wilhelm Cassirer, Eduard Friedlaender - banking-, products- and dispatchin-trade - Altbuesserstrasse 61
Bluecherplatz sounds like a very good address. Probably only some 50-60 years after the 'invention' (speculative) of the name 'Cassirer', a name suitable for a honest/reliable job in Christian business and in Jewish self-administration as well, the Cassirers were moving fast! Next stop, the big smoke - Berlin!
1 see Prof Paret's remarks in http://metastudies.net/genealogy/ZDocs/Webp/Cassirer_name.htm ⇑
2 [[https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Jewish_Names_Personal], viewed 10 Feb 2013. ⇑
4 See, for example, Encyclopaedia Britannica article on the history of Silesia ⇑
5 quoted in email from Expat 7 Feb 2013 ⇑
7 http://www.amazon.com/The-Court-Jew-Contribution-ebook/dp/B006JL0GNU/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1359760804&sr=8-8&keywords=The+Court+Jew#reader_B006JL0GNUGerman :http://books.google.de/books?id=Mp6nAvggQTIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Der+Hofjude&hl=de&sa=X&ei=KU4MUceBPcnCswbDsYGoDw&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA, viewed 10 Feb 2013 ⇑
8 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Schaffgotsch, creative commons licence, uploaded 27 Feb 2013 ⇑
10 http://db.yadvashem.org/names/nameDetails.html?itemId=4795699&language=en viewed on 30 Jan 2013 ⇑
12 http://www.geni.com/people/Jenny-Cassirer/6000000008426151700 viewed 16 Feb 2013. ⇑
14 Harry Nutt, Bruno Cassirer, Stapp Verlag, Berlin, 1989 ⇑
16 There is an identified Ida Cassirer - born Ida Crämer (Krämer), who married Leopold Cassirer (son of Salomon 2 Cassirer and Ernestine Wachsmann) in 1858. At best this would make her a daughter in law not daughter, which is a possible translation error. Whilst there is an Ida Cassirer (ne Ida Krämer) in the family tree from the right region, how can 'Ida', born Krämer, be a daughter of Cassirers? It seems she is a daughter-in-law [Schwiegertochter]. So, again a bureaucratic routine-slip. But of course not all 'participants' in jewish documents spoke the average 'Hochdeutsch' of today's German but mixtures, for example of Yiddish with Czech, Hungarian, Polish etc.. This means that we have to deal with what may be inventive ad hoc-translations to fit the spoken words into the bureaucratic 'Hochdeutsch' printed form. Nevertheless, it is hard to see the scenario where Ida becomes even a daughter in law to this Moses (who seems not to be Moses Loebel Cassirer (d. 28 Apr 1837) who died 15 years too early to be the Moses 2 Cassirer in this record. ⇑
19 Expat: Remember the possibility of missreadings, especially the 'D' of 'Cohn' which might also be an 'O'. If this should be of first importance, then we should look for the facsimile (from some other library through Heidelberg University Library). But the snippet of google-books (in this case from the original text) says the same: ' 27. . den Herren Siegfried Cassirer und D. Cohn zu Ober-Glogau, zum Andenken an ihre Eltern Moses Cassirer, st. 17. September 1852, und Eva Cassirer, st. 23. September 1852, und deren Tochter Ida, st. 23. Dezember 1863.' ⇑
20 "Peter Paret, "Notes on the Paret and Cassirer Families", unpublished manuscript, private communication, 2005. ⇑
21 http://www.bibliotekacyfrowa.pl/dlibra/plain-content?id=39766 cyfrowa = cipher = digit viewed 10 Feb 2013 ⇑
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