Senator John Kerry´s ancestors in the male line
(C) Copyright by IHFF, Ing. Felix Gundacker, 2004 last update: October 7th, 2004
When the Boston
Globe commissioned me in January 2003 to verify whether Friedrich Kohn indeed issued
from a Jewish marriage in Benisch (now Horni Benesov in the Czech Republic), a
family who later converted, I could not even guess the extent of this research,
which since then has turned out to be one of the most rewardingly fascinating of
my career. Not only because it deal with a putative candidate for the US
presidency, but also because it illuminated also the dark side of the former
Austro-Hungarian monarchy where anti-semitism dodged a successful family and led
to their emigration, as well as later persecution of remaining family members
under the 3rd Reich, leading to their annihilation in the holocaust.
To augment and complete this part of my research was the most difficult and painful part of my research.
In the meantime much has been
reported about this in the media, unfortunately not always correctly - for
example Horni Benesov, now in the Czech Republic, was a small village in the
former Austrian Silesia, while in fact a sizable town of 4.200 in 1880, or that
the birth of Fritz Kohn was registered in the municipal chronicles when it
actually it was listed in the back
pages of Roman Catholic
records, as was required by law for Jewish births in lieu of a local synagogue,
or that he was a shoemaker by profession when indeed he was the accountant for
a shoe factory. I was even asked by a news magazine whether there could have possibly
Nazi members in this family, showing
abject ignorance as well as deplorable taste.
Possibly the worst interpretation was rendered by a newspaper claiming the ancestors of John Kerry to have been "Sudeten-Germans", a total misnomer with deplorable connotations; practically all 4.200 inhabitants of Bennisch (Horni Benesov) were German speaking (except 3 families claiming Czech as mother tongue); no Jew of this town would have declared himself to be a German national, never mind a "Sudeten-German", but rather as faithful Austrian servants of the Emperor Franz Joseph and his monarchy - that is to the pertaining Austrian part of this "double monarchy"- rather than to present day, post World War 1, Austria.
And of course the language which the Kohn family used at home would have been German (also the official language required) and not as has been asserted, -Yiddish !
The ensuing pages will give the reader the most important facts and dates; as with all genealogical research no claim for total completeness can be made, not to mention present day laws of protection designed to protect genealogical information past a certain date limit.
I owe much gratitude to many individuals and institutions, especially to Michel K. and the Boston Globe whose farsightedness engendered this whole enterprise, much kudos as well as
- to the State Archives in Prague (Statni Ustredni Archiv, Praha)
- Mrs. Heidrun Weiss at the Vienna Jewish community Archives, greatly easing access
- the Vienna "Magistratsabteilung MA 61 - displaying most unbureaucratic assistance
- to the roman catholic parish of St.Othmar in Mödling
- the Vienna City Library
- the Austrian State Archives
- the City Archives of Vienna
- DÖW for their remarkable internet-site and data base, especially helpful unearthing lists of deportation
- the Hungarian Archives of State, Budapest
- the Moravian Archives of State in Opava (Zemsky Archiv v Opave) as well as in Brno (Zemsky Archiv v Brno & Archiv Mesta Brna)
- and furthermore all those which I cannot name separately, who spent hours upon hours in selfless devotion, who actually should be listed in first place !
Felix Gundacker, March 2004
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