Tuesday, September 23, 2008

                                                     Rosa Reich (1866-1957) and the Reich and Laufer families of Kolesovice and Potvorov

         My great-grandmother, Rosa Reich was born in 1866 Kolesovice (German Kolleschewitz) in what is now the Czech Republic. She emigrated to the US in 1884. In New York she worked as a cook for Minnie Minzenheimer, a famous caterer. She married Max Klein in 1889 and they had a daughter my grandmother Estelle the next year.

          Rosa was a very hardworking person who, at times, ran a boarding house, operated a summer hotel in Far Rockaway and worked as cook in Camp Everett, an adult camp in Connecticut. She also made quilts that show a wonderful sense of color and design. An avid reader she kept up  with developments like the theory of relativity. She was devoted to German language culture and never gave up her Austrian passport but she also mastered English. She was in a way, a Holocaust victim, suffering a nearly fatal stroke when she learned that an uncle she had tried to help escape had died in Dachau. She recovered enough to bake special small pies for me  and I used to visit her in an old age home around her birthday. She expected that the family would bring her lilacs and crystallized ginger.

               Rosa died July 30, 1957.

               Most of my information about Rosa's family history came through Estelle who had an album of family photographs. The included some pictures of an old family house in Potvorov in southwestern Bohemia as well as pictures of some headstones from the cemetaries of Rabstejn (Rabenstein) near Potvorov and Zderaz (Dereisen) near Kolesovice. These were sent by cousin in 1937. I eked this out with some information from the Yad Vashem website and the website of another family, that of Nathan Kussy.
                At the age of five, Estelle was sent to live with Rosa's parents, Wilhelm and Johanna Reich in Kolesovice. She was escorted there by Rosa's younger sister Emma Baumgarten and remained there for ten years. The Reichs were part of the provincial Jewish elite of the region. Wilhelm, a butcher, was also a rabbi. They rented living quarters and a store in the local castle. In addition to Rosa, Wilhelm had a son Heinrich (1851-1903) and another Emil who lived with his wife Helena in Budyne. "Die Budyne Helena" was Estelle's favorite aunt.

          Wilhelm's Hebrew name was Benyamin Zev. Zev is Volf in Yiddish and that is why he used the German name Wilhelm. According to his headstone in Zderaz he died at the age of 80 in July, 1903 which would make his birth year 1823. Wilhelm's father's name, from the headstone, was Henokh Arye. From the birthdate of Heinrich Reich, who was named for him, we know that Henokh Arye had died by sometime in 1851.

          Henokh Arye also had a daughter, Susanna (Ester in Hebrew). Susanna Reich married Jakob Laufer who was a furrier. He was also the rabbi of the Potvorov area. According to the website of the family of Nathan Kussy, he conducted services on the second floor of his house which was surrounded by fields. Jakob died in 1887 and he and Susanna are buried in Rabstejn.

        Here's where the story gets strange but I have it confirmed from two sources, my grandmother and a note on one of the 1937 photographs.

Jakob Laufer and Susanna had a daughter, Johanna, the same Johanna who married Wilhelm Reich. So Rosa's parents Wilhelm and Johanna were uncle and neice!

          From the Yad Vashem website, you can learn what happened to the descendants of another child of Jakob and Susanna Laufer, Leopold. Leopold Laufer settled in Usti nad Labem (Aussig an der Elbe). He and his wife Anna Stein had three daughters, Kamilla Ortner, Laura Press and Greta Mayer who were killed in the Holocaust. A son Rudolf was also killed as was Rudolf's daughter Elli Frank. Two of Elli's sons survived and lived in Tel Aviv after the war. Another son of Leopold, Joseph, apparently died before WW II but his daughter Helena Klement was also killed.

No comments: