Both motherís and fatherís ancestors lived in German-speaking Moravia - Bohemia, originally Mšhren - BŲhmen, the lush breadbasket of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the kitchen-garden between the cultural and political centers of Vienna and Prague. My grandfather Siegfried Jellenik was district physician in the village of BrŁsau, where I spent all of my childhood summers.
After WW-1, when my mother was 18, the Habsburg empire was broken up, and the area became the Czech Republic, a democracy governed by Masaryk and later Benesh, and the birthplace of much culture and industry. Prague was home to a great university, and a conservatory which produced Dworak and Smetana and was frequently visited by Mozart. Most of the fine viols made in the 18th and 19th century came from the area, and new industry thrived. One of the first motorcycle and automobile factories, Skoda, the worldís largest shoe factory, Batía, and a profusion of textile industries, sparked by introduction of the first industrial robot, the Jacquard loom, which replaced the home weaving industry and created a new era of wealth and leisure. My grandfather on fatherís side played a leading role in this innovation..
Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938 to "liberate" the "German expatriates" in what he called "Sudetenland" and killed thousands of christians, jews, and gypsies, including many of my relatives. More of that later. Stalin drove the Germans out in 1945, and imposed a tyranny considered even more brutal and demoralizing than Hitlerís by Czechs who lost everything the Germans hadnít stolen, including their cattle, tractors and their land. The Russians eradicated the German language, to the extent that the present generation speaks only Czech and Russian, and is unable to participate in world trade.
In 1997 we discovered Roman Deml, one of the few German-speaking survivors in BrŁsau, and the unofficial historian. Originally a forester, he lost his position when refusing to join the communist party, and spent the rest of his career as bike-mounted mailman, which left him arthritic and worn out. We paid him to research our ancestry. . See correspondence folder "Deml", in German.
On motherís side, My great-grandfather Simon Jellenik was the school superintendent in Podovin, married Rosalia. Simon was transferred to Boskowitz to become school superintendent in that larger town, which has a famous Jewish community and cemetery to this day. Upon his retirement, Simon moved to an apartment in BrŁnn (Brno), where Simonís son Berthold built an elegant house which now belongs to Jiři (George) and Iva Jelenik, living cousins we discovered during a trip in 1999. Jiři is a gynecologist, Iva is a pediatrician, and they have two daughters: Rita b 79, and Judita b 87. Jiři was named a Knight of Malta in 2000 for his services to the Catholic Church during the communist rule. See Jelenik correspondence binder. They know just enough German to communicate. Their address is:
Drs. . Jiři and Iva Jelenik Udolni 61, Brno 60200 tel 05/43 24 43 84.
Simon and Rosalia had among their children two sons, Berthold, Jiřiís grandfather, and
Bertholdís son Herman is Jiřiís father. He omitted the second letter L to make the family name less germanic.
Siegfried served as army physician in WW-1 and, as mentioned above, was district physician and selectman in the village of BrŁsau (Bresova na Svitovy) until he died just before the German invasion. He married Gisella Spitz, whose father Salomon owned a large farm in Rackwitz. They had a daughter Elly, b 1900, my mother, and a son Adolf Felix, b ca 1903, my Uncle Bubi, a dentist and reserve cavalry officer. He died in 1945, enroute home to Brno, after US soldiers liberated Auschwitz, where his wife Brigitta and all his cousins were killed.
On fatherís side, my grandfather Heinrich Kolm (originally Kohn), was born in Widach near Jičin in Bohemia, which was then part of the Hapsburg Empire. Heinrich was an achiever, orphaned at 16, who had put himself and a brother through school, and worked his way up to becoming CEO of Spiegler, one of the largest textile industries in eastern Europe. He replaced the home spinning and weaving industry by opening all over Austria many automated factories using the Jacquard loom, the first industrial robot, based on a vacuum-controlled technology which used an accordion belt of hinged, perforated cards instead of paper rolls like player-pianos of the period to control the harness sequence, and could weave elaborate brocade patterns. This venture caused initial unemployment, but ultimately resulted in more humane working conditions, no more child labor, and substantial wealth. Heinrich was honored as one of the leading founders of the industries that made the Masaryk Republic one of the richest and most democratic new nations of Europe, along with founders of LŲwbeer, Skoda, and Batía, the largest shoe factory. I was named Heinz in honor of Heinrich, who had died shortly before I was born on 10 September 1924. His wife was Emma Goldschmidt, who lived in her own wing of our house until I was about four.
My father Richard, was born in 1888. Father had finished medical school, but had then been prepared for inheriting the Spiegler throne by spending apprentice time at the numerous Spiegler plants throughout Austria and Moravia, principally at their headquarters in Rhonov or Chronov. He also worked on the effect of of organic dyes on different fibers. I accompanied him on at least one of these plant visits, in my remote memory. After Heinrich died, Richard failed to hold his own in the dog-eat-dog business world, and when I was about six, he gave up the Spiegler throne for an academic career in medical research, and sold what was left of his fatherís interest in Spiegler. To broaden his medical education he earned masters degrees (Dozentur) in bacteriology, pathology and pharmacology, and to supplement his university income bought a 40% partnership in the "Alte Salvator Apoteke" on Kšrntnerstrasse, which is still Viennaís "Fifth Avenue". Alte Salvator Apoteke was Viennaís oldest and largest manufacturing pharmacy. His partner was a Dr Lustig.
My fatherís main medical interest was in glands and hormones, and he was assistant to Professor Rudolf (or Ernst) Pick, founder of the science of endocrinology, a member of the faculty which included Sigmund Freud. My father was a perpetual student who believed firmly that your only genuine and secure property is whatís in your brain. After emigrating to the States, he passed the medical license exams and also the specialty board exams in neurology and psychiatry. He was admitted to the staff of the Philadelphia Mental Hospital at Bybury, a truly heroic accomplishment. He was an intellectual who never handled a tool, but he would spare no effort to help me and my brother with school problems. He spent many all-nighters tutoring me for important exams. When at home he lived in his book-lined study, and I remember joining him and mother for breakfast there on weekend days. He was a fair pianist and often participated in the weekly chamber music parties in our home. He occasionally took us on hiking excursions in the hills and mountains, and he took me on my second airplane ride. He was not handy, and I never saw him use a hammer or screw driver, but he could tie a Stevedor (surgical stop-knot) with a single hand.
Before I was born, father had served as medical officer during World War One. His younger brother Arthur also served, and died of dysentery. In 1923 Richard married Elly Jellenik, daughter of Siegfried Jellenik, country physician in BrŁsau,. I spent all of my childhood summers in my Grandfatherís house in BrŁsau, now Brezova na Svitovy.
Mother was a country girl, the daughter of beloved village physician Dr Siegfried Jellenik.. Mother was educated in a girls Lyceum in Brno, where she earned a teaching certificate in French, and also became an advanced amateur pianist with good technical skills. Chopin was her favorite composer, along with Schubert, Schuman and other romantics. She loved Spanish Seguidillas, and often played four-hand and two-piano pieces with Uncle Guido Goldschmidt, and occasionally with me. She was a marvelous sight-reader.
Uncle Guido was a bachelor doctor and adventurer, who had spent a few years touring the world as a ship doctor before settling down in Vienna to a life of wine, women and song. He had a crush on mother, and also kept company with Liesl Spiegler, one of the daughters of the Spiegler textile family. Liesl and her four toy poodles often came to visit with Uncle Guido. Uncle Guido had a booming voice, a dark complexion, and was full of adventure stories.
Mother had a younger brother, Adolf Felix Jellenik, known as Uncle Bubi, a dentist, bon-vivant and reserve cavalry officer, who became a role model in many ways, and eventually died in Auschwitz. More about him in the chapter on BrŁsau.
Mother had become a lady of elegance when she married Richard. Fashion was her passion. She was always getting dressed up in her spectacular ocelot fur coat to meet father for an evening in town. I remember only very few intimate talks with her. On weekends I often had breakfast with father and mother in a leather armchair in fatherís book-lined study, eating elaborate cheeses from under a large glass cheese bell, which I eventually used for vacuum experiments. What I remember most about mother , is that she often played four-hand piano with me, and that I owe her my erect posture. She had a habit of digging a knuckle into the small of my back whenever I slouched. . I had a much closer relationship with our English nanny, Miss Emma, More about her later.
Other relatives came and went in Vienna. We called them all "uncle" or "aunt". I donít remember their relationship, if I ever knew. Uncle Robert Goldschmidt was a chemical and mining engineer who had a motorcycle with a sidecar. Victor Goldschmidt was an electrical engineer who owned a motor factory and often gave me small electric motors and explained how they work. After the German invasion he refused to give his factory to the Nazi party and fled to Prague, where he shot several gestapo agents and storm troopers when they tried to arrest him, before he shot himself. One of my heroes and role models.
There were several musicians. David Popper, b 1843 in Prague, was a world-renowned cellist and composer, and so was his brother Wilhelm. Both are listed in the Norton Concise Encyclopedia of Music. I only knew Davidís grandson Paul, also a cellist.
Paul Nettl wrote books about Mozartís work in Prague, where he was a professor at the conservatory. His wife Trude was a pianist. His son Bruno, b 1930 in Prague, became a famous American ethnomusicologist. Both Nettls are also listed in Nortonís Encyclopedia. We last visited them in Princeton in the early forties, where Paul taught at the University. They had a weekly chamber music group, which included Albert Einstein, an amateur violinist. They left to teach at Indiana University.
there was also a legendary Otto Kolm, fatherís cousin, who was always described as a brilliant engineer and super-achiever. Otto was chief engineer of the Wiener Neustadt Maschinenfabrik at age 28, Austriaís largest factory, and makers of large diesel engines for the Austro-Hungarian and Italian Navy. When he had to work on the bridges of large ships, he overcame his acrophobia by spending hours on the fire look-out platform on the top of the St Stephens Cathedral in the center of Vienna. He taught himself Hungarian in three months of all-nighters. He died tragically at age 30 on the bridge of a ship of a ruptured appendix, because he refused to cancel his trip to Trieste. I inherited Ottoís drafting instruments, some of which I still own.
I have ancestors worth living up to, which has always been a sub-conscious motivation and inspiration.
This site was last updated 07/30/06