The history of my wife's family
A short, personal history 1841-2017
It all started with this guy:  
His name is Knud Christensen Ziirsen. He was born on Wednesday, September 22, 1841 in a small village called Stokkemarke on the island of Lolland in the very south of Denmark:
His parents were Christen Knudsen ( born 1818 ) and Anne Marie Clausdatter ( born 1813 ). Both of them from Stokkemarke.  Knud got his family name according to the Danish tradition at the time: the first name of the father followed by -sen (which means -son ). And where does the family name Ziirsen then come from? He got it some years after his birth, when he lived and grew up with his dad's mother and her new husband, Knud's step-father. His name was Christian Frederik Ziersen - coming from his father's name Zier Hansen. And as a matter of fact the names Ziir and Zier are the same.
What does Ziir mean?  Some people believed it was of Dutch origin. But no. It is a special version of the Danish word Sejr (which means victory in English).  And in some dialects Sejr is pronounced Ziir.  That is probably the origin of the name Ziir.  There are very few today with the family name Ziirsen (or Ziersen). They are all of the same family - all originally
coming from Stokkemarke way back in history.  There are also families with the name Sejersen - but not many.
And if we go way, way back in Danish history there is even a royal connection to the name! People believe that the country once - more than a thousand years ago - had a king called Siger. Pronounced almost like Ziir. The king's castle is known and traces can be seen in the landscape in the middle of the island of Zealand ( Sjælland in Danish - see thae map). But this does not make Knud Ziirsen and his descendants a royal family, of course :-)
Knud spends his childhood with his family on the small farm, goes like everybody at the time to school in the village 3 days a week. It lasted 7 years. After his confirmation at the age of 14 he earned his money by working on different farms in his home area. Later he was - like everybody else too - a soldier.  He probably took part in the war between Denmark and Prussia in 1864, but survived it.
Perhaps it is his time in the army which inspires him to leave his home area in Lolland. The next  facts we know about him is that he at the age of 28 is married to the 32 year old girl Ane Marie Johanne Schandorf.  They are married in the cathedral of Copenhagen on Sunday, September 26 1869, and they live in an appartment in the very centre of the city. Six weeks after their marriage they had a daughter Kamilla  ( full name:  Karen Kamilla Magdalene Christensen Ziirsen ).   She lived until 1952 and was never married.
In January 1872 they had a boy, Andreas (full name:  Andreas Marinus Johannes Ziirsen Christensen ). But he died three weeks later.
Sadly Ane Marie Johanne also died in 1872, only 35 years old. And Knud had to live alone with his 3 year old daughter. Before long he found a 16 year old girl to help him look after the house and the daughter. Her name was Emma  ( full name: Emma Jensine Holst ).  Knud actually fell in love with Emma quite quickly :-)   We have a hymnbook, which Knud gave to Emma in 1873 with the following text written with his very nice handwriting:  To my own Emma - on July 10, 1873 - with love. KChZiirsen  ( and the above photo of him in the book). They were married on November 20, 1874, when he was 33 and she was 17.
Here is a photo from their wedding:
They lived together in Copenhagen from 1874-1911 and had many different addresses in Copenhagen.   They had 9 children together.
Knud was a bookkeeper. Most of his life he was employed in one of the country's biggest newspapers.
Their 9 children together are the following: 1878-1946:        Mary  (full name:  Anna Mary Manu Ziirsen) 1879-ca. 1885:  Anne Margrethe Marie (Ziirsen)  (died as a child) 1880-1957:        Hans  (full name: Hans Laurits Magdalus Ziirsen) 1883-1968:        Ellen  (full name: Ellen Meta Lyna Ziirsen)  - Liselotte's grandmother 1885-1962:        Karl  (full name: Karl Arthur Eduard Ziirsen) 1887-1924:        Aage Niels Jakob (Ziirsen)  - Rene Jørgen's, Eugen's and Jennifer's
                                                                                  grandfather 1888-1972:        Thomas  (full name:  Thomas Kingo Kristensen Ziirsen) 1890-1981:        Lis  (full name:  Inger Elisabeth Solveig Ziirsen) 1893-1965:        Karen  (full name:  Laura Karen Margrethe Ziirsen)
What happened late in Emma's and Knud's marriage is not yet known to us. What we know is, that Knud moved away from their common home around 1909 or 1910.  First to a small rented room in Copenhagen and later all the way to a small village in Jutland in the west of Denmark. From here he wrote a letter to Emma in the winter of 1910-11, where he tells her that he is ill and freezes. And he died in Lindum on January 29, 1911. He was 69, when he died.
Emma did not live much longer. She died on March 12, 1911 in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen at the age of 53.
Here is a picture of Emma in her later years:
We have knowledge of the children of Emma and Knud in Danish. In this article I will concentrate on two of them:  Liselotte's grandmother Ellen - and the grandfather of René Jørgen, Eugen and Jennifer, Aage Niels Jakob  (later calling himself Jack ):
Ellen Ziirsen, married Kristensen:
Ellen was born on June 25, 1883 in Copenhagen. She was the fourth child of Emma and Knud.
On January 11, 1911 she married Sophus Kristensen, born January 15, 1886.  So they were married on Sophus' 25 years' birthday. And two weeks before her dad Knud died and two months before her mother Emma died.  Ellen was 27 years old.
Here is a photo of Ellen in 1914, when she was 31:
Ellen and Sophus had six children together:  Inge (1912), Else (1913), Alice (birthyear not known yet), Grethe (1916), Poul (1918) and Leif (1921).
Inge, born on March 13, 1912, is Liselotte's mother. She married Jørn Christiansen in 1935. 
Here is a picture of Inge, when she was about 25 years old:
Inge and Jørn had three children together:  Gitte (1939-2002), Hans Henrik (also called Lasse), (1943-2015) and Liselotte (1947).
Here is a photo of all three of them:
They lived in Copenhagen-Frederiksberg all of their life. Jørn died in 1981 and Inge in 1997, just two days before her 85 years birthday.
Liselotte was born on April 25, 1947.  After a happy and active childhood in Copenhagen she spent 1 1/2 in Geneva as an au-pair in a Jewish family and afterwards as an assistant in a hospital. After that she worked for many years in tourism.  First in a number of travel agencies sending Danes abroad - and later in the Danish Tourist Board to serve tourists, who come to Denmark.
After she moved to Belgium in 1988 together with me she claims that it is a full-time job to look after me :-)  In addition to that she was also for some years president of the Danish Association in Belgium.
Here is a recent photo of her:
Aage Niels Jakob Ziirsen:
Aage was born on Saturday, April 2, 1887 in Copenhagen. He was the 6th child of Emma and Knud.  When he was born they lived in an apartment at the address Vesterbrogade 104, 1st floor in the very centre of Copenhagen - not far from the main railway station. His dad was 47 and his mum was 29.  The boy was baptised in the nearby Sankt Matthæus Church ( Saint Matthew) on July 28 the same year.
At the general census in Denmark in February 1890 the family had moved to an apartment in a nearby street:  Holger Danskes Vej 4, 1st. floor. In addition to the parents there were by now five children and an 18 year old maid in the household.
Aage started in school in 1894. It lasted - as for all kids at the time - for seven years, so he left school in 1901, when he was 14.
At the general census in 1901 Aage still live at home with the family - now at a new address in the centre of Copenhagen:  Sønder Boulevard 45.  Five of the kids were living at home. Dad Knud was still working as a bookkeeper at the big media house ( the Ferslew group ). And Mum Emma now had a greengrocery.
We can later trace him to different addresses - all in the centre of Copenhagen ( such as Nikolajvej, Brohusgade, Møllegade, Kronborggade, Baggesensgade, Guldbergsgade, Abildsvej, Jægersgade and Vestervoldgade ) - all during the years 1901-09.  Around 1906 he was a soldier for some months in Infantery Batallion 22 in Copenhagen. In the police register for 1907 his job was called Kellner (waiter), Agent, Representative.  Until 1924 all people were registered yearly by the police. 
The next known event in the Aage's life was that he became a father.  On December 1907 he had a son together with Thora Ebine Møller, born June 22, 1887.  They were both 20 years old and not married. The boy was baptised on September 6, 1908 and got the name Aage Kaj Levino Ziirsen. The baptism took place in Hellig Kors Church ( Holy Cross Church).
Father Aage's worked as a baker. And Thora's parents were Karl Møller ( painter ) and his wife Karoline.
As the parents Thora and Aage were so young, not married and did not live together little Aage was taken care of by family and friends.  This was not unusual at the time.
His mother was married many years later in 1926 to Knud Robert Rasmussen. Aage - who was 18 years old at their marriage - is after that named as Knud's stepson, so perhaps he adopted him.  What was more important was that Knud was active in the movement of spiritism.  This would have dramatic consequences for Aage some years later.  More about that in one on the following chapters of this history.
Back to Aage Niels Jakob - who apparently mostly was called Niels in his own family.  The next we know about him is that he moved to Birmingham in England. It was probably in 1910 or 1911.  In the official Copenhagen archives he is mentioned to have left the city in 1910. Perhaps that was the time he left for England.
What we know is that he met a lovely girl in Birmingham. Her name was Ella Harbottle, 21 years old. She was at the time the manager - the owner was her mother Dora Harbottle - of a very nice hotel in New Street in Birmingham the Waverley Hotel.  Aage rented a room in the hotel.  
Here is a picture of the hotel as it looked liked:
Ella and Aage apparently had a good time together, and they got married on April 18, 1912 in a nice old church in Chapel Lane in Birmingham ( we have visited it ). And  a couple of months later they had a daughter, Ella Doris Ziirsen, born June 29, 1912. The birth actually took place at the Women's Clinic in Oslo in Norway.  We do not know, why the couple was in Norway for the birth.
A Norwegian friend of ours found the birth certificate in the Norwegian archives.
We also have later pictures of the new small family in Birmingham:
This is Aage during his years in Birmingham.
And this is Ella with their daughter Ella Doris  at the photographer some years later.
Aage was a very active person. He was actually an inventor. For one of his inventions to got a US Patent in 1915.  It was about using a special chemical method to clean used files, so that they could be used again.   He had together with a colleague a company called "File and Engineering". It was dissolved in 1915.  He apparently also invented part of special motor bikes used for racing in the Isle of Man.
He was also a very self conscious guy. World War I had started in September 1914, and when he as a foreigner in England now and then was seen as a German (meaning part of the enemy) he threatened everybody with court cases, if they said so.
And you may ask:  how do we know all this now a hundred years later? This is a story in itself:
We knew that Aage had moved to Birmingham, that he got married and that they has a daughter. We had all the names. But despite a lot of efforts we had no success for several
years. One initiative was that I wrote to everybody in England with the family name Harbottle (which apparently originally came from Yorkshire). And though I receive a handful of nice replies we did not get any closer to a solution. We also hired a professional genealogist, Mrs. Doreen Hopwood, employed by the City of Birmingham. She brought us somewhat further. But no breakthrough.  The fact that my daughter Cecilie and her family for years lived and worked in Birmingham brought us over there quite often. We tried and tried.
Suddenly one happy day we received a mail from Serena Dutton. She is a granddaughter of Ella Doris. And she had found my family story by looking for the Ziirsen family on the internet - and pling! She ended up on my home page, where I had written a page or two about my efforts to find the British relatives.  And ever since then we have had a lot of good contact, helping each other to get things in this rather complicated family right. It is a great pleasure!  I honestly do not thing we would have found each other, if Serena hadn't made this extra effort. And if I hadn't written about it on my English website!  Energy and luck in combination is a great cocktail!
Here is a photo of Serena:
Back to Aage, Ella and Ella Doris. As World War I went on and made life difficult for most people in England (and elsewhere) Aage continued his inventions.  The family story goes that he at a certain point left the family to go abroad to present his proposals. His daughter Ella Doris did not remember to have seen him any more after she was 4 years old (in 1916).  What we know for sure is that he left Oslo in Norway in 1920 with the ocean liner M/S Bergensfjord. Destination: New York. We have the papers about his voyage with the ship. And we also have the papers from the American immigration authorities at Elles Island in New York.  He indicated to them that his latest address was in Stockholm, Sweden.
Our next trace of Aage is from the French island Martinique in the West Indies. Somewhere we have recently seen that he was sailing on a ship to and from India - perhaps on a freighter US - India (which was British at the time ).  All this still has to be checked out.  Of course, he had to earn money.
But what is certain is that he died in Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique. He had taken the name Jack Ziirsen (Jack from Jakob).
The message in the official French archives about his death is the following (translated from French):
On August 15, 1924 at 4 a.m Jack Ziirsen died at the civil hospital in this city, born in Denmark, about 50 years old, son of unknown parents. No further information available.
This information was given on August 16, 192 at 8.30 a.m. by Louis Limier, 42 years old, health worker, living in l'Ermitage. As Mr. Limier cannot write, Joseph Saint-Filip, academy officer, third deputy mayor, responsible for the local officials, signed the declaration.
These are the words from the French authorities. Not much information. The evaluation of Jack's age to be around 50 has to be seen against the fact that he was 37 years old, when he died.  He is buried in Fort-de-France.
Afterwards his wife Ella received the bill from the French hospital for the stay. And her mother helped her paying it.
Ella never married again. She helped her mother Dora to manage her hotels in Birmingham and in Bournemouth. And she, of course, was also busy with the upbringing of her daughter Ella Doris.
Ella died in June 1976 - 86 years of age.
Her daughter Ella Doris married Ernest Eddy, and they got two children, Jennifer and Paul. She died 84 years old in 1996.
Aage's Danish family from 1907 and onwards.
Aage's son, Aage Kaj Levino Ziirsen, was as mentioned born on December 16, 1907.  The mother, Thora Ebine Møller and Aage were not married and did not live together. So little Aage stayed with family and friends, who brought him up.  He lived during his whole childhood in Copenhagen.  After he in 1921 had his confirmation he got a job as mechanics in a well-known company in Copenhagen. He was there for two years. Afterwards he worked for a couple of years in a similar company. So that is where he learned his technical skills, which he used later on.
Next time we can trace Aage is in 1923, when he joined the movement of spiritism.  This was  quite a popular movement at the time. A short description of the movement is that it is a sort of religious association. They believe that by putting people into a special frame of mind - into what is called tranche - you are able to contact people in your family and others, who have died.  Aage was a member of three different associations in the movement and was quite active.   And his new step-father, Knud Robert Rasmussen ( who got married to his mother in 1926 ) was an active member of this movement.  He was the one who promoted Aage, because he said that Aage was very good at it and did very good and serious tranches with other
members of the associations. Many other members have confirmed that Aage was one of the best.
You can ask, why this movement was successful at that time - in the 1920ies and the beginning of the 1930ies.  Perhaps because the period was on one hand a very lively one ("The swinging Twenties" - and at the same time a very tough time economically and socially.  The Great Depression was just in its beginning worldwide.  Many people probably looked for a sort of refuge or sort of safe haven in those times.
Here is a picture of Aage, a young charming man:
While all this happened Aage met a young girl from Copenhagen, Else Jensine Hansen (born March 26, 1911).  They got married in March 1928 and had two sons together:   Rene Jørgen Ziirsen ( born March 2, 1928 ) and Eugen Tajmer Ziirsen ( born July 13, 1929 ).
We also have a picture of both of them, when they were adults:
            Rene Jørgen Ziirsen                Eugen Tajmer Ziirsen
                  (1928-2014)                                (1929-2009)
Now - around 1930 -  things started to develop in a difficult direction. One of the other members of the spiritist association was a 45 year old lady. She was extremely active and tried to dominate all activities. And for some reason her attention was in particular focused on Aage - 20 years younger than her.  To make a long story short she was so determined to "get him", that she contacted his wife Else and offered her, that if she divorced Aage, the lady ( and we do not know her name (yet) - see later ) would pay her a monthly amount.
At the same time Aage had started a barber shop in the centre of Copenhagen ( Stenosgade 3 ).  The business was not very good.  So he used his shop also to invite people to spiritist performances. Lots of people came to see it. Good business. It became so well known that one of the famous yearly cabarets in Copenhagen had a special song about it in 1933. The song was written and presented in the cabaret by one of Denmark's most famous artists Osvald Helmuth.  The song was called "The Song About Ziirsen". It was basically a very friendly song telling about the barber Ziirsen, who did not earn much money from haircuts, so he started instead spiritist performances in his shop.  Most people still remember that song today.
Back to Aage and Mrs. X: she offered him to give him money to pay his rent for the shop. And at the same time she paid him a considerable sum ( 1200 at the time) to have an education as a masseuse.  
What was behind all that?  It is for everybody to think. But what is a fact is that she insisted to profit from Aage's service as a spiritist. And she insisted that she would have these spiritist meetings with him alone. 
This went on during a couple of years. Aage got warnings from his friends in the association. They considered her to be very dangerous. So in April 1932 he wrote a letter to her saying that this all had to stop immediately. She got so mad at him - and so did her husband ! - that it all ended in a situation, where she and her husband went to the police to charge Aage and one of his closest friends, because they claimed that she had been raped and was under pressure to pay him money.
Aage and his friend were arrested. A very publicized court case started in 1932, and Aage and his friend were convicted to a couple of years in prison.   The names of Mrs. X and her husband were not made public, "because they had important jobs in the public service - and also to protect their children".  Amazing court case.
You may ask:  how could Aage end up with all this?  Friends around him at the time described him as quite immature and childish. He went along without being sufficiently careful. 
When he finished his prison term he decided in 1935 to change his family name from Ziirsen to Lannild. This was his name for the rest of his life.
Our knowledge about Aage's life in the following years is very scarce.  We know that he got married again. And that he lived in a southern suburb of Copenhagen - Sundby.   He died February 23, 1951.  He was only 43 years of age.  Just before his death he had another son,
Kim Lannild Wallin Carlsen with a young lady, Birthe Wallin, who was a cartoonist. Kim was later adopted under the name Kim Carlsen, and we do not know anything about his life. 
Aage's two sons Rene and Eugen both had a good and long life. After Aage's divorce in 1931 from Else they were both adopted my Else's new husband Sam Nielsen.  And Else and Sam had three boys together during the coming years.
Rene got married to a Spanish lady and took her Spanish family name. So his name in the later part of his life was Jørgen Aineto Ziirsen. Rene died in 2014.  And Eugén became a very successful and very well known entertainer and singer - with his own company  You can hear one of his many very well known songs here:
We have very close contact to some of Rene's as well as Eugen's children. And they are very interested in the Ziirsen family history.  They hardly knew anything about it earlier.
Niels Jørgen Thøgersen - August 9, 2017 -  
5th ed.
Liselotte's grandparents in Hamburg



Grosspapa – und Stammvater


Moritz was born on Tuesday, November 14, 1848. It was in the year of all the revolutions around Europe. But where he was born it was quiet and safe. It was in the small village Abterode in the northern part of Hessen. Or Kurfürstenthum Hessen as it was called in those days. The area was occupied by France during the Napoleonic wars. This has influenced not least the administration in the area.


Moritz was the youngest child of the family. His three older brothers and sisters were:


·        Sussmann ( Sigismund ) – 11 years

·        Jettchen ( Henriette )  - 10 years

·        Clara – 3 years


Their parents were an active part of the local Jewish community.


The father, Yitzhak ( Isaac ) Stern was 45 years old, when Moritz was born. He was Kaufmann in the village – probably a grocer. He was born in Witzenhausen about 15 km to the north of Abterode.


The mother, Gütchen, was born Kugelmann. She was 42 years, when she had her last child – Moritz. And she was herself born in Apterode. Her father, Samuel Kugelmann, was the rabbi in the village. And as a matter of fact, his father, Gumpert Kugelmann, had also been the local rabbi.  Samuel was still alive ( 76 years of age ), when Moritz was born.


Yitzhak and Gütchen were married on February 2, 1836.


Abterode and the region as a whole had at that time a substantial Jewish population. Lots of Jews had decided to settle there. The synagogue in Apterode was big and located in the middle of the village. The building is still there. It is today a bank. But a sign on the wall outside tells the story.


Where did the Stern family live in Abterode? In which house? Actually, the local archives in Eschwege recently by chance received a very detailed map of all houses in Apterode. With names of the owners or at least the people who lived there in the 18th century. But in many houses there were no names indicated. Why?  Because you did not write the names down, if the people in the house were Jews.


The large Jewish population at the time can also be seen from the relatively big Jewish cemeteries, which you find near all villages and towns in the region. In Abterode you find it up on a steep hill just outside the village. It is well preserved – the Nazis apparently did not manage to destroy this one – and very nicely kept in order. Around it you have a protective fence with a locked gate. You have to pick up the key at the local municipality to get in.


Normally, Jewish cemeteries were always located outside the village – and often in an awkward place ( such as a steep hill, a mountain, or a valley ). The authorities did not want to be too helpful to the Jews.


At the cemetery in Abterode – which we have visited – you find the graves and the gravestones of Moritz’s parents, his mother’s parents and his great grandparents on his mother’s side. The stones are nice and undamaged. Though not cleaned, as this is not supposed to be done according to Jewish tradition. Therefore, we had some difficulties in finding the stones. And to read them. But we managed.


One of the special characteristics of Jewish gravestones is that they on the front side have a text in Hebrew. With Hebrew letters, of course. That is where you find the most important text about the deceased person. In the very old days only this Hebrew side existed. Later – in the 19th century – a law required that a text in German should be written on the other side of the gravestone. Often with a shorter text – in principle only the name, the date of birth and the date of death.


In our case we took a number of photos of both sides of all our family stones. And afterwards we got a very interesting translation of the Hebrew sides of the stones from Israel via a good friend in London. That is how we know that two of Moritz’s ancestors were rabbis.


As far as the name Kugelmann – the maiden name of Moritz’s mother – is concerned it is interesting to know, that history tells that the name of the first Jew, who came to Germany in the 14th century, was Kugelmann.



Going back to the childhood of Moritz the good times were soon over. When he was less than five years old his mother Gütchen died. She was only 47 years old.  This happened quite often in those days. But the sorrow and the sadness were, of course, there nonetheless. In addition to a lot of practical problems, not least for the widower Yitzhak.


As far as we know Moritz was soon sent to a well known Jewish boarding school in Frankfurt – also in Hessen.


His father Yitzhak died in 1863, when Moritz was only 15 years old.  This probably meant that the young man now had fewer reasons to stay in Abterode. His older brother Sussmann was already in Hamburg, and his two sisters had either married ( Jettchen ) or had a fiancé and had already left the area ( Clara ).


What we know for sure is that Moritz got his first passport ( Reisepass ) on March 30, 1865. He was then 16 years old. He got it from Kurfürstliches Landrathsamt in Eschwege. He needed it, because he wanted to move to Hamburg , 320 km to the north. The big and lively city in what was then Prussia. His 27 year old brother Sussmann already lived and worked there, so he was probably supposed to look after the young Moritz.


He could not become a Hamburg citizen immediately. The minimum age at the time was 22 years. Actually he only obtained that status in 1903. But he was allowed to live and work there.


From his application to become a Hamburg and a Prussian citizen we know more about Moritz: he had blond hair, a low forehead, and brown eyes.  He had apparently also served in the army, because it is indicated that he in 1903 has an Ersatz Reserve Schein Nr. 117.


He settled down in Hamburg – in the Jewish quarter around Grindelallee – not far from the big synagogue in the city. When he in Eschwege applied for the passport he had as a reason given that he wanted to learn how to become a Kaufmann.


He got a number of different jobs – some with success, others without. In some of the official papers he is called: Agent or Curateur. 


Soon he needed help in the house. Therefore, he hired a 16 year old girl from Hamburg. Her name was Auguste Bichels.  It was in 1869. Four years after his arrival in the city.


Moritz and his maid lived in different houses in central Hamburg – though always in the same area. At one time he owned a double house, where an elderly Jewish couple had rented the other part of the house. After some time he wanted to sell the house and move to a bigger one – probably because his business already went very well. But as he said: I cannot sell the house , because what will then happen to the old couple next door. 


What we know for sure is that after a few years he was a very successful business man. He was a partner in the company Minten und Stern. Its main activities were to arrange insurance for all the smaller ships and boats ( Schuden ) which were active in the Hamburg harbour and on the Elbe river. This was a period with a very positive economic development. And it, of course, included all the transport on the river and in the huge harbour.  It went better year by year, and as time went on Moritz became one of the very rich business men in Hamburg.


His official title was General-Versicherungs-Agent.



But it wasn’t business and hard work all of it. More and more time was devoted to his young maid, Auguste.





Grossmama und Stammmutter


Auguste was born on Sunday, November 27, 1853 in Hamburg – at 5 o’clock in the morning. Her full name was Wilhelmine Louise Auguste Bichels.


She was baptised on March 26, 1854 in the Lutheran Saint Michaelis Kirche in Hamburg. And she was later confirmed in the same church on April 1, 1868.


Auguste’s father was Franz Hinrich Bichels. He was 33 years old, when Auguste was born. He was a  Gürtler.


Her mother was Elsabe Voigt, called Ehlers. And she was also33 years old and from Eddelack in Holstein.


Franz Hinrich and Elsabe were married on July 21, 1851 in the Saint Michaelis Church.


They had two daughters, who were older than Auguste:


·        Catharina Johanna Dorothea,  3 years

·        Caroline Wilhelmine Emilie, 1 year


The family lived in Ulriciusstrasse 23 in Hamburg.


After Auguste her parents had a boy on December 6, 1855. But he died at the birth.


These birth complications were probably the main reason why Elsabe died a month and a half later, on January 31, 1856.  She was only 36 years old.  And Auguste was only just 3 years old.

Elsabe was buried from the Lutheranische Gemeinde Maria-Magdalene-Kloster in Hamburg.


Her sudden death was a disaster for the small family.


Auguste’s father decided to remarry very quickly – already in September the same year. His second wife was called Johanna Friederika Wilhemina, born Jantzen. From Hamburg too – and 37 years old.


Auguste and her sisters grew up with their father and their step mother. We do not know yet, if they got any half sisters or half brothers.


What we know is that Auguste started as housemaid in 19 year old Moritz’s house, when she was 16.  And it was certainly not unusual that young girls ( and boys ) had such jobs at that age. It often started several years earlier. And Auguste had probably had other jobs as a housemaid before she come to Moritz.


What we also know is that she spoke “Platt”, which means plattdeusch. In a way the local north German dialect spoken in the countryside. Her family came from the countryside – from Holstein and Dittmarschen.  This was the language spoken there.


It was also said that Auguste was not a very pretty girl. She had for example very big ears.


But this was apparently not important for Moritz. He was more interested in the person and what sort of personality she was – than the way she looked.


It’s that part of the family history, which we come to now.



Moritz and Auguste together


The two of them had many things to talk about. First of all, they had both lost their mothers when then were very small. This had resulted in a childhood, which certainly was not always easy and pleasant.


They were also – both of them – energetic and ambitious. Moritz in his business, Auguste in organising their home. She was now and later always a very determined and well organised lady.


We feel that we have good reasons to believe that before long they both knew that they were in love with each other.


On Thursday, May 9, 1872 they had their first child. She was called Gertrude. Moritz was then 23 years and Auguste 19.


According to family recollection they soon had a second child. This time a boy. But he was dead by birth. Unfortunately, no official records have been found about this child. Not yet, at least.


Some years later they had another girl, Elsa. She was born on Tuesday, May 14, 1878.  And again four years later, on Friday, June 19, 1882, the third daughter arrived. Her name was Kätchen.


Moritz and Auguste were still not married. Probably because he was a Jew and she was a Lutheran.  This dilemma was solved, when Moritz decided to convert to the protestant reformist church. A church close to the Calvinists. And a church which like the Jewish synagogues had no decorations on the walls. In this way his conversion was less difficult.


The couple was married on Friday, October 6, 1882 in Hamburg.


The fourth daughter, Selma , was already on her way. And was born on Thursday, May 31, 1883.


Concerning Moritz’s conversion to the reformist church it is noted in the official papers that he got his certificate – his Taufschein – only on April 30, 1894. Why this long period?


After Selma another four children were born:


·        Meta born on Friday, December 19, 1884

·        Alice born on Sunday, March 3, 1887

·        Lilli – born on Wednesday, October 31, 1888

·        Franz – born on Friday, September 13, 1895


The family had for many years a big and lovely house at Rotherbaum Chaussee 209 . In a very nice part of Hamburg – not far from the Alster and the old city.


Moritz’s business in “Minten und Stern” went from success to success. And the family life in the big house was very lively, and everybody was very happy.


A very sad development was the health of Moritz. His sight deteriorated rapidly. He had a serious eye disease. And when he was about 50 – around 1898 – he became totally blind. As he continued his business life he – or Auguste – organised that one of the daughters accompanied him to his office every day. And picked him up again after work.  They all took part in this daily task. And one thing was also certain:  When Moritz arrived home late afternoon or early evening he called: Ist Mammie da ?  He was so close to Auguste all his life that he looked forward very much to come back home to her after work.


As already mentioned Moritz became a very rich man. In a public document from 1902 it is indicated that his tax related fortune is: 54.500 Mark. According to official calculations to currencies nowadays this is the equivalent of 3,3 million €.


This gave him and Auguste the possibility to give each child an amount of 1.000 Mark ( or 60.500 € ), when they had finished their school. The girls all went to a one year school in Switzerland, when they had finished their normal school in Hamburg.



As time passed on Moritz handed over his part of “Minten und Stern” to his son-in-law, Gertrude’s husband, Adolph Wölken.  Later it was taken over by Gertrude’s and Adolph’s youngest son, Gerhard. After some time he sold it, and the company left the family. But it still existed as late as in 1950.



Moritz ’ health deteriorated gradually. And on Monday, December 11, 1916 he died, when he by accident fell on a big staircase leading to the basement of the house. He was 68 years old.


He was probably also hard hit by the fact that his and Auguste’s one and only son, Franz, had been killed five months earlier near Dozière in the battle of the Somme in France. Franz had 20 years old in 1915 volunteered as a soldier in the German infantry.


Auguste lived for several years still in the big house in Rotherbaum Chaussee. Later she sold it and moved into a smaller house in central Hamburg. She was a passionate bridge player and in general a very active lady for many years to come. She died 88 years old on Sunday, March 8 in 1942. This was more than 25 years after the death of Moritz.


Both of them were buried in the family grave on Nienstedter Friedhof in the western part of Hamburg.


Liselotte & Niels Jørgen Thøgersen


September 2008.  


Have a look at the electronic photo album about the family:

FRANZ STERN 1895-1916


A Story About His Short Life 1895 - 1916

Friedrich-Franz Stern was born on Friday 13th September 1895. His family called him Franz. His parents were Auguste, born Bichels (42 years) and Moritz Stern (46 years). They lived at Rothenbaum Chaussee in the Alster district of Hamburg. Moritz was the co-owner of a large insurance company for small ships on the river Elbe. Franz was the youngest in a family of 8. The other seven were all girls. Liselotte's paternal grandmother Lilli was one of them. Auguste and Moritz second child was a stillborn son, but finally another boy came along. There is no doubt that he must have been very, even very much spoiled by his 7 sisters and also by his parents.

But the happiness in the family would not last. Already when Franz was 3 years old, his father was blind. He got an incurable eye disease. The daughters still living with their parents took turns to read the newspaper to him every day and also took turns leading him to and from his office in the morning and in the evening.

We do not know much about Franz’s childhood years and adolescence. He has certainly gone to good schools. The neighbourhood was - and is - one of the best in Hamburg.

Fortunately we have a few pictures of Franz as a child.

In this picture he is seen with his seven older sisters:


The girl on the far right, Lilli born in 1888, is Liselotte’s grandmother.

On the next photo we see him alone a few years later:

A small playful remark about Frantz could be that he was not born with the smallest of ears!

Peace in Germany did not last long, as we well know. In August 1914 the war which became The First World War started. It would be “Frisch und Fröhlich ” as many Germans arrogantly said. They – and the world – would become wiser.

There was compulsory military service in the Emperor’s Germany. All men between 17 and 42 years had a duty to defend the fatherland. And when you were 20 years old, you were automatically drafted into the military. It happened to Franz in September 1915, and then it was off to the barracks. He was part of the infantry (infantry Regiment No. 84), (the picture above has nothing to do with his military uniform ). The regiment was also called the “von Manstein Regiment” (after its first regiment commander, General von Manstein) or “Schleswiges Regiment”.   It was established in 1866 and was only dissolved in 1919.

Before long he was off to the front in France. Since the autumn of 1914 a trench warfare had been going on between the Germans and the allied armies. Franz and his regiment came to northern France – close to the small village of Pozieres, not far from Amiens. It was a typical French village with a few hundred inhabitants, mostly farmers. Here, the two armies were facing each other.

Sometimes it was peaceful - and boring - not to mention dirty - in the trenches. Much of the time was simply spent being on guard. As the saying goes: In war the waiting takes up most of the time.

We have a photo of a soldier from a German trench in the Pozieres countryside. It shows an officer and an ordinary soldier behind. It could very well be an image of Franz.

In July 1916 the allies decided to launch a major offensive against the German forces in the Somme area around Pozières. The Germans had entrenched themselves in advanced fortifications, known to the soldiers as the “Gibraltar Blockhaus”. It was mainly used for observations of Allied movements, and therefore it was of utmost importance to the Allies to defeat the enemy and take “Gibraltar”. It happened over a number of days from 23 rd July 1916. The attackers were Australian troops who had come here from the fierce fighting in Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915. The fighting at “Gibraltar” and throughout the Pozieres area was so hard that the Australians had over 5,000 dead and wounded in these battles. There were of course also thousands of dead and wounded on the German side, including some 3,000 missing soldiers, that is soldiers who could not be traced after the fighting.

Franz was among the missing. He fell in the fierce fighting on Wednesday, 26 July 1916.

This photo from “Gibraltar” close to Pozières was taken a few days after the fighting.

There was not much left of anything including the dead soldiers on both sides.

If you want to know more about the terrible conditions at the front, you should read Erich Maria Remarque’s famous book written in 1928: All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen Nichts Neues).

Remarque (whose real name was Kramer) was like Franz a German soldier on the Western Front in World War One. It is a horrifying story of how life was for the soldiers. As the newspaper Le Monde wrote in its review: A man has spoken on our behalf, all us ordinary soldiers.

Here is another interesting part of this story: When for Christmas 2014 we were visiting my daughter and her family in Perth in Western Australia, we came across a war memorial in the beautiful King’s Park for the Australian soldiers who fought and died in Pozières in July 1916 and who came from Perth. They had sailed from Albany south of Perth, had received additional training in the area around the pyramids in Egypt, were then put into the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey and went from there to the Somme front. It is a small world.

Australian memorial in Pozieres.                      Australian memorial in Perth for the fallen in Pozières.

At home in Hamburg the local police conveyed the sad message about Franz’s death to his family.

It was a terrible chock for the whole family but perhaps worst for Moritz, who certainly had hoped that Franz - as the only son – would be the heir to the successful insurance company “Minden und Stern ”.   But it was not to be. Although Moritz had not seen Franz with his own eyes since he was 3 years (due to his blindness), they were nevertheless very close to each other.

This sad message left its mark on Moritz . He died less than five months later – falling down the basement staircase in the family house.

Although they could not give Franz a proper funeral, his name was added on the family’s large tombstone on Nienstädter Friedhof close to the river Elbe in the west of Hamburg:

It reads: In memory of our dear son and brother Friedr.Franz Stern, Res. Inf.Reg. No. 84, bornSeptember 13th, 1895, fallen for the fatherland July 26, 1916 at the Somme.

We visited Pozieres in 2012 which today is a peaceful small village.

There are, of course, lots of war cemeteries and war memorials in the area.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, the German Kriegsgräber-Verband is setting up memorial plaques with the names of all the unknown fallen soldiers on the 1 st of July this year. It happens at the cemetery Fricourt, near Pozieres. Frantz will of course be among the names on the memorial. We are planning to visit Fricourt in the not too distant future.

To put it all into the proper context, it has to be said that The Battle of the Somme lasted only from

the1 st July to the 18th November 1916. Half a million German soldiers, half a million British and Commonwealth soldiers and 200,000 French soldiers lost their lives. And the only result was that the front line moved a few kilometers in one or another direction. A monstrous slaughter took place here, and in our opinion the generals on all sides should have been court-martialed for their deeds afterwards.


Liselotte and Niels Jørgen Thøgersen

May 2016


3rd edition.