Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kanitz Ethnology ??

While just googling around the other day, looking for my German roots, I made a fascinating and sad discovery. It seems that some Kanitzes in Germany and Czechoslovakia were of Jewish descent. Some of them converted to Christianity in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Many others practiced their Jewish faith. Several of their descendants were sent to concentration camps during World War II, and many, many died there. Their stories are heart-wrenching. The Kanitz holocaust survivors are haunted by that experience for the rest of their lives.

I have no idea if these Jewish Kanitzes are related to me in any way or not, but it seems likely. I know that my great grandfather, Wilhelm Kanitz, lived in Leipzig and sailed to New Orleans from Hamburg in the mid-18th century. He was a Christian his whole life. However, many of the holocaust victims were from Leipzig. So somewhere in the past there could have been a connection.

The stories are extremely interesting to me, and probably to no one else. I'm hoping I'll be able to track some of the salient facts down someday.

Here's part of the story of Miklos Kanitz. The whole story is very gripping - the woman who hid his family had a son who was a member of the ArrowCross, a military group that helped to round up Jews! His mother had to be so brave to hide a Jewish family!

Miklos Samual Kanitz (1938-2006) was a Hungarian-Canadian Holocaust survivor living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He narrowly escaped being transported to the German death camp at Auschwitz in June 1944 at the age of six, because a neighbor, whose son was a member of the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party, risked her life to hide Kanitz, his mother, and his brother in her potato cellar for seven months until the end of the war.

In 1946, Kanitz's father became secretary of his local Communist Party and later still, deputy-minister of industry for Hungary. In his role as party secretary, his job was to oversee the post-war judicial system in his area. The neighbor who had saved his family appealed to him for the life of her own son, who was due to be hanged for his activities with the Arrow Cross Party. Kanitz's father refused to spare him, because, he said, "saving three Jews does not wash the blood off someone who has probably killed hundreds."

Felix Kanitz was a famous ethnographer of Slavic peoples. He traveled through all of the Slavic countries, recording their customs. etc. He was an artist, and drew wonderful pen and ink drawings of the Slavs and their lifestyles.

Felix Philipp Kanitz (Bulgarian and Serbian Cyrillic: Феликс Филип Каниц) (2 August 1829-8 January 1904) was an Austro-Hungarian naturalist, geographer, ethnographer, archaeologist and author of travel notes.

Kanitz was born in Budapest to a rich Jewish family and enrolled in art in the University of Vienna in 1846, at the age of seventeen. Born a Jew, he later converted to Christianity.[1]

Lammel Kanitz became quite successful. The story of his courtship of his crippled wife is really very romantic! I guess I'll have to buy the book.

A conversation with Edith’s physician reveals that the man Hofmiller so admires was in fact born “a keen-eyed, narrow-chested little Jewish lad” named Lämmel Kanitz. Canny, thrifty, and somewhat of an autodidact, Kanitz learned to make money, pulling off his biggest coup in an unscrupulous real estate deal. Though he’d taken advantage of a naïve woman, he later felt a good deal of guilt at the way he had swindled her out of her fortune. In the end, “he was, rather, in spite of himself, taken unawares by an emotion that was genuine, and, strangely enough, remained genuine. Out of this absurd courtship was born an unusually happy marriage”—and a new life; baptized, Kanitz purchased the privilege of changing his name to Herr Lajos von Kekesfalva.

Lammel's real name was Leopold Kanitz. His fascinating story can be found in a book by Stefan Zweig called Beware of Pity.

This little town in Moravia is actually named Kanitz (Kounice translates to Kanitz in German.)
DOLNI KOUNICE (Ger. Kanitz; Heb. קוניץ), small town in Moravia, Czech Republic. Jews were living there from the end of the 14th century. A "Jewish judge" is mentioned in 1581. The synagogue was destroyed by the Swedes in 1643; rebuilt immediately, it existed until the Holocaust.

Ernst Kanitz was a composer and an impresario. I found a reference to him in another musician's obituary.
He soon made his debut as a professional concert artist, successfully managed by Ernst Kanitz, a discerning impresario who was later to perish in the Holocaust.

This town in Hungary had a least one Jewish family named Kanitz. In the whole town, there was only one survivor of the Holocaust.

Dunapentele, a small town in the district of Fejér, Hungary, is about 70 km south of Budapest, 46° 59' N 18° 56', and 50 km from Székesfehérvár, a larger city with the population of 3,981 (1941). What makes this particular book different from other Memorial books is the fact that it was not written by survivors, as there was only one survivor from those deported, but by the residents of Dunapentele, in memory of those that lived amoung them. Most of the contributions were made by residents who where young children and young adults at the time. They are short sketches almost like a glimpse into the past.

Kánitz family
My mother was their domestic. She loved to be there. They liked her very much as well. As we entered the shop, Madame Ilus kissed me often and used to fill the pocket of my apron with sweets. Lax Jenõ, the dentist married their daughter, Lilike.

Another country heard from: on August 14, 1942, German soldiers killed Jews in the community of Lenin in Belarus. Among the victims were: KANITZ Sholem M Itka Four Children 223R which means Sholem and Itka Kanitz and their four children were killed.

I found the Kanitz name in a lengthy family tree of the Jewish Zerkowitz family. This entry doesn't explicitly say that Nathan is Jewish, but I'm betting he is.

84. Regine5 ZERKOWITZ (Leopold4, Jacob3 KOHN-ZERKOWITZ, Feitel (Feisch) (Franz)2, Juda Lobl
(Leopold)1) was born Abt. 1820 in Pressburg, Pozsony Co., Hungary. She married Nathan KANITZ Abt.
Notes for Nathan KANITZ:
Nathan Kanitz was born in Obuda and came to Pest (probably as a child) in 1821. In 1837, he is seen as
an employee of Emanuel Boscovitz of Pest.
Children of Regine ZERKOWITZ and Nathan KANITZ are:
215 i. Rachel Tela6 KANITZ, born 25 Dec 1837 in Pest, Hungary.
216 ii. Amalia KANITZ, born 12 Oct 1842 in Pest, Hungary.
217 iii. Balvina KANITZ, born 22 Mar 1844 in Pest, Hungary.

Every once in a while I just get in the mood to check these things out. The Holocaust information is really too sad to do on a regular basis.