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Of Genealogies and Possibilities: A New Year’s Musing

Of Genealogies and Possibilities: A New Year’s Musing

Happy 2015.

It’s that time of year when all the possibilities seem to open up. January 1 is an arbitrary date, of course, but who doesn’t want to believe in fresh starts, in learning from our experiences, even if those experiences sometimes seem arbitrary too?

I ended last year on a sad note, with the accidental death of a friend, Jean, who had become very important to me in a short time, someone who contacted me through this blog. I’ve been contemplating the last clause of that sentence, the doors that have been opened as a result of this forum. Because nothing ever disappears on the internet, Freud’s Butcher remains a portal to a variety of people and experiences, even when I neglect it. I never know who or what will turn up.

Take the picture and the postcard that arrived within weeks of each other in December…

A Tale of Two Siggies (Well, Really Three)

Sigmund and Anna Kornmehl edited

Siegmund and Anna Kornmehl

This blog is named for Siegmund Kornmehl, the great uncle who sold meat to Sigmund Freud, or at least to Sigmund’s wife, Martha; one of Siegmund K’s three butcher shops shared the 19 Berggasse address with the Freud family for 47 years.

But there was another Siegmund Kornmehl noted on the back of the photograph of my mother’s family that you see at the top of this blog. When I first spotted the name, I was sure my mother had made an identification mistake.

But it turns out I had.

This Other Siegmund Kornmehl (whom I came to call OSK) was both a brother-in-law and the first cousin of the first Siegmund Kornmehl and of Siegmund’s sister, Anna, whom he married.  As it turned out, this branch of the family was quite close to mine; I wrote about the relationship in Rewriting My Childhood: A Tale of Mystery Relatives.

I have seen pictures of OSK and Anna in group portraits–he’s the most easily identifiable relative I have because of that distinctive Smith Brothers beard–but it was only recently that I received the picture of them that you see above, sent to me by Jill Kornmehl, one of the many cousins I found through this blog and an invaluable contributor to it. As if seeing that astonishing beard at close range wasn’t exciting enough, the photo gives a view of a rather debonair man with a twinkle in his eye. One who fit the profession I discovered he had.

A Cafetier

Unlike his three male Kornmehl  cousins, OSK went into another business. It was also food related, but a bit sweeter. He owned the Cafe Victoria am Schottentor, not far from where his cousin with the same name and Sigmund Freud lived. I have no doubt that both residents of 19 Berggasse frequented the cafe, though probably not together.

You can see a picture of the exterior of the cafe at the left of the headline. My friend Lydia found a postcard with a picture of the cafe on eBay several years ago; it belong to a Viennese woman named Hannah Brand. But here’s where the second December surprise comes in: Hannah Brand recently found another postcard of the Cafe Victoria on eBay and bought it for me!

Cafe Victoria edited

It’s a wonderful picture of the interior, isn’t it? And what a thoughtful gesture.

What Happened to OSK?

In the family history post I mentioned above, I wrote that OSK died in 1938 of “non-Nazi related causes.” I’ve reconsidered.

This summer I visited Vienna for the first time since the early 1970s. I went to the Zentralfriedhof cemetery, where many of my relatives, including my paternal grandparents, are buried. The only family gravestone I could find, however, was that of OSK:

 

At the time, I was so excited to find a relative and to be guided to his grave by a mystery Bambi surrogate–see Cemetery Schlepping in Vienna: A Shaggy Deer Story--that I didn’t pay much attention to the date of death on the grave: November 13, 1938.

But then I thought about it. That’s three days after Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” which kicked off a two-day series of violent anti-Jewish pogroms on November 9 and 10, 1938, in Germany and annexed Austria. Was it a coincidence that my great uncle died a few days later? I doubt it. The violence visited on Jews, and especially Jewish business owners, was all too well known.

The stamp on the back of the postcard Hannah Brand sent confirms that the Nazis might have coveted Siegmund Kornmehl’s thriving business. At least it doesn’t have a swastika on it.

back of cafe Victoria postcard

And here we are again, back with the Nazis and tragedy. But would I prefer that I hadn’t received that postcard? Hadn’t known my friend Jean? Of course not. The lives that intersect with ours, however indirectly or briefly, open up worlds of knowledge and new experiences, all pieces in the puzzle of living.

So if I can’t promise happiness for 2015, I know I’m safe in promising possibilities. I hope yours take you to wonderful places.

In Memoriam, Jean Phillips, 1953-2014

In Memoriam, Jean Phillips, 1953-2014

This page is for those who knew and loved Jean to post pictures and remembrances, long or short. Feel free to post text remembrances in the comments section here; if you want to have your comments in the body of the post and send pictures,  email me at info@ediejarolim.com, which is the best place for me to get attachments.Continue Reading »

If Freud Celebrated Sukkot

If Freud Celebrated Sukkot

Jews around the world recently celebrated Sukkot, a joyous holiday that follows five days after the very solemn Yom Kippur; it has its roots as a harvest/agricultural festival. I won’t attempt to explain it in detail here; if you want to read all about it, including a discussion of how to pronounce it, here’s a linkContinue Reading »

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Sigmund Freud, Including His Eyeglass Prescription

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Sigmund Freud, Including His Eyeglass Prescription

I’d be hard pressed to guess how many pages have been devoted to the life and times of Sigmund Freud. Hundreds of thousands? Millions? I’ve contributed more than a hundred here alone. But there are still a few things about the father of psychoanalysis that most people don’t know, 75 years after his death, details about hisContinue Reading »

And the Memoir Contest Winner Is…

And the Memoir Contest Winner Is…

First of all, thanks to all of you who participated in the win-a-great-memoir contest. Short and long, the family stories posted in the comments were great. I urge you to read all the them if you didn’t when you posted your own story or if you’re just checking in now. And the winner, chosen by Random.org,Continue Reading »

Contest: Tell Us About Your Family’s Journey, Win a Great Memoir

Contest: Tell Us About Your Family’s Journey, Win a Great Memoir

Besides changing their names, one of the greatest banes of family historians is that ancestors move around–and aren’t always considerate enough to leave accurate records of their new addresses. They move for a variety reasons–some to strike out and start a better life, others, like many of my relatives, to flee imminent danger. I’m often amazed at howContinue Reading »

Funny Freud Friday: Toying Around With History

Funny Freud Friday: Toying Around With History

Yes, it’s been a long time since I posted in the Funny Freud Friday category–or at all, come to think of it–but the timing was right. As a freelance writer, my budget doesn’t include the many Freud tchotkes I covet, so you can imagine how excited I was to find that I could use myContinue Reading »

Karl Lueger vs Sigmund Freud: A Disturbing Contrast in Vienna’s Legacies

Karl Lueger vs Sigmund Freud: A Disturbing Contrast in Vienna’s Legacies

For most of my week in Vienna, my experience of the city was so positive as to be a bit surreal.  I remembered Vienna from the early 1970s — the only time I’d visited before — as being gloomy and dour. I also imagined that, given what I’d learned over the last few years about my family’s history, I would beContinue Reading »

Dueling Desserts, Plaster Poets, & Sigmund Freud: Vienna’s Cafe Culture

Dueling Desserts, Plaster Poets, & Sigmund Freud: Vienna’s Cafe Culture

I’ve touched on the fact that my family members dabbled in sweets as well as meats in my last two posts, which involved my cousin Curt Allina, who lived across the street from Sigmund Freud and who later put the heads on PEZ. But the Kornmehl family also had a direct connection with a quintessentially VienneseContinue Reading »

More Amazing Austrian Inventions! PEZ & Freud, Revisited

More Amazing Austrian Inventions! PEZ & Freud, Revisited

Mea culpa. In my last post, I talked about my cousin Curt Allina, who lived across the street from Freud when he was a boy and who has been credited with putting the heads on the PEZ dispensers. It was subsequently pointed out to me that, in the context of that discussion, I mistakenly identified the following itemContinue Reading »