Austria - Czech
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Adolf Beer
by
Tom Beer, his great-grandson

       The oldest document amongst the monuments is a handwritten parchment, in German, bearing a 50 kreuzer stamp upon which is the date 1870, and the double headed eagle of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.  It is an extract, dated 1871, from the register of births of what is now the Moravian community of Uherske Hradiste, but was then known, in German as Ungarisch-Ostra, in which Rabbi Aron Grieger certifies that on 12 November 1844 a boy was born to Hanni Schuber.  At the baby's circumcision and naming, Jeremias Beer (who has since deceased) openly declared his paternity so that the baby received the name Adolf Beer, which is the name that he bears unto this day (this day being 15 November 1871).


Photograph taken in  Vienna about 1908 of Adolf Beer (center)
  with his brothers Julius and Robert.

       The wording of the birth certificate implies that Adolf was illegitimate at birth.  Perhaps he was, but there seems to have been a stable, long-term relationship between Jeremias and Hanni that produced two more boys - Julius and Robert.  My suspicion is that the ambiguous wording of the birth certificate was a legacy of earlier times.  In the early part of the eighteenth century Moravia went through a period of virulent and aggressive anti-Semitism as a result of the festering resentment of the growth of Jewish numbers in Moravia. The numbers grew after the expulsion of Jews from Vienna in 1670, because it was the closest of the places to which they could flee.  In the year 1726, it was decreed that only one son from a Moravian Jewish family may marry, and in the following year Jews were forbidden to work as locksmiths or goldsmiths and were compelled to wear beards, which they would have done anyway, and to wear a distinctive costume, which was more irksome.  These decrees remained in force until the imperial Toleration Patent of 1782.

       During this period from 1726 onward, the rabbis must often have been in a quandary when a man appeared on the eighth day after the birth of a son to say, "Rabbi, I must speak with you.  My son was born eight days ago. It is time to circumcise him and to give him a name.  For if the man had a brother that was already married then the imperial edict prohibited him from marrying.  Thus there arose the custom of issuing birth certificates that failed to mention whether the parents of the child were married. 

       Why would Adolf need a copy of his birth certificate?  The next document provides a clue.  It is dated 1872 and announces that the Chief Captain of the Town of Pest, in his capacity as Commissioner of Trades, has inscribed Adolf Beer into the register of trades as a locksmith.  To get this trade certificate when he moved to Budapest would have required Adolf to prove his citizenship and right of residence.  The 1871 extract of his birth certificate must have provided this.

       Until 1867 Moravia had strict controls on the number of Jewish families and where they were allowed to live.  The cities were closed to them.  But on 20 December 1867 the old restrictions were lifted, and Moravian Jews could travel and live in cities. Many took the opportunity to flock to Brunn (or Brno as it is now known), the capital of Moravia.  Adolf took the opportunity to seek fame and fortune in Budapest, though his brothers decided to move to Vienna.

       Having been granted his trade certificate, at the age of 28, Adolf became an attractive match for a young lady.  Adolf, when he moved to Buda-Pest lived at 29 Szerecsen Street with the Kohn-Kriesler family.  It was inevitable that the personable young locksmith and the pretty eighteen-year-old Kohn-Kriesler daughter would catch each other's eye.  Rosa Kohn, the daughter of David Kohn-Kreisler, married Adolf towards the end of December 1872.

       There are documents that tell me that my great-grandfather Adolf was originally born an Austrian citizen.  But one document announces that in 1902 he, his wife Rosa Kohn (or Theresia Kohn according to another document), and their son Dezso - a minor who was born in 1882 - became Hungarian citizens. Why did Adolf need to get this Hungarian document officially translated into German in 1920?  Certainly some questions must have been asked about his citizenship both in 1902 and in 1920, questions that hopefully were resolved in 1922 when he obtained a letter from the Royal Hungarian Ministry of the Interior confirming that, in fact, Adolf's citizenship dated from 1880.

       Other documents, important documents about which I shall write later, tell me that grandfather Imre was born in Budapest in 1875.  On the 14 October 1875.  From this I deduce that Imre's younger brother was not born in Hungary, and a bit more diligent searching around confirms this because I find a German language document that is the birth certificate of Desider Beer, (the official German version of the Hungarian name Dezso).

       Such detective work raises many new questions.  The documents before the First World War all call Ostra by the name Ung. Ostra. I would normally read this as the Hungarian (i.e. Ungarische) community of Ostra. But the 1922 Interior Ministry letter calls it Moravian Ostra.  But if it was Hungarian, and Desider was born there in 1882, why does he need to be naturalized as a Hungarian but Imre does not?  To answer such questions will probably require a nineteenth-century atlas.  In the meantime, I get a twentieth century atlas, and relatively easily find Ostrava that has underneath it (M. Ostrau) - Moravian Ostrau.  It is a city in the country that my atlas still calls Czechoslovakia, very close to the border with Poland and not too far from the Polish city of
Cracow.

       Unfortunately it is the wrong city.  A computer based web search of the Jewish Cemetery project (which in October 1999 was at www.jewishgen.org/cemetery/czosiovc.htm) claims that "Ostroh is located in Moravia - Uherske Hradiste.  The old cemetery is located at 1.5 km to the east, Sololska-Str.  It was called Ungarisch-Ostra in German; Uhersky Ostroh in Hungarian" The quote is wrong.  Ung. Ostra was not called Uhersky Ostroh in Hungarian, though it may have been called that in Czech.  If Uherske Hradiste is indeed Ung. Ostra then it is a town 75 km east of the Moravian capital of Brno. It seems correct.  All of my great-grandfather's papers attest to Ung. Ostra being in the District of Hradisch, and when I finally get to look at the Victorian Jewish Genealogical Society's map of Bohemia and Moravia in 1794, I easily manage to find the district capital, Hradisch, and just south of it the town of Ostra.

       Uhersky Ostroh, as it is now called, is on the River Morava.  The bridge over the river is at the district capital, Hradiste and the main roads bypass the place.  It is now a forgotten small village in Moravia.  At the beginning of the nineteenth century it was an important town for two reasons: it had a castle and had been an important town in the defense of the region in bygone days; and, it was on the river.  In 1800 railroads did not exist, the road system was crude and primitive so that travel in carriages was bumpy and uncomfortable.  Rivers and waterways were the trade routes, and the most comfortable conveyances of the time.  Viewed in this light, Ostroh offered excellent connections with both Vienna and with Budapest.  The River Morava (known in German as the March) flows into the Danube, and Ostroh was the first large town along its banks. The traveler could drift downstream to the Danube and continue downstream to Budapest, or turn right and get to Vienna.


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