ABELES, Rudolf, c. 1835, Austria/Hungary



I feel like I could fill  a book with the things I don’t know about my second great grandfather, Rudolf Abeles. Thanks to Ruth Contreras, a Shoah researcher from Pitten, Austria, where he lived in his later years, and a more thorough examination of my grandmother’s oral history, lovingly transcribed to text by my father, I now have some solid clues.

The first clue left in grandma’s oral history is that Rudolf’s father was a well-known rabbi by the name of Heinrich Abeles who served in Pressburg, Czechoslovakia, but was well known all over Austria as well.  We assumed that if Heinrich Abeles was a Rabbi in Pressburg, then Rudolf was probably born there. That “clue” also left us with a lot of unanswered questions. The most glaring problem was that Czechoslovakia was not in existence during Rudolf or Heinrich’s lifetime. In fact, it is no longer in existence today.

Confusing? Yes.

Even more confusing is that Pressburg was not anywhere to be found in any map of Czechoslovakia during its existence. A quick Google search identifies and solves that problem within seconds today, but in the late twentieth century when my mother began her foray into genealogy, it was a brick wall to anyone who had not studied political/historical geography of Europe.

The Confusion of Place:

Bratislava political timeline from WikipediaIt simply hadn’t occurred to us that several wars and treaties had dramatically changed political borders many times over the years between Rudolf’s birth and the time when Grandma told us about the city of Pressburg. In fact, from the time of Rudolf’s birth to now, the city has been known as Pressburg, Pozsony, and Bratislava. To make matters worse, in the last two centuries the city has belonged to Austria, Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, The Slovak Republic, and Slovakia. For more than 900 years before Rudolf’s birth, it was under Hungarian rule.

The changing political affiliation is easily explained by a map. Bratislava is closely adjacent to the current political boundaries of Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia, well without the borders of Czechia as the capital city of Slovakia (November 2018).

Austria-Hungary, 1914. Encyclopædia Britannica.jpg
Encyclopædia Britannica. Austria-Hungary, 1914, Image. Encyclopædia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/Austria-Hungary/media/44386/121069. Accessed November 27, 2018.

Confusion of Name

Although I have come across several different records for men named Rudolf Abeles who could possibly be my g-g-grandfather in both Bratislava and Vienna, we have yet to conclusively identify any of them as our Rudolf. (Vienna is geographically equidistant from Bratislava, and Pitten, where Rudolf was known to have lived.) It’s very possible that I have also seen other documents belonging to him, but the names  are not at all similar.

There are several reasons for that. Ashkenazic names vary widely by each documented instance such as birth records, tax records, bills of sale, tombstones, etc. Depending on the purpose for the name, whether religious, political, patronymic, or a family nickname, one individual could be known by several drastically different names. Add different languages into the mix such as German,  Yiddish, Hebrew, and possibly Slavic or Hungarian, only one of which I have even a modicum of fluency in, and I become completely dumbfounded.

Name differences example, slide47, Given Names, jewishgen.org
Same person, different names according to purpose of document.

Adding to the confusion, is the Ashkenazic tradition of honoring the dead. When a family member dies, especially a parent or grandparent, the next child born is given the name of the deceased. It’s not at all unusual to find several first cousins with the same given name born in the same year. At least it makes it easier to identify the death date of the deceased relative. Of course, that doesn’t work in our case, because my great-grandmother Franzisca, Rudolf’s daughter, had no sons and family members lost track of one another after the Shoah.

Ashkenazic Naming Tradition example, slide 8, Given Names, jewishgen.org
Named after recently deceased relative.

Yet another problem which I have seen in my German genealogy as well, is that of several, seemingly unrelated, given names. For example, my German grandfather was given the name Wilhelm Dietrich Heinrich, and his brother was Heinrich Johann Wilhelm. My grandpa went by the name Bill, and his brother was known as Henry in the United States. I have seen records with the names out of order and even switched, and the only way to tell who the owner of each document is, is by birth-date. Unless of course, you are trying to differentiate between cousins named after a deceased relative, as mentioned previously.

Double names example, slide16, Given Names, jewishgen.org
Two “first” names, interchangeable, used separately or together

Marriage to Charlotte “Lotti” Moses

Rudolf Abeles married Charlotte Moses, who was born c. 1840.

Known Children of Rudolf Abeles and Lotti Moses 

Information provided by Ruth Contreras is in green text.

  • Rosalia Abeles, b. 31 Dec 1863, Brunn bei Pitten, Lower Austria, Austria, registered in Mattersdorf, Lower Austria, Austria
  • Franziska “Fanny” Abeles, b. 21 Feb 1865 ,Brunn bei Pitten, Lower Austria, Austria, registered in Mattersdorf, Lower Austria, Austria
    •  Franziska Abeles married Sigmund Daniel from Wimpassing, Lower Austria, Austria, a salesman
  • Rosa Rebekka Abeles, 28 June 1866, Brunn bei Pitten, Lower Austria, Austria, registered in Mattersdorf, Lower Austria, Austria 
    • Rosa Rebekka Abeles lived  in Pitten in the house where her parents and siblings had lived for a great part of their life. In October 1939 she was transferred to a  different house in Pitten  the Nazis had arianized (Wiener Neustädter Straße 18). The owner of this house was Johann Jaul, a Jewish merchant, and his wife Josefine [who] were deported to Riga. They did not survive.  Rosa Rebekka Abeles was transferred to Vienna and then deported to Theresienstadt and then Treblinka where she was murdered. 
  • Heinrich Abeles, b. 26 Jan 1868, Brunn bei Pitten, Lower Austria, Austria, registered in Mattersdorf, Lower Austria, Austria
  • Moritz Abeles b. 2 Oct 1869 in Brunn bei Pitten, Lower Austria, Austria, registered in Mattersdorf, Lower Austria, Austria
  •  Jakob Abeles born 19.Aug1871,  Brunn bei Pitten, Lower Austria, Austria, registered in Mattersdorf, Lower Austria, Austria
    • Jakob Abeles became a wine merchant. He lived in Wiener Neustadt and changed approximately in 1905 or 1906 his name into Aldor. He was married to Sidonie Gerstl. They had two children: Ernst and Grete. Ernst emigrated to Bolivia where he became Professor of physics at the University in La Paz and moved later to the USA (New York). Documents from him are now at the Institute for Jewish History in Austria 
  • Emanuel Abeles b. 25 Apr 1873 (1863), Brunn bei Pitten, Lower Austria, Austria, registered in Mattersdorf, Lower Austria, Austria
  • Isidor Abeles b. 17.02.1878 in Pitten, Lower Austria, Austria, registered in Mattersdorf, Lower Austria, Austria

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Related Links

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Austria-Hungary, 2018, https://www.britannica.com/place/Austria-Hungary, accessed November 25, 2018.

Warren Blatt,  “Jewish Given Names in Eastern Europe and the U.S.” PowerPoint presentation, July 1998, 18th Seminar on Jewish Genealogy, Los Angeles, Ca. Found online at JewishGen, an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage–a living memorial to the Holocaust.  https://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/GivenNames/ accessed November 25, 2018.