Friday, May 19, 2017

MY MYSTERIOUS ONKEL(S) MAX, unexpected discoveries 2016-2021


In 2016 I wrote:

As you’ll have seen in my previous family posts on this blog, there are a couple of nasty lacunae in my otherwise pretty well covered family-tree.

The biggest and most disappointing one is the failure to find out anything concerning great-grandfather Adolf Gánsl before he turned up in Vienna in the 1870s with his new wife, Julianna. He is said on his death registration to have been born 1844 in Mór, Hungary. And that’s all I know of his early life.

The other mystery is ‘whatever happened to Max’. Max was the middle one of the three sons of Adolf. Pepi, my grandfather, Max, Fritz. So he really was my great-uncle. But it was a long time before we even knew of his existence. Because, what had happened in Vienna stayed in Vienna as far as father was concerned. He had wiped Austria and Hungary from, if not his mind, certainly from his children’s. As he had wiped our Jewish heritage. When my mother related to 12 year-old me how a local social climber had hissed at her ‘Nancy how does it feel being married to a Jew’, I thought how silly, how would she know?

Anyway, Pepi died in 1936, and father left Austria for England and ultimately New Zealand soon after. He was an only child, with one cousin, Tom Stern (not Jewish?) who, with his parents, ended up in Australia. I don’t know when he died* (2021: I do now), but John and I were told that we were the only live twigs on the family tree. Humph! The only offspring of those three Gánsl sons.
Onkel Fritz. He married a ‘less than charming’ lady called Berta and they lived their lives in London childless. But Max? I asked. Oh he moved to Hungary and worked in the wine business… Never anything more. I began to suspect I might have had a gay uncle.

Well, I found out  that I didn’t. Another Gánsl, Petra, from Toronto, got in touch, through the Jewish Genealogy Portal, thinking she might have found the missing Adolf. Alas, the name was right, the area was right, but he was twenty years too young. Shame.

But Petra pursued her Hungarian Adolfing and came up with … a wedding certificate for a Miksa Gánsl. It was Max. 1911 Budapest. Terezia Fuchs.

 And then a second. 1919. Budapest. Gizella Waldmann.

And Lord love me, a third. 1937 Budapest. Erzsébet Brody.

He was 54 by that stage. And do you know what? I reckon he survived the war and into old age. Because one day, when I was in my twenties, I distinctly heard my grandmother say, à propos of goodness knows what, ‘Oh I must tell Max’. Max, if he were alive, would have been by this stage in his eighties. There was a hush round the room … had nana gone gaga, I thought? I think not. Just a little more garrulous with age (‘of course you have Jewish blood, my husband was a Jew’).

So do John and I have more, close family we weren’t allowed to know about? Anyone have a father or grandfather in Budapest named Miksa Gánsl with a wife called Terezia, Gizella or Erzsébet?

Anyway, Petra and I are convinced we are related and she even speaks Hungarian so … go for it, girl!

And then Adolf. Watch this space!


Postscriptum; Well, its not Adolf. Its Miksa again. Ive just found a grave for Giza Miksane Waldmann Gansl 1884-1937 at the Kozma Street Jewish Cemetery, Budapest. I wonder if her husband (who remarried pretty smartly!) is buried there too!

January 2018. The mystery largely solved, thanks to the Jewish Genealogy Portal and Karesz Vandor of Budapest. He discovered that not only was Max's second wife buried at Kozma Street, but also, in 1945, his third wife. And on the record of her death, Max is described as 'néhaí' .. 'the late'. So Nana was having a senior moment, and great-uncle Max was already dead when I was born. I wonder why he isn't in Kozma Street as well.

January 2021. More mystery? Rudi's diary. Christmas 1925. .. die ganze Familie .. Onkel Max und Tante Margit waren her, in Puchenstuben ...  Tante Margit?

Which Max? Yes we have two Onkel Maxes. The other is the ?illegitimate son of Eduard Stojetz's father's second wife. Max Hecher. 

DISCOVERY 2021!!!!!!!!

Max Hecher didn't die in 1914. He was sent, in 1915, to a Russian PoW camp in Siberia. And documentary evidence survives. Unfortunately for his family (of which my brother and I are the only living survivors) that evidence is in the "sold" listings of something called German Postal History ... so the actual papers are lost to us ...

Eduard Stojetz, is of course, my nana Rudi's father. And Max Hecher is the son of his stepmother ... they were very close all their lives .. 

I think I have to rewrite my Onkel Max stories; (1) onkel Max Gánsl (2) Onkel Max Hecher ...

Latest spotting: Onkel Max Gánsl in Budapest in 1928 I am sure. A wine commission agent. Yes, that'll be him.  Remete-utca? That sounds familiar.  But is that Jozsef one of mine, too ....

Gansl József, czégb. Gansl József, férfiszabó, TV, Károlykörút 4.

Ganzl Miksa, borbizományos, czégb. Ganzl Miksa, borbizományi iparüzlettulajdonos, IX, remete-u. 5.

Thursday, May 11, 2017



This little dish of soup must be the most famous facebook food of the week. It has been developed by a team of expert chefs from three hemispheres, compiled by means of worldwide web communications and actually cooked by a wholly inexperienced and untalented cook at the Australian seaside.

Yes, me. And it all happened via … tah-dah! facebook.

Prologue. Scene one: a brisk Wednesday morning. 6am. Wednesday is farmer’s market day, so up and down the hill and home with two baskets of lovely local produce.
Prologue: Scene two: morning chat with Wendy back home at Gerolstein. Much colder there. ‘It’s a soup day’ she said. Yesssssss!

Act I: I got some splendid potatoes at the market. Potato soup. Love it. Milchsuppe. Assemble ingredients. Potato, kumara, onion, garlic, salt-free stock cubes, bacon, parsley and spring onion from my wee garden… and let the chopping begin! Hiccup one. THAT’s not a kumara! Completely different texture!

 Now what? Cry for help! And help he came. England and Germany were asleep, but America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia were awake… and buzzing … my facebook positively sizzled with advice and instructions. And my fake kumara was identified as a Hawaiian Sweet Potato. Oh well, too late!

Act II: Begin. My corned-beef pot seems the right size. In with three big rashers of chopped bacon …

 Add onion and garlic and brown (I refuse to say caramelise, who invented that euphemism?).  Add four rather ancient looking veggie stock cubes melted in 2 litres of water. And then my two lots of potato ..

Check with the facebook panel at each move. Taste. Oh. There’s a great deal of taste. I didn’t expect that. Is it SALT!? I suppose there’s salt in the bacon. Anyway, it’s a deal too tart and almost, well, vinegary … Oh well, push ahead. Bubble, bubble …
Dip into the cooking sherry. Add a handful of parsley and I THINK its spring onion. Add a good dollop of milk. And, of course, a nice pinch of cumin …

There! Taste. Ah. The milk has calmed the salt-n-vinegar tang.

There’s only one thing wrong. In the hours it has taken to compile this ‘dish’, I have consumed the entire bottle of cooking sherry and picked away, and the sun has come out, and it’s no longer a soup day and I’m no longer hungry… ah well, it’ll keep. Wendy says soup is always better on day two…

Act III:  As facebookers, all round the world, wait with hearts awash with soup, to hear the results, I unwrap Renée’s stick blender. My panel ignored my repeated queries: zap or no zap? So I zapped half.

Thursday 11.30am chimes. At last the famous facebook soup is ready! The tasting is nigh. And …

It’s jolly good. It’s not what I expected when I set out to make potato soup, and its nothing like Milchsuppe, though the added milk was a grand touch. The vinegary thing I didn’t like has gone. The Hawaiian potato is indistinguishable from the Australian. But where did all that flavour come from? Ah, well, ask not!

Act IV: Bit of excitement in the family today. ‘Nephew’ Darby got his US visa and is off to America to study and play gridiron. Celebration dinner is in order. Which restaurant? But hey. I’ve been to the market. I’ve got Dorpfer Lamb Patties. And I’ve got Facebook Soup. We’ll eat ‘in’!

Noise at the door. Oh, it isn’t Darboy, it’s the man staying next door. Do I like king prawns? Do I what! For me? Bless him!

So we had a feast fit for a footballer. And the soup? I think he must have liked it. There’s just enough left out of the 2 litres for me to have a wee bowl for breakfast…

I think Facebook Soup has to be accounted a success. I might have to make another gallon. It’s looking a little grey outside ..

Monday, May 1, 2017

When you come to the 'end' of a working day

Started at 6.15am. Etelka Gerster. German, Italian, French, American ... head's ringing.

Come 3pm. Eyes screen tired. Sun shining. Out the front door

Across the road

Down the path




Little wave

Bigger wave

Wet trousers.
via sand

to dusktime office

Ready for evening session

Hang on. Something's missing

That's better. OK Mrs Gerster. Here we go again. Refreshed and refuelled ...