Senator John Kerry´s ancestors in the male line
(C) Copyright by Felix Gundacker, 2004-2013  Stand: 2. Februar 2013

General observations

When the Boston Globe commissioned me in January 2003 to  verify whether Friedrich Kohn indeed issued from a Jewish marriage in Benisch (now Horni Benesov in the Czech Republic), a family who later converted, I could not even guess the extent of this research, which since then has turned out to be one of the most rewardingly fascinating of my career. Not only because it deal with a putative candidate for the US presidency, but also because it illuminated also the dark side of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy where anti-semitism dodged a successful family and led to their emigration, as well as later persecution of remaining family members under the 3rd Reich, leading to their annihilation in the holocaust.
To augment and complete this part of my research was the most difficult and painful part of my research.

In the meantime much has been reported about this in the media, unfortunately not always correctly - for example Horni Benesov, now in the Czech Republic, was a small village in the former Austrian Silesia, while in fact a sizable town of 4.200 in 1880, or that  the birth of Fritz Kohn was registered  in the municipal chronicles when it actually it was listed in the back pages of Roman Catholic records, as was required by law for Jewish births in lieu of a local synagogue,  or that he was a shoemaker by profession when indeed he was the accountant for a shoe factory. I was even asked by a news magazine whether there could have possibly Nazi members in this family, showing abject ignorance as well as deplorable taste.

Possibly the worst interpretation was rendered by a newspaper claiming the ancestors of John Kerry to have been "Sudeten-Germans", a total misnomer with deplorable connotations;  practically all 4.200 inhabitants of  Bennisch (Horni Benesov) were German speaking (except 3 families claiming Czech as mother tongue); no Jew of this town would have declared himself to be a German national, never mind a "Sudeten-German", but rather as faithful Austrian servants of the Emperor Franz Joseph and his monarchy - that is to the pertaining Austrian part of this "double monarchy"- rather than to present day, post World War 1, Austria.

And of course the language which the Kohn family used at home would have been German (also the official language required) and not as has been asserted, -Yiddish ! 

The ensuing pages will give the reader the most important facts and dates; as with all genealogical research no claim for total completeness can be made, not to mention present day laws of protection designed to protect genealogical information past a certain date limit. 


I owe much gratitude to many individuals and institutions, especially to Michel K. and the Boston Globe whose farsightedness engendered this whole enterprise, much kudos as well as
-  to the State Archives in Prague (Statni Ustredni Archiv, Praha)
-  Mrs. Heidrun Weiss at the Vienna Jewish community Archives, greatly easing acces
-  the Vienna "Magistratsabteilung MA 61 - displaying most unb
ureaucratic assistance
-  to the roman catholic parish of St.Othmar in Mödling
-  the Vienna City Library
-  the Austrian State Archives
-  the City Archives of Vienna
-  DÖW for their remarkable internet-site and data base, especially helpful unearthing lists of deportation
-  the Hungarian Archives of State, Budapest
-  the  Moravian Archives of State in Opava (Zemsky Archiv v Opave) as well as in Brno (Zemsky Archiv v Brno & Archiv Mesta Brna)
-  and furthermore all those which I can
not name separately, who spent hours upon hours in selfless devotion, who actually should be listed in first place !

Felix Gundacker, March 2004

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