The Hirsch Weisskopf Family

The merchant Hirsch Weisskopf was born about 1787, the son of Jon Weisskopf. Together with his sister Mina he inherited his father’s ¼ of the house in Waggstrasse 1.

At the same time David Seligmann Weisskopf lived in Gunzenhausen. He was married to Vogel Rosenbaum, born 1807 in Theilheim. David Seligmann Weisskopf had studied in Wuerzburg for 9 years and was a professional “Zehngebotsschreiber”, writer of the Ten Commandments. For instance, he wrote parchment scrolls, such as Thoras, The Ten Commandments on narrow scrolls for door posts, and Tefillin. His requests for protection/shelter and a license were denied by the magistrate because there was no need for a “Zehngebotsschreiber” in Gunzenhausen. In 1826 he was however granted citizenship, but as a “Schutzverwandter” (a person in the protection of an official). This seems strange to us, because his father, Seligmann Lazarus Weisskopf had lived here as a cattle trader since 1795 and David Seligmann Weisskopf was born hier in 1798.

Rolf Hofmann has published the family tree in the internet under the following Address:

He was kind enough to make it available to our website in an expanded format. To download the family tree as a pdf file (162 Bytes) klick here.

Under the following Address you can find pictures of some grave sites at the Wallerstein cemetery, where members of the Weisskopf and Wassermann families are buried.

The so called Rabbi Graves
The so called Rabbi Graves: rom left Rabbi Weisskopf’s widow Vogel, Rabbi Kohn’s daughter Zipora, Rabbi David Weisskopf, Rabbi Marx Michael Kohn, Rabbi Kohn’s widow Judith © AG Juedisches Leben

There we also found information about the Rabbi’s from these families.

David Weisskopf and his son-in-law Marx Michael Kohn were the last Rabbi’s with congregations in Wallerstein in Northern Swabia. They had created a very active congregation and when the position of the Rabbi in the congregation in Oettingen became vacant in 1857, they took it over.

After the death of Rabbi Marx Michael Kohn in 1888 however, when the Jewish population continued to diminish in the outlying communities, the Jewish congregations in this part of Bavaria were integrated into the Ichenhausen congregation.

At the same time Moses Weisskopf, son of David Weisskopf , became Rabbi of a small orthodox community in Paris. He held this position until his death at the age of 101. His grave site is at Montmartre cemetery. It is modest, and contains a number of relatives as well. The inscription is severely weathered and hardly legible.

Rabbi Mosos (Moise) Weisskopf of Paris in his advanced years
Rabbi Mosos (Moise) Weisskopf of Paris in his advanced years on a visit to New York © Rolf Hofmann

Another interesting fact in the story of the Weisskopf family is , that David Weisskopf’s aunt (Bertha Weisskopf of Gunzenhausen) was the mother of Rabbi Moses Wassermann, born 1811 in Gunzenhausen. So two prominent Rabbi’s in Southern Germany were actually cousins, whose families originated in Gunzenhausen.

Oliver Sacks © Nancy Crampton
Oliver Sacks © Nancy Crampton

The well known Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks had ancestors in Gunzenhausen too in the Weisskopf and Kohn families. In his memoirs, which were published in German under the title “Onkel Wolfram” he tells the story about how his great grandfather acquired the name Landau.

"As the youngest of the almost youngest (I was the fourth of four children and my mother the sixteenth of eighteen) I was born almost 100 years after my grandfather on my mother’s side and never knew him.

He was born in 1837 as Mordechai Fredkin in a small Russian village. As a young man he somehow avoided being drafted into the army of the Kossacks. He fled Russia with the passport of a dead man named Landau when he was 16. As Marcus Landau he made his way to Paris and from there to Frankfurt (on the Main River). There he married a woman,( who was also only 16). Two years later in 1855, they moved to England with their first child."

His grandmother Chaya Kohn in Germany is also mentioned in this Book. She became the second wife of Markus Landau after his first wife died in childbirth with their sixth child. With Chaya he had another 13 children, and one of them was the mother of Oliver Sacks.

Rolf Hofmann explains the family connections:

Marx Michael Kohn (the very last Rabbi in the District Rabbinate of Wallerstein, before it was incorporated with the Ichenhausen Rabbinate after his death) and his wife Judith, born Weisskopf had these children: Chaja (married Marcus Isreal Landau), Seligmann, Hindele (married Hermann Rieder), Helene Rachel (married Jonas Simon), Zipora (never married) and Pinchas Kohn (married Rosalia Moses). He was a renowned Rabbinate personality in Ansbach.

The grandparents of Oliver Sachs, Marcus and Chaya Landau, with their 13 children in the garden of their house in Highbury New Park (1902).
The grandparents of Oliver Sachs, Marcus and Chaya Landau, with their 13 children in the garden of their house in Highbury New Park (1902)

Standing from left to right: Mick, Violet, Isaak, Abe, Dora, Sidney, Annie
Sitting: Dave, Elsie (Oliver Sacks’s mother), Len, Grandfather and grandmother, Birdie
In front: Joe and Doogie

A great grandson of Judith Weisskopf, Nick Landau of London has helped us a lot with our project. He also wrote us this mail:

It was very nice to hear from you.

Yes, Oliver Sacks is my father’s first cousin. I will check in the book ”Onkel Wolfram” for anything that might interest you. I am surprised that he included Gunzenhausen in his remarks, because his mother was born in England. His father lived in Lithuania (I think) and came to England when he was very young. His mother was the sister of my grandfather, she was born in Kleinerdingen.

Hindele Kohn, mother of Michael Rieder (Burgstallstrasse 9) was the sister of my great grandmother Chaya. As I mentioned before, both were born in Kleinerdingen.

If you check my ancesters in Waagstrasse 1, you will come upon Lazar and Seligman Weisskopf.

By the way, the “Onkel Wolfram” (Titel of the book by Oliver Sacks , was my Grandfather (Dave) later on, but he was not a chemist. I noticed that Oliver Lazar Weisskopf who was a Rabbi who had a penchant for alchemy, lived in Luebeck in the 17th century.Is it correct that Luebeck is in the north of Germany?I

I also see now that he wrote that his mother’s mother was born in Gunzenhausen. I have the family which a cousin in Australia put together, and I can be reasonably sure that my great grandmother was born in Kleinerdingen. I thought I had always heard that she came from there.

I hope that in the not too distant future I will be able to take a vacation and use it to visit the places where my family lived. They were buried in the cemetery at Wallerstein.

My forefathers (David Weisskopf and Mordechai Michael Kohn) were Rabbis in that area, and I have a copy of a newspaper article about them.

My father’s paternal grandmother, Chaya Kohn lived in Germany in 1873. His maternal Grandfather Wechsler came from Schwabach. They came to England at the same time.

My father had a family that came to England before the war. The family tree will include all those relatives that perished. Of course by that we had been in England for 70 years. In those days, before airmail and telephones, regular letters were the only means of keeping connections alive. It was very easy to lose contact.

Concerning the Rieder family, I will check the family tree, as soon as I can. My cousin in Australia compiled it. With the help of the listings in the family tree it should be possible to contact some of them.

With friendly greetings

Nick Landau

Mr. Hoffmann plans to continue to send information about the family.