Monday, August 24, 2015

Haack'ing into my German Past

This past Saturday was remarkable!   It was the kind of day that genealogists live for. What started out as a mundane research day -- ended with an incredible story lost to time.  I felt as if I was putting flesh on the bones of my ancestors and making them live again.  I discovered once again, what incredible people walked before me ...

I first came to appreciate my father's German roots, when I went to Madonna Cemetery at Ft. Lee, New Jersey in 2006, to visit the grave of my Italian Grandfather.  I was surprised to find that his grave was just one of three side-by-side family headstones.  The middle headstone was a massive German cross with the names 'Haack and Faller' inscribed below the cross.  The last 10 years have been a quest to rediscover these two ancestral lines of my father's parents.  Here's a refresher on the genealogy:  

  • My Father's (John A Milani) Parents:  Thomasine Ida Halloran &  Andrew Nicolas Milani
  • Maternal Grandparents:  John J. Halloran and Mary Haack
  • Maternal Great Grandparents (Halloran branch):  John O. Halloran and Margaret Meaney
  • Maternal Great Grandparents (Haack branch):  John Baptiste Joseph Haack & Ida Faller
  • Maternal 2x Great Grandparents:  (Haack branch):  Peter Joseph Haack & Anna Marie Walburgis Adams
  • Maternal 2x Great Grandparents: (Faller branch):  Alois Faller and Clara Margaretha Weigel

Earlier this year, I detailed in this blog, that I finally located Alois Faller, my 3x great grandfather, buried in the family plot of the former President of the German Legal Aid Society of New York, Charles Hauselt, in the magnificent and historic Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.  Curiously, Alois' wife Clara, was not buried with her husband at Woodlawn Cemetery.  She is buried in Madonna Cemetery along with their daughter, Ida Haack - the couple's only child.  (See also my 2006 discovery of these ancestors in the story: Eureka! Discovering our Roots in New Jersey.)

Ida Faller married a gentleman by the name of John Baptiste Joseph Haack.  They had two children, Joseph and Mary.  Joseph would become a New York City policeman.  Mary, a.k.a. Nonie, my great grandmother, would marry John J. Halloran, a plumbing contractor, of Irish descent.  Nonie was a New York City public school teacher.  

I have been curious about the first immigrant ancestors of the Milani family that came to the U.S.   I am building a database and a narrative around the essential questions of who they were, where they came from, why they came here -- where they were buried, etc.  These grandparents and great grandparents, each had their own unique story and I want to tell it.  Some were escaping revolution and tyranny, some famine, and still others were looking for steady work in jobs ranging from stone cutter to blacksmith, and from laborer to groomsmen.  They risked all to venture across an ocean and to start anew and their story of courage and perseverance deserves to be told.  

The Haack family represents an ancestral branch I knew relatively little about.  Family lore suggested that the Haack's were jewelers and had arrived from Germany in the mid 1800s, settling in New York City.  So I started there and before I knew what 'hit' me, I was finding web 'hits' all over the place revealing ancestral details that are really quite remarkable.  

Some earlier research had indicated that my 3x great grandparents were Peter and Anna Haack -- both born in Germany.  My 2x great grandfather, their son, John Haack,  was also born in Germany.  I thought I would start with Peter -- believing him to be the first immigrant to the U.S. of the Haack family.

My first hit came relatively easy.  I found Peter Haack's application for U.S. citizenship dated 8 March 1849.  Unfortunately, after many searches, I was unable to determine the timing of Peter Haack's arrival into the U.S.  Immigration and travel records on genealogy sites, detail a number of Haack's who came to the U.S. in the mid-1800's, but I couldn't find one that definitively matched by name, descendants, ship's manifest or timing -- or the exact details of Peter's family makeup or request for U.S. Citizenship.  

Peter Haack applied for U.S. citizenship on 8 March 1849.  Interestingly, his naturalization request asks that he:  "....renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign Prince, Potentate, State of Sovereignty, what ever (love the use of 'what ever'!) and particularly to the Grand Duke of Hesse Darmstadt of whom I am a subject."  Darmstadt was the former capital of the sovereign country, the Grand Duchy of Hesse.  Today, Hesse is one of the 16 states comprising Germany.  In 1849, the Grand Duke of Hesse was Louis III.  

As I look at this map, I'm astonished to see that the city of W├╝rzburg, where I lived as a preschooler, is only 90 miles from the home of my 2x Great Grandfather!

I do find it ironic, that Peter's citizenship application date of 8 March 1949, coincides with the revolution of 1848-49 in Germany.  I have not been able to fully research this coincidence, but his arrival is 3-5 years before that of Alois Faller, the future father-in-law of his son John Haack.  You may recall from an earlier blog post, Alois Faller was caught up in the revolution of 1848.  Incidentally, Alois appears to have arrived in the U.S. sometime between 1851 and 1853 -- so I can definitively say, it was Peter Haack, not Alois Faller, who was the first immigrant on my father's side to enter the United States.  How about that?  

'Petrus Josephus Haack' a.k.a. Peter J. Haack was born in 1800 at Valli Ehrenbreitstein to Joseph Haack and Catherine Maurer.  He married Anna Marie Walburgis Adams, at St. Peter Catholic Church, Worms, Rheinhessen, Hessen, Germany, on 20 September 1831.  Anna was born in 1810 and her father was Joanne Baptiste Adams and her mother was Susannae Herzog. 

I tried to find a translation of 'Valli Ehrenbreitstein' but the word valli does not appear to be German.  I can only surmise that it means 'valley' or was just wrongly interpreted from German to English on the genealogical site.  Ehrenbreitstein is a fortress on the mountain of the same name on the east bank of the Rhine opposite the town of Koblenz.  

Could Peter Haack have been born in same town that Herman Mellville mentions in Moby Dick?  
 "...this pulpit, I see, is a self-containing stronghold -- a lofty Ehrenbreitstein..."
or in his Mellville's book, Pierre
 'As the vine flourishes, and the grape empurples close up to the very walls and muzzles of cannoned Ehrenbreitstein; so do the sweetest joys of life grow in the very jaws of its perils.'

Peter Haack was granted U.S. citizenship on 24 Oct 1855.  I was able to confirm this citizenship card below, with Peter Haack's actual citizenship application from 1849.  Unfortunately, I was unable to establish his port of entry and arrival date into the U.S.   As you can see -- both entries are blank on this card and his application does not ask for this information.  

I was unsuccessful finding the Haack's on the 1850 U.S. Census or the 1855 New York State Census.  I tried every letter combination for the word -- from Heck to Haacke -- but no luck finding a Peter Haack.  Moving on to 1860, the U.S. Census listed 5 Haack's living together in New York City, with Peter and Anna as the head of the household, along with three children ranging from 20-28 years old   ... and guess what Peter's occupation was?  Jeweler!  Found him! 
  • Peter Haack, Age 60, Jeweler, with with a personal estate valued at $3000 (about $88,000 today in relative value).  
  • Anna Haack, Age 50
  • John Haack, Age 28, Jeweler, with a personal estate valued at $75
  • Anna Haack, Age 24
  • Josephine Haack, Age 20

Confirming his profession as a jeweler, I then researched the name 'Haack' and paired it with 'Jewelry' in my search engine and came up with a few posting in the New York City directories.  I didn't find anything on the Haacks in the Trow's City Directory, 1848, but in Dogget's City Directory, 1849-1850 -- Eureka!   Peter J. Haack was a jeweler at 110 W Broadway.  

Intrigued by this finding, I wondered what other city directories might hold?  That's when things started to get interesting.  Here is a listing from Trow's City Directory, 1857, for John and Peter Haack, apparently both were 'beer' brewers at 685 Broadway.  My 2x and 3x great grandfathers brewed and sold their own beer?  Now that's mud in your eye!  Keep in mind too -- that John is only 23 years old!  I wonder what they named their brew?  I can think of all kinds of fun names using the word Haack!  

Unfortunately, I could not find a city directory prior to 1857, so I'm not sure when they started in the beer business, but I do know that by 1859, they were no longer selling beer.  In 1859, I found this listing that only includes Peter Haack -- not John Haack:  

As you can see Peter Haack, was a jeweler in business by himself.  But by 1860, Peter and his John were back in business this time at 82 White Street at Haack & Son Jewelers.  Now that's pretty cool.  So John had taken up the family business!  I found a similar listing for 1862 as well.  The following image is from Trow's City Directory, 1860:

But by 1865, father and son were no longer in business together.  The Trow's City Directory, 1865, lists only Peter Haack; there is no mention of John Haack.  Did John leave New York?  Did he strike out on his own -- and if so why?  What happened?  Did he serve in the Civil War after all he would have been 27 years old when the war broke out?  Questions, questions!   .  

At this point, I lose track of Peter.  In 1865, Peter is now 65 years old.  I think he has either retired or has passed away, but to verify this point I go back to the genealogy websites and start searching again for Peter.  I begin too to start looking for family members and especially his wife, Anna.  Sadly, I found this passenger manifest from 1866, indicating that a 56 year old Anna Haack (this was the right age as she was born in 1810) died on board the ship 'Deutschland(see blog post from 26 Aug 15) enroute to the U.S.  Anna had departed the port of Hamburg and was listed as "staying in the USA."  I can find no other Anna Haack in any of the genealogical sites I researched.  Coupling that with the strong coincidence with the date of her birth year, suggests that this was my 3x Great Grandmother.  I can only surmise that she went to Germany, perhaps to visit her family, and upon return to the U.S. she died at sea.  How sad! 

I then find a directory entitled: Jersey City, New Jersey, City Directory,1869.  I find a 'Peter Haack' at 121 Bloomfield Avenue, Hoboken.  Now, the city of Hoboken is literally across the river from Manhattan.  This has to be my 3x Great Grandfather -- but I cannot find anything that will verify that this is him.  In fact, I find no further trace of Peter Haack.  (This is my next big genealogical search!)

Back to John Haack. This is where the story twists.  John resurfaces in 1870 city directory as a jeweler.  But as I looked at the line just below his name, I see that he is now in business in the jewelry firm of  Haack & Diolot at 8 John Street, New York City.  Now this is interesting!   I decided to pair the two names together and do an internet search and the result -- well -- I almost fell out of my chair.  

Who is Diolot??  An internet search turns up a Saintemme Diolot, a Frenchman who was a jeweler and an inventor.  Apparently, he and his partner, John Haack, patented a jewelry piece together -- a scarf-ring!  Who knew?  I went to the U.S. Patent Office website and after a little searching I found this:

Now honestly, I have to admit, that I don't know anything about ring scarfs. The object of the invention was:  

Now that is pretty cool.  But it gets even better ...

As I was researching additional information on Haack & Diolot, I came across this interesting publication: Patent Models Index, Guide to the Collections of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Volume 2:  Listings by Inventor and Residence of Inventory, by Barbara Suit Janssen.  
Excerpted from this publication:

The Purpose of Patent Models

For most of the nineteenth century, the Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application. Inventors placed great importance on their models and viewed a well-executed model as the key element in obtaining a patent. The inventor would often hire a professional model maker to turn a two-dimensional paper drawing into a three-dimensional miniature machine. The inventor might also turn to other skilled craftsmen, such as blacksmiths, watchmakers, or cabinetmakers, to fabricate models. 
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the U.S. Patent Office Model Room and its four halls showcasing thousands of models was of common interest for researchers as well as a popular destination for inventors, the curious public, and manufacturers seeking helpful mechanical inventions. To the inventor, the idea of investors and manufacturers studying his or her patent model offered great incentive to craft a striking, handsome model that would stand out on the crowded Model Room shelves. Stereoviews of the Patent Office Halls of seemingly endless rows of cabinets filled with models were a popular Washington, D.C., photographic souvenir.
The patent model collections found their present home in 1964 with the opening of the National Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History).  

Guess what invention is in the National Museum of American History?  That's right -- the Haack & Diolot Scarf-Ring!!  In the Guide to the Listing by Inventor, on page 62, of the Patent Models Index, you'll find this:  

Saintemme Diolot would partner with my great grandfather at Haack & Diolot from 1870 until 1882.  Saintemme would be awarded another patent in 1874 for an "improvement in ornamental chains or necklaces."  In 1883, they went their separate ways.  John Haack would move just down the street (I believe still in the same building that had many store fronts) to 16 John Street, Siantemme would stay at 8 John St.  After researching many of the city directories from 1870 - 1899, I established compiled the matrix below showing the different work and home addresses of John Haack and Saintemme Diolot:

One of the benefits of finding these New York City directories is seeing both the work and home addresses of my ancestors.  Remember that up to this point I had not been able to definitively prove that the 'Peter Haack' (my 3x great grandfather) living in Hoboken, was my great grandfather.  I was able to prove this definitively when I found the Trow's New York City Directory, 1872, as it listed the address for John Haack as the same address for Peter Haack at 121 Bloomfield, Hoboken, New Jersey.  Eureka! 

I am always amazed at the power of the internet -- how I can sit in the comfort of my home office and access information all over the world.  As I was researching the name 'Saintemme Diolot' I came across an New York Times article dated 7 September 1885.  When I read it -- I slumped in my chair -- my mouth agape.  Three years removed from partnership with my 2x great grandfather, with his business suffering, Saintemme had taken his own life.  In the article below, it mentions that Saintemme wanted to be doubly sure his suicide was successful.  He had finished off a bottle of laudanum -- which is opium -- and then shot himself in the breast in the "woods midway between King's bridge and Fordham."  He left a wife and a child behind.  


I wonder how Saintemme's suicide affected my 2x great grandfather?  How had their business been doing before they dissolved their partnership?  What was the reason the two jewelers went their separate ways?  Was John Haack the stable force that kept Saintemme Diolot grounded and successful?  Unfortunately, all we know is that John Haack continued in the jewelry trade -- apparently, and as we shall find out, very successfully, and for many years -- without another partner.

What do we know about John Haack?  Research has shown that John's full name was:  John Baptiste Joseph Haack.  While John was partnered with Saintemme Diolot in the jewelry business, he married Ida Alexandra Faller, my 2x great grandmother on 29 Nov 1874, at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Ida was the only child and daughter of Alois and Clara Faller.  Ida would gain her naturalization in 1895.  They would go on to have two children, a son and my great grandmother, Maria (Nonie) Haack, on 20 Aug 1875 -- almost 9 months from the day of their wedding, (must have been a helluva wedding night!) and Josef Franz Peter Haack in 1887.  Obviously, the difference in age of 12 years between the two children begs the question of whether the couple had trouble conceiving a second child or they took a time out after Nonie?   For what it is worth, I heard she was a handful!  My source will remain anonymous :).  

Part of what compelled me to want to explore the Haack's in more detail was this email comment from my Aunt Nancy Milani (formerly married to my dad's brother Don Milani), who describes the Haack's:

Tuesday, 10/21/2003  8:35:14 PM Eastern Daylight Time:

"Mom's grandfather (Note:  Aunt Nancy is referring actually to Thomasine Halloran Milani's great grandfather Peter Haack) was thrown out of Germany in 1849, along with Richard Wagner, for trying to start the National Socialist Party.  He came to New York and was a partner in big jewelry store, Black, Starr and Frost.  He was a diamond cutter and a fabulous pianist.  Don did a paper on this subject of his great-grandfather, with the assistance of Nonie ... remember, she was a wonderful pianist and multi-lingual. I wish I knew where the paper was today.  Mom (Thomasine Milani) used to refer to it frequently.  She said when Nonie married John Halloran, the old man Haack (John Haack) stood outside St. Patrick's Cathedral pounding on the locked door with his walking stick, screaming:  "You vill not marry a Gottdamned Irishmun!!" (sic)  Nonie's brother was Joseph and he lived with Don and Jack's family.  Nonie's father never forgave "Uncle Joe" for becoming a NYC cop."  
It is true that Richard Wagner was advancing the cause of Socialism in the Dresden uprisings from May 3-9, during the revolution of 1849.  Because of Wagner's role at Dresden, an arrest warrant was issued in his name and  he took flight to Switzerland where he was exiled.  Unfortunately, through all my research on the Revolution of 1848-49, I could find no reference to Peter Haack or his relationship to Richard Wagner.  

It is also true that Mary 'Nonie' Haack and John J. Halloran were married in Manhattan.  But it is unclear if they were married at St. Patrick's Cathedral.  (I will follow-up on this!)   I can verify too that Nonie did in fact marry a Gottdamned Irishmun and their daughter Thoma  married a Gottdamned Guinea too!   I wonder what John Haack would say to that?

And I now come to the end of the story.  I am grateful that God gave me a mind that loves problem solving -- and genealogy is just that.  It requires a dedication to hard, tedious, methodical, analytical and logical thinking -- something I didn't know I possessed growing up. (Neither did my parents.)  It's this kind of thinking and diligence that has revealed to me many genealogical gems.  It's this diligence that paid off in a big way.  I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post that I had paired the words 'Haack and jewelry' together.  Sometimes a search engine responds more favorably to word pairings than it does to single word searches.   And this past Saturday, well all I can say is:  "Oh my God!!"  

I came across a publication entitled:  The Jeweler's Circular, October 25, 1922, a jewelry trade magazine.  In the publication, on page 89, I found the obituary of John B. J. Haack, my 2x great grandfather!  Low and behold -- for the first time in my life I saw a picture of him.  He lived 88 years and worked in the jewelry profession for over 70 years!  He was diamond broker and then turned to pearls "and he became well known for his knowledge of the gem and for his ability to polish and improve it.   For many years he was probably the only pearl improver in the trade in the east and continued in this business until some years ago, when he again became a broker."  He remained active in the business until sadly, his wife Ida passed in 1908.  Both are buried at Madonna Cemetery under the big German cross simply marked 'Faller - Haack.'   What an incredible story.  Rest in peace John and Ida Haack. 

Next up:  Find Anna and Peter Haack's grave site.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

EG Marshall talks about the Legal Aid Society of New York!

In recent blog I told you of the story of my 3x GGF Alois Faller, who was the first assistant attorney for the German Legal Aid Society of New York.   If you didn’t know the history of the Legal Aid Society, watch the YouTube video and let EG Marshall tell you the story of its founding!  Around the .45-.55 second mark – EG Marshall speaks about 8 lawyers and one importer, and 3 merchants who started the society.   EG Marshall is talking about my 3x GGF!  Alois Faller was one of 8 lawyers and the importer was Charles Hauselt – the gentleman who donated a plot in Woodlawn Cemetery to our 3xGGM Clara Faller for the burial of her husband in 1882.  (Just to follow the genealogy – Faller marries Haack – Haack marries Halloran – Halloran marries Milani.)  

I was able to locate a book on Amazon, entitled:  Guardian on the Hudson:  The German Society of the City of New York, 1784-1984, (by Klaus Wust, published by The German Society of the City of New York.)  Although there was no mention of Alois Faller, they did mention Charles Hauselt.  He was listed as the former president of the society from 1880-1890.  I have attached a photo of 'The German Society, City of New York,' building located at 13 Broadway from 1869-1909.  This is where Alois would have worked! Equal Justice: the History of The Legal Aid Society, narrated by E.G.Marshall, tells the story of the founding of The Legal Aid Society in 1876 as the first organization in the country to offer free legal services to poor German immigrants. It traces the growth of The Legal Aid Society through the decades as services were extended to all New Yorkers in need of legal services and outlines the support the organization received from prominent figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, first as the New York City Police Commissioner and continued to his years as President of the United States and Charles Evans Hughes, a United States Supreme Court Justice, Governor of New York, and founder and partner of Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP. As New York City grew, so too did The Legal Aid Society and the scope of its work to include quality comprehensive representation in three major areas: Civil, Criminal and Juvenile Rights through individual representation and law reform advocacy.

The Elusive John O. Halloran

After much research, I uncovered the naturalization certificate of my 2x GGF John O Halloran.  (Do you know how many John O Halloran combinations there are?)   In this same blog, I had posted his son’s (our GGF's) naturalization certificate of John J. Halloran.  I was able to verify from John J.’s application, the date of naturalization of John O. – and then was able to match the certificate dates in a search.  My 2x GGF John O. Halloran was a laborer and he came over from Ireland with his son, our GGF, John J in 1867.   

I did find a marriage record for John J. Halloran and Maria Haack indicating that the John J's parents were John O. Halloran and Margaret Meaney.  So who is Margaret Meaney?  Where did she come from?  What happened to John O and Margaret -- and where are they buried?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Loving Husband, Father and Papa -- and Holocaust Survivor

I always enjoy my visits to Charleston, South Carolina.  Great weather, a beautiful town and a lot of wonderful memories.  My wife, the former Susan Blas, was raised in Charleston.  We were married at the Mills House, the oldest hotel in Charleston.  It is also where my mother-in-law, Erika Blas, has a rental property at 286-288 King Street, in the heart of downtown. The three story building was old apothecary built in 1836, and it bears the emblem of a registered historic landmark in the city of Charleston.  My wife and I manage the building for Erika and so this past week I had to meet with a local contractor to go over some repairs that needed to be done.
286-288 King Street, Charleston, South Carolina

My father-in-law, Harry Blas, had a delicatessen in the same building under the name of Patrick's Deli.  He had a thriving business and did pretty well.  In April 1991, Harry and Erika, decided to retire, sell the restaurant business and lease the building to another restaurant owner.  The current occupant is Nick's Barbecue.

In this beautiful three story historic building Harry was asked by U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond for his vote.  In turn, Harry asked Strom to help his daughter, Susan, find work after college.  The next year, Susan would move to Washington, D.C., to intern for Senator Thurmond.   Fast forward to 1990 and the 1st floor of the restaurant went Hollywood with the filming of a lunch scene in the movie Separate But Equal, starring Burt Lancaster and Sydney Poitier.

When Harry died in 2003, Erika left Charleston to move to Atlanta to be closer to her only child, Susan, and her two grandchildren Gabby and Jack.  Erika would make annual sojourns to visit Harry's grave, but because of lingering health concerns, she had not made the trip in the last three years.   I had visited Erika in the hospital earlier in the week while she was recuperating from a severe illness. Since I was going to be in Charleston, I thought I would pay my respects to Harry and snap a few photos of his grave site to show Erika when she finally returned home from the hospital.

I arrived in downtown Charleston an hour before my meeting with the contractor.  I headed over to the Charleston Holocaust Memorial in Marion Square to snap a few photos of a Memorial built to honor the Holocaust survivors who had come to Charleston after World War II to rebuild their lives.  My father-in-law Harry was a 15-year old Jewish boy living in Lodz, Poland with his family, when Hitler's Army invaded in 1939.  In 1944, Harry's world fell apart as he and his family were shipped off to Auschwitz to face Hitler's 'Final Solution.'  Most of Harry's family would die in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.  Harry and his brother Baruch were spared the gas chambers only to be put to work at a munitions factory in Austria -- and thankfully, both would survive the war.  Harry and Erika arrived in Charleston in 1966.

The Memorial is a poignant place of remembrance and it was an appropriate place for me to remember Susan's grandparents, aunts and uncles and all those she never had the opportunity to meet.

Behind the memorial is a wall with a bronze plaque with the following inscription:
 ... What began as racial laws to strip Jews of their livelihood, their property and their civil rights accelerated into a campaign to systematically slaughter millions of men, women and children. By 1942, the machinery of mass murder was in full operation. Jews and other victims from all over Europe were sent to some 9000 concentration and labor camps throughout Europe, and to the killing centers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor, Majdanek, Treblinka, Belzec and Chelmno located in Poland.
As survivors of the tragic events in Europe from 1933 to 1945, the following residents of South Carolina have been living testimonies in our midst.  
Hershel Blass, Lodz, Poland (9 Lines Down)
A few of the survivors and their families pose for a picture at the Charleston Holocaust Memorial (1999).
Click here to learn more about this beautiful monument:  Charleston Holocaust Memorial

Harry died in 2003.  This is the obituary I wrote and read at Harry's funeral.  May he rest in peace.
Herschel Blas was born in Lodz, Poland, on June 5, 1924.  He was the fifth of six children born to Sarah and Peretz Blas.  
As a result of the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939, Harry was robbed of his home, his family and the most promising years of his life. Harry arrived in Auschwitz at 20 and was victim and witness to the worst of man’s inhumanity.  He was later transferred to a German munitions camp in Austria.  After liberation by the United States Army in 1945, Harry found himself in the camp’s hospital unable to walk and suffering from the effects of forced servitude and deprivation.  One day he heard his name:  “Herschel, Herschel” being called out.   To Harry’s utter amazement, his brother, Baruch, separated from him at Auschwitz -- and unknown to either of them, had been working in the same munitions camp.

This brotherly reunion began the long road to recuperation and eventually, an extended search for other family members that may have survived the Holocaust.  In many respects this is Harry’s eulogy and that of his family’s as well, as only his brother and he were to survive this terrible tragedy.

While recuperating in an East German Hospital, Harry was befriended by a 17-year old girl of Jewish ancestry by the name of Erika, who had lost both her parents during the war.  While visiting an infirmed schoolmate, Erika learned that Harry was a Holocaust survivor and had no family to care for him.  Erika decided that she would bring flowers to Harry to cheer him up.  This simple act of kindness blossomed into friendship and then into love.  Fifty-two years later this love remains strong as evidenced by Erika’s devoted and impassioned care for a man incapable of caring for himself.
Indeed, Harry proved above all else that he was a survivor.  But to say that he was only a survivor fails to reveal the essence of Harry Blas.  Behind his diminutive stature was a man of tremendous courage and perseverance.  Harry was a fighter.  It was the fight in Harry that made him triumph against tyranny, inhumanity and indignity and every other obstacle that could be placed in Harry’s way.

Whether surviving the Holocaust; running to freedom through the minefields of Communist East Germany with his bride-to-be; to taking a chance on America, New York and ultimately Charleston, Harry exemplified the courage, tenacity and perseverance of his ancestral Jews, led by Moses, who escaped the bonds of enslavement at the hands of Pharaoh.  How appropriate and fitting that God would call Harry home on the last day of Passover.

For these reasons and many others, Pop was an inspiration to me.  I admired the fact that he was a simple man, but in his own extraordinary way.  Pop was a self-made man.  His skills as a kosher meat processor and as a savvy businessman, left a legacy of financial accomplishment that even the most educated and professional man would admire.

To say that my father-in-law had a rough exterior would be an understatement.  As many of you know, he was a man of great stubbornness compounded by a lack of patience.  But when you consider the totality of his life, one can understand his outward nature.  This is not the Harry that I want you to remember.  What many of you may not have seen or witnessed firsthand, was that Harry’s rough exterior hid a tender heart and man of great kindness.  I have been the beneficiary of his deep generosity.  I have witnessed his other sides:  his laughter ~ and also his tears ~ for a young man lost in the horrible memories of a past life he cannot forget.

Pop was a man who loved music and especially the three tenors ~ Pavarotti, Domingo & Carreras and more so if Itzhak Pearlman was accompanying them on the violin.  He liked to say neither of the tenors could hold a candle to Caruso or Mario Lanza.

He loved to spend time with my nemesis, the incomparable Bichon, Augie Doggie.  This dog and old man ~ were two pals inextricably linked by stubbornness so profound, that you would think that they had professional training from a mule in obstinacy.  Inseparable -- and some would say -- insufferable pals, each was the ardent defender of the other.  No one came between the two of them and no one in this family cried harder or longer than Harry when Augie passed last year.

Harry loved his daughter Susan, and the grandchildren she bore were the crown jewels of his life.  He spoiled them with his love and gave them all the joys of youth that one can experience and that he never did.  I am thankful to God that Harry lived long enough to get to know them both.

Pop as you move to your final resting place, know that we your family, were proud to call you husband, father, grandfather ~ pop-pop.  The sea that lies between heaven and earth has parted for you ~ your long journey is over, you are home and at peace.  Rest o’ weary one, rest in the loving arms of your family taken long ago.  
Pictured, is the head stone of Herszl Blass at Emanu-El Cemetery:

To learn more about Harry and Erika Blas visit the College of Charleston's Addlestone  Library Jewish Studies Program Holocaust Quilt:  Commemorating Charleston Survivors.

You are not forgotten Harry!

Harry Blass, 1924-2003