Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Memoirs of Gluckel by Gluckel of Hameln written in 1691-1692

"We bless this cup of wine in memory of Glikl. We celebrate the vision,creativity and confidence which led her to write, making visible a part of Jewish experience which otherwise would have been forgotten." From, offering alternative dedications for blessings on the cups of wine during the Passover seder.

Gluckel (1646-1724), the German Jewish writer of this memoir, is a force to be reckoned with. Originally written in Yiddish for her ten surviving children who by the time she is writing, except for the youngest, are all married, this memoir invites us into the world of the German Jewish elite – Jewish merchants, bankers and tradesmen, many of them court Jews to various princes and dukes in German principalities. 

The rewards gleaned from reading this memoir are many: Gluckel narrates an engrossing story about her early marriage, the births of her children, the various advantageous matches she made for them, and the trips she took to attend their betrothals and weddings. She also describes the many business trips her husband and his associates made to trade fairs in other cities to buy and sell jewelry and precious stones. Widowed at 40 with many children to raise, she carries on without him, buying and selling, marrying off her children and training her sons in business. We get a fascinating look at how her children’s marriages were arranged, and how dowries were negotiated. We see how tenuous life was – there is always fright about disease, especially, the plague, and worry about robbers on the road.

Gluckel and her family are observant Jews; the dates she uses to mark an event are from the Hebrew calendar, and on her many trips, she plans with the Sabbath and other Jewish holy days in mind. She is proud of her relatives who are scholars of the Talmud. We see how tenuous life was for the various Jewish communities because of anti-Semitism. For example, she talks about frequent arbitrary expulsions that forced Jews to move and settle elsewhere

You will see when you read this memoir that surnames are quite fluid.  Many men she designates by the city where they come from or where they live. For example, her husband is Chayim Hameln, there is an Abraham Metz, a Judah Berlin. To add to the confusion, one man is called Moses Bramburg, and then is referred to as Moses Brillen of Bramburg. Also, this naming system causes fathers and sons to have different “surnames.” Her husband Chayim Hameln’s father’s name she records as Samuel Stuttgart. And there seem to be informal and more "public" names. The man who Gluckel calls Lippmann Behrens the editor footnotes as Liepmann Cohen.  Gluckel records this man’s son’s name as Jacob Hanover.  This naming is of great historical interest and quite a challenge for genealogists.

You’ll notice how many names listed below, which is a who’s who of the seventeenth century German Jewish community, are intertwined through marriage. It is a dizzying web of relationships, from a distance, difficult to sort out and keep straight.

Click here to go to a site describing a memorial in Altona in memory of the Jewish community deported during World War II created by the American artist Sol LeWill. The site includes an informative history of Jews in Altona.

Gluckel’s mother’s family
Nathan Melrich  – author’s maternal grandfather;
Mata – his wife; author’s maternal grandmother   
    Mordechai – married
        Judah and Anschel – orphaned sons
    Gluck – her mother’s sister; married to Jacob Ree
    Ulk (Ulrika) – her mother’s sister; married Elias Cohen, son of Reb Hanau
    Bela – her mother

Gluckel’s  family
Judah Leib – Gluckel’s father
Reize – his first wife
Bela – his second wife (Gluckel’s mother)
Their children
    Unnamed daughter married to the son of Calman Aurich
    Glikl bas Judah Leib (1646-1724) -  author
    Hendele – married to the son of Reb Gumpel of Cleves
    Elkele - married to Joseph
    Unnamed daughter married to Model, the son of Herschel Ries
    Wolf –  married to the daughter of Jacob Lichtenstadt
    Mata  – married to Elias, the son of Rabbi Model Reis and his wife Pessele
    Rebecca – married to Samuel, son of Chayim’s brother Loeb Bonn (first cousins)

Gluckel’s husband Chayim’s family
Her father-in-law Joseph Hameln; his father was Samuel Stuttgart
Her mother-in-law is Nathan Spanier’s daughter
    Their children and grandchildren
    Abraham - married in Posen, to daughter of Chayim Boas.
        Sarah – their daughter
        Samuel – their son; married to his father’s brother, Chayim’s (and Gluckel’s) daughter Hannah (first cousins)
    Yenta – married to Solomon Gans, son of Sussman Gans; second marriage to Leffman Behrens (editor’s note: Liepmann Cohen)
        Jacob Hannover – their son
    Samuel – married to the daughter of Rabbi Sholem of Lemberg;
        Judah Berlin (editor’s note: Jost Liebmann) – married to Samuel’s daughter
    Esther – married to Moses Krumbach, son of Abraham Krumbach
    Loeb Bonn
    Chayim - Gluckel’s husband

    Gluckel and Chayim’s children
        Zipporah – married to Kossman, the son of Elias Cleve (editor’s note: Eijah Gomperz) and Miriam
        Nathan- married to Miram, the daughter of Elijah Ballin
        Hannah – married to Samuel, son of father’s brother Abraham (first cousins)
        Mordecai – married to the daughter of Moses ben Nathan
        Esther – married to Moses Krumbach, son of Abraham Krumbach
            Elias – son of Esther and Moses
        Loeb – married to the daughter of Herschel Reis, the brother of his  mother’s sister Mata’s  husband  Model Reis;
        Joseph – married to the daughter of Meir Stadhagen
        Samuel – married to the daughter of Moses Brillen of Bramburg;  has  daughter who is brought up by      her grandfather
        Moses – married to the daughter of Samson Biaersdorf
        Freudchen – married to the son of Moes ben Loeb Altona
        Miriam – married to the grandson of Hirz Levy (Gluckel’s 2nd husband)

Hirz Levy (editor’s note: Cerf Levy) – widower; Gluckel’s 2nd husband
Freudchen – Hirz Levy’s sister
    His children and grandchild:
    Unnamed daughter – married to Isai Willstadt
    Rabbi Samuel Levy – his son; married to Genendel, daughter of Abraham Krumbach
        Unnamed daughter of Samuel Levy married to son of Moses Rothschild
Other relatives, friends and business associates of Gluckel and Chayim
Feibisch Gans
Chayim Furst – wealthiest Jewish resident of Altona
    Solomon – his son
Nathan Spanier – first to get permission for Jews to settle in Altona
    Esther and Loeb Hildesheim– his daughter and son-in-law
        Unnamed daughter married to Elijah Ballin
            His daughter Miriam, marries Gluckel’s son Nathan
        Unnamed daughter married to Moses Goldzieher
        Moses – their son
        Lipman – their son
Mordecai Cohen and Loeb Bischere – Gluckel’s relatives   
Abraham Stadhagen – Gluckel’s husband’s uncle and Moses Kramer, his son
Abraham Cantor  and Issachar Cohen – employees of Gluckel and Chayim
Reb Mendele -  son of Michael Speyer – friend of Gluckel’s husband; son-in-law of Moses ben Nathan
Loeb Goslar, Moses Schnauthen, Isaac Kirchain and Feibish Levi – friends of Gluckel’s husband Chayim
Isaac Vas – Sephardic businessman
Dr. Abraham Lopez – Sephardic physician
Hirz Wallich –physician
Benjamin Mirels – uncle of Hirschel Reis; has son Wolf Mirels
Solomon Mirels; has son Wolf Mirels
Abraham Metz - wife, Sarah, the daughter of Gluckel’s relative Elias Cohen
Aaron ben Moses
Samuel Heckscher, son of Meir Heckscher
Mendel Oppenheimer – son of Samuel Oppenhiemer
Chayim Cleve – Moses’ father-in-law
Samson Biaersdorf  (editor’s note: Samson Solomon ben Juda Selka)
    Loeb Biber and Wolf – his sons
Bela, a cousin of Gluckel, married to Baer Cohen; Baer Cohen’s second wife: the daughter of Tevele Schiff
    Mata – Bela’s niece; married to Anschel Wimpfen
    Rueben Rothschild– Mata’s brother;
Febisch Cohen
    Selig – his son; married to the daughter of Hirz Hannover
    Gluckcshen – his daughter; marries a son of Judah Berlin
Jacob – son of Abraham Krumbach
Gabriel Levi – Jewish banker
Lemle Wimpfen – employee of Hirz Levy
Jacob Marbug –

Rabbi Gabriel Eskeles;
    Rabbi Berich – his son; married daughter of Samson Wertheimer
    Loeb – his son
Rabbi Aaron –
    Son married to granddaughter of Rabbi Gabriel
Rabbi Abraham Broda
Rabbi Samuel Orgels
Rabbi Mann of Hamburg; has son Reb Simon
Rabbi Samson Wertheimer – brother-in-law of Moses Brillen of Bramburg
Rabbi Mendel Rothschild

Court Jews: Judah Berlin, Samuel Oppenheimer, Samson Wertheimer, Samson Biaiersdorf, Leffmann Berhens, Samuel Levy, Hirtz Levi (Gluckel’s second husband)


  1. A brilliant article. The list of characters in the book and who they are and the variety od names given to a single individual are particularly helpful, as Jewish names are often bewildering.