Velvet anniversary

In almost all Eastern European countries, 2014 is the twenty-fifth year. On 9 November the Berlin wall fell, and on 17 November there began in Prague’s Wenceslas Square the mass protest, which grew into a general strike, and by the end of the month overthrew the Czechoslovak Communist leadership.

Commemorations have taken place during the whole week in Prague. First of all, on Wenceslas Square, where on Monday, 17 November thousands gathered (and also protested against President Miloš Zeman), and candles have been continuously lit at the statue of St Wenceslas’ and at the Jan Palach memorial.

velvet1 velvet1 velvet1 velvet1 velvet1 velvet1 velvet1 velvet1 velvet1 velvet1 velvet1

In the weekly Respekt, a selection was published of pictures from twenty-five years ago by Karel Cudlín, former personal photographer of President Václav Havel.

velvet2 velvet2 velvet2 velvet2 velvet2 velvet2 velvet2 velvet2 velvet2 velvet2 velvet2

The close interconnection of the events in 1989 is illustrated by the exhibition in the Vítkov Hill monument, about how the East Germans who had fled to Prague were allowed out to the west in September 1989, which, together with the opening of the borders of Hungary, contributed to the fall of the Berlin wall, which then aided the success of the Prague protests.

velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3 velvet3

The bookstores have been inundated with biographies and photo albums of Václav Havel. In the Lucerna, the representative cultural passage and movie palace next to Wenceslas Square, a week-long “Film Festival of Freedom” has been organized, which solemnly ended with the premier of the first movie on President Havel’s life: Život podle Václava Havla, “Life according to Václav Havel”. The film, realized in collaboration with Czech Television and the French-German channel Arte, was composed by Andrea Sedláčková from two hundred hours of documentary films and several family photos. It follows Havel’s life from his childhood – and even from his grandparents’ life –, carefully balanced and face-lifted, cleaned from every disturbing element, and smoothed. The film, which, according to its rather negative, but fair review, was made “for schools, for the anniversary and for the foreign public”, produces a canonized biography of the great president for posterity. It is no coincidence, that the presentation took place in Lucerna, built by the president’s grandfather, Vácslav Havel – a leading construction contractor of Prague in the the early 20th century –, and owned by the president’s second wife, Dagmar Havlová (whose merits are duly emphasized in the film). From now on, this will be the past.

velvet4 velvet4 velvet4 velvet4 velvet4 velvet4 velvet4 velvet4 velvet4


seagulls seagulls seagulls seagulls seagulls seagulls seagulls seagulls seagulls seagulls

Young Russia – the land of unlimited possibilities

On 17 November, under this title, there was published a special issue of National Geographic on Russia. Wait, not in this November. Exactly a hundred years ago, in 1914.

But the title was just as timely as it is now, even more so. In recent decades, research has increasingly confirmed that, in contrast to the commonplaces of post-1917 propaganda, pre-war Russia had ahead of it very promising signs of economic and social development, which was set back and led astray first by the war, and then by the revolution.

Lenin leads astray the peasant class, who, however, at this time only laugh at him

Edited by Gilbert H. Grosvenor, this special issue for the first time provided a detailed overview for the American public on Russia’s geography, history, economy, customs, traditions and its future in a prospect which he considered extremely bright. He thought that by the late 20th century Russia would be able to provide half the world’s population with food, while increasing its own population to 600 million. He quotes Tocqueville: “There are at the present time two great nations in the world … the Russians and the Americans … Their starting-point is different, and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.” This one prophecy would not have disappointed him.

“Where race suicide has never been heard of … The Russians are noted for their fecundity …” This is enough proof that the issue does not come from today. According to the UN forecast, if trends do not improve, the population of Russia could fall by a third by 2050.

The magazine was illustrated with a hundred great black-and-white photographs and extensive text that is so informative, that today’s National Geographic really could take it as an example. It even included sixteen color images, which sounds surprisingly premature at this time – but if you look closely, the sixteen pictures were hand-colored.

ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914 ng1914

The black-and-white images and text of the special issue can be browsed in its entirety here.


I took this picture exactly seven years ago, in November 2007 in Yazd, the Zoroastrian clay city, somewhere in the bazaar neighborhood, in the labyrinth of indoor passages covered by garlands of domes. I published it here at río Wang two years later, together with another picture from Yazd – the third one was made in Shiraz, in the courtyard of the Vakil mosque, where we observed the cats playing during the silence of a lunch break –, as an illustration to the post, in which I introduced three beautiful Sephardic songs at the request of my friend, who had only heard commercial Sephardic music before that: the King Nimrod, the Dream of the Princess, and the Bride. I chose these pictures not only because of their oriental atmosphere, but also because it was here, in Yazd, that I first met Iranian Jews. They were women in colorful headscarves, who, recognizing in us the stranger, casually greeted us, and invited us to the bar mitzveh of the rabbi’s son. They roasted goats in the arcaded courtyard of a large medieval house, at the goldfish pool, and the diaspora came together even from the distant cities of Iran, there was an immense crowd.

Seven years later I came across this photo again. Browsing the web site of the Sephardic community of Santa Marta in Columbia, I reached the local publication Colonia Magazine – in free translation, “The Shtetl News”. And arriving at the bottom of the page, I also saw the elegant front page of the publication, which was decorated by iconic Sephardic pictures: a Star of David, a Seder table, a rabbi, a Sephardic band, a Jewish newspaper next to the coffee cup – and the indoor passage of Yazd, with the Zoroastrian or Shiite father, who carried in his arm his little son looking up to the light. And by stepping over to the initial page of the site, automatically resounded the song, which I had also started my post with: King Nimrod.

The picture found its way home.

All that is important

A common feature of the hitherto presented war phrasebooks is that sixty or seventy years later these volumes were rare guests on the shelves of second-hand book stores – and those published in the Soviet Union were even quickly destroyed. Would you have believed that there is at least one, which has been in use for generations to learn language, right up until today?

The Polish phrasebook by István Varsányi is well known to Hungarian students of Polish. If you leaf through it until the list of sources on the last page, the first book and its year of publication will immediately strike your eye.

Wladysław Szabliński: Wszystko co ważne. Minden ami fontos (“All that is important”). Debrecen, Városi nyomda, 1940

My friend József Mudrák, who works at the University of Debrecen, shared with me accurate and interesting information on the author. Wladysław Szabliński vel Krawczyk was the Polish lector of the Tisza István University in Debrecen from the thirties. He was born in Warsaw on 7 December 1912. On 1 September 1935 he was already teaching at the university, and took an active part in the work of the summer university, too. He had an excellent command of Hungarian, many people only knew him as “Szablinski László”, and he had a Hungarian wife, Ágnes Juhász. The example sentences of his phrasebook make you understand why the Nazi cultural attaché demanded his dismissal in the summer of 1941. Of course, Szabliński was not fired by the university, he was allowed to stay, although in a different position, as a librarian, from February 1942.

RADIO / we listen to the radio / let us look for London / let us listen to what Budapest broadcasts

In February 1944 Professor Adorján Divéky (the former Hungarian lector of the Warsaw University and former director of the Hungarian Institute in Warsaw) proposed his renewed appointment as a lector, because “the Hungarian government for its own part still considers valid the Hungarian-Polish cultural convention”. However, one month later, after the German occupation of Hungary, this could not take place, and Szabliński coul dnot have written example sentences like the ones above without retaliation.

“Attention! The unauthorized possession or operation of any radio station – even VHF – is a crime, which will be judged by the summary court.”

“In terms of the decree of the government, listening to hostile or foreign radio stations is forbidden and severely punished”. Villám, 15 June 1944

Szabliński fulfilled his task as librarian until 17 June 1944.

After the above, you will not be surprised by the currency of the topics that he gave to his students.

WAR / the British government sent an ultimatum to the German government / the German government rejected the ultimatum / England declared war on Germany / the Germans invaded Poland without ultimatum / the technical superiority was on the German side / defense reports / our army is rapidly advancing

our troops repulsed the hostile attack / there is tranquility on the front / the enemy was lured into a trap / the French troops went on counterattack / the soldiers dug trenches and forced the taken positions / the German troops retreated to the previously chosen positions / the hostile troops fled in disorder / we have won the battle! / the enemy’s defeat is unavoidable / the Siegfried Line was broken through / an air attack was ordered against Warsaw / the anti-aircraft artillery shot down two planes / they dropped twenty bombs / the public buildings were bombed / the civilians suffered the most / they bombed the Red Cross hospital / we had ten casualties and forty-three wounded / the losses of the enemy are unknown / the troops encamped / the siege of Warsaw lasted nearly a month / the fort garison surrendered

A glorious alternative history unfolds from the example sentences of the book. Britain and France did not let down their ally in a shameful way, as they did in reality, but, as they previously agreed, they immediately attacked the German aggressor. Thus, Poland came out of the war as a winner.

Britain successfully continues his anti-submarine campaign / the resources of the enemy are exhausted / they signed an armistice / peace talks began / they made peace / the defeated enemy had to sign the peace treaty

The Hungarians also shed blood for their independence / now the fourth division of Poland took place / now the Poles took over the Hungarian watchword: no, no, never! / We won’t let ourselves!

One thing is sure: Wladysław Szabliński was a courageous person. Professor István Varsányi, whose life was also adventurous and would make a good movie, had a good reason to refer to this booklet as his source in the last page of his book. He was a courageous person, too: in May 1957, just a few months after the suppressed revolution of 1956, to explicitly refer to this volume as a source, which included, among others, the following two pages, meant no little risk. Perhaps he only wanted to commemorate Szabliński, but it is also possible, that, like Szabliński, he wanted to recall the disaster of downtrodden Hungary, and to remind readers that Poland could rise up from a much more difficult situation, and rebuild itself. Here is, therefore, an example showing that anything can succeed, nothing is impossible.

And this is all that is important.

Map of interwar Poland (maked in dots and, subsequently, in red, the Ribbentrop-Molotov line of 1939 dividing the country between the Nazis and the Soviets), and the borders of Hungary between the recapture of Subcarpathia (15 March 1939) and the Second Vienna Award (30 August 1940) – that is, in the period, when the little guide leads Sándor Török to the common Hungarian-Polish border.

The Anthem of Poland / “Poland is not yet lost, as long as we live!” / “Long live Poland!”

In search of Adolf Guttmann. 1. A survey

Two sisters with a friend. Left, the youngest, Salomina Franciska Guttmann, called Myra, and in the middle the eldest, Magdalena Elizabeth Guttmann, called Madge

Family album:
Alba, 1867
Jo’burg, 1880
Hong Kong, 1897
Marseille, 1900
Paris, 1904
Valenciennes, 1918
Buenos Aires, 1930
Two sisters posing in the photo. We left them in the year of 1900 in Marseille. With the exile that lay before them after the Boer War, a page of history was closed to them: they returned to Europe, the continent their mother’s ancestors had left more than two centuries earlier, in 1685, after the revocation of the edict of Nantes and the expulsion of the Protestants by Louis XIV. They left Motte-d’Aigue of Provence, La Rochelle, Poitou, Normandy, they fled to the Netherlands, and from there in 1688 they were shipped to the colony of the Cape of Good Hope.

Two sisters. Their mother, a descendant of French Huguenots, had died five years earlier. We will not speak about her now.
Their father was born somewhere in Poland – or Germany – in the mid-nineteenth century, and nothing was known about him: neither where he came from, nor where he disappeared.
About this man we had not known anything sure for a long time. He was sometimes German, sometimes Polish, and sometimes – there my grandmother lowered her voice – a Jew. The only Jew in the family, and we did not even know who he was – a Pole, a German? Anyway – the voice of my grandmother turned normal – he converted, so he was not a real Jew any more.
She told me that this man was the father of my great-grandmother, and that later they chased him away by whip – this “they” might have been his wife, but also his daughter Madge, the elder sister of my great-grandmother, or even Myra herself. I do not know, I have heard this story so many times, without really believing it.

About him, we have nothing, not a single picture, no story beyond the fact that they chased him away, no explanation. No date or place of birth or death. Just a name: Adolf Guttmann or Gutmann, born in the mid-nineteenth century somewhere between Berlin and Warsaw, and died after 1900 somewhere in Africa.

Map of the European part of the Russian Empire. Atlas of the World, James Wyld, 1864

For a long time I have not wanted to know anything about this South African story. For a long time, research has produced only very meager clues.
And then gradually the pieces of the puzzle have begun to fit.

guttmann1 guttmann1 guttmann1

The first path leads to England, Sheffield. In the mid-nineteenth century, the brothers Tobias and Isaac Guttmann embark upon watchmaking and cutlery. Tobias had his shop at 22 High Street, and Isaac’s was at 21 Fargate, where he also had a jewelry store. Both were respected members of the Jewish community of the city. Both had many children: Joseph, Alexandra, Florence, Bertha, Jeannette Marie to Isaac, another Bertha, Leonora, another Joseph, Rosie, Philip and Edith to Tobias – and these are only the children who survived. Probably not everything works marvelously for the two brothers: Isaac unfortunately went bankrupt in 1860 – but then he went into business with his brother, and they founded the Guttmann Brothers watchmaker’s house, this time, a success.

guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2

But neither Isaac, nor Tobias were from England. Although the date of their immigration remains unknown, we know they were born in 1833 and 1835, respectively, in Kalisz, Russian Poland, a few miles from the Prussian border, one of the westernmost shtetls of the Russian Empire.

Kalisz, the Jewish quarter Chmielnik on a postcard sent in 1904 (the double date – 3/16 June – refers to the Russian/Julian and the European/Gregorian calendar). “The Khmelnik suburb”, describes the sender in somewhat confused French, “whose name comes from Russian and Polish khmel, ʻhops’, is a street flanked by cabarets de l’eau de vie [brandy pubs].”

When Adolf, around 1880, arrived in South Africa with a lot of knives to start his small business as a peddler, he came directly from Sheffield, 22 High Street, Guttmann Brothers, watchmakers-cutlers. But then, neither Tobias, nor Isaac had any such son named Adolf, and no Adolf Guttmann figures in the birth records in Britain.

What was, then, the Adolf’s real family? And how was he related to these Guttmanns of Sheffield?
The tracks have long been blurred. So little has been left about Adolf: a document of marriage, a name on the birth certificates of his children, some allusions apropos of a letter, and his death certificate – finally, a clue.
Apparently, he died in Johannesburg in 1922, “at the age of 74”.
Well, then he was born somewhere between Berlin and Warsaw, around 1848.
But then, among all Guttmanns, whose birth certificates have been preserved here or there, from the east to the west of Europe, there is no Adolf Guttmann, either in, or before, or after 1848. None.
Yet Adolf, at a very small scale, became one of the links of the small South African politics on the eve of the Boer War – a small link between the Jews and Afrikaners of Johannesburg, who were convinced of their racial superiority. A link well enough placed to make his daughters in 1902 the heroines of the Boer War in a Hungarian periodical, which wrongly considers them as the granddaughters of President Kruger.

“Boer women in arms.
The combativeness of the Boers from the very beginning is well shown by the fact, that in addition to men, not only old people and children, but even women take up arms.
Namely, an Amazon unit in uniforms was formed in Pretoria. Here we present three of their members, who all are granddaughters of Kruger. They are Mrs. Eloff, Miss Mira Guttmann and Miss Flanagan.
These ladies have now accompanied their old grandfather on his European tour.”

Photo published in the Hungarian journal Vasárnapi Újság on 30 december 1900.
The image is different from, and nevertheless similar to the one above: Madge has just turned her head. But the image quality is much lower, so that possibly a second photo, taken during the same session, was touched and engraved, was used for the publication.


However weak the traces are, you feel good when one day you finally come upon them. A phrase in an article, an allusion which opens new routes, and finally it is there.

This second trail follows a winding path as far as to Poland. It all starts with a letter sent from Warsaw, and stored in an archive file somewhere in Pretoria.
According to this one, Adolf had a sister, Franciszka Goldberg, née Guttmann, who lived in Warsaw, and who, around 1902, at the end of the Boer War, wrote to the South African authorities to obtain news of her two brothers, Adolf and Izidore Olympius.

This Franciszka, the sister of Adolf, was easy to find. She was born in October 1860 in Warsaw, a daughter of Henryk Guttmann and his wife Salomé Redlich. Henryk and Salomé married in 1857 in Kalisz, where both of them were born. This time the archive records are quite clear. Henryk turns out to be the third Guttmann brother, the one who stayed in Poland. He appeared as Henry in the English sources, and as Henryk in the birth certificate of his daughter in Warsaw.

This is, then, the father of Adolf, Henryk Guttmann.

Henryk Guttmann in 1864 – I cannot identify the object in his left hand

Among the three Guttmann brothers, he is the only who does not bear a Jewish first name. In fact, he took the name Henryk at the moment of moving to Warsaw. At his birth, in 1824 in Kalisz, he was registered as Hajman Nuchem Guttman, and it was under this name that he married Salomé Redlich in 1857.
The birth certificate of his daughter, born in Warsaw in 1860, bears the name Henryk – but he had already two sons in Kalisz, in 1858 and 1859, whom he registered under his previous name, Hajman Nuchem Guttman: they are Joseph and Izidore, the two brothers of Franciszka.

And Adolf? Our Adolf, who died in 1922 at the age of 74, and thus had to be born in 1848?

One. This is only a hypothesis, but it may be that Adolf’s death certificate had an error, or it was misread by the one who transcribed it, and that his age at death was 64 instead of 74, and thus he was born not in 1848, but in 1858.

Two. Hajman Nuchem Guttmann and Salomé Redlich had two sons in Kalisz, in 1858 and 1859. This is, of course, also a hypothesis, but as Hajman could change his name to Henryk, he could also choose for his firstborn, Joseph, another, less Jewish, and more modern and European first name, Adolf.

Let us sum it up. Thus, a Jewish child from the shtetl of Kalisz, in Russian Poland, moved to Warsaw at the age of two, and albeit born as Joseph in 1858, he became Adolf for the rest of his life. This Adolf went then to Sheffield to meet there his uncles, Isaac and Tobias, and his cousins, Joseph and Joseph, all of them watchmakers, jewelers and cutlers. From there he set out in the late 1870s, in the company of a cousin Joseph, to South Africa, and there, by virtue of a big jump, about which we do not know much, some years later he became a small link between the Jews of Johannesburg and the Pretorian Afrikaners, closer to the political and economic power. Perhaps also closer to fortune?

A case to be followed.

A la recherche d'Adolf Guttmann (1) : une enquête

Deux sœurs côte à côte avec une amie : à gauche la cadette, Salomina Franciska Guttmann dite Myra, et au centre l’aînée, Magdalena Elizabeth Guttmann dite Madge

Album de famille:
Alba 1867
Jo’burg, 1880
Hong-Kong, 1897
Marseille, 1900
Paris, 1904
Valenciennes, 1918
Buenos Aires, 1930
Deux sœurs qui prennent la pose. On les avait laissées là à la fin de l’année 1900 à Marseille. Avec cet exil qui s’ouvrait devant elles après la guerre des Boers, une page d’histoire se refermait : elles rentraient en Europe, ce continent que les ancêtres de leur mère avaient quitté plus de deux siècles auparavant lors de la révocation de l’édit de Nantes et l’expulsion des protestants de France par Louis XIV en 1685. Ils avaient quitté la Motte-d’Aigue en Provence, La Rochelle, le Poitou, la Normandie, ils avaient fui en Hollande et de là, en 1688, ils s’étaient embarqués pour la colonie du Cap de Bonne-Espérance.

Deux sœurs. Leur mère, la descendante de huguenots français, était morte cinq ans plus tôt. D’elle, pas un mot pour l’instant.
Leur père, lui, était né quelque part en Pologne — ou en Allemagne — vers le milieu du XIXe siècle, et nul ne savait rien de lui : ni d’où il venait, ni où il avait disparu.
De cet homme, longtemps, nous n’avons rien su ou presque. Il était parfois Allemand, parfois Polonais et — là ma grand-mère baissait la voix — juif. Le seul juif de la famille et on ne savait même pas ce qu’il était — un Polonais, un Allemand ? La voix de ma grand-mère remontait — converti tout de même, plus vraiment juif non plus.
Elle me racontait que cet homme avait été le père de mon arrière-grand-mère et qu’ensuite on l’avait chassé à coups de cravache — « on » était peut-être sa femme mais « on » pouvait également être sa fille, Madge, la sœur aînée de mon arrière-grand-mère, peut-être Myra également, je n’ai jamais bien su : j’ai entendu tant de fois cette histoire sans y attacher foi.

De lui, rien ne semblait avoir survécu, pas une seule photo de lui, pas une anecdote au-delà du fait qu’on l’ait chassé, pas une explication. Ni date ni lieu de naissance, ni date ni lieu de décès. Juste un nom : Adolf Guttmann ou Gutmann, né au milieu du XIXe siècle quelque part entre Berlin et Varsovie et mort après 1900 quelque part en Afrique.

Carte de la partie européenne de l’Empire russe, Atlas of the World, James Wyld, 1864

Longtemps, je n’ai rien voulu savoir de cette histoire sud-africaine. Longtemps, les recherches n’ont donné que de très maigres indices.
Et puis peu à peu les pièces du puzzle se sont emboîtées.

guttmann1 guttmann1 guttmann1

La première piste mène en Angleterre, à Sheffield. Les frères Tobias et Isaac Guttmann se lancent dans l’horlogerie et la coutellerie vers le milieu du XIXe siècle. Tobias avait sa boutique au 22 High Street, et Isaac la sienne au 21 Fargate où il tenait également une bijouterie. Ils appartenaient tous deux à la communauté juive de la ville dont ils étaient des membres respectés. L’un et l’autre ont eu beaucoup d’enfants : Joseph, Alexandra, Florence, Bertha, Jeannette Marie chez Isaac ; Bertha encore, Leonora, Joseph de nouveau, Rosie, Philip, Edith chez Tobias — et ce ne sont que les survivants. Tout ne va sans doute pas toujours à merveille pour les deux frères : Isaac a malheureusement fait faillite en 1860 — mais il s’est ensuite associé à son frère pour fonder la maison Guttmann Frères, horlogers, un vrai succès cette fois-ci.

guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2

Mais ni Isaac ni Tobias ne sont originaires d’Angleterre. Si la date à laquelle ils ont émigré reste inconnue, nous savons qu’ils sont nés, le premier en 1833 et le second en 1835 à Kalisz, en Pologne russe, à quelques km de la frontière prussienne, l’un des shtetls les plus occidentaux de l’empire russe.

Kalisz, le quartier juif de Chmielnik sur une carte postale envoyée en 1904 (la double date – 3/16 juin – fait référence aux calendriers russe/julien et européen/grégorien). « Le faubourg Khmelnik » , décrit le correspondant dans un français un peu confus, « dont le nom khmel provient du russe et du polonais houblon, est une ruelle entourée de cabarets de l’eau de vie […] »

Lorsque Adolf est arrivé en Afrique du Sud vers 1880 avec un lot de couteaux pour débuter son petit commerce de colporteur, il venait tout droit de Sheffield, tout droit du 22 High Street, Guttmann Frères, horlogers - couteliers. Mais voilà, ni Tobias, ni Isaac n’ont eu de fils prénommé Adolf et aucun Adolf Guttmann ne figure sur les registres de naissance en Grande-Bretagne.

Qui alors était la vraie famille d’Adolf ? En quoi était-il apparenté à ces Guttmann de Sheffield ?
Là, les pistes sont restées longtemps brouillées. Car il reste si peu de choses d’Adolf : un acte de mariage, un nom sur les actes de naissances de ses enfants, quelques allusions au hasard d’une lettre, et son acte de décès — un indice, enfin.
Il serait mort à Johannesburg en 1922, « âgé de 74 ans ».
Bien, le voilà désormais né quelque part entre Berlin et Varsovie, vers 1848.
Mais voilà, parmi tous les Guttmann dont l’acte de naissance a été conservé ici ou là, de l’Est à l’Ouest de l’Europe, il ne figure aucun Adolf Guttmann, ni en 1848, ni avant, ni après. Aucun.

Pourtant Adolf, à une toute petite échelle, est devenu l’un des maillons du petit monde politique Sud-africain à la veille de la guerre des Boers — un petit maillon entre les juifs de Johannesburg et les Afrikaners sûrs de leur supériorité raciale de Pretoria : un maillon suffisamment bien placé pour que ses filles en 1902 figurent en héroïnes de la guerre des Boers jusque dans un périodique hongrois qui les présente, à tort, comme les petites-filles du président Kruger.

« Des combattantes boers en armes
La combativité des Boers depuis le début du conflit est démontrée par le fait qu’on rencontre, aux côtés des hommes, non seulement des vieillards et des enfants, mais même des femmes qui prennent les armes.
En l’occurrence, un une unité d’Amazones a même été formée à Pretoria. Nous vous en présentons iici trois de leurs membres, toutes trois des petites-filles de Kruger. Ce sont Mrs. Eloff, Miss Mira Guttmann and Miss Flanagan. Ces dames accompagnent aujourd’hui leur grand-père dans sa tournée des États européens. »

Photo parue dans le périodique hongrois Vasárnapi Újság, 30 décembre 1900.
L’image est à la fois différente et très proche de celle qui figure plus haut, les exilées en armes sur la photo de Nadar : Madge a juste tourné la tête. Mais la qualité de l’image est bien inférieure et on peut imaginer que pour la publication dans la presse, un deuxième cliché réalisé lors de la même séance a été redessiné et gravé.


Si infimes que soient ses traces, un jour, on finit bien par mettre la main sur lui. Une phrase dans un article, une allusion qui ouvre de nouvelles pistes et finalement, il est là.

Cette deuxième piste suit un chemin sinueux jusqu’en Pologne : tout commence par une lettre expédiée de Varsovie et conservée dans quelque dossier d’archives à Pretoria.
Adolf avait donc une sœur, Franciszka Goldberg née Guttmann, résidant à Varsovie et qui vers 1902, à la fin de la guerre des Boers, écrivit aux autorités Sud-africaines pour obtenir des nouvelles de ses deux frères, Adolf et Izidore Olympius.

Cette Franciszka, la sœur d’Adolf, elle, nous l’avons aisément retrouvée : elle est née en octobre 1860 à Varsovie, fille de Henryk Guttmann et Salomé Redlich son épouse. Henryk et Salomé s’étaient mariés en 1857 à Kalisz où ils étaient nés tous deux : cette fois, les registres sont parfaitement clairs. Henryk se révèle être celui des trois frères Guttmann qui est resté en Pologne. Frère d’Isaac et de Tobias, il apparaît sous le nom d’Henry dans les sources anglaises, et d’Henryk sur l’acte de naissance de sa fille à Varsovie.

Voilà donc le père d’Adolf, Henryk Guttmann.

Henryk Guttmann en 1864 — je n’identifie pas l’objet sur sa gauche

Des trois frères Guttmann, il semble être le seul à ne pas porter un prénom juif mais en fait, il n’a pris ce prénom d’Henryk qu’à partir du moment où il s’est installé à Varsovie : il est inscrit lors de sa naissance en 1824 à Kalisz sous le nom de Hajman Nuchem Guttmann et c’est sous ce nom qu’il a épousé Salomé Redlich en 1857.
L’acte de naissance de sa fille née à Varsovie en 1860 porte certes le nom d’Henryk — mais il avait déjà eu deux fils à Kalisz en 1858 et 1859, deux enfants qu’il avait déclarés sous son premier nom d’Hajman Nuchem Guttmann : Joseph et Izidore, les deux frères de Franciszka.

Et Adolf ? Notre Adolf qui en mourant en 1922 à 74 ans aurait dû naître en 1848 ?

Un. Ce n’est qu’une hypothèse sans doute mais il se peut que l’acte de décès d’Adolf ait comporté une erreur ou qu’il ait été mal lu par ceux qui l’ont retranscrit. Adolf ne serait donc pas mort à 74 ans mais à 64 et dans ce cas, il ne serait pas né en 1848 mais en 1858.

Deux. Hajman Nuchem Guttmann et Salomé Redlich ont eu deux fils à Kalisz, en 1858 et 1859 : Joseph et Izidore. C’est encore une hypothèse bien entendu, mais de même que Hajman a changé son prénom pour Henryk, il a pu choisir pour son premier-né, Joseph, le second prénom moins juif, plus moderne et européen d’Adolf (moins original tout de même qu’Olympius).

Récapitulons. Soit donc un enfant juif du shtetl de Kalisz, en Pologne russe, parti vivre à Varsovie à l’âge de deux ans, né Joseph en 1858 et devenu Adolf par la suite. Cet Adolf s’est ensuite rendu à Sheffield pour y retrouver ses oncles, Isaac et Tobias, et ses cousins, Joseph et Joseph, tous horlogers bijoutiers couteliers. De là, il est parti avec l’un des cousins Joseph vers l’Afrique du Sud à la fin des années 1870 et là, par un grand saut dont nous ne savons pas grand chose, il s’est retrouvé des années plus tard petit maillon entre les juifs de Johannesburg et les Afrikaners de Pretoria, au plus près du pouvoir politique et économique. Près de la fortune, peut-être, qui sait ?

Une affaire à suivre donc.