The Leyens Family

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The Gerson Family

Press Cuttings of the Leyens Family, Erkelenz

Testimony of Heinz Samuel

Birth Certificate of Laura Leyens

Friendship Book of Laura Leyens

A Photograph Album

The Maternal Ancestry

[I believe this was written by Fritz Nathan, son of Julie Leyens and Moritz Nathan]


The first person known to me of my maternal ancestry was my great great grandfather Andreas or Anschel Leyens who lived in the Schwanenberg-Erkelenz area. He was a merchant, and his wife Helene (in Hebrew Leah) Nathan came from Lentholt, a village near Schwanenberg. He must have been the first member of the family to adopt the surname Leyens. In his day every Jew had to assume a surname. Summoned by the mayor, he declared, "I should like to adopt my wife's name as I love her so much." From "die Leie" came "der Leien" and hence "Leyens". Their son Lambert, in Holland in the Netherlands, was certainly the first to write the surname thus, as "-ey-" is a Dutch form. I was unable to discover anything about the ages of my great great grandparents. They are both buried in the cemetery at Lentholt.

Their children were Josef, Chajim, Abraham and Lambert. They must all have been tall handsome men. Josef fought for liberty in the Battle of Katzbach as a volunteer. He was wounded and consequently died young. Returning from the campaign he married Sibille Heymann from Tetz, near Jülich, which is near Cologne. From their union sprang five children.

Their daughter Eva became my grandmother. Berta married Levi Salomon; they lived in Matzerath near Erkelenz, though the husband came from the Upper Rhine. They had eight children. Sabine stayed unmarried, with her mother and her brothers Hermann and Gottschalk. The mother lived till she was well into her eighties. I can still remember "uncle" Hermann and Gottschalk very well. They spent their declining years at their nephew's home, my uncle Gottschalk Leyens in Schwanenberg.

The second son of my great great grandparents, Chajim, married a woman from Holland named Ethel. he must have died quite young. My mother does not remember him. Aunt Ethel was a refined, educated lady who spoke only High German, a rarity at that time. She was like a Dresden figure, always dressed in white or bright colours.

The third son, Abraham, lived in Gerderhahn near Schwanenberg. he was married. I used to know his son Andres. His daughter Ester became my grandfather's second wife. She died towards the end of 1894.

The last son, Lambert, was my great grandfather. When young he was placed as an apprentice at Sittard in Holland, in the Netherlands. He must have been remarkably handsome, with fair hair and blue eyes. His master's daughter, Veronika Frederike, fell in love with him. It's said that the parents and wealthy relations objected to the match, but the girld did not give in, and one fine morning the couple had gone. The parents accepted their love and later gave them permission to wed.

Meanwhile Lambert enlisted as a soldier in Berlin. My mother, his granddaughter, told me that once on a High Holyday he was going to the synagogue when he met the King, Frederick William IV. "Whither are you going, grenadier?" he asked. "I am going to pray, Your Majesty", he replied. "Then say a prayer for me, grenadier." "Certainly, Your Majesty", he answered.

My great grandparents' marriage was blessed with two sons, Isak and Heinrich, and a daughter, Julie (Gudullah), all of whom were born in Sittard. The mother dying first, the father removed with his two children to Schwanenberg, to join his married son Isak, all living together in the same house.

Lambert Leyens lived till he was eighty-five years old. To the end he maintained an upright posture. He always spent a long time in front of the mirror brushing his long hair in the military manner till he had it just right, just like old Emperor Wilhelm.

His brother Heinrich settled in Grambusch, near Schwanenberg. Some of his grandchildren still live in Wesel. His sister Gudula (Julie) died young in Schwanenberg, the widow of one Wolff.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century it is clear most members of the family lived in Schwanenberg and nearby villages. By the 1900s Schwanenberg was already a comparatively big district, as is demonstrated by the huge Leyens family.ere Jews were allowed to move and work freely, unlike Erkelenz where Jews were unable to settle and do business. In Schwanenberg-Lenholt were situated - just as they still are - the synagogue, the mikveh and the burial ground.


After this short digression, I shall return to the family chronicle, to Lambert's oldest son, my grandfather Isak. He was born in 1823 in Sittard, and moved away early on. he was a butcher and tradesman. In his youth he was a soldier in Koblenz. He often used to tell the tale of a four-week leave. He had to make his way home on foot. On his farlieu it was prescribed how many kilometres he had to march daily, and where he should spend each night. Food and accommodation was provided gratis. He spent only six days at home, then he had to set off marching back to be in Koblenz on time. Grandfather twice married a cousin. The first, the afore-mentioned Eva, who bore him seven children, one of whom was my mother. As my grandmother died in 1864, when my mother was just one year old, the marriage lasted fifteen years.

[Translation incomplete]