In March of this year Mr. Daniel Berman, who lives in the USA, has turned to the history Museum of Kazan Federal University. He asked to find information about his ancestor – Alexander Iosifovich Katzel, whom Mr. Berman called his great-grandfather. The letter was followed by photos of personal belongings of the ancestor and also the photo of his family. During the search and correspondence it was possible to reveal more detailed information about the biography of Alexander Katzel and his descendants. Alexander I. Katzel was born on August 27, 1862 in Ekaterinoslavl (now Dnieper, Ukraine). He came from the bourgeoisie and was a Jew .
According to the “list of students” of University A. I. Katzel in 1886 entered the law faculty of the Imperial Kazan University . He lived on Kasatkina street in Andreeva’s house . It is interesting to know that before moving to Kazan A. Katzel was placed under the secret supervision of the police. The archive’s documents do not indicate the reason. When moving to Kazan, the Kazan police Department was ordered to continue the supervision of A. Katzel, which lasted until his graduation from the University in 1888. On one of the pages of the case there is a small PostScript about the participation of A. Katzel in the riots that took place at the University in December 1887. In June 1888 Alexander went to Kharkiv. He returned a few months later, in October, settled in the rooms of Banartsev. At the University he passed an exam for a degree of candidate of law. In December, he leaves Kazan for Kharkiv through Samara and Rostov-on-don. In Kazan province the supervision is stopped.
In the University at the same faculty with Alexander studied young Vladimir Ulyanov.
According to the information provided by the Polytechnic University, Alexander Katsel married a woman named Evgenia in may 1890. In September 21, 1890 the couple in Kharkiv had a son Joseph, in may 13, 1892 they had a daughter Isabella.
During the service as the Manager of the St. Petersburg-Azov commercial Bank, Alexander I. Katzel and his wife Evgenia Abramovna lived in St. Petersburg on Bolshaya Moskovskaya street in the house №11 .After the bankruptcy of the Bank in St. Petersburg, the family moved to Minsk in 1901, where Katzel was sent as the Manager of the Northern Bank .
In Minsk, Alexander Katzel’s son Joseph graduated from the gymnasium in 1908 and entered the economic Department of the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute of Peter The Great. In October 3, 1916, he married Rose Esther Fine, with whom they met in St. Petersburg at fundraising for flood victims. In December 1916 he graduated from the Institute with the title of full-time student. The family has preserved the icon of a graduate of this University. Later Joseph would become a journalist, community activist, editor of “the Economic life of Lithuania” Under the dictatorship of Valdemaras they were sent to Kovno. He defended his thesis for the title of candidate of economic Sciences. Joseph died at the age of 37 years. He was buried in Berlin at the Jewish cemetery Weissensee (old). Joseph was Daniel Berman’s grandfather.
Further history of their family was told by Mr. Berman in his letter.
His grandfather and grandmother went to Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania around 1916 with their eldest daughter Alexandra, who was called Shura in the family. Kovno is the place where Daniel Berman’s mom Irene was born. According to the stories of his grandmother, Mr. Berman told that Joseph Alexandrovich founded in Lithuania the only Russian-language school. Joseph wrote a work that at the time was considered Russian-speaking Lithuanian history, and Mr. Berman’s great-uncle claims that he found a copy at the United Nations library in New York.
Mr. Berman’s grandmother Rosa also had a close relationship with Lithuania, where her father, Joseph Fine, owned and operated a paper mill, which the tsarist government used to print money.
The further history of their family is very tragic. Rose and Joseph Katzel with their daughters were evicted from Kaunas under the pretext of political disloyalty. A certain Lithuanian employee decided to take away from Kaztel’s family their business – a small stationery store. The reason was the ironic Rose’s letter about the provision of medical services and statements about a certain commander. The official took the letter to the Lithuanian authorities, who accused the Katzel family of spying, giving them 24 hours to leave the country. They fled to Germany, because they were fluent in German, and my grandfather studied at the University. There, in Berlin, he opened a men’s haberdashery in the British style, which he called Jim’s. The business seemed to be successful, but Joseph become seriously ill and died at the age of forty. Rose had difficulty raising her daughters alone, but she was a strong and resourceful person. With the coming to power of the Nazis to remain in Germany has become dangerous. So Rose Katzel’s children went to France. When the Nazis occupied this country, the family was forced to split up, rose stayed in Paris, and her daughter (Mr. Berman’s mother), Irene, took refuge in a Catholic monastery school for girls in southern France, where the nuns courageously made a commitment to hide her from the Nazis. After the war, they were able to move to the United States. Irene contracted tuberculosis during the war and received a visa to the United States for treatment, which was not available at the time in France. There she met Daniel Berman’s father Louis, a US citizen, married him and was able to stay in the country. Mr. Berman’s grandmother joined her later, coming to the US via Canada. This is a small but very interesting story of the family of Alexander Katzel, a graduate of Kazan University.
The author: Kazakov Artyom Igorevich
Nicolai Lobachevsky museum specialist in exposition and excibition activities.