The Theodor Lobl that never was
The Torah may have one official version, but family trees are far from canonical.
The Torah may have one official version, but family trees are far from canonical. Reaching back centuries or even millennia in some instances, different branches of a purported common ancestor develop family traditions or legends unknown to the other sections of the tree.
One such tradition involves the family name, by which Theodor Herzl could easily have been a Lobl. According to Liora Herzl, her great-aunt Clara, a second cousin of Theodor Herzl’s father, told the family that their relationship to the Zionist visionary was through Theodor’s great-grandmother Verna and not great-grandfather Leibel.
Clara related that Verna, the aunt of Liora’s great-grandfather Kalman (through his father Ishai Herzl), married a man named Leopold Lobl. Together, they had Theodor’s grandfather, Shimon Lobl. The Herzl’s had come from Moravia and then divided into three branches − Moravia, Hungary and Zemun (Simlin) near Belgrade in Serbia.
The empress Maria Theresa at a certain point permitted only a specified number of Jews to live in Zemun, including Ishai’s family but not Shimon’s. A 1773 census indicated that 25 Jewish families were living there. Shimon, who according to the family tree was born around 1805, went to live with his uncle and aunt, according to Clara, and apparently adopted his uncle’s last name so that he could remain in the town, where he was eventually buried.
The document Clara dictated in the 1930s was preserved because the family of Miriam Hasenfrantz (nee Herzl) and Rachel Talmon (nee Herzl) lived in Timisoara, Romania, and were never deported from there, though Hasenfrantz says “the trains were ready.” She added that the document lies in a drawer in her home in Kiryat Ono.