Robert Gottfried Levy and Betty Landsberger of Posen

My Great Great Grandparents from the Levy and Landsberger families of Stadt Posen in Posen, Prussia, Germany

When Robert Gottfried Levy was born on November 21, 1850, in Posen, Prussia, his father, Bernard, was 40 and his mother, Johanna, was 35. He married Betty Landsberger on 18 January 1881 in his hometown. They had two children during their marriage. He died on 25 June 1930, in Berlin, Germany, at the age of 79, and was buried in Weißensee cemetery in Berlin alongside his wife.

Betty Landsberger was born on January 27, 1858, in Stadt Posen. Her father, Elias, was 38 and her mother, Phillipine, was 34.  She was one of many children, including her famous brother, Joseph Landsberger. She died on November 11, 1919, in Berlin, Germany, at the age of 61, and was buried in the Weißensee cemetery of Berlin, Germany.

Robert Gottfried Levy and Betty Levy geb. Landsberger (circa 1900) 


King David
Biblical King David
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the documented family tree of King David is the largest in terms of the number of years going back.  The family tree of Confucius is actually larger in terms of the number of people in it.  According to current sources, Betty Landsberger is King David of Israel's 93 great granddaughter. Therefore, any of her descendants can calculate their relationship to their own many times great grandfather King David.

1570 Court Physician to the King
The history of Robert and Betty Levy starts further back than any other branch of our family due to Betty’s linage from the famous Calahora Family of Poland. This remarkable family included members of the King’s court, Rabbi’s, physicians, scholars, and two famous Jewish martyrs that have been well documented.  The family must have originated in Calahorra, Spain due to the name, with the penultimate patriarch, Shelomoh ben Yosef, also known as Don Salomo Calahora, making his way to Kraków in 1560 via Ferrara, Italy, where he studied medicine.  Don Salomo was born in 1530 in Spain, and was Betty Landsberger’s 7th great grandfather. In 1570 he was appointed as the court physician to King Sigismund II Augustus of Poland.

1663 The Martyrdom of Matityahu Calahora
Matityahu Calahora was either the grandson or great grandson of Salomo, depending on which biographer you believe. Most have him being the grandson.  In 1663 he was accused by a Dominican monk, Servatius Hebelli, of blaspheming Jesus and the Virgin. The priest invited him to discuss it in the cloister, but Matityahu promised to explain his views in writing. A few days went by, and the priest found a violent statement written in German and assumed it was from Matiyahu. It was most likely placed there by a follower of the “Reformation or the Arian heresy,” but the church brought charges of blasphemy against Calahora. Despite using torture, the Court of the Royal Castle was unable to extract a confession. Witnesses attested to the fact that Calahora didn’t speak or write Germany, having come to Poland from Italy. In spite of any and all evidence, he was found guilty on the testimony of Hebelli alone. The Jewish community was astonished and protested strongly such that the case was taken up by the arch-Catholic tribunal which confirmed the guilty verdict and added further sentencing to the previous burn-at-the-stake ruling.  On December 13, 1663 this most barbaric sentence was carried out in the marketplace in Piotrkow: first the lips of the “blasphemer” were cut off; next his hand, which held the fateful statement, was burned; then the tongue, which had spoken against the Christian religion, was removed; then the body was burned at the stake, and finally the ashes of the victim were loaded into a cannon and discharged into the air so that he could not have a proper Jewish burial. However, the Jewish community rallied together and managed to purchase, at great cost, enough of his ashes that he was able to be buried at the old Jewish cemetery in Kraków. For two hundred years after his death, the Jews of Kraków recited a memorial prayer in his honor.

1736 The Martyr of Posen
Arye Loeb Kalifari, Betty’s third great grandfather, was the son of Joseph Hadarshan Kalifari (The Preacher). Arye was also a preacher in Posen and the founder of the Landsberg and Posner families.  Arye became the second member of this family to be martyred when he was arrested and tortured by the Catholic authorities in 1736 in the course of a blood libel. Heinrich Graetz describes the event in his History of the Jews: “Adalbert Yablonowitz, a son of a prominent citizen disappeared from his home and his mutilated body was found in a village near Posen. The Christian population of Posen at once charged the Jews with the crime. The majority of the Jews of Posen, fearing violence, fled for their lives. The preacher, Aryeh Leib; the communal representative Jacob ben Pinhas; and two parnasim, Isaac and Hertz were seized and thrown in prison. The preacher and the representative were tortured and died in prison (Arye Leib rebuffed an offer to spare his life if he converted). The trial of the parnasim and five other prominent Jews dragged on for nearly four years when a foreign community, Vienna, it seems, procured an able advocate who succeeded in proving the innocence of the accused and the latter were released in 1740.” Arye died in a Posen prison on November 22, 1736.

1776 Birth of Robert's grandfather
Raphael Meyer Levy was born about 1776 in Lissa, Posen, Prussia. He had at least seven children, and only six names are known so far.  I'd love to find more information on him, his children, and his wife Sara Breine Braune. In 1926 Robert Gottfried Levy wrote, My father [Bernhard] had three younger siblings, two brothers and one sister. One brother lived in Strassbourg in Alsace-Lorraine. He was the director of the theater company there. He died accidentally while cleaning a gun. He was baptized and his name was changed to Loewe. The other brother was an excellent business man in Hamburg (wholesale furs). The sister was married to Guthmann, owner of a hat factory in Buk, near Posen.

1780 Birth of Robert's grandmother
Sara Breine Braune was born in the province of Posen in about 1780 to Marcus Wolff Braune and his wife Gella. She is listed as Sara Braun on her son Samuel's death certificate, but other documents from Lissa seem to settle on Braune with an e as the family's surname. A variation of Sara is Zure, so I also search on the name Zure Braune.

1799 Birth of Betty's grandmother
Seraphine Brandt geb Dessauer was born in Stadt Posen, Posen in 1799 to Moses Dessauer and Lea Pitschpatsch. I originally thought her name was Josephine based on badly reading some old German text -- once I figure out my mistake it was a lot easier finding her records! Just for the record, Pitschpatsch is a silly surname that translates to something like Splish-Splash, and therefore most families shortened in to just Pitsch in later generations.

1804 Birth of Robert's uncle
The only instance I've ever found of Robert's uncle Abraham Levy is from an 1807 census. Then he completely disappears. I'd love to find out more about him and any descendants.

1807 Birth of Robert's uncle
Again, Robert's uncle Wolff Levy is only listed in the 1807 census Did her marry? Does he have children who would be first cousins to Robert Levy?

1807 Census of the Jews of Lissa
Around 1806 and 1807 the city of Lissa did a full census of their Jewish population. Of special note are families 135, 577, and 816.

Family 816 is Robert's grandparents Raphael Levy and Sara Braune with their first two sons. Robert's father Bernhard Levy would be born in a few years. Note that the LEVY surname is often spelled in a variety of ways. I've seen LEVI as well as LEVŸ (with an umlaut over the Y).
  • Raph Meyer LEVI, age 30 (born about 1777), occupation: Kirschner (works at the synagogue?)
  • Sara LEVI, age 27 (born about 1780), wife
  • Abraham LEVI, age 3 (born about 1804), son
  • Wolff LEVI, age 1/4 (born about 1807), son 

    Raph Meyer Levi listed in 1807 Lissa census as family 816
    Family 135 is an exciting find, as they are Robert's great grandparents (my 5th great grandparents)!
    • Meyer Abraham LEVI, age 56 (born about 1751), occupation: (left blank)
    • Freide LEVI, age 58 (born about 1751), wife
    Raph Meyer Levi listed in 1807 Lissa census as family 135
    Family 577 is just as amazing, as it lists Robert's great grandparent's on his mother's side, along with his father's aunt Lea.
    • Marcus Wolff BRAUNE, age 55 (born about 1752), occupation: Chemiehändler?
    • Gella BRAUNE, age 54 (born about 1753), wife
    • Lea BRAUNE, age 18 (born about 1789), daughter
    Marcus Wolff Braune listed in 1807 Lissa census as family 577

    1810 Birth of Robert’s father
    Bernard Levy was born 20 August 1810 in Lissa, Posen (now Lezno, Poland), the son of Raphael Levy and Sara Breine Braun.

    1814 Birth of Robert's uncle
    Samuel Raphael Levy was born in Lissa on 8 December 1814.  He was "the other brother was an excellent business man in Hamburg (wholesale furs)" and he died in Hamburg on 14 Feb 1889.  He was married at had at least one son, Hirsch Hermann Levy (1860-1927) who was Robert's first cousin.

    1815 Birth of Robert’s mother
    Sometime around 1815, Robert’s mother, Hannah (Johanna) Korach Davidson, was born in Lissa, Posen.

    1818 Birth of Robert's aunt
    Henriette Levy was born in Lissa (now Leszno) on 19 April 1918. Her older brother, Bernard Levy was Robert Gottfried Levy's father.  Henriette married Aron Jacob Hahn, and sometimes shortened her name to Jette or Jettel.    From a note from Robert, there could be a discripency here, or she was married twice?  Robert wrote, the sister was married to Guthmann, owner of a hat factory in Buk, near Posen.

    1820 Birth of Betty’s father
    Elias Isaac Landsberger was born in 1820, the son of Isaac “Itzig” Landsberg and Rosa Landsberg geb Taube.

    1824 Birth of Betty’s mother
    Phillipine Rosalia Brandt was born in 1824, the daughter of Jaochim Brandt and Josephine Brandt geb Dessauer.

    1846 Death of Robert's grandfather
    Raphael Meyer Levy died in Lissa, Posen at age 71 on 29 July 1846.  Robert Gottfried Levy wrote, My grandfather, on my father's side, Raphael Levy was a school teacher in Lissa, near Posen. I never knew hlm, I also never met my other grandparents.
    Raphael Meyer Levy (1775-1846)

    1848 Birth of Betty’s brother Joseph
    Betty’s older brother, Joseph Landsberger was born in Posen on 21 August 1848. He went on to become a well-known physician and public health doctor in Berlin.

    1850 Birth of Robert
    Robert Gottfried Levy was born in Posen, Prussia on 21 November 1850. He was most likely born in the town of Lissa, Posen, Prussia which is now Leszno, Poland. He was second of six children of Bernard Levy and his first wife, Hannah (or Johanna) Korach Davidson.

    1852 Birth of Robert's brother, Jean Paul
    Robert Gottfried's brother Jean Paul was born on August 8, 1852, in Posen when Robert Gottfried was 1 year old.

    1855 Birth of Robert's brother, Berthold
    Robert Gottfried's brother Berthold Wilhelm was born on February 28, 1855, in Posen when Robert Gottfried was 4 years old.

    1858 Birth of Betty
    Betty Landsberger was born in the city of Posen, Prussia on 27 January 1858. She was the daughter of Elias Landsberger and Phillipine Rosalia “Rosa” Brandt. She has three known siblings, a brother Joesph Landsberger who was born ten years earlier on 21 August 1848, and two sisters. It is assumed there are other siblings in between. Dr. Joseph Landsberger was a well-known physician and public health doctor in Berlin. Both Betty and her siblings are descendants of Aryeh Löb, who died as martyr in Posen in 1737.

    1858 Death of Robert’s mother
    When he was only eight years old, Robert’s mother Hannah died in 1858 due to a childbirth issue with Leopold Levy, who also died, aged 3 months.  Robert’s father remarried, and had more children before immigrating to Philadelphia, Pennslyvania.

    1861 Birth of Betty's sister
    Betty's sister Mathilde was born on November 25, 1861, in Posen, when Betty was 3 years old. Mathilde went on to marry Julius Koelln in 1891 in Berlin and died at age 65 in 1926.

    1872 Death of Robert's sister
    Robert Gottfried's sister Sophie Renate Levy died about 1872, in Posen when Robert Gottfried was 22 years old. His sister died of "bridal exhaustion" from dealing with her own upcoming wedding and the ill health of her step-mother.

    1873 Death of Betty’s father
    When Betty was only 15, her father, Elias Landsberger died in 1873, aged 53 in Posen.

    1875 Robert's Father Goes to America
    Bernhard Levy left Posen, Germany and came to Philadelphia after his second wife passed away. He sailed from Hamburg on 28 July 1875 aboard the Gellert. Arrived in New York on 11 August 1875 with his youngest three children: Regine, Clara, and Julius, aged 14, 12, and 9 respectively. Two of his older sons, Robert and Jean Paul, stayed behind and lived and died in Berlin. Other older children also came to Philadelphia and New York at different times.
    Bernhard Levy in Philadelphia

    1878 Death of Betty's grandmother
    Betty's maternal grandmother was Seraphine Brandt geb Dessauer.  Seraphine died in Krotoszyn, Posen on 16 December 1877 at the age of 78.  Her parents were Moses Dessauer and Lea Dessauer geb Pitschpatsch -- Betty's newly found great grandparents!
    Death of Seraphine Brandt geb Dessauer in 1877 Krotoszyn

    1881 Marriage of Robert and Betty
    On 18 January 1881, Robert Gottfried Levy and Betty Landsberger were married in the city of Posen, in Posen, Prussia, Germany.
    Marriage of Robert Gottfried Levy and Betty Landsberger in Posen on 18 January 1881

    1881 Move to Berlin
    After their January marriage, Robert and Betty moved to Berlin. Their children were both born in Berlin.

    1881 Birth of Son, Ernst
    Ernst was born in Berlin, Germany on 23 December 1881.

    1882 Death of Robert’s father
    Robert Levy’s father died in Philadelphia on 5 March 1882 at the age of 71. Bernhard Levy had moved to Philadelphia after the death of his second wife. I wrote a post, The Implausible Case of my Third Great Grandfather in Philadelphia, after discovering this; after all my 2nd great grandfather was born and died in Germany, so how could my third be in Philly?

    Bernhard Levy's grave in Philadelphia
    1882 Photo of Betty and Ernst
    This photo was taken in Berlin when Ernst was about a year old, so perhaps sometime around the autumn of 1882.
    Ernst Levy with mother Betty, Berlin circa 1882

    1885 Birth of Daughter, Anna
    Anna was born in Berlin on 17 February 1885.

    1888 Death of Betty’s mother
    Betty’s mother, Phillipine Rosalia Landsberger (Brandt), died in 1888 aged 64.

    1889 Death of Robert's uncle
    Robert's uncle Samuel, the wholesale fur merchant in Hamburg died in 1889.  His death certificate is very important, as it is the first time I'd see Robert's paternal grandmother's maiden name.  On the certificate, it lists Samuel's parents as Raphael Levy and Sara Breine Braun of Lissa.
    Hamburg, at the 16th February 1889
    To the signing registrar came today, the by birth-certificate identified, the shop-assistant Hirsch Hermann Levy, residing in (Hamburg-) Rotherbaum, Grindelhof 64, and reported, that the merchant Samuel Raphael Levy, 74 years 2 month old, Jewish religion, residing in Rotherbaum, as above, born in Lissa in Posen, been married the second time with Julie born Windmüller, son of the in Lissa deceased couple Raphael Levy and Sara Breine born Braun, in Rotherbaum in his residence at the 14th February of the year 1889, pre midday at 8:45 o'clock is deceased.
    Readed, confirmed and signed
    Hermann Levy
    The registrar
    In representation
    Death of Samuel Raphael Levy in 1889 Hamburg

    1891 Marriage of Betty's sister
    On 5 June 1891 in Berlin, Betty's sister Mathilde Landsberger married Julius Koelnn.  Robert Levy was one of the witnesses, and he signed the marriage record.
    Robert Levy's 1891 signature
    1891 Death of Robert's brother
    Robert Gottfried's brother Berthold Wilhelm Levy died on October 21, 1891, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when Robert Gottfried was 40 years old.

    1907 Marriage of Anna
    On 8 May 1907, Anna Levy married the composer James Simon in Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany.  At the time, Anna was living with her parents at Augsburger Straße 51 in Charlottenburg.  James and Anna had two sons, one of whom was murdered during World War II.  James Simon was born 29 September 1880 in Berlin, and was killed in the Holocaust. Anna escaped to Switzerland where she died in 1975.

    1909 Marriage of Ernst
    Ernst Levy married Marie Zerline Wolff in Berlin on 21 May 1909. Marie was born 8 February 1884 in Berlin, the daughter of Emanuel and Hedwig Wolff. The marriage certificate was signed by witnesses Robert Levy, Ernst’s father, and Gustav Wolff, Marie’s uncle (as her Father passed away in 1901). Ernst Levy’s address at the time of his marriage was Charlottenburg, Augsburger Straße 38.
    Levy-Wolff Family Tree

    1910 Birth of Grandson Wolfgang
    Robert and Betty’s first grandson, Wolfgang Emanuel Levy was born 2 September 1910 in Oranenburg, Berlin. Wolfgang married Ruth Cyrille Jacobs and had three children. He died 24 June 2001 in Sacramento, California.

    1910 Birth of Grandson Jörn
    Their second grandson, Jörn Martin Simon was born 14 September 1910 in Berlin, Germany, only 12 days after Wolfgang.  Two grandsons in the space of two weeks must have been a joyous time for them. Jörn was never married. He was murdered at the age of 27 in 1937 during one of Stalin’s purges in Russia.

    1912 Birth of Granddaughter Brigitte
    Robert and Betty’s first and only granddaughter, Brigitte Marianne Levy was born 27 September 1912 in Berlin, Germany. Brigitte married Edgar Bodenheimer and had three children. She died 7 January 1981 in Davis, California.

    1913 Birth of Grandson Ulrich
    Their third grandson, and final grandchild, Ulrich Ernst Simon was born of 21 September 1913 in Berlin, Germany. Ulrich married Joan Westlake and had three children. He died 31 July 1997 in the City of London, England.

    1919 Death of Betty
    Betty died 11 November 1919, aged 61, in her home at Charlottenburg, Berlin-Charlottenburg, Clausewitztraße 6, Berlin Germany. She lived long enough to see all four of her grandchildren born. She is buried in Berlin’s famous Jewish cemetery, Jüdischer Friedhof Weissensee in Weissensee, Pankow, Berlin, Germany. The inscription on her grave reads, “To the memory of my beloved wife, our dear mother, grandmother and sister, Betty Levy neé Landsberger. Born 27 January 1858, died 11 November, 1919.”
    Betty Levy geb Landsberger 1919 Berlin death record
    1920 Death of Robert's brother
    Robert's brother Jean Paul died about September 1920, in Berlin, Berlin, Germany when Robert was 69 years old. Sadly, Jean Paul's widow on all but one of his children were lost in the holocaust.

    1926 Robert's Family History
    In 1926, Robert took pen to paper and wrote out as much of his family history as he could remember. A number of years later, his grandson transcribed and translated the old German longhand papers into the following:
    My grandfather, on my father's side, Raphael Levy was a school teacher In Lissa, near Posen. I never knew hlm, I also never met my other grandparents. My father, Bernhard Levy, was creator of ladies fashions In Posen. He was very well known as an artist in his field. He was producer and developer of dresses for a queen of the Balkans. He never used this title. He was liberal, of gentle character. He never spoke an offending word. My mother Joanne, born Korach, was also born In Lissa. She was a cousin of the mother of Hedwlg Kantorowicz. My mother died in 1858 of an infection following a delivery. She left 6 children: Adolph 12, Sophie Renate 10, Robert Gottfried 8, Johann (Jean) Paul 6, Wilhelm Berthold 3 and Leopold 3 months old, who died shortly after the death of my mother. My mother was very beautiful. But I can't remember details. Because of the many small children my father married again a few years later. Her name was Philippine Glogauer, also born In Lissa. To her was born my stepbrother Julius and my stepsisters Clara and Regina. My stepmother was highly educated, particularly in literature, was very talented and of a wonderful personality. She died and I had her as mother only nine short but happy years. (The mother of Siegfried Zickel and the father of Siegfried Glogauer were her siblings).
    Our oldest brother Adolph emigrated to Philadelphia in order to enter the business of siblings of his own mother. He married a cousin and took charge of the business. He then had his brother Berthold come to Philadelphia to take him into the same business. Berthold also married a cousin. In marriage and business both brothers did very well. Repeatedly they asked our father to also come to America. He was a widower the second time. Father decided in 1876 to join his sons in Philadelphia. He took along the children of his second marriage. He made this decision particularly because of the terrible death of my beautiful sister Sophie as bride at age 22 or 24. She died of “exhaustion", the original cause might have been the severe responsibility in the terminal care of her second mother whom she loved very much and to whom she considered herself very close.
    My father lived only 3 more years in Philadelphia. He died in 1879 and it was a very unhappy fate that Adolph, in 1881, and Berthold, in 1883, also passed away in the best years of their lives. There was one death after another in our family. After the death of my brother Jean, I am the only survivor of the children of father's first marriage. Regina, Clara, and Julius have an excellent relationship with the relatives in America although they are not blood related.  The relatives helped them in every respect, education etc. and they are thankful and very obliged to them.
    This is all I can tell you of my family. Every member of the family fulfilled his place in this world and he left the world with honor and as a decent human being.
    P.S. My father had three younger siblings, two brothers and one sister. One brother lived in Strassbourg in Alsace-Lorraine. He was the director of the theater company there. He died accidentally while cleaning a gun. He was baptized and his name was changed to Loewe. The other brother was an excellent business man in Hamburg (wholesale furs). The sister was married to Guthmann, owner of a hat factory in Buk, near Posen.

    1930 Death of Robert
    Robert lived another 11 years without his wife, passing away on 25 June 1930, aged 79, in Berlin, Germany.  He is buried along with Betty at Jüdischer Friedhof Weissensee in Berlin. His inscription reads, “To the memory of our beloved father and grandfather, Robert Levy. Born 21 November 1850, died 25 June 1930.”
    Weissensee grave of Robert and Betty Levy in Berlin

    My 8 Families
    Bodenheimer-Gruenwald of Baden
    Kessler-Spies of Berleburg
    Maass-Lachmann of Berlin
    Lukes-Martyn of Cornwall
    Levy-Landsberger of Posen
    Zimmer-Petau of Reichenbach
    Wolff-Wolff of Posen
    Mansel-Obst of Breslau