My father, Otto Bruck, arrived in America aboard the Queen Elizabeth in 1948, and eventually came to be known as Gary Otto Brook after he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.  The first job my father had was working at Childs Restaurants near Times Square in Manhattan, which was one of the first national dining chains in the United States and Canada; it was a contemporary of the better-known Horn & Hardart and preceded McDonalds.

Figure 1-Franz Kayser with his nephew Walter Leyser (middle) and son John Kayser atop Rockefeller Center in 1945 (photo courtesy Larry Leyser)

After a summer stint as a tennis pro at Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel in 1949, my father went to work for one of his cousins, a gentleman by the name of Franz Mantheim Kayser (Figure 1), who then operated a small import firm.  Franz and his then-wife, Catherine “Ulrike” Kayser nee Birkholz (Figure 2), had had one son born in 1938 in London, John Kayser. (Figure 3)  After John Kayser’s mother passed away in 2005 in New Jersey, by then long married to another man, who had predeceased her, and known as Catherine Sterner, John asked whether I knew how we are related.  At the time, I had absolutely no idea.  John and I would return to the question in 2010.  While the intervening years had given neither of us further insight, John thought our ancestral connection went back to Ratibor; he also told me his grandmother’s maiden name was “Elly Schueck,” which he thought might help unravel the mystery.  So, armed with these seemingly opaque clues, I set myself to work.

Figure 2-John Kayser’s mother in 1992, then known as Catherine Sterner
Figure 3-John Kayser in 2014 in Berlin at the entrance to 22 Kaiserdam Strasse, the apartment building his parents last lived before fleeing Germany in 1938









Figure 4-John Kayser’s great-grandfather, Adolph Schueck (photo courtesy Larry Leyser)

Until just this year, most microfilm records available from the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), could only be ordered and viewed for a limited time at a local Mormon-operated Family History Center, or physically examined at the main LDS Library in Salt Lake City.  Over the years, I had ordered the Jewish records from Ratibor on several occasions, and eventually created a partial database of births, marriages and deaths of people of possible interest to me.  After John Kayser told me his grandmother’s maiden name and our possible connection to Ratibor, I reviewed the database I’d created and, lo and behold, I found Elly Schueck’s name; she had been born in Ratibor on September 7, 1874, and her parents’ names were Adolf Schueck and Alma Schueck, nee Braun. (Figures 4, 5, 6)  For me, this cracked the code because my own great-grandmother on my grandmother’s side was born Olga Braun, so I concluded John and I have an ancestral link related to the Braun family.  The database I had created from the Jewish microfilm records also included the birth information for John Kayser’s great-grandmother, Alma Braun, born on June 12, 1851 to Markus Braun and Caroline Braun, nee Spiegel.  Wanting to confirm all of this, I re-ordered the Jewish microfilm for Ratibor.

Figure 5-John Kayser’s great-grandmother, Alma Schueck nee Braun (photo courtesy Larry Leyser)
Figure 6-Adolph & Alma Schueck with fellow travelers in front of the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt (photo courtesy Larry Leyser)








After receiving the relevant microfilm, I focused on Markus Braun (1817-1870) and Caroline Braun, nee Spiegel.  Ultimately, I identified twelve children they had together, born between 1847 and 1860, and established that John Kayser and I are third cousins (i.e., our respective great-grandmothers were sisters).  As an aside, Caroline Braun likely died before Markus Braun because he re-married a woman named Johanna Braun nee Goldstein, with whom he had two more children, including a son named Markus, who appears to have been born in 1870 shortly after the father Markus Braun died.

Figure 7-Postcard of M. Braun Brewery (front)






Figure 8-Postcard dated July 28, 1912 written by my great-grandmother Olga Berliner nee Braun, sister of Alma Schueck nee Braun, to my great-aunt Franziska Bruck (back)







Figure 9-My great-grandfather, Hermann Berliner, Ratibor brewery owner

My father’s surviving personal papers include a postcard dated July 28, 1912 (Figures 7, 8) written by my great-grandmother, the aforementioned Olga Berliner, nee Braun, to her niece Franziska Bruck in Berlin, the famed florist mentioned in earlier Blog posts.  The postcard illustrates the brewery first owned by M. Braun in Ratibor.  There exists a virtually complete listing of historic German breweries entitled “Das historische Brauereiverzeichnis der ehem. Ostgebiete und Polen,” which translates as “The historical breweries of the former Eastern Territories and Poland,” at the following URL: refers to the areas of Silesia, Pomerania, Brandenburg, and East and West Prussia.  For Ratibor, there once existed 32 breweries, including one owned by “M. Braun,” and two connected to my great-grandfather, Hermann Berliner (Figure 9), his wife Olga Berliner, nee Braun, and their son, Alfred Berliner. 

Ratibor now Raciborz 1a Brauerei M. Braun 1622
Ratibor now Raciborz 1b Herm. Berliner, vorm. M. Braun`sche Braunbierbrauerei 1910
Ratibor now Raciborz 1c Brauerei Herm. Berliner, Inh. Alfred & Olga Berliner 1920

According to this database, the brewery owned by the original “M. Braun” dated to 1622 and appears to have been the second oldest in Ratibor after the “Ratiborer Schloßbrauerei Freund & Co.,” dated to 1567. (Figures 10, 11)  Hermann Berliner, who died in 1910, owned the brewery originally held by “M. Braun.”  His wife passed away in 1920, followed shortly thereafter by the death of their son, Alfred, in 1921.  It’s unclear whether the brewery continued to be owned by either Braun or Berliner descendants following the deaths of Hermann, Olga and Alfred Berliner within a relatively short 11-year period.

Figure 11-The “Ratiborer Schloßbrauerei Freund & Co.” established 1567, known today as the Browar Raciborz
Figure 10-1927-1928 plan map of Ratibor with town ‘s oldest brewery (dated 1567), the “Schloßbrauerei” circled









Figure 12-M. Braun Brauerei with name of brewery and H. Berliner circled

There are a few things to observe from a close look at the front side of the postcard. (Figure 12) The business sign above the carriages reads “vorm. (=original owner) M. Braun.”  By the time the photo was taken, prior to 1912 (the year the postcard was written), the brewery was already owned by Hermann Berliner as the “Berliner Brauerei, Ratibor” caption on the postcard tells us.  Also, the carriage on the left has the name “H. Berliner” on its side, more evidence the brewery was already operated by Hermann Berliner and his descendants at the time the photo was taken.

Coupling the information from the postcard with data gleaned from both the microfilm of Jewish records and, one finds a gentleman named “Moises or Moses Braun,” coincidentally married to a Fanny Bruck.  A definite link to Markus Braun has not yet been established although the years his children were born between 1843 and 1855 strongly suggests he may have been Markus Braun’s older brother.  Moses Braun’s occupation at the time his first two children were born, respectively in 1843 and 1844, is “brauereipachter” or “tenant brewer”; this means that Moses Braun rented the house or factory where he had a license to produce beer.  Interestingly, by 1849, his occupation was “partikulier,” or someone who lived without working, perhaps as a result of rental income.  By 1853, his occupation is shown as “makler,” or estate agent, possibly a real estate agent or middleman of sorts.  By contrast, Markus Braun is always identified as a “kaufmann” or businessman at the time of his children were born; perhaps, this included tenant brewer.  In fact, on his son Markus Braun’s marriage certificate from 1900, long after the father had died, the father’s occupation was definitively specified as “brewery owner.”  I surmise that the brothers together or sequentially operated the brewery, and, eventually, Markus Braun’s daughter Olga and her husband Hermann, and, ultimately, their son Alfred, inherited the operation. 

The exercise I went through to pinpoint the family connection between John Kayser and myself revealed something unexpected.  Again, utilizing the Jewish microfilm records from Ratibor, I identified another branch of the family who are descendants of Elly Schueck’s (John Kayser’s grandmother) sister, Auguste “Guste” Schueck. (Figure 13)  The significance of this is that various surnames I heard my father mention while growing up in New York also had links extending back to Ratibor.  I was eventually able to track this branch to Cleveland, Ohio, and many of the photos included in this Blog post come from the collection of Larry Leyser, a third cousin, once-removed. (Figure 14)

Figure 13-John Kayser’s great-aunt, Auguste “Guste” Schueck, with her granddaughter, Doerte Zweig (photo courtesy of Larry Leyser)
Figure 14-Larry Leyser, my third cousin once-removed, and the great-grandson of Auguste “Guste” Schueck








Pressed on the matter, my father would never have been able to explain to me how all the various families that wound up in America after WWII were related to us nor would he have had any interest in doing so.  Nonetheless, as an exercise in doing forensic genealogy, this has been endlessly entertaining finding the family connections to people living in America today whose roots go back to Ratibor, where the original brewer M. Braun first established his business in 1622.  Going forward, I will touch on some of these people and their connections to my family, both in America as well as harkening back to Europe.

POSTSCRIPT:  A Polish gentleman, Mr. Grzegorz Miczek, contacted me after seeing this Blog post on the Braun & Berliner brewery.  He asked whether I had any additional documents related to the brewery as  reference for a book he’s writing on the “Raciborskie Brewery.”  He mentioned he possessed a few bottles from the brewery, and graciously sent me images of them which he’s allowing me to share with the readers.  These elegant old beer bottles speak for themselves.  (Figures 15-18)

Figure 15.
Figure 16.






Figure 17.
Figure 18.






Figure 1-1927-1928 plan map of Ratibor showing location of former Jewish Cemetery along Leobschützerstrasse

After my wife and I examined the records at the Polish State Archives in Racibórz, our English-speaking research guide, Ms. Malgosia Ploszaj, suggested we visit the site of the former Jewish Cemetery once located on Leobschützerstrasse [today: Wilczej Górze and Fojcik głubczycki streets] on the outskirts of Raciborz. (Figure 1)  Knowing family members had

Figure 2-Fragment of headstone with Hebrew script

once been buried here, I was particularly intrigued to see their final resting place.  Malgosia had already warned my wife and me that the Jewish Cemetery no longer exists as such but consists merely of ivy-covered pathways meandering through a forested area scattered with fragmentary pieces of headstones (Figure 2), a cemetery originally 5 acres in extent.  Beyond the occasional piece of headstone, the only original element of the former Jewish cemetery is the front entrance gate.

According to the International Jewish Cemetery Project (IJCP), this cemetery served the Jewish Community from about 1817 until the last two burials were placed here, respectively, in 1940 and 1941; by their estimate, no more than 200 Jews remained at the time of the “Final Solution” in Ratibor in 1942.  While it may ultimately have been the intention of the Nazis to systematically destroy all Jewish cemeteries, by the end of the Third Reich some were still left intact, including the one in Ratibor.  The reasons for this are not entirely clear, although its location on the outskirts of town may partially explain why it was not destroyed.  However, with no surviving postwar Jewish community to tend the graveyard, nature was in effect gradually reclaiming it.  Consequently, by 1973, a decision was taken by the Communist authorities to, in the words of the IJCP, “decommission the cemetery [and allow] masons from the surrounding area . . .to reuse them [the headstones] in Catholic cemeteries.”  IJCP describes the gravestones dating from the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries as “. . .black, white or pink marble or granite and sandstone. . .in traditional shapes or obelisks, boulders and more artistic forms with a wide array of decoration.”  The inscriptions were a combination of Hebrew and German.  Supposedly, following the Jewish cemetery’s decommissioning, it was used as a community garden.

Tangentially, I became intrigued about the destruction of Jewish culture.  There is a widely circulated notion that once having exterminated the Jews, the Nazis planned a “Museum to an Extinct Race”; in 2015, while on a walking tour of WWII sites in Prague, our tour guide in fact brought this up.  Prague is widely associated as the place where this museum was to be located because upwards of 100,000 Jewish liturgical, religious, historical, and archival objects were archived there at the Central Jewish Museum.  Suffice it to say, the idea of such a museum is a myth and there never existed a Nazi plan to create such a museum.  The phrase “Museum to an Extinct Race” was in fact coined by Jews following WWII.  For readers interested in reading about this myth, I direct them to a video of a fascinating lecture given by Dale Bluestein, former Director of the “Memorial Scrolls Trust”:


Figure 3-Cover of booklet entitled “Vergessene Geschichte der Juden aus dem Ratiborer Lande”

In recent years, the Polish schools have apparently taken an interest in re-discovering their Jewish history.  Malgosia showed me the product of one such endeavor, a booklet prepared by local students and published by the European Union, written in both Polish and German.  This booklet is entitled in German “Vergessene Geschichte der Juden aus dem Ratiborer Lande,” which translates roughly as “Forgotten history of the Jews from the land of Ratibor.” (Figure 3) The cover page includes a hand-tinted drawing of the former Jewish synagogue, along with additional pictures inside showing the conflagration as it was destroyed on Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938. 

Figure 4-Moorish-style Jewish synagogue as it looked in 1889 when it opened

Following Kristallnacht, the Moorish synagogue (Figure 4), which had originally been built in 1889, survived as a ruin until 1958, when Communist authorities demolished it.



Figure 5-Headstone of my great-grandparents, Hermann & Olga Berliner, in former Ratibor Jewish cemetery

Inside this publication are multiple photographs of the headstones of the former Jewish cemetery, amazingly, including one of my great-grandparents grave, Hermann Berliner (1840-1910) and Olga Berliner, nee Braun (1853-1920). (Figures 5, 6)  Malgosia graciously obtained an original copy of this booklet for me, and explained that the majority of the headstones from the former Jewish cemetery were photographed before the gravestones were disposed of.  It remains unclear whether these photographs were taken by a well-intentioned individual

Figure 6-My great-grandfather Hermann Berliner (1840-1910)

interested in documenting history, or by the Polish Security Services with some nefarious purpose in mind to further “torment” dead Jews and their descendants come back to reclaim stolen Jewish property.


The most remarkable thing, I came to discover, is that the original photographs of all the headstones from the former Jewish cemetery are archived at the Muzeum Raciborzu. (Figure 7)  My wife and I learned of their existence too late to actually schedule a visit there in 2014, but immediately upon my return to the States that year, I contacted one of the curators at the museum and asked

Figure 7-Curator Adam Knura at entrance to Muzeum Raciborzu

if we could examine these photos on a subsequent visit; the archivist indicated this would present no problem.  So, upon our return to Raciborz in 2015, again in the company of Malgosia, we examined and photographed all the pictures. (Figures 8, 9)




Figure 8-Example of plan map of Jewish Cemetery with colored highlight indicating section where photos in each of seven albums were taken
Figure 9-Page from one album with three pictures of headstones







The curators at the museum have created an Excel spreadsheet with the names of all the people once interred at the Jewish cemetery, along with their dates of birth and death, where this information can be gleaned from the pictures.  A copy of this database was given to me.  Over the years, I’ve had occasion to compare the birth and death information obtained for a few individuals from the headstones with comparable information obtained from original birth or death certificates for these same people, and, interestingly,  I’ve found some discrepancies not owing to archival errors but, ironically, to incorrect dates being inscribed in stone.  One can only wonder whether surviving relatives “lost track” of the year their ancestors had been born.  In any case, the Excel spreadsheet with the names of the entombed has provided a wealth of useful family history information.

Figure 10-Headstones from section of former Jewish Cemetery with graves of children

The previously discussed booklet included a touching photo of “small” headstones once belonging to the graves of children who’d perished at birth or shortly thereafter. (Figure 10) I knew that my great-grandparents on my grandfather’s side had eight children but had only been able to track the fate of six of them.  I was hoping these headstones would shed some light on the fate of the other two, but this was not to be.


Figure 1-Entrance to the “Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach Oddział w Raciborzu“

In the previous Blog post dealing with the Bruck’s Hotel “Prinz von Preußen,” the hotel in Ratibor owned by the Bruck family for three generations, the reader learned about the “Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach Oddział w Raciborzu” (“State Archives in Katowice Branch in Raciborz”) where civil records of births, marriages, and deaths from the 1870’s onward are to be found. (Figure 1)  I explained to the reader the genesis of this situation, namely, that the Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and the liberal nationalists in Germany saw the existence of a Church loyal to the Pope as a threat to national unity, and, for this reason, sought to bring the Church under the control of the Prussian state.  This conflict with the Church was known as the Kulturkampf (“Cultural Struggle“).  Among other things, this resulted in mandating that births, marriages, and deaths be recorded as civil events.  Consequently, today, a researcher is compelled to show up in person to access these records at the State Archives. 

Figure 2-Ms. Malgosia Ploszaj from Rybnik, Poland examining the civil records at the State Archives in Raciborz

In the previous Blog post, I explained I’d been referred to an English-speaking Polish lady, Ms. Malgosia Ploszaj, who is studying the former Jews of her hometown of Rybnik, about a half-hour from Raciborz.  Prior to our visit to Raciborz in May 2014, Malgosia had already visited the State Archives there and discovered the existence of an inch-thick portfolio of administrative documents related to management of the Bruck’s Hotel from about 1912 to 1928.; these have been discussed in the previous Blog post.  When my wife and I visited Raciborz in May 2014, Malgosia accompanied us to the State Archives and helped us efficiently navigate the plethora of civil documents. (Figure 2) 

My father’s older sister, Susanne, was born in Ratibor in 1904, and my father, Otto, three years later in 1907. (Figure 3)  Once I understood their birth documents would not be among the Jewish religious records found on Mormon Church microfilms, it became a priority to find them with the civil records at the State Archives.  I knew my father’s older brother Fedor had been born in 1895 in the nearby town of Leobschütz [today: Głubczyce, Opole Voivodeship, Poland], so had no expectation of uncovering his birth certificate.  With Malgosia’s assistance, we were very quickly able to locate the birth records of both my father and my aunt. (Figure 4)

Figure 3-My Aunt Susanne, my father Otto and my Uncle Fedor as children in Ratibor
Figure 4-Birth Register (“Urodzenia”) for the period 1874-1902 found at the State Archives in Raciborz









In former times, it was quite common for parents to have many children, so I often wondered why nine years (1895 to 1904) had transpired before my grandparents had a second child.  This question was promptly answered by a careful examination of the birth certificates for these years; it turns out my grandparents indeed had a second child in this intervening period, a son by the name of Walter Bruck, who was born in August 1900 but died shortly thereafter in April 1901.  The existence of another older brother was never mentioned by my father when I was growing up.  As to the Birth Certificate for my Uncle Fedor born in 1895, I did eventually locate it in the Eastern Prussian Provinces database: Östliche preußische Provinzen, Polen, Personenstandsregister 1874-1945 (Eastern Prussian Provinces, Germany [Poland], Selected Civil Vitals, 1874-1945).  

Figure 5-My great-aunt Elsbeth Bruck, right, with her older brother Wilhelm “Willy” Bruck as children in Ratibor

I found several other original family documents at the Polish State Archives in Raciborz that ultimately provided context for artifacts in my possession, and also pointed me to other towns and countries to find additional historic family records.  At the State Archives in Raciborz, I also found the Birth Certificate for my great-aunt, Elsbeth Bruck. (Figure 5)  Previously, I’d located the birth record for Elsbeth’s seven older siblings, born to my great-grandparents Fedor Bruck and Friederike Bruck, nee Mockrauer, on the Jewish microfilm records from Ratibor, but was puzzled as to why I’d never found hers.  When I eventually learned that Elsbeth was born in the midst of the Kulturkampf, it became obvious her record would be with the civil documents, which is where I ultimately found it and where I also discovered her given name was not Elsbeth but “Elisabeth.” 

Figure 6-My grandparents, Felix “Lixel” Bruck and Else Bruck, nee Berliner, on their wedding day, February 11, 1894

A particularly interesting document I found was the marriage certificate for my grandparents (Page 1 & Page 2), Felix Bruck and Else Bruck, nee Berliner, dated February 11, 1894; prior to the discovery of this certificate, I didn’t know when my grandparents got married although I have photos of them on their wedding day. (Figure 6)  This document was interesting principally because it provided context for an “erinnerung,” or remembrance, I’d found among my father’s papers.  The name on the cover page of this remembrance, written in difficult-to-decipher Gothic font, said “Willy Bruck,” and was dated “February 11, 1894.”  I incorrectly assumed it related to a ceremony or rite in honor of a relative who’d died on this date; unfortunately, I could think of no relative by this name who’d died on this day.  After a German cousin recently examined this remembrance, all became clear.  Felix’s younger brother was Wilhelm or “Willy” Bruck, and the remembrance I thought was a death announcement was actually an ode or poem Willy had written on the occasion of his brother’s marriage, “in brotherly love.” (Figure 7) While I never knew my grandfather, and my father only spoke sparingly of him when I was growing up, from this remembrance I also learned Felix’s nickname was “Lixel.”

Figure 7-Cover of remembrance poem written by Wilhelm “Willy” Bruck for his brother Felix’s wedding “in brotherly love”
Figure 8-Wilhelm “Willy” Bruck standing next to his velocipede in 1889 in Ratibor, possibly the same bike his brother once fell off of









In the poem Willy Bruck wrote in honor of his brother Felix’s marriage, he teased his brother about a few incidents that occurred to him as a young lad, such as the time he threw a stone through an expensive window and when he fell off his velocipede.  Coincidentally, among the family pictures is one of Willy Bruck himself standing next to his own velocipede, perhaps a hand-me-down from his older brother! (Figure 8) 

In addition to the marriage certificate I found for Felix Bruck, I also located the marriage certificates for two of his younger sisters, Charlotte Mockrauer, nee Bruck (1865-1965) (Page 1 & Page 2), and Hedwig Loewenstein, nee Bruck (1870-1949) (Page 1 & Page 2).  These historic documents are of interest primarily because they eventually helped me unravel the complete family tree for these branches of my family, and, in turn, lead to some compelling discoveries.  In time, I will relate to the reader these tales which are rather involved and span multiple countries.


NOTE: This Blog post marks a transition from stories about Tiegenhof, the town  in the Free State of Danzig where my father, Dr. Otto Bruck, was a dentist, to Ratibor in Upper Silesia, Germany [today: Raciborz, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland], the town where my father was born in 1907.  The next series of posts will cover the Bruck family’s association and connection to Ratibor, although future posts will likely take me back to Tiegenhof, as I uncover more information about my father’s circle of acquaintances and friends there.  This post will detail the Bruck family’s historic ties to Ratibor, but will also discuss the available documentary evidence, unearthed in both in Ratibor and elsewhere, that inspired and guided much of the research I later undertook related to my family. 


Figure 1-Map of Central Europe (1815-1866) with location of Ratibor circled (source: Putzger Historischer Weltatlas)

The Bruck family’s most enduring link to the former German town of Ratibor, Upper Silesia (Figure 1), was its long-standing ownership of the Bruck’s “Prinz von Preußen“ Hotel.  (Figures 2, 3)  Family control of the hotel appears to have extended through three generations, beginning no later than the mid-19th Century and continuing through the first quarter of the 20th Century.  Samuel Bruck (1808-1863) (Figure 4) and his wife Charlotte Bruck, nee Marle (1811-1861) (Figure 5) were the original family owners of the Prinz von Preußen.  In time, Samuel’s son, Fedor Bruck (1837-1894) (Figure 6) and his wife Friederike Bruck, nee Mockrauer (1836-1924) (Figure 7) took over the hotel.  Following Fedor’s death in 1892, his widow Friederike, and two of her daughters, Franziska Bruck (1866-1942) and Elsbeth Bruck (1874-1970), ran the hotel.  When Friederike, Franziska and Elsbeth left for Berlin in 1902, the hotel passed into the hands of the oldest of Fedor and Friederike’s children, Felix Bruck (1864-1927) (Figure 8) and his wife, Else Bruck, nee Berliner (1873-1927) (Figure 9), that’s to say, my grandparents.  None of Felix and Else’s children ever managed the hotel, although I recall my father telling stories of working in the hotel as a young boy fetching wine from the cellar, a sommelier in training.

Figure 2-Bruck’s Hotel as it looked at the time the hotel was owned by Ernst Exner in the 1930’s
Figure 3-Front entrance to Bruck’s Hotel ca. 1920’s-1930’s
Figure 4-Samuel Bruck (1808-63)











Figure 5-Charlotte Bruck, nee Marle (1811-61)








Figure 6-Fedor Bruck (1837-92)
Figure 7-Friederike Bruck, nee Mockrauer (1836-1924)








Figure 8-Felix Bruck (1864-1927)
Figure 9-Else Bruck, nee Berliner (1873-1957)









There are indirect clues as to when Samuel Bruck acquired the Prinz von Preußen.  Jewish birth records available for Ratibor on-line through the Mormon Church’s website at (Microfilm Roll #1184448), cover the period from approximately 1817 through 1874.  Charlotte Bruck is known to have given birth to at least nine children between 1831 and 1849.  Birth records of the time recorded the profession or occupation of the father, and in all instances for Samuel Bruck, either “Kaufmann” or “Handelsmann” (merchant, tradesman, or businessman) is documented; Samuel Bruck is known to have been a successful wood merchant before he purchased the Prinz von Preußen.  By contrast, the birth records for his son, Fedor Bruck, always registered his occupation as “Gastwirt” or “Gasthofbesitzer” (innkeeper).  This suggests that Samuel Bruck bought the Prinz von Preußen following the birth of his last child in 1849 after his career as a wood merchant.

Figure 10-Plan map of Ratibor from 1927-28 with location of Bruck’s Hotel circled

While no longer in existence, the Bruck’s Hotel Prinz von Preußen once stood at Oderstraße 16 [today: ulica Odrzanska], at the corner of Oderstraße and Niederwallstraße [today: 3 Maja, Sawickiej, Podwale] (Figure 10), only a short distance from the River Oder.  John Murray’s English-language “A Handbook for Travelers on the Continent,” a traveler’s guidebook published in 1850, touted the “Prinz von Preußen” as a very comfortable hotel;  later editions characterized the hotel as the best one in Ratibor.  At the time, a town of 6,000 inhabitants, Ratibor was described as an ideal place for persons traveling by rail between Breslau [today: Wroclaw,Poland] and Vienna, then part of the Austrian Empire, to spend the night.  The journey by rail from Ratibor to Breslau was a six hour trip, while the train ride from Ratibor to Vienna took 12 to 13 hours.

Figure 11-King Leopold I of Belgium who spent a night at the Prinz von Preußen in 1853

The “Prinz von Preußen” must have been one of the most fashionable hotels to stay at in this part of Prussia because in a book on Ratibor, entitled “Geschichte der Stadt Ratibor“ by Augustin Weltzel, the author records that on May 10, 1853, King Leopold I of Belgium spent the night. (Figure 11)  King Leopold I was a German prince who became the first king of the Belgians following their independence in 1830, and reigned between July 1831 and December 1865; he was the uncle of Queen Victoria.

A historian, Ms. Katrin Griebel from Zittau, Saxony, who has studied the surviving personal papers of Franziska Bruck (Figure 12) and Elsbeth Bruck (Figure 13) archived at the Stadtmuseum in Spandau outside Berlin, to which future Blog posts will be devoted, has gleaned some anecdotes about the Bruck family and the hotel from the personal papers of these two great-aunts.  According to Ms. Griebel, the building occupied by the Bruck’s Hotel was the former palace of a marquis.  Upon the nobleman’s death, the palace became known as the “Prinz von Preußen.”

Figure 12-Franziska Bruck (1866-1942), renowned Berlin florist
Figure 13-Elsbeth Bruck (1874-1970), ardent lifelong Socialist









Figure 14-Grave of Elsbeth Bruck

Personal family papers also tell us that Fedor Bruck, son of Samuel Bruck, did not enjoy working in the hospitality industry, preferring to be a musician.  He took violin lessons, and is reputed to have spent a goodly sum of money honing this craft.  His daughter, Elsbeth Bruck, was an ardent socialist her entire life.  When she was working in the Prinz von Preußen, she is reputed to have been engaged to a Polish cook working in the kitchen there.  Her parents were not at all amused, and sent her to the Riesengebirge [today: Krkonoše (Czech), Karkonosze (Polish); mountain range in the north of the Czech Republic and the southwest of Poland] to “get some fresh air and clear her head.”  Later, Elsbeth was an actress and peace-activist, and was imprisoned in Görlitz in 1916 and, again, in 1918, for her activism.  When she lived in Munich, she gave birth out-of-wedlock to a child who died in infancy (Wolfgang Bruck’s Death Certificate No. 448).  Her family is known to have disapproved of Elsbeth’s free-spirited lifestyle.  During the Nazi era, she was in exile first in Czechoslovakia, then in London.  After the war, she returned to Germany and spent the remainder of her life in the German Democratic Republic, formerly East Germany.  She is buried in the Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde in the former East Berlin, adjacent the “Memorial to the Socialists.” (Figure 14)

In March 2014, I attended a presentation, sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles, by Mr. Roger Lustig, a specialist on genealogical records from the former Prussian state.  Following his presentation, I contacted Roger, and narrated my family’s connection to Ratibor.  I described the microfilm records I’d been able to find for Ratibor through, records very familiar to Roger, that broadly cover the period from 1814 to 1940, but indicated there appear to be gaps; I asked Roger whether some of the documents were to be found elsewhere or had been destroyed during WWII. 

Figure 15-Entrance to the „Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach Oddział w Raciborzu“

Because Roger also has ancestors from Ratibor, he was anxious to help me out.  He made clear that most of the birth, marriage, and death records from Ratibor from roughly the 1870’s onward would be found in the “Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach Oddział w Raciborzu“ (Polish State Archives in Raciborz) (Figure 15), that’s to say, as civil rather than religious documents.  The basis for this situation is rooted in the 19th Century when the Roman Catholic Church was under frequent attack by liberal nationalists in Germany and elsewhere in Europe who saw the existence of a Church loyal to the Pope as a threat to national unity.  The most hostile of these attacks on the Church took place in Germany, and was known as the Kulturkampf (“Cultural Struggle“).  The Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sought to break the influence of the Catholic Church which he saw as a threat to the recently established German Empire.  While the Kulturkampf was primarily a dispute between the Roman Catholic Church and the Prussian state, clearly, when recording of Catholic marriages and other vital events at a registry office of the state became mandatory, other religious denominations were affected.

In any event, the Church of Latter Day Saints, has not yet gotten around to making copies of the registers in the civil archives, so the only way to view them is to personally visit these repositories across Poland.  My wife and I already had plans to spend thirteen weeks in Europe in 2014 visiting places from Poland to Spain associated with the Bruck family diaspora, so decided to incorporate another visit to Raciborz. 

To facilitate my investigations, Roger offered to put me in touch with an English-speaking Polish researcher, Ms. Malgosia Ploszaj, who has spent many years researching the Jews from her hometown of Rybnik, located only a half-hour from Raciborz; he explained she could help me navigate the State Archives in Raciborz.  Roger quickly sent Malgosia an email telling her about our planned visit and our interest in examining the archival records there.  Within hours, Malgosia sent an introductory email offering her assistance during our upcoming visit.  Since our scheduled trip to Raciborz was still several months away, Malgosia even offered to visit the Polish State Archives in Raciborz in advance to scope out what might be available on the Bruck family’s ties to Ratibor.

Imagine my surprise when barely a week later Malgosia recounted her visit to the State Archives, and told me she‘d found a portfolio of documents related to the Bruck’s Hotel “Prinz von Preußen,“ covering the period from roughly 1912-1928; needless to say, I was amazed such documents would have survived the destruction wrought by WWII.  Eventually Malgosia photographed and sent me all these documents, and I forwarded them to German relatives who reviewed and gleaned interesting tidbits from them. 

While most of the handwritten documents related to the Bruck‘s Hotel are penned in Sütterlin, the signatures, including several by my grandfather, Felix Bruck, are Latinized.  The subject of the documents are primarily administrative, and record dealings with the local police who apparently handled such matters as approving extended business hours to accommodate returning WWI veterans; undertaking inspections of the hotel and recording violations; authorizing sale of alcoholic beverages; reviewing and approving proposed hotel renovations; and authorizing subleasing of the hotel’s restaurant under the auspices of the Bruck name.

Figure 16-Bruck’s Hotel floor plan from archival dossier

Of particular interest in the portfolio are the hotel’s floor plans. (Figure 16)  The hotel is known to have had two kitchens, one to prepare normal meals and another to deliver kosher fare to its Jewish guests.  In published advertisements of the hotel, respectively, from 1925 (Figure 17), 1926 (Figure 18), and 1931 (Figure 19), numerous amenities were noted.  These included 40 well-appointed hotel rooms with running warm and cold water, a conference room, an exhibition area, a secretarial pool, a hotel phone as well as a phone to call other parts of Germany, a first class kitchen, good cultivated wine and beer, “real” liquor, local access to hockey and tennis arenas and more.


Figure 17-1925 Bruck’s Hotel advertisement showing hotel then owned by Max Kunzer


Figure 18-1926 hotel advertisement indicating Hugo Eulenstein was the owner at the time








Figure 19-By 1931, an advertisement shows that Ernst Exner was the current owner





It is not entirely clear when the Prinz von Preußen was sold by my grandfather, Felix Bruck.  The archival dossier includes a August 1925 document in which the entrepreneur “Max Kunzer” is allowed to install a beer pressure device using carbolic acid rather than compressed air.  However, by August 1926, the owner of record is a “Hugo Eulenstein” who requests and is granted permission to sell alcoholic beverages in the Bruck’s Hotel.  Mr. Eulenstein‘s association with the hotel may have been brief.  By 1931, the Bruck’s Hotel had a new “Geschaftsleitung” or “executive board,” headed by an “Ernst Exner,” formerly of the Sachs Hotel in Patschkau [today: Paczków, Nysa County, Opole Voivodeship, Poland]. 

Figure 20-Worker’s demonstration on Ratibor’s main square in the late 1940’s-early 1950’s showing the Bruck’s Hotel still standing after WWII

The length of Mr. Exner’s ownership of the Bruck’s Hotel is unknown, although it is certain the Bruck’s Hotel was damaged in the latter throes of World War II by the Russian Army, although how badly remains unclear.  One of the curators at the Muzeum Raciborzu sent me an outstanding photo of Ratibor’s main square, probably taken towards the end of the 1940’s or early 1950‘s, showing workers demonstrating around the Virgin Mary’s Column with St. Jacob’s Church seen along the right side; squarely in the center of the picture in the background can be seen the Bruck’s Hotel still standing tall. (Figure 20)

The decision to tear down the Bruck’s Hotel and other brick structures once located along Oderstrasse appears related to at least two things.  While the structural integrity of the hotel may have been compromised during the war, it appears that Polish authorities were also looking to scavenge bricks throughout Poland to rebuild Warsaw and, perhaps, at the same time eradicate some traces of the German-era.  Regardless, today the Bruck’s Hotel no longer stands and the cultural landscape of the area where it once stood looks vastly different.

Felix Bruck’s name appears in a 1916 Berlin phone directory, and shows him living in Berlin-Charlottenburg in the same area as his sister Franziska Bruck (Figure 12), a famous florist about whom more will be said in future posts.  Even if the sale of the Bruck’s Hotel did not take place until the early 1920’s, quite possibly my grandfather had ceded management of the hotel to another family member or it was being co-managed with a potential buyer.  Felix Bruck is known to have suffered from diabetes, a disease which may have been better treated in Berlin but which, ultimately, was the cause of my grandfather’s demise in 1927.

Figure 21-Hotel knives variously embossed with “Bruck’s Hotel” and “Prinz von Preußen”

The Bruck’s Hotel “Prinz von Preußen” Hotel was probably referred to as either the “F. Bruck’s Hotel” or the “Prinz von Preußen.”  This is borne out by silverware (knives, forks, spoons) in my possession, some of which have written on them “Prinz von Preußen,” and others which are inscribed with the name “F. Bruck’s Hotel.” (Figure 21)  It seems likely that these items were taken as “souvenirs” by Felix and Else Bruck upon their sale of the hotel, and reflected the silverware in use in the dining room at that time.  Regardless, the monogram of the three generations of Bruck family to have owned the hotel are reflected in the surviving silverware.

By now, readers have perhaps divined that where possible I enjoy illustrating my Blog posts with photos and artifacts related to the topic at hand that come from a variety of sources.  In a future post, I’ll eventually relate to the reader the challenging process I went through to find two of my second cousins, that’s to say, my great-uncle’s grandchildren.  Suffice it to say for now, that this great-uncle, Wilhelm Bruck visited his brother Felix at the Prinz von Preußen in Ratibor in June 1914, and wrote an endearing postcard to his wife Antonie „Toni“ Bruck who’d stayed behind in Berlin with their two children.  (Figures 22, 23)  A copy of this postcard was given to me by Wilhelm’s grandchildren after I eventually located them.  The translation of this postcard can be found here.

Figure 22-Front of Bruck’s Hotel postcard written by Wilhelm Bruck to his wife “Toni” in June 1914
Figure 23-Postcard dated June 30, 1914 written by Wilhelm Bruck to his wife from the Bruck’s Hotel in Ratibor










Murray, John

1850    Handbook for Travelers on the Continent: Being a Guide Through Holland, Belgium, Prussia and Northern Germany, and Along the Rhine From Holland to Switzerland (Seventh Edition).  John Murray, Albemarle Street. London (p. 437)

1856    Handbook for Travelers on the Continent: Being a Guide to Holland, Belgium, Prussia, Northern Germany, and the Rhine from Holland to Switzerland (Eleventh Edition).  John Murray, Albemarle Street, London (p. 426)

Weltzel, Augustin

2010    Geschichte Der Stadt Ratibor (1861).  Kessenger Legacy Reprints.  Kessenger Publishing.