Email message from Adam Alexander to his Third Cousin, Doron Zeilberger

Dated Oct. 26, 2023

I guess we must be related in some way and this is why!

To begin with, my son Jake's (who is a plant ecologist at ETH in Zurich) wife discovered your paper on Gerson Alexander and passed it to me. I am the son of Peter Alexander, grandson of Elias Alexander and great grandson of Raphael Alexander. I applied for repatriation of citizenship and received it in 2021. I had to so some digging in the archives to prove my eligibility and in this process failed to go back another Alexander generation. You have done that for me. Brilliant and thanks. So not only do I know who Raphaels dad was I also now know who his grandad, my great, great, great grandfather is.

Starting with what I have understood through my father and his mother Kate (not Kathy BTW), and having some of Elias's archive my understanding was that Raphael married Rebecca (I do not know her maiden name) in the 1850s and that they were Ashkenazi Jews from Spain. I also was told Raphael was a carpet dealer because of his roots in the Levant. I guess your account is rather more factual than mine which is apocryphal!

Just to update info on Elias: I have this from my late cousin Jean Greenwald (ne Alexander) who back in 2006 visited her father Robert to interrogate the family tree. This is what he told her which I hope will help you correct the record:

Raphael and Rebecca had eight children; George who married Carza Ullman and had one daughter Rosa, who married Nick Lazarnick who begat the photographer George Lazarnick (born 1913 in the US) who was a regular visitor to our home in Surrey when I was a kid. Helen who married Oscar Richter, Rosa married Jacob, later Michael, William who married Matilde Schwartz and begat Raphael, Estelle, Robert and Sylvia. Robert (Bob) I knew from a very young age and visited him many times in the US. He was a successful orthodontist. He would visit us in the UK with his wife Jean.
[Added May 9, 2024: Adam Alexander kindly sent me a fascinating interview (in five parts) that was made when Bob turned 100. It can be gotten from this directory]
Robert begat William (Bill) (born 1936) Jean, Ann and Susan. Elias my grandfather who married Kate in 1921 and had one child, my father Peter. Max who moved to Wales and lived a quiet life there. Although we were in the same country I never met him and have no record of his wife, etc. Moses about who I have no further information. Fred (Fritz) married Elsie and had no children, Max married I understand but no details but they had a son who came to the US. Max and Elias emigrated to the UK.. George, William and Fred emigrated to the US.

A couple of things about my grandfather Elias. He travelled widely as a publisher and also Bertold Brecht's literary agent. He was interned on the Isle of Man during WW1. Unflattering references to him in letters from Brecht are in the archive (authors seldom trusted their agents then and even now!). He was made stateless by Hitler in January 1939 but had already left Nazi Germany in 1933 along with many of his peers. He became a naturalised Brit in the summer of 1939. He died in 1944 from a heart attack. Interestingly, whilst researching for data for my citizenship application I discovered that his naturalisation application papers were embargoed until 2039. Why I know not and not even accessible under the Freedom of Information Act. I suspect he might have been working for British intelligence but have no evidence. My father Peter married June Pickwoad in 1950. My twin sister Maxine and I were born in 1951 and my other sister Leone in 1955. Peter was the most published oncologist of his generation and one of the most important leaders in cancer research in the world until he broke his neck in a skiing accident in 1988 (I was with him at the time). He continued to edit and publish and lead the cancer research centre in Southampton, having led the Chester Beaty research institute in the fifties and on. How great that you met up with Kate (Timmy granny as we called her). When was that? She was responsible for instilling in me a love of classical music although she liked to call me her Little Beatle! She lived on Mount Ararat Road in Richmond until the early seventies when she moved to a small terrace nearby. Her house was full of furniture, paintings and many drawings of nudes. When I asked her who the lady was with no clothes on she used to say she was someone my grandfather knew. In fact, she had been a part time model in Berlin when she and Elias met in 1920. I have a pencil portrait of Elias by Brecht which I was able to keep after she died.

One of the most interesting discoveries in your genealogy is the link to Hilde Bach. I knew her from earliest childhood. She and Kate had a bit of a love/hate relationship but she was lovely, generous and would pass on surprises including million Deutschmark notes from the thirties. I visited her shortly before she died. She lived in sheltered housing in North London and always fed me and my wife Julia with good Kosher grub! I think it is very interesting that you sad she was an ardent Zionist. I never got that sense from her and we talked politics and religion a lot in her later years. She used to go to church with her Christian friends. She was committed to ecumenicalism and was much involved with communing with people of all faiths. She could so easily have moved to Israel but chose to stay in London. She said we were related but I never got to figure out how.

A proper family tree is required!

To bring matters up to date, I married Jane Otterwill in 1977 and we had two boys, Jake Maximillian (born 17.8.1980 and Jesse Aaron Perseus, born 12.8.1982) hence his third name with its astronomical reference). I was divorced in 1984 and have been married to Julia (ne Richards) for over thirty years. Jake is a plant ecologist and has been at ETH for the last 20 years. Jesse is a photographer and runs the documentary post grad course at Falmouth, part of the university of Exeter. Jake married Fine Hasse in 2015 and has two daughters, Emily aged 13 and Leah aged 9. They live in Zurich. Jesse married Deana (ne Ashby) in 2014 and has two children Otto aged 13 and Olive aged 9, so the Alexander name continues in this branch of the family. He is divorced and lives in Somerset.

On the US side my cousin Bill married Lucy in the mid 70s and has two sons.

My sister Maxine married Anthony Stirk, a veterinarian in 1973. She has spent a lifetime in the world of horse racing and breeding. My little sister Dr Leone Martin got her doctorate in hydro geology and married fellow geologist Brian in 1985.

So, we are distant cousins indeed. I look forward to hearing from you and maybe meeting sometime?

Best wishes


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