Birth name: Osias Mayer
Americanized name: Max

The "Unknown/Mystery Katz" whose existence was doubted by several Katz relatives and whose name was forgotten by those who had known him or had heard about him now has an identity: his name was Max Katz.

Osias Mayer Katz, aka Max Katz

Osias Mayer is the previous "mystery" Katz brother who changed his name to Max Katz. Born 6 April 1889 in Sokal, he emigrated to the USA in 1913 at the age of 24.

The "Unknown" Katz Brother

According to my mother, there was a fourth Katz brother who had immigrated from Sokal to America before WW1. However, she didn't know his name.

She remembered letters being exchanged in the 1930's with relatives back in Poland, and believed she remembered her parents receiving a letter from this uncle in America - although she wasn't sure if this had happened or if she had simply imagined it.

According to her, her cousin Mary Frankel knew him and had met him once when she and her son Max had arrived in New York. According to her, Mary had said he had two daughters. Beyond that, my mother didn't know anything more about him.

Asked about this "American" Katz relative however, two cousins I spoke to said they had never heard of a fourth Katz brother in America. So, for many years, the existence of a fourth Katz sibling was merely hypothetical.

In 2005, I met with Siegmund Spiegel, a childhood friend of my mother, who was the first person to confirm the existence of this unnamed, forgotten Katz.

He said he understood this "American uncle" to be a fourth Katz brother. "Not until I was ready to leave [Germany for the New York] did I hear anyone talk of him. [...] I only recall that Toni and Saul talked of him, and I was given his address."

He remembered meeting this fourth Katz brother in New York, but couldn't remember his name. He said he had met him briefly in a restaurant to ask for papers for Toni and Saul:

"I spent literally days pursuing some of the Katz family that lived in New York. In Gera, there were three Katz brothers: Leo, Aaron, and Mathis... But then there was another brother who lived here [in New York]. He must have come in the late teens or twenties"

"I saw him late 1938... He lived somewhere in Brooklyn, and he worked in a Jewish deli as a waiter, downtown New York. I talked to him about [getting] papers for Toni, and he said he couldn't help. He said he was in "tzuris" himself... He already had problems himself, his wife was ill, and so on, so he was no help."

He said 'I have no money, I'm poor, I work here for tips, I can be of no help.'"

In 2011, Max Frankel provided more confirmation of the existence of this New York Katz relative, and described how he had lived with the family of this unnamed Katz during one summer in the early 1940's in the East Bronx, near Crotona Park:

"He lived in the Bronx, not Brooklyn. He was a waiter on the Lower East Side.

I do not know if he was really a sibling. My mother called him "uncle" and she regarded his children as cousins. They were Charlotte (never married); Harry, without apparent family, last seen as a cab driver in the 1970's; and Julius, who was married, had at least one child, lived in Queens, attended NYU with a major in journalism and worked in public relations for a time.

Julius was a buyer at Abraham and Strauss store in Brooklyn. He died at a fairly young age - I attended his funeral but can't place the date - surely more than 20 yrs ago."

Max Frankel spent a few months with this relative in the summer while school was out as his mother had to work and couldn't watch him.

"When I lived with them one summer in the East Bronx, Julius (Jules) seemed to be a few years older than me--late teens, I suspect--and Harry was working somewhere and clearly in his 20s. Charlotte was even older and there was always much anxiety about her not being married. Their mother was sickly by then, but warmhearted and generous."

"Unknown" no more

In 2013, Max Frankel provided further details, finally putting a name on the "unknown" Katz:

"I have found some sketchy outlines of a geneology being developed by my late wife, Tobi."

"Her listings show a Herz Wolf Katz, as born in Sokal (Galicia) and as having died "around 1900" at the age of "about 50." His wife is listed as Hannah [Sara Cheine]."

"Their children were
- my maternal grandfather, Mathias (or Matteas) Katz, who married Margule Pfeffer; - Aaron who married Golde and then Suste;
- Max, who married Rose Eckstein; - and Leo, who married Frida Tabak."

"Max married Rose Eckstein in New York. They lived at 782 East 175th Street in the Bronx and had three children: Charlotte, Harry (who married Dorothy Pressler) and Jules (who married Doris Michaelson). I do not know how he came to New York.

Jules went to NYU and studied journalism and did a little bit of writing, then married Doris Michaelson. He became a salesman for Abraham & Strauss in the Brooklyn store and died at a fairly young age."

According to Max Frankel, there was "no question" in his mind that Max Katz was a sibling, based on a very strong resemblance with photos of Leo Katz. He also remembers his mother Mary calling him "Uncle Max."

Confirmation from the US Census

2022: Newly uncovered US Census and marriage records finally confirmed not only the existence of Max Katz, but that he was indeed the brother of Leo, Mathes and Aron Selig Katz.

Max' marriage record provides the following details: Max Katz, age 26 in 1916, born in Galicia, Austria, the son of Hyman [= Hertz Wolf] and Sara Gruber, married Rose Ekstein from "Galecin, Austria", meaning Galicia, on October 28, 1916 in New York.

Source: www.familysearch.org

The 1930 census provides some additional insights: Max and and his future wife both immigrated in 1913 when they were respectively 22 and 21. They were naturalized and spoke English, the language they spoke before coming to the US was Yiddish. Max (39) was a waiter in a restaurant. His wife rose (38) didn't work. Their three children, "Charlott" (12), "Harriet, daughter (6)" [instead of "Harry, son"], and Julius (6) were born in New York.

The 1940 census shows the correct data about their three children: Charlotte Katz (age 22), Harry Katz (age 16) and Julius Katz (age 14). Max was now a waiter in a hotel. In 1939, he had worked a total of 40 weeks, indicating that he had been unemployed for part of the previous year . His daughter Charlotte lived with her parents and was a stenographer.

These documents thus confirm what Siegmund Spiegel, Max Frankel and my mother recalled. Why other members of the Katz family ignored his existence can most likely be explained as an erasure from the family. His brothers - at least my grandfather Leo and his brother Aron Selig - had reached out to him when they desperately needed to flee Germany, and he answered he couldn't help.

Biographical Outline

Osias Mayer is the previous "mystery" Katz brother who changed his name to Max Katz.

Osias Mayer was born 6 April 1889 in Sokal.

Sokal PSA AGAD, Lwow Wojewodztwa / Ukraine
Births 1858-1905.
Surname Given Name Type Akta Age Sex House # Father Mother Mother Town
Osias Mayer 6 April 1889 Birth 43 M Herz Wolf KATZ Sara Cheine GRUBER Rozdzalów
Osias Mayer Katz, Birth

Herz Wolf (Naftali), his father, died in 1904 when Osias Mayer was fifteen years old.

He left Sokal and emigrated to the USA in 1913 at the age of 24. He sailed from Hamburg aboard the S.S. Amerika, a steamship with the Hamburg-America line and arrived in Ellis Island on 13 September 1913.

Amerika

S.S. Amerika

Source: mahlerfoundation.org

Max Katz New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island)

Max Katz New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island)

Source: www.familysearch.org

On the ship manifest, Osias Mayer's race is listed as "Hebrew", and his profession as "clerk".

Three years after landing in New York, Osias Mayer Katz, now going by the more American-sounding Max Katz, married Rose Ekstein from Galecin, Galicia, on October 28, 1916 in New York.

Max and Rose would have three children, all born in New York:
Charlotte Katz, born 1918, (estimated, +-1)
Harry Katz, born 1924 (estimated, +-1)
Julius Katz, born 1926 (estimated, +-1)

Max Katz 1920 Census

1920 Census

Source: www.familysearch.org

The 1920 census, hard to decipher and filled with clerical errors, provides little useful information. We learn that Max and Rose could speak and write English. However it erroneously states that they were born in New York and that their mother tongue was English, which was maybe meant to apply to their first-born Charlotte. Their parents' mother tongue was listed as "Jewish" and born in "Russia"; This I assume should read as their mother tongue was Yiddish, while Russia was simply incorrect.

Unfortunately, Max' profession is impossible to read. His place employment may have been a "dentist supplier". At the very least, this indicates that he was not working as a waiter.

Max Katz 1930 Census

1930 Census

Source: www.familysearch.org

The 1930 census lists their three children all born in New York. Three errors marr the census: Charlotte is now "Charlott", Harry is listed as a girl named "Harriet", and Julius is incorrectly listed as six years old instead of four.Their parents native tongue is given as Yiddish, and Max's occupation is now waiter in a restaurant.

In November 1938, following the family's deportation to Poland, Saul Katz, wrote to Siegmund Spiegel a postcard from Lemberg (Lvov, Lviv). Saul asked Spiegel, who by then resided in New York, if he had managed to contact his uncle, with the hope that he would be able to help his family obtain an exit visa to the USA.

Postcard from Saul Katz Postcard from Saul Katz

Postcard from Saul Katz, Lviv, 1938

(Courtesy of Siegmund Spiegel)

c/o Ch. Tennenbaum
Lemberg
Podzamcze 15

Lemberg (Lvov, Lviv), November 7, 1938

I'm sure you know by now that all exit visas... (?)
I'm here in Lemberg with relatives. Your parents (Sigmund Spiegel's) are temporarily in Posen.

I'm sure you have talked to my uncle in the meantime. Please let me know his address and how he reacts to our request. [...]

I now have to cut it short since I can't afford to write a letter, I have no money for postage.
Best regards to your sister,
Saul

According to mother's recollections, her father, Leo Katz, also wrote to his brother Max, evidently looking for help to acquire a visa for America, which clearly gave no results.

Both my mother and her cousin Saul then entrusted a friend, Siegmund Spiegel, with the address of their "uncle from America", in the hope that he would be able to plead their case. After coming to New York, Spiegel set out to find Max Katz. He met him in a restaurant where he worked as a waiter and asked for his help to secure papers for my mother and Saul Katz.

"I spent literally days pursuing some of the Katz family that lived in New York. [...] I saw him late 1938... He lived somewhere in Brooklyn, and he worked in a Jewish deli as a waiter, downtown New York. I talked to him about [getting] papers for Toni, and he said he couldn't help. He said he was in "tzuris" himself... He already had problems himself, his wife was ill, and so on, so he was no help."

He said 'I have no money, I'm poor, I work here for tips, I can be of no help.'"

Max Katz 1940 Census

1940 Census

Source: www.familysearch.org

The 1940 census shows that the family still lived in the Bronx. Max was now a waiter in a hotel. In 1939, he had worked a total of 40 weeks, indicating that he had been unemployed for part of the previous year. His daughter Charlotte who lived with at the same address was a stenographer. .

No further details about Max have been uncovered so far.

Max and Rose Katz' Children

Max and Rose Katz had three children, all born in New York:
Charlotte Katz, born 1918, (estimated, +-1). "never married" according to Max Frankel. At the time of the 1940 census she lived with her parents and was a stenographer.
Harry Katz, born 1924 (estimated, +-1). "Married Dorothy Pressler. Without apparent family, last seen as a cab driver in the 1970's" according to Max Frankel.
Julius Katz, born 1926 (estimated, +-1). "Jules attended NYU with a major in journalism and worked in public relations for a time. He married Doris Michaelson, had at least one child, lived in Queens, [Later], Julius was a buyer at Abraham and Strauss store in Brooklyn. He died at a fairly young age [...] surely more than 20 yrs ago [in 2011, so at before 1991]."

Special Thanks:
Max Frankel, who put a name on the formerly "unknown" Katz brother and provided most of the data about him
Siegmund Spiegel, who was the first to confirm the existence of an "unknown" Katz in New York and described his encounter in the late 30's.
Sources:
www.familysearch.org
Marriage records: www.familysearch.org

This family history project started September 2009.
All photos and documents belong to the author and are © Daniel Abraham, except for maps and where indicated.
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This is a work in progress. Please contact me if you have any more information to contribute.

Last Modified: Sunday, May 8, 2022