Friday, May 6, 2011

My Inzenhof Line

St. Emmerich Ronok Hungary
Before 1999 I had never heard anyone in the family mention Inzenhof, the village of my paternal grandfather's family. My father's parents divorced in the 1940's. My grandmother and her children relocated from Chicago, Illinois to Southern California. My grandfather Rudolph Kapple remained in Illinois. My grandfather Rudolph died when I was very young, and never visited California so I never met him. I've always felt a sense of disappointment because I never met him.  I  felt a close connection to his line of the family. I was told that I looked like one of Rudolph's sisters. I was also told that my surname was likely Jewish and wanted to learn more about that. For many years I questioned my family about the Kapple family origins. No one knew very much at all. My grandmother looked into it at one point and came up with Gratz, Austria as their place of origin. I still wanted to learn more. I wondered what may have happened to relatives during WWII?

I was busy working when I was in my 20's and couldn't pursue genealogy. When I finally got access to the internet in 1999 I began pursuing my interest in the family history. At the local library I stumbled on a genealogy how to book called My Sixteen. The author of the book laid out instructions on tracing immigrant ancestors in a very simple and understandable way. After reading that book I successfully found my family in all the records suggested in the My Sixteen book. Combining all of that with internet research I found out the family was not from Gratz but instead from nearby Inzenhof, Austria. All available records indicate that the family had been Catholic for at least 200 years. I have found nothing to document that they were ever Jewish. 

The histories of Inzenhof and the province of Burgenland are really fascinating. The Burgenland area was very sparsely populated before the 18th century. It also suffered population losses due to war. During the 18th century efforts were made to bring in settlers to this area. It is not known for certain where all of these new settlers came from? Likely many came from the area  around of Gratz?

Until after WWI Burgenland was a German speaking area of Hungary.

Inzenhof WWII War Memorial.
Many of my family names are listed here.
The WWII era really fascinates me. Inzenhof was the location of a slave labor camp. This pdf article makes a brief mention of the camp in Inzenhof,  The Death Marches of Hungarian Jews Through Austria (the first article link on this page). Relations of my family did serve on the German side during WWII. I have not found any records indicating that any relatives were prisoners in the concentration camps.
The Burgenland Bunch published a wonderful diary on the internet regarding a visit of a Burgenland native, then American Citizen, who was visiting her mother and was trapped in the area and unable to return to the US because of the outbreak of the war. Links to the articles An unforgettable visit to the Burgenland Austria and part 2  An unforgettable visit to the Burgenland Austria
It's difficult to get stories about the Inzenhof area during WWII because many documents and newspapers from that era were destroyed. Efforts were made after WWII to hide evidence of crimes. Surviving residents of the area were never willing to share very much info about this time period. I have read stories about Nazis occasionally searching houses, and harassing some Burgenland families.  

The cold war also greatly affected life in Inzenhof. Inzenhof was on the Iron Curtain literally. St. Emmerich Church, the Inzenhof parish church, was located in no man's land during the cold war. The cemetery was located in a mine field. Occasionally someone fleeing communist Hungary would try to cross the minefield into Burgenland. Residents of the area would sometimes risk their lives to retrieve bodies from the minefields. 

Today Inzenhof is a nice middle class area of Austria.  Photos of Inzenhof  today give an impression of a sleepy, rural place. It's hard to envision the chaotic place this was in the past. Peace finally :)!
Inzenhof Austria

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