of the Vassel family lived in Normandy, France since the 1400s,
first in the tiny village of Neuilly-le-Malherbe and then in the
provincial capitol of Caen. The home in which Stanislas
Vassel was born, on August 11, 1809 in Caen, stood until 1938.
At age twenty-one he was drafted into the French army, but was
discharged on Jan. 11, 1831, at age twenty-two, with lung disease.
On May 17, 1835 the Journal de la Normandie tells of a fire in
Caen, and the heroic efforts of Stanislas Vassel helping to fight
left Caen and went to Paris in 1838. There he became a Mason of
the eighteenth degree, and Grand Master of the Loge des Grand
Orient de France on July 19, 1841. He also obtained the highest
degree of Rosicrucian - a Christian movement devoted to esoteric
wisdom with emphasis on psychic and spiritual enlightenment.
with a girl in Paris, known only as "Louise" in letters which
have survived, seems to have had some part in influencing him
to leave Paris and go to Berlin. Although she wrote to him from
Paris, pleading with him to leave Berlin and return to her, he
apparently thought better of it.
became a naturalized citizen of Prussia on May 22, 1843. Interestingly
enough, they spelled his name wrong on the documents. It was spelled
"Vashel" instead of "Vassel." Elaborate wall and water fortifications
that had enclosed the medieval city of Berlin had been torn about
1800. Major roads and canals linked the capitol to the surrounding
towns of the Brandenburg region. Over 400,000 people lived in
the rapidly growing city of Berlin in 1850. The Prussian Court
and army attracted new industry to the area and an excellent transportation
network and government market drew new industries and workers.
was described as having blue eyes in official traveling papers
when he was 33 years old. He was a master top-hat maker, and was
appointed "by special request of His Majesty the King," his silk
top hat maker with a standing invitation to dinner, theater and
tea at the King's new palace in Potsdam. Dated Oct. 6, 1844, the
invitation was signed by Highmarshal von Meyerinck. During this
time, Stanislas signed up for thirty-four riding lessons, according
to a note dated July 1845.
6, 1845 he obtained a passport to visit Paris and Caen. He visited
Paris frequently where he still had business dealings. His hats
were considered the finest in high fashion, and the varicolored
Vassel silk high-hats were mentioned specifically as being very
stylish in a theater program for a performance of "King Lear"
in Paris in 1845.
married Magdalene Henriette Emilie Schmidt (born Oct. 4, 1814
and died Feb. 7, 1894 in Berlin), the daughter of master-tanner
Johann Friedrich Heinrich Schmidt (born Dec. 17, 1782 and died
July 10, 1844 in Berlin) and Marie Charlotte Nufer (born Oct.
22, 1787 and died July 10, 1837 - one of the last victims of cholera
of Stanislas and Magdalene was to be performed in the Hedwigskirche
in Berlin, since Stanislas was Catholic. He did not speak German
very well, and when the priest asked him to promise that the children
would be raised Catholic, he tried to explain that since his business
required him to travel a great deal the rearing of the children
would fall upon Magdalene. He told the priest that since she was
Protestant she would be raising the children Protestant. Since
this would be a Christian upbringing he felt it really didn't
matter. When the priest said this would not be acceptable, Stanislas
took his bride by the arm, left the Hedwigskirche, and was married
June 16, 1843 in the Protestant Luisenstadtkirche. Although the
children were raised Protestant, Stanislas remained a Catholic.
He requested that he receive a Catholic burial when he was mortally
ill three years later.
first child was born July 23, 1843, and was named Stanislaus Henri
Antonin Eugen Vassel. He was called Eugen. Thirteen months later
Louis Alfred Emil Vassel was born, on Aug. 13, 1844. He was known
as Emil. The last of their three sons, and the direct-line ancestor
of Bruno Vassel II, Leon Gustav Alfred
Vassel, was born June 14, 1845 and was known as Alfred.
have been exhausting and somewhat overwhelming for Magdalene to
bear three children so close to each other. However, for the Bruno
Vassel I - Bruno Vassel II family, her sacrifice means a great
deal since our family line stems from the youngest of the three
sons. Stanislas died on April 26, 1846, when Alfred was less than
ten months old.
had been visiting in Paris when he became sick, and a quack doctor
gave him a remedy that contained camphor. It attacked his nervous
system and he became deathly ill. He hurried back to Berlin but
died shortly thereafter. His tombstone inscription, written in
- Antoine - Stanislas - Vassel
at Caen 11 Aug 1809 Tender husband, good father his memory will
who knew him.
Schmidt Vassel supported herself and her three sons after the
death of her husband by continuing the business of her husband.
Her mother had died nine years before and her father less than
two years before the death of her husband. Her sons were able
to obtain educations, and the hat-making firm of S. Vassel & Co.
continued to be successful.
the oldest son, received a business education and then continued
with hat-making in S. Vassel & Co. He married Maria Dorothea Wilhelmine
Hilke on Oct. 18, 1869 in Bad Freienwalde, Berlin ( Maria was
born April 4, 1845 in Bad Freienwalde and died July 19, 1876 at
Soden/Taunus.) Eugen died April 24, 1906 in Berlin, of diabetes.
the second son, studied business in Amsterdam and Berlin, and
then joined the family firm of S. Vassel & Co. He never married
and died in Berlin on June 10, 1901, age 56.
the youngest son, studied business and then joined the family
hat-making firm. During this time he had trouble with his eyes,
being near-sighted, and therefore he gave up the hat-making business
for a time. However, he must have obtained glasses because in
1869 he became a partner in S. Vassel & Co., which became the
main supplier of hats for Princes Alexander and George of Prussia.
In 1880 he left this business and studied photography with Albert
Grundner. He continued in the photography profession until 1897,
with a studio in the bustling center of Berlin which by this time
had a population approaching 2 million people.
Helene Catharine Sophie Hartung on October 10, 1872. She was a
beautiful woman of stately demeanor, from Thüringen. A large oil
painting of Helene, standing regally in a long slender gown, used
to hang in the home of Bruno Vassel II and now hangs in the home
of Bruno Vassel III. She was born November 11, 1851 in Berlin,
the daughter of Carl Julius Albert Hartung and Amalie Verona Wilhelmine
Dreeke. Her father, Carl Hartung, was a book publisher, specializing
in scientific thesises from the universities of Jena and Leipzig.
He also bred wild and domestic birds such as ducks, pheasants
and Cornish hens.
and Sophie Vassel's first child was born in Berlin on August 26,
1873. Seventeen months later Sophie delivered twins - a boy, Bruno
I, who became my grandfather and is the lineage of this study,
and a girl, Elfriede, who was known as Elfe.
children under the age of two years must have quite a challenge
to Sophie, continuing in the tradition of Alfred's parents by
having their children very close together. Their last child, Peter,
was born three years later on April 3, 1878.
youngest child Peter was nineteen years old, Alfred and Sophie
Vassel left Berlin and went to Schwarzburg, Thüringen not far
from where Sophie had lived as a child. This heavily forested
and mountainous region lies about 100 miles south and 100 miles
west of Berlin. Sophie's family had lived about fifty miles east
of Schwarzburg, in Langensalga, since the early 1700's. Alfred
Vassel opened a health spa and hotel in Schwarzburg, known as
the "Villa Vassel," which he ran until he died of a heart attach
on November 2, 1906. His wife continued to run the resort until
1919, when her son Peter took over and converted the resort into
a boy's school known as Pedagogium Vassel.
had been a lieutenant in the German army in Russia during the
First World War. When her returned from the war he purchased the
hotel and resort from his mother and changed the "Villa Vassel"
into a private boy's school which continued to function as a boy's
school until 1937 when it was taken over by the Nazi regime and
converted into a school for forestry. Peter was a philologist,
having studied ancient and modern languages at the Goethe School
in Berlin-Wilmersdorf and in Leipzig, specializing in Latin and
French. He was considered to be a very fine teacher. He married
Hedwig Speitel from Lichtenau, Thürginen on October 5, 1908. They
were the parents of two children, Joachim (born October 7, 1909
in Berlin) and Elsbeth (born January 28, 1911 in Berlin.) Peter
was imprisoned by the Nazi for his resistance to the Hitler regime,
and died in prison in Jena, Thüringen on August 4, 1943. My father,
Bruno II, attended Uncle Peter's boy's school from age 8 to 14,
during the latter part of World War I. During that time Bruno's
father was in a British prisoner of war in India. Bruno I's experience
in the prison camp was terrible, and he almost died from exposure
when transported back to Germany at the end of the war. Bruno
II remained at the school until he went to Brazil to join his
parents in 1922. He shared many delightful memories of his years
cross country skiing in the mountains of Thüringen, of fishing
in the Schwartza River, and of beginning to date the young frauleins
of the neighborhood.
Vassel I, second son of Alfred and Sophie Vassel, went to India
in 1900 as an architect and contractor for the Swiss firm of Strohmeyer
& Co.. When he returned to Schwartzburg to visit his parents in
the summer of 1905 he met Else Leist,
a young lady from Berlin who was learning the art of being a hostess
at the Villa Vassel. A whirlwind courtship of just a few weeks
resulted in their marriage in Berlin on September 14, 1905. Else
was known to her grandchildren as "Oma Vassel," and well the grandchildren
remember her twinkling eyes as she spoke of her grand adventure
at the age 23 of marrying dashing Bruno Vassel, whom she had known
for only a few weeks, and then leaving immediately on their honeymoon
to India. Oma loved to tell of having to iron her bridal nightgown
on the railroad train traveling from Berlin through Bavaria and
Switzerland to Trieste, Italy where they embarked on a ship for
India. But more about that in the following chapter.
Vassel I's twin sister, Elfe, was a well-known figure skater,
and performed together with Bruno I. She married Oskar Huttig
on July 7, 1898 who owned a silk thread factory. He had a valuable
stamp collection, particularly prizing an extremely rare black
Mauritius stamp. The island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean
east of Madagascar, was also known as "Ile de France." Oskar was
an excellent billiards player. Bruno II remembers visiting their
summer cottage with his mother, which was located on the island
of Rügen in the Baltic Sea. They had one daughter, Gerda, who
was born January 16, 1903 in Berlin, and married Klaus Kuhnemann
on May 14, 1925. Gerda and Klaus Kuhnemann had a son, Klaus, who
became a lawyer. He married, but they never had any children.
Bruno II and his wife Mary visited Gerda and Klaus at their home
in Wupperthal, outside of Essen, Germany in the 1960's.
Vassel I's oldest brother Phillip, (born August 26, 1873 in Berlin
and died December 19, 1951 in Bunde, Westfalen), studied in the
School of Oriental Languages in Berlin where he graduated in 1894
with an emphasis in Arabic. He then obtained a law degree. In
addition to German, he knew Latin, Greek, French, English and
Arabic in twelve dialects very well, and could read and understand
Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Rumanian, Russian, and Polish. He also
learned Hebrew, and obtained his doctorate with honors on March
Vassel became the German consul to Tangier, Morocco June 29, 1896
and to Casablanca, Morocco April 4, 1897. He represented the Kaiser
in Fes, Morocco from March 26, 1904 until July 17, 1911. From
1911 to 1912 he represented Germany in the French-German negotiations
over Casablanca in Bern, Switzerland and was also the secretary
to the German delegation of the International Balkan Financial
Conference in Paris. During the First World War he was the German
minister to the Turkish Financial Reform Commission in Constantinople
from December 4, 1913 until December of 1918. He had official
appointments to the consulates of Arnheim, Holland from 1919 to
1921; Galatz, Rumania from 1921 to 1923; was Consul General to
Odessa, Russia from 1923 to 1925; to Posen, Poland from 1926 to
1928; and Smyrna, Turkey from July to October, 1928, at which
time he retired. He was recalled to service twice, once in 1931
over the Polish-German boarder dispute, and from 1941 to 1944
during the Second World War at which time he was German Consul
General in Paris, supervising the German radio broadcasts to North
Africa and the Arabic Middle-East.
individual and personal sorrows war perpetrates. In the First
World War, two brothers supported the Kaiser. As a result, Bruno
I spent seven years in a British concentration camp in India because
he was caught intercepting British codes and sending them to his
brother, Phillip, who was in the German consulate in Turkey. In
the Second World War two brothers found themselves in opposing
camps when Phillip was called into service in Paris by Hitler,
whereas Peter lost his school to the Nazi, was imprisoned in Jena
due to his opposition to Hitler's regime, and died there.
retired to Bunde, Westfalen in 1944 due to illness where he passed
away December 19, 1951. His last words, after having been in a
coma for some time, were: "I have stood on the brink of death;
it is a wonderful feeling; how foolish are those who fear death
- how foolish, how foolish." Then he slipped quietly away.
to be a very charming gentleman, he had a love for Goethe and
Shakespeare. In 1937, S. Lewis Elmer, father of Mary Erety Elmer
Vassel and father-in-law of Bruno Vassel II, visited Phillip Vassel
at his home in Berlin. They went to the opera together, and S.
Lewis Elmer was very impressed. He found Phillip to be a true
gentleman and a scholar. Phillip was fascinated with Biblical
textural problems of Bedouin-Arabic origin and wrote several books.
His religious sentiments were strongly anti-Catholic and he was
known as a loyal Protestant. Phillip was decorated with many honors
and medals, including ones presented to him by the governments
of Prussia, Sweden and Turkey.
married Anna Elizabeth Hermine Scheuch on September 2, 1901 in
Peine, Hannover. Anna was born March 29, 1876 in Sulingen, Hannover
and died in Bunde, Westfalen on September 29, 1950.
eldest son, Jurgen Fritz Vassel, born October 18, 1902, studied
agriculture and then immigrated to what used to be German South-West
Africa in 1929 to farm on a cattle ranch. He married Henny-Sophie
Viereck on April 23, 1930 and they had four children. Kathe Vassel
died on diphtheria in her first year of life, and Jochem Vassel
was run down and killed by a drunken driver while on a Scout hike
at the age of ten. Karen Vassel and Frauke Vassel have both married
and live in South Africa. Frauke was the mother of triplets in
1972. Because of his father's importance as a German diplomat,
Jurgen was imprisoned in South Africa at Lager Andalusia from
1940 to 1946.
Vassel, the second child of Phillip, was born February 29, 1908,
while his parents were escaping by camel caravan from Tangler,
Morocco at the time of the outbreak of the German-Moroccan war.
He happened to also be born on February 29th in a Leap Year, and
Bruno Vassel II, who attended Uncle Peter's school with Klaus
in Schwartzburg during their boyhood years, remembers well how
they loved to tease Klaus about the fact that he really only had
a birthday once every four years and therefore was really only
three years old and that he was "born on the back of a camel."
They would say, "What can you expect from a fellow with a story
wrote the book Die Vassel aus Neuilly-le-Malherbe, the history
which has provided much of the family information given herein.
He researched and wrote extensively on the history of the Vassel
family. In 1918 a Vassel dossier, which preserves the family history
back to 1484 in Neuilly-le-Malherbe, Normandy, France was given
to a paper mill to be recycled. However, a Frenchman named Dubourg
rescued it because it contained history he felt was important.
All of the records which Klaus apparently gathered together survived
the bombing of 1939-1945 and the occupation of Berlin by the Russians,
hidden in a box in the Treasury of the Fire Department of the
province of Brandenburg in Berlin at Karlsbad 4/5. However, they
are very damaged due to exposure to ground water and are in part
illegible. These papers were handed down to Klaus's son Eick.
The factual contents of the dossier deals with the litigation
of a century-long quarrel between the Vassels and the pastors
of the parish of Neuilly-le-Malherbe concerning the right to be
able to use one bench of their own in the Church. Ach ya, such
are the strong-willed Vassels!
explains in his introduction to Die Vassel aus Neuilly-le-Malherbe,
which is written in German, that he found it a real challenge
to learn to read the old French in which the records are written.
The fifteenth and sixteenth century French parish records of St.
Martin Church, Neuilly-le-Malherbe, which have now been microfilmed
and are in the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah are, indeed, very
difficult to read. Yvette Longstaff, a French genealogical researcher
from Sandy, Utah, when asked to look at these records, said they
were so difficult to read it would take her about seven hours
of study just to figure out the old French, before she could even
begin to transcribe them. Her reaction to these old records helps
one appreciate all of the effort Klaus made, which has made available
to the family so much family history. Klaus was a good friend
of Bruno Vassel II, and Bruno and his wife Mary visited Klaus
and his wife Ilse-Dore in their home in Richterich bei Aachen,
Germany and Klaus and his wife visited Bruno and Mary Vassel in
Punta Gorda, Florida in the late 1970's.
married Ilse-Dore Berta Gertrud Henning from Rheinsberg, Mark
on June 25, 1937 and they had three sons, Jens born May 17, 1938,
Eick born June 6, 1939 and Jorn born December 25, 1943. Two of
the three sons are lawyers, and there is a book by Klaus in the
Family History Library in Salt Lake City dealing with these three
obtained his doctorate of law in 1935. He was a lieutenant in
the Second World War, was captured by the Americans in 1945, and
subsequently was detained in a British prisoner of war camp from
May 2 to September 18, 1945.
working for various law firms, he established his own firm in
Bunde from 1963 to 1970 when he retired. He published 85 law articles
during his career. His special love was the researching of family
history, and he wrote four books in German on the history of the
Vassel, third child born to Phillip and Anna, was born July 19,
1913 in Hannover, Germany. She married Heinrich Neucohner from
Bunde, Westfallen in June 15, 1937 in Berlin and had a second
Catholic wedding in Colon on June 16, 1937. They were the parents
of four children - Bernd, born May 5, 1938; Kurt, born May 5,
1939; Dierk, born June 13, 1940 who has moved to Salvador-Bahia,
Brazil; and Lutz, born April 23, 1944.