Jill Rothwell's Family Connection to Czernowitz


My father Ludwig Bieder birth certificate says he was born at Rathausstrasse 15, Czernowitz 11 June 1910 to Abraham and Bertha Bieder with Jessie Silberstein and Meier Isak Schecter’s names also on the certificate.


The first mention of my family in Czernowitz was great grandfather Jakob Flinker.  Jakob attended the first Jewish Public School which opened in 1854 and is noted in the ‘boys first class 1855/56’. He then attended Czernowitz University graduating in medicine. Jakob married ‘Blinnie’ Weinberger. They had three daughters two I know were Bertha b.1879 my grandmother, and Regina and one son. Jakob was a familiar sight around the streets of Czernowitz visiting his patients on a horse and trap as Medical Officer of Health for the city.  His older brother Arnold Flinker was a local army surgeon and had 6 sons and 1 daughter. One of Arnold’s sons was Martin Flinker of the well known Vienna and then Paris bookstores. The Flinkers spoke German as their mother tongue but also Ruthenian or Rumanian.


Recently retrieved Czernowitz cemetery records note Jakob Flinker died in 1914, Albertine (Blinnie) Flinker in 1926 and Jakob’s brother Arnold in 1928.


Bertha Flinker met Abraham Bieder (born 1877 in Brzezany near L’vov), second son of Samuel Bieder and Lucy Appfelbaum. Samuel managed one of the large Potocki estates with a distillery near Kossow. Abraham was educated in Vienna where he graduated with a doctorate in law, but during his studies he spent a year at the University of Czernowitz and also a compulsory military year in the army there. Bertha and Abraham met and married in Czernowitz in 1907 and went to live in Vienna. But Bertha returned to Czernowitz three years later to give birth to my father Ludwig who was born under the watchful eye of  Dr Flinker. Ten days after the birth the family returned to Vienna with nurse Hansi in tow where they remained until 1939.


Abraham was a lawyer in Vienna with the Sudbahn then a privately owned railway company at a time of extensive expansion, and the family travelled frequently by rail for holidays. During World War I the good life in Vienna ceased with little or no fresh food, soup kitchens, and Czernowitz relatives helped by visiting with fresh produce from Bukowina farmlands.


Ludwig graduated from the Vienna Medical School in 1936. In 1938 he fled to Switzerland, then to New Zealand where he practised as a gastroenterologist for many years.  In 1939 Abraham and Bertha had their 34 Reisnerstrasse house in Vienna looted but they escaped and travelled with a few possessions under the cover of darkness to Brussels where they hid in an attic flat for the duration of the war, to be discovered in 1947 by a friend of Ludwig’s and brought to New Zealand. Ludwig by now had married a New Zealander. Lois, had 5 daughters including two sets of twins and died aged 85 in 1995.


We have a sample of Bertha’s fine embroidery with gold thread running through it, done as a young woman in Czernowitz at the turn of the century. Bertha must have managed to spirit away such possessions and these few photos from the Reisenerstrasse Vienna in 1939.


Jill Rothwell

Auckland, New Zealand