Introduction to the family tree

The history of Gustav Mahler‘s forbears can be traced back to the end of the 17th century, and it shows his family’s roots as being firmly planted in Czech soil. Members of several related families used to write genealogies, thereby contributing a part of the Mahler family tree (the Kraus-Sandas, Bondys, Mahler-Marlows, Herrmans, Kerns and others). When Henry Louis de La Grange was working on his book „Gustav Mahler”, Peter Riethus [of the IGMG] compiled the genealogy for him. That was 40 years ago.

The family tree that follows here cannot be any more exhaustive, for many registers were lost during the Nazi occupation of the country. The Jews had always faced persecution and discrimination, forcing many to change their address frequently and to emigrate. The Empress Maria Theresia issued an edict which aimed at curbing the natural increase in the Jewish population: it stipulated that only the first-born son could marry and have children. This then meant that other children were born out of wedlock and deprived of rights, carrying the name of their mother.


Up to 1787 all registers of Jews recorded only two names: the „first” name, given at the time of circumcision, and the name of the father. And that is how the first recorded forbear of Gustav Mahler was registered – Abraham Jakub. Then in 1787 he took a family name, that of Mahler, as a result of an order issued by Maria Theresia’s co-Emperor, Joseph II. This first Mahler had seven children. He lived in the village of Chmelna near Vlasim. His landlord was a free farmer called Matous Gilig (or Jilich). A 1724 census of the Jews shows two families that supplied poultry to Prague and spoke Czech. It is, however, impossible to ascertain whether they also were part of what later became the Mahler clan. Ashkenasian jews.

One of Abraham Mahler’s grandsons, Simon Mahler, entered into an illegal marriage (i. e. one not sanctioned by higher authority) at Lipnice and thus founded another branch of the Mahler family in the hilly Vysocina region. His wife Maria Bondy bore him 10 children registered as illegitimate and, therefore, under the Bondy name, and it was not until 1850 that their status was legalized. The eldest son, Bernard, was born in 1827, still at Lipnice. He was to be Gustav’s father. Thereafter the family moved to Kalistë where Simon Mahler acquired a distillery. It was at Kalistë that Gustav Mahler was born on 7’h July 1860.

The family has given rise to a number of exceptionally gifted individuals. The first Mahler, Abraham (1720-1800), was a cantor at the synagogue; Gustav Mahler’s daughter Anna Justina (born 1904) became a famous sculptor and wife of Ernst Krenek; the granddaughter Marina (born 1943) and great-granddaughter Alexandra (born 1975) are both gifted artists.

The brother Otto (born 1873) was by Gustav’s own account very talented musically, but unhappily he committed suicide. Alma Rosé (born 1906), daughter of Gustav’s sister Justina, was a violin virtuoso married for a short spell to the famous Czech violinist Vasa Prfhoda. Later on at the Auschwitz concentration camp she was forced to conduct the „girl orchestra” organised by the SS guards for their own amusement. She died there. Robert Mahler (1881-1938) was a composer and conductor in Chile; Friederick Mahler (born 1901) worked as a conductor in Berlin, Copenhagen and the USA; Ludwig Mahler (born 1859) was a Professor in Vienna, who spoke 22 oriental languages and wrote textbooks of many of them. Josef Mahler (born 1901) came from the Nëmecky Brod branch of the family and became famous as an inventor specialising in photography – his patents were used by the US forces during World War II. Zdenëk Mahler (born 1928) is a Czech writer and dramatist whose many works deal with music.

Many members of the Mahler family lost their lives in the concentration camps. Only a few survived the ordeal. The other survivors were those who went abroad in good time. Their children have been scattered abroad, as well as in the Czech Republic. They often do not know of each other’s existence and are difficult to trace. It is hoped that this brief history will be of help to them and to their relatives in their search for historical contexts and for contacts.

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