Syria: Zollinger in Aleppo

Hans Martin Zollinger was born into a long-standing, solid and well recognized branch of the Zollinger family from Nänikon. The family had a long tradition as carpenters (Zimmermann), and many farm buildings in the region still bear their initials. Other family members made themselves a name as school teachers, and so it is not surprising that in later years the family produced several professors and doctors. But Hans Martin Zollinger would neither become a teacher nor a carpenter, but instead decided to move to the city of Zürich, where he became citizen (Bürgerrecht) in 1834. He was a respected store owner and inn keeper, and likely met his wife there, as she was from the French part of Switzerland. It can be assumed that the household used both languages, and that the children grew up in a world-open and progressive household. Of their five children, two died before reaching adulthood. Of the three survivors, the oldest son Solomon, born in 1815, emigrated to the USA, where he was on record as a businessman in New York, but later all traces of him have been lost. The second son Johann Kaspar * 1820 became a minister of the church, and was for a time a "Regierungsrat", a member of the Swiss parliament.

And so we come to the key person of this story, the youngest son of the family, Johann Jakob Zollinger, later called "Jacques". He was born in 1826, and trained at the Industry School in Zürich. As a young man, probably around 1851, he moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where he started a trading business, but by 1875 he had moved to Aleppo, Syria. By then he was already a wealthy and respected merchant, building up his enterprises and business links in that city, including setting up the "Zollinger Bank". He must have been one of the most prominent citizens in Aleppo, and moved in the highest circles. As such he was asked to become the "Honorary German Consul", a special honour for a person who was not even a citizen of Germany. Jacques Zollinger died in 1901, and he is buried at the Templar Cemetery in Haifa, Israel. A Chester Zollinger visiting the area was able to take a picture of his grave stone.

In early 1853 Jacques Zollinger met the daughter of Jean Paul Fautrier, a shoe manufacturer and trading business owner from Marseilles, France. It is likely that the two had business connections, and that Jacques visited there. Their daughter, Josephine Francoise Fautrier married Jacques Zollinger in Beirut in 1853. She was often called by the German version of her middle name: Franziska. During the next twenty years the Zollinger-Fautrier family had eleven children, and although one can assume that the family lived in luxury, the medical facilities must have been poor in Aleppo. This would explain why five of the children died either in early childhood, or in the case of Julius, as a teenager. That left the family with six children, one son and five daughters. Here the story becomes particularly interesting, because all five daughters married prominent persons from their social circle in Aleppo, but each husband came form a different nationality. The daughters must not only have been of a wealthy background, but all were very likely beautiful too, and so most desirable marriage prospects. Here we will follow these six children, and record their lives, which makes for a most exotic story:

- Johann Emil Zollinger was born in 1854 in Beit Meri, Israel, and as the only son, he was expected to take over the family business holdings, and so was the automatic heir of the Zollinger business and wealth. He likely joined the business as a young man, and by the time of his father's death in 1901, he must have been well versed to step in as the new owner of the Zollinger Bank in Aleppo, as well as all their other enterprises. Between 1900 and 1905 he also was German Consul in Aleppo, and he was instrumental in the resettlement of Armenian refugees from Turkey. He was still on record in Aleppo in 1911, but by 1914 he had sold out all his holdings in Syria, and had moved to Marseilles, obviously as an extremely wealthy man. Emile Zollinger never married, and so had no family, and no offspring to inherit his wealth. In 1927 a relative from Brazil was invited to spend his summer holidays with uncle Emile, and he has fond memories of the next few summers he was allowed to spend with his uncle at the French Riviera. But by the mid 1930ies the situation changed. It is family lore that Emile Zollinger came under the influence of a group of criminals of Arab origine, who were able to slowly drain his wealth. The Swiss embassy tried to intervene, but in the end Emil lost his whole fortune, and died a pauper in Marseilles in 1939.

- Amalia Zollinger was the oldest daughter, born in Aleppo in 1855. She married a William Schiffmann form Bern, Switzerland. He was a trader in Marseilles, but later became a manager for the firm Zollinger in Aleppo. After the Zollinger holdings were sold, he spent time as a trader in Russia and India, but later settled back in Marseilles. By 1921 they still lived in Marseilles, when Amalia Zollinger fell ill on a trip to Switzerland, and she died childless there.

- Johanna Elisabeth Zollinger was called "Jeanne", and was born in Beirut in 1857. In 1879 she married Etienne Stefano Coidan, who's family came from Corfu, Greece. That family can trace their origine to the crusades, when a Norman knight decided not to return home, but settle in Corfu. Family lore has it that he settled near Mount Ida, and was given the title "Compte d'Ida" which was over time altered into Coida (n). Jeanne's husband Etienne Coidan was born in Haifa, and was a trader and ship owner based in Athens, Greece, where the couple was married. They spent some years in Trieste, Italy, but their four children were born in Aleppo, Syria. Little is know about three of them, but their one son Michael Coidan is the grandfather of today's contacts. For a time he was bank director in Danzig, Germany, but later settled in Paris. He in turn had two sons, Paul and Etienne, and today their own children have been in touch with Marcel, and Patrick and Eric-Stephan have provided the data on this family. The recent generations have kept up their international mind set, and have spouses from Poland, Norway, and Benin, Africa.

- Elisabeth Ida Zollinger was the third daughter, born in Beirut, Syria in 1863. She married a ship owner and trader form Athens, Greece, a Haralambo Stravolemus, later also know by the family name "Synodinos". His family came from Corfu, Greece, and he traded in Aleppo, where he met Ida, as she was known. They had two children, and the daughter Angelina Johanna married a Jakovos Zervos, a medical doctor from Greece. He later became the personal physician to Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and so the family spent most of their lives in that country. In fact her mother Ida moved to them in Addis Ababa, and died there in 1935. Then the family story becomes complicated, as the person who provided the information was married to a Jakovos Zekos, born in Addis Ababa in 1935. There, Jakovos Zervos was his godfather, and there is a possibility that he was actually his father. Their grandson lives in Athens today, but as of the date of writing, he has not been located. Once contact is made, we will be able to fill out much more of the data on this branch.

- Alice Zollinger was born in Aleppo in 1867, and in 1886 she married the British Consul to Aleppo, a Patrick Henderson. She was a young bride, and her husband was 23 years older than her. Their son Patrick Jr. was born in Aleppo in 1887, but within a year, Patrick Henderson senior was transferred to a diplomatic post in Cadiz in SW Spain. His wife Alice followed him in mid-1888 with their baby Patrick, then 19 months old. She decided to break the journey in Marseilles to give birth to their daughter Alice. Unfortunately the mother Alice died in childbirth with her daughter Alice in Marseilles in late 1888, and their father had the task of bringing up two infants. He continued to live in Cadiz with his two young children. Then, in the fall of 1894 Patrick Henderson Sr. went on home leave from Cadiz. While in London, England, he then decided to commit suicide. The daughter Alice was brought up by a diplomat colleague of Patrick's in Cadiz, Spain, until she could go to boarding school in Brighton, England. As an adult she emigrated to New Zealand, where she passed away unmarried in 1987. Patrick Jr. Also grew up in a boarding school in England, and joined the Royal Navy in 1902, and was commissioned in 1903, and reached a very high rank in the Navy. He died in Amersham, Bucks., England in 1966. Of his two daughters, the elder, Patricia, took on a teaching job in Cairo, Egypt, where she contracted polio, and died at the age of 23. The younger daughter Jean Mary Henderson, married Neville John Armitage, and it is their son Quentin who has provided the initial information on this branch. Then in 2015 it was Patrick Henderson's daughter Jean Lefroy (Armitage) who contacted Marcel, and kindly provided a considerable amount of history on Alice Zollinger and Patrick Henderson, and their family.

As a side note from the history of this family, this story was told personally by Jean Mary Lefroy:

Very soon after the end of the war my father received a letter through the Red Cross from his German aunt of whom he had no knowledge at all, saying that her son Otto was a British prisoner of war in Wales, and would he contact the Camp Commandant to make sure he was O.K., and not suffering from the cold!! My father was absolutely horrified - I remember him receiving the letter, which he threw in a drawer and took a stiff drink! Some considerable time later his conscience caught up with him, and after another stiff drink he wrote to the Commandant, not saying who he was or why he was enquiring, and asked if General Otto Schroeder Zollinger was of good conduct. He received a reply saying that in the meantime that prisoner had been transferred to Scotland, and with a great sigh of relief my father decided enough was enough. When you think that my father worked throughout the war in the Admiralty Convoy department, trying to prevent German U boats from destroying allied shipping, had it been known (which he did not) that he had a German first cousin fighting in the opposite direction, my father might even have been interned! The only consolation was that Otto never appears on record as being a Nazi! Oh, the horrors of war.

- Lucia Zollinger was the youngest daughter of the family, and was born in Aleppo in 1871. Like her sister Alice she married young, and to an much older husband. He was Paul Gustav Albert Schröder from Dresden, Germany, who had a doctorate in oriental languages from the university of Halle. In 1869 he had entered the German foreign service as a translator in Constantinople, and by 1882 he was German Consul in Aleppo, where he met Lucia. He was by the 49 years old, and Lucia 19! By 1909 the family returned to Berlin, and later to Jena, where he died in 1915, and where his widow Lucia survived him by some 30 years. The family had six children, but the one that rose to prominence was their son Otto Emil Paul Schröder, born 1899. He enrolled in the German Navy Cadet School in 1914, and as there were several other Schröders, he decided to hyphenate his name to "Schröder-Zollinger". That is how he was known from then on, and so the Zollinger name survived, into the highest ranks of the Nazi military! After WW I Otto was torpedo officer, first on the battleship "Braunschweig", and then on the "Königsberg". But in 1933 he transferred to the German Air Force, and became first commander of the Air Force Base Rügen, and in 1941 commander of the Flying School Parow. In 1943 he joined the Nazi "Luftwaffe" High Command, where he became "Regional Commander West". In July 1945 he became a British prisoner of war, until 1948 when he retired to Hamburg. The amusing side story here is that his cousin Patrick Henderson at the time held a high rank in the British Navy, and so it seemed only appropriate for Otto Schröder to seek help there. It seems that none was forthcoming.

Much of this information was provided by the son of Otto`s youngest sister Hedwig Johanne Schröder, who married a Walter Hugo Dauch. The family emigrated to Brazil after WW II, and that is where Stefan Dauch, their son, now lives. He had met not only Otto Schröder, but as a child he had also spent time with several other relatives, whom he still remembers.

It has taken ten years to pull this story together, and considerable segments are still missing. But now we have found offspring of four of the five daughters, who are:

All of them are keen family historians, and so all have made substantial contributions to this story. Far-flung as they are, would it not be an extraordinary event if one day they all could meet?

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