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Wolfgang Achtner moved to New York where he settled and started a family.

Wolfgang Achtner was born on 19 December 1901 in Karlovy Vary. His father Karel Viktor (1863–1927) was a professor at a local grammar school and the son of a land school inspector Michael Achtner (1832–1877). Wolfgang's mother Olga (*1875) also descended from a well-situated family – her father Josef Fillén (1839–1889) owned a factory in the Karlín neighbourhood of Prague.

Early in 1926 Wolfgang set out on a journey across the ocean which originally was supposed to last only six months, but in the end lasted much longer. His ship set sail from Bremen on 27 February and after a 13-day voyage dropped anchor in New York. By that time, Wolfgang had already been an engineer.

It is not entirely clear whether he spent the whole of the next 22 years in the United States. What we may claim with certainty is that sometime during 1948 he married the twenty-four-year old Marion Hollister (*1924) from Massachusetts.

Even after many years, Wolfgang did not lose contact with Europe and in 1954, with his wife and a young son Wolfgang Michael (*1951), crossed the ocean again.

He did spend the rest of his life in America, however, and based on records from social security, this is also where he died in 1991. In Wolfgang's case, there is a chance that his descendants could still be living somewhere in New York.

What originally brought Wolfgang to the United States remains a mystery. It is not clear whether he really planned to stay for only six months, as he stated in official documents upon his arrival. Permanent migration often „happened“, without being planned in advance. Moreover, if the migrant married and started a family in his new home, the probability that he would return to his country of origin was even lower.

On 14 June 1810, in the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Jihlava (Iglau), a local chaplain baptised the second-born son of the town lawyer Karl Friedl (1762–1846) and his wife Vincencie. The child was named Karl Anton.


J. W. Zwettler: Jihlava from the south. Lithography around 1850, call no.  Ji-25/A/2142, from the collection of the Museum of Vysočina Jihlava

Karl Anton grew up with his three brothers and three sisters. His siblings’ education and their professions were determined by their father’s career. The elder brother Emanuel (1808–1866) started as a magistrate auscultant (an assistant judicial official or trainee judge who practiced in order to pass the judiciary exam and become an independent judge). Subsequently, he worked for many years as a municipal syndicus (a certified official “with a legal education in charge of judicial administration at the lowest level of justice administration”[1]) in Velké Meziříčí (Groß Meseritsch) and Moravská Třebová (Mährisch Trübau). He concluded his career with the title of councillor of the provincial court in Krnov (Jägerndorf) and Brno (Brünn). His youngest brother Johann (1819–1899) became a district commissioner in Šumperk (Mährisch Schönberg) and Brno (Brünn), later worked in Vienna, was secretary of the Provincial Commission for the Release of Subjects (established in 1849 after subjection was abolished in order to redeem subjects or settle other obligations to landlords[2]), and completed his career at the Czech Governorate in Prague as a governor’s councillor and later vice-president of the governorate.

Like his father and brothers, Karl Anton, too, received an adequate education and found a career in public administration. He became an official of the District (Indirect Taxation) Cameral Administration in Jihlava. The district cameral administrations established in 1833 were responsible for indirect taxes, customs duties and other charges (as well as for criminal proceedings in the area of indirect taxation). The district administrations were subject to the Cameral Indirect Taxation Administration in Prague or Brno.[3]  


Postcard from Jihlava, not dated. Museum of Brno Region - Museum in Šlapanice, collection of the Museum in Šlapanice, historical collection, call no. H3562/145.

After successfully starting his career as a civil servant, what remained for Karl Anton to do was start a family. Unfortunately, he was not lucky in his private life. In November 1838, in St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in Brno, at the age of 28 he married Viktoria Franziska Eva (1808–1847), daughter of Karl Rüdt (1757–1841), the secretary of the Brno apellate court (court of appeal for towns). The young couple settled in Jihlava and three years after their wedding they were looking forward to the birth of their first child. However, shortly before Christmas, on 16 December, their daughter was stillborn. A few months later, Viktoria became pregnant again and the due date fell during Advent. Unfortunately, this time too, on 23 December 1842, another daughter was stillborn. The parents lived through yet another tragedy since not even Viktoria’s third pregnancy ended happily. In late October 1844 she gave birth to a stillborn boy. A year later, on 29 December 1845, a healthy daughter was finally born, named Sophie Karolina Vincencia (*1845) (Sophie Karolina after Karl’s younger sister, who died when she was only 10 years old). The family idyll, however, did not last long. In 1847, Victoria became pregnant again, but this time she did not survive the pregnancy-related complications. The widowed Karl Anton was left alone with a young daughter. Apparently, his mother Vincencie (*1780) helped him take care of little Sophie in Jihlava. Shortly after her third birthday, Sophie was orphaned. Karl Anton died of cerebral palsy (Gehirnlähmung) in January 1849.[1]


Edv. Harold: Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Brno. Magazine Světozor, year 1874, no. 28, p. 328

The fates of the sons of Karl Friedl Sr., with a focus on the family life of Karl Anton, reflect two contemporary phenomena: the difficult life of civil servants, who as a rule had to move for work; and the ubiquitous death. The sons of Karl Friedl Sr. followed in their father’s footsteps and found employment in the civil service. The brothers Emanuel and Johann slowly climbed up the secure career ladder, but could not avoid the obligatory transfer between various offices, i.e. moving from one place to another. It is true, however, that the transfers were not very frequent, and at the same time their career advancement was rather significant, which is a testimony to their abilities as well as to the confidence of their superiors. Karl Anton was a bit of an exception, having lived his entire life in Jihlava. However, had he been able to continue his career, it is almost certain that he would soon have been transferred to another city.

The life story of Karl Anton Friedl reflects the grim reality of his time: death was a significant part of everyday life. During the 19th century, conditions for children and expectant mothers slowly began to change, yet infant mortality was still relatively high at the beginning of the 20th century.


HLEDÍKOVÁ, Zdeňka, Jan JANÁK a Jan DOBEŠ. Dějiny správy v českých zemích: od počátků státu po současnost. Praha: Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2005, p. 156, 278.

MALÍŘ, Jiří. Člověk na Moravě ve druhé polovině 18. století. Brno: Centrum pro studium demokracie a kultury, 2008, p. 48 and following.


[1] Malíř, p. 48 ad.

[2] Hledíková, p. 278.

[3] Hledíková, p. 156.