Sonneborn, Charles Behrend, 1931-Variant names
The town of Breidenbach in Hessen was apparently settled by the Sonneborn family around the 12th century. Following the decree of Napoleon that insisted all citizens take surnames, some family members took Rosenthal, some Stern, and others took Sonneborn. There appear to be several stories pertaining to how the Sonneborn family received its surname. The first individual recorded to use this name in Breidenbach was Aaron Loew (Arjeh); his children included Feibel and Uri.
Near the end of the 1840s, Henry Sonneborn, the son of Moses in Breidenbach, immigrated to the United States, where he settled in Baltimore, Maryland and founded a men's clothing factory. By the 1880s portions of the family had left Breidenbach for Cologne where they founded a business that eventually became known as the Ölwerke Stern-Sonneborn AG (Ossag), with branch offices in England, Paris and Italy; the firm was eventually bought by Shell Oil in 1925. Several family members moved to Baltimore to join their relatives there, among them Auguste Sonneborn, daughter of Levi Sonneborn of Marburg and his wife Amalie (née Bacherach), and her brothers Siegmund and Ferdinand, who followed in the family tradition by founding L. Sonneborn Sons, Inc., in 1903, a petroleum and oil company.
In 1935 the two Sonneborn brothers living in Baltimore, Siegmund and Ferdinand, pledged to pay for the transportation to Israel (then Palestine) and education of thirty-eight Sonneborn boys and girls from Germany as part of their contribution to Youth Aliyah, thereby saving the children's lives. At that time Youth Aliyah only accepted teenagers and young adults.
Charles Behrend Sonneborn was born March 14, 1931, and had a career in public affairs and communications in Washington, D.C. From the late 1970s onwards he researched and wrote extensively on his family's genealogy, including the production of several books and newsletters. He died September 18, 2010.
Much of the material in this biographical note derived from material in the pamphlet Sonneborn Beginnings.
From the guide to the Sonneborn Family Collection, 1978-2001, bulk 1994-2001, (Leo Baeck Institute)
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