Katz Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Katz Meaning

The surname Katz has both German and Jewish (Ashkenazi) origins.

German. Germans
with the last name Katz may come from the Rhineland-Palatinate
region of Germany where Katz castle is located.
Katz here is a shorter version of Katzenelnbogen,
going back to the Latin Cattimelibocus
which described the old German tribal names of Chatti and Melibokus in the region.

Jewish. The
Jewish derivation is different. Katz here is an abbreviation
formed from the Hebrew initials of the term Kohen Tzedek, meaning “priest of
justice” or “authentic priest.” It has been in use since the 17th century
and perhaps earlier as an epithet for the descendants of Aaron.
Katz took hold in the early 19th century when German authorities began
to impose surnames. In Russia the spelling was Kac.

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Katz Resources on
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Katz Ancestry

The Katz numbers in Germany today are modest, around 4-5,000. The
main numbers are not in the proximity of Katz castle. but further south
in Baden-Wurttemberg. Katz emigrants were mainly Jewish and
came from
German-speaking lands and from the old Russian Empire.

The principal destination was America. Others made their way to Canada
and Argentina.

There was a surge of emigration in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. Later emigrants like David Katz from Grodno were
Holocaust survivors who came in the late 1940’s. Friedrich Katz
ended up then in Mexico and earned recognition there for his book The Life and Times of Pancho Villa.
Louis Katz, a youngster at the time of the Warsaw uprising, came to New
York in 1962. Since that time he has worked for the Yiddish Daily Forward.

America.
Martin Katz and his family from Hochdorf in Wurttemberg arrived in
Philadelphia on the Ranier in
1749. They settled in Chester county. Some of the Katz
descendants became Kitts. Other 18th century Katz in New Jersey
became Kays.

Later Katz arrivals were mainly Jewish and many headed for New
York. Among those who made their name there were:

  • Katz’s
    Delicatessen
    , an institution on New York’s Lower East
    Side. Founded in 1888, the store took its name from Willy Katz
    who ran the place with his cousin Benny from 1910. It remained
    family-owned until the 1970’s.
  • Abraham Katz who started a machine
    shop in Brooklyn in 1926 that became Kason Industries, a food equipment
    manufacturer.
  • and Louis Katz who was big in Manhattan real estate from the
    1940’s to the 1960’s.

Mickey Katz grew up in Cleveland and made his mark in the 1940’s as a
Jewish comedian. His two sons pursued completely different
professions. Ronald Katz was an inventor in the field of
automated call center technology; while Joel Grey, his stage name, was
the actor who became famous for his performance in Cabaret. Joel’s daughter
Jennifer starred in the movie Dirty
Dancing
.

Canada. Barry Katz opened
up his first drugstore in Edmonton in 1955. He soon prospered and
developed his Value Drug Mart chain. But it was his son Daryl who
expanded the Katz chain throughout North America and became in the
process one of the wealthiest men in Canada. He owns the Edmonton Oilers hockey team.

Chaim and Zena Katz were Holocaust survivors
who came to Winnipeg in 1951. Their son
Sam was elected the first Jewish mayor of Winnipeg in 2004. He also owns a professional sports team, the
Winnipeg Goldeyes in baseball.

Argentina. Some Katz made
it to Argentina. A number were buried in the Jewish cemetery at
La Tablada in Buenos Aires. Argentina was thought to provide a
safe haven for Jews. But
anti-Semitism persisted there, as this account from the 1980’s showed:

“Silvio
Katz was 19 years old at the time of the Falklands conflict. He was killed by Ardoino Eduardo Flores. He
wasn’t a British soldier, he was his company officer. And
he “killed” him because he was
Jewish.


In later more tolerant times Daniel Katz became a leader of the
Consenso Federal party block in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies.

 

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Katz Miscellany

Katz Castle.  Katz Castle is a castle above the German town of St. Goarshausen
in Rhineland-Palatinate.  The. castle
stands on a ledge looking downstream from the riverside at St. Goar.  It was first built around 1371 by Count
Wilhelm II of Katzelnbogen.

Though commonly known as Katz, this is actually a contraction of Katzenelnbogen.  The name roughly
translates into English as “Cat’s Elbow Castle”
and so is
popularly linked with that of the nearby Burg Maus or “Mouse Castle.” 

Early Katz Jewish References.  According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Katz abbreviation occurred on a tombstone,
dated 1536,
in the cemetery in Prague.  It was found
also on a tombstone of the year 1618 in Frankfurt, in the books of the
Soncino family
of Prague of the 17th century, and in one of the prefaces to Shabbethai
ben Meir
ha-Kohen’s notes on the Choshen Mishpat in 1663.

Katz in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
Germany    747    40
Russia    663    36
Poland    198    11
Austria    159     9
Hungary     71     4
Total   1,838   100

Katz’s Delicatessen.  Unfortunately, the exact history of New York’s kosher-style deli is
hazy and may be lost to time.  Everyone
agrees that Katz’s was founded in 1888 at the corner of Houston and
Ludlow
streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, but by whom?
Some accounts point toward a Russian-Jewish
immigrant family, while others say the founders were German.  Most references seem to indicate that the
restaurant was started by the Eisland brothers who may have been German
or
Russian, depending on your source.

There is some agreement that the eatery was
sold in 1910 to Benny or Willy and Harry Katz, who were either German
or
Belorussian.  They changed the named to
Katz’s and moved the restaurant across Ludlow street to its current
location.

In
the early 1920’s the Tarowsky family, ostensibly from Minsk, bought in
to the
partnership and the two families would own Katz’s for nearly seven
decades.  Over this period the restaurant
firmly established itself as a beacon for preserving the flavors of the
Old
World and became the go-to place for millions of immigrants in New York.

Katz’s
fame spread not only through word-of-mouth, but also via the movies.  It was here that Meg Ryan performed her fake
orgasm scene in the 1989 romantic comedy,
When Harry Met Sally
.  An arrow points to the table where Ryan
sat with
co-star Billy Crystal.  At least once a
week a group of kids come in to act out the scene.
The deli also served as the venue for Johnny
Depp’s meeting with his FBI contact in the mob movie Donny
Brasco.

David Katz, Holocaust Survivor.  David Katz was the only member of his
immediate family from Grodno in present-day Belarus to survive the Holocaust.  He was in the fourth transport
of the ghetto there when it was liquidated in 1943.
He was interred at Birkenau.  After the camp
was liberated, he tried to make his way back to Grodno and was
conscripted into
the cavalry of the Russian army.  He deserted after only a few
days.

David had members of his family in New York and
he went there in 1946 and stayed with them in the Bronx. He
recalled that a relative came to bless
him on his arrival.  He met his
wife-to-be, Hilda Berman, on the boat on the way to the US.   When they met again two years later, they
married.

David ended up owning a
business with several other Holocaust survivors.  They
manufactured fireproof doors.

 


Select
Katz Names

  • Friedrich Katz was a
    distinguished historian in Mexico.
  • Harold Katz was the American entrepreneur who founded the Nutrisystem weight loss program.
  • Daryl Katz heads the Katz
    Group, Canada’s leading drugstore company.

Select Katz Numbers Today

  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

 

Select Katz and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.

AckermanHoffmanLangSpringer
AstorHooverNewmanStern
BergerKaiserSchaeferStrauss
BuckKellerSchlesingerWagner
EversKlingerSchultzWolf
FisherKrugerSnyderZimmerman

 

 

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