Schlesinger Surname Genealogy

Schlesinger is a Germanic surname to describe someone who
came from Silesia (Schliesen in
German). Silesia is a region in eastern
Europe that has been governed at different times by Prussia and Poland
1945 it has been part of Poland).
Schlesinger has been mainly a Jewish name in
America. Their origins in Europe
been more widely spread than just the region of Silesia.
Alternative spellings of the name have been
Schlessinger, Shlesinger, and Slesinger.  Asked
how to pronounce his name, the American astronomer Frank Schlesinger
name is so difficult for those who do not speak German that I am
usually called sles’in-jer, to rhyme with ‘messenger.’ It is
of course of German origin. In that
language the pronunciation is shlayzinger,
to rhyme with ‘singer.’

Schlesinger Resources on

Schlesinger Ancestry

Schlesinger in
Europe has been very much a Jewish name.

That was the case with Adolf Schlesinger
from Silesia who started a music publishing business in Berlin in 1810,
capturing the work of composers such as Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Mordecai Max Schlesinger who lived in
18th century in Vienna was from a Jewish rabbinical family that began
in Prague
and continued after Vienna in Frankfurt.

Schlesinger emigrants in the 19th
century came from Prussia and elsewhere in Germany and Austria-Hungary
well. Then there were Schlesingers
fleeing Nazis and Nazi concentration camps in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

America. Schlesingers might have
arrived in America as
Jews, but some of them hid or turned away from their Jewish faith.

Bernhard Schlesinger was a Jewish merchant
from Prussia and his wife Kate an Austrian Catholic. The two
together in Protestantism after he met her in Xenia, Ohio in 1872. And they produced WASP-type Boston

  • their son Arthur Schlesinger
    Sr was a Professor of History at Harvard University from 1924 to 1954.
  • while their grandson Arthur Schlesinger Jr, also a distinguished
    historian, was close to
    the Kennedys and served as a special assistant and court historian
    during the
    Kennedy Presidency.

James Schlesinger
meanwhile, born to a Jewish immigrant family in New York in 1929, was
Harvard-educated and converted to Lutheranism in his twenties. Trained as an economist, he served as
Secretary of Defense in the Nixon and Ford administrations and
Secretary of
Energy under Jimmy Carter.

New York
. Many Schlesingers came to
New York. New York state in fact accounted
for almost
40% of the Schlesingers in America in the 1920 census.

Joseph and Mary
Schlesinger were German immigrants who had arrived there in the 1860’s. Their son Frank, educated in New York public
schools, became a prominent astronomer at Yale University.

David and Dora
Schlesinger came to New York from Berlin with their family in 1884. Their son Fred became an architect and
builder in the city and a distinguished one.
His first work was the Davidora Court building on East Tremont
Avenue in
the Bronx, completed in 1923.

Meyer Schlesinger was born in New York City in 1916. His grand-daughter, born in Brooklyn, is the
radio talk show host Dr. Laura, otherwise known as Laura Schlessinger.

Elsewhere. Leopold Schlesinger arrived
in Chicago from
Stuttgart in Germany in 1862. Ten years
later, just after the Great Fire, he joined forces with David Mayer to
start a
department store. Schlesinger & Mayer
prospered and they commissioned a grand
skyscraper for their store. However, by
1904 they were out of business.

Leon Schlesinger, born in Philadelphia in 1884, was the youngest of ten
children of Albert and Joselina Schlesinger, Jewish immigrants from
Silesia. He started out in show business
as a theatre usher and worked his way up to head a company which
crafted title
cards for silent films. Later he was the
man behind the Warner Bros. cartoons of the 1930’s and 1940’s,
overseeing the
creation of characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd.

England. Two Schlesingers came to
England in the 1820’s
– Michael to London from Prussia and Hermann to Bradford from Hamburg. Michael was recorded as a commission agent in
the 1851 census. Hermann was a
rabbi. His son Edward emigrated to New
Orleans in the 1840’s and was a school teacher in Louisiana and

Schlesinger arrived in London from Frankfurt in Germany sometime in the
1890’s. His son Bernard was a
paediatrician who worked at various hospitals around London. He and his wife Winifred set up a hostel for
children rescued from Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s.

The story of Bernard and
Winifred Schlesinger
was recounted in Ian Burema’s 2016
book Their
Land: My Grandparents in Love and War
. In 1975
a family history book of the
Schlesingers was presented to them to mark their Golden Wedding. By that time their son John, born in 1926, had
become a famous film director.

Africa. Isidor Schlesinger arrived in South Africa from
Silesia in the
1860’s, made a fortune in the Kimberley diamond fields and lost it, and
up running a bar in the town of Klerksdorp.
His son Bruno was an early South African mining engineer.

There was
another Isadore, better known as I.W. Schlesinger, who was not so
wasteful. Born in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, he had
come via New York to South Africa in 1894, initially working as a
salesman for
Pepsin Gum. From there he launched first
into theatres and then into the nascent South African film industry.

1916 and 1922 I.W. Schlesinger produced 43 feature films with the
themes being
primarily about Boer and Britons. An astonishing accomplishment was the
of 25 000 Zulu warrior extras!”

During the 1930’s Schlesinger built picture
palaces and took bioscope, as it was called, into the far-flung rural
thus exposing the magic of cinema to entertainment-hungry audiences. When he died in 1949 his son John inherited
the business.

Schlesinger Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Schlesinger Names

I.W. Schlesinger, an entrepreneur and
impresario, was one of the most influential individuals to become
involved in
the performing arts industry in South Africa.

Schlesinger Jr
was a distinguished American historian who was close
to the Kennedys and served as a special assistant and court historian
the Kennedy Presidency.

John Schlesinger
was the English-born film director who won an
Oscar for his 1969 film Midnight Cowboy.
James Schlesinger
was an American economist who served as Secretary of Defense in the
Nixon and
Ford administrations and Secretary of Energy under Jimmy Carter

Select Schlesingers Today

  • 600 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 2,200 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in South Africa)



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