The Jacobs' saga - Their settlement

The reasons for leaving

Max’s family comes from Neunkirchen‚ a village in Prussia. The family founder was a farmer‚ and said around 1802 « I could have paved the road with five franc coins ». This financial wealth disappeared with the foreign invasion of 1812. He died ruined and his twenty children scattered throughout France attracted like many other jews by the liberation laws promulgated by the revolution.


The history of the family name

On June 21st 1888 in the Court of Justice of Tours‚ Max’s family changed their name from Alexander to Jacob. In a letter to Mirthé Léa (Max’s sister) and to his cousins called Gompel‚ he explained « our parents didn’t want their son to have the problems they had encountered because of the difference between civil status and usage (known as Jacob but recorded as Alexandre). Our parents have made an enormous sacrifice to have all 1888 identity papers officially corrected ». It was necessary for them to produce major testimonies as well as Lazare’s (Max’s father) record of service in the mobile troops against Prussia in 1870.

They had to convince the Jacobs from Lorient and from Brest to stop objecting to this change of name and eventually the Jacobs had to pay the sum of 600,25 francs. On the other hand this deliberate change of patronym is already to be found in the fact they chose to give their son two christian names : Max and Jacob‚ leaving in plain ambiguity the second christian name which could be interpreted as the patronymic surname.




Isaïc Mayer


Rachel Reine le Mann












Anonymus‚ died in 1812. Farmer.


Lazare Mayer‚ born in Nancy on 15/09/1768‚ died on 30/05/1846


Mlle Doussette‚ born in Saint-Paul


Mlle Chailly‚ born in Avignon. 










Samuel Alexandre‚ born in Neunkirchen‚ died in Quimper on 19/06/1889


Mirthé-Léa‚ born in Quimper on 3/02/1884



Léon Jacob‚ called David : Passementerie maker


Alexandrine Alexandre (Grand-mother David)






Maurice‚ born in 1850 in Lorient

Lazare Jacob‚ born on 9/01/1847 in Quimper‚ died in 1917




Prudence‚ born in Paris on 22/12/1849‚ died on 19/11/1937








Julie-Delphine‚ born on 24/07/1872‚ died on 15/04/1942

Maurice‚ born on 10/02/1874‚ died in 1932

Gaston‚ born on 14/05/1875‚ died in Auschwitz in 1943


Max Jacob‚ born on 12/07/1876 in Quimper‚ died on 5/03/1944 in Drancy

Jacques‚ born on 27/12/1880

Mirthé-Léa‚ born 24/08/1884‚ died in Auschwitz in 1944


The difference between civil status and usage can be explained. In Prussia Jews did not have any civil status. At the end of the XVIIIth century, they were given patronyms at random. Max’s ancestors‚ who were always called Jacob by their community‚ became Alexander. This name was transformed into Alexandre when they arrived in France. Hence that gap between the civil status and the name they bore.

The integration of the family in Quimper

The family never integrated completely, and even if they were respected, they sometimes suffered from anti-semitic manifestations. In 1899 for example, placards displaying A bas les juifs ! (to hell with the Jews !) were placed in their shop window‚ and in 1901 some farmers came and broke those windows.

Max's father
Max’s father

On the other hand, Max’s father, who was born in France in 1847, got the French nationality only in 1873.
The family however had a great reputation : the grandmother and mother were considered emblematic characters of Quimper.

On leaving Quimper for ever, Max Jacob evoked le souvenir d’un siècle de résidence honorable, le souvenir d´une famille dispersée, anéantie, hélas ! (the memories of a century of honourable residence, and the memories of a scattered and destroyed family, alas !).

The Jacobs’ work

Max’s parents were tradesmen. His father was a tailor and a shirt-maker and he handled two menswear shops. One sold ready made clothes‚ and the other was a suit-made-to-measure store. The first store was located 8 rue du Parc‚ and rich people of Quimper bought their clothes there.

The other store was called Au bon marché (The good market). It was also located downtown, but the customers were not so rich. This tailor’s career had been a family tradition‚ dating back to their great grandfather. He was the one who had the idea to embroider Breton designs onto everyday clothes.

Number 8, rue du Parc, today
Number 8, rue du Parc, today

People say that he also invented many other things such as ointments and some hair-lotions. As for Max’s mother she owned an antique shop‚ with the help of Julie-Delphine‚ her daughter. A few years later Julie became her brother Gaston’s partner‚ and together they opened a curiosity shop.

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