As I am sure you know , Erich von Manstein was born Lewinski on 24/11/1887 , son of a General of Artillery, after the death of his parents he was adopted by the wealthy landowners von Manstein , whose name he subsequently bore .
It was rumored that his real grandfather was jewish and name Lewinsky has a certain polish sound .
thanks for taking the time!
1) as to his name:
He was born von Lewinski
, son of a prussian general, no question. BTW, it was completely uncommon, if not out of the question, in the Prussian kingdom before WW I that sons of Jews became generals. As for the name change (which is due to the fact that a childless maternal aunt - Mrs von Manstein - adopted him, as the von Lewinski family already had 9 or 10 children, actually from his birth on, not just after the death of his parents!), the official name of Erich von Manstein´s descendants still today is von Lewinski, genannt von Manstein
2) When we hear "Lewinski", we immediatlely associate names like Monica Lewinsky
, or in different spellings: Levinsky, which is a common Jewish name with Polish origin to be sure...
3) In his own autobiography ("Soldatenleben" which covers the earlier years as opposed to "Verlorene Siege") Manstein does not at all "boast a Jewish grandfather" named Lewinski or else, but instead gives an explanation which is not completely unplausible for how the family of his real father adopted the name von Lewinski
quite a bit earlier (although this theoretically might be a ´cover-up´of the truth, which however then would be the opposite of ´boasting´it):
According to Manstein´s own description, a German noble family (whose name I forgot, but it is in the book) immigrated to the area of West Prussia (west of Danzig) in the 17th century, where it took an estate called `Levinovo´as a polish fief (the area was annexed by Prussia only during one of the polish partitions late 18th century). Mark: the name "Lewin" is not exclusively used in Jewish cultural context! The family gradually adopted the name of the estate (which had been common practice in the late middle ages) calling itself (von) Lewinski instead of (von) something rather. Lewinski in that sense means nothing else but "those from the Lewinovo estate". Such name changes did occur elsewhere, why I am saying it the explanation given by Manstien himself is not completely unplausible. Anyhow, this name change must have occured no later than 1800, as far as I understood it, rather earlier.
On a sociological note, it was also rather uncommon at that time that the gentry "married Jewish". Mixed marriages you rather find in the early 19th century in cities among the petite bourgeoisie
, while he Jewish grande bourgeoisie
- at least during the 19th century - remained ´among themselves´. Please mark that by this time, West Prussia had ceased to be Polish in case you want to assume that social mobility of Jews (in terms of cross-confessional marriages) would have been greater in Poland.
I am not saying I can confirm he had no
Jewish grandfather, I am just cautioning against inferring this from the name (von) Lewinski
alone. Until somebody actually produces concrete information (let alone evidence) that this or that person in Manstein´s family tree had a Jewish mother or father with some modest kind of proof, I continue to treat this as nothing but a fancy rumour.
Thanks for sharing your resources though.
PS: One comment about my interest in this question:
those who believe it, claim that it is part of the reason that Manstein objected to take part in the opposition against Hitler, as he was afraid of being ´discovered´. It is this suggestion that I have a hard time believing. If he had indeed Jewish ancestry - I could not care less. However, if he supposedly was afraid of being exposed by the Nazi-Regime for it, he at least needs to have been convinced about his "Jewishness" (to whatever small degree). But there is no sign of it, at least not in his own autobiograhical books, that he was even aware
of something like that. A bit intriguing, isn´t it? Would it not have been logical for someone convicted in a British court for having handed over Jews to an Einsatzkommando (or at least not sheltered them) to at least greatly stress his alleged Jewish ancestry in the 1950s to point out that such charges were obtuse? Then why didn´t he really?