Select Katz Miscellany

Here are some Katz stories and accounts over the years:

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

Numbers Percent

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.

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