I’ve been seeing lots of holocaust articles and memes of late. It’s caused me to think back on my discovery of my Jewish lineage, which I always suspected, but especially when I discovered a love for the Torah back in my early twenties. “Dreyer” was my maternal grandmother’s heritage. Her grandfather was one of the many Jews who fought in the U.S. civil war, and is memorialized in the Simon Wolfe database, perhaps along with another family Jew, Jacob Shuler, on my dad’s maternal line. L.A. Dreyer’s son followed him from Germany, and I have books that must have been carried in his luggage, with personal notes written in German. Many of the Dreyers in the second image below, who were murdered by Nazis during the Holocaust and are memorialized in the Yad VaShem database in Yisra’el from where I captured this image, were born in Germany around the same time as the son previously mentioned. They may be his siblings/kin. One day I will do the research to find out.
About twenty-six years ago, my wife and I were standing in a book store here in Texas, and doing research on both our family names. I was curious about her maiden name’s origin, as it is very rare, so we looked it up to find out it originated in northern England, a few counties away from where my Crouch family originated. We then went back a generation, and I looked up “Dreyer,” and the book said, “Jewish name of German origin”. About six months later, we visited my grandmother in Georgia, and I told her, “Grandma, did you know Dreyer is a Jewish name?” In a matter-of-fact way she simply said, “Yes. I’m Jewish.” And she had someone fetch a leather-bound book that a family member had made that told the story of the second Dreyer, one of many children [I think twelve] of the first, the Civil War soldier, from Germany to Savannah, Georgia.
About twelve years later, while working on my Master’s Degree in Military and Jewish history, I was doing a paper on “Jews in the Civil War”, and it was then that I learned of the Simon Wolfe database of Jewish Civil War veterans. Out of sheer curiosity, I typed in L.A. Dreyer’s full name and the state of Georgia, and to my amazement, he was in the database, listed in the 63rd infantry regiment of Georgia. Years later, at my grandmother’s funeral, I found myself standing beside his grave, and noticed the Confederate flag on his tombstone.
My son, who was about fourteen at the time of that discovery of the Wolfe database, came into my study while I sat there in amazement, and he was looking at the memorial to Crouch family veterans of American wars that I had made for my father before he passed, that was hanging on the main wall in my study. He saw Jacob Shuler, curious about the name because his name is also Jacob, and asked if he too was in the database, but we only found a J. Schuler. However, J.M. Shuler, which matches the poster we’d made, was indeed listed as a prisoner of war at Ship Island in Mississippi. His name is Ashkenazi, but he’s not found in the Wolfe database; perhaps I will submit it to those who maintain it.
Crouch Family Veterans of American Wars, poster
Later, in doing my master’s, I did a paper on Jews in World War II Germany, and I discovered the Yad VaShem database of holocaust victims, and decided to see how many Dreyers may have perished in the holocaust. The number was significant, reaching near thirty. I captured some of them below.
Dreyers in Yad VaShem Holocaust Database
I pondered the possibility of myself and my son not existing at all, if those two Dreyers and Jacob Shuler had stayed in Germany. I remember sitting in silent meditation for a bit, contemplating the horror of what these families went through, and thanking G-d that my forebears had left. DNA tests have since found Jewish cousins in Lithuania, and a large swath of kin that are of ‘unknown origin’. As the rest of my family is of very English and Scottish pedigree, I am certain that the 1/3 of my ‘missing/mystery dna’ is my Jewish heritage.
Understand, I put zero stock in my dna for my inherited righteousness that comes from Yeshua and a circumcised heart. I do rejoice in having some actual kinship to Avraham, and Yeshua, and His people. But more, I only contemplate the amazingly thin line between life and death, and the constant threat to the existence of the Jewish people, and how precarious our very existence is. It made me consider the statement to the Navi, Yirme-Yahu, “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came forth out of the womb I set you apart,” and of one of the songs of David, “Your eyes did see my unformed body, and in Your Sefer they were all written, even the days that were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” As chaotic and random as birth and death seem to be at times, our Creator planned the path of His redeemed, way ahead of time. That is comforting, and makes me very grateful, considering what ‘could have been’. Those Dreyers on that list had to endure watching their own loved ones die, being imprisoned in concentration camps, and then being murdered themselves by heartless people who yet claimed to believe in Christ. Dreyer and Shuler of civil war fame survived the brutality of war and imprisonment on American soil, or myself and my son would not exist. How precarious is our history! [Incidently, the civil war Robert Love on the poster, one of my father’s maternal great-grandfathers, nearly had a duel with Andrew Jackson; had the townspeople not intervened, we’d have not had that seventh president, or my son and I would not exist.] How very improbable was our birth! How grateful I am that it went the way it did amidst all the chaos, and how I mourn for those who did not survive, and wonder who in the Dreyer or Shuler families may have survived the Holocaust, to give me a Jewish cousin in eastern Europe today.
“Man, that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble.” [Iyov 14:1]