Jules “Julius” “Julio” Kohler

Jules Kohler’s father, Guillaume Kohler 1825-1901, was married twice. After five years of marriage, his first wife Caroline Loeffler 1828-1858 died five days after giving birth to twins. Eighteen months later, Guillaume married Frédérique Loeffler 1832-1869, a younger sister of Caroline.   After 10 years of marriage, Frédérique died one month after giving birth to twins: Jules and Albert Kohler.

Jules Kohler and his twin brother Albert were born on 19 Oct 1869 in the town of Oberhofen-sur-Moder in the Bas Rhin département of the Alsace region of France. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 Alsace became part of Prussia and was renamed Reichsland. Soon after the war ended some Kohlers emigrated to various places, including the USA and the town of Amillis in the Seine-et-Marne département, about 50 miles south-east of Paris.

Jules served with the French Foreign Legion from 24 Dec 1888 to 24 Dec 1893. We were told this was to regain French citizenship for the family. He was promoted to corporal on 5 Apr 1891 and to sergeant on 8 Sept 1892. He did two tours of duty in Algeria. He also served in Tonkin and Annan, the northern and middle of the three states of French Indochina (now Vietnam). He regained French citizenship on 27 June 1892. He was furloughed (envoyé en congé) – that is, given a leave of absence before his term of service had officially ended - on 27 April 1893. . When he was demobbed at the end of his active service he was stationed at Sidi Bel Abbès, in the province of Oran in Algeria. Sidi Bel Abbès was the headquarters of the French Foreign Legion until 1962.

On 11 July 1893 a Jules Kohler arrived in Buenos Aires on board the Rio Negro from Le Havre. It seems this must be "our" Jules because other details agree (nationality Alsaciana, age 24, religion Protestante, profession Farmaceutico). When he arrived in Buenos Aires he (surely) could not already have been a "pharmacist"; presumably he gave that as his profession because he intended to join his brother Emile (Frédérique’s first child) who owned a pharmacy on Pasco Street in Buenos Aires.

 

It seems likely that his twin brother Albert also emigrated to Argentina and arrived there before him, although we have no direct evidence for this. An “Albert Kohler” arrived in Buenos Aires in 1887 on a boat from Marseilles; the nationality (Austrian) doesn’t match but that could be a simple mistake.

 

For the first 18 months after his arrival in mid-1893 Jules presumably lived in Buenos Aires working for his brother Emile. During that time he became close friends with a French-speaking (probably Alsacian) family: Emile and Marie Hoffmann and their three children. He doesn’t appear to have known the Hoffmanns before he arrived in Argentina. The 1895 Argentine census shows that the Hoffmanns lived at 1671 Salta Street, Buenos Aires. (You can look online at this census for free at the Mormons’ website www.familysearch.org.)

 

Towards the end of 1894, a big quarrel erupted between Emile on the one hand and Jules and Albert on the other. Following the quarrel Jules moved in early 1895 to Rosario, the third-largest city in Argentina on the Paraná River, about 200 miles north-west of Buenos Aires. He worked there for a pharmacy called Gietz & Navarro. He appears in the 10th May 1895 Argentine census, but I don’t understand that census well enough to find out where he lived. In early July 1896 he returned to Buenos Aires. (You can look online at this census for free at the Mormons’ website www.familysearch.org.)

 

We have a rather large collection of Jules’ correspondence. These letters are transcribed and translated in this document, and are numbered 1-43, A-Z, AA-HH. While he was in Rosario he received letters from several people:

-         The Hoffmann family (16 letters).

-         His sister Louise Kohler wrote 6 letters from Amillis in France.

-         His cousin Jeanne Veith and her husband wrote 7 letters.

-         Reinaldo Hellwig (5 letters) and Edoardo (3 letters) were friends and colleagues of Jules at Gietz & Navarro. (Reinaldo appears in the 1895 Argentine census; he was 17 then. You can scan this census online for free at the Mormons' website www.familysearch.org.) Obviously, Jules was a popular guy there. Edoardo left for Buenos Aires a few months before Jules did. Reinaldo remained with G & N after Jules left. There is no indication in their letters that Jules was troubled or depressed.

-         Letter H is written in Italian by an apparently-jilted girlfriend of Jules.

-         August  (one letter) was a friend in Buenos Aires who also knew the Hoffmanns.

 

Everyone who wrote to him had a genuine affection – even love - for him. He was obviously a very nice person.

-         In Letter 18 (1 Apil 1895) Marie Hoffmann wrote, “We are deeply touched by the joy which you feel at the prospect of becoming godfather to one or even two of our children, because it is always these kinds of circumstances that reveal a person’s true feelings, and I thank you with all my heart. I am also very glad that you liked the portrait of Carlitos that we sent you. Now let us speak about baptism - which cannot take place before this winter because, among other reasons,  Emile will be quieter being removed from the great work. Then after that you might be able to get a few days off: so that we can continue our former conversations, because you must admit it would be a pity really if you make only one short appearance here.  You ask me what the children say. Do not think that they forget you. The name of Mr Jules is each day in their mouths, and they are delighted already that you will stay with us. “

-         In Letter 4 (5 July 1895) Marie Hoffmann wrote, “We all are very happy that you will come soon to stay with us for a few days. Request the longest possible leave, so that we can stay up in the evenings as long as we like. We are all in good health here at the moment. Carlitos is indeed a worthy brother for your sister (illegible) for he has no equal as far as greediness is concerned. The children are calling for you loudly, especially some liquid perfume, but they have plenty of powder perfume. Thus dear Mr Jules come to our house as soon as you can. While waiting for the pleasure of reading your good news receive my best friendships. Kisses from the children to you.”

-         In Letter A (undated) Edoardo, writes, “The pleasure and the friendship that you have always shown me, believe me Julio I will never forget it. The friendship that I have for you will last forever because we are persons that when they feel and love it is serious, maybe someday we will meet again and work together!! What do you think? Do you ever think of me? far from our countries in a country where we do not have any family bonds to soften our hearts. Up to now I have not found anyone to make me feel less alone.

-         Give my best regards to Rinaldo Helovich, tell him to write and I will do the same. Write to me, write to me soon, long letters and if you need anything from Buenos aires, write and if it is in my hands I will comply. Goodbye my Julio, keep safe and remember sometimes who does not forget you.

The Hoffmanns, Veiths and Louise all seemed to be very concerned about his emotional state in Rosario and constantly urged him to stay in his job and not bolt.

-         In Letter 12 (12 Sept 1895) Emile Hoffmann writes, “Continue to work as you did in the past. Your owners, who are well disposed to you, will reward you well. You should not despair. Whatever happens, remain one year at least on their premises and then if that does not get anywhere we will try to find something in Buenos Aires. But it is at least necessary to have a one year training course in a good establisment, such as the one where you are. What does it matter about the others if the owner thinks highly of you. In every business there are always disappointments at the beginning. That’s no reason to quit. some disappointments, it is not a reason to pack. Be calm my dear and you will succeed all the same - especially you do not bolt like an Arab horse. Your last letter pleased to me. I see that you reasoned as man. Continue like that and the probationary year will soon pass.”

-         In Letter 14 (undated) Emile Hoffmann writes, “Proceed, sergeant, with courage and especially with patience, and you will do as well as anybody. … Well my old or young Tonkinese the important thing is that you succeed. In my opinion, you must spend at least 1 to 2 years in this business. 

1º for you to learn the trade.

2º these are uncertain times and having something now is worth 10 times what you might have in the future.

I cannot recommend too strongly that you not leave at the end of 6 months even though you may have saved a little money – [because] two years of a training course in a large company, such as the one you are with now, will show customers what you can do, etc. So, be patient. “

-         In Letter 8 (17 Apr 1896) Louise writes, “Always think twice before giving in to your first impulse, because this is the decisive moment of your life if you want to be a success.”

On the other hand, his friends Reinaldo and Alberto don’t mention that he might be worried or concerned. Obviously, he presented a different face to them.

In 1895 we get evidence that Emile was making accusations and starting rumours about Albert which caused Albert go into hiding – at least from Emile. There are indications that Jules knew where Albert was; however, Louise didn’t. Perhaps Albert fled because he was afraid that Emile would take his accusations to the police; and perhaps Jules was reluctant to tell Louise where Albert was in case it got back to Emile. In early 1895 Jules seems to have written to the Hoffmanns claiming that Albert was innocent

-         In Letter 14 (undated) Emile Hoffmann writes, “The information that you also provide about your brother Albert is in his favour. So then – where do all the accusations come from? I really think I know where they come from. [Presumably, he means they came from Emile.] Your brother [Emile] stops by every week. He never mentions your name, and naturally I have not told him where you were. If  by chance he asks me, I will tell him, and I will add that your brother Albert can return [to his former way of life] whenever he likes, and that he has done no harm to anyone.“

-         In Letter 15 (17 Sep 1895) “Schwerzel” (who I think is Jules’s cousin Jeanne Veith nee Jeanne Kohler) writes, “If you have occasion also to see my dear Albert say to him thousand and thousand friendships from us and especially from  your Schwerzel who has been so much teased by you. All this to me I remember with pleasure.

-         In Letter 8 (17 Apr 1896) Louise writes, “Ah, so if … we could find Albert, I would be so happy.”

-         In Letter T (5 Nov 1895) Louise says, “Have you still no news of Albert? It is impossible to say how much that child torments me, or rather how much the two of you torment me! Why did you have to be so stubborn? You could all be here happy and calm and I, having sacrificed everything for you, would have a little compensation in having you near to me.”

Emile also seemed to have been telling people that Jules needed constant supervision, was unpopular and was “difficult”.

In early 1895 the Hoffmanns and Veiths were worried that Emile would tell Louise about the quarrel and that she would only get Emile’s side of the story. They were concerned that this would turn Louise against Jules. They urged Jules to write to Louise to counter Emile’s accusations.

-         In Letter 5 (2 Apr 1895) Emile Hoffmann says,”I hope that you have given instructions to your sister to be warned against the rumours and gossip that might arise. … It is essential that Mrs. Kohler should believe that you are well and haven’t done any harm to anyone again in Rosario.”

-         In Letter 18 (1 Apr 1895) Marie Hoffmann says, “By the way, when your sister [Louise] will receive your letter in which you give her the details she so much requested, [you should tell her] that you know how to deal with business without anybody, and especially that you know perfectly how to make friends, and finally that your impossible character existed only in the imagination of the pharmacy on Pasco Street.”

Jules did write to Louise and the Hoffmanns waited with baited breath for her reply –

-         In Letter 4 (5 July 1895) Emile Hoffmann says, “I hope that you will have received good news of your sister and that she will not believe everything she hears about Emile and Marie.”

-         In Letter 7 (Undated) Emile Hoffmann says, “We just received your letter, and at the same time a letter from Europe for you. I’m curious to know what it will say to you. Have the kindness to let us know, because all that touches you interests us.”

But Jules’s letter to Louise was obviously very defensive and confrontational and to have assumed that Louise would take Emile’s side, because -.

-         In letter 16 (14 May 1895) Louise herself writes, “You seem in your letter to be annoyed in advance at what I will give reason of you or of Emile after having seen them. Neither to one nor to the other, I tell you frankly and in advance. You have always missed and you always miss both, because you let yourselves be carried away by your bad head. Thus you threaten already “I will not give any more sign of life”. If this is all the reward you think you owe me. Oh well, my old man, you will not go far! I do not need to be informed by strangers. I know you both well enough, to report to me what has happened. Emile is hard when he is malicious, and you, up to now, while having a bad head, you never refused, I understand that this new process will appear bitter to you.”

Louise was very upset by Jules’s letter-

-         In Letter 13 (19 Nov 1895) “Schwerzel” (= Jeanne Veith) writes, “Yes, my dear Jules, be always grateful and good to your sister because she sacrificed much for you and Albert, since she replaced your dear mother. Always listen to her advice for it will never do you harm. And when you feel angry, never write, because letters are worse sometimes than spoken words. Forget, my friend, everything that occurred.  You did the best you could without having someone to support you. Sometimes one falls into traps or develops bad feelings. These things happen but it is unfortunate sometimes. But if you take a moment, you can read and think that in France you still have parents and friends who love you.”

It is interesting to speculate whether Jules in Rosario was disturbed, depressed and unstable because of the big quarrel or whether he was like that by nature. There is some evidence for the latter because in Letter 11 (27 Jan 1895) Luoise writes, “Marie … wanted me to make you return [to France] to make you re-enlist. That is an unthinkable idea. I don’t want to start that farce again.”

We have one his business cards. It is undated but the address 1450 Ayacucho is written in it by hand. (There is an Ayacucho street in both Rosario and Buenos Aires.)

In November 1897 he was in Buenos Aires. We have an IOU, dated then, given to him for 50 pesos (equivalent to the cost of a tailored suit) by a haberdashery and clothes shop at 1185 Paseo Colon Street in Buenos Aires.

We have a receipt (see front and back) dated 28 Sept 1898 issued by the Brazil Central Railway for transporting two unaccompanied suitcases of clothes from Sao Diogo (a train depot near downtown Rio de Janeiro) to “Julio” Kohler in the town of Mendes, a small town about 90 km north-west of Rio de Janeiro on the railway line from Rio to Sao Paulo. (The shipping company was Muller & Vilmar who were located at Rua [do] Lavradio 60, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, near the main Centro do Brasil train station.) I wasn't able to discover whether there was a fire station in Mendes.

We have a document in Portuguese dated 1 April 1899 that seems to indicate that he was working then as a fireman in the Vila Isabel Fire Station in Rio de Janeiro. See this discussion of the evidence. This is a present-day picture of the Vila Isabel Station, obtained from the Web. As shown in this satellitte shot it is less than a mile from the famous Maracana Football Stadium.

In the 1901 census he was a surface colliery labourer at Sunny Bank in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan.

He was employed as a messroom steward on a ship from Swansea to Amsterdam 2 Nov 1904 to 28 Dec 1904. He must have caught the next boat back to Swansea because his son Albert must have been conceived about 5 Jan 1905.

He was married on 19 Mar 1905 when his new wife was 2 1/2 months pregnant. At the time of his marriage he was a "tubeworker" (?).

On 1 May 1916 the French Vice Consul in Swansea recorded that he had moved to a new address in Swansea.

He enlisted in the British Army on 4 Dec 1916.

Between 19 Feb 1917 and 24 Sept 1917 he was a private (# 220427) in the 301st Roads Construction Co., Royal Engineers and was a member of the Special Intelligence Police, Fourth Army with authority to travel anywhere in the Fourth Army Area.

In Dec 1918 he was attached to the Canadian Intelligence Corps with authority to “move by day or night, and by any means of locomotion, in any part of the Canadian Corps Area”. In the same month he was given a similar permit to travel anywhere by any means in the area of the British Second Army.

In early 1919 he was working as a translator and investigator in Düsseldorrf. His identity card contains a photograph of him and mentions that he had a scar on his right cheek. During this period he was assigned to investigate the Chief of Secret Police at Düsseldorf

On 8 May 1919 he was officially transferred from the Intelligence Corps, 10th Royal Fusiliers to the 28th Brigade of the Canadian Corps stationed at Benrath (Hollhausen), Düsseldorf. (I think this was a formalization of a transfer that had occurred earlier because we have a copy of a letter date 30 Jan 1919 instructing him to conduct surveillance in Düsseldorf.)

At the conclusion of the war he was a corporal and earned the Victory Medal and British Medal.

There is no record of his being a naturalized British citizen.

He had a big operation in Swansea and died shortly afterwards of carcinoma of the bladder and "calculi".

His death certificate  gives his age at death as 52 but he was actually 59. His occupation then was "gas producer (Steel Tube Works)".

_

(Records of alien entries in the National Archives are too disorganized to search through.)

No record of him in section WO 363 of the National Archives, the so-called "burnt" series covering war survivors and war dead (these records are incomplete; about 60 percent were destroyed in WWII).

According to Joan Kohler: "Jules was born in Alsace which was in France at the time. He went to boarding school with his twin brother Albert. He had another brother in Buenos Aires who was 'I think' a manufacturing chemist. When their father died the twins were sent to Buenos Aires and worked for their brother. Jules' twin was sent across Mexico on horse on business and he never came back; Jules was convinced that he was murdered but the elder brother thought he had absconded with the money. So Jules stopped working for his brother and joined the French Foreign Legion [David: This isn't true; he was in the French Foreign Legion long before he moved to Argentina. I think I remember my father saying he (Jules) did so to regain French citizenship because Germany had taken Alsace.] How/why he came to Swansea is not known. He lost all contact with his family."