The Lehnsherr FAQ
by Rivka Jacobs (Shiloh999@aol.com)
Originally appeared on AOL on 1/27/97. Reprinted with author's permission.
Definitions of Lehnsherr: From the New Murat-Sanders Encyclopedia/Dictionary of German-English, page 1004/1005: "Lehens + herr 1. feudal lord, seigneur ... 2. mesne lord." And "Lehns ...cf. Lehens ... " So, Lehnsherr is a middle lord, higher than a peasant, lower than a duke or prince, according to that dictionary. And the Harrap's Standard German and English Dictionary, page 39: "Lehnsherr, m. Hist: feudal lord, liege lord." The kind of lord who controlled a bunch of peasants and villages and had to raise an army and go fight when the king, prince, or duke ordered him to.
The name indicates an ancestor who owned estates, or large tracts of land. In no time during most of German history, from the time they arrived in the 15th century, until the end of the 19th century, could Gypsies own land. In fact, they would have been killed had any German Rom tried to used the name "Lehnsherr." On the other hand, German Jews experienced periods of relative calm and prosperity, in the German lands. Remember the Hanseatic League, which included Danzig? Jewish merchants became wealthy in those cities. They could have acquired titles and land. Until the next wave of anti-Semitism and massacres. The biggest disaster for Jews in the German kingdoms, before Hitler, occurred in the 14th century when (I think --- I didn't check the eact figure) 200,000 German Jews were killed or driven into exile into Poland. The Polish king welcomed the refugees. After things calmed down in the German kingdoms, around half of the refugees returned home. Those that stayed in Poland, kept their German names (which is why so many Jewish people whose ancestors came from Poland have German names) and their language, Middle German, which today is called Yiddish.
So, Lehnsherr is NOT likely to be a Gypsy name. Much more likely to be a German Jewish name, especially that of a prosperous or middle-class Jewish family from Danzig. (And in New Mutants #49 the Lehnsherrs definitely look urban and middle-class.) Certainly, intermarriage is a possibility, in the 20th century. A prosperous Lehnsherr married a Gypsy somewhere along the line, or a Jew, for that matter. But the name itself, if belonging to a family that was a victim of genocide by the Nazis, would have to be, with a 95% probability, a Jewish name.
Mags says in UXM #150: "Search throught my homeland, you will find NONE who bear my name. Mine was a large family, and it was slaughtered ... " This indicates to me that the Lehnsherrs were an old family, old enough to produce many generations living throughout Poland. They could have come to Danzig with the first German settlers, or, they could have fled to Poland during the 14th century Black Death riots and massacres. The Lehnsherrs could have been a wealthy Danziger family, or a professional middle class family, or even a poor family living in a smaller town. And as for the language young Erik spoke, it would have been German in Danzig. And Sister Maria wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between Yiddish and German, since she spoke neither, in UXM #327, so young Erik could have spoken Yiddish or German in his home, which means he could have grown up in any part of Poland.
In that recent Fantastic Four comic that attempted to place a young Erik in Germany, Bavaria to be exact, before the start of WWII -- well, little Franklin's reality warping powers were warping reality then. Any Polish Jews, and Gypsies for that matter, were ordered out of Germany in 1938. By the time the war started, young Erik would have been back in Danzig, or whatever town he came from, with his family.