Gregor Gysi

Birth Name: Gregor Florian Gysi

Place of Birth: Lichtenberg, East Berlin, Soviet occupation zone of Germany (now Germany)

Date of Birth: 16 January, 1948

Ethnicity: German [including Baltic German, and remote Swiss-German], at least one quarter Jewish [Ashkenazi, possibly some Sephardi], Russian, Belgian Flemish, more distant Austrian, Estonian, Romanian, Portuguese, and French

Gregor Gysi is a German politician, attorney, and author. Beginning his elected career after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he has been Leader of Socialist Unity Party of Germany, from 9 December, 1989 to 17 December, 1989; Leader of the Party of Democratic Socialism, from 18 December, 1989 to 31 January, 1993; Leader of the Party of Democratic Socialism in the Bundestag, from 3 October, 1990 to 2 October, 2000; Mayor of Berlin, from 17 January, 2002 to 29 August, 2002; a Member of the Bundestag for Berlin-Treptow-Köpenick, from 18 October, 2005, Leader of The Left in the Bundestag, from 18 October, 2005 to 12 October, 2015; Leader of the Opposition in Germany, from 17 December, 2013 to 12 October, 2015; and President of the Party of the European Left, from 17 December, 2016 to 15 December, 2019, among other duties.

He is the son of Irene Olga Lydia (Lessing) and Klaus Gysi, who was a journalist, publisher, and politician. In East Germany, his father served as Minister of Culture, from 1966 to 1973, East German Ambassador to Italy, from 1973 to 1978, and State Secretary for Church Affairs, from 1979 to 1988. His parents were communists, and participated in the German resistance during the Nazi Era.

His father was born in Berlin, of German, at least one quarter Ashkenazi Jewish, distant Swiss-German, and possibly Russian, descent. Gregor’s mother was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, of at least one quarter Ashkenazi Jewish, as well as German, Baltic German, Belgian Flemish, Austrian, Estonian, Russian, Romanian, Portuguese, French, and possibly Sephardi Jewish, descent. Her family was expelled to Germany at the beginning of WWI. His uncle and aunt, mother’s brother and his wife, respectively, were German lawyer, political activist, and diplomat Gottfried Lessing (Gottfried Anton Nicolai Lessing), and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing.

Gregor has three children with his former wife Andrea Gysi.

Gregor’s paternal grandfather was named Hermann/Herrmann Gysi (the son of Karl Friedrich Gysi and Hermine Elise). Hermann was from Berlin, and was a doctor. His surname can be traced to Samuel Gysin, who was born, c. 1681, and emigrated to Germany in the early 17th century from Läufelfingen, Switzerland.

Gregor’s paternal grandmother was Erna Potolowsky (the daughter of Julius Potolowsky and Lina/Karoline Frank). Erna was born in Bensheim, Regierungsbezirk Darmstadt, Germany, and was an accountant. Julius was possibly Russian, and was the son of Leopold Potolowsky. Gregor’s great-grandmother Karolina was born in Pirmasens, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, to a Jewish family that had lived in Rhineland-Palatinate for generations; she was the daughter of Marx Franck/Frank and Esther Dreifus. Karolina was killed in the Holocaust in 1943, in Auschwitz, as was her son Feodor Potolowsky. Her husband Julius was likely not Jewish, as their daughter Erna was classified as a “half-Jew” by the Nazi government.

Gregor’s maternal grandfather was Gottfried Lessing (the son of Anton Lessing and Lydia Marie Françoise de Cuyper). Anton was a German Jew, who was born in Mühlhausen, Bavaria, the son of Samuel Moses Lessing and Rosetta Fröhlich. Anton moved to Russia, after his commercial apprenticeship, to start industrial companies. He administered a mine that employed over 40,000 people, and later founded Kolomnaer Maschinenbau-AG, which played a key role in the industrialization of Russia. Gregor’s great-grandmother Lydia was born in Liège, Walloon Region, Belgium, the daughter of Antoine de Cuyper and Françoise Saporta. The surname Saporta is found almost exclusively among Sephardi Jews of Spanish origin, and also in a few Christian families who could have left Judaism after the Reconquista.

Gregor’s maternal grandmother was Tatjana von Schwanebach (the daughter of Nicolai Anton von Schwanebach and Olga Regina Saburowa). Tatjana was from Russia. Nicolai was from a noble family, of German origin, with some Austrian ancestry. He was the son of Anton von Schwanebach, who was born in Smolensk, Russia, to German parents; and of Caroline Wilhelmine Juliane von Brückner, who was born in Cēsis, Cēsu pilsēta, Latvia, with family who also lived in Estonia, and was a Baltic German. Gregor’s great-grandmother Olga was from a Russian noble family, and had Russian, German, some Romanian and Portuguese, and likely French, ancestry. She was the daughter of Sergei Ivanovich Saburov and Sofya Ivanovna Salomon.


Genealogy of Gregor Gysi –

Biography of Gregor’s paternal great-uncle (grandmother’s brother), Feodor Potolowsky –

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