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07 Jewish business in Calcutta

European Jewish Businesses

Jewish-owned businesses by Jews outside the Baghdadi Community

by Charles Solomon

I used to work in M.Walters & Co. (owned by Max Wecksler, a Lithuanian Jewish watchmaker whose wife was Sarah nee Ferris) just beside Boseck from 1952 to 1955. A Lithuanian Jew, Fred Parry, would sit there and he was an authority on precious stones and would value them for a fee. Parry was also the leading trader of valuable fine art paintings before World War 2 but his huge and valuable collection that was stored during the war in a warehouse belonging to the Grand Hotel was attacked by white ants and destroyed.

Max Wecksler was an outstanding Swiss trained watchmaker and inventor. He was a world's first to design the stainless steel watch, have it produced in his name by Pierce in Switzerland and sold them in his shop in Calcutta. He invented plastic protectors for wristwatches against sweat that had a big sale in Calcutta.

Next to Bekhor's Coffee business stood the Hannahgraph Studio, a photographic studio owned by Pinhas Hallen, a white Jew from Cochin. The Herman family who are buried on the far left of the Jewish Cemetery in Narkeldanga, were wealthy Jews from Russia. Rachel Herman's Calcutta home was left to Dr B.C.Roy and became the headquarters of the Congress Party in Calcutta. Rachel was very observant and travelled with a Schohet employed full time by her. It was she that financed Bertie Judah to start a Pharmaceutical company Albert David in Calcutta. She was the patron of Dr B.C.Roy the first Chief Minister of West Bengal, helped pay for his education as he was like a son to her.

The only Old Age Home for Jews in Calcutta was a German Ashkenazi one but when World War 1 started it was shut down.