People who dared to try something new

The Aichers: a brief family history

Otl AIcher’s parents Anton Richard and Maria Anna Aicher at their wedding, 1920

The graphic designer had an ambivalent relationship to his parents – that ran in the family. His own father before him had endeavoured to keep his distance from his father and chose a different occupation. Otl Aicher didn’t take over his father’s firm either. And none of his children carried on his business.

Otl Aicher was born as Otto Aicher in the Söflingen district of Ulm on 13 May 1922. However, from at least the 1940s, he went by the name of Otl and remained true to this Swabian version of his first name until the end of his life. Up until 1905, Söflingen was a Catholic suburb of Ulm, which was a Protestant imperial city. Since both of his parents were from Catholic families, that may have been the decisive factor in their choice of where to live.

The father, Anton Richard Aicher, was born in Tuttlingen on 9 November 1895 and died in Ulm on 13 April 1969. His father, Richard Aicher, was born on 3 February 1871 in Bietingen near Messkirch as the illegitimate child of Maria Damal (* Bietingen, 2 February 1845; † Tuttlingen, 26 November 1918). Neither Richard’s entry in the baptismal register nor that of his elder brother Friedrich lists a father. Maria Damal evidently moved to Tuttlingen in 1871, where she met Simon Aicher (* Mahlstetten auf dem Heuberg, 25 November 1828; † Tuttlingen, 19 June 1884), who worked there as a day labourer.

There were so many Aichers in Mahlstetten that, prior to 1914, about a third of the village’s population had this surname. Otherwise, the only other places this family name was found in Germany at the time were the area around Lake Chiemsee and, curiously enough, near Otl Aicher’s later home in Rotis.

Simon Aicher and Maria Damal were married in Mahlstetten on 5 October 1871.At that time, an age difference of 16 years and a first marriage at the age of 43 were highly unusual. Perhaps the husband was happy to have found a wife after all, and the wife to have found a provider for her two children. Strangely, Richard and Friedrich Aicher always appear as Aichers in registry office documents from this point on, although they were neither adopted by Simon Aicher nor officially took his name. In those days it was quite common for parents not to marry until after the birth of a child, so that it might seem reasonable to assume that Simon Aicher was in fact Richard Aicher’s father. However, DNA analysis has shown that Friedrich Aicher, Richard Aicher and the younger brother born during the marriage must have had three different fathers, which rules Simon Aicher out as Richard Aicher’s father.

There were so many Aichers in Mahlstetten that, prior to 1914, about a third of the village’s population had this surname.

Initially, Richard Aicher – like his brother Friedrich – became a shoemaker. Tuttlingen had a well-developed shoe industry at the time. On 24 July 1893 he married the heavily pregnant Maria Elisabeth Nann (* Dürbheim near Tuttlingen, 18 November 1871) in Tuttlingen. Her parents were Anton Nann (* Dürbheim, 18 June 1843; † Dürbheim, 24 June 1872) and Franziska Honer (* Bubsheim, 2 November 1842; † Dürbheim, 4 November 1913). Elisabeth Nann had a sister called Katharina who had married Richard’s brother Friedrich Aicher a year earlier, so that two sisters were married to two brothers. The two families stayed in close touch into the 1970s, long after Richard and his family had moved to Ulm.

Richard Aicher and Maria Elisabeth Nann had 12 children:

Maria Franziska * 27 August 1893; † 19 March 1955
Elise Josephine * 19 November 1894; † 13 December 1894
Anton Richard * 9 November 1895; † 13 April 1969, Otl Aicher’s father
Fanny * 3 March 1897; † 5 March 1897
Ludwig * 11 June 1898; † 17 July 1954
Paul Friedrich * 23 October 1899; † 16 May 1918 (of a war wound)
Rosa Hedwig * 9 August 1901; † 25 June 1985
Oscar Reinhold * 11 December 1902; † 6 March 1904
Georg * 10 February 1904; † 1 May 1904
Rosalia * 11 June 1905; † unknown
Fanny * 07 May 1908; † 14 January 1937
Elisabeth * 13 August 1909; † 4 May 1988

Between 1902 and 1904 the family moved away from Tuttlingen, first to Ravensburg and then, between 1905 and 1908, to Ulm, living first in Krapfengasse, then Hahnengasse, later at Sedanstrasse 65 and finally at Ziegelgasse 26. From 1904 at the latest, Richard Aicher worked as an insurance inspector. He died on 13 May 1950, his wife on 26 February 1949, both in Ulm-Söflingen. Two daughters married soldiers (the family lived opposite the Sedan Barracks in Ulm) and moved to Stuttgart, all the other children remained in and around Ulm.

Anton Aicher had served as a soldier on the western front in the first world war. At the Somme, he promised a badly wounded fellow soldier that he would go and see his comrade’s family and tell them about his death. Once he returned home from the war, Anton Aicher visited his friend’s family in Illerrieden to the south of Ulm and met his comrade’s sister, Maria Anna Kurz (* Illerrieden, 11.05.1895; † Ulm-Söflingen, 11.08.1980). She struggled to come to terms with the news of her younger brother’s death. Anton Aicher and Anna Kurz were married in Ulm on 5 July 1920, when Anny was already four months pregnant.

The parents of Anna Kurz were carpenter Josef Kurz (* Illerrieden, 15 March 1851; † Illerrieden, 18 August 1919) and Franziska Rommelspacher (* Illerrieden, 24 May 1857; † Illerrieden, 30 June 1925).They had married in Illerrieden on 20 October 1879 but didn’t have any children for 12 years. Only after they took in a foster child did they have children of their own:

Adelheid * 5 June 1892; † 24 June 1895
Georg * 8 February 1894
Maria Anna * 11 May 1895; † 11 August 1980, Otl Aicher’s mother
Franz Xaver * 27 September 1896; † 22 March 1918

Otl Aicher’s paternal forebears were thus all from the Heuberg area, his maternal ancestors all from the Illertal valley.

After they married, Otl Aicher’s parents lived in Glockengasse in Ulm-Söflingen, from about 1924 until their death at No. 10 and before that in the neighbouring house on Söflinger Strasse. To begin with, Anton Aicher worked as a fitter for a Söflingen company called Steiger & Deschler. In the late 1920s, when the workers were laid off before Christmas and rehired after the holidays in order to save on wages during the economic crisis, Anton Aicher decided to start his own business. Together with a backer by the name of Schmid who made 500 Reichsmark available to him, he founded the heating firm Aicher & Schmid in Ulm-Söflingen, which he ran until his death and was then taken over by his son Georg.

Anton and Anna Aicher had three children:

Hedwig * 21 December 1920; † 30 December 2020 (spouse: Herbert Maeser)
Otto * 13 May 1922; † 1 September 1991
Georg Richard * 05 July 1923; † 30 July 2011 (spouse: Dorothea Neubert)

It is striking that it wasn’t only Otl Aicher who had a very ambivalent relationship to his parents; it was the same with his father, who likewise tried his best to keep his distance from his own father. The reasons are unclear; perhaps it has something to do with Richard Aicher’s unknown father? The careers the various generations chose illustrate this as well: Anton Aicher opted not to follow in his father’s footsteps, and Otl Aicher didn’t take over his father’s firm either. Nor did any of his children carry on his business. Across three generations, the sons chose a new beginning and started from scratch.

Manuel Aicher, * 1960 in Ulm, began researching his family genealogy at the age of 14. After studying law in Freiburg im Breisgau and at the Freie Universität Berlin, he began offering genealogy research in 1984, later expanding his portfolio to include heir search services. In addition, he also studied sociology and politics.

Translation: Alison Du Bovis