18 July 2019

Kenneth Clifford Howard - Birth & Death

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog posts on the wartime Jewish emigration business in Berlin to bring you an update on the search for Kenneth Clifford Howard... This gentleman's notebook and diary from the mid-1930s ended up in the National Archives at Kew. The two notebooks probably started off in Karl Theodore Drücke's file and then somehow got erroneously placed in Josef Jakobs' file. I've written a number of blog posts about Kenneth and his notebooks, two key ones are...
Kenneth has proved to be inordinately hard to track through the genealogy sites. Part of the problem lies in the fact that "Howard" is a very common surname. The other problem is that sometimes his birth year is given as 1921 (e.g. the police report on the notebooks) and sometimes I've found a very promising individual in an ancestry tree but the year of birth is given as 1924. It's hard to track someone when the data keeps changing!

Birth Registration of Kenneth Clifford Howard

A few weeks back, I decided to go back to the start and ordered Kenneth's birth registration. It came last week and gives us some cold, hard facts, which confirm what was given in the police reports.
1921 Birth Registration for Kenneth Clifford Howard (GRO)
1921 Birth Registration for Kenneth Clifford Howard (GRO)
Kenneth Clifford Howard was born 4 June 1921 at 3 Leigham Court Road, the son of Frank Howard and Florence (formerly Mitchell) Howard. Frank was a blouse merchant of 37 Weston Street, Upper Norwood. At first the Westow Street address looked like a "34" to me but the directories have the address as "37". There's isn't much to run with on the birth registration, but it does give us a few tidbits of information.

Let's start with the addresses. Kenneth was born at 3 Leigham Court Road, just across the street from the Streatham Tube Station. Today, the area has a series of small shops: Kennedy's Fish & Chip shop is 5 Leigham Court Road and the realtor in the red building is 1 Leigham Court Road and appears to span a couple of shop fronts. So 3 Leigham Court Road would probably have been in the area occupied by the double windowed shop front just behind the traffic light. I had a poke round the Streatham directories... and in 1921 (and each year on either side), the resident was "Mrs. Brockelhurst (Winton Lodge)". Perhaps she was a relative or maybe a midwife. The current building at 1-3 Leigham Court Road doesn't look like an original 1920s (or earlier) building to me...
Streatham - 3 Leigham Court Road  Location of birth of Kenneth Clifford Howard
Streatham - 3 Leigham Court Road
Location of birth of Kenneth Clifford Howard
As for 37 Westow Street in Upper Norwood, this is just down the street from the Crystal Palace. Today, 35 Westow Street appears to be a charity shop 9 (the blue store front at left). The right hand storefront is 41-43. So, 37 Westow Street is now an empty lot.
37 Westow Street (empty lot), Crystal Palace - residence of Frank Howard in 1921
37 Westow Street (empty lot), Crystal Palace - residence of Frank Howard in 1921

Beyond that, the birth registration doesn't tell us a lot more than what we already knew from the police investigation into Kenneth's notebooks. Frank Howard was a blouse merchant and his wife was "Florence formerly Mitchell". This is rather odd phrasing... and may indicate that his wife had previously been married and that her maiden name was not Mitchell, but a married name.

Kenneth's death registration, however, is much more forthcoming and provides several intriguing bits of new information.

Death Registration of Kenneth Clifford Howard
According to the death registration...
Kenneth Clifford Howard passed away on 29 June 2014 at Royal Bournemouth Hospital in Bournemouth. Cause of death was septicaemia due to a urinary tract infection. He also suffered from vascular dementia, ischaemic heart disease and a malignant melanoma.
Kenneth was born on 4 June 1921 in Streatham, Lambeth. [The death registration extract provided by the GRO does not provide the names of parents.]
Kenneth was a retired dental laboratory technician and husband of Doris Rhoda Howard (a retired nanny). Their usual address was 43 Sandbanks Road, Poole, Dorset.
The informant was Lorna Christine Howard, daughter who lived in Roehampton, London [I'm not giving her address here].
The death was registered on 2 July 2014 in Bournemouth.
Right off the bat, I am excited at the confirmation that Kenneth's wife was Doris Rhoda May. This confirms some information I've found from a family tree on Ancestry... more on that later.

43-45 Sandbanks Road, Poole - address of Kenneth Clifford Poole in 2014
43-45 Sandbanks Road, Poole - address of Kenneth Clifford Poole in 2014
I've done a quick search for the daughter and drawn a complete blank. Can't find a birth, nor anything else online. Her address in 2014 was social housing (retirement housing), so it may be that she has/had a low web profile. I also haven't been able to find an obituary for Kenneth which suggests that perhaps finances were an issue. The residential address for Kenneth and Doris--43 Sandbanks Road, Poole--is a bit odd...

On Google Streetview, one can see a nice semi-detached with house number 45 next to the front door (the red circled number on the right). On the left hand side of the house is the number 43, which would seem to suggest that the entrance is down the path to the left of the building. It might be that the semi-detached has two flats, one of which is accessed from the pathway.

As for Kenneth, his occupation had been "dental laboratory technician", which seems like a pretty good career/job. He also lived to a ripe old age, dying less than month after his 93rd birthday. It would also appear that he lived at home despite the fact that he had dementia. His wife, Doris, likely cared for him at home until he was admitted to hospital.

Now we get to the interesting bit... I've found a family tree on Ancestry which seems to align with Kenneth and Doris, and which provides some interesting information.

Ancestry Family Tree
According to the tree on Ancestry Doris Rhoda May (born 1920 in St. Austell, Cornwall) and Kenneth Clifford Howard were married in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia back then) on 29 March 1954. Well... that would explain why Kenneth is so hard to trace in England! And if his daughter was born abroad... that might explain a few things as well. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), Doris passed away on 5 July 2014 in Bournemouth - this is a scant week after Kenneth's death.

The other interesting piece of information from the Ancestry tree is a passenger list record from 1948. The ship HMT Empire Test arrived in Liverpool on 30 September 1948 having picked up passengers in Port Said (Egypt), Tobruk (Libya), Malta and Gibraltar. One of the passengers on the ship's manifest was a Kenneth C. Howard. His entry has a line drawn through it which would seem to indicate that he did not make the journey. His entry indicates hat he was to have boarded at Malta in Second Class. His intended address in the UK was 14 Groveland Road, Wallasey. His occupation was Sergeant, British Army. His country of permanent residence (usually having been there more than 12 months) was Palestine. His future country of permanent residence was England. Kenneth's age is smudged and the person who posted the passenger list on the tree used that age to calculate the birth year as being 1924 and connected it to the Kenneth C. Howard born in Lambeth in 1924.

HMT Empire Test (From British Armed Forces site)
HMT Empire Test (From British Armed Forces site)
That passenger list includes several other individuals whose names were stricken off the list, all of them seamen. Most of the passengers were housewives. Which initially made wonder if Kenneth and the seamen had been placed on a military transport except... HMT Empire Test WAS a military transport!

If this is our Kenneth... it would certainly be an intriguing bit of information. Born in 1921, one would certainly expect him to have served in the military during the Second World War (he would have been 18 years old at the outbreak of the war). I now begin to think that his British Army record might be useful, particularly if he was still serving in the military when he got married in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia in 1954. I haven't been able to find any record of the marriage in the overseas BMD records, although apparently the Rhodesian records are scanty at best.

The next step would seem to be to request the 1939 National Register be unlocked, although it turns out that costs £, so I may wait on that for a bit. I have sent a message to the individual who posted the family tree on Ancestry asking her for more information on Kenneth and his career in the military. I've offered the birth and death registrations in return (horse trading at its best!).

In the meantime... I did a search on 14 Groveland Road, Wallasey and discovered a probate record for one William Howard living at that address when he passed in 1954. The relevant death record (died first quarter of 1954 in Wallasey) would appear to be a William born in 1890. Perhaps an uncle of Sgt. Kenneth C. Howard? William died with an estate valued at just over £9600 pounds and it was administered by James John McLaren and John Ashford Simpson shipping clerks.

I'm not 100% convinced that Sgt Kenneth C. Howard from the passenger list is our Kenneth... so will see what comes from my request for more information from the family tree informant.

Frank Howard - Directories
I had noted in my last blog on Kenneth C. Howard that David Tremain, in his book on Vera Eriksen, had tried, and failed, to find confirmation of the Howard family addresss in Bromley in the mid 1930s. I've done some digging through the individual directories on Ancestry and think I've found Frank Howard. In some years, their residence fell within the catchment area for the Beckenham directory, not the Bromley directory. Directories are not published every year and it's a bit hit 'n' miss as to which years are available for each borough, and how the borough's are grouped in each directory. Here's what we have so far...

1919 directory for Streatham & Norwood - the resident at 3 Leigham Court Road (where Kenneth was born) is Mrs. Brockelhurst (Winton Lodge).
1919 Streatham Directory - 3 Leigham Court Road - resident is Mrs. Brockelhurst
1919 Streatham Directory - 3 Leigham Court Road - resident is Mrs. Brockelhurst
1920 directory for Streatham & Norwood - the resident at 37 Westow Street is "Isobel's (R.T. Oldaker, proprietor), blouse specialist". This is the year before Kenneth was born and the year before Frank Howard was a resident at 37 Westow Street. Makes me wonder if Frank perhaps took over the business from Oldaker... If we look in the section of the directory where residents are arranged alphabetically, there is no Frank Howard listed.
1920 Streatham Directory - 37 Westow Street - occupied by "Isobel's" (likely a business name) - proprietor is R.T. Oldaker, blouse specialist
1920 Streatham Directory - 37 Westow Street - occupied by "Isobel's"
(likely a business name) - proprietor is R.T. Oldaker, blouse specialist
1922 directory from Streatham, Norwood & Norbury - Frank Howard, blouse specialist, is resident at 37 Westow Street, N. The section arranged by street addresses also has 37 Westow Street being occupied by Frank Howard.
1922 Streatham directory - residents - Frank Howard, blouse specialist at Westow Street
1922 Streatham directory - residents - Frank Howard, blouse specialist
at Westow Street
1926-1927 directory for Streatham, Norwood and Norbury - resident of 37 Westow Street is "Howard, Frank, costmr". This would seem to suggest that Frank Howard was now a costermonger, selling his wares from a hand/horse drawn cart. It would perhaps be a drop in career status?
1926-1927 Streatham Directory - 37 Westow Street - has Frank Howard but in this case he is a Costermonger, which seems a bit of a career drop.
1926-1927 Streatham Directory - 37 Westow Street - has Frank Howard
but in this case he is a Costermonger, which seems a bit of a career drop.
1933 directory for Beckenham, Shortlands, Penge and Anerley - Frank Howard is resident at 128 Durham Road, Bromley. This was a bit of a lucky strike as some of the directories are divided into sections by boroughs which means having to page through them individually hunting through each one. I haven't done this, content with this discovery (for now).
1933 Beckenham directory - Frank Howard living at 128 Durham Road in Bromley
1933 Beckenham directory - Frank Howard living at 128 Durham Road in Bromley
The birth and death registrations for Kenneth Clifford Howard have provided some important information, a few promising leads and a few more questions. Possible avenues of research are now:
  1. tracing information through the Ancestry family tree - I've reached out to the person who posted the tree in the hope that they might have some information
  2. British Army records - if the passenger list entry is our Kenneth, then this might be a promising goldmine of information (£30)
  3. Probate for William Howard of Wallasey - if the passenger list entry is our Kenneth, then this William Howard could be a relative and Kenneth might be listed in the will (£10)
  4. Request that Kenneth's entry for the 1939 National Registration be unlocked (£25)
The second and third avenues are conditional... "if the passenger list entry is our Kenneth" - and hinge on what I can glean from the individual who posted the family tree on Ancestry. Stay tuned...


This was to have been a "short" and "quick" blog post to give me time while I dig through German articles on Jürgen Ziebell but... it quickly took on a life of its own requiring more research!

Ancestry - genealogy records
GRO - birth and death registration for Kenneth Clifford Howard
Troop ships page on British Armed Forces site

12 July 2019

Black Market Passport Business - Hans Blum

N.B. I normally try to include a fair few photographs in my blog posts to add visual interest. In this case, it didn't seem entirely appropriate but I have included links to some images on other sites.

Information from Josef Jakobs

For an introduction to the Jewish emigration business, please read the blog here first. and, for a quick synopsis of the individuals involved... read the first blog here...

According to Josef, Hans Blum had started the foreign naturalisation organisation in Berlin. At some point, Hans was unable to continue the business due to the restrictions placed on Jews. He then used Jürgen Ziebell as a cover before getting out of the business. While Josef said that Ziebell became very rich after taking over the organisation, he made no such statement about Dr. Hans Blum. This may suggest that Blum did not charge fees for his services or, if he did, that they were very reasonable. Even Josef admitted that he didn't make a lot of money from the business until he met Ziebell in January 1938.

According to Josef, it was Hans who introduced Rammrath and Ziebell to each other. Blum also introduced Ziebell to Wolpe and Roos who were involved with Irish naturalisations.

In September 1938, a Jewish lawyer in Hamburg was arrested for immoral conduct. The Gestapo found names and addresses of several Jewish individuals in Berlin. They visited Berlin and arrested Hans who was living at Tauentzienstraße 7 or 8. From Hans, the Gestapo agents got Rammrath's name and the latter exposed the entire business.

Josef stated that Hans was "now in London". There is no evidence that MI5 tried to track down Hans, or rather, no evidence that survives in Josef's MI5 files. Josef said that he didn't know when Blum came to England. He said that Hans had been released by the Gestapo at Prinz-Albrechtstraße but that he was still in Berlin in April 1939 as he had been interrogated again. Josef did know that Blum's wife and children were already in London at that time and assumed that Hans came to England soon after April 1939. Josef believes that Hans was interned upon arrival in England.

According to Josef, Hans Blum was about 35 years old and about 5'9" tall with a slim build, weighing about 120 lbs. He had dark blond hair with a small, pale face and a hooked nose. He wore no spectacles, was clean-shaven and had some gold teeth. Hans spoke only German and came from Berlin.

Tracing Hans Blum
I wasn't all that confident that I would be able to find much on Hans Blum, considering that his name would seem to be quite common. However... the clues that Josef gave provided enough information for me to be quite confident in the outline of Hans's life below. The German Jewish lawyer Hans Blum did indeed escape to England with his wife and daughter. He was interned at Kitchener Camp in Sandwich, Kent before being released to the Pioneer Corps in late 1939. His story is not without tragedy.

Most of the information contained below is pieced together from genealogical records on Ancestry and some Ancestry trees on the Blum and Jacobÿ families. I've also confirmed information presented in the Ancestry trees by visiting the Yad Vashem site and its database of Shoah victims. I also found some information about Hans on the Kitchener Camp website.

Parents of Hans Blum
Marcus Max Blum, a medical doctor, married Flora Wilde on 12 May 1884 in Berlin. Marcus was 31 years old, born 30 November 1852 in Fürstenberg an der Oder to businessman Wolff Blum and his wife Johanna Schlesinger. At the time of his marriage, Marcus was living at home with his widowed mother at Elisabethufer 46 (now Leuschnerdamm). Flora was 24 years old, born 9 October 1859 in Meseritz (now Międzyrzecz, Poland) to businessman H[??] Wilde and his wife Friedericka Kurz. At the time of her marriage, Flora was living in Meseritz, presumably with her parents.

Marcus and Flora had several children:
  • Arnold Blum - born 13 January 1887 in Berlin
  • Waldemar Blum - born 15 July 1888 in Berlin
  • Margarete Lenore Blum - born 18 April 1892 in Berlin
  • Fritz Theodor Blum - born 15 January 1895 in Berlin
Little Fritz passed away on 16 September 1896, a few months shy of his second birthday. Three years later, Marcus and Flora welcomed their fourth son, Hans Blum into their lives., born 2 July 1899 in Berlin. At the time, the family was living at Große Frankfurterstraße 75 (now Karl-Marx-Allee).

It would appear that Hans Blum served during the First World War, but as a non-combatant, being awarded the Ehrenkreuz für Kriegsteilnehmer on 3 June 1935. At the time of the award, Hans was listed as a "Dr. Jur." (Doctor juris), indicating that he held a "Doctor of Laws" degree. His legal profession is confirmed by an 11 August 1928 passenger list from Hamburg to Bergen (Norway) in which Hans gave his occupation as Rechtsanwalt (lawyer/attorney/solicitor).

Family Life
Hans was accompanied on the voyage to Bergen by his wife Senta Blum (born 29 July 1902). Berlin marriage records are not available after 1920 so it is likely that Hans and Senta were married between 1920 and 1928. A bit of sifting through the Berlin address books reveals that in 1926, Hans was living at the same address as his father, at Blumenstraße 57. In 1927, Hans was still living at the same address as his father, although it would appear that he may have had an office at Friedrichstraße 214. By 1928, however, Hans was living at Tauentzienstraße 8, suggesting that his marriage to Senta took place around that time. Hans had spent his youth in the eastern part of Berlin, in the Friedrichshain district. His move in 1928 to Tauentzienstraße brought him into Josef's stomping grounds, the Wilmersdorf district.

Hans's wife, Senta Salomea Jacobÿ, was born 29 July 1902, the daughter of businessman Louis Jacobÿ (born 2 November 1865 at Haus Lopatken, Kreis Briesen - now part of Poland) and Hannchen Gelhar (born 1 January 1876 in Wreschen - now part of Poland). At the time of Senta's birth, the family was living at Magazinstraße 13a in the eastern part of Berlin.

A couple of years after their marriage, Hans and Senta welcomed a daughter into their life. Steffi Blum was born on 16 July 1930 in Berlin. A few years later, on 30 June 1934, Hans's father, Marcus Max Blum passed away in Berlin at the age of 82 years.

Hans and Senta apparently did not change living arrangements after their marriage, with Hans and his family being listed in 1938 as living at Tauentzienstraße 8. This confirms what Josef had told the MI5 officers, that Hans Blum lived at Tauentzienstraße 7 or 8.

Escape from the Nazis
Whilst researching this blog, I came across a most fascinating and precious document which blew me away: an Entlassungschein issued by the Kommandantur des Staatl. Konzentrationslagers Sachsenhausen on 17 December 1938. [image link from the Kitchener Camp site] Discharge papers issued by the Commandant of the States Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen. Here, in one fell swoop I had seemingly found confirmation of several aspects of Josef's story: that individuals involved in the passport business were sent to a concentration camp, specifically Sachsenhausen, and that some of them were released. To me, this has always seemed rather unbelievable, that Jews could be arrested in 1938, imprisoned in a concentration camp and subsequently released from the concentration camp and then manage to escape from Nazi Germany.

It would appear, however, that in 1938/1939, Nazi Germany had yet to implement its infamous Final Solution. The Wiener Library site notes that single Jewish men from Germany and Austria were released from concentration camps in the aftermath of the infamous November Pogrom on the proviso that they leave Germany immediately, often without their families. In the case of Hans, his wife and daughter were already in England, so fortune was shining on him. According to the Sachsenhausen discharge papers, Jew Hans Blum was born on 2 July 1899 in Berlin. Hans had entered the concentration camp on 11 November 1938 (suggesting a connection with the November Pogrom which took place on 10 November, rather than imprisonment for the passport business) and been discharged just over one month later. The document noted that Hans needed to notify the local police upon his discharge and the document was stamped on 17 December 1938 by the police in Charlottenburg. Josef thought that Hans was still in Berlin in April 1939 but this does not seem to jive with the information provided the Wiener Library, that Jews released from concentration camps needed to leave Germany immediately. Although, it would appear that the 4000 German and Austrian Jewish men who escaped via this route arrived at the camp between January and September 1939. So, it is possible that Hans did not leave Berlin until after April 1939.

We next pick up Hans's trail in England where he was interned at Kitchener Camp near Sandwich, Kent [image link to Kitchener Camp site]. According to one of the documents posted on the Kitchener Camp site, Hans was a member of the camp staff from 7 June 1939 to 15 November 1939 (in charge of leave) and left to take up an appointment as a member of the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps. The 1939 National Registration confirms that Hans was at the Kitchener Camp in September 1939. Hans's wife and child, Senta and Steffi, were staying at Black Cottage in Eastry (near Sandwich). On 6 October 1939, Hans was brought before a tribunal which determined that he was exempt from internment as a Category "C" alien. According to the Kitchener Camp site, after Hans joined the Pioneer Corps, he was posted to North Devon (likely the seaside communities of Westward Ho! and Ilfracombe), where he and his family spent the remainder of the war.

Victims of the Shoah
Hans and his small family had been fortunate. They had escaped Nazi Germany and would go on to build a life for themselves in England. The rest of the Blum family, however, would not be so fortunate. Hans's mother, Flora, and his three siblings, Arnold, Margarete Leonore and Waldemar, would all perish in the Shoah.
  • Margarete Lenore Blum (age 50) was deported to Riga, Latvia from Berlin on 19 October 1942 (Transport 21)
  • Waldemar Blum (age 54) was deported to Riga, Latvia from Berlin on 19 October 1942 (Transport 21) (His wife had passed away in 1928)
  • Flora (Wilde) Blum (age 83) was deported to Theresienstadt from Berlin on 28 December 1942 (Transport 1/51)
Hans's eldest brother Arnold had married Bela Malye Bergman in 1912. The couple had three children: Hildegard Hanna (1914), Peter Wolfgang (1921) and Rolf Heinz (1927). Peter Wolfgang would be the only one to survive the Shoah. He emigrated to the USA in 1934, joined the US Army in 1942 and passed away in Arizona in 1995. His parents and siblings would all perish in the Shoah:
  • Hildegard Hanna (Blum) Salinger (age 29) was deported to Auschwitz on 23 January 1943 (Her spouse is unknown)
  • Rolf Heinz Blum (age 16) was deported to Auschwitz from Berlin on 26 February 1943 (Transport 30)
  • Arnold Blum (age 56) and his wife Bela Malye (née Bergmann) (age 59) were also deported to Auschwitz from Berlin on 26 February 1943 (Transport 30)
A Life in England
Hans was naturalised in England on 23 December 1947. At the time he was living in London with his wife Senta and his daughter Steffi. It would appear that he continued to practice as a lawyer. A 1959 article in the Association of Jewish Refugees periodical notes that:
Dr. Hans Blum celebrated his 60th birthday on July 2nd. Through his work as a lawyer, he has proved a most helpful and trusted friend to many in our midst. At the same time, he has always rendered voluntary services to various organisations built up by German Jews in this country. He is the Treasurer of the Association of Democratic Lawyers, an Executive and Board member of the New Liberal Jewish Congregation, and a member of the Legal Panel of the Ex-Service (N.B.) Association; he also belongs to the Board of the organisation of former members of the Students' Fraternity, F.W.V. In all his activities, Dr. Blum has excelled by his steadfast devotion and a strong sense of duty. The AJR [Association of Jewish Refugees], with whose efforts he has been associated for many years, joins his numerous friends in wishing him health, happiness, and success for many years to come.
Two years later, in the last quarter of 1961, Hans witnessed the marriage of his daughter Steffi Blum to Benjamin N. Lachmann in Hampstead, London. In 1968, Hans welcomed the birth of a grandchild. The following year, on 23 May 1969, Hans passed away. A notice in the AJR stated:
Blum - Dr. Hans Blum of 37 Eton Avenue, London, N.W.3, passed away on May 23, shortly before his 70th birthday. Deeply mourned by his wife, daughter, son-in-law, relatives and many friends.
 Two In Memoriam notices from the same edition of the AJR noted:
Dr. Hans Blum, a faithful member of the AJR, passed away after a short illness on May 23. He would have been 70 years old on July 2.
Dr. Blum was one of the best-known legal advisers in compensation claims and a very active member of various Jewish organisations. He was on the Executive and Board of the New Liberal Jewish Congregation and for many years chairman of its Chevra Kadisha. He also served as treasurer of the Anglo-German Lawyer's Association and was closely connected with the F.M.V. Student's Fraternity. His death will be mourned by many people and our sympathy goes out to his wife Senta and his family.

Mr. Hans Sachs writes:
"Dr. Hans Blum wird nicht nur von seiner Gattin Senta und seiner einzigen Tochter Steffi nebst Schwiegersohn betrauert, sondern auch von einem sehr grossen Kreis seiner deutschen und englischen Freunde. Er war aber auch ein ganz besonderer Mensch, der sich seiner Mitmenschen, ob arm ob reich, in vorbildlicher Weise annahm. Er verstand es, alle, die zu ihm kamen und juristische Hilfe und Unterstuetzung suchten, so zu beraten, dass jeder gestaerkt und hoffnungsvoll von ihm ging. Wir, die wir das Glueck hatten, ihn als Freund naeher kennen zu lernen, haben einen schweren Verlust erlitten und werden seiner stets dankbar gedenken".
[roughly translated]
"Dr. Hans Blum is mourned not only by his wife Senta and his only daughter Steffi and his son-in-law, but also by a very large circle of his German and English friends. He was also a very special person, who cared about his fellow man in an exemplary way, poor or rich. He knew how to counsel all those who came to him seeking legal help and support in such a way that everyone left him strengthened and full of hope. We, who had the fortune to get to know him as a friend, have suffered a serious loss and will always remember him with gratitude."
As for Hans's wife, Senta passed away on 20 December 1980 in Camden, London. She had been living at 37 Eton Avenue in London and her estate was valued at just over £100,000. Their daughter, Steffi (Blum) Lachman passed away on 16 June 2014 in London NW11 (Golders Green district). Her husband, Benjamin N. Lachman, provided the images of Hans's documents to the Kitchener Camp site and he, along with his child, is likely still alive.

As for Hans's nephew, Peter Wolfgang Blum, who escaped to the United States, he too married and had at least one child. One his children provided written testimony to the Yad Vashem site on some of the Blum relations who perished in the Shoah.

Hans sounds like an admirable individual and I tend to suspect that when he operated the Jewish emigration organisation in Berlin, he did so without a view to making a fortune from it. When the organisation/business passed to Ziebell, however, it became much more of a financial enterprise which took advantage of desperate people.

Ancestry - various genealogical documents
Berlin Address Directories - ZLB site
Wiener Library site - Kitchener Camp Refugees
Kitchener Camp site - memories of Hans Blum
Kitchener Camp site - documents of Hans Blum
Association of Jewish Refugees periodical - 1959 and 1969 (opens as a pdf)
Helen Fry has written a book - Jews in North Devon during the Second World War - there is mention of Hans and Senta Blum on page 130 (according to the index listed on GenUKi) - I have not seen the book.

The Kitchener Camp site was located just north of Sandwich, immediately northwest of Stonar Lake, on the west side of Ramsgate Road.

08 July 2019

Overivew of the Black-Market Passport Business

In my previous blog, I gave an overview of Josef Jakobs and his involvement with a black market passport business.

I'm going to begin this overview with a summary of what Frau Lily Knips, German Jewish refugee told the officers of MI5 about the passport business with which Josef was involved. Lily had escaped to England in April 1939 and, when Josef arrived via parachuted in January 1941, he had told the MI5 officers that he knew her and planned to contact her. A more detailed blog post on Lily coming soon.

I'll then follow Lily's story with a summary of Josef's much more detailed, and complicated account. All of this information is pulled from MI5's interrogation files on Josef Jakobs housed in the National Archives at KV 2/24, 25 and 26.

The Passport Business according to Lily Knips
In her 28 February 1941 statement to the MI5 officers, Lily Knips said that she had been introduced to Josef Jakobs at a tennis court by a German Jew named Frau Reiwald. This woman told Lily that Josef was a clever man who could help her get a passport to leave Germany and assist her with financial matters.

Josef sat down with Lily and said that he could arrange a French or Irish passport for her. The normal cost was 40,000 RM but, as a special favour for Lily, Josef was prepared to go as low as 24,000 RM. Lily thought that this did not sound entirely legal, but Josef assured her that it was perfectly legal.

He told her that he had obtained a French passport and an Irish (or Finnish) passport for Fraulein Schachtel, the sister of Frau Doktor Josephthal of Freiherr von Steinstrasse 8 (a former neighbour of Lily's) for a "mortgage" [loan?] of 80,000-120,000 marks, payable to Ziebell.

At some point, perhaps on the same day, Josef introduced Lily to two of his associates in the passport business: Herr Rammrath was a friend of Josef’s who also found clients for Ziebell while Herr Goldstein was a German Jew who specialised in procuring French passports. Swayed by Josef's convincing arguments, Lily agreed to accompany him and meet the lawyer who oversaw the passport business: Herr Dr. Jürgen Ziebell.

A few days later, Lily accompanied Josef to Ziebell’s offices on the Kurfürstendamm where she also saw Rammrath again. Ziebell confirmed the price of a passport but when Lily asked for assurances that it was legal, Ziebell became evasive. At the same time, Rammrath accused her of wasting the lawyer’s time with her questions.

After they left Ziebell's offices, Lily told Josef that she was not satisfied with the legality of the business and wanted nothing more to do with the business. She did, however, continue to see Josef socially and almost entered into another financial scheme with him and a Swiss man named Seiler (more on that in another blog).

In October 1938, Josef visited Lily's flat and told her that Rammrath and Ziebell had been arrested. She didn’t see Josef again but, a few months later, saw Frau Jakobs who informed her that Josef and Goldstein had also been arrested.

Lily never heard from Josef again and eventually escaped Nazi Germany in April 1939 with the assistance of her son, Lothar Sauer, who had become a naturalised Briton. In late 1940, however, Lily received two mysterious letters, both demanding money from her. The first letter was incorrectly addressed but the second letter was addressed correctly.

According to the postmark, the second letter had been sent from Shanghai. The letter writer, a Frau Goldstein, stated that she had been informed by Herr Jakobs that he had given Lily 40,000 RM on Frau Goldstein’s behalf and that Lily should send that amount to Frau Goldstein's bank in Shanghai. Frau Goldstein mentioned that Herr Jakobs had already written to Lily concerning the matter. Lily then recalled the first letter, and suspected that it must have come from Josef [unlikely but not impossible]. Lily thought that the letter writer, Frau Goldstein, might be the wife of the Herr Goldstein associated with the passport business in Berlin. The letter writer said that Lily had met her husband with Herr Jakobs in Berlin and that both men had been released around Easter 1940. Lily did not keep either letter, returning the first to the postman and destroying the second.

The Passport Business according to Josef Jakobs
Interrogated by MI5 in mid to late April 1941, Josef confirmed that he had been introduced to Frau Lily Knips at a tennis club in May 1938 by a rich Jewish family called Reiwald. Lily had wanted to become Irish and during the course of the next few months, Josef had come to know her quite well.

Josef then went on to describe the Jewish passport business. He began by stating that he had merely acted as an agent for Ziebell, and that he really knew very little about Ziebell's connections. It was only after the group's arrest in October 1938, and during the subsequent investigation, that Josef learned a lot about the organisation.

In the summer of 1937, after being released from a Swiss prison, having served his sentence for gold counterfeiting, Josef returned to Berlin. He tried to resume his previous job selling typewriters but business was not brisk. Shortly after his return from Switzerland, Josef visited a friend named Egon Rammrath. The two men had been introduced to each other in 1931 by a patient of Josef's dental practice named Rudolf Hoch. Josef didn't give specifics but said that their initial meeting in 1931 revolved around the purchase of a motor-car. A few years later, in 1933, Josef bought some Mexican securities through Rammrath but then lost touch with him. The two men renewed their acquaintance in the summer and fall of 1937, and Rammrath had quite the story to tell.

Rammrath told Josef that he was involved in securing Jewish clients for an emigration business run by two lawyers: a Jew named Dr. Hans Blum (blog post) and an Aryan named Dr. Jürgen Ziebell. The organisation secured foreign naturalisations for Jews desirous of leaving Germany and had originated with Blum. Under the Nazi laws, however, Blum, as a Jew, was eventually prohibited from practicing as a lawyer. He then partnered with Ziebell who represented Blum in the law courts and ran the emigration business as a cover for Blum. It was Blum who introduced Rammrath to Ziebell and the very profitable business. Ziebell had apparently gone from being an unimportant lawyer to being a very rich man. [Elsewhere Josef said that Ziebell had served as public prosecutor for many years which does not align with "unimportant lawyer". This will be discussed in more detail in a future post on Ziebell.]

Through Ziebell, Germans Jews could obtain foreign nationality which would: (a) allow them to remain in Germany for up to a year to settle their affairs, (b) allow them to transfer their money out of Germany under more favourable terms, (c) help them to emigrate out of Germany and (d) allow them to work in the their new country,  The only caveat was that the clients had to be still resident in Germany.

Josef was always keen to make a fortune through legal or illegal means, and this business sounded promising. According to Rammrath, foreign naturalisations could be obtained in a completely legal way. The applicant simply sent in an account of his life, a medical certificate of health for himself and his family, a police certificate of good conduct, proof that he had not taken part in politics, four photographs and a detailed application. These papers were then placed before the relevant authorities, in accordance with the laws of each country. If there was no objection to the application then the applicant received, either through the Consul General of the country concerned or through a lawyer, a passport, a document proving that he had been naturalised, and an official newspaper in which the naturalisation was published. According to Rammrath, there was no difficulty with the German authorities because Jews were encouraged to emigrate and German law permitted the acquisition of a second nationality.

Rammrath told Josef that he had connections in various countries and could successfully submit naturalisation applications for Switzerland, Holland, France, Norway and Sweden. Rammrath suggested, that if Josef knew any rich Jews, he could introduce them to Blum and Ziebell and earn a lot of money.

Rammrath emphasised that Josef would be working on his own account and all he needed to do was quote a higher fee to prospective clients and pocket the difference. For example, Ziebell charged 20,000 RM for some naturalisations (10,000 RM covered expenses, bribery, etc and Ziebell pocketed the rest). Josef could simply tell the prospective client that a naturalisation cost 25,000 RM and pocket the 5,000 RM difference. The naturalisation fee included the applicant, his wife and their children under the age of sixteen. Children over the age of 16 were charged extra.

At some point in during their conversations, Rammrath introduced Josef to a Herr Markuse who also became involved in introducing clients to Ziebell.

Despite Rammrath's assurances that the business was legal and profitable, Josef was apparently not entirely convinced. After meeting with Rammrath, Josef spoke to his Jewish step-father-in-law, Abraham Wolfgang Elkan who also knew Rammrath. Josef was quite astonished to learn that Elkan was in the process of securing a naturalisation for the Balkans (Yugoslavia) through a former Jewish banker named Tuerke (Türke).

At some point after his initial meetings with Rammrath (the exact timeline is unclear), Josef accompanied Rammrath to meet Dr. Hans Blum. Josef said that he didn't earn much money from the Jewish passport business until January 1938 when Blum introduced him to Ziebell at his offices at Kurfürstendamm 202. This would appear to be a big hiatus from the time when Josef first met up with Rammrath in the summer of 1937. Did Josef first meet Blum in the fall of 1937 and then Ziebell in January 1938? Or did he meet both Blum and Ziebell in January 1938? The interrogation summaries are not clear on this point.

Whatever the case might be, Ziebell confirmed everything that Rammrath had told Josef but added some extra information.

Irish Naturalisations
Through Blum, Ziebell had formed some key connections which would allow a limited number of Jews (up to 20) to acquire Irish naturalisations. Ziebell would send the applications to his agent in Amsterdam (recommended to him by a bank in Amsterdam) who would forward the papers to two Irish lawyers. These two lawyers would then stand guarantee for the applicants and place their applications before the Irish Parliament. Should Parliament agree to the naturalisations, the applicants would then be invited to Dublin by the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The applicants would then be sworn in by the Lord Mayor himself and obtain Irish passports. The fee for Irish naturalisations was about 20,000 RM. The Irish naturalisation business involved two German Jews who had emigrated from Germany many years previously: Max WOLPE (Josef wasn't entirely sure of the forename) and Josef ROOS. According to Josef, both men had spent time in London, although he thought they might operate out of Amsterdam. Wolpe and Roos were also involved with two Englishmen: a lawyer named Smith who knew the Mayor of Dublin, and an English officer (a Major or a Colonel).

Transfer of Capital
Ziebell only undertook naturalisations after the applicant appointed Ziebell administrator of his property. Ziebell could then get the applicant’s capital transferred at a rate of about 20%. (An official transfer through the "Gold Discounting Bank" fetched at the most 8 or 10%.) Ziebell claimed that he had the necessary permits from the German foreign exchange authorities for these transfers. He would take the applicant’s money and buy heavy spar (barite) mines. He then exported the heavy spar to Holland, and from there to England. The buyer and guarantor of the heavy spar was a Dutch Jewish private bank. The overhead expenses were calculated at a very high rate, so that the foreign currency paid into the clearing institute was lower than it should be. This allowed the bank to nominally “employee” the applicants recommended by Ziebell at a monthly salary of 800 Gulden, until they received 20% of their original capital.

Aryanisation of Jewish Businesses
Ziebell would also take over a Jewish business and sell it to an Aryan German firm. He formed a company for this venture with eight others, and it had a capital of 15,000,000 RM. The Jews had had all their money confiscated from them as of 1 April 1938. This organisation for selling and buying Jewish firms had to place their applications before the “Arbeitsfront”, which then gave them the necessary permission. Josef said that under these arrangements, Jewish business owners were able to get greater advantages than were allowed under the law, and that this was done by bribing German officials.

Release from Concentration Camps
Ziebell also claimed that he could get Jews, who had the necessary means, out of concentration camps, but only after their relatives had sent in an application for naturalisation. The Jews concerned had to pledge to leave Germany within three days of their release. The fee for this was 30,000 RM.

A Willing Accomplice
Ziebell's spiel was enough to convince Josef and he jumped into the business with both feet. Through his step-father-in-law, Wolfgang Elkan, Josef had gotten to know many Jews and these, in turn, recommended others. Elkan, for example, was friends with Herr Reiwald, a former patient of Josef's dental practice. Elkan told Josef that Reiwald wanted to become Dutch or French and Josef apparently introduced Reiwald to Ziebell. The Dutch and French passports were found to be impossible so Reiwald then requested a Cuban naturalisation. Reiwald did not need help getting his money out of Germany as he had already made arrangements to transfer it to a brother-in-law in Italy. Josef said that they could have arranged the Cuban naturalisation except that they were all arrested in late 1938 (more on that below).

Josef claimed that he had introduced about 40 or 50 clients to Ziebell, although he could not remember individual names as he knew so many Jews. He earned a lot of money through these introductions, about 150,000 RM after expenses.

Josef had been primarily involved in deals that related to emigration, naturalisation, and visas. Josef had not been involved with getting Jewish capital out of Germany although he had been involved in the Aryanisation of one Jewish business. Josef had also assisted with acquiring visas for Chili, Uruguay, Cuba and Argentina, receiving 3,000 RM for each visa. He had also dealt with ten cases of naturalisation, all of which had involved applicants becoming Finnish.

Finnish Naturalisations
At some point, Josef introduced Martin Israel Goldstein to Ziebell. Josef had gotten to know Goldstein through a Jewish lawyer, Dr. Schwarz, who practiced at Königstrasse 41. Goldstein brought connections for naturalisations in Finland and Cuba as well as visas for Central American countries.

Goldstein worked with a man named Emil Dochnal (an Aryan), who in turn worked with a Jew called Rosenberg. These three men, and a retired Finnish Captain called Niska, were able to arrange successful naturalisations for Finland.

According to Josef, Finnish naturalisation was comparatively easy, as the Finnish Home Office could issue passports and give orders for naturalisation without requiring the applicant to be resident in Finland. Niska would fly to Berlin with another Finn, and these two men would make the necessary arrangements in Finland as regards bribery. Josef said that Niska and the other Finn didn't meet directly with Ziebell but dealt with Dochnal and Rosenberg.

In late 1938, when the entire group was arrested, Josef said that Niska and Rosenberg were also arrested but released quite quickly. The fact that these two men were released, while the others were all sent to concentration camps, led Josef to suspect that they were being used by the Gestapo.

MI5, with the assistance of MI6, was able to confirm that Algot Niska had been involved in forging Finnish passports. They also learned the names of a number of other people who had come under suspicion when Niska was arrested. They ran the names past Josef but he only recognized a few of the individuals: Altmann, Hagen and Schapiro. They also showed Josef a picture of Niska but he admitted that he had never actually met the man, but only heard about him while under interrogation by the Gestapo.

Josef had known a German Jew called Altmann who was about 50 years old and married. According to Josef, the Altmann that he knew had nothing to do with the passport business.

Josef also knew a little bit about Louis Georg Hagen. The man owned a large private business in Berlin. Hagen had been imprisoned by the Gestapo for four months (October 1938 to March 1939), at the same time that Josef was under arrest. Josef had only met Hagen in prison and when Hagen was released, Josef never saw him again.

Hagen had a brother-in-law called David, who had moved to England. David was very rich, and had ordered a Finnish passport from Ziebell, for which he was prepared to pay 5,000 RM. In the end, however, David had left the country using a German passport, accompanied by his wife.

Josef had heard the name Schapiro, but did not know anything about the man concerned.

Josef also acknowledged that Fräulein Schachtel was a good friend of Frau Knips and that she had obtained a Finnish passport through Niska.

Ziebell was also able to obtain visas for South American countries (Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chili, Paraguay) without the usual waiting period for Jews who possessed a German passport for traveling abroad. The fee for this was 600 to 800 RM depending on the applicant's financial position. The Uruguayan Consul General in Hamburg at that time, a man called Rivas, earned an enormous amount of money through bribery. According to Josef, Rivas had sent a shipload of Jews to Uruguay, and when these emigrants arrived, they were refused admittance and sent back to Germany. Naturally, Rivas had made a lot of money on this ignominious deal. Rivas's son, who was the Uruguayan Consul in Berlin, was very friendly with Dochnal.

House of Cards
According to Josef, Ziebell’s practice increased tremendously and, at times, forty or sixty Jewish clients could be seen in his luxurious offices. Ziebell also had a legal partner who like Ziebell, belonged to the Nationalsozialistische Rechtswahrerbund (NSRB) (National Socialist Association of German Legal Professionals). This partner (who is never named) withdrew from the partnership because Ziebell was not allowed, by the rules of the Association, to look after Jewish interests. (This partner may have been Blum.) Ziebell also voluntarily resigned from the Association (likely after his arrest); otherwise he would have been expelled from it. Ziebell earned a very large fortune from the Jewish emigration business but it all came crashing down in the fall of 1938...

At the end of September 1938, an Aryan lawyer in Hamburg was arrested by the Gestapo on a charge of immoral conduct. When the officials searched his house, they found the addresses of various Jews in Berlin. Two Gestapo agents were sent to Berlin to investigate and ended up arresting Dr. Hans Blum. From Blum, the Gestapo got Rammrath’s address and the latter agreed to expose the entire business in return for his release. Rammrath was accordingly set at liberty immediately, but was re-arrested three weeks later by the Berlin Gestapo, to whom the Hamburg authorities had transferred the investigation.

Josef said that the entire group (about 60 people) were arrested on the 10th of October, suspected of political intrigue and high treason. Elsewhere, Josef and Lily indicate that the arrests happened in a cascade - first Blum, then Rammrath, then others. Josef also says that Ziebell was arrested eight days after Josef was arrested. The group included four Aryan lawyers and ten Jewish lawyers as well as clients of the organisation. Josef said that Frau Knips would also have been arrested had Josef divulged her name. This is unlikely for both Rammrath and Ziebell could have disclosed her name.

Despite the fact that nothing could be proved against them, Josef claimed that they were all sent to Oranienburg Concentration Camp. Josef and Goldstein were released on 22 March 1940. Ziebell too, was sent to the concentration camp, but was also released, although he was not allowed to practice as a lawyer.

Josef repeatedly told the MI5 interrogators that their arrests were triggered, not by the emigration business itself, against which there was no objection, but because of the authorities' suspicion that the business had a political background and was connected with infringements of foreign exchange regulations. According to Josef, this suspicion was entirely unfounded. At another point, Josef said that they were all arrested on charges of high treason and political intrigue.

Josef restated that the business was entirely legitimate which, he claimed, was proved by the fact that the Gestapo did not confiscate any of the money that the group had earned. Josef also said that many other people in Berlin were engaged in similar business and that it was still taking place in Germany. Permits from the Gestapo and the regular Police first needed to be obtained, however, and Ziebell did not have the necessary permits. On top of that, he was an Aryan lawyer and, as such, was not allowed to look after Jewish interests. According to Josef, Ziebell got into trouble because he was a member of the party [Nazi party?] but still had business transactions with Jews. For that reason, he was no longer allowed to practice as a lawyer.

Josef's account contains a few inconsistencies and raises many questions. Who were these people? What became of them? Did any of the Jews who purchased passports from Ziebell and his cronies actually manage to escape Germany? Did any of these schemers qualify as "Righteous among the Nations"?

Over the next few weeks/months, I plan to post blogs about some of the characters mentioned... as I do, I plan to link posts back into this blog.

N.B. Thanks to Traugott Vitz for improving the translation of some of the German bits!

03 July 2019

Josef Jakobs and the Characters involved in the Blackmarket Passport Business

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about Josef Jakobs and one of his associates (Egon Rammrath) and the black market passport "business" that they were involved with in Berlin from 1937-38. During his interrogations by the officers of MI5, Josef revealed quite a bit of detail about this business and the people associated with it, far too much detail to include in my book about Josef: The Spy in the Tower. Over the last few months, I've been researching some of the characters involved in the passport business, fleshing out their stories and trying to figure out what became of them after they were arrested by the Gestapo in October 1938. It's been a bit of a rat's nest given how many people Josef mentioned!

This post is meant to provide a brief overview of the characters and their affiliation with the black market passport business. Much of Josef's story about the black market passports was corroborated by Frau Lily Knips, a German Jew who sought to escape Nazi Germany in 1938. While she met some of the characters involved, she eventually ended up escaping Germany without using their services.

In many respects, the story of the black market passport business is a delicate matter. German Jews were desperate to escape Germany and this group of schemers took advantage of them by charging an exorbitant amount of money for passports, visas, etc. I have come across one character, Algot Niska helped provide the group with forged Finnish passports. It would appear from Finnish websites that he is unofficially lauded as one of the Righteous among the Nations for his efforts. My preliminary research would suggest that this might be a bit of a stretch. Certainly none of the individuals involved in this business were in the same league as Oskar Schindler. Niska and the others charged a fee for their services and took financial advantage of desperate folk. Not something to be praised by any stretch of the imagination. But let's begin with an overview of some of the characters involved. We'll get to Niska in due course.

Black Market Passport Group
The core of the group seems to have been:
Hans Blum - a German Jewish lawyer who started the business and then got out of it once he, as a Jew, was forbidden from practicing.
Jürgen Ziebell - a German lawyer who took over the business from Blum. He was arrested with the rest in October 1938 and disbarred. His post-war career is fascinating!
Egon Rammrath - a German scoundrel (read the blog post mentioned earlier) involved in acquiring clients for the business
Martin Israel Goldstein - a German Jewish businessman who, according to to Josef, received no payment for his services, but was simply concerned with getting as many Jews out of Germany as possible
Emil Dochnal - a German who Josef said that the was involved with Algot Niska (see below)
 There was a sub-group involved in securing Finnish passports, including:
Algot Niska - a Finnish sea captain and former bootlegger who procured forged passports for Ziebell and his group
Rosenberg - a German Jew - no last name
Emil Dochnal - see above
Jürgen Ziebell - see above
Louis Georg Hagen - a German Jew and businessman
Josef also told a complicated tale about a sub-group involved in securing Irish naturalisations, which included:
Jürgen Ziebell - see above
Josef Emil Roos - a German Jew who had emigrated to Holland
Johannes Hans Wolpe - a German Jew who had emigrated to Holland
Lincoln Allen Smith - a British lawyer/accountant involved with Roos and Wolpe (naturally MI5 was VERY interested in this character!)
Various key clients of the business included:
Lily Knips - a German Jew who escaped to England in 1939
Dorothea Schachtel - a German Jew and neighbour of Lily Knips who bought a passport off of Ziebell
Ernst David (brother-in-law of Louis Georg Hagen - see above) - a German Jew who considered buying a Finnish passport off of Ziebell but ultimately did not
Herr & Frau Reiwald - German Jews - Frau Reiwald introduced Lily Knips to Josef Jakobs
The Blog Post Plan
Over the next few weeks (months?), I plan to post a series of blogs about the passport business and the individuals mentioned above. I'm not sure of the exact order yet... As I research the people involved, I vacillate between elation for the German Jews who managed to escape Nazi Germany and profound sadness for the ones that did not.

As I post, I plan to update this post with blog links... see below.

28 June 2019

The Spy in the Tower on Goodreads.com

Screenshot of The Spy in the Tower's page on Goodreads
Screenshot of The Spy in the Tower's page on Goodreads
If anyone out there has read The Spy in the Tower, might I ask you to please visit the book's page on the Goodreads site and leave a review.

Amazon only allows "verified purchasers" to leave reviews on their site sooo... if people buy the book from the Book Depository... they can't leave a review on Amazon.

Goodreads is a great alternative!!


23 June 2019

Bella in the Wych Elm - A Birmingham Spy Ring Theory deflated

Was there a war-time spy ring in Birmingham, England? It's a topic that comes up quite frequently in the Bella in the Wych Elm story. The theory is that Bella was involved with the Birmingham spy ring, ran afoul of the leaders and ended up stuffed in the hollow wych elm. To date, however, I've never come across any solid evidence to support that particular theory. I was always perplexed as to where the theory originated, and had only ever come across it in Donald McCormick's book, Murder by Witchcraft.

Donald McCormick - Murder by Witchcraft - 1968
Cover - Murder by Witchcraft - 1968 Donald McCormick
Cover - Murder by Witchcraft - 1968
Donald McCormick
I blogged about his book in regards to the Bella case back in May 2017. McCormick told the tale of a stellar spy operating in the British Midlands...
My next search was into any records which showed whether the Germans had successfully infiltrated their spies into the Midlands during the war. This proved both lengthy and in the main unrewarding. This was quite understandable in that what I was looking for was almost certainly something which the British authorities themselves had not uncovered. During World War II a German spy, never positively identified, carried out a remarkable number of coups in Britain over a long period. He delivered to the Germans a top-secret report prepared by Sir Alexander Cadogan, then Permanent Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, a dossier of maps showing the emergency system of food and fuel distribution in Britain, information about the deficient defences at Scapa Flow which led to the penetration of that naval base by the U-47 and the sinking of the Royal Oak, blueprints of British docks and maps of air-fields as well as a complete report on the organisation of shadow factories around Birmingham and Coventry. But who was this mysterious spy who evaded capture? He was still active in 1944. One suggestion from the German side after the war was that he was a German-Canadian named Karl Dickenhoff, who lived in a house at Edgbaston. Dickenhoff also had many aliases , but his real name was said to be Hans Caesar and is believed to be still alive. (p.157-158)

Whether Hans Caesar, alias Dickenhoff, was the ace spy or not matters very little now. But it is known that he was an associate of a Dutchman named Jan Willem Ter Braak, who, according to Frau Cremer, was a friend of 'Clara' alias Dronkers. The Dutchman was found dead in a deserted air raid shelter in Cambridge, with a bullet in his brain and a German revolver by his side. In his lodgings were found false papers and a German-manufactured radio transmitter. (p. 158)
McCormick's research has long been called into question, but I am impressed at how he managed to weave the ace spy, Hans Caesar, together with Ter Braak and the non-existent 'Clara' Dronkers... McCormick's book is an example of how a few rumours can be expanded into a readable, although highly inaccurate story.

Ladislas Farago - War of Wits - 1954
cover - War of Wits (1954 Ladislas Farago
cover - War of Wits (1954
Ladislas Farago
The core of McCormick's story, published in 1968, seems to be Ladislas Farago's book, War of Wits, published in 1954. Farago, too, seemed to have relied upon a creative embellishment of the facts when writing his books. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the British were still keeping word of their double-cross system and their breaking of the German wartime code under wraps. And in order to explain how they managed to have such accurate information... certain other explanations were put out there: that the British had an agent on the German General Staff... that Admiral Canaris had visited Stewart Menzies (MI6) or even Churchill during the war. Any book written prior to the revelation of the double cross system and Britain's breaking of the German code do not have the whole picture... and tend to try to put the pieces together with creative (and often imaginary) connectors.

In War of Wits, Farago rattles off a number of stories, all of which are built on shaky ground:
While Britain succeeded in unmasking most of the German agents of World War II, one truly effective spy managed to evade the net. The man succeeded in outwitting Britain's entire counter-espionage machinery for seven years, from 1937, when he entered Britain allegedly from Canada, to 1944, when his trail eventually vanished. During those seven years, this phantom spy supplied the German secret service with a remarkable collection of intelligence. Among his deliveries were (paraphrased):
  1. report by Sir Alexander Cadogan
  2. dossier of maps about food and fuel distribution
  3. defences of Scapa Flow naval base
  4. blueprints of docks in London and Hull
  5. maps of Kent airfields - "Later, this phantom spy was sad to have directed the Luftwaffe raids on these airfields in preparation for the Battle of Britain"
  6. report on industries in Birmingham and Coventry - The spy was credited with the guiding of the German bombers to these crucial targets".
This is only a partial list of the man's achievements. His activities still baffle British counterespionage and even such a taciturn spy-catcher as Colonel Hinchley Cook of MI-5 pays an unstinted tribute, if not to the efficiency of the German secret service, then to the competence of this one agent. Who was this formidable adversary? How could he remain undetected? How could he escape?

Even today, no one professes to know the answers to these questions. Some say that all these scoops were scored by a single operative, probably one of the greatest spies who ever lived. Others presume that there were, in fact, three different men behind these coups, none of whom was ever caught. Still others insist that they were the work of a brilliant network of Germany's ace operatives led by a single genius who not only understood how to direct his men but also how to protect them from the spy-catchers.

Whoever he was, this phantom was still going strong in the fifth year of the war, on the very eve of the Normandy invasion. When, in March, 1944, General Eisenhower moved his headquarters from London to Busy Park to evade German spies, the phantom reported the transfer to Berlin within 72 hours. Later, he reported the exact date of D-Day, but Hitler trusted his intuition more than a report from his master spy. He simply refused to believe that the Allies would have the audacity to invade his continent.

It may be that this elusive Scarlet Pimpernel was someone whom MI-5 and Scotland Yard did meet, but only as a corpse, in a deserted air-raid shelter in Cambridge, with a bullet in his head and a German revolver at his side, apparently a suicide. From the paper in his pocket he was identified as a native of Holland, Jan Willem Ter Braak, but it was obvious that this was an alias. Later the body was recognized by a landlady who reported one of her boarders missing. In Ter Braak's abandoned room, the spy-catchers found forged documents and a powerful German-made radio transmitter.

However, it is more likely that the phantom spy was a German-Canadian who called himself Karl Dickenhoff. He lived quietly in a villa in Edgbaston. His real name was Hans Caesar. His is a weird story, somewhat in the Conan Doyle tradition. Caesar is said to be still alive and in England, the demented, amnesia-stricken inmate of an insane asylum. Nobody will say whether he is really unbalanced or merely simulates insanity to escape the consequences of his wartime activities.
I really don't know where to start in dismantling Farago's story but for starters, Ter Braak was found in the air raid shelter in April 1941 so clearly he could not have been the mystery agent who supposedly operated until 1944. And it is highly doubtful that Hinchley Cook gave Farago any hint of information. But let's focus on Farago's last comment, that the phantom spy was "likely" a German Canadian who called himself Karl Dickenhoff but whose real name if Hans Caesar. This is pretty specific information and would seem to be based on fact. But how much is fact... and how much is fiction? And where did the story originate?

Pete and Alex Merrill, currently working on their second volume in the Bella mystery, kindly sent me some post-war newspaper clippings from the Birmingham area which shed some light on the origin of the Hans Caesar story.

Evening Despatch - 13 June 1945

Birmingham Post - 13 June 1945 article on Hans Caesar
Birmingham Post - 13 June 1945
article on Hans Caesar
On 13 June, 1945, the Evening Despatch had a splashy spread which trumpeted that a German Jeweller from Hockley had led the Blitz on Birmingham.
Nephew of spy of the last war was Nazi agent
German Jeweller from Hockley led Blitz on Birmingham
[You can blame Hans for this - image of bombed out building]
He pinpointed raids on Midland "Hatton Garden"

A remarkable story of how a German jeweller from Hockley, nephew of a spy of the first great war, led the German blitzes on Birmingham is revealed in the British Jeweller, the monthly publication of the Birmingham Jewellers' and Silversmiths' Association.

This German agent, it is stated, used his intimate knowledge of the district to direct pinpoint attacks on Birmingham's "Hatton Garden".

He was Hans Caesar, and members of the jewellery trade remember him as a plausible young man, who re-established his uncle's business as a dealer in semi-precious stones. Just before the outbreak of the war he returned to Germany, and it subsequently transpired that he had been trained by the Nazis.

The author of the article in the British Jeweller is W. Stewart-Turner.

Writing on "The German Menace," he states that the question for the jewellery trade to decide is: "Are we going to buy from Germany again?"

"At this moment, following the dreadful disclosures of the concentration camps, it is likely that most people would say: 'Never again can we deal with them.' But when they come along with goods attractive and cheap, made by labour existing on a much lower standard than that which we hope to maintain here, the temptation will be to say: 'Well, if I don't buy from them others will."

"It would seem to be a matter for concerted action, as in all probability if the wholesalers refuse to handle the goods they may go to the retailer.

"It should be remembered that the German stone dealer, Hans Caesar, who resided in Birmingham for seven or eight years, was a Nazi agent, and used his knowledge of the district to lead a bombing attack on Birmingham in which the jewellery district was badly damaged.

"On their radio the announcer boasted that the signal accuracy of the bombing was due largely to the work of their good friend Caesar, who knew the city and its environs in the greatest detail.

"The uncle of this man was also a stone dealer in Birmingham before the 1914-1918 war, and left with half-a-dozen other Germans just previously to the outbreak of the first war, no doubt well-informed with the knowledge of our munition and armaments industries.

"Otto Block, another agent of that period, had openly boasted of their war-like intention toward this country."

Girl Heard Broadcast
A prominent member of the Birmingham jewellery trade interviewed by an Evening Despatch representative, said that the first contact with the story of the blitz led by Hans Caesar was when a girl in the trade picked up a German broadcast at 7:30 one morning and heard the announcer boasting about the bombing of Birmingham and the work of "their good friend Caesar".

"The story of Caesar goes back to a former generation," the merchant said. "Caesar's uncle dealt in stones from premises in Vyse-street. Towards the end of July, 1914, he, together with a number of other Germans, decided to go on their holiday.

"Of course, they had been recalled.

"It should be explained that the stones in which these men dealt are what are known as semi-precious stones. The diamond trade (precious stones) is located mainly at Amsterdam and Antwerp, but the Germans have practically the monopoly of the semi-precious stones industry which was established at Idar Oberstein in the Black Forest.

Just like Uncle in 1914
"The English dealers were almost bound to buy stones from the Germans, in spite of the fact that the raw material comes from the British Empire.

"Two or three years after the end of the first war, the nephew, Hans Caesar, comes on the scene and re-establishes the business carried on by his uncle in the same building.

"He was a very plausible young man.

"He lived in Edgbaston; he was a member of the Navy League; and he used to go around in a car with a cine-camera. It appeared afterwards that he had been trained by the Nazis.

"He would sympathise with the Jews at one moment; and then would go round to a non-Jewish firm and boast about it.

"Just before the outbreak of the war, in September, 1939, he wound up his business and went back to Germany, just like his uncle did in 1914.

"I am told on good authority that Hans Caesar met his end on the Eastern Front." (Evening Despatch 13 June 1945)
The story in the Evening Despatch seems to be based on an article written by C. Stewart-Turner for the British Jeweller and the key bit of information from that article would seem to be that a girl in the jewellery business heard a German broadcast in which the announcer boasted that the bombing of Birmingham was the work of "their good friend Caesar". Out of that flimsy bit of information, Stewart-Turner spun quite a story about Caesar and his uncle. One could wonder if perhaps Stewart-Turner had another motive in undermining the credibility of the German jewellers. Eliminating the Germans as competition would likely have a salubrious effect on the British jewellery industry. The Evening Despatch doesn't mention when the British Jeweller article was published but the Birmingham Library does have copies of the magazine.

The next mention of Hans Caesar occurs ten years later, after the publication of Farago's book, which caused quite a stir and reignited the story.

Birmingham Post - 3 April 1956
The Birmingham Post took Farago's book and ran with it...
The Spying Caesar of Edgbaston
An Account of War-time Activity

Remarkable exploits are attributed in a new book published today* [*War of Wits, by Ladislas Farago (Hutchinson, 18s.)] to a German spy who "lived quietly in a villa in Edgbaston." His name was Hans Caesar and, according to the author, who was four years with the United States Governmental Intelligence service, he escaped capture and is said to be still in England in an asylum, though "nobody will say whether he is really unbalanced or merely simulates insanity to escape the consequences of his war-time activities."

Caesar, who, says Mr. Farago, outwitted the British counter espionage service for seven years, is credited with getting out of the country:--
  • A secret document, of which only four copies existed, setting out the Foreign Office's estimate of Anglo-German relations.
  • Maps showing the emergency system of food and fuel distribution in the United Kingdom.
  • Information about the defences of Scapa Flow which enabled the U-47 to enter the base and sink the Royal Oak.
  • Blue prints and maps of London and Hull docks.
  • Maps of the airfields in Kent built to defend London from air attacks, which Caesar later directed.
  • A report on the dispersal of industries and the organisation of shadow factories around Birmingham and Coventry. Caesar is also said to have guided German bombers to these targets.
A Keen Photographer
Caesar was a German-Canadian. He also called himself Hans Dickenhof [sic] and was well-known in the Birmingham jewellery trade for seven or eight years before the war. An article which appeared in The British Jeweller in March, 1941, described him as of pleasant personality and impressive physique and a friend and confidant of many people in the jewellery trade.

"He ran a large car and, it is said, spent far more money than his circumstances appeared to warrant... He also had a cine camera which he used a great deal. He made frequent trips to Germany and for many German dealers who came to this country his office was a rendezvous."

The article added that some time before the outbreak of the war, Caesar announced that business no longer justified his staying and he returned to Germany. Nothing was heard of him for a year and a half and then one morning people listening to the 7.30 broadcast in English from Munich heard "a swaggering reference to the damaging air raids on Birmingham." Their success the announcer said, and the signal accuracy of their bombing of military objectives, was due largely to the good work of their good friend Caesar, who led the main attack and knew the city and its environs in the greatest detail.

Official Doubts
Mr. Farago also credits Caesar with reporting to Berlin the transfer of Eisenhower's headquarters from London to Bushey Park within 72 hours of its happening and the exact "D" day, which, he says, Hitler refused to believe.

Official quarters in Birmingham discount most of what is attributed to Caesar in this book. Their belief is that he left for Germany in July, 1939, and never returned to this country. He was later variously reported to have been shot down over Germany and to have served on the Russian front.
This article provides a bit more information on the original British Jeweller article which starts the trail of Hans Caesar. According to the B'ham Post, the Stewart-Turner article was published in March 1941. According to the article, Hans Caesar left Britain before the start of the war (likely summer 1939) and the radio announcement was heard a year and a half later (likely late 1940/early 1941). This timeline would make sense given the heavy bombing raids on Birmingham in late 1940. But all of this information is essentially pure speculation based on one girl stating that she heard a German broadcaster mention the name "Caesar" in relation to the bombings in Birmingham. Who was this woman? Why was she listening to a German broadcast? Good question... no answers...

But the Birmingham Post would soon find that publishing unsubstantiated allegations could get them into trouble. While the Evening Despatch article was published a month after the war ended and probably didn't make a wide ripples... the Birmingham Post article caused quite a splash.

Birmingham Post - 19 May 1956 - Apology
Hans Caesar of Edgbaston
An Apology
In our issue for April 3, 1956, we published an article under the heading "The Spying Caesar of Edgbaston." The article referred to a book by Ladislas Farago called War of Wits and stated that in it the author asserted that one Hans Caesar who it was alleged was well known in the jewellery trade and had lived in Edgbaston for seven or eight years before the last war had both before and during the war been engaged in espionage in this country on behalf of the Germans and had amongst his activities directed the German air-raids on Birmingham and Coventry. It was further suggested that Hans Caesar was in an asylum in England but that no one could say whether he was really unbalanced or was merely simulating insanity in order to escape the consequences of his war-time activities.
We have now learnt that our article has been widely understood to refer to a Mr. Hans Caesar who did live before the war in Edgbaston, and was and still is a well-known figure in the jewellery trade both in the United Kingdom and internationally and who has in recent years resumed his business connections with this country and in particular in Birmingham.

We hasten to say that Mr. Hans Caesar has drawn our attention to the fact that he has never at any time been engaged upon, or has anything to do, with espionage or for that matter with the Luftwaffe. He spent most of the war in the German infantry on the Russian front where he was eventually captured and was not repatriated by the Russians until the end of the year 1949. He is not and never has been in an asylum and his sanity and mental balance have never been in question. Further he has asked us to state that he has never engaged either in this country or anywhere else in any form of activity for which he might be visited with penal consequences.

We desire to tender to Mr. Hans Caesar our sincere apologies for having given circulation to these false and damaging statements concerning him and to express our deep regret for the inconvenience and distress which we recognise the article must have cause him.
Ouch. It would seem that Hans Caesar was a real person, still very much alive, and not willing to have his reputation besmirched by speculation and rumour! One could wonder if Hans Caesar also wrote a scathing letter to Ladislas Farago... but I haven't found any indication of such a censure. I did, however, find quite a bit of information about the Caesar family business...

Gustav Caesar GmbH
Gustav Caesar GmbH - drawing of factory (image from Gustav Caesar website)
Gustav Caesar GmbH - drawing of factory
(image from Gustav Caesar website)
In 1840, one Peter Wilhelm Gustav Caesar in (son of Christian Karl) traveled to Leipzig to a gemstone expo and started a business dealing in semi-precious stones. In 1894, upon his death, one of his sons, Otto Caesar (born 1849) took over the company. Otto was married to Karoline Schmitz from Birkenfeld and the couple had eleven children. Otto, passed away in 1900 at the relatively young age of 51, and the company was subsequently directed by his wife and three of their sons Ernst, Paul Otto and Gustav Georg.

Otto's sister, Anna Frederica (born 1853), had married an August Caesar Demeaux (born in Germany), and the couple had moved to London in the mid 1870s where they developed some very good business connections amongst the jewellery community. Through her, the Gustav Caesar company enjoyed a very good relationships with English businesses and even opened a branch office in Birmingham, which, after the death of Otto Caesar was overseen by his son Gustav Georg Caesar [this is the uncle referred to in the newspaper articles above]. It would appear that August Caesar Demeaux was also a jeweller (precious stones) and operating in Birmingham at 41 Vyse Street (1878), 39 Vyse Street (in 1892),  93 Vyse Street (in 1912 and 1921). The Gustav Caesar business was also operating out of 93 Vyse Street in 1912 and 1937. This was the same street mentioned in the newspaper article above.

93 Vyse Street, Birmingham (Google Street view)
93 Vyse Street, Birmingham
(Google Street view)
Gustav Caesar's brother, Paul Otto Caesar, installed a grinding shop for synthetic gemstones in one of his father's factories in Germany, which employed over 100 people. He also traveled the Benelux countries and Scandinavia. Paul Caesar died very early, at the age of 46, leaving his 19 year old son, Hans Paul Caesar (born 1908) to take his place. [This is our guy!]

From 1932-1939, Hans Paul Caesar directed the branch office in Birmingham and also traveled to England, Scotland the United States and Canada. Hans Paul had completed the Real Gymnasium in Germany, received a technical education as a lapidary and also completed a commercial apprenticeship.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Hans Paul Caesar volunteered for military service. He was attached to the Wehrmacht and initially sent to France. Later, he became a Lieutenant and a company commander of an infantry and intelligence group assigned to Russia where, towards the end of the war, he was captured. [Not shot down and killed]

After four and a half years in captivity, Hans Paul Caesar returned to Oberstein around Christmas 1949. There, he discovered that the former company building, which, at the outbreak of the war, had employed over 200 people, had been bombed in 1944 and destroyed down to its foundations. Despite these difficult circumstances, Hans went to work with confidence and verve and led the business out of the restored office space in Otto-Decker-Str. 8 from 1950 onwards.

Gustav Caesar GmbH (image from Gustav Caesar website)
Gustav Caesar GmbH
(image from Gustav Caesar website)
In 1957, Hans Paul Caesar married Marlene Brühl in 1957 and the couple had three children in quick succession: Hans-Peter, Carola and Paul-Otto. Hans Peter and Marlene traveled together extensively and built close connections with customers in the USA and Canada. [Not in an insane asylum]

Hans Paul Caesar, successful business owner, passed away on February 1980 in Germany at the age of 71 years. His son, Paul Otto Caesar, the fifth generation, is managing-director of Gustav Caesar.

The story of Hans Caesar, super spy, who directed German bombers to key areas in Birmingham is a myth - a story built out of smoke and mirrors, expanding through the decades, but ultimately built on nothing. If this is the story used to support the assertion that there was a spy ring operating in Birmingham during the war, I think we can safely say, that theory is dead... unless, of course, one is conspiracy-minded.

It would be nice to see the original article which started this tale... the article entitled "The German Menace" by C. Stewart-Turner, published March 1941 in the British Jeweller... if anyone ever gets to the Birmingham Library and has a few moments...

Article on Gustav Caesar GmbH - English
Article - 175th Anniversary of Gustav Caesar - German
Donald McCormick - Murder by Witchcraft - 1968
Ladislas Farago - War of Wits - 1955 - available online via Archive.org
Birmingham Post - 3 April 1956 and 19 May 1956
Evening Despatch - 13 June 1945
Ancestry - birth, marriage, death records, directories