02 August 2019

Fräulein Dorothea Schachtel - Client of Niska's Black Market Passport Business

There is another person whom Josef Jakobs and Lily Knips both mentioned, a German Jewess who also sought to escape Nazi Germany. This Fräulein Schachtel apparently bought a Finnish passport through Ziebell but neither Josef nor Lily knew what became of her. Let's take a look...

What Lily Knips & Josef Jakobs Said
On 28 February 1941, Lily Knips was questioned by officers from MI5 and Special Branch. During her statement to them, Lily said:
"I should perhaps mention that whilst [Herr Jakobs] was discussing passport arrangements for me shortly after I met him [they met the summer of 1938], he said that he had obtained a French passport and an Irish (or Finnish) passport for a Fraulein Schachtel, (sister of a Frau Doktor Joseph Thal of Freiherr von Steinstrasse 8, Berlin) for a mortgage of 80,000-120,000 marks payable to [Ziebell]."
On 6 June 1941, Josef confirmed Lily's statement, only saying that Fräulein Schachtel had obtained a passport from Niska and that she was a good friend of Frau Knips.

A Finnish Thesis
Neither Josef nor Lily provided a first name for Fräulein Schachtel but her connection with the Finn Algot Niska provides a bit more information. I came across a 2009 Finnish Master's thesis by Jussi Samuli Laitinen on Algot Niska. I ran the relevant passages through Google Translate and then tidied up the English so it flows a bit better. Laitinen has this to say about Fräulein Schachtel:
One of Ziebell's clients was German Dorothea Klara Schachtel. She was from Berlin, where she was born on October 1, 1905. Ziebell, like Niska, sought to mislead Schachtel. He stated that the passport was a valid Finnish government document, except that it was not valid in Finland. However, Ziebell emphasized that it was a special passport valid for five years, valid anywhere in the world. Apparently Schachtel wanted to travel from Germany to the United States, where she should have followed Ziebell's instructions:
"... The person concerned after reaching America was to return the passport to Dr. Ziebell or the Finnish Passport Office ..." 333
Ziebell's sales pitch and Schachtel's need to get out of Germany led to a deal. Ziebell set the price for supposed freedom: Schachtel paid the lawyer DEM 25,000 (€ 147,400) for a passport. Despite her new passport, Schachtel did not reach her destination in the United States. Apparently, her plans changed as she headed to Switzerland, which she could enter without any difficulty. This change in plan may be due to the fact that a visa was required to travel to the United States, which would have required a visit to the US embassy. Switzerland, on the other hand, could be entered with a Finnish passport.

The timing of Schachtel's flight from Germany and her arrival in Switzerland are not clear. It likely happened in late 1938 or early 1939. At the end of June 1939, Dorothea Klara Schachtel was arrested by the Swiss police and her fake Finnish passport (#3391) was confiscated by the Swiss authorities. The Swiss authorities asked their Finnish colleagues for a clarification of the passport and, at the same time, stated that they had also informed the German police of the incident. No more is known about Dorothea Schachtel's fate. [p.87-88 of Laitinen's thesis]
Thank you Jussi Laitinen, you've given us just enough information with which we can identify Fräulein Schachtel and now follow her story. We can also answer the lingering question... what was Dorothea Schachtel's fate? Unlike so many other German Jews, Dorothea's story, and that of her sister, "Frau Doktor Joseph Thal" actually had happy endings. The two sisters both managed to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany and build new lives for themselves in America. This is their story...

Family Life
Our story starts, as it does so often with a marriage... On 8 October 1901, Leopold Schachtel married Elsa Lewinsohn  in Berlin. Leopold was a Rechtsanwalt Doktor Juris (a lawyer) who, unlike our friend Jürgen Ziebell, was actually entitled to call himself a "Doctor". Leopold was 34 years old, having been born on 27 April 1867 in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) to Joseph Schachtel, owner of a porcelain factory, and Johanna Sternberg.

Joseph Schachtel Porcelain Factory - unknown date
(from Museum Porcelany site)
The Joseph Schachtel porcelain factory was established in 1859 in Sophienau-Charlottenbrunn, south of Breslau, near the border with Czechoslovakia. The factory started off quite small, employing 40 people and making tubes/bowls for smoking pipes.

By the mid-1870s, Schachtel expanded the production line. A porcelain artist was hired and the company began to make decorated tableware (plates, vases, etc) as well as taking on electronic items (porcelain bells for the German Reich telegraph system as well as high voltage insulators). By 1877, the company employed 220 people and by1904 this had risen to 350.

Joseph Schachtel AG - Jugendstil Kaffeeservice
Joseph Schachtel AG - Jugendstil Kaffeeservice
In 1913, the owner of factory, Max Schachtel (son of Joseph Schachtel and Johanna Sternberg) died and the ownership passed to Max's brother, Eugen Schachtel (who passed away in 1920). Eugen had converted the company into a joint-stock company and, in 1928, two electrical companies took over 98.5% of the shares. The factory managed to survive the Second World War and... is owned today by Lapp Industries. But we digress...

Joseph's son, Leopold, obviously followed a different path than that family porcelain business, studying law and living in Berlin. Leopold's bride, Elsa Lewinsohn, was 24 years old having been born on 9 September 1877 in Berlin to Paul Lewinsohn, a factory owner, and Franziska Pitsch. What sort of factory Paul Lewinsohn owned is unknown. Of note, however, is Paul and Franziska's address. From at least 1900 until their death, the Lewinsohn couple lived at Lichtensteinallee 3a near the Tiergarten. This property, a tenement building, along with its neighbour, Lichtensteinallee 3, would be "appropriated" (Jewish tenants were evicted) in 1943 by Albert Speer who sought to build a house and studio upon the double lot.

Both Leopold and Elsa were Jewish and on 10 July 1902, they welcomed their first child into their family - Lisbet Johanna Franziska Schachtel. Three years later, on 1 October 1905, the couple welcomed their second daughter - Dorothea Clara Annie Schachtel. The two sisters were young when their father passed away on 22 July 1911 in Berlin. No cause of death was give, although Leopold was only 51 years old. At the time, the family was living at Wilhelmstraße 100 in Berlin-Charlottenburg, and Elsa would continue to live at that address until at least 1932.

Lisbeth's Escape to the USA
Lisbet married Carl Willy Josephthal (one word) on 3 May 1927 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Carl was born on 26 April 1899 in Berlin to businessman (textile manufacturer) Wilhelm Josephtal (b 1867) and Elsa Wolff (b 1875). Carl served with different regiments of the Bavarian Infantry during the First World War. I have found about nine records from the Bavarian infantry, but they are spectacularly indecipherable - a combination of handwriting and military short-hand/abbreviations.
Extract from 23rd Bavarian Infantry register for Carl Josephthal
Extract from 23rd Bavarian Infantry register for Carl Josephthal - columns are:
1. Sequential Number - 57
2. Rank - seems to be an Unteroffizier (Sergeant or equivalent)
3. Name - Carl Josephthal
4. Religion - blank (interesting)
5. Location & Date of birth - Zalin-Berlin (Zehlen?-Berlin), Preußen (Prussia) - 26.4.99 [other infantry records have Berlin-Berlin]
6. Occupation and Place of Residence - Student? [indecipherable] jur. (jurist - he was a law student & living in Berlin
7. Parents - Wilhelm und Elsa geb. Wolf, fabrikbesitzer (factory owner), Berlin
The facing page (cropped at right) includes his service record, decorations received, service in action, punishments, notes.
Of note here is that he was awarded the E.K. II Kl. on 7.8.18 - this is likely the Iron Cross Second Class.

The nine Bavarian infantry registers are fascinating and one could likely get a fairly thorough picture of Carl's military service but... that is beyond the scope of this blog. Suffice to say, he served with various Bavairan reserve regiments as well as with the 23rd Bavarian Infantry regiment. He was an unteroffizier and was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class on 7 August 1918.

The year after their marriage in 1927, Carl and Lisbet were living at Landshuter Straße 23 in Berlin. Karl was listed as a "Dr. Jur" suggesting that he was a lawyer, although one Berlin address book listed him as a "Dr. Kaufman" (businessman). From 1935-1937, the couple was living at Freiherr-vom-Stein Straße 8. This confirms what Lily had said, that Fräulein Schachtel (Dorothea) had a sister, Frau Doktor Joseph-Thal living as a neighbour of Lily's.

On 24 March 1937, Carl (textile manufacturer) and Lisbet sailed from Le Havre, France bound for the USA aboard the SS Ile de France. Carl's father, Wilhelm (textile manufacturer) had made at least one previous trip to the US in 1935 and may have sown the seeds for his family's escape route to the US. Carl and Lisbet's trip in 1937 was only a brief stay, although I have not found their return voyage to the Continent. I did find a passenger manifest for the SS Normandie (French Line) which sailed from New York and arrived in Southampton on 23 May 1938, but Carl (merchant) was the only family member on that passage.

A year later, on 13 October 1938, Lisbet and Carl sailed from Southampton, England bound for the USA aboard the SS Champlain. They had been staying at the Strand Palace Hotel in London. On this occasion, they were accompanied by their two young daughters: Eva (10 years old) and Margot (7 years old). Carl's occupation was given as merchant.

Less than a year later, on 25 April 1939, Lisbet Johanna Franziska Josephthal made a petition for naturalisation in the US as Elizabeth Joan Thal. Similarly, Carl Josephthal's petition altered his name to Charles Joseph Thal. The couple was living at 225 West 86th Street in New York, along with their two children: Eva (born 13 May 1928) and Margot (born 23 April 1931). In the 1940 census, the family was living at the same address and Charles was a clerk. Three years later, Elizabeth was naturalised on 24 February 1944 at the US District Court in New York.

Charles died in 1963 in New York while Elizabeth passed away in 1968 in New York.

Their eldest daughter Eva, who had married Martin S. Belefant in 1952, passed away in 2015 in New York. She was predeceased by her husband Martin in 2011. I haven't researched much on Martin Belefant but did find his obituary which noted that he had served with the 99th Infantry Division, been captured at the Battle of the Bulge and later been awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Eva may have been buried in Snohomish, Washington according to one burial/funeral home database. The couple had one son who is an attorney in New York.

Eva's sister Margot (who may have married a Victor Cranley) was still alive in 2015, according to Eva's obituary notice. I haven't been able to find a death notice for Margot but I did find a reference to them in the footnotes of a book: "The Life and Photography of Doris Ullman" by Philip Walker Jacobs. The footnote deals with the burial location of Doris Ullman in the Ullmann family mausoleum at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Hawthorne, Westchester County, New York. In addition to Ullmann relations:
According to the records at the cemetery...the cremated remains of several other relatives--Elizabeth Josephtal [Lisbet (née Schachtel) Thal?], Charles Josephthal [Carl Thal?], Wilhelm Josephtal [Charles's father? - see below], Ludwig Ullmann [unknown], Victor Cranley [Margot's husband?] and Margot Cranley [Margot née Thal?]--are also located in several of the niches within the mausoleum.
How exactly Doris Ullman is related to the Schachtel/Josephthal individuals is unknown. The book on Ullman was published in 2001 and Eva's obituary notice from 2015 noted that she was survived by her sister Margot Cranley. This conflicts with the cemetery information above unless some of the mausoleum niches were only reserved for individuals.

As an aside... Charles's family members all seem to have escaped the Shoah:
  • sister - Anneliese Josephthal - born 1902 in Berlin, married Kurt Freund 1925 in Berlin, traveled to USA from Liverpool in 1940, died in 1976 in New York
  • brother - Ernst Josephthal - born 1906 in Berlin, died 1922 in Berlin
  • mother - Elsa (Wolff) Josephthal - born 1875 in Nuremburg, died 1933 in Berlin
  • father - Wilhelm Josephthal - born 1867 in Nuremburg, declared exempt from UK internment on 21 November 1939, died 2 December 1939 in England [possibly buried in New York State?]
Dorothea's Escape to the USA
Unlike her sister Lisbet's relatively straight-forward escape to the USA, Dorothea's journey to the USA was fraught with uncertainty. Being a single female, she was also a bit hard to trace.

I found one passenger list entry for a Dora Schachtel, born about 1906 and resident of Berlin, departing from Bremen on 29 May 1927 for Southampton. The information does match with Dorothea, and it is possible that it was her. She would have been 21 years old and may have been going to visit relatives in England (see below).

We pick up Dorothea's trail again in the late 1930s. Dorothea Clara Annie Sara Schachtel is listed in the register of Germans who had their citizenship annulled under the anti-Jewish laws of the Nazis. Her last address on file was Lützowstraße 88 in Berlin-Schöneberg.

I've had a look through the Berlin address books, and while there was a Schachtel living at that address in the 1930s, the name was not Dorothea but rather "Geschw". This may be an abbreviation of "Geschwister" suggesting that several Schachtel siblings were living there. I did some more digging, comparing the address book entries arranged by surname with those arranged by street address.
  • 1925 - Schachtel, Elsa, Rechtsanw. Ww., Wilhelmstraße 100 T Ztr 7643 (telephone #)
  • 1930 - Schachtel, Geschw - Wilhelmstr 100 T Ztr 7643 (this is the same address and telephone number as their mother)
  • 1930 - Schachtel, Elsa - Wilhelmstr 100
  • 1931/32 - Schachtel, Elsa - Wilhelmstraße 100 (Jewish address books)
  • 1932 - Schachtel, Elsa - Wilhelmstr 100 (last entry for Elsa - possibly passed away)
  • 1934 - Schachtel, Geschw - Lützowstr 88
  • 1934 - Lützowstraße 88 - Schachtel, D., Frl. (this is likely Dorothea)
  • 1937 - Schachtel, Geschw - Lützowstr 88
  • 1938 - Lützowstraße 88 - Schachtel, Geschw
  • 1938 - Schachtel, Geschw - Lützowstr 88
  • 1939 - Lützowstraße 88 - Schachtel, Geschw. 
  • 1940 - Lützowstraße 88 - Schachtel, F Photo (occupation)
  • 1941 - Lützowstraße 88 - Schachtel, F, Photo
The last two lines are a bit surprising as they confirm that there might have been a third sibling: "F Schachtel". It is possible, given that that the Berlin births available on Ancestry end in 1906. Leopold and Elsa could have had another child, or even several. I did some more digging in the different address/telephone books on the ZLB site and, after much hunting and pecking, came across this entry from the 1940 Amtliches Fernsprech Buch für den Bezirk der Reichspostdirektion Berlin:

Dorothea and Fritz Schachtel in the 1940 Berlin Telephone book (1940 Amtliches Fernsprech Buch für den Bezirk der Reichspostdirektion Berlin)
Dorothea and Fritz Schachtel in the 1940 Berlin Telephone book
(1940 Amtliches Fernsprech Buch für den Bezirk der Reichspostdirektion Berlin)

This would seem to confirm that Dorothea lived with a relative named Fritz at Lützowstraße 88 in Berlin. The 1940 telephone book would have been based on information from 1939, so it is possible that Dorothea was still in Berlin in 1939... or that her information had not been updated. There is no listing for either Dorothea or Fritz in the 1941 telephone book.

As for Fritz Schachtel, he was indeed the brother of Lisbet and Dorothea but, unlike his sisters, he would not escape the Nazis. I found Fritz in the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names from the Yad Vashem site. One of the items was a testimony page from Lisbet's daughter, Eva (Thal) Belefant, who, in 1994, submitted a picture of her uncle Fritz and information on his birth and death.

Fritz Schachtel was born on 24 December 1910 in Berlin to Leopold Schachtel and Elsa Lewinsohn. He was a photographer. On 05/09/1942 (not sure if this is American or European date order... could be 9 May or 5 September) he was deported from Berlin on Transport 19 (Train Da 403) to Riga, Latvia. He was murdered at Auschwitz in 1942.

I am left with a big "why". Why didn't Fritz escape with his sister Dorothea? Why one and not the other? Perhaps it was a matter of finances, after all, Dorothea paid Ziebell a large sum of money for a passport of questionable legality and limited value. If Lily, Josef and Laitinen are to be believed, Dorothea's escape from Germany would have unfolded something like this.

Algot Niska (from Wikipedia)
Algot Niska
(from Wikipedia)
In the spring of 1938, Dorothea bought a Finnish passport from Jürgen Ziebell for the princely sum of 25,000 RM. According to Lily Knips, Josef told her that Fräulein Schachtel had paid 80,000-120,000 RM for a passport but this seems rather ridiculous given the regular price of 25,000 RM. Josef may have inflated the number to convince Lily that 25,000 RM was a "deal". Ziebell had procured the passport through the Finn, Algot Niska, and assured Dorothea that the document was a valid Finnish passport with which she could enter any country in the world (except Finland). Dorothea wished to travel to the United States, likely to join her sister, Lisbeth. Unfortunately the US required a visa and so Dorothea traveled to Switzerland to petition the US embassy there. At the end of June 1939, Dorothea was arrested by the Swiss police and her fake Finnish passport was confiscated by the Swiss authorities. The Swiss police notified the Finnish as well as the German police. Ziebell's promises had turned out to be worthless and Dorothea faced the ugly prospect of being returned to Nazi Germany. While Laitinen provides no details of what became of Dorothea... we can piece together the rest of the puzzle.

Somehow, Dorothea managed to make her way from Switzerland to the UK, where we pick up her trail in the 1939 National Registration. Dorothea's entry suggests that it was family connections which may have smoothed her escape route from Switzerland. In September 1939, Dorothea was living at 158a Brent Street in Hendon with the Jacobi family.

Charlotte (Lotte) Jacobi (born 1884), the head of the household, was a widow living with her son Hans Jacobi (born 4 December 1905 in Berlin). This is where it gets a bit complicated. Charlotte (born 1884) and Dorothea (born 1906) were actually first cousins despite the 22 year age difference. Charlotte's mother was Rica Schachtel (born 1848), the much older sister of Leopold Schachtel (born 1867), Dorothea's father. Thus Dorothea and Hans Jacobi would have been first cousins once removed. This is important for in 1945, Hans and Dorothea would get married in New York. But we get ahead of ourselves...

Ibex House - Minories, London
Ibex House - Minories, London
Charlotte (Lotte) Jacobi had another son, Kurt Emil Jacobi who also lived in Hendon, at 35 Cheyne Walk. Kurt was married with one child and was Company Director of an import-export business. In the late 1940s, Lotte would make several trips to New York and Chile giving her occupation as manageress and supervisor. It is possible that she played a role in the import-export business. Kurt's UK Internees card provides the "name and address of employer": Ibex House, Minories, E.C. 3. This is, unfortunately, not the name of the company, but simply the name and address of an art deco office building (built 1937) in Minories, London. The fact that Kurt was director of a company in 1939 suggests that he, at least, had come to London some time before the National Registration took place.

As for Dorothea... on 30 October 1939 she was declared exempt from internment in the UK. Less than a year later, Dorothea was finally able to complete her journey to the United States. On 23 September 1940, she boarded the SS Samaria in Liverpool, bound for New York. Ten days later, on 3 October 1940, Dorothea landed in the United States.

The following year, in April 1941, Dorothea (now Dorothy Anne) applied for US naturalisation. She gave her address as 225 West 86th Street, New York (the same address as her sister Lisbet). Dorothea's occupation was given as "food service business" [waitress?]. She had a fair complexion with grey-green eyes and brown hair. She was 5' 4½" tall and weighed 130 lbs.

Not surprisingly, Hans Wolf Martin Jacobi, Dorothea's first cousin once removed, had also come to the United States, albeit a few months before Dorothea. Hans had arrived in New York from Southampton aboard the SS De Grasse on 26 February 1940. He applied for US naturalisation on 29 July 1940. Hans (now known as John Martin Jacobi) gave his address as 225 W. 86 Street, New York (the same address as Dorothea's sister). He gave his occupation as merchant suggesting he may also have been involved in the Jacobi family's import-export business. Hans had a fair complexion with brown eyes and brown hair. He was 5' 2½" tall and weighed 135 lbs, a short and rather stout gentleman it would appear.

The Belnord apartment building 225 West 86th Street, New York
The Belnord apartment building
225 West 86th Street, New York
As it turns out, the address given by Dorothea and Hans, the same at that of Lisbet (Schachtel) Thal, was a famous apartment building in New York, the Belnord. Whether Dorothea and/or Hans moved into Lisbet and Carl's apartment is not known... although in the 1940 Census (taken in April 1940), Hans Jacobi was definitely not living in the same apartment as Carl and Lisbeth. Perhaps they had their own separate apartments.

On 17 February 1945, Dorothea (now Dorothy) Schachtel and Hans (now John) Jacobi applied for a marriage license in Manhattan.

A year later, on 19 April 1946, Dorothy's petition for naturalisation was successful. She was issued with a US passport on 19 November 1947 and set sail for the UK on 31 December 1947, returning several months later on 15 May 1948 aboard the SS Batory. Her address at that time was 137 West 74th Street, New York, a 4-story brownstone built in 1910.

John Martin Jacobi formerly Hans Wolf Martin Jacobi (from Ancestry)
John Martin Jacobi
formerly Hans Wolf Martin Jacobi
(from Ancestry)
We then lose the trail of Dorothy and John Jacobi for several years until they pop up again during a trip to Brasil in 1963. Traveling on US passports issued in November 1962, the couple had departed New York aboard a Pan American Airlines flight on 13 December 1962. On 9 January 1963, they departed Montevideo, Uruguay aboard a BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) with 30 day Brazilian tourist cards in their possession. Both Dorothy and John gave their occupations as Executives. Their address was 123 West 74th Street, New York, a 9-story apartment building built in 1925.

Dorothy Anne Jacobi formerly Dorothea Clara Annie Schachtel (from Ancestry)
Dorothy Anne Jacobi
formerly
Dorothea Clara Annie Schachtel
(from Ancestry)
While the information on the Brazilian tourist cards is interesting... it is the photographs of Dorothy and John which are most appealing. They put a face to all of this information and somehow make the couple more real. I have to admit, Dorothy definitely projects the image of an executive! Whether they were involved with Carl Thal's textile manufacturing business... or with the Jacobi family's import-export business is unknown.

After that... we lose them again, only picking them up in the 1990s. Dorothy passed away on 4 March 1990, at the venerable age of 85. Her husband, John, passed away on 9 June 1997 at the age of 91. There is no evidence that Dorothy and John had any children. John's obituary notes that he was a beloved uncle but there is no mention of children.

And thus ends the tale of the Schachtel siblings: Lisbeth, Dorothea and Fritz. While the two sisters escaped Nazi Germany, their younger brother would not be so fortunate. The story of Dorothea's purchase of a useless Finnish passport from Jürgen Ziebell adds another black mark to Ziebell's story, one of many.

Elsewhere in his thesis, Laitinen notes that many of the individuals who bought Finnish passports were apprehended by the authorities. We'll touch on some of those individuals later in this series, as they are mentioned in Josef's files as well.

Sources
Finnish Master's Thesis (opens as a pdf) - "Huijari vai pyhimys? Algoth Niskan osallisuus juutalaisten salakuljettamiseen Keski-Euroopassa vuoden 1938 aikana" - Joensuun yliopisto Yhteiskunta- ja aluetieteiden tiedekunta Historian oppiaineryhmä Suomen historian pro gradu - tutkielma Marraskuu 2009 - Jussi Samuli Laitinen - roughly translates as "A crook or a saint? Algoth Niska's involvement in Jewish smuggling in Central Europe during 1938" - University of Joensuu: Social and Regional Sciences Faculty, History Study Group - Master's Degree in Finnish History - November 2009 - by Jussi Samuli Laitinen

National Archives - Kew - Security Service files on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24

ZLB site - Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin - various Berlin address books

Ancestry - genealogical records and family trees

Yad Vashem site - Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names

Joseph Schachtel Porcelain Factory - Museum Porcelany site

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