13 September 2019

Friedländer, Kapauner-Freymann and Goldenberg - Clients of Niska's Black Market Passport Business

Preamble to Friedländer, Kapauner-Freymann & Goldenberg
Another blog in my series focused on the black market passport business run by Jürgen Ziebell in Berlin during the Second World War. I highly recommended that you read my earlier blog for an overview of the sale of black market passports to Berlin Jews, as related by Josef Jakobs and Frau Lily Knips. Another key blog reviews the characters involved in the business which had several strands including Finnish and Irish passports. I am currently writing a blog series about the Jews who purchased forged Finnish passports via the Finnish smuggler, Algoth Niska. It was only in late September 1938 that Niska apparently made a deal whereby Ziebell purchased a batch of forged Finnish passports for his Jewish clients. As it turns out, Niska was selling forged passports to unsuspecting Jews all through July and August 1938 telling them that he was an official of the Finnish government or a Finnish policeman or... He was none of those things and you can read more about Niska in an earlier blog.

A key source for these stories is the 2009 Finnish thesis by Jussi Samuli Laitinen which I roughly translated with the help of Google Translate. It provides names and birth dates of Niska's clients which has been invaluable in tracing these individuals with certainty. Another key document was the MI6 report on Niska's activities, contained within one of the Security Service files on Josef Jakobs. These documents and a variety of genealogical sites form the backbone of the stories...

Individuals with a birth date are generally traceable, but not always. Part of the problem lies in the limits of genealogical resources which are rich for the UK, USA and, to some extent, Germany and Austria, but less so for other countries. For example, there isn't much online genealogical information for France, Switzerland, Palestine, Cuba, the Balkans or the Nordic countries. If Jewish refugees took any of these paths to freedom... they don't leave much of a trace. In many instances, no news is actually good news.

I am going to begin each individual story with the information from the Laitinen thesis and the MI6 report, as these provide a factual leaping off point.

Introduction
Today, we are looking at three young Berlin Jews who acquired forged Finnish passports from Algoth Niska: Hans Heinrich Friedländer, Hella Kapauner-Freymann and Sidonie Goldenberg. Only one would escape the Nazi horrors.

Three Young Jews: Hans Heinrich Friedländer,  Hella Kapauner-Freymann and Sidonie Goldenberg
Laitinen Thesis: Hans Heinrich Friedländer was born on 2 July 1900 in Berlin and owned a small wine shop in the city. He and two other women, girlfriend Hella Kapauner-Freymann (born 19 April 1909), and their friend Sidonie Goldenberg (born 5 September 1913), sought to escape Nazi Germany by getting forged Finnish passports from Niska. It was Hella who first approached Niska looking for three passports so the trio could escape to Holland where they had relatives and friends.

In this case, no price for the passports has been found and it may be that Niska simply gave the trio the passports. The three would travel to Holland in the autumn of 1938 where they would assist Niska with passport sales. In February 1939, they made their way to Paris and ultimately to Nice in the south of France. It wouldn’t be enough to save Friedländer. He was sent to the Drancy transfer camp and deported to Auschwitz on 14 August 1942. Goldenberg too apparently ended up in Auschwitz. The Laitinen thesis has no information on the fate of Hella Kapauner-Freymann.

It should be noted that Niska, in his book Over Green Borders, tells some quite fantastic tales about helping Hella get Hans out of trouble. Apparently Hans had been arrested by the Gestapo in Berlin for espionage (serving foreign customers at his wine shop) but Niska managed to get him out. Later, Hans was arrested again in Holland by the police but again, Niska, managed to break him out of a camp/prison. How much of this is truth vs poetic license will likely never be known.

MI6 report: Lists the names and birth dates for all three but states that Sidonie was thought to be in hiding with Niska in England. While birth locations are not noted in the Laitinen thesis, the MI6 document says that Hella Kapauner was born in Finland on 19 March or 19 May 1909.

Sidonie Goldenberg
It doesn’t take much research to confirm that both Friedländer and Goldenberg ended up in Auschwitz

According to information on the Yad Vashem site, Sidonie was born 5 September 1913 in Berlin-Charlottenburg to parents Adele (Lipovetski) and Arnold Goldenberg. She resided in Amsterdam briefly before perishing in a concentration camp. The Caserne Dossin site (former Mechelen transit camp near Brussels), notes that Sidonie was a secretary who was deported aboard Transport XI on 18 September 1942 to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was 29 years old.

Hans Heinrich Friedländer
Hans Friedländer’s story is a bit more complicated. He was indeed born 2 July 1900 in Berlin to parents Oskar Friedländer, a confectioner (Konditor) and Laya (Helene) Abraham.

On 16 June 1932, Hans married Edith Dorothea Karliner (born 16 August 1910) in Beuthen (now part of Poland). A marginal note on Hans’s birth registration states that this was his second marriage. What became of his first wife… or of Edith Dorothea… is a mystery. According to a marginal note on their marriage registration, Dorothea was assigned the forename Sara on 7 January 1939 by the Standesbeamte in Beuthen, suggesting that she was still in Germany at that time. Clearly she did not escape with Hans.

Laitinen does say that Hella Kapauner-Freymann was Hans’s “lover” but makes no mention of a previous marriage. According to the Yad Vashem site, Hans had been married to Edith, lived in Marseille and was deported aboard Transport 19, Train 901-14 from Drancy Camp, France to Auschiwtz-Birkenau on 14 August 1942.  A 1992 marginal note on his birth registration states that he died on 25 September 1942.

Hans's wife, Edith Dorothea Karliner, apparently managed to escape to Palestine. On 8 April 1952, Edith married Emil van Huiden (born 24 May 1902 in Holland) in Tel Aviv. Edith passed away in 2002 in Israel.

Hella Kapauner-Freymann
As for Hella Kapauner-Freymann, she too escaped the Shoah. There isn’t a lot of information about her prior to the end of the war but a few key documents provide some concrete information.

Hella was born in Leipzig (not Finland) on 19 April 1909, the child of Richard Freymann and Nellie May. I haven't been able to find any information about Hella's marriage to a Kapauner.

On 8 April 1946, Hella arrived in New York aboard the SS Drottningholm which had departed Gothenburg, Sweden on 26 March 1946. The passenger manifest of this vessel gives us a wealth of information on Hella.

Her nationality was “stateless”, not an uncommon status for Jewish refugees. Her full name was Hella Henrietta Freymann and she was divorced. Hella could speak both German and English and gave her occupation as secretary. She had been issued with a US Visa on 28 February 1946 in Zurich, Switzerland which was also her last place of permanent residence. We begin to see the trace of  the route that would have carried Hella to safety. The person/relative/friend she knew in Sweden was Dr. Micheulis of the World Jewish Congress. Hella was traveling to join her cousin, Eric Hoffman in Dearborn, Michigan, who had also paid for her passage. Many of the other stateless passengers on that boat had similar information - a Jewish Congress contact in Sweden or Switzerland and a relative in the US who had paid for passage.

In 1952, Hella was on another ship, this one departed Montreal for Le Havre France on 19 June 1952. Three months later, Hella made the reverse journey, sailing from Le Havre, France on 4 September 1952 and arriving in New York on 13 September 1952.

In 1957, Hella was naturalised in the United States. She was residing at 231 East 68th Street, New York and her birth date was 19 April 1909. As part of her naturalisation, she underwent a name change from Hella Henrietta Freymann to Helene Henriette Freymann. Hella/Helene traveled quite a bit. On 24 August 1958 she boarded a ship in Southampton bound for New York.  She was no longer stateless, but a citizen of the United States and a professor, a rather surprising occupation.

After a bit of digging, I came across a list of “American Doctoral Degrees Granted in the Field of Modern Languages in 1955-56”. Hella-Henriette Freymann was awarded a doctorate at Columbia in 1955-56, the topic of her dissertation being: “Aspects littéraires des tendances platoniciennes dans la France du XIXe siècle” (Literary Aspects of Platonic Tendencies in 19th century France). In 1961 and 1962, Hella/Helene made two trips to France aboard Air France but I have yet to discover where she taught as a professor.

We then lose her trace but pick her up again on 26 January 1995 when she passed away in Oceanside, California. Her death was registered under Hella Freymann, Helene H. Freymann and Helene Witmer. Based on the SSN notes, she had married Dr. Samuel Grenewald Witmer (1912-1983), likely in late 1976. Samuel had been born in the United States and was a dentist. He served in the US military from 1943-1946, entering as a First Lieutenant.

Conclusion
Whether Algoth Niska charged these three people a fee for the forged Finnish passports or not... it would seem pretty clear that the documents he provided did not save them from the Shoah. Sidonie Goldenberg and Hans Heinrich Friedländer both perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Hella Kapauner-Freymann did manage to escape but likely with the assistance of Jewish rescue organisations.

Sources
Jussi Samuli Laitinen; Huijari vai pyhimys? Algoth Niskan osallisuus juutalaisten salakuljettamiseen Keski-Euroopassa vuoden 1938 aikana; Joensuun yliopisto; 2009 [Jussi Samuli Laitinen; Crook or saint? Participation of Algoth Niska in smuggling Jews in Central Europe during 1938; University of Joensuu; 2009]
Algoth Niska & J. Jerry Danielsson - Over Green Borders (1995) - English translation of Yli vihreän rajan published in 1953.
National Archives, Kew - Security Service files on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24, 2/25, 2/26, 2/27
Ancestry - genealogical information
Geni.com - genealogical information
Yad Vashem - Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names
American Doctoral Degrees granted in the field of Modern Languages - pdf for Hella Freymann
Dutch Ancestry Trees of Jewish Families - has an entry for Dorothea Edith Karliner

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