18 September 2019

Dr. Wilhelm Noher - Client of Niska's Black Market Passport Business

Preamble to Wilhelm Noher
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 Dr. Wilhelm Noher, a physician who purchased a passport from Niska in early September 1938.

Dr. Wilhelm Noher
Laitinen Thesis: Wilhelm Noher was born 26 July 1892 in Tarnovitz. He was a physician who was introduced to Niska by Fritz Lasch. On 1 September 1938, Niska sold Noher a forged Finnish passport for 6000 RM. Sometime that autumn, Noher traveled to Holland where he settled in Amsterdam. Noher did not report to the Dutch police until 13 January 1939, when he notified them that he was leaving for Paris. Noher stayed in Paris for a few months before decided to voluntarily register with the authorities at the Finnish Embassy. By then word of the passport fraud had spread throughout Europe and Noher's passport was confiscated and he was likely arrested. Laitinen has no information on the fate of Noher.

MI6 report: Simply lists Wilhelm Noher, doctor, born at Tarnowitz on 26.8.1892.

Sooo... Dr. Wilhelm is a bit of a mystery. He does not appear in the Yad Vashem database, so it would seem likely that he survived the Shoah, but how, or where, is unknown.

I haven't been able to track down Wilhelm's birth in Tarnowitz (Silesia) (now Tarnowskie Gory, Poland) in any of the genealogical sites.

I have found Wilhelm in the Berlin address books and these do confirm that he was a physician. According to the 1932-1938 Berlin address books, Dr. Wilhelm Noher was a medical doctor who was a "Harnleid." (urinary/bladder?) consultant for the Röntgeninstitut at Brückenstraße 5. Wilhelm does not appear in subsequent Berlin address books.

Beyond that, my traditional sources were coming up blank but then... I found a paper that Wilhelm Noher had written in 1917 entitled "Über motilitätsstörungen des Auges bei Kriegsteilnehmern" which translates as "About motility disorders of the eye in war participants". [Motility disorders refer to any abnormal eye alignment or difficulty in controlling eye movements.]The paper was presented as his dissertation for his doctoral degree in the Hohen Medizinischen Fakultät der Schlesischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Breslau (High Medical Faculty of the Silesian Friedrich-Wilhelm University of Breslau). The dissertation was published in the journal of the Kgl. Klinik für Augenkrankheiten der Universität Breslau (Royal Clinic for Eye Diseases at the University of Breslau). Wilhelm was a "Fieldhilfsarzt" which roughly translates as Auxilliary Field Doctor. From this, we can deduce that Wilhelm had served in the military during the First World One as a medic.

The paper presents different case studies from the war (in German) but the most interesting piece of the paper (to my eyes) is the brief biography of Wilhelm at the end of his paper...
I was born Wilhelm Noher, Prussian citizen of Jewish faith, on 26 July 1892 in Tarnowitz, son of the merchant Sigismund Noher and his wife Dorothea, born Grundland. I attended the Volksschule (elementary school) from 1898-1902 and the Real-Gymnasium (high school) of my hometown from 1902-1911. In 1911 I received my school-leaving certificate. Then I studied in Freiburg im Breisgau (Black Forest), Berlin and Breslau, where I passed the preliminary medical examination in July 1913. After taking the preliminary exam, I studied in Munich. At the beginning of the war, I studied the winter semester of 1914/15 in Breslau, after which I joined the army in August, fell ill and was assigned to the Landsturm (militia). At the end of the semester, I made myself available to the military authorities and served as a contracted medical candidate in the Glogau Military Hospital. On October 1, 1915, I joined the Ersatz (Replacement) Battalion Field Artillery Regiment 41 Glogau and was promoted on 25 November 1915 as a field doctor. On 6 January 1916, I was sent into the field as a field doctor. On October 1, I was on leave for the state examination. On January 27, 1917, I was promoted to field assistant. On 18 January 1917 I finished the state examination.
Wilhelm did serve as as doctor during the First World War but the truly valuable piece of information in this biography is the names of his parents. That gives us a solid jumping off point. Although it doesn't solve the Wilhelm Noher problem.

The names of the parents does however, reveal that Wilhelm had a younger sister, Gertrude Noher who was born 3 May 1897 in Tarnowitz. She married Dr. Leopold Goldberg (born 1888) on 6 March 1920 in Tarnowitz. The couple then apparently moved to Berlin where, on 6 October 1921, they had a daughter, Dorothea Dolly Goldberg. On 6 July 1937, Gertrude and Leopold divorced. Less than five months later, on 2 November 1937, Leopold sailed from Plymouth, England bound for the USA. His contact in Berlin was his wife Gertrude Goldberg, and Leopold was planning on joining his brother, Simon, in San Francisco.

This is rather perplexing - were they divorced or married? The 1940 US Census complicates matters in that Leopold (52 years old) is listed as living in San Francisco with his wife, Anneliese Goldberg (38 years old) and his step-daughter, Edith Feis (12 years old). Both Anneliese and Edith were from London. It turns out that Anneliese and her family had been in London as early as 1935 and that her husband, Max Feis had died on 9 July 1937 in London. Anneliese and Edith arrived in New York via Cork on 26 January 1939. Their contact in London was Anneliese's mother and their contact in the US was their friend, Dr. Goldberg.

Which leaves on wondering... did Leopold abandon his wife and daughter in Nazi Germany? It would seem that, finally, on 25 April 1939, Gertrude and her daughter, Dorothea, were issued with visas by the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin. They departed London aboard the SS Andalcuia Star on 17 June 1939. They had been living at 27 Lamboll Road in London. Gertrude and Dorothea arrived in South America on 2 July 1939 and would remain in Brazil, living in Rio de Janeiro, Copacabana until 1946. On 9 June 1946, Gertrude and Dorothea arrived in Florida abroad a flight. At that point, Gertrude gave her marital status as "divorced". Gertrude applied for US naturalisation in October 1946 and it is on one of the forms where she stated the divorce date of 6 July 1937. Gertrude passed away in California in June 1982.

As for Leopold, his wife Anneliese passed away in 1979. Leopold married again at the age of 92 (California Marriage Indices) to Johanna Kimel/Schmiedl (likely maiden and former married names) who was 69 years old. He passed away in 1989 at the age of 100 years and an obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that he had been the oldest practising doctor in San Francisco when he retired at the age of 95. The Chronicle noted that he was survived by his daughter, Dolly Roberts of Orinda, Ca.

Dorothea/Dolly had married Henry Armin Robert in 1951 in California and been naturalised in 1952. Dolly passed away in 2007 at the age of 86 survived by several children and grandchildren.

Conclusion
I had hoped that this detour through the extended Noher clan might turn up some evidence of Gertrude's brother, Wilhelm Noher, but no luck. It is interesting to note that Dr. Leopold Goldberg (oldest serving medical doctor in San Francisco) also served as a physician at the Röntgen & Lichtinstitut, albeit the one at Schönhauser Allee 82. It is quite likely that Leopold and Wilhelm knew each other, both professionally and privately.

The Yad Vashem site does have a Wilhelm Noher, born 10/10/1881 in Guttentag, Silesia who perished in the Shoah. This is unlikely to be our Wilhelm as the birth date and location do not match.

I did find a Heinrich Noher, born 31 May 1891 in Tarnowitz who could be a brother. Heinrich made it to England and, in the 1939 Register, was living at 17 Compayne Road, just a few houses down from Frau Lily Knips. It would seem to be a small world.

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
Wilhelm Noher's doctoral disseration - opens as a pdf

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