03 July 2019

Josef Jakobs and the Characters involved in the Blackmarket Passport Business

N.B. 2019 08 26 - This blog is constantly being updated as
I publish blog posts about the characters

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, Algoth 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 (blog from 2017) - 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 was involved with Algoth Niska (see below)
 There was a sub-group involved in securing Finnish passports, including:
Algoth Niska - a Finnish sea captain and former bootlegger who procured forged passports for Ziebell and his group. Before meeting Ziebell, Niska sold passports to Jews in Prague and Berlin.
Rosenberg - a German Jew - no last name
Emil Dochnal - see above
Jürgen Ziebell - see above
Albert Amtmann - Austrian Jew living in Berlin - told Niska about plight of Jews during a visit to Helsinki
Emmanuel Gartenberg - Austrian Jew - told Niska about plight of Jews during a visit to Helsinki
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!)
Key clients of Ziebell's 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 one of the forged Finnish passports off of Ziebell
Ernst & Clara 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 (or did... the data is conflicting)
Louis Georg Hagen & Victoria Hagen - a German Jew and businessman who bought a Finnish passport off of Ziebell

Herr & Frau Reiwald - German Jews - Frau Reiwald introduced Lily Knips to Josef Jakobs
Niska also sold a number of passports to other Jews in Prague and Berlin from July-September 1938. These individuals did not access Niska through Ziebell, but their tales have much to say tell us about how beneficial (or not) the forged passports were for the Jews who purchased the passports from Niska at high prices.
Alfred Schapiro - Austrian Jew - bought passports from Niska in Prague
Leo Wiesen - Berlin Jew - bought passports from Niska in Prague
Richard Neumann - Austrian Jew - bought passports from Niska in Prague
Arthur & Hedwig Stern - Berlin Jews - bought passports from Niska (via Richard Neumann) in Prague
Fritz Lasch & Family - Berlin Jew who bought three passports for himself, wife and son
Gerhard Benjamin Neumann - Berlin Jew who bought a "double" passport from Niska
Hans Heinrich Friedländer,  Hella Kapauner-Freymann and Sidonie Goldenberg - three young Jews from Berlin who acquired passports from Niska
Ernst & Clotilde (Jancourt) Falkenburg - Berlin Jews who bought passports from Niska
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.

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