27 September 2019

Louis Georg Hagen - Client of Ziebell's Black Market Passport Business

Preamble to Louis Georg Hagen
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 two of Jürgen Ziebell's clients who purchased forged Finnish passports from him in late September or early October: Louis Georg Hagen and his wife Viktoria Gertrude Hagen. In the case of the Hagen's, we also have some supplementary information from Josef Jakobs who had met Louis Georg Hagen.

Laitinen Thesis, MI6 Report and Josef Jakobs
Laitinen Thesis: In late September 1938, Algoth Niska was trying to offload the last passports he had in his possession. After selling a couple of passports to the Falkenburgs, Niska met Dr. Jürgen Ziebell, a Berlin lawyer. Ziebell told Niska that he had several customers who wanted to buy Finnish passports. Ziebell then provided Niska with the personal details and photographs of the customers and paid Niska the agreed price. Niska made the fake passports, handed them over to Ziebell who, in turn, passed them on to his customers, for a profit of course. According to Laitinen, Niska forged at least eight passports for Ziebell. Niska was paid somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 German Marks for each passport.

One of the eight passports went to Dorothea Schachtel whose story we have already uncovered. Of the seven remaining individuals, Laitinen states that none of them escaped from Germany. In the fall of 1938, likely after the Ziebell ring had been busted in mid October, all seven were arrested by the Gestapo. Two of those individuals were Louis Georg and Viktoria Gertrude Hagen. One Finnish document notes that on 28 October, 1938, the Gestapo sent Louis Hagen's false passports to the Finnish State Police for further investigation. Laitinen seems quite pessimistic on the fate of the Hagens but... we have a bit more information yet to come.

MI6 Report: Simply lists their names Louis Georg Hagen and his wife Victoria Gertrude Hagen.

What Josef Said: Josef Jakobs was interrogated about his involvement in Ziebell's black market passport ring. After MI5 received the report on Niska, and the list of passport clients, from MI6, they questioned Josef about the individuals. He didn't know many of them but the name Louis Georg Hagen rang a bell.

In an interrogation report dated 5 June 1941, Josef said that Louis Hagen had been imprisoned by the Gestapo for four months (October 1938 to March 1939), whilst Josef was also under arrest. They were held in the same prison in Berlin and Josef had only ever met Hagen in prison. After Hagen was released in March 1939, Josef never saw him again. Hagen never spoke to Josef about his wife.

Louis Georg Hagen - born 1888 (from the video on Raubkunst on this German media site)
Louis Georg Hagen - born 1888
(from the video on Raubkunst
on this German media site)
According to Josef, Louis Hagen was:
Age:  about 50 [Hagen was born 1888 which would have made him 50 years old in late 1938]
Hair: black [later described as dark brown by Hagen himself]
Face: longish
Nose: slightly bent and pointed
Mouth: large
Teeth: Good
Eyes: Dark [later described as brown by Hagen himself]
Judging by the photograph of Louis Georg Hagen at right, Josef gave a pretty accurate description!

Josef said that Hagen was married with three children (two sons and one daughter). Josef did not know how old they were but believed that one was in England and the other two were in America.

In a follow-up interrogation the following day (6 June 1941), Josef said that Louis Hagen had a large private business in Berlin. He had a brother-in-law called David, who was now in England. David was very rich and had also ordered a Finnish passport from Ziebell, for which he was prepared to pay 5000 RM. In the end, David had left the country on a German passport accompanied by his wife.

Laitinen, MI6 and Josef have provided a fair bit of information and, as it turns out, Louis Georg and his family cut a fairly wide swath through history, leaving quite a few traces and markers.

Levy to Hagen
The story begins with the patriarch of the clan, Carl Levy who, at some point in his life, changed his last name to Hagen. Carl Levy was born 28 June 1856 in Köln (Cologne) and came from a banking family. In 1882, Carl Levy married Katharina Philippi (born 1864) in Berlin and the couple had four children:
  • Margarete (Grete) - 1884-1968 - married Franz John Wiesner
  • Hermann Hagen - 1884-1942 - died in Sachsenhausen
  • Louis Georg Hagen - born 1888
  • Clara Hagen - 1891-1977 - married Ernst David (we'll come to them in a later post)
Villa Carlshagen in Potsdam, Berlin (from Wikipedia)
Villa Carlshagen in Potsdam, Berlin
(from Wikipedia)
From 1895, the family lived at Kurfürstenstraße 57/Derfflingerstraße 12 in the Tiergarten area of Berlin. In 1900, Carl bought a piece of property in Potsdam as their summer residence. The property would later become known as the Villa Carlshagen.

In 1905, Carl took the surname Hagen which was the maiden name of his brother Louis's wife. All of his children, who were born with the surname Levy, had their surnames legally changed to Hagen.

Carl operated the Berlin branch of the family banking business and then later founded his own banking house: Hagen & Co. in the Charlottenstraße in Berlin. The bank specialized in industrial financing and counted the Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) amongst its clients.

Hagen Family tomb in Berlin graves of Katharina (Philippi) Hagen & Carl (Levy) Hagen as well as their son Karl Victor Hagen (from SteelToys site - opens as a pdf)
Hagen Family tomb in Berlin
graves of Katharina (Philippi) Hagen & Carl (Levy) Hagen
as well as their son Karl Victor Hagen
(from SteelToys site - opens as a pdf)
Carl was German to the core, very patriotic and staunchly loyal to his country.

Carl died on 30 January 1938 at the age of 81 years. A few weeks previous, on 1 January 1938, the bank Hagen & Co. had been liquidated under the anti-Jewish laws of the Nazis. Their villa in Berlin-Tiergarten was also sold in 1938, bought by the Berliner Kindl Brauerei AG. The Villa Carlshagen in Potsdam was sold to the City of Potsdam.

Marriage and Children
Louis Georg Hagen was born Louis Georg Levy on 26 October 1888 in Berlin. A marginal note dated 8 July 1905 changes his surname to Hagen.

On 5 February 1912, Louis married Viktoria Gertrude Loewÿ in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Louis was resident at the Hagen family residence at Derfflingerstraße 12 in Berlin-Tiergarten while Viktoria was living at Kurfürstendamm 224, likely with her parents, businessman Leopold Loewÿ and Carolina (Lina) Lissa.

Louis and Viktoria had five children:
  • Karl Victor Hagen - born 4 October 1912
  • Katharina Nina Herta Hagen - born 14 or 15 June 1914
  • Louis Edmund Hagen - born 30 May 1916
  • Hans Peter Hagen - born 6 August 1918
  • Caroline Victoria Carla Hagen - born 22 April 1922
In August 1928, Louis took three of his children on a boat trip from Hamburg to Amsterdam (only Carolina and Hans Peter missed out). At the time, the family was living in Potsdam at Berlinistrasse 23.

In 1934, one of Louis and Viktoria's sons, Louis Edmund (known as Budi to friends and family), sent a postcard to his sister on which he had written an anti-Nazi joke: "Toilettenpapier ist jetzt verboten. Nun gibt es mehr Braunhemden" (Toilet paper is now forbidden. We now have more Brown Shirts [reference to the Nazi SA]). The Nazis didn't have much of a sense of humour and Louis Edmund, age 15, was arrested and imprisoned in the Schloss Lichtenburg concentration camp. His father appealed for help to the father of one of Budi's school friends. The father was a high-ranking Nazi, and Louis Edmund was released after four months. In 1936, Louis Edmund emigrated to England, joining his youngest sister, Caroline. Their three siblings would ultimately join them in escaping Nazi Germany, settling in America before the outbreak of the war. Their parents would cut their escape rather fine.

Escape to America
As we know from the Niska story, Louis Georg and Viktoria purchased forged Finnish passports from Ziebell in late September/early October 1938. They were arrested, along with many others, that same month. Louis Georg was imprisoned from October 1938 to March 1939, but then released.

Somehow, Louis and Viktoria made their way to Japan, likely via the trans-Siberian railway. On 30 October 1940, Louis and Viktoria boarded the SS Tatuta Maru in Yokohama Japan. They were stateless, formerly of Berlin, Germany and had been granted US visas on 28 October 1940 in Yokohama. Their contact in Germany was Margarete Wiesner (Louis's sister) living in Hamburg. They planned to move to New York where they had a son, Karl Victor Hagen, living at 14 East 58th Street. Louis had previously visited the US in 1911. Louis and Viktoria arrived in San Francisco on 13 November 1940.

The following year, Louis registered for the US draft. At the time he was living at 119 East 89th Street in New York. His family contact was his son-in-law, Dr. Max Jacobson (Katharina Nina's husband). Louis was self-employed and also resident at 1325 Madison Avenue, New York.

On 16 April 1941, both Victoria and Louis completed applications for naturalisastion. He was unemployed. Of their four children: Karl Victor Hagen and Katherina (Nina) Jacobson both lived in New York while Hans Peter Hagen lived in Los Angeles. Their other two children, Caroline Hagen and Louis Edmund Hagen, both lived in England. All five had been born in Germany.

Victoria passed away in 1962, likely in New York. Louis Georg Hagen passed away on 26 June 1977 in München according to a marginal note on his birth registration.

The Children
Louis (Budi) Edmund Hagen (from Pegasus site)
Louis (Budi) Edmund Hagen
(from Pegasus site)
Louis (Budi) Edmund Hagen - after being released from the Schloss Lichtenburg concentration camp, Louis Edmund emigrated to England in 1936. At the outbreak of war, he joined the Pioneer Corps and was given the pseudonym "Lewis Haig", to protect him from Nazi retribution in case he was captured. He became a glider pilot and in September 1944, took part in the Battle of Arnhem. Budi wrote a book about his experience (Arnhem Lift: A German Jew in the Glider Pilot Regiment). That was the first of several books and he later became a journalist and children's film producer. He married Anne Mie (a Norwegian artist) and had two daughters. He passed away in Norway in 2000.

Karl Victor Hagen (from Spirit of Freedom site)
Karl Victor Hagen
(from Spirit of Freedom site)
Karl Victor Hagen - emigrated to the United States in late 1935 via England. He worked in finance as a brokerage clerk. Karl married Yvonne Forrest in 1939 and the couple had two (possibly  three) children. After the war, with the Allied occupation of Berlin, Karl served as head of the currency branch of the Finance Division, US Military Government. He died on 8 July 1948 when a Berlin Airlift plane, in which he was a passenger, crashed around 11:30 pm shortly after takeoff. The plane was a C47 transport that had taken off from Wiesbaden, enroute to Berlin with food for the city. The plane crashed on the Steinkopf north of Frankfurt, possibly because it was overloaded or the pilots had overestimated their altitude. The crash claimed the first fatalities of the Berlin Airlift. Karl was buried in the family plot in East Berlin.

Katharina Nina Herta Hagen - emigrated to the USA in mid 1937 via France. She married Dr. Max Jacobson in 1941 and lived in New York. Nina passed away in 1964 and is buried in Flushing, NY.

Hans Peter Hagen - emigrated to the USA in 1938. He registered for the US draft in 1940 in Los Angeles and was naturalized in Texas in 1943. He is hard to trace but appears to have had three children and may have moved back to Berlin.

Caroline Victoria Carla Hagen - apparently went to the UK before her brother Louis Edmund, so 1936ish. Beyond that, I haven't been able to trace her all that well. In 1943 she went to the United States from the UK. She was naturalised in the US in 1949. In 1950, she went to Le Havre from the US. Her intended length of stay in Europe in 1950 was "indefinite". She sailed from Le Havre to the US in 1953. She made another trip in 1959 arriving back in the US on a flight from Paris in August. Her place of residence was New York. She may have passed away in 1964.

A Mystery
In some of the links listed under Sources (below), a Dr. Louis Hagen, grandson of Louis Georg Hagen, is interviewed regarding his family's art pieces which were acquired by the Nazis. Out of idle curiosity, I started trying to figure out his parentage. Was he perhaps a child of Hans Peter Hagen?

Die Zitronenscheibchen by Jacob Ochtervelt (from Wikipedia)
Die Zitronenscheibchen by Jacob Ochtervelt
(from Wikipedia)
After some digging, I found a brief CV of Dr. Louis Hagen stating that he was born in 1958 in Orléans, France. With that info, I was able to do a search on Ancestry and discovered something intriguing: Candida Hagen, born 3 May 1936 in Heidelberg, traveled to the United States in 1960 with her two young children:
  • Charles P. Hagen - born 22 June 1956 in Orléans, France - (no further info found)
  • Louis Hagen - born 15 May 1958 in Orléans, France
The three were traveling to 188 Sullivan Street in New York which was also the permanent address used by Caroline Victoria Hagen in 1953 and 1959. All three (Candida and the two children) were citizens of the United States. Candida had been naturalised in New York in 1957 and... that's it. Nothing else found on Candida.

Louis's CV states that in 1977 (he would have been 19 years old), he was working as a trainee at a German bank in München. All of his subsequent work experience is in Germany. The year 1977 was also the same year that his grandfather, Louis Georg Hagen, passed away in München.

One other piece of information is a very brief obituary for Catharina Nina (née Hagen) Jacobson who passed away in 1964. Her obit states:
Nina Jacobson, devoted wife of Dr. Max Jacobson, loving mother of Jill Jacobson, loving dau of Louis Hagen, dear sister of Carla, Louis, Peter, Anne, Candida and Yvonne.
Let's dissect this a bit. Nina was the sister of:
  • Carla - likely her sister Caroline Victoria Carla Hagen
  • Louis - likely her brother Louis (Budi) Edmund Hagen
  • Peter - likely her brother Hans Peter Hagen
  • Anne - possibly her brother Louis Edmund's wife - Anne Mie
  • Candida - possibly the wife of Hans Peter
  • Yvonne - likely Yvonne Forrest, widow of Karl Victor Hagen
So, it would seem most likely that Candida was the wife of Hans Peter Hagen and that Dr. Louis Hagen is their son

Conclusion
Louis Georg Hagen and his wife Viktoria Gertrud must have been quite desperate to purchase forged Finnish passports from Ziebell. Like many, they probably thought that the documents were legitimate but were swept up by the Gestapo when the Ziebell passport ring was busted in mid-October 1938. Algoth Niska's forged passports were useless to them and actually got them into trouble with the Gestapo.

Luckily, Louis and his wife somehow managed to escape Germany in 1940 via the Trans-Siberian Railway to Japan. From there, they somehow managed to make it to the United States, likely helped by the fact that they had several children living there.

As for Louis Georg Hagen's siblings... as noted above, Hermann Hagen died in Sachsenhausen in 1942. Margarete Hagen managed to escape Nazi Germany and passed away in 1968. As for Clara Hagen, she married Ernst David and... they will be the topic of the next blog post.

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

German Media site - 2014 01 16 - (in German) has an article/video about Raubkunst (Stolen Art) including in interview with a grandson of Louis Georg Hagen. Rather disturbing story about how German art museums are not thoroughly researching the history and provenance of art pieces, some of which were stolen from Jews.
AP Archive site - 2014 02 14 - (in English) has a video clip (with transcript) about the Raubkunst and the Hagen family

CodArt Site - 2014 08 05 - results of the investigation into a painting claimed by the Hagen family.

Pegasus Archive - bio of Louis Edmund Hagen and his part in the Battle of Arnhem
Wikipedia article on Louis Edmund Hagen
The Guardian - Obituary of Louis Edmund Hagen
Facebook - intro to republished book of Louis Edmund Hagen - Ein Volk Ein Reich
The History Press - Ein Volk Ein Reich - Nine Lives under the Nazis - by Louis Edmund Hagen

US Military Vehicle Club site - (opes as a pdf) - in German - has an article about the crash of the C47 aircraft on 8 July 1948 carrying Karl Victor Hagen
Steel Toys site - opens as a pdf - memorial for the crash the C47 that killed Karl Victor Hagen - in English but poorly translated from German - article seems to get Karl Victor's father and grandfather mixed up, so taken with a grain of salt.
Spirit of Freedom site - has an overview of the Berlin Airlift and pictures of those who died including Karl Victor Hagen

Wikipedia article on Max Jacobson (husband of Katharina Nina Hagen) - quite a character

Brief bio of Louis Hagen (a grandson of Louis Georg Hagen) - he is a financier in München
CV of Louis Hagen (grandson of Louis Georg Hagen)

23 September 2019

Ernst Falkenburg and Clotilde Jancourt - Clients of Niska's Black Market Passport Business

Preamble to Ernst and Clotilde Falkenburg
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 two desperate individuals who purchased passports from Niska in late September 1938: Clotilde Jancourt and Ernst Falkenburg.

Ernst Falkenburg & Clotilde Jancourt
Laitinen Thesis: On 27 September 1938, a group of people met in the apartment of Alfred Joseph and his Aryan wife, Henny (nee Zimmermann). Alfred Joseph was not present but Henny Joseph welcomed Algoth Niska, Fredrik Joffs, Ernst Falkenburg and Clotilde Jancourt. Niska knew that the passport venture was nearing its end and apparently told Ernst and Clotilde that the documents were forged. They were still willing to pay 5000 German Marks for them. The couple would have no opportunity to use them. On 1 November 1938, the Gestapo searched Clotilde's home and discovered the passports in the stove. Both Ernst and Clotilde were arrested and in the spring of 1939 convicted. Ernst was sentenced to eight months in prison for interfering with the proceeds of crime. Clotilde was sentenced to three months for the same offence. Laitinen has no information on the couple after that. In addition, he tends to refer to them as Clotilde (Jancourt) and Ernst Falkenburg, often implying that they are a married couple. Such was not the case as we shall see below.

MI6 report: No mention of Ernst Falkenburg or Clotilde Jancourt.

Although Laitinen provides no birth dates for Ernst and Clotilde, their names are relatively uncommon and makes them relatively easy to trace.

Clotilde Therese Jancourt was born 28 September 1917 in Ploesti, Romania to Leibu Jancourt and Katharine Wilhelmina Schönfeld. Leibu had been born in Braila, Romania on 21 December 1881 while Katharine had been born in Nastatten (Hessen-Nassau) on 8 September 1888. Leibu and Katharine had been married in Berlin-Pankow on 6 March 1913. Leibu was listed as a "Kaufmann" which translates as businessman or merchant. The couple evidently moved around a lot for they had three children in vastly different locations:
  • Jane Celeste - born 15 January 1913 in Berlin, Germany
  • Marc Aureliu - born 12 September 1915 in London, England
  • Therese Clotilde - born 28 September 1917 in Ploesti, Romania
A passenger list from 1936 gives us a hint as to Leibu's occupation. On  17 November 1936, he arrived in Southampton having boarded in Genoa, Italy. Leibu had no nationality although he was a permanent resident of Germany. He traveled First Class as an employee of Thomas Cook & Son (presumably the travel agency).

In the fall of 1939, Clotilde was residing in London at 139 Goldhurst Terrace with her mother and father. Clotilde's normal occupation was saleswoman but her present occupation was "nil". Her mother also had no occupation although Leibu was a booking clerk for Thomas Cook and Sons of Berkeley Street, London. Leibu's nationality (stateless in 1936) was German (previously Romanian). All three were exempt from internment.

On 19 November 1944, Clotilde departed Liverpool bound for Montevideo, Uruguay. She was stateless and her future country of permanent residency was Cuba. She had been living at 187 Goldhurst Terrace in London. She was a sketcher by profession and was traveling in First Class under her maiden name.

We now back up a bit and consider Ernst Falkenburg, whose name on passenger lists often includes "Y Jaroczynsky". Ernst was born 24 June 1906 in Berlin to businessman Eugen Falkenburg and his wife Carolina Jaroczynsky. Ernst's parents had been married on 12 September 1902 in Berlin and had at least one older child (Hans). Eugen and Carolina were both born on 23 November 1876 according to their marriage registration which seems a bit odd. According to the 1938 Berlin address books, Eugen was a shoe manufacturer or repairer (Schuh-Vertr.) in Berlin-Schöneberg.

Unlike Clotilde, there is no information on how Ernst came to be in Cuba although my guess would be, after his arrival there, he contacted Clotilde to come and join him. In a rather odd chronology, Clotilde and Ernst were apparently married on 24 August 1943 in Havana, Cuba (according to their US naturalisation applications). Recall that she left England on 19 November 1944 bound for Cuba. How could she have married Ernst in Cuba in 1943... and then traveled under her maiden name in 1944? Did she make an earlier trip to Cuba in 1943 to get married? This would seem a bit odd given it was wartime and ocean travel was a bit dangerous. Or did Ernst and Clotilde fudge their marriage date on their naturalisation applications? It is a bit strange...

Clotilde and Ernst would remain in Cuba for almost 20 years. During that time, while living at Calle 22 #311 Miramar, Havana, they would have two sons: Ralph Falkenburg (born 1952) and Harry Gregory Falkenburg (born 1953). Both Clotilde and Ernst traveled extensively, making several trips a year to Florida and then onwards to other locations (e.g. Copenhagen, Mexico). These many passenger lists tell their own tale. For example, in 1948, Clotilde was still traveling under her maiden name while the following year she was traveling with a surname of "Clotilde Therese Jancourt de Falkenburg". In 1954, Clotilde was again traveling under the surname Jancourt. In 1947, her citizenship was Romanian while Ernst was stateless. By 1958, both Clotilde and Ernst were listed as Cubans.

Finally, in 1961, the couple and their two children made the move to the USA. On 2 January 1961, Clotilde arrived in Florida seeking permanent residency. Ernst seems to have arrived a couple of months later, on 4 March 1961. His occupation was exporter thus explaining the many international trips. Ernst was naturalised on 19 August 1966 in Miami, Florida.

Ernst passed away on 3 March 2000 in Miami while Clotilde passed away the following year on 26 September 2001, also in Miami.

Hans Falkenburg - brother of Ernst Falkenburg
(from 1939 Brazil immigration papers)
As for Ernst's parents, they escaped to the United States via Spain arriving between 1941 and 1943. Their passage seems to have been facilitated by their eldest son Hans (born 15 June 1903) who was living in New York. Hans had escaped to Brazil early in 1939 with his wife (Gertrud Enders) and child (Anneliese). Unlike so many other refugees who remained in Brazil until after the war, Hans and his family quickly made the leap to the USA arriving on 13 April 1940. Their final destination in the US was New York where they appear in the 1940 census. It isn't quite clear from the documents when Hans's parents arrived but Carolina passed away in 1943 and Eugen passed away in 1959 in New York.

As for Clotilde's parents, Leibu and Katharine also managed to escape to Cuba, living in Havana until 13 July 1950 when they emigrated to the United States. Leibu was stateless, formerly of Germany. They settled in Texas and applied for naturalisation. Leibu passed away in September 1971 in Florida while Katharine passed away 6 March 1981, also in Florida.

Of Clotilde's two siblings, Marc Aurelia Jancourt had been born in England and was a resident of England during the war, appearing in city directories from 1941 to 1948. He was a tobacconist in one directory and did not appear to live with his parents and sister. In 1948, Marc moved to the USA, settling in the Minnesota area where his sister Jane was also resident. Marc gave his occupation as artist. He married widow Marie Heuton in 1955 in South Dakota. Marc passed away on 15 August 1957 in Minnesota. He left behind his wife and an infant son.

Jane Celeste Jancourt is a bit more complicated. She doesn't really appear in the genealogical databases until 15 January 1939 when she arrived at St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands from the British Virgin Islands. She was a German citizen who had previously resided in Berlin and was in transit to Puerto Rico. Her occupation was "travel business" as an interpreter (spoke English and French). She had been admitted to Puerto Rico on a 90 day visa and stated that her final destination was Canada. Later that year, on 2 June 1939, Jane Celeste married divorcee Lawrence Ernest Collins (serving in the Navy) in Portsmouth, Virginia. Her residence was listed as San Juan, Puerto Rico. Four years later, Jane married Harold Emerson Asper in Arizona (he enlisted with the Air Force that same year). In 1950, Jane and Harold were living in Minnesota. Her SSN application, made before 1951, had been completed in Kentucky. Jane then divorced Harold in 1954 in Texas. There is some evidence that she may have married a Bernard Depremorvan (Depremoruan) in 1955 in Maryland, although this is tentative. By 1959, her parents had her listed as Mrs. Jane Morel living in Whittier, California. In 1972, Jane Moreldepremorvan (or Jane Morel Depremorvan) married Joallen Douthit (a former Commander in the US Navy) in Nevada although both were residents of California. Three years later, Jane and Joallen were divorced in San Diego, California. Douthit would pass away in 1978. In 2004, Jane herself passed away in San Diego.

One could wonder if these marriages were all the same Jane but the records have enough cross-references with her previous surnames that the chain is quite solid. For example, the 1975 divorce in California lists her as Jane Jancourt. The US SSN Claims index, which lists her birth, death and parents names has the following names associated with her: Jane Moreldepremorvan; Jane Morel Douthit; Jane Morel and Jane Jancourt. It's a tangled web and I'm at quite a loss to weave a story for her life. She had at least one child with Harold Asper and may have had a child with Depremorvan.

Conclusion
How exactly Ernst and Clotilde managed to escape Nazi Germany after their arrest in Berlin in November 1938 is a bit of a mystery. They were sentenced to several months imprisonment in early 1939. Clotilde would have been released around the summer of 1939 while Ernst would have been released late in 1939. Somehow Clotilde managed to make it to England with her parents. Perhaps her brother's British birth smoothed their passage. Ernst's arrival in Cuba is a complete mystery, as is the date of his marriage to Clotilde. From Laitinen's thesis, it sounds as if Clotilde and Ernst were already a married couple in Berlin in 1938... There are many unanswered questions in this story but it is heartening to see how many members of the Falkenburg/Jancourt families managed to escape Nazi Germany.

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

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

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

09 September 2019

Gerhard Neumann - Client of Niska's Black Market Passport Business

Preamble to Gerhard Neumann
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 Gerhard Neumann who, in late August 1938, purchased a double passport from Niska in Berlin. Gerhard would pay one of the highest amounts for a forged document.

Gerhard Neumann
Laitinen thesis: Gerhard Neumann was born 12 June 1903 in Berlin. He bought a forged Finnish passport from Niska at the end of August 1938, paying the princely sum of 20,000 German Marks for it. The passport was different in that it was a double passport, allowing a husband and wife to travel on the same document. Neumann apparently believed Niska’s story that he was a Finnish policeman and that the passport was legitimate. Neumann traveled to southern Holland in October 1938 and onwards to Amsterdam later in the year. By then, the Dutch police were aware of the need to pay attention to German-speaking foreigners who presented Finnish passports when they registered with the authorities. In early 1939, the Amsterdam police became aware of Neumann’s arrival in southern Holland the previous fall and he was arrested and prosecuted for using a false passport. Neumann was imprisoned as an undesirable alien. Laitinen has nothing on the fate of Neumann.

MI6 report: Simply notes that Gerhard Neumann was born 12 June 1903 in Berlin and that he had been detained in Holland.

Gerhard Benjamin Neumann was born 12 June 1903 in Berlin to manufacturer Berthold Benny Neumann (1868-1934) and Ella Margarete Friedländer (1880-1976). Normally, it would be extremely difficult to determine what sort of a manufacturing business but... Gerhard's son has posted some amazing photos on Flickr. Berthold's father, Julius (Jedhuda) Neumann founded a cigar firm in 1850: J. Neumann Cigarren and Aktiengeselllschaft (AG). There is a photograph of Berthold (all rights reserved) on Flickr. Berthold passed away of a heart attack in 1934 and Gerhard took over the directorship of the company.

J. Neumann Cigarren AG - with a boycott signs  displayed in the window  (from USHMM site - picture #07425)
J. Neumann Cigarren AG - with a Nazi boycott sign
displayed in the window
(from USHMM site - picture #07425)
Gerhard had a younger sister, Eva Neumann who married surgeon Dr. Carl Felix List in Berlin in 1931. By 1934, Eva and Carl had departed Germany for the United States, settling in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It would appear that Eva was later able to help her mother escape to America, for in 1940 and thereafter, Ella was a resident of the United States, passing away in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1976.

Gerhard also had an older brother, Julius Neumann who married in 1930 in Riga, Latvia and ended up in Sweden.

As for Gerhard… he married a fellow Jewish refugee from Berlin, Inge Erna Heidemann. Inge had been born 4 January 1911 in Berlin-Charlottenburg to Siegfried Heidemann and Martha Fischbein (married 1907). The couple had two other daughters: Herta (nee Heidemann) Steinert and Marie Louise (nee Heidemann) Rose.

Heidemann Villa - Griegstrasse 5/7 - Grunewald - Berlin (from Landesdenkmalamt Berlin site)
Heidemann Villa - Griegstrasse 5/7 - Grunewald - Berlin
(from Landesdenkmalamt Berlin site)
The Heidemann family lived in a villa at Griegstrasse 5/7 in Berlin- Dahlem and Siegfried was a retired textile manufacturer, the owner of S. Wolle GmbH, located at Bischofstrasse 19/21 in Berlin-Mitte, and which had factories in Saxony. In 1935, Siegfried had to give up the business and the villa under Nazis persecution. The family then moved to a rented flat in Clauswitzstrasse 9.

A few years earlier, in 1933, two of the daughters, Marie Louise and Inge, had immigrated to Holland, while the other, Herta, had immigrated to the UK at an unknown date with her husband (Heinz Steinert) and their daughter Renate.

As the Nazi persecution worsened, in April 1937, Siegfried and his wife moved to a rental flat at Beethovenstraat 132/III in Amsterdam. That fall, Siegfried went to Zurich, Switzerland and deposited money that hadn't already been stolen in the hope that it would strengthen the case to allow Swiss immigration.

It was around this time that Inge and Gerhard were married but the exact date and location of their marriage is uncertain. A Dutch newspaper index has two entries related to the marriage of Inge and Gerhard: 24 March 1937 and 7 January 1938. Information on the MyHeritage site indicates that the couple were married in Berlin on 19 January 1938. And... information on the Flickr site of Gerhard's son indicates that his parents were married after January 1937. A picture of Gerhard, taken in preparation for his wedding, is available on the Flickr site (all rights reserved).

J. Neumann AG share certificate with the name replaced by Gildemann Cigarren Fabriken AG
J. Neumann AG share certificate with the name replaced by
Gildemann Cigarren Fabriken AG
According to Gerhard's son, the J. Neumann cigar firm underwent a forced sale at the end of January 1938 to Martin Brinkmann KG, part of the Aryanisation of Jewish businesses. Over the next few months, the firm's shareholders and directors such as Gerhard and his mother, along with others, fled to England and Holland with what little they had left. Some were arrested and perished in concentration camps such as Sobibor in Poland. In 1941, J. Neumann Cigarren AG was renamed Gildemann Cigarren Fabriken AG.
After escaping to Amsterdam in 1938 [Gerhard] was arrested by the Dutch for a problem with his passport. [Interestingly, Gerhard's son has a picture of the Finnish embassy on his Flickr account, but no caption with it. Did he know about the Finnish passport?] [Gerhard] remained in jail in Amsterdam for several months, but with the help of Hadassah [Women's Zionist Organization of America] he was not sent back to Germany and set free. With the help of family, in England, including his cousin Fritz Oppenheimer, he obtained a visa and moved to England in early 1939. (David Neumann's Flickr stream - caption for his father's picture)
Sterling Cable Co. (from Britain from Above site)
Sterling Cable Co.
(from Britain from Above site)
By 21 November 1939, both Inge and Gerhard were living in the UK as aliens, both exempt from internment. Gerhard gave his former occupation as manager, quite a step down from his present occupation as trainee at the Sterling Cable Works in Enfield on the outskirts of London. According to Gerhard's son, it was quite remarkable that a German-Jewish refugee should be involved in the manufacture of degaussing wire used by ships to detonate mines before the ships encountered them.

Even more interesting given that Gerhard's in-laws, Herta (Heidemann) Steinert and her husband Heinz Steinert had been rousted out of their home at 10 Lancaster Lodge, Lancaster Road, and interned on the Isle of Man from the end of 1939 until early 1941 as Category B aliens. Heinz had apparently applied to the Auxilliary Military Pioneer Corps but been rejected on medical grounds.

Gerhard and Inge were living at 20 Lancaster Lodge, Lancaster Road in Notting Hill, London. Unlike some Jewish refugees, Including Herta & Heinz Steinert, there is no evidence that either Gerhard or Inge tried to become naturalised citizens of the UK. Around that same time (the last quarter of 1939), the couple had a son, David Berthold Benjamin Neumann.

On 24 May 1945, Gerhard, Inge, and their son David arrived in the United States from Liverpool, having sailed on the 13 May. All three were stateless but had US immigration visas issued in London on 25 April 1945. Gerhard gave his occupation as testing engineer and all three had been living in Cuffley, north of London. Their nearest relation in England was Gerhard’s brother-in-law, Heinz Steiner[t] living at Lancaster Lodge, Lancaster Road in Notting Hill. Their nearest relation in the United States was Gerhard’s mother, Ella Neumann living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Gerhard and his family would not reside in Michigan, however, eventually settling in New York.

On 18 December 1950, Gerhard and Inge became naturalised citizens of the United States giving their address as 120 Haven Avenue, New York. Inge would later go on to become a fashion designer. Their son David became a physical chemist, married Ruth in 1967, earned a PhD in 1968 and had two sons and a daughter in the early 1970s. Gerhard and Inge lived to see some of their grandchildren, with Gerhard passing away in New York in March 1972 while Inge passed away in 1977.

As for Inge's parents, their story is a sad one. Although all three of their daughters managed to escape Nazi-occupied Europe, Siegfried and Martha would not be so fortunate. From the Find-a-Grave entry on Siegfried:
Siegfried and Martha were forced to sell off furnishings to survive. They were forced to wear the Yellow Star and on January 27th, 1943, arrested and taken to Westerbork Camp. They were able to delay deportation by paying bribes, but on February 1st, 1944, they both were sent to Bergen-Belsen.
Siegfried died in Bergen-Belsen on 1 April 1945 while Martha died on 10 April 1945. In a cruel twist, British forces liberated Bergen-Belsen five days later on 15 April.

In the case of Gerhard and Inge, forged Finnish passports did not save them. Family connections, particularly Herta's immigration to the UK, and their cousin Fritz Oppenheimer, likely tipped the balance in their favour.

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
GenTeam.at - Austrian genealogical information
Yad Vashem - Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names
Jewish Businesses in Berlin 1930-1945 - Database
Find-a-Grave - entry for Siegfried Heidemann
Claims Resolution Tribunal - for estate of Siegfried Heidemann
Berlin Baudenkmal - Heidemann villa in Grunewald
Flickr - David Neumann's photo stream of his family's Berlin Company - J. Neumann Cigarren AG
Wikiwand - Neumann Family
Imperial War Museum - Liberation of Bergen-Belsen 

04 September 2019

Fritz Lasch & Family - Clients of Niska's Black Market Passport Business

Preamble to Fritz Lasch & Family
Another blog in my series focused on the black market passport business run by Jürgen Ziebell in Berlin. 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 not 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
In August 1938, Niska returned to Berlin from Prague and met Fritz Lasch who wished to purchase three passports from himself and his family. The Lasch family story deserves its own blog post as it is quite involved.

Fritz Lasch & Family
Laitinen thesis: Fritz J. Lasch was born on 4 August 1892 in Berlin. He was the former owner of J. Lasch & Sons Ltd, a glove factory. Lasch bought three passports from Niska in August 1938, paying 6000 German Marks for the forged documents. Lasch apparently believed Niska’s story that the passports were genuine. That autumn, the Lasch family, Fritz, his wife Basjo Beila (Sudarsky) (born 25 April 1897 in Lithuania) and their son Heinz (born 5 May 1924), departed for Amsterdam and then on to Paris. The Lasch family tried to live an unobtrusive existence in Paris, staying under the radar of the authorities who, in September 1938, had become aware of the forged Finnish passports circulating through Europe (thanks to Alfred Schapiro's sale of one of them). In mid-April 1939, Fritz Lasch was called to the Finnish embassy in Paris to verify his identity. The Finns quickly discovered that his passport was forged. Laitinen ends his brief paragraphs on the Lasch family by stating that Fritz Lasch boarded a transport on 22 November 1942 bound for Auschwitz and then on to Riga.

MI6 report: Simply notes “Fritz Lasch, particulars unknown”.

The Laitinen thesis had no information on Fritz's wife or son. It is a rather sad story but there is some good news: Basjo Beila Lasch and her son Heinz did escape the horrors of the Shoah. Why Fritz perished in the Shoah is unknown.

Fritz was born on 4 August 1892 to factory owner Emil Lasch and his wife Hertha Behrendt. He and Bassia Beila Sudarski were married on 17 December 1920 in Berlin. Beila had been born on 25 April 1897 in Wirballen, Lithuania (now Virbalis). Normally the marriage registrations list the names of the parents of the bride and groom but that is not the case on this registration. Although one Emil Lasch, age 59 (born 1861), was a witness to the marriage and is likely Fritz’s father.

There was also a glove manufacturer in Berlin called J. Lasch & Sohn at Oranienstrasse 70. The business was founded in 1903, transferred in 1934 (likely to Aryan ownership) and liquidated in 1941. This is likely the same company as mentioned in the Laitinen thesis.

Fritz and Bassia's marriage registration also had a marginal note which stated that the groom (Fritz) Lasch was declared deceased on 25 January 1980 and that the date of death was declared as 31 December 1945. This would seem to be one of the post-Shoah death declarations which are all too common in German vital records.

Fritz Lasch appears in the Yad Vashem database as a victim of the Shoah. According to their records, Fritz was deported on Transport 45, Train Da.901/38 from Drancy Camp France to Auschwitz on 11/11/1942. He was then sent on to Riga.

The Yad Vashem records include two pages of testimony for Fritz, one from 1977 and one from 1995, both from Fritz’s son, Henry I. Lasch of California. Knowing that Heinz/Heinrich/Henry Lasch ended up in the United States makes his trail relatively easy.

Heinrich Isaac Lasch was born 5 May 1924 in Berlin to Fritz Lasch and Bassia Beila Sudarsky. We know that he was naturalised in the United Kingdom on 24 July 1948. How he came to the UK is partially explained by a London Gazette notice of 17 August 1948 which published his naturalisation. According to the Gazette, Heinz Isaac Lasch was a student, formerly of Palestine, living at 85 Priory Road in London. Once Heinz was naturalised in the UK, he didn’t linger long, making the leap across the Atlantic to North America on 25 September 1948. He sailed from Liverpool aboard the SS Ascania, destination Montreal, Canada. This was not his final destination, however, as he arrived at St. Alban, Vermont border crossing by train on 4 October 1948.

Heinz/Henry was a strapping young man, standing just under 6 feet tall and weighing 189 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair. On 21 December 1953, he married divorcee Jindra Hanna (nee Bakrlikova) Cermak (or Cermakova), born 4 October 1919 (or 1909) in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Jindra’s parents were Jindrich Bakrlik and Anna Poesler, both of Czechoslovakia. Jindra had arrived in the US via New York on 22 February 1948 aboard the SS Hastings. There is an intriguing letter that Jindra wrote to the US Consulate in 1957 seeking assistance regarding her family’s villa in Czechoslovakia. The villa had been confiscated by the authorities and Jindra was seeking the assistance of the US authorities. The letter also noted that:
“After the World War II, I worked for about 3 years for the U.S. Government, first in Czechoslovakia, then in Germany. (Sudeten German expulsion and later tracing children, kidnapped by the Nazis, in Germany). Due to this job my life was endangered and I was granted a special visa to enter this country in 1948.”
Jindra was naturalised on 26 June 1953. Heinz/Henry applied for naturalisation in 1954 while living in Los Angeles, California. He gave his occupation as “Manufacturer’s Representative”.

Jindra passed away on 5 January 2006 in San Diego, California at the age of 86. Heinz/Henry passed away ten days later on 15 January 2006 in San Diego at the age of 85. Was it an accident? Or an illness? Or perhaps Henry couldn’t carry on without his beloved wife.

This, at least, answers the question surrounding Fritz Lasch’s son. What, however, became of his wife: Bassia/Bassjo Beila (Sudarski) Lasch? The answer lies in that Gazette notice of Heinz Lasch stating that he had come to the UK via Palestine.

After a few dead ends which suggested that Bassia had died in the United States as Beatrice Sudarsky… I found an entry on the Geni website which seems more of a match.

Wirballen, Lithuania postcard from Wikipedia
Wirballen, Lithuania postcard from Wikipedia
The Geni site notes that Batja (Bassja) Lasch (Sudarsky) was born 1895 in Vershkolov, Lithuania. This is likely supposed to be Verzhbolovo - the Russian name for Wirballen (or Virbalis) according to the JewishGen website. [Thank you to Traugott Vitz for directing me to this site!]

The date of birth isn’t that far off and errors like around birth dates can be quite common when relatives/friends are giving an individual’s information at their death. The Geni site says she was born in 1895 while her marriage registration states she was born in 1897.

The Geni information notes that Batja/Bassja was the daughter of Itzchak (Itzale) Sudarsky and Hinde Sudarsky. She had several siblings: Chaje-Sara (Chajsara), Zelig, Mendel (Dr.), Eliezer, Efraim, Braina, Chaim-Leib, Libbie, Nissan and Jakob. A rather large family!

According to the Geni info, Batja/Bassja was the wife of Fritz Lasch and the mother of Heinz Lasch and Ernst Lasch. Batja/Bassja passed away in September 1980 in Tel Aviv at the age of 85. The note about Ernst Lasch, another possible son, is intriguing. I have come across no other information to confirm this and it is possible that: (a) Ernst was older than Heinz and had already left Germany by 1938 or (b) Ernst had passed away prior to 1938.

The Geni information was posted online by one Nadav Gruengard. I did notice that a “Faivel” Grüngard had been a witness at Fritz and Batja/Bassia’s wedding in 1920. Some searching and it turns out that Nadav’s father was Jehuda Isaac Gruengard, born 1912 in Virbalis (Wirballen) Lithuania. And that Jehuda’s father was Feivel Gruengard. Perhaps the Gruengards and Sudarskys are distantly related.

We now know what happened to the rest of Fritz Lasch’s family. Somehow Bassia and her son, Heinz, escaped France and made their way to Palestine. Why they escaped and Fritz did not is a mystery. From Palestine, Heinz then made his way to the UK and ultimately the United States. It would seem pretty clear at this point, that their forged Finnish passports did not provide them with a ticket to safety and freedom, as evidenced by Fritz’s own death in the Shoah.

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
GenTeam.at - Austrian genealogical information
Yad Vashem - Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names