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.

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.

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.

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 - genealogical information


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