02 October 2019

Ernst and Clara David - Clients of Ziebell's Black Market Passport Business

Preamble to Ernst and Clara David
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 & Viktoria Gertrud Hagen, whose story we have reviewed in the last blog.

The remaining five passports were reserved for persons who have hardly any information other than names:
  • Alfred Gutmann
  • Erna Levi
  • Richard Eduard Wiener - Wiener's passport, however, was still in Ziebell's possession when Gestapo detectives came to arrest him.
  • Ernst Michel & Clara David
According to Laitinen, David's passports were obtained by police in connection with an arrest of an unknown Jew named Dochnahl.This is likely one of Ziebell's coworkers, Emil Dochnal whom we will meet in another blog post.

MI6 Report: No mention of any of the individuals named above.

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. Josef noted that Hagen had a brother-in-law named 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.

MI5 was quite intrigued about this Hagen brother-in-law named David and put out a trace on him. Unfortunately, they seem to have missed the comment that David was a brother-in-law of Louis Georg Hagen and that "David" was a forename and not a surname. Thus MI5 sent out a trace for one David Hagen, for which there was no result in the Registry. They also sent a request to MI6 which, again, came up empty. The MI5 officers were rather disappointed having hoped that David Hagen could shed some light on the "Finnish passport racket".

We, however, have a bit more information at our disposal than MI5 did in 1941. We know that Louis Georg Hagen had a sister named Clara Hagen. We also know from the Laitinen thesis that an Ernst Michel David and a Clara David purchased passports from Niska. It doesn't take much to connect the dots and realise that Clara David is Louis Georg Hagen's sister and that Ernst David is the brother-in-law mentioned by Josef.

Early Life
From the previous blog on Louis Georg Hagen, we know that Clara (Levy) Hagen was born in 7 May 1891 in Berlin to banker Carl (Levy) Hagen and Katharina Philippi. Like the other children, Clara's surname was changed from Levy to Hagen in 1905.

Ernst Michel David was born 19 March 1889 in Berlin to Theodor Lebrecht David and his wife Rosa Sommerfeld. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1898 when Theodor passed away at the age of 45 years. He left behind a widow and several children.

There is no record of a marriage registration for Ernst and Clara although they were already having children in Berlin by 1917.

Escape to England
The next time we find a trace of Clara and Ernst is in 1939 when they appear in the 1939 UK National Registration, as well as in the Aliens registry. Ernst was a former German banker and the couple had at least one of their children living with them; Lisselotte David (born 1918 in Berlin). They apparently had two more daughters, one of whom was named Katherina Clara David (born 1917).

In the fall of 1939, Ernst and Clara were living at Paisley House, Farnham Lane, Haslemere, Surrey were exempt from internment.

Ernst passed away in 1960 while Clara passed away in 1977. It would appear that they had continued to live in London.

Conclusion
It isn't clear how Ernst and Clara David escaped Nazi Germany with their three children. Perhaps the children, who were around 20 years old, were already in England? Suffice to say that forged Finnish passports played no role in their escape and actually brought them to the attention of the Gestapo.

Ziebell's other Three Finnish Passport Clients
Laitinen mentioned that Ziebell procured forged Finnish passports for eight of his clients. We have met five of them: Dorothea Clara Schachtel, Louis Georg & Viktoria Gertrud Hagen and Ernst & Clara Hagen. The remaining three individuals do not have enough information to trace:
  • Alfred Gutmann
  • Erna Levi
  • Richard Eduard Wiener - I did find an 1876 birth registration for a Richard Eduard Wiener in Berlin but it is hard to say if this is the same gentleman. There is no other trace of the man in the genealogical databases.
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

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