Scratching at the Door of the Landesarchiv Berlin

Landesarchiv Berlin
I've known for a while that the Landesarchiv Berlin (State Archives Berlin) probably have some information on Josef Jakobs and his family. A few years ago, when I wrote to the International Tracing Service (ITS) at Bad Arolsen, they sent me an incomplete document containing some information on the detention of Josef and the other individuals involved in the black market passport scheme. I wrote to them a year ago, asking if I could possibly have the complete document and they suggested that I contact the Landesarchiv Berlin. Ooof.

While I love archives... I'm not such a big fan of archives in a foreign language. My schoolgirl German stumbles and falls before words like..."Gebührenverordnung". While I know that "Gebühr" means something like "fees" or "costs"... the rest of the word stymies me and I am left to dig out Google Translate to make some sense out of it. FYI - it means "fee regulation"

Now... the Landesarchiv helpfully has some of their web pages in English which has given me a toehold from which to survey its holdings. Given the current situation with Covid-19... it is unlikely that I will be visiting Berlin anytime soon. I do hope that a visit is still in my future once the pandemic has petered out (if it ever dose). When I do... I have two cousins in Berlin whom I'm sure I could coerce into accompanying me to the archives! Don't tell them that yet though... 

Polizeliche Anmeldung card for Josef Jakobs
and family - 1 October 1938
Anyhow... in perusing the offerings of the Landesarchiv, I noticed that they have a fairly accessible collection of Einwohnermeldekartei (EMK). Another German mega-word but luckily I know all three components of this word: "Einwohner" (residents) Melde (notification/registration) Kartei (card). It doesn't translate all that well word for word but these are the cards that German residents had to complete at the police station every time they moved within the country or between different districts.

I have one of these cards from Josef and his family when they moved from Pfalzburger Strasse 34 to Rudolstädter Strasse 124 on 1 October 1938. Interestingly, even today German residents are still required to notify the Einwohnermeldeamt (Residents' Registration Office) every time they move.

These cards are a treasure trove of information:

  • Last Name
  • First Name
  • Marital status
  • Occupation
  • Birth date
  • Birth location
  • Citizenship
  • Religion

And then several columns detailing whether they have lived in this police district before, have they returned from a trip, their last residence (as of 10 October of the previous year) and whether they rent, sublet, visit, etc.

Now... you need some of this information in order to search for a person (last name, first name, maiden name and birth date) so it may not be the most helpful archive for some individuals but for me... it will work.

The Landesarchiv Berlin has a form (helpfully also in English) through which one can request a search of the EMK archives for different individuals. The cost is €10 per person... so this required a bit of strategic planning. Most times, the wife is included under the husband's name so doesn't have a card of her own. After some musings... I decided to search for the following individuals:

  • Josef Jakobs - this is a no brainer and while I tend to think that I know all of his movements... I do wonder about what happened to him when he went to Switzerland in 1934 and when he was arrested in 1938. Technically, his moevements should also have been traced when he went to Hamburg and The Hague for his Abwehr training. Hoping that maybe the EMK will yield some clues.
  • Margarete Jakobs - Josef's wife - given that he died in 1941, she would have likely become the head of the household and should therefore be traceable through the EMK up until her death in 1971. Although the EMK archives are only open to 1960... but I'll take what I can get.
  • Emma Jakobs - Josef's mother - her husband died in 1931 so she would have been the head of the household. While I don't think that she moved from Pfalzburger Strasse 13 between 1931 and the year of her death (1952), I'm wondering if her card might include Margarete and the kids after they moved in with Emma after being bombed out in 1943.
  • Maria Jakobs - Josef's sister - I have been unable to trace her residence in the Berlin address/phone books beyond 1943. Family lore has it that she died some time during the war but... family lore can also be wrong. So I'm hoping that the EMK will help trace her a bit better.
  • Johanna Catharina Knöffler - Josef's aunt-in-law (Margarete's aunt) - She lived with Gustav Goldemann and I want to see if I can track her movements until she moved in with him. Given that they weren't married... I'm also not sure if she will be listed on his card or... on her own card. We'll see what comes back from the EMK archives.

Now... having just written that... I realize that I could have requested the EMK for Wolfgang & Therese Elkan at Pfalzburger Strasse 34 (Margarete's mother and step-father). Josef and Margarete lived there from around 1934 until 1938. This would have been during the period of Josef's Swiss adventures in gold counterfeiting so would be an important window during which Josef and his family might have been listed on Wolfgang's EMK. I'm not 100% sure on that though so, at this point, will hunker down and wait to see what the Landesarchiv sends for the ones that I have requested. My excitement around the EMK is tempered by a note on the Genwiki site which warns that due to war and post-war losses, the EMK records have many gaps. Ah well... fingers crossed.

Finally, the EMK request form had a check box for "I would like further documents of the Landesarchiv Berlin to be consulted for the investigation and agree to be charged accordingly". Gulp. I ticked off that box on the form for Josef and included a bit of information about the 1938 detention document. We'll see what they come up with... and hopefully it doesn't cost a fortune.

N.B. Thanks again to Traugott Vitz for being a source for all things German-related and correcting me on the statement that citizens still need to register their moves at the police station. It's actually at the Einwohnermeldeamt!


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