Hilda’s restitution affidavit

Affidavit statement        

I, the undersigned, Hilda Wohlgemuth Liebman, explain the following about the life history of my mother, Betty Wohlgemuth. She was born on January 1 1875 in Kolberg, the daughter of the banker-manufacturer-entrepreneur Louis Katz and his wife Bertha Katz, born Bernhart. They were from Kolberg and were citizens of Germany. From the marriage of my grandparents, there were two children born, my mother Betty and her sister Klara, married name Jacobson.        

In 1897, my mother married the son of the landowner Leopold Wohlgemuth-from Stargard in Eastern Pomerania, Isaac Wohlgemuth, born October 29,1865 in Stargard. They were also German citizens. The marriage was in Kolberg following the Mosaic rite. Me mother was awarded a dowry of 80,000 goldmarks which my father used to establish his business as station forwarder in Gdansk and Stettin. My parents bought in Gdansk at Poggenpfuhl 6, where we lived above the offices in a six-room apartment. The house had six floors and is still there. The other apartments were rented. Later we lived in a luxury apartment building. We lived in pleasant prosperity and luxury. We had a horse and carriage and service staff. The business of my father developed rapidly into a very reputable company with numerous employees. My father had regular business as freight forwarder for the German and Bavarian crown prince Rupprecht.     

From the marriage of my parents there were two daughters born, my sister Elly and me, Hilda Wohlgemuth. I was born in Danzig in the year 1906.        

In the year 1911-12, my parents moved to Stettin, where the company also did business. However, we stayed there only a short time before settling in the Weißensee district of Berlin, at Wölckpromenade 6. My father sold the companies in Danzig and Stettin and kept only the one in Berlin at Gorlitzerplatz train station. As the world war broke out, my father also sold that business. The successor company kept the existing name of I. Wohlgemuth. My father was in the military and served as a non-commissioned officer. After the demobilization-he took over the general-representation of the Buchholz Cognac in Silesia-Grünberg and of cigar and cigarettes wholesalers in Weißensee. I lived in the house of my parents until to my wedding in 1928.

On 14 August 1929 my father died. My mother sold a part of the furniture from the six-room flat, keeping only the most precious family pieces from Danzig and precious things from the home of her parents from Kolberg. She took an apartment consisting of two and a half rooms in Berlin at Aschaffenburger Straße no. 6.        

My mother’s assets included the proceeds of my father’s company, which for the largest part were in government bonds as well as in 6.5% gold-bonds, as well as other papers and cash. The gold bonds in the value of 100,000 RM was in the safe at Darmstadt National Bank in Berlin. Other assets were held at the Disconto Society, Dresdnerbank, and Deutsche Bank in Berlin, as well as cash. The interest earned far exceeded the amount my mother could spend for herself for travel, toilets, amusements, and living expenses.            

When her apartment on Aschaffenburgerstraße was seized by the Nazis for being “Jewish-owned” [after her death], she had in her possession 10,000 RM, as well as many as 20 gold pieces. These were to be the means to allow her to leave Hitler’s Germany. She already had a visa for Cuba in her passport, having paid $1000 for it. In addition, she also held values of jewelry in her apartment, also part of the funds needed for her emigration.

My maternal grandmother Bertha Katz, nee Bernhardt, died in Kolberg (I don’t remember the year), and she left, among others, especially high-quality jewels that are incompletely listed in the filings . The records of the probate court in Kolberg may be able to confirm my information.

In 1917, my father’s only brother, a bachelor Heinrich Wohlgemuth, passed away. He was the owner of the banking house and grain company Mayer & Gellhorn in Danzig. My parents were the heirs of his assets, including jewelry, artwork and master-antique furniture.

In 1939, my mother’s sister Klara Katz, married name Jacobson, passed away. She was a resident of Berlin at Salzburgerstrße no. 10. Her husband had been successful as a tobacco manufacturer. They had no children and my mother inherited her assets.

In 1939, a sister of my father, Rose Wohlgemuth, also died and left her assets to my mother.

The list of chief objects from the apartment that I remember after so many years are provided separately, just as are the important jewelry items.

I give the above statements on oath according to American and French law concerning the German criminality. They are true and accurate to the best of my ability to remember. 

Signed, Hilda Wohlgemuth Liebman

December 19, 1958

Family Story:

Comments

Dan,

Your jackpot of findings in the Landsarchiv is truly amazing and a great gift to all of us! The part about Herman Ringel's two companies is fascinating, but I agree with you that it indeed sounds like Wassereich fits the profile of the younger scoundrel who cleaned out the company funds. Thanks to you we now know that  he apparently fled to Uruguay. I agree with you that its a mystery as to why Ogi and Hilda focused on getting restitution from Betty Katz's lost fortune and not from the assets the Nazis grabbed while closing down the two Ringel businesses. Perhaps Elly and Hilda filed a separate restitution claim on the two businesses that you havent come across yet? Particularly chilling was that police notation that the whereabouts of Frau Ringel are unknown because "she left the apartment without supervision." Thank God she did that! And by the way, why wasnt Elli able to claim restituion from the German government for the apartment she was forced to abandon? Do we know how much she or Hilda actually received in restitution? We know that Elly received a monthly check from the Germans from the late 50's until her death in 1981 that allowed her to live significantly better than she would have otherwise been able, but was that a standard payment that the German government sent to all German Jews forced to flee for their lives in the 1930's and abandon their properties and or businesses in the process, or were those payments specifically for Betty Katz's lost money and or for Hermann's liquidated businesses? Do you know that yet?

Hilda's affadavit is fascinating and deeply moving for me. What jumped out to me as "news" was that Betty Katz WAS trying to get out of Germany and had purchased a Cuban visa. I am assuming she must have done that during the 11 months between when Elli and Helga fled the country in September or early October of 1938 and the beginning of World War II on September 1, 1939. The beginning of the war, which obviously sealed the German border and made travel to Cuba all but impossible, must have felt like a death sentence to Betty. Unless, she still had hope of being smuggled out to a neutral country--especially Switzerland... 

I specifically remember Helga saying often that Betty declined to flee with them in 1938, saying that she was a German despite everything that had happened and would never leave. Hopefully the Hitler madness would pass and if not, she would go to her fate. So, did she change her mind shortly after they left? I suspect the horror of Kristallnacht on November 10, 1938; a full scale nationwide government intiaited pogrom against the Jews in which synagogues were burned across Germany, hundreds of Jews murdered and 30,000 arrested and sent to camps, must have caused her to reconsider. Do we have a date for when she received that Cuban visa in her passport? I wonder how far along the process of trying to get out she got, and whether she abandoned hope after then ourbreak of war, or did she believe it was still possible to somehow be smuggled out? In 1940, As you know, Betty was able to smuggle $20,000 to Elli and Helga to Nice, which they used to buy the Ecuadorian and Curacao visas which made it possible for them to escape to Portugal. By that point, she may have given up all hope of saving herself and have focused on helping to save her daughter and granddaughter in occuoied France. In any case, reading Hilda's affadvait helped me to connect with her emotionally and feel her quiet desperate heroism as all the secape hatches closed, in a way I never have before. Very powerful, Dan! Keep up the amazing detective work. Great you'll be able to see the Wohlgamuth house in Danzig as well...            

 

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