The Ringels in Berlin—the Nazi years

The Ringel family endured Nazi persecutions in the 1930s leading up to Hermann's sudden death in July 1938 on the eve of his family's planned flight from Germany. In October, Elly and Helga escaped the country, leaving behind their German legacy. The Nazi authorities seized and sold the assets of the Hermann Ringel Co. 

Margot Shattner in the Yad Vashem victims database

Yesterday, I mentioned searching for Betty Katz in the Yad Vashem Names Database, which is a consolidated collection of all information about Holocaust victims. I did find several entries that were close (a Betty Katz from Berlin with with the right birth year, for example) but they did not match up on other details (our Betty should be Wohlgemuth and the birth location and exact date were wrong). 

Today I reread "Helga's Story" from the Ruby Family History and came upon references to Ze'ev Sharon's younger sister, Margot Shattner, having been killed by the Nazis in Yugoslavia. I looked for her in the Names database and she immediately came up in four records. Two are personal testimony forms, one by Ze'ev and another by a Shattner cousin named Artur Hendel. She is also on the list of Jewish victims from the Memorial book "Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 - 1945" prepared by the German Federal Archives. 

See for yourself by following the link. Click on the gray triangle to the left of each entry to see the detail. Click on the pointer icons to the right for Google maps with Margot's locations shown.

http://yvng.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&s_lastName=Shatner&s_firstName=Margot&s_place=

Elly Ringel listed in new Holocaust database of revoked citizenship and property seizures

A couple of days ago, I stumbled on this new Elly Ringel citation in the JewishGen Holocaust database. What do we learn from the database record? What is the source of the record and how did it recently show up on JewishGen?

First, the information itself. Besides the correct information listed for maiden name, gender, birth date and birthplace, the listing tells us her last residences were Berlin and Basel, and her "status" was "Reichsfluchtsteuer." The latter translates as "federal emigration tax."

To learn more about the term, here is the introduction to a comprehensive Wikipedia article about the history of the tax under German law.

The Reich Flight Tax (GermanReichsfluchtsteuer) was a capital control law implemented in order to stem capital flight from the Weimar Republic. The law was created through decree on 8 December 1931 by Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg. The Reich Flight Tax was assessed upon departure from the individual's German domicile, provided that the individual had assets exceeding 200,000 Reichsmark (ℛℳ) or had a yearly income over 20,000 ℛℳ. The tax rate was set at 25 percent. In 1931, the Reichsmark was fixed at an exchange rate of 4.2 ℛℳ per USD; 200,000 ℛℳ was equivalent to $47,600 USD (equivalent to $800,000 in 2019).

During the Third Reich, the use of the Reich Flight Tax shifted away from dissuading wealthy citizens from moving overseas and was instead used as a form of "legalized theft" to confiscate Jewish assets. The departure of Jewish citizens was desired and permitted by the Nazi government – even after the Invasion of Poland – until a decree from Heinrich Himmler forbade Jewish emigration on 23 October 1941. The tax was used as a "partial expropriation"[1]:12 to seize the assets of Jewish refugees who were persecuted and driven to flee their homeland.

Okay, it looks like our grandmother's citizenship was revoked for non-payment of the Reich Flight Tax. That is consistent with what we know of Elly's departure with Helga from Berlin in the months following Hermann Ringel's death in July 1938. However, it is significant to know that her flight was observed and recorded in an official government record. 

What about Basel? I want for Walter to weigh in on this. We know that reaching Switzerland offered a possible escape route for German Jews. We've heard about Elly and our family members attempting to get there via Lyon, France, in 1940, before encountering a Gestapo agent who was tracking them and caused them to change escape destinations. Could this Basel reference relate to that? Walter?

That is what we can read from the JewishGen database record itself. But what is the original source of the information and how did it just become available in a JewishGen search? I'll answer in the next post.

 

Elly Ringel whereabouts were tracked by the Charlottenburg finance office

To find out more about the Elly Ringel database listing, we click on the link behind the database title. Revoked German Citizenship and Property Seizures 1933-1945

Beginning in 1933, the German Government revoked German citizenship for tens of thousands of German Jews as well as persons seen as political opponents, e.g. communists.  This affected not only persons resident in Germany, but also persons who had left Germany and were resident in other countries.  It took similar action against persons resident in parts of Czechoslovakia which had been annexed.  Less well known was the revocation of business licenses or even seizure of firms which had been owned by Jews or political opponents.  These public actions, totaling nearly 90,000 names of persons and firms, mixed together, were regularly published in the Reichsanzeiger, the German equivalent of the Federal Registry.

In 1985 a compilation of the citizenship revocations was published in book form by K.G. Saur, Die Ausbürgerung deutscher Staatsangehoriger 1933-1945.  (The Expatriation of German Citizens, 1933-1945).  However, persons resident outside Germany as well as firms whose names/assets had been seized were not included. The nature/location of property/assets which had been seized was not identified. 

The complete compilation, i.e. all names of individuals, companies and organizations, was prepared by Herbert Birett, a German researcher. The spreadsheet from his original work can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y7w4ue6j

So this researcher Herbert Birett compiled a spreadsheet of 90,000 notices of citizenship revocation and property seizure published in the official newspaper of the German Reich. I followed the link to view Birett's original spreadsheet and searched through it to find the Elly Ringel record. Birett's full data is displayed in the image, and we find additional information here that did not make it into the JewishGen indexed version. 

Number 1 is the source and it is identified by a source ID number. Number 3 reads "grounds for pursuit (persecution)" and is designated on all 90,00 records as either U or J. I don't know the meaning of the designations. Elly is listed as U. 

Some of the numbered fields are not shown in my snapshot. That's because they were blank in the Birett spreadsheet. Next we see Elly's full name and maiden name, her gender, birthplace and birthdate. At number 9 we see the anomaly about Basel that needs investigation. Number 13 says she is a widow. The labels in 18 and 19 means simply Column D and E. Number 18 has a date of October 10, 1938 and a number, 4222, whose meaning eludes me. Number 19 gives the what seems to be the source of the information in the report. It is the Finanz Amt - Berlin Charlottenburg East. That is the finance office in the section of Berlin where the Ringels resided. 

The date is interesting. It is possibly the date of publication, or it could be a last known date of residence. Either way, it may move our understanding of their departure date to weeks later than we have earlier believed. We will very likely learn more on this when we examine the Landesarchiv Ringel file scans. For now, it is a revelation that Elly's whereabouts were closely watched by the government tax office, and that her citizenship was officially revoked after her flight for nonpayment of taxes.

Now one more matter. Why did this record show up for the first time online just in the last few weeks. Read on.

The Reichsanzeiger listings with Elly's record were posted just two weeks ago

JewishGen.org does yeoman work in making available data sets of vital and historical records to genealogy enthusiasts like me. As much as has already been indexed and put online, there are dozens of ongoing indexing projects that provide a continuous influx of new content into the JewishGen databases. The projects are rigorous in their sourcing and verification of data before any new assets are posted to the JewishGen databases. This is a necessary requirement to eliminate errors and ensure quality control in the databases, but it works to slow the production and availability of new content. 

I know a little about this from my work with the JewishGen Danzing Special Interest Group, where I'm involved in an indexing project for 40 years of civic vital records. Each registry volume of about 200 records in old German script is examined by two independent indexers. Only when their data is in agreement is it considered verified. It is painstaking work, and it has taken our small group several years to post our first tranche of data. 

JewishGen's Holocaust Database Project has a team of up to 100 group leaders, transcribers and validators led by project leader Nolan Altman. That's the group that this month updated the JewishGen Holocaust database with the 90,000 records from the Herbert Beritt spreadsheet. This includes a list previously published in book form (but not available online) and other records collected by Beritt, including Elly Ringel's, that have never previously been compiled in any form. 

On August 13, 2020, JewishGen announced the publication in a press release. Read it below. And thank you to the JewishGen for bringing so much quality information to researchers like me.

New Holocaust Database Set: Revoked Citizenship and Property Seizures, 1933-1945

by Nolan Altman, Director of Special Projects – Holocaust Database

JewishGen is pleased to announce that a significant data set, Reichsanzeiger – Revoked Citizenship and Property Seizures 1933-1945, has been added to the Holocaust Database.

Beginning in 1933, the German Government revoked German citizenship for tens of thousands of German Jews as well as persons seen as political opponents, e.g. communists.  This affected not only persons resident in Germany, but also persons who had left Germany and were resident in other countries.  It took similar action against persons resident in parts of Czechoslovakia which had been annexed.  Less well known was the revocation of business licenses or even seizure of firms which had been owned by Jews or political opponents.  These public actions, totaling nearly 90,000 names of persons and firms, mixed together, were regularly published in the Reichsanzeiger, the German equivalent of the Federal Registry.

 In 1985, a compilation of the citizenship revocations was published in book form by K.G. Saur, Die Ausbürgerung deutscher Staatsangehoriger 1933-1945 (The Expatriation of German Citizens, 1933-1945).  However, persons resident outside Germany, as well as firms whose names/assets had been seized, were not included. The nature/location of property/assets which had been seized was not identified. 

The information contained in this database came from Herbert Birett, a German researcher. The original data can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y7w4ue6j. Reformatting was done by JewishGen volunteers. 

To learn more about this data set, please see: https://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/RevokedGermanCitizenship.html

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