The Wohlgemuths in Berlin

The good times in Berlin

Isaak took this opportunity to move his family once again, this time to the cultured capital city of the one-time German Empire. He was forty-eight in 1914 and most likely didn’t serve in the Great War. Most Jewish men of age from Isaak’s class and background proudly did their service. Some paid the ultimate price, including several Wohlgemuths from West Prussia who are found on German casualty lists. 

The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 altered the map. Prussian territories including West Prussia were ceded to Poland, and Danzig was made an autonomous “free city.” For the Wohlgemuths in postwar, early Weimar Berlin, life was beset by inflation and political unrest, but Isaak and Betty nevertheless found Berlin to be a more congenial locale for their style of cosmopolitan Jewishness. They lived in the suburb of Weißensee. As their two daughters came of age, there was no shortage of eligible suitors.

A match was made for Elly with a handsome Jewish war veteran, Hermann Ringel, who was fifteen years her senior. Hermann was already successful in business as a wholesaler of ready-made outerwear for men and boys. He also ran a separate import-export clothing business together with a partner.

Hermann and Elly lived at first in Weißensee and later moved to the fashionable Charlottenburg neighborhood. They enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle even though their marriage was not an entirely happy one. Their only child, whom they named Helga Fanny Ringel, was born at Empress Auguste Victoria Hospital in Charlottenburg on October 20, 1924. Elly’s sister Hilde, who was six years younger, later married another eligible Jewish businessman, Herbert Peiser, and little Helga was a flower girl at the wedding.

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

Video: A surprise on the Woelckpromenade

Video: At Weissensee, graves in the overgrowth

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