Ruby Family History Project Blog

Weißensee Cemetery

She was buried at Weißensee by the still functioning Berlin Jewish community, which also took charge of any assets she had remaining. We don’t know if her name and dates were added to the headstone at that time or, according to Jewish custom, a year later. We also don’t know what her daughter Elly or even our mother Helga knew for sure about Betty’s end. 

Growing up, we three children had the general sense that Betty was a concentration camp victim. We have no information that she was ever in contact with Elly again after sending the money to Nice, even though Elly and Helga finally reached America about nine months before Betty’s death. 

Elly returned to Germany many times from the 1950s through the 1970s, though more ofter to enjoy Alpine resorts than to return to the city of her married years. I don’t know for sure that she ever went back to Berlin, but if she did and wanted to visit her husband’s and parents’ graves, she would have needed special permission to cross into the Eastern Zone in order to visit Weißensee. 

My mother, who always resisted going back to Germany, finally did in the 1980s. That was still a few years before the fall of the wall, and I believe she probably did not go to the cemetery, so it is possible that she and my grandmother never knew that Betty was thankfully buried alongside her husband.

Destruction and renewal

Helga's cousin Margot Shattner perished in Belgrade

Not all the family members mentioned here were as lucky as Betty. Hermann’s sister Rosa and her lovely daughter Margot were among the Jewish women and children of Belgrade who in early 1942 were rounded up and confined at Semlin concentration camp, then gassed to death in mobile vans. Fortunately, Roza’s boy Wolfie escaped that fate. Under his new name, Ze’ev Sharon, he worked with his pioneer group on the docks in Haifa, helped to found an important Israeli kibbutz, and passed on his Ringel genealogy to a large and growing family in the Jewish homeland. He passed away in 2009 at age 92.

In one way, the Wohlgemuth gravestone (and also a Ringel one that we have not yet tracked down) represent the end of the story for Helga’s German family, and for the culture and ideals they represented. Yet when we return to Berlin in 2016 we find Helga’s childhood apartment building beautifully restored. We find Hermann’s orthodox synagogue still holding services a few blocks away. Of course, there’s the cemetery in Weißensee, where not only the Wohlgemuths but also Hermann Ringel is laid to rest. 

The rebirth of Jewish life in Berlin is fed in part by Jewish repatriates from the U.S. and Israel, as well as by far greater numbers from former Soviet republics. Today’s German culture is more eclectic, vibrant, and contradictory than the world that our forebears inhabited. However, among all that modernity, it is satisfying to know that currents of cultural history represented by German-Jewish families like the Wohlgemuths and Ringels are still a part of the mix. 

This is the end of the article.

Hermann Ringel’s partner is identified

A couple of years ago, I found the names of two clothing businesses owned by our grandfather Hermann Ringel listed in a database of Jewish businesses expropriated by the Nazis. One was his own outerwear manufacturing company, Hermann Ringel & Co. The other, an export-import menswear wholesaler, was co-owned with a partner. The database gave us something we hadn’t known—the name of the wholesale business.

The company was Reichenthal & Ringel, with addresses in the heart of the Scheunenviertal, first on the Spandauer Bridge and then at Schönhauser Allee 8. We never knew much about this partner, except for his own treacherous act of stealing the money Hermann had set aside to get his family out of Germany. Walter recorded our mother Helga’s account of the thievery in his Ruby Family Histories.

But we never had a name for the partner who took Hermann’s money after he died in 1938, and nearly scuttled the desperate escape of Hermann’s widow and daughter. The database told us his name was Reichenthal, but I had not tried to identify him precisely. 

Today, in compiling a list of Berlin addresses associated with Hermann Ringel, I looked for the first time for a telephone directory listing for Reichenthal & Ringel. I found several listings, dating back to 1921. In each case the business listing was associated with a residential listing for Isser Reichenthal.

So now we have the full name of the man who helped to establish Hermann in business, but who betrayed him in the end when it was a matter of life and death. I’ll be looking further into the life and postwar fate of Isser Reichenthal during my upcoming trip to Berlin.

Family Story:

Upcoming trip to Berlin, Warsaw and Gdansk

I’m getting ready for a journey of discovery to Germany and Poland coming up in a few weeks. Here is the itinerary.

I will have 10 days in my mother’s birthplace, Berlin, with hopes to uncover more information about her family’s life before and during the Nazi persecutions. The top items on my research agenda are learning more about the Nazi expropriation of my grandfather’s clothing business and learning the cause of death of my great grandmother’s death in 1942.

Then I’ll attend the annual Jewish genealology conference, held this year in Warsaw for the first time in Eastern Europe. I have a magazine assignment to blog about the conference, part of an article package about Ashkenazi genealogy. I’ve been to two IAJGS conferences before, and have made great strides forward as a result of the people I have met and the knowledge gleaned. I expect all that and more at the Warsaw conference.

For an add-on adventure after the conference I had several options in Poland and Belarus. I decided to go to the former West Prussian region when one side of my Berlin family, the Wohlgemuths, originated. I’ll go first to Starogard Gdanski (at one time, Preussich Stargardt), where the family resided for most of the 19th century. Then I will have two ads in Gdansk, formerly Danzig, where Isaac and Julius Wohlgemuth prospered in the hauling business.

I hope to be blogging regularly with updates before and during the trip. The magazine has asked me for some video blog items, so I am going to try out that format as well.

Family Story:

Wohlgemuth family left Danzig in 1911-12

This post was written as an email on September 24, 2016, but was not previously posted to Family History Machine.

I looked at more of the directories and found that the Julius Wohlgemuth (Fa.) limited-liability freight and moving company is listed by that name but under new ownership, Regehr & Drabandt, beginning in 1912. Later it was owned solely by Peter Regehr and it continued in business at the same address and phone number all the way to the last available directory in 1942. 

Throughout most of those years, there is an advertisement displayed for the business in addition to its standard listing. The attachment shows the display ad.

It is interesting that the company name was apparently important to the new owners. Instead of rebranding as Regehr and Drabandt, they were buying a going concern with a name, reputation, customer relationships, etc. By the 1930s, the name must have sounded vaguely Jewish but not definitively so, since there were also Christian Wohlgemuths.

For our family history, what this means is we can now place the relocation of the family to Berlin before World War I instead of after. There are no more residential listings for Isaak after 1911. Julius continued to have a residential address in Danzig until 1915 but not after.

As for when the family came to Danzig from Elbing, The directory files listed for 1905 and earlier won't open for me—some technical problem. So whether it is 1902 or up to 1906 we still don't know.

No responses necessary unless you want to. Writing these emails is my blogging process. Later I post them on the site.

Family Story:

The Wohlgemuths *were* in the moving business in Danzig

This post was written September 24, 2016 but was not published (with minor edits) on Family History Machine until today. 

I have been skeptical for several reasons of the detail from Walter's "Helga's Story" that Elly's father Isaak had been in the moving business in Danzig before moving to Berline. For one, Isaak's profession is given as "mill owner" on his 1898 marriage certificate. Also, it didn't make sense he was anti-Ostjuden, as we've been told, since they would have been a big part of a mover's clientele in Danzig as they came through the city on the way to the west. 

Also, there has been this lingering question about just who was Julius Wohlgemuth, whom we originally believed was Elly's father. 

I have just discovered a trove of address books from Danzig at many-roads.com that answers both questions. So far I looked only at 1907 but immediately hit paydirt. Attached are images of the Wohlgemuth listings in the 1907 address books. 

Both Isaak and Julius are listed as co-owners ("Mitinhaber") of the firm Julius Wohlgemuth, which is called a "carrier" ("Spediteur") and provides "furniture transport, residential and office." The business address is on a major Danzig street, Poggenpfuhl Straße. Julius's listing shows a graphic image for a telephone. His telephone number is 611. 

Clearly, Julius is the older brother of Isaak and the senior partner in the business since it uses his name and the business listing is given under Julius. 

I thought you'd want to hear about this development right away. I've been holding back on further news of the Katz family. Betty's father Louis was born not in Kolberg but the East Prussian town of Heilberg (now Linzbark Warminski in Poland). His parents were Hirsch Levin Katz and Taube Conrad. 

Family Story:

Betty Katz Wohlgemuth record in a Nazi card file

The Nazis kept a card file of German Jews called Reichsvereinigung der Judes in Deutschland. Here is the index card record of the death of Betty Wohlgemuth in February 1942. It includes her given, maiden and married names, and dates of birth and death. I don't believe there is any notation of the cause of death. In any case, there will be one less Jew to deport to Theresienstadt. 

Family Story:

Julius Wohlgemuth death certificate

I will give a full translation later. 

Family Story:

Leopold Wohlgemuth went to Brazil

Having updated Ancestry with the name of Julius Wohlgemuth's son, I next ran a search on Leopold Meyer Wohlgemuth. The first hit was definitive. 

He received a immigration permit from the United States of Brazil in September of 1960. The permit was issued at Brazil's consulate in Beunos Aires, suggesting that Wohlgemuth had been living in Argentina before that. His nationality is listed as German; perhaps he has already reclaimed German citizenship under the post-War administration.

It is definitely our relative because his birth date and location are right, as are the names of his mother and father. His professional is listed as merchant. He has no wife or children

I wonder what kind of life he made for himself in Brazil. I will dig deeper to see what else I can learn. Meanwhile, it is thrilling to look at the picture of Elly's first cousin as he begins life in 1960 as a Brazilian immigrant.  

Family Story:

New Wohlgemuth discoveries

If I travel to Germany and Poland this summer, one of the subjects of interest will be the history of the Wohlgemuth family in Starogard, Danzig (Gdansk), and Berlin. I am plotting an itinerary that would give me two days in Gdansk including a sidetrip to nearby Starogard Gdansk, from where the Wohlgemuths originally came. One question that I had was the address of the moving company that the two Wohlgemuth brothers, Julius and Isaak, operated in Danzig. 

I knew I had that info in my files at home, contained in several Danzig telephone directory listings that I saved some time ago. But I was away from home just on my mobile and I tapped in Wohlgemuth to the Danzig Database on JewishGen. I don't think I had ever seen these results before. 

Name
(Maiden Name)
Record Type
Date
Age
Father
Mother
Residence Community
Source
Leopold Meyer 
24-AUG-1910 
Julius WOHLGEMUTH 
Rosa SITTENFELDT 
Poggenpfuhl 73 [Poggenpfuhl73]  Danzig 
FHL 1184407/2, p 33, l 258, r 3336 
Hilde 
30-JAN-1906 
Isaak WOHLGEMUTH 
Betty KATZ 
Abbeggasse 1 a [Abbegg1a]  Danzig 
FHL 1184407/2, p 08, l 57, r 534 

The second one is Aunt Hilda's birth record, showing the names of her parents, Isaak and Betty Wohlgemuth, and their address, as well as a record locator/identifier. The first one gives the name of a wife and son of Isaak's brother and business partner Julius Wohlgemuth. Previous to this, we have not had any information about Julius' family. 

I got home and checked the old phone directory images. Yes! Both the business location and Julius' residence were at the same address at Poggenpfuhl 73, right in the heart of the commercial district near to the wharves. Today Poggenpfuhl is called Zabi Kruk, and it remains a busy thoroughfare. Abbeggasse has been harder so far to place. There were several Jewish neighborhoods in 1910 Danzig were Isaak's family might have lived. I'll keep working to locate that address. 

So then I popped over to Ancestry in order to update my tree with the new names. I navigated to Julius and noticed there was a new Ancestry hint (leaf) showing for him. Many times these don't check out but I clicked and was immediately shown a February 1912 death certificate from Stettin, Prussia. My German is getting better and I could read the names of his parents and wife on the document. I'll post it in a separate file so it doesn't take up too much space here.

It is too bad that Julius died young, age 41, leaving a widow and young child. The place of death is interesting, Stettin being another Prussian commercial center. Perhaps he died there while on business. It also helps to explain why the moving company in Danzig was sold to a German buyer the following year, and that was when Isaak moved his family to Berlin.

Quite possibly, the widow Rosa Wohlgemuth and her young son Leo also went to Berlin at that time. One of the Wohlgemuth gravesites at the Weissensee Cemetery in Berlin is for Rosa Wohlgemuth, and we were never sure who that was. Now we know it was Julius's widow. And what became of young Leopold Wohlgemuth? Read on in the next post. 

Family Story:

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