Wohlgemuths of Berlin

Why did the Wohlgemuths leave Danzig?

In all our writings so far, it has been said that the Wohlgemuth family relocated to Berlin from Danzig during or more likely after the First World War in order to find better prospects for their marriageable daughters Elly and Hilde. That's a nice story and no doubt partly true, but there were very likely other factors motivating the family's move. 

[By the way, I am spelling Hilde with an 'e' instead of the 'a' she used later because that is how I find her listed in some original records.]

Danzig was a cosmopolitan German city in Isaak Wohlgemuth's day. The city's considerable Jewish community tended toward assimilation with the German state. The leading synagogues and community leaders were liberal. Zionism took hold slowly and was rejected by most Danzig Jews in the early years. Also, eastern Jews from Russia were discouraged both by German law and the attitudes of German Jews from settling in Danzig. 

Families like the Wohlgemuths were prospering in business. They retained their Jewish identity but sought to fit in with the dominant Christian society. Danzig Jews volunteered patriotically for the Great War. [There are a number of Wohlgemuths on German WWI casualty lists, but I have not yet connected them to our family.]

The photo is not of the Wohlgemuths but of prominent Danzig businessman Franz Boss and his family, out for a Sunday stroll in pre-WWI Danzig. 

In 1920, under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Danzig became a semi-autonomous city-state called the Free City of Danzig, created as a buffer between the reduced German republic and a new Polish nation. The city became a free trading zone and a point of embarkation for transit to the west. Tens of thousands of Polish and Russian Jews passed through the city on the way to England and America, and Danzig's own Jewish community swelled with the addition of eastern, orthodox, Zionist Jews who could now freely settle in the city. 

It must have come as a unwelcome change for long-time Jewish residents of Danzig. Our grandmother Elly grew up as a Jewish Danziger, perhaps until age 19 or 20. Possibly we can see here the formation of some of the attitudes she later projected: her disdain for östjuden and her disinterest in Zionism. 

Perhaps we also see here the real reason that Isaak Wohleguth pulled up stakes from the rapidly changing Danzig to a place, Berlin, where a more civilized and cosmopolitan Jewish lifestyle was practiced. If so, that explains why the Wohlgemuths chose to permanently leave their native city at the very time Danzig's Jewish population was dramatically on the rise.

Three Wohlgemuth generations

Betty Katz Wohlgemuth, Helga Ringel, Elly Wohlgemuth Ringel

Joanne discovers Betty at Weißensee

From Joanne in Berlin:

I  just dizzy with joy. I was looking for the Wohlgemuth plot but the area was much overgrown. Then it just popped out suddenly, Isaak's stone and Betty there with him. She did not perish in a camp but is buried with her spouse, like mom and dad with a vertical stone. I guess we didn't find the Wohlgemuth stone the last time we visited, or else my memory is gone.

 

Big rush now. Off to the Jewish Museum and then Shabbat services at Hermann's shul. Also have to clean the apartment and pack.

Was Bette deported?

I also re-read mom's story and saw that it was the German Red Cross who notified them of Bette's capture by the Gestapo. When I Google about it, I end up at the archives of the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, which is the international center for documentation of Nazi war crimes. Here's the link: https://www.its-arolsen.org/en/archives/

The archive is not in Berlin but there are several memorials to the deportaion of Berlin Jews, besides the Stolper stones that are everyone. I may try to go to the actual deportation office today after visiting Weissensee. — Joanne
 

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