Saturday, February 18, 2023

The German Forger: The Story of Berthold Bodenheimer in Australia

The following expanded details in newspaper style writing are my first attempt at historical fiction based on true events and facts. I just today uncovered a man who was arrested in Australia in 1880 who shares my last name. I haven't figured out exactly how he fits into the family tree yet, but he's certainly the first criminal mug shot photo that I've run into so far. And so I've caught my first criminal, and to mark the occasion, I'm going to enjoy what follows!


SYDNEY, 12 November 1876 - Yesterday marked an important milestone in the history of communication between our two great nations. The laying of the first submarine telegraph cable between Australia and New Zealand has been successfully completed after months of hard work and perseverance.

The telegraph cable, measuring a total of 1,861 nautical miles, was laid between Sydney and Auckland, and marks a significant improvement in communication between the two countries. Previously, messages had to be transmitted by ship, which could take weeks.

The project was spearheaded by the Australian and New Zealand Telegraph Company, and involved the laying of cable by the cable ship Hibernia, which left Sydney on July 8th and has been working on the project ever since.

The cable is expected to provide a reliable and fast communication link between the two countries, with messages now able to be transmitted in a matter of hours. It is hoped that this will facilitate trade and commerce between the two countries, as well as improving social and political ties.

The laying of this cable is a testament to the great strides being made in the field of telecommunications, and we can only imagine what future advancements will be made in the years to come.

Reminder, this is historical fiction from these facts

Australian Town and Country Journal, 12 Feb 1876


SYDNEY, 18 March 1879 - The British passenger ship, John Elder, arrived in Sydney Harbor on Tuesday afternoon, March 18th, 1879, to the cheers of crowds gathered to welcome the ship's passengers and crew. The vessel, commanded by Captain A.J. Cooper, had left Plymouth on January 30th and made several stops on the way, including Gibraltar, Port Said and Diego Garcia, before finally reaching Australia at port Adelaide.

The ship's journey was a testament to the incredible advancements in technology and transportation that are transforming the world at this time, keeping in constant contact and relaying news via telegraph and going via the Orient route through the Suez Canal.

The John Elder carried a wide range of goods and supplies, including textiles, newsprint, and other items. Among the passengers on board was Berthold Bodenheimer, a young German clerk who had traveled to Australia in search of a new life.

Despite the long journey, passengers and crew members alike were in high spirits, eager to start their new lives in this exciting new land. The arrival of the ship marks an important moment in the country's history, as it will help to shape the culture and character of Australia in the years to come.

Reminder, this is historical fiction from these facts: 

1882 story detailing a similar voyage of the John Elder


SYDNEY, 5 February 1880 - A daring robbery has been reported to the police by the German Commissioner, Eugene Kunze, of No. 221 Macquarie Street. The theft occurred on 28th January 1880, when a certain Mr. Berthold Bodenheimer, a recently arrived Jewish-German, allegedly stole a New South Wales Post Office Savings Bank Book and a receipt for £29, as well as three £5 notes, five £1 notes, and £8 in gold from Mr. Kunze.

The suspect, who is believed to have fled to New Zealand, is described as 20 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a medium build, dark complexion, short dark hair, and a small dark mustache. He speaks both German and English and was last seen wearing a gray tweed suit and a gray mushroom hat.

The police have issued a warrant for Bodenheimer's arrest, and the Water Police Bench is seeking the public's help in locating him. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is urged to come forward and assist the authorities in apprehending the culprit.

Reminder, this is historical fiction from these facts: 

New South Wales, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1854-1930

New South Wales, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1854-1930


AUCKLAND, 4 March 1880 - The alleged perpetrator of a daring robbery in Sydney has been apprehended in Auckland, New Zealand. Mr. Berthold Bodenheimer, a recently arrived Jewish-German who is accused of stealing a Post Office Savings Bank Book and cash worth £29 from German Commissioner Eugene Kunze, was arrested by the local police on 2 March 1880.

Bodenheimer, who had fled Australia aboard the steamship "Arawata" bound for San Francisco, was tracked down by the Auckland police thanks to a telegraph tip-off from their Australian counterparts. The suspect, who speaks both German and English, was taken into custody without incident and is now awaiting extradition to Sydney to face trial for his alleged crimes.

The Auckland police have commended their Australian counterparts for their swift and effective communication in alerting them to the suspect and ensuring that justice is served. 

Detective John Boyland, the head of the NSW Police investigation into the robbery, expressed astonishment at the power of modern technology, stating, "It's truly incredible to think that if Bodenheimer had committed this crime just four years ago, he would have successfully evaded capture." Noting that the recently laid telegraph line between New South Wales and New Zealand in 1876 played a key role in apprehending the suspect.

Reminder, this is historical fiction from these facts: 

New South Wales, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1854-1930


SYDNEY, 9 March 1880 - Berthold Bodenheimer, the suspect in the recent daring robbery, was taken into custody today by New South Wales Police Detective John Boyland. After weeks of investigation, Detective Boyland led a team of police officers to arrest Bodenheimer aboard the SS Hero at Circular Quay. The suspect had been detained in Auckland, New Zealand, on charges of fraud, and was being transferred back to Sydney to face charges of robbery.

Bodenheimer was escorted by the Auckland Police to the ship's dock where Detective Boyland and his team took him into custody. The exchange was brief, and Bodenheimer was taken to Gaol Darlinghurst, where he will be held until his trial on April 5th.

Detective Boyland, who led the investigation into the robbery, expressed satisfaction in capturing the suspect, stating, "The reach of modern technology knows no bounds, and it was the telegraph that led to Bodenheimer's undoing. Thanks to the newly laid submarine cable between New Zealand and Australia, we were able to alert our colleagues in Auckland and apprehend the suspect before he could flee the country. This is a clear example of the power of technology in the fight against crime."

Bodenheimer, who has been described by police as a clever and resourceful criminal, is expected to face a lengthy sentence if found guilty. The trial is set to begin on April 5th, and the people of Sydney will be closely following the proceedings.

Reminder, this is historical fiction from these facts: 
New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922

New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930


SYDNEY 5 April 1880 - The trial of Berthold Bodenheimer, a Jewish-German who was charged with three counts of forgery and one count of larceny, was held today at the Quarter Sessions Court in Sydney. Bodenheimer had pleaded guilty to all charges.

The charges related to the theft of a New South Wales Post Office Savings Bank book and £29 cash from the German Commissioner, Eugene Kunze, in January of this year. Bodenheimer was accused of altering and uttering three cheques with the intent to defraud, as well as stealing the bank book, receipt, and cash items.

During the trial, it was revealed that Bodenheimer had stolen the bank book in order to write forged cheques from it, using a stolen receipt as a guide to copying Mr. Kunze’s signature and handwriting. The police were able to track him down in New Zealand, where he was arrested and extradited back to Australia to stand trial.

Despite his English proficiency, Berthold Bodenheimer had an interpreter, Walter Schlentke, present during his trial to ensure that he fully understood the complexities of the legal proceedings and nuances of the trial.

At the sentencing hearing, the judge noted that Bodenheimer had only pleaded guilty to the charges to avoid a more severe punishment. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labor for each of the forgery charges and 12 months for the larceny charge, to be served concurrently.

The judge stated that the severity of the sentence was necessary to send a clear message to others who might consider similar actions. He also expressed hope that Bodenheimer would use his time in prison to reflect on his choices and make amends for his wrongdoing.

Bodenheimer was led away in handcuffs following the sentencing and is expected to serve out his sentence at Gaol Darlinghurst.

Reminder, this is historical fiction from these facts: 
New South Wales, Australia, Criminal Court Records, 1830-1945


SYDNEY, 6 May 1880 - Berthold Bodenheimer, the accused perpetrator of a daring robbery who has been serving time at Gaol Darlinghurst, has been transferred to Gaol Parramatta. Bodenheimer had been held at Darlinghurst since March 9th, going through his trial and sentencing. He had been subjected to hard labour as part of his sentence, which is no longer a part of his confinement after the transfer. The conditions at Parramatta are considered to be better than those at Darlinghurst, and Bodenheimer is expected to receive more lenient treatment from the guards. His legal team is hopeful that his remittance could be expedited under the improved conditions.

The story of Bodenheimer's daring theft and subsequent capture has captured the attention of many in Sydney and beyond. Some have expressed sympathy for the young German clerk, while others have praised the swift actions of the police in bringing him to justice. Regardless of one's opinion on the matter, there is no denying that Bodenheimer's story is one that will be remembered for years to come.

Reminder, this is historical fiction from these facts: 
New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930


SYDNEY, 6 July 1881 - After serving a sentence of more than a year at Parramatta Gaol, Berthold Bodenheimer was released from custody today. Bodenheimer, a German national, was arrested and charged with forgery and larceny in March 1880. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to three years hard labor for each charge of forgery, and 12 months for the charge of larceny. All four sentences were to be carried out concurrently.

Bodenheimer's case drew considerable attention due to the audacious nature of the crimes he committed. He had fraudulently altered and uttered three cheques with the intent to defraud, and had stolen the bank book, receipt, and cash items. He had stolen the bank book in order to write forged cheques from it, using a stolen receipt as a guide to copying Mr. Kunze's signature and handwriting.

Despite his sentence, Bodenheimer has expressed regret for his actions and a desire to start anew. In a statement to the press upon his release, he said, "I have learned from my mistakes and I am grateful for the opportunity to make amends. My time in prison has given me a chance to reflect on my actions and make a plan for my future. I hope to prove myself a worthy man and build a new life for myself. I plan to work hard and save money, so that one day I can return to Germany and start a family. I will do everything in my power to ensure that I never again find myself on the wrong side of the law."

Bodenheimer's release marks the end of a chapter in his life and the beginning of a new one. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to turn his life around and make a fresh start, but he is determined to try. For now, he is just happy to be out of prison and eager to begin the next chapter of his life.

Reminder, this is historical fiction from these facts: 
New South Wales, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1854-1930

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Francis Wolff, Blue Note Jazz Photographer and Cousin

Many years ago I tracked down a 2nd cousin of my Father's who is related via the WOLFF family of Berlin and Posen.  He had some amazing photos to share, and he asked if we were somehow related to the famous Francis Wolff, one of the original founders of Blue Note records and the photographer who took all those iconic black and white portraits of the New York Jazz age.  

Well, I have to admit I had no idea, and at the time I didn't find anything to connect us. So, I dropped it. For the time being.  

The Wolff Family

My 2nd great grandfather Emanuel Wolff was in the petroleum business with his brother Gustav in Berlin.  They were close. In fact, the two Wolff brothers from Posen married two Wolff sisters from Schroda (not related). They both had four children, and their signatures are witnesses to the marriages as the next generation came of age in Berlin. 

Brothers WOLFF married Sisters WOLFF

Because of the double marriage, my great grandmother Marie was a double-cousin of Gustav's children. So, they're special to me (especially with DNA testing), and I was reviewing their tree to see if any descendants are still alive. 

Pro Tip: Review your family tree from time to time as new records are bound to pop-up. 

Well, good news and bad news. The good news is during the review I found that Gustav had four children: three sons and a daughter.  I previously only had evidence of his sons Paul and Georg, who were both murdered in the Holocaust. The newly discovered son, Kurt was never married and died in 1914. And, his daughter Esther died in 1907 at the age of 30.

Sadly, I didn't have any record of any grandchildren in my tree.  

Following my new lead on Gustav's daughter, I found that she had been married, and had two children! Esther had married Siegfried KLEMPNER in 1896 and had a daughter Grete in 1897 and a son Hans in 1898. There were indeed grandchildren. As Ether was a 1st cousin of my great grandmother, that makes Grete and Hans 2nd cousins of my grandmother! That was great news for about ten minutes until I found that both had also perished in the Holocaust.  

However, there will still a faint glimmer of light.  Grete had married in 1920 to Berthold BLUMENTHAL. She could have had children, and in fact the Nazi census of 1939 showed a son Werner Heinz Blumenthal, aged 12 living with his father. It also said he was deported to Auschwitz and murdered in April 1943. 

Horrible. And sadly this happens to me all the time. I find relatives that are born between 1885 and 1930 in Germany, and for a short time all is well. There is hope. There is life. That is until I search the Holocaust databases for their names. Just plain horrible. 

So, with all the new data I had put into Geni, they have me a MyHeritage hint. There was a Blumenthal family tree on MyHeritage that strongly indicated there was living Blumenthal family in Australia of all places. The match was on Berthold and Grete, and showed another, older son that survived! 

Kurt Wolfgang BLUMENTHAL was born in Berlin on 4 May 1921, and was 17 years old on 17 Feb 1939 when he shipped out from England to Hong Kong. His parents had sent him ahead to England, ultimately bound for Australia, with plans to follow with his younger brother. They did not make it.  He did.  I can't even imagine. 

However, it did mean my father's 3rd cousin survived. He was married in Australia in 1951, had three children (my 4th cousins), and lived to the age of 76. 

It's All About The Photos

So, that's great. I thought this was a story about Francis Wolff. You know, one of the leading jazz photographers of all time?

Okay, so we're slowly getting to him. I haven't forgotten about him. However, this is exactly how family history research goes.  You pull one thread and end up somewhere you didn't expect, so allow me to continue pulling the thread.  

For me, much of the joy of researching my family revolves around photographs.  Finding 2nd or 3rd cousins with amazing photos, and then sharing our finds together in an ever-growing reunion. 

And in this case, when I contacted my "new" Australian cousins they didn't disappoint.   Kurt had managed to carry with him at least one photo album, and those photos are priceless.  There was a photo of Gustav's wife Minna -- the sister of my 2nd great grandmother Hedwig.  They were definitely sisters; the family resemblance was remarkable.  I then was able to share back with them a photo of Gustav and Gustav's parents!  That's what it is all about.  They also had photos of Esther and her husband Siegfried, likely the only way I would have ever found a photo of them. They also had photos of Esther's brother Paul... good old uncle Paul.  

However, there was a problem. No photos of Kurt or Georg.    That seemed strange to me, so I went back to the tree to see if I could find more information about them. Did I have it wrong.   And, no I didn't.  I found Kurt's 1914 death certificate, and it's a match. And, since Kurt died young, perhaps there weren't many photos of him in the first place.  That left Georg...  What's up with him.  Well, I found him too. I found his 2 Jan 1906 marriage in Berlin to Doris JOACHIMCZYK.  His parents match, and his brother Paul signed page 2 as a witness. 

1906 marriage of Georg Wolff in Berlin

On top of that, I also found his 14 Sep 1881 birth certificate in the Berlin archives on Ancestry. And, there was a hint.  Ancestry is good like that... Hints!  

The hint was in the Berlin, Germany, Births, 1874-1908 collection, and it was for a son named Jacob Franz Wolff, born 5 April 1907 in Berlin.  

1907 birth of Jacob Franz Wolff in Berlin

Now what's interesting, is that both the 1906 marriage and the 1907 birth didn't show up the first time I searched around this area many years ago.  Germany has a law that birth records over 110 years old are public, so the 1907 births were not released until 2017, and then there was a lag as they were indexed and finally uploaded onto Ancestry.  

Pro Tip: As time marches on, collections get updated with newly released information. 

Jacob Franz Wolff

Well, that was another great find. Another new 2nd cousin for my grandmother. 

However, I wasn't getting my hopes up due to the Nazi-era notes on the birth certificate's margin.  Sadly, I've seen these notes before, and they generally are bad news. On 17 August 1938 the Nazis passed a law that all male Jews had to adopt the middle name of "Israel" and all women had to add "Sara", and on 8 May 1939, a clerk in Berlin found Jacob's birth certificate and stamped it to add the name Israel.  Now, this was one of the ways the Nazis found all the Jews to be deported. Paperwork.  Now, what was nice to see on this one was that on 4 Sept 1950 there is a stamp undoing the illegal (by then) name change. Did he survive?  How come I've never heard of him before? 

Ancestry gave me a few more hints once I'd added him to the tree, and I found that he had arrived in New York City aboard the SS Albert Ballin on 3 May 1926 and applied for US Citizenship on 20 Oct 1926.  Then gone back to Germany, and then back to New York again in 1939.

He was going by his middle name of Franz, which is a common German name convention.  And, there were a lot more suggested records with the name Francis Wolff with the same 1907 birth date.  Looking closer at the addresses and other details, it was clear that he had moved to New York and changed his name to Francis Wolff. 

So, I googled him... Francis Wolff, 1907.  And, uh... whoa!

Francis Wolff (April 5, 1907 – March 8, 1971) was a record company executive, photographer and record producer. Wolff's skills, as an executive and a ... 
American, 1907–1971. ... Works. 1 work online. Reid Miles, Francis Wolff, Blue Note Records. Album cover for Freddie Hubbard, Hub-Tones. 1962. Exhibition.

One of the most renowned jazz photographers of all time, Francis Wolff (1907-1971) was essential to the success of the Blue Note record label.

Uh, really? 

Francis Wolff and Blue Note Records

Ah, that Francis Wolff! The man who lived life behind the lens and the records. Born in Berlin with a love of culture and the arts, he learned photography at a young age and soon became a pro. Then, he met his soulmate in jazz - Alfred Lion - and they tried their hand at selling jewelry, but the music called and they ended up co-founding the legendary Blue Note Records.

Frank was the shy one in the duo, content to be in the background and let Alfred take the spotlight. But little did everyone know, Frank was a master photographer, capturing iconic moments of jazz history with his trusty Rolleiflex camera. He was the silent partner who made sure the business was running smoothly, but he also brought his camera to every recording session for 28 years.

As the record company grew, Frank's photography became an essential component of the Blue Note look, with his heavily cropped and tinted images gracing the covers of their albums. And in the 1950s, when Rudy Van Gelder opened his custom-built studio, Frank had the space to really showcase his talents. The photographs he took there are now regarded as masterpieces, capturing the candid moments of jazz greats in the intimate setting of Rudy's living room-turned-studio.

In short, Francis Wolff was the photographer who always stayed in the background but left a lasting impact through his lens.

The Updated Family Tree

A family tree of Francis Wolff's close family presented in a straightforward manner.


There are several resources that you can use to learn more about Blue Note Records:

  1. Books:

    • "Blue Note: The Album Cover Art" by Graham Marsh and Glyn Callingham
    • "Blue Note Records: The Biography" by Richard Cook and Brian Morton
    • "The Blue Note Years: The Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff" by Michael Cuscuna
  2. Videos:

    • "A Great Day in Harlem" (1994) is a documentary film about the famous photograph of jazz musicians taken in 1958
    • "Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes" (2019) is a feature-length documentary about the history of Blue Note Records.
    • "Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz" (2008) documentary chronicling the history and influence of the iconic jazz record label, Blue Note Records.
    • "It Must Schwing" (2018) explores the swing era of jazz music in the 1930s and 1940s.
  3. Online Articles:

    • "Blue Note Records: The Jazz Label That Changed the Game" by David Wetmore, published on the website "All About Jazz"
    • "Blue Note: The Most Influential Jazz Label of All Time" by Michael J. West, published on the website "The Jazz Line"
  4. Online courses:

    • "Jazz Appreciation: Blue Note Records" on Coursera, taught by Dr. Billy Taylor.

These resources should provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the history, legacy, and impact of Blue Note Records on the jazz world.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Bodenheimer villa Jagowstraße 29-33 in Grunewald

"As you know, Himmler lived next door to your great grandfather in Berlin, " my father's cousin casually dropped during last week's family Zoom call.  Uh, no, no I did not "as you know" that, not at all!  

Research Tip: Even when you talk with your oldest relatives on a regular basis, and remind them frequently that you are interested in family history, they will still surprise you with new information after 18 months of weekly Zoom calls. 


My great grandfather Siegmund Bodenheimer was a banker for Danatbank and Dresdner Bank in Berlin. Upon the the birth of his third child Helga in 1920 he purchased a large villa at Jagowstrasse 29-33 in the beautiful residential district of Berlin-Grunewald.  

Jagowstraße 29-33 in Grunewald

The villa colony of Grunewald was the elegant residence of people from the best of circles. Soirees, tea parties, celebrations, arts and culture were the festivities of the day. 


Many family photos feature the large garden and grounds of the villa's estate. 

There was at the end of the lot was a garage and behind the garage was a flower garden which...  with a gold... a little pond with goldfish. And it was all really very pretty, very peaceful, and it was quite an elegant setting.  —Gerda Blau geb Bodenheimer, 1979

Helga with cousin Ruth Maass at goldfish pond, c1927

Cook and chambermaids at Jagowstrasse 29-33, c1928


Now also in this garden there was something very important. There was a... quite a... a fenced-in area. quite large, for our dog. We had three dogs, one who was chained to a dog house at the garage, because he... It was kind of a punishment, because he had bitten my cousin Hans into his behind, and it was quite a bite that he took, and from that time on he was chained to the garage... to the dog house at the garage. 

Now the one in the... I don't know how you call it in English... it was called Zwinge like, like the the bears in Bern.    

It was an enclosure and this, in this enclosure was Tello, who was our favorite a big German shepherd, who was very, very good-natured and very devoted. and he spent his day there. 

But we used to take walks, most of the time after dinner, my father and my brother, Edgar. and I took a walk with Tello. And at night Tello came into the house, but he was not allowed to run around free, but was chained to a kind of fencing of the upper hall, and was on a big chain. And that was right in front of my door. So it was kind of a cozy feeling. Tello was really watching me. 

—Gerda Blau geb Bodenheimer, 1979 


About 1931 a family film was taken of the family in the garden.  Siegmund's grandson Ron Blau later complied the footage with voiceover by his mother Gerda to produce Our Time in the Garden (1981). This short film features a lot of great footage of the Bodenheimer villa.  

Now this villa in the Grunewald was a big house. It had 24 rooms and it had a quite a large garden. I felt like a free... I was as free as never before. I spent a great deal of time in the garden. There was a gym set and I could for hour do gym on this gym set, even by myself. The garden was... I remember when we first moved into this house the garden was so that you could ride a bicycle around the paths of the garden. But later on it was kind of fancied up and there were steps put in and from that time on we could not ride a bicycle anymore. But it was very, very beautiful and we spent a great deal of our time in the garden.  —Gerda Blau geb Bodenheimer, 1979

Family on bench from Our Time in the Garden

Siegmund with wife Rosi in the garden, c1931


After 43 years of arduous work, on 20 Sep 1933 Siegmund's work and business career came to an end with his resignation from Dresdner Bank.   

Siegmund's only son Edgar left Germany in October 1933 for New York, and Siegmund himself started making preparations to leave the country. 


In March 1934, Siegmund shook the dust of Germany from his feet and traveled to a resort in Switzerland with his wife and youngest daughter.  

Siegmund did not sell the house at Jagowstrasse, expecting to return to it someday after the Nazi craziness had blown over.  

There were still housekeeping staff living there, and Siegmund allowed his wife's cousin Vera Lachmann to run her Jewish Children's School out of the chauffeur's residence on the grounds. 

For six years, until the Nazis shut it down in 1939, Vera used the building as a school for Jewish children who had been excluded from the German education system under the April 1933 Law Against the Overcrowding of German Schools.

The same year, Heinrich Himmler moved into Hagenstraße 22, which was the neighboring house on the left to Jagowstrasse 29-33. Many of the wealthy Jewish families of the area were moving out of Germany, and the Nazis made themselves at home in their newly vacated homes. 


Siegmund Bodenheimer arrived in New City on 29 Sep 1936 aboard the SS Berengaria. 

His wife Rosi returned to Berlin at least twice to dissolve the huge Jagowstrasse household, and managed to get a good deal of the furniture, art, china, crystal, and silver out of the country. 

Three of the children who attended Vera Lachmann's school at Jagowstraße were the Frankfurther's.  Felix, Beate, and Eva Frankfurther were the step-children of Vera's sister Nina Frankfurther née Lachmann. Beate related a story to a relative that I'm paraphrasing here third-hand. 

While attending Vera's school at Jagowstraße, there were often times when a ball would go over the fence into the gardens of the neighboring villas.  One of the neighbors just happened to be the Reichsführer of the Nazi SS, Heinrich Himmler, who had the SS guarding at his residence 24 hours a day.  It was quite strange to have SS Nazi guards return the ball, ruffle our hair, and kindly tell us Jewish children to not kick the ball so high.

In checking the veracity of this improbable family rumor, I did in fact find that Himmler lived directly next door during that time.  So... plausible. 


Kristallnacht,  9 November 1938.


By 1939, the situation for Jews in Berlin was intolerable.  In April 1939 the Frankfurther children left Berlin for England with their parents following on one of the last flights out of Germany in late August. 

Hitler invaded Poland on 1 September 1939; two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany, beginning World War II.

Vera Lachmann abandoned her school at Jagowstraße for the United States in November 1939, assisted by friends in both countries. In 1944 Vera established Camp Catawba in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. 


Siegmund Bodenheimer became a Naturalized U.S. Citizen on 30 Nov 1943 in New York City. 

1943 naturalization of Siegmund Bodenheimer


During the war, aerial reconnaissance by U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency took place, and on 31 May 1944 this photograph of Siegmund's villa was taken.   Siegmund Bodenheimer, now a US Citizen owns property that appears to be untouched by the war and is still standing strong. 

From the photograph, you can see the main house is at the bottom left with a vast area of forested gardens. The goldfish pond is in the upper right corner of the estate. 

1944 aerial photograph

Also in the photo, you can see Heinrich Himmler's house neighboring on the left occupying the corner lot at Jagowstraße and Hagenstraße.  


Sometime between 31 May 1944 and the end of the war, the Bodenheimer villa at Jagowstraße 29-33 was destroyed by the Allied bombing of Berlin.  The single largest raid on Berlin took place on 18 March 1945 with over 1,221 Allied bombers in an all-out attack. Although the bombers targeted the city’s rail yard, their customary inaccuracy combined with the intermittent cloud cover meant that more than 3,000 tons of bombs impacted all over the city.

I suspect that this March 1945 is the raid that destroyed the house, and for about two days I thought that Himmler's house was the actual target and the neighboring homes were collateral damage. This is likely not the actual case, as the precision bombing wasn't that precise and cloud cover complicated things.  By the end of the war, half of all houses in Berlin were damaged and around a third uninhabitable. 

398th bomber group over Germany


Siegmund's son Edgar visited the divided Berlin in 1953, and walked the old familiar streets of his youth.  Edgar’s visit to the wrecked Bodenheimer family home on Jagowstrasse produced just this comment: “Only the back wall and back balcony remain of the house, and the rubble lies around messily. The garden is entirely overgrown and wild.”  


Here is the current aerial view for comparison.  To note, there are now four large houses on the property, with ample gardens in the back of each one.  Himmler's old house to the left is gone, and replaced with two villas.  The house to the right is the same as it was is 1944, as are the villas at the top of the photo.  

2021 aerial photograph

The street name has been changed from Jagowstraße.  The current address of the four villas are Richard Strauss-Staße 29, 31A, 31B, and 33 in Berlin-Grunewald.