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

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