POST 20: MY AUNT SUSANNE, NÉE BRUCK, & HER HUSBAND DR. FRANZ MÜLLER, THE BERLIN YEARS

Note:  The next three Blog posts will be about my father’s beloved older sister, Susanne, and her husband, the esteemed Dr. Franz Robert Müller.  I’ll talk about three phases of their lives, their years in Berlin, Germany, followed by their time in Fiesole, Italy, and their final years together in Fayence, France.  In a small way, my aunt and uncle’s story and their movements from one country to another provide a broad perspective on the events that were going on in Europe during the era of the National Socialists, and the aspects of the war they were exposed to, including the ultimate and tragic outcome.  I hope in this manner to tell a more personal story.  For many readers, I expect the discussion of my aunt and uncle’s years in Berlin will be of only passing interest.  Nevertheless, this story lays the groundwork for the years they spent in Fiesole, Italy and Fayence, France, and details the forensic genealogical work that went into partially reconstructing their story in the places they lived.  This analysis may inform readers on how to approach their own family research.

Figure 1-My father Otto with his beloved older sister Susanne, as children in Ratibor

Often, when I begin to investigate my ancestors, I have little to go on except for names, and possibly dates and places of some vital events.  If the individuals were accomplished, which is sometimes the case in my extended family, I can typically learn a little about them by doing a web search.  There are no longer any surviving members of my father’s generation who can fill in the narrative on my aunt and uncle, so their stories are perforce very sketchy and incomplete.  Add to this the fact that my father very rarely spoke to me of his sister, likely because this was a gaping wound in his psyche following her premature death. (Figure 1)  I clearly remember being on a lengthy road-trip with my father in his later years, asking him whether he ever thought about his sister, only to have him burst into tears.  It was heart-rending.

Figure 2-My Aunt Susanne around the time she married Dr. Franz Müller
Figure 3-My Uncle Franz around the time he married my aunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4-One version of my aunt and uncle’s “Heiratsurkunde,” or marriage certificate

My Aunt Susanne (Figure 2) was the second wife of Dr. Franz Robert Müller (Figure 3), whom she married on April 18, 1931, in Berlin-Charlottenburg. (Figure 4) According to their marriage certificate, my aunt’s profession at the time was “Geschäftsführer,” or Managing Director (Figure 5), a position she held in her Aunt Franziska’s flower shop, the renowned aunt discussed in Post 15. (Figure 6)  In a separate post, Post 12, I explained how I discovered my aunt and father’s birth certificates at the “Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach Oddział w Raciborzu” (Polish State Archives in Katowice Branch in Racibórz); this confirmed my Aunt Susanne was born in Ratibor on April 20, 1904.  Beyond this, sadly, I know very little of my aunt’s life in Ratibor or Berlin prior to her marriage, nor when she emigrated to Berlin. 

Figure 5-The second version of my aunt and uncle’s certificate of marriage identifying my aunt’s profession as “Geschäftsführer,” or Managing Director
Figure 6-My great-aunt Franziska Bruck in her flower shop in Berlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By contrast, I have found numerous traces of Dr. Müller in various Berlin address and telephone directories from 1903 to 1936; in German military registers available online at ancestry.com; at Berlin’s “Centrum Judaicum Archiv”; in the “Humboldt Universität zu Berlin Archiv“; and in the “Grundbuch,” or “real estate register,” on file at the “Dienststelle Lichterfelde Grundbuchamt,” for the property he once owned in Berlin-Charlottenburg. 

Figure 7-1903 Berlin Address Book identifying Dr. Müller as “Dr. rer. nat. [i.e., “Doctor rerum naturalium]”], Priv. Docent”
The 1903 Berlin Adressbuch (Figure 7), identifies Dr. Müller as “Dr. rer. nat. [i.e., “Doctor rerum naturalium]”], Priv. Docent” or a doctor of natural sciences, as well as a private lecturer, while a 1928 document provides a more detailed title, “Professor an der Universität Berlin, Dr. rer. nat. et med. [i.e., “Doctor rerum naturalium and Doctor rerum medicarum”], a doctor of both natural sciences and medicine, as well as a university professor. (Figure 8) Franz Müller studied medicine at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität (Heidelberg University) and the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (Humboldt University of Berlin).  In 1902, Dr. Müller was appointed a lecturer to the medical faculty of Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, a position that was a stepping-stone to the professorship he eventually attained in 1912 (Figure 9), when he was elevated to a nontenured position of professor of pharmacology.

Figure 8-1928 document further detailing Dr. Franz Müller’s professional titles
Figure 9-Dr. Franz Müller ca. 1912

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 10-Klaus-Peter Wilhelm Müller’s (Dr. Müller’s son) 1904 birth certificate with 1930 notation indicating his surname was changed to Müller-Munk

Dr. Müller, born on December 31, 1871, was 33 years my aunt’s senior, and had two children by his first wife, Gertrud Munk, whom he married on December 14, 1901.  Their son, Klaus-Peter Wilhelm Müller, was born in Berlin on June 25, 1904, and their daughter, Karin Margit Müller, on September 23, 1908.  After Dr. Müller and his wife divorced, the surname of the children was changed to “Müller-Munk,” as footnoted on Peter Müller-Munk’s birth certificate on September 29, 1930 (Figure 10), many years after his birth.  Both of Dr. Müller’s children will be discussed in future Blog posts.  Given the 33-year age difference between my aunt and uncle, my aunt was roughly the same age as her step-children.

Figure 11-German military register with information on Dr. Müller

From the German military registers, we learn that in 1892 Dr. Müller was initially a “Feldwebel,” or Sargeant, in the 14th Regiment of Baden, but by 1893 was promoted to “Unteroffizier,” or non-commissioned officer, and by 1898 was a junior medical doctor in Heidelberg before becoming a reservist in the medical corps. (Figure 11)  After the start of WWI, he re-enlisted as a “Unterarzt,” or junior physician, but was quickly promoted to “Oberarzt,” or senior physician.  By June 1918, he was transferred to Nürnberg, and a month later assigned to the military academy there. 

Figure 12-Email from “Stiftung Neue Synagogue Berlin-Centrum Judaicum Archiv” indicating that Dr. Müller converted from Judaism on November 25, 1901, but that no record of my aunt’s conversion could be found

The “Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin-Centrum Judaicum Archiv,” or the archive of the New Synagogue Berlin – Centrum Judaicum Foundation, contains a record indicating that on November 25, 1901, less than a month before his marriage to Gertrud Munk, Dr. Müller converted to Protestantism from Judaism. (Figure 12) Incredibly, this did not prevent his being fired from Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität on September 14, 1933, almost 32 years later!  This happened after the National Socialists enacted the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” (“Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums”) on April 7, 1933, which excluded “non-Aryans” from Government employment, and resulted in Jewish civil servants, including university professors and school teachers, being fired. (Figure 13) 

Figure 13-Page from “Humboldt Universität zu Berlin Archiv” showing Dr. Müller was terminated from the University of Berlin on September 14, 1933

 

Figure 14-Architectural plan for house Dr. Müller had built at Kastanienallee 39 in Berlin’s Westend, highlighting entrance and alcove shown in subsequent pictures

In conjunction with the Berlin address and telephone directories, the “Grundbuch,” or “real estate register,” on file at the “Dienststelle Lichterfelde Grundbuchamt,” chronicles the various addresses where Dr. Müller lived between 1903 and 1936.  Interestingly, the Grundbuch contains the original floor plan for the house Dr. Müller had built at Kastanienallee 39 in Berlin’s Westend, Berlin-Charlottenburg, between 1908-09 (Figure 14), a house he probably moved into in late 1909.  Dr. Müller’s mother died in late 1908, and likely Franz’s inheritance paid for the construction of the house which was 844 m2 in size, or more than 9,000 square feet!  Depending on the size of his inheritance, he may not even have had a mortgage.

Figure 15-Document dated December 5, 1935 showing the sale of Kastanienallee 39 to Dr. Ludwig Weber

The Grundbuch contains a few documents from November and December 1935 (Figure 15) showing a contract for sale of the house was entered into on November 29, 1933, to a Dr. Ludwig Weber, a retired “Staatssekretär,” or undersecretary of state in the Prussian Ministry of Finance and commissioner at the Rentenbank.  Dr. Müller formally transferred Kastanienallee 39 to Dr. Weber two years later, on November 29, 1935, for 30,000 Reichmark (RM). 

 

 

One of my German cousins translated a few of the documents found in the Grundbuch and explained their significance within the context of the time period.  As students of European history know, Germany went through a bout of hyperinflation between 1922-23 that eventually resulted around 1924 in the old RM being devalued so that 1 new RM was equivalent to roughly 4,200,000 old RM.  While this devaluation impoverished average Germans, property owners suddenly became wealthy.  The 30,000 RM my uncle realized on the sale of his home in 1935, likely more than it would have been if not for hyperinflation, represented a significant amount of money.  How much of my uncle’s wealth was left behind, as a result of the “exit tax” imposed on Jews departing Germany in the 1930’s, is unknown but was likely at least 25 percent.

As discussed in Post 15, according to family accounts, my aunt and uncle left Germany with the help of Italy’s Ambassador to Germany from 1932-1935, Vittorio Cerruti, who was married to a Hungarian Jew. Possibly, my aunt met the ambassador’s wife, Elisabetta Cerruti, in her Aunt Franziska’s flower shop.  For reasons that remain unclear, my aunt and uncle decided to relocate to Fiesole, Italy, an Etruscan town above Firenze [Florence].  By March 31, 1936, a scant four months after Kastanienallee 39 was sold, my aunt and uncle were the guests of a noted Socialist doctor living in Fiesole, Dr. Gino Frascani, a gentleman who rented them one of his homes and employed my uncle in his medical clinic.  In the following post, I’ll discuss how I was able to unearth information about my aunt and uncle’s years in Fiesole and speculate on why they may have emigrated there.

Figure 16-Co-owner, Dr. Georg-Andreas Finck, left, with his downstairs tenant, Wörner Schütze, standing inside what would have been the “Speise Zimmer,” or dining room, at Kastanienallee 39
Figure 17-Inside Kastanienallee 39 in the 1930’s showing the same view as Figure 16 with the “Speise Zimmer” (dining room) in the foreground and the “Bibliothek” (library) in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Numerous photos of my aunt and uncle’s home in Charlottenburg as it looked in the 1930’s survive in my father’s photo albums. The house still stands today.  With the assistance of a friend who works for the equivalent of Germany’s Internal Revenue Service, I was able to contact and meet the current owners of Kastanienallee 39 (Figures 16 & 17), who gave me a tour of their home and told me a little of its post-WWII history.  The destruction wrought upon Berlin during the war meant housing was at a premium in the immediate post-war era.  Consequently, the large single-family home was converted into numerous small flats that housed upwards of 40 people.  The alterations mean that few original interior structural elements survive today (Figures 18 & 19), although the exterior looks much as it did when my uncle had it constructed between 1908-09, judging from the surviving architectural plans. (Figures 20 & 21)

Figure 19-Inside Kastanienallee 39 in 2014 showing the alcove seen in Figure 18
Figure 18-Inside Kastanienallee 39 in the 1930’s showing alcove

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 20-My Uncle Franz, my Aunt Susanne & my grandmother Else Bruck, née Berliner, Easter 1935, standing in front of Kastanienallee 39
Figure 21-In 2014, me standing in front of Kastanienallee 39 in virtually the same spot as my relatives stood in 1935

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Readers can draw their own conclusions on how the decrees issued by the National Socialists, following Adolf Hitler’s appointment as German Chancellor in 1933, affected my aunt and uncle.  Clearly, however, they resulted in my uncle being dismissed as professor from Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (Humboldt University of Berlin), then likely compelled my aunt and uncle to sell their home and eventually emigrate after paying an “exit tax.”  As the two subsequent Blog posts will make clear, my aunt and uncle’s nightmare at the hands of the Third Reich did not end with their departure from Berlin.

REFERENCE

Delphia, Rachel and Jewel Stern

2015    Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk.  Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh & Prestel Verlag, Munich/London/New York.

 

POST 12: “STATE ARCHIVES IN KATOWICE BRANCH IN RACIBÓRZ (RATIBOR)”

Figure 1-Entrance to the “Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach Oddział w Raciborzu“

In the previous Blog post dealing with the Bruck’s Hotel “Prinz von Preußen,” the hotel in Ratibor owned by the Bruck family for three generations, the reader learned about the “Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach Oddział w Raciborzu” (“State Archives in Katowice Branch in Raciborz”) where civil records of births, marriages, and deaths from the 1870’s onward are to be found. (Figure 1)  I explained to the reader the genesis of this situation, namely, that the Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and the liberal nationalists in Germany saw the existence of a Church loyal to the Pope as a threat to national unity, and, for this reason, sought to bring the Church under the control of the Prussian state.  This conflict with the Church was known as the Kulturkampf (“Cultural Struggle“).  Among other things, this resulted in mandating that births, marriages, and deaths be recorded as civil events.  Consequently, today, a researcher is compelled to show up in person to access these records at the State Archives. 

Figure 2-Ms. Malgosia Ploszaj from Rybnik, Poland examining the civil records at the State Archives in Raciborz

In the previous Blog post, I explained I’d been referred to an English-speaking Polish lady, Ms. Malgosia Ploszaj, who is studying the former Jews of her hometown of Rybnik, about a half-hour from Raciborz.  Prior to our visit to Raciborz in May 2014, Malgosia had already visited the State Archives there and discovered the existence of an inch-thick portfolio of administrative documents related to management of the Bruck’s Hotel from about 1912 to 1928.; these have been discussed in the previous Blog post.  When my wife and I visited Raciborz in May 2014, Malgosia accompanied us to the State Archives and helped us efficiently navigate the plethora of civil documents. (Figure 2) 

My father’s older sister, Susanne, was born in Ratibor in 1904, and my father, Otto, three years later in 1907. (Figure 3)  Once I understood their birth documents would not be among the Jewish religious records found on Mormon Church microfilms, it became a priority to find them with the civil records at the State Archives.  I knew my father’s older brother Fedor had been born in 1895 in the nearby town of Leobschütz [today: Głubczyce, Opole Voivodeship, Poland], so had no expectation of uncovering his birth certificate.  With Malgosia’s assistance, we were very quickly able to locate the birth records of both my father and my aunt. (Figure 4)

Figure 3-My Aunt Susanne, my father Otto and my Uncle Fedor as children in Ratibor
Figure 4-Birth Register (“Urodzenia”) for the period 1874-1902 found at the State Archives in Raciborz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In former times, it was quite common for parents to have many children, so I often wondered why nine years (1895 to 1904) had transpired before my grandparents had a second child.  This question was promptly answered by a careful examination of the birth certificates for these years; it turns out my grandparents indeed had a second child in this intervening period, a son by the name of Walter Bruck, who was born in August 1900 but died shortly thereafter in April 1901.  The existence of another older brother was never mentioned by my father when I was growing up.  As to the Birth Certificate for my Uncle Fedor born in 1895, I did eventually locate it in the Eastern Prussian Provinces database: Östliche preußische Provinzen, Polen, Personenstandsregister 1874-1945 (Eastern Prussian Provinces, Germany [Poland], Selected Civil Vitals, 1874-1945).  

Figure 5-My great-aunt Elsbeth Bruck, right, with her older brother Wilhelm “Willy” Bruck as children in Ratibor

I found several other original family documents at the Polish State Archives in Raciborz that ultimately provided context for artifacts in my possession, and also pointed me to other towns and countries to find additional historic family records.  At the State Archives in Raciborz, I also found the Birth Certificate for my great-aunt, Elsbeth Bruck. (Figure 5)  Previously, I’d located the birth record for Elsbeth’s seven older siblings, born to my great-grandparents Fedor Bruck and Friederike Bruck, nee Mockrauer, on the Jewish microfilm records from Ratibor, but was puzzled as to why I’d never found hers.  When I eventually learned that Elsbeth was born in the midst of the Kulturkampf, it became obvious her record would be with the civil documents, which is where I ultimately found it and where I also discovered her given name was not Elsbeth but “Elisabeth.” 

Figure 6-My grandparents, Felix “Lixel” Bruck and Else Bruck, nee Berliner, on their wedding day, February 11, 1894

A particularly interesting document I found was the marriage certificate for my grandparents (Page 1 & Page 2), Felix Bruck and Else Bruck, nee Berliner, dated February 11, 1894; prior to the discovery of this certificate, I didn’t know when my grandparents got married although I have photos of them on their wedding day. (Figure 6)  This document was interesting principally because it provided context for an “erinnerung,” or remembrance, I’d found among my father’s papers.  The name on the cover page of this remembrance, written in difficult-to-decipher Gothic font, said “Willy Bruck,” and was dated “February 11, 1894.”  I incorrectly assumed it related to a ceremony or rite in honor of a relative who’d died on this date; unfortunately, I could think of no relative by this name who’d died on this day.  After a German cousin recently examined this remembrance, all became clear.  Felix’s younger brother was Wilhelm or “Willy” Bruck, and the remembrance I thought was a death announcement was actually an ode or poem Willy had written on the occasion of his brother’s marriage, “in brotherly love.” (Figure 7) While I never knew my grandfather, and my father only spoke sparingly of him when I was growing up, from this remembrance I also learned Felix’s nickname was “Lixel.”

Figure 7-Cover of remembrance poem written by Wilhelm “Willy” Bruck for his brother Felix’s wedding “in brotherly love”
Figure 8-Wilhelm “Willy” Bruck standing next to his velocipede in 1889 in Ratibor, possibly the same bike his brother once fell off of

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the poem Willy Bruck wrote in honor of his brother Felix’s marriage, he teased his brother about a few incidents that occurred to him as a young lad, such as the time he threw a stone through an expensive window and when he fell off his velocipede.  Coincidentally, among the family pictures is one of Willy Bruck himself standing next to his own velocipede, perhaps a hand-me-down from his older brother! (Figure 8) 

In addition to the marriage certificate I found for Felix Bruck, I also located the marriage certificates for two of his younger sisters, Charlotte Mockrauer, nee Bruck (1865-1965) (Page 1 & Page 2), and Hedwig Loewenstein, nee Bruck (1870-1949) (Page 1 & Page 2).  These historic documents are of interest primarily because they eventually helped me unravel the complete family tree for these branches of my family, and, in turn, lead to some compelling discoveries.  In time, I will relate to the reader these tales which are rather involved and span multiple countries.