NOTE: This Blog post discusses what I consider one of the most interesting items found among my father’s surviving personal papers, a postcard dated June 21, 1929 from Prague, then-Czechoslovakia. It relates to my family only insofar as it is connected to the “Tennis Club E.V.B. Schwarz-Weiß,” of which my father was a member during the late 1920’s when he lived in Berlin while attending dental school there. The postcard is a unique piece of tennis memorabilia because it is signed by three members of Germany’s 1929 Davis Cup tennis team, as well as six other members of the team’s entourage. Notwithstanding Otto von Bismarck’s insistence that signatures on formal letters and official documents should be readable without the slightest effort, deciphering some of the signatures on the postcard required the aid of two German tennis history specialists to whom I’m enormously indebted for their persistent and gracious assistance.
Among my father’s surviving personal papers is a card postmarked June 21, 1929, mailed from the Grand-Hotel Steiner in Prague (Figures 1a & 1b) to the “Tennis Club E.V.B. Schwarz-Weiß” in Berlin-Schöneberg. (Figure 2) I gleaned it was related to Germany’s Davis Cup 1929 team based on what I could partially read and later learned was written: “Der Davis Cup lüft grüßen. Ich auch. Micheler,” translated “The Davis Cup sends greetings. Me too. Micheler.” (Figure 3)
The story told here is not chronological in terms of how I gathered information, but is better suited for explicating things.
On a website that no longer exists, based in England, I found historical data of all Davis Cup matches played since 1900, when the first Davis Cup competition took place between the USA and Great Britain. The website confirmed that in 1929, Germany’s Davis Cup team traveled to Prague to play then-Czechoslovakia in the European Zone semi-finals, and defeated them by a score of 4 to 1. The historical website included the names of Germany’s three Davis Cup players that year, Daniel Prenn, Hans Moldenauer, and Heinz Landmann.
My untrained eye could only decipher David Prenn and Heinz Landmann’s names on the postcard, although the English website administrator also found Hans Moldenauer’s signature. The administrator suggested I follow-up with two other organizations, the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHOF) in Newport, Rhode Island, and the “Deutscher Tennis Bund (DTB)” in Hamburg, Germany, to inquire about the other signatories. I sent emails with a scan of the postcard to both, but only ITHOF responded. Ms. Meredith Miller from ITHOF was unable to interpret any additional names, but asked my permission to forward the scan to Dr. Heiner Gillmeister, a world authority on the history of ball games, and author of “Tennis: A Cultural History.” Anxious to learn about more names on the postcard, I eagerly consented.
Very shortly thereafter, in April 2012, Dr. Gillmeister responded to Ms. Meredith’s request for assistance on my behalf. He was able to make out three more names, specifically, that of “Hage Lindenstaedt,” and those of “B v. (=Burghard von) Reznicek” and his wife “Paula R. (=Reznicek).” Dr. Gillmeister told me a little about these individuals, and at the bottom of this post I briefly summarize what I have learned about them.
I would not again be in contact with Dr. Gillmeister until October 2013. By then, my German first cousin had been able to read another name, that of the “Micheler,” who wrote the greeting on behalf of the German Davis Cup team, quoted above. In the intervening period, I had also contacted the German “Tennis MAGAZIN,” hoping to entice them into writing a short human-interest article on the postcard given its uniqueness. While the editor initially expressed some curiosity, ultimately this did not pan out. Still, this was not for naught. When I reestablished contact in late 2013 hoping to decipher the last three signatures, Dr. Gillmeister enlisted the aid of a friend and another tennis historian, Mr. Friedrich “Plick” Plickert; this turned out to be the key to ferreting out the remaining names.
“Tennis Club E.V.B.,” where the postcard was mailed, refers to the tennis club associated with the Berlin Skating Club, in German “Eislauf -Verein Berlin (EVB).” The headquarters of the Berlin “Sclittschuh-Klub,” as the Skating Club was known, opened on May 25, 1921, and consisted of some stately mansions seen in the background of my father’s photos. (Figure 4) The club was originally located in Berlin-Schöneberg, but in 1938, the city asked the club to move so that large government buildings could be constructed on the site. Thus, “Schwarz-Weiß” relocated to a different Berlin district, Berlin-Schmargendorf, and opened in early 1939. In the few months before the start of WWII, the club had no opportunity to establish a new tradition, and with the outbreak of hostilities, organized tennis everywhere in the country came to a halt. After the war, the Allied Military Government closed, as one of its first measures, all clubs in Berlin, which spelled the demise of “Schwarz-Weiß.” In 1951, a former director of the club had it re-registered in an attempt to revive it, but to no avail. By 1956, the “Vereinsregister bei dem Amtsgericht,” or the club register at the District Court, permanently closed the file. Today, nothing remains of “Schwarz-Weiß,” either at Berlin-Schöneberg or at Berlin-Schmargendorf.
As far as this Blog post is concerned, the important thing is that a file entitled “Tennis Club Schwarz-Weiß” survives at the local court, the “Vereinsregister, Amtsgericht Berlin-Charlottenburg,” as it is called. Mr. Plickert discovered this and ordered it to conclusively determine the last few names on the postcard dated 1929. He confirmed the name “MICHELER” was correct, although the club documents do not mention his first name. Still, the Berlin phone directory for 1930 lists two individuals with this surname in Berlin, and Mr. Plickert is reasonably certain that a “M. FRANZ MICHELER,” a “Sportschriftsteller,” or sports writer, living in Berlin-Schöneberg, was the gentleman in question. From the club file, it is certain that Micheler was a prominent club member of the “Ehrenrat,” the esteemed group that advised the club executives.
Mr. Plickert also figured out another signatory, a name he had initially misread as “WOLF.” It turned out to have been a man named “DR. ADOLF LÜPKE,” who for several years belonged to the tennis club’s “Vorstand,” or Board of Directors; Dr. Lüpke’s signature, certified by a Notary Public, survives in the club file.
Earlier, Mr. Plickert had suggested to Dr. Gillmeister that the signature at the very top of the postcard might be that of “DR. W. SCHOMBURGK,” the former President or “Bundesleiter” of the “Deutscher Tennis Bund (DTB),” the German Tennis Federation. Dr. Gillmeister consulted the following report on Germany’s 1929 match against Czechoslovakia:
C. Weiß, “Deutschland – Tschoslowakei in Prag im Gange,” in Tennis und Golf, Vol. 6, No. 17, 21 June 1929, p. 439 f.
And, sure enough, language on page 439 of this report provides proof that Dr. W. Schomburgk attended the Davis Cup match, but that he did not captain the German team. That role was taken over by a “C. Weiß,” believed to be Conrad Weiss. Regrettably, Conrad did not sign the postcard mailed from Prague.
Finally, after a two-year long enterprise and the unflagging efforts of two German tennis history specialists, all nine individuals who signed their names to the postcard my father saved were identified. Below, I provide brief bios of the people and show pictures of them, where I’ve been able to find them. In one instance, I provide a hyperlink to an image for sale of the individual discussed.
GERMAN 1929 DAVIS CUP PLAYERS
Daniel Prenn (b. 7 September 1904 in Vilna, Russian Empire-d. 3 September 1991 in Dorking, Great Britain). (Figures 5, 6, 7 & 8) Daniel Prenn was a Jewish-born tennis player who played for Poland, German, and Great Britain. He was at the top of his game when he played for Germany and was a member of the “LTCC (Lawn Tennis Tournament Club) Rot-Weiß Tennis Club of Berlin; Prenn was Germany’s number one ranked player from 1928 to 1932. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, he was barred from competition. Despite his success on the court, the Deutscher Tennis Bund passed a series of resolutions in April 1933 barring Jews from the national team and official club positions, and included a specific resolution targeted towards Prenn, stating: “The player Dr. Prenn (a Jew) will not be selected for the Davis Cup team in 1933.” Shortly thereafter, he moved to England and became a British subject. He continued to play competitively but never again garnered the same level of success as he had in Germany.
Hans Moldenauer (b. 10 April 1901-d. 29 December 1929 in Berlin, Germany). (Figures 9, 10 & 11) Like Prenn, Moldenauer was a member of the Rot-Weiß Tennis Club of Berlin. He was Germany’s first major international tennis player, and competed in Wimbledon, Davis Cup, and the French Open. He died at a young age when his motor car was struck by a tram in Berlin.
Heinz Landmann (Figures 12 & 13) Heinz Landmann was the third member of Germany’s 1929 Davis Cup Team. He won the German Open Tennis Championship in 1923.
GERMAN 1929 DAVIS CUP TEAM ENTOURAGE
Freifrau (Baroness) Paula von Reznicek, née Heimann (b. 17 October 1898 in Breslau, Germany-d. 12 October 1976 in Munich, Germany). (Figures 14, 15, 16 & 17) Paula von Reznicek was an internationally-ranked tennis player, journalist, and writer. In 1928, Ms. Reznicek published “Auferstehung der Dame” [Resurrection of a Lady], an illustrated book that was a summary of sorts of contemporary views on feminine identity. In 1929, she won the German Open Tennis Championship in Berlin, the year she was ranked number 8 in the world. Paula married Burghard von Reznicek around 1925, although by 1932, she was married to Hans Stuck, the famous German race-car driver, a marriage that lasted until 1948. Because her grandfather had been Jewish, Paula’s marriage to Hans Stuck probably saved her life since Hans had established a personal relationship with Hitler, whom he had met by chance on a hunting trip in 1925.
Burghard Freiherr (Baron) von Reznicek (b. 1896 in Mannheim, Germany-d. 1971). (Figure 18) Burghard von Reznicek was a journalist and author of “Tennis: Das Spiel der Völker (Marburg, 1932),” a book dedicated to his wife, Paula von Reznicek.
Hans-George “Hage” Lindenstaedt (b. 20 August 1904 in Berlin, Germany-d. 24 December 1975). (Figures 19 & 20) Hage Lindenstaedt was an excellent tennis and table tennis player. He played with Daniel Prenn on Germany’s Table Tennis team at the first World Cup in 1926. He was also a sports journalist. During the 1930’s, he emigrated to Switzerland for political reasons, but returned to Berlin after WWII and ran a printing company.
M. Franz Micheler (Figures 21 & 22) Little is known about Mr. Micheler, although Mr. Friedrick Plickert is certain that he is the Micheler listed in Berlin’s 1930 phone directory, identified as a “Sportschriftsteller,” or sports writer, living in Berlin-Schöneberg.
Dr. Wilhelm Schomburgk (b. 1 March 1882 in Leipzig, Germany-d. 15 December 1959 in Leipzig, Germany). (Figures 23, 24 & 25) As a young man, Dr. Schomburgk was an avid athlete, playing football, tennis, field and ice hockey. In 1902, he co-founded the “Deutscher Tennis Bund (DTB),” the German Tennis Federation, an organization he was President of between 1934 and 1937. His belief as to the proper role of sports, as voluntary and not as a duty, diverged from that of the National Socialists and caused him to resign from the DTB in October 1937. During the war, Dr. Schomburgk belonged to the conservative resistance to the Third Reich, some of whose members were famously associated with the failed 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.
Dr. Adolf Lüpke (Figure 26) According to what Mr. Friedrich Plickert discovered from reviewing the file entitled “Tennis Club Schwarz-Weiß” at the local court, the “Vereinsregister, Amtsgericht Berlin-Charlottenburg,” for several years, belonged to the tennis club’s “Vorstand,” or Board of Directors.
The Grand-Hotel Steiner, where Germany’s 1929 Davis Cup stayed along with their entourage, still exists today and is known as the Grand Hotel Bohemia. (Figure 27) It opened on February 25, 1927, and was owned and operated by an experienced hotelier, Mr. Josef Steiner. The hotel offered the highest level of luxury, and the hotel lobby was decorated in English Art Deco style. After the Communist takeover in 1948, all private properties were nationalized and private ownership of businesses became illegal. Believing Communist rule would be short-lived and hoping to watch over his property. Mr. Steiner offered the Communist Party his hotel for representation purposes, asking only that he be allowed to remain as an employee. Unfortunately, Communist rule lasted 40 years, and the hotel was returned to the Steiner family only after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, at which point the family sold it.