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Charlotte Rappolt (née Ehrlich) * 1878
Leinpfad 58 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)
ENTRECHTET / GEDEMÜTIGT
FLUCHT IN DEN TOD
Charlotte Rappolt, née Ehrlich, born on 14 Jan. 1878 in Breslau, suicide on 6 Mar. 1941 in Hamburg
Charlotte "Lotte” Rappolt, née Ehrlich, came from a well-to-do family of merchants in Breslau (today Wroclaw in Poland). Her parents were the Breslau native Eugen Ehrlich (1847–1914) and Wanda Ehrlich, née Cohn. The father was co-owner of Herz & Ehrlich (Breslau) founded in 1846, a manufacturer and exporter of metal, iron, and steel goods as well as household and kitchen utensils, agricultural implements and machinery, telegraph and telephone devices, lanterns, garden furniture, refrigerators, heaters, stoves, bicycle accessories, etc. The company had been co-founded by his father, Julius Ehrlich (married to Mathilde, née Auerbach). The company seat at Blücherplatz 1 (today Plac Solny) was located very close to the stock exchange and the city hall. The company premises were in the basement, on the ground floor, and on the second floor, and the company founder and house owner Julius Ehrlich lived on the third floor; after his death, the company also used the living quarters as premises. Eugen Ehrlich’s brother, Fritz Ehrlich, was the co-owner of Herz & Ehrlich as well as vice-consul in Brazil. In 1896, on the occasion of the 50-year company anniversary of Herz & Ehrlich, a commemorative medal was commissioned, and four years later, a medal marking the silver wedding anniversary of Eugen Ehrlich and Wanda Ehrlich, née Cohn, was minted. Corresponding to her social position as an industrialists’ daughter, in addition to a good school education, Charlotte received piano and violin lessons with the music teacher Mr. Bandler. As much as she appreciated music, she was not enthusiastic at all about balls. In about 1895, the Ehrlich family moved from Tauentzienstrasse 81 (today ul. Tadeusza Kosciuszki) to Schweidnitzer Stadtgraben 16 (today ul. Podwale), running almost parallel to the former and developed only on one side of the street. The newly rented ground-floor apartment in the two-story house of the owner of a manorial estate Cohn was located on the boundary between the historic downtown and the upscale Schweidnitzer Vorstadt (Swidnica suburb) to the south, very close to the New Synagogue (built in 1872, destroyed in 1938) and the municipal theater (opened in 1841, today the opera house). The beginning of the street lined with houses, located at the intersection to Berlinerplatz, was characterized by public buildings, such as the Infantry Barracks (No. 1), the Regional Court (Landgericht) with the penal institution (No. 2/3), and the District Court (Amtsgericht) (No. 4). Charlotte had an older sister, Margarethe "Grete” (born on 18 May 1876) and two younger brothers, Martin (born on 20 Oct. 1880) and Wilhelm. Martin Ehrlich continued to manage the Herz & Ehrlich Company as the sole owner after the death of his father in 1914. In Jan. 1899, Charlotte Ehrlich met the Hamburg merchant Franz Rappolt (see corresponding entry) when he undertook a business trip to Breslau on behalf of his brother Paul Rappolt. At the time, Franz Rappolt was the manager of the Berlin branch of his father’s clothing company Rappolt & Söhne (Hamburg). Apart from business relations he was also connected to Breslau by family contacts; after all, his mother Mutter Louise Rappolt, née Herz (1839–1911; parents: the merchant Hinrich Herz and Ernestine Herz, née Schlesinger) came from there. In 1863, she had moved to Hamburg after getting married. Through her and her parents, they also knew the Ehrlichs and the Herz & Ehrlich Company. In May 1899, they met again in Berlin; on 11 Oct. 1899, the wedding of 21-year old Charlotte Ehrlich and 29-year-old Franz Rappolt took place in Breslau. The stylish wedding featured recitals and singing of poems based on tunes from the operetta Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss (the younger). Moreover, Uncle Fritz Ehrlich joined his wife Hulda in presenting a witty and fictitious correspondence of the mothers-in-law in rhymes that the Breslau publisher S. Lilienfeld printed along with postcard images of both cities. The poem addressing private themes did without any religious and political allusions. In terms of illustrations for Hamburg, the selections included main Protestant churches of St. Nicolai and St. Catharinen and for Breslau the main Protestant church St. Elisabeth; the booklet does not contain any Jewish symbols or any illustration of a synagogue. On their honeymoon, the newlyweds went to Vienna and Venice. Following the wedding, Franz Rappolt gave up his apartment in Berlin-Mitte (Charlottenstrasse 22) and moved with his wife to the Tiergarten quarter (Keithstrasse 3). The first child of Franz and Charlotte Rappolt, son Fritz (born on 22 Aug. 1900) was born while couple was still in Berlin. In the fall of 1903, Franz Rappolt relocated to the Hamburg company headquarters, while his younger brother Otto Rappolt (see corresponding entry) took over the management of the Berlin branch of Rappolt & Söhne. In Hamburg, Franz and Charlotte Rappolt moved into an apartment at Johnsallee 69 (Rotherbaum) for four years. This is where their sons were born, Heinz (on 1 Nov. 1903) and Ernst (born on 25 Oct. 1905). The three sons were baptized at the same time, on 12 July 1906, at the Protestant main church St. Catharinen in Hamburg. Only two days before the christening, Franz Rappolt’s father, Joseph Rappolt (1835–1907), had purchased a large burial plot on the Protestant Ohlsdorf cemetery, where an imposing grave for him and an additional 13 family members was built in 1907. The sons were confirmed in 1915, 1918, and 1920 in St. Johannis Church (in Harvestehude). Thus, the up-and-coming Rappolt family was in line with the customs of the Protestant-Hanseatic upper class. To what extent religious conviction, conformity, fear of exclusion, or private contacts played a role in this connection is not known. In Wilhelmine society, the stereotypical claim that confessing to the Jewish faith was irreconcilable with the identity as a citizen of the German state constituted anything but a mere peripheral phenomenon. In the years following, family members answered the question of old or new religion in different ways. In 1908, the family of Franz and Charlotte Rappolt, by then numbering five, moved into a ground-floor apartment in nearby Rothenbaumchaussee 34, where they lived until 1915. If these were already "good” Hamburg addresses, the family was able to improve even further: In 1914, Franz Rappolt had purchased the property at Leinpfad 58 and commissioned the Hamburg architect Carl Bensel (1878–1949) with building an imposing urban villa that took shape in 1914/15. In Sept. 1915, the Hamburg fire insurance company (Hamburger Feuerkasse) estimated the value of the building at 137,000 marks. The 14-room house had five bedrooms and it was elegantly appointed with works of art (including carpets, oil paintings, a Baroque armoire, a velvet corner sofa, and a desk in Biedermeier style). In the dining room was a large pull-out table with twelve chairs with leather covers. For music making in the home, there was a Steinway grand piano, and Charlotte Rappolt owned a valuable historic violin. The sons, too, were skilled at making music on the violin, cello, or piano. For chamber music, friends were invited, such as the administrative director Carl Rocamora (born in Hamburg in 1890), who played duets with Charlotte Rappolt on the piano and played in a trio as well starting in about 1927. The head of the household’s study featured a portrait of Goethe on the wall. He frequently brought souvenirs from his business trips that did not always meet his wife’s taste in art – in which case they were kept in a separate cabinet. Two maids and a cook managed the household, and a chauffeur who had already been the coachman of the father, Joseph Rappolt, drove Franz Rappolt in the Mercedes to the company seat in Mönckebergstrasse.
In June 1918, the oldest son Fritz completed the expedited high-school leaving exam for conscripted youths (Notabitur) at the newly established Kirchenpauer-Realgymnasium [a high school focused on science, math, and modern languages] in Hamm and was then drafted for military training. The middle son, Heinz, attended the Heinrich-Hertz-Realgymnasium on Schlump from 1912 until 1921, subsequently completing a commercial apprenticeship with the wool-trading company Klöpper (Neues Klöpperhaus, planned by the architect Fritz Höger, located at Mönckebergstrasse 3, today the Kaufhof Department Store). From 1924 until 1926, he worked for hat manufacturers in Friedrichsort (Rousselet), Alessandria/Italy (Borsalino), and Bredbury, Stockport/England (Joseph Ward Ltd.). The youngest son, Ernst, attended the nearby "Academic School of Johanneum High School” ("Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums”) in Winterhude from 1914 until 1923, where he passed his high-school graduating exam (Abitur) in Sept. 1923, before studying law at the universities of Freiburg/Breisgau, Munich, and Hamburg.
The older Rappolts re-joined the Jewish Community in the 1920s: Starting in 1925, Franz Rappolt was listed as a member of the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community. On his Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card, initially Charlotte Rappolt was noted only with her first name and without her maiden name and date of birth, and the baptized and confirmed children did not appear at all. This suggests that only Franz Rappolt returned to the religion of his ancestors. After 1933, the children were added and the details about Charlotte completed. Franz Rappolt’s brother Otto joined the Community in 1927, and his brother Paul followed as well in 1929, whereas the latter’s wife, Johanna Rappolt, née Oppenheim (see corresponding entry) remained in the Protestant church (at the time of her marriage in 1898, both Paul Rappolt and Johanna Oppenheim had been noted as belonging to the Jewish religious faith).
With the National Socialists assuming power in 1933, the life the Rappolt family had known until then came to an abrupt end. Declared enemies of the Nazi dictatorship based on their Jewish descent, they were gradually marginalized, deprived of their rights, and plundered. In June 1933, the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce excluded its plenum member Franz Rappolt. In 1938, the Nazi state used special taxes to demand such enormous sums of money from the Rappolt family that they were able to raise them only by selling the villa on Leinpfad. Pressure by the state authorities also forced the sale ("Aryanization”) of the company and the business premises in 1938/1939.
On 26 July 1939, Charlotte and Franz Rappolt relocated to an apartment at Haynstrasse 10. Moving into the new home along with them were the cook Emma Hillmer (1883–1957), a native of Geesthacht, and the subtenant and expropriated entrepreneur Arthur Hertz (born on 20 Feb. 1901 in Hamburg). Since Feb. 1940, the Catholic couple Schroeter lived there as well as domestic helps; before then they had lived and worked at Oderfelderstrasse 14.
Franz Rappolt’s two youngest sons left Germany: Dr. jur. Ernst Rappolt, a jurist and company lawyer with Rappolt & Söhne, had married on 6 May 1933. On 26 Apr. 1933, his license to practice as a lawyer had been revoked. He departed for the USA in May 1938. The second son, the merchant Heinz Rappolt, who had spent an extended period until 1930 in South America doing business for Rappolt & Söhne, emigrated to Britain in Oct. 1938. The oldest son Fritz Rappolt (see corresponding entry) was not able to leave Germany due to his psychological state.
In connection with an audit ordered by the foreign currency office of the Chief Finance Administrator, in May 1938, Franz Rappolt expressed his thoughts concerning his future in Nazi Germany to the auditor, which the latter zealously noted in the file: "For his part, [he said] he – Franz Rappolt – was 68 years old and wished to spend his old age in Germany. Even though there were no concrete intentions to emigrate, all the younger members of the Rappolt family were nevertheless determined to leave Germany sooner or later, as soon as opportunities for them to make a living abroad came along.” The senior boss, Franz Rappolt (born in 1870), and Paul Rappolt (born in 1863), who had retired from the company on 31 Dec. 1936, stayed in Hamburg – as did many Jews of the older generation.
Franz and Charlotte Rappolt were not spared the other measures against Jews either: On 1 Jan. 1939, Charlotte Rappolt was forced to bear and use for every signature the additional compulsory first name of "Sara.” From 19 July 1940 onward, she – like all other Jews – was no longer allowed to have a telephone connection. Thus, contacts to friends visiting her to play skat, bridge, chess, or to have an (ersatz) kaffeeklatsch became more difficult. As early as Sept. 1939, a curfew for Jews from 8 p.m. onward was in effect, as well as the obligation to shop in separate grocery stores.
After they had even been banned from attending concerts and opera performances, the gramophone played an increasingly important role in the Rappolt household, as Franz Rappolt noted in a letter. The circle of friends largely remained intact, though meetings were only possible in private homes. "The old friends are nice and loyal, and new ones are added, and the dearest ones are always the 4 Ro., all six of us look forward to Friday evening, when they join us (…),” Charlotte Rappolt wrote to her émigré son Ernst in the USA on 17 Jan. 1940. Abbreviation of names and places belonged to the usual precautionary measures in light of letter surveillance in the Nazi state. The "4 Ro.” probably referred to Carl and Hertha Rocamora with their children, who in other letters are also called the "Roccas.” Contact to their native city, where they still had relatives and friends, came to a standstill due the anti-Jewish measures taken by Nazi Germany, however. "As well (…) dear old Adler in Breslau, I will miss her, if I am to get there once more in my lifetime! I am always supposed to come to Hünern (note: the town of Hünern was located in the Trebnitz administrative district), but in these troubled times, one does not easily resolve to do so,” she wrote to her youngest son in the USA on 28 July 1940. The oldest son, Fritz Rappolt, who still lived in Hamburg, wrote about the physical and psychological state of his mother in a letter to his brother Ernst in Oct. 1940: "(…) today, e.g., the AD (= Alte Dame =Kosename für Charlotte Rappolt [old lady, the nickname for Charlotte Rappolt]) is doing better but generally things look bleak.” Two months later, he wrote: "Mother doing very poorly, both physically and mentally. The saddest thing is that one cannot help her (…) Mother lacks any powers of judgment and even though she means sincerely well, everything goes wrong. Mother will not go to a doctor (…) she rejects any advice and help.”
Franz Rappolt hesitated for a long time to submit an application for an exit visa, because after all, as an optimistic and patient personality, he was the person taking care of the family members remaining behind. His wife, his son Fritz, as well as the brothers Paul and Ernst depended on support in psychological or physical terms. After a failed application for an exit visa to Britain, son Ernst Rappolt undertook efforts from the USA in 1940 to securing the departure of his parents to North America. However, due to country-specific quotas for emigrants, extensive bureaucratic and financial guidelines, as well as ship’s passages postponed several times, emigration to the USA became increasingly unlikely.
Parallel to the state-organized social decline of the Rappolts, not only their economic perspectives were shattered but so were the family members in terms of their psychological and physical health due to the years of humiliations and marginalization: On 6 Mar. 1941, Charlotte Rappolt took her own life: She had been psychologically unstable for several years and was no longer able to stand up to the growing anti-Semitic pressure. She was found unconscious with poisoning from Barbital (Veronal) tablets and admitted by the doctor called, Berthold Hannes (1882–1955), to the Israelite Hospital at Johnsallee 68, where she died.
On 25 Oct. 1941, the younger brother-in-law, Otto Rappolt, took his own life in Berlin. Franz Rappolt’s brother Ernst M. Rappolt, a general practitioner (born 12 May 1868) holding a doctorate, committed suicide by injecting sleep-inducing drugs on 9 April 1942, when he was scheduled for compulsory relocation to a Jews’ house ("Judenhaus”).
On 15 July 1942, Franz Rappolt, along with his sister-in-law, Johanna Rappolt, née Oppenheim, was deported to Theresienstadt, where he perished on 25 Nov. 1943.
In Apr. 2007, Stolpersteine were laid for Charlotte and Franz Rappolt as well as their son, Fritz Rappolt, in front of the residential building at Leinpfad 58. In addition, a Stolperstein in front of the former company headquarters at Mönckebergstrasse 11 commemorates Franz Rappolt.
In Hamburg-Altona, Stolpersteine commemorate the [Charlotte Rappolt’s] brothers-in-law Dr. med. Ernst Rappolt (at Rissener Landstrasse 24) and Otto Rappolt (at Grottenstrasse 25).
For Johanna Rappolt, née Oppenheim, a Stolperstein (at Rondeel 37) was laid in Hamburg-Winterhude.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2018
© Björn Eggert
Quellen: Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StaH) 241-2 (Justizverwaltung, Personalakten), Nr. A 1404 (Dr. Ernst Rappolt); StaH 314-15 (Oberfinanzpräsident), FVg 8866 (Franz Rappolt); StaH 314-15 (Oberfinanzpräsident); F 1978 (Dr. Ernst Rappolt); StaH 314-15 (Oberfinanzpräsident), F 1980 (Heinz Rappolt); StaH 331-5 (Polizeibehörde – unnatürliche Sterbefälle), 3 Akte 1941, Nr.364 (Charlotte Rappolt); StaH 331-5 (Polizeibehörde – unnatürliche Sterbefälle), 3 Akte 1941, Nr. 552 (Dr. med. Ernst Rappolt); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 8007 u. 522/1911 (Sterberegister 1911, Louise Rappolt geb. Herz); StaH 332-7 (Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht), Bürgerregister (1862 Joseph Rappolt, 1894 Arthur Rappolt, 1894 Paul Rappolt, 1902 Ernst Rappolt, 1907 Franz Rappolt); StaH 332-8 (Meldewesen), K 2353 und K 2364 (Hauskartei Haynstraße 10); StaH 332-8 (Meldewesen), K 2358 (Hauskartei Agnesstr. 20, Carl Rocamora); StaH 351-11 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung), 1588 (Franz Rappolt); StaH 522-1 (Jüdische Gemeinden), 992b (Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg), Franz Rappolt, Paul Rappolt, Otto Rappolt; Stadtarchiv Geesthacht, Geburtsurkunde 66/1883 (Emma Hillmer, geb. 16.8.1883); Bezirksamt Hamburg-Nord, Bauamt/Bauprüfabteilung (Leinpfad 58); Adressbuch Berlin 1899–1901, 1903; Adressbuch Breslau 1891, 1897, 1903, 1916; Adressbuch Hamburg 1866, 1875, 1892, 1896, 1897, 1900, 1904, 1913, 1932, 1934, 1939, 1941; Fernsprechbuch Hamburg 1895, 1901, 1909, 1914–1919, 1940; Frank Bajohr, "Arisierung" in Hamburg. Die Verdrängung der jüdischen Unternehmer 1933–1945, Hamburg 1997, S. 132, 138–140, 150/151 (Rappolt & Söhne); Meyers Lexikon, 7. Auflage, 2. Band, 1925, S. 856 b (Stadtplan Breslau); Schlesiens Münzen und Medaillen der Neueren Zeit, Breslau 1901, S. 68 (Nr. 3739, Ehrlich, 1900), S. 69 (Nr. 3788, Herz u. Ehrlich, 1896); Gespräche mit dem ehemaligen R & S-Lehrling Herrn K. H. (Hamburg), 2006 u. 2007; Gespräche mit Frau C. Sch. (Schweiz), 2007, 2008, 2015; Geburtsurkunde von Ernst Rappolt, 1905; Schülerliste des Johanneums (ab 1914), Abiturient Ernst Rappolt; Konfirmationsregister St. Johannis Harvestehude Ostern 1915 (Fritz Rappolt), Ostern 1918 (Heinz Rappolt), März 1920 (Ernst Rappolt); Schreiben des Amtsgerichtspräsidenten, Rechtsanwaltszulassung entzogen (Dr. jur Ernst Rappolt), 25.4.1933 u. 26.4.1933; Evangelischer Friedhof Hamburg-Ohlsdorf, Grabprotokoll (Nr. 42.845 vom 10.7.1906), Familiengrab Rappolt (Kapelle 6, AA 24, 333-346); Gedicht anlässlich der Hochzeit von Charlotte Ehrlich u. Franz Rappolt, 1899, Privatbesitz (C. Sch.); Briefe von Charlotte Rappolt/Hamburg an ihren Sohn Ernst Rappolt/USA, 1940–1941, Privatbesitz (C. Sch.); http://www.geni.com/people/Eugen-Ehrlich/6000000031141237749 (eingesehen am 20.10.2015).