Arthur Wasservogel – Soap

Unknown Photographer, ca. 1916, private collection

 

At the beginning there is a old photo: It shows the 36th branch of Arthur Wasservogel’s soap shop – at Wörther Straße 35 in Prenzlauer Berg. [1] Sent as a war postcard on 22 March 1916, it was later pasted into a family album. The sender of the card was Karoline Fietz, who presumably worked as a saleswoman in the shop pictured. To her left, her daughter Helene. The recipient Franz Fietz died a little later at the Western Front. Helene later married a Nazi. The family was bombed out twice and even lived in the flat of a deported Jewish family, but managed to save the album.

The soap shop emerged from a soap factory that Arthur Wasservogel had built up at Schönhauser Allee 3. In 1908 he converted the business into the relatively newly introduced legal form of a limited liability company.[2]  This GmbH was located at Waldstr. 23/24 in Moabit, expanded rapidly and opened numerous branches. In the 1916 address book, it advertised that it had “about 120 branches” in Berlin and its own mail order department.[3]  In the course of the 1920s, Arthur Wasservogel withdrew from the operational business. Margarete and Julius Hirschfeld as well as Margarete Simonis and Max Brat took over the management.

At least the branch in Spandau was also blocked by SA on 1 April 1933. [4] Certainly other branches were also victims of blockades and assaults. In August 1937, the Stürmer report the “truth about the Wasservogel company” in the column Berliner Brief (Letter from Berlin). The ghastly Antisemitic weekly claimed that the founder of the company was falsely stated to be non-Jewish and that the new owners were now hiding behind his good name.[5]  Even though this was not true at all, it increased the pressure on the company. In December 1937, the Stürmer announced that the “Wasservogel company is becoming German”.[6]  On 31 December 1937, the current business was transferred to Heimchen KG Spielhagen und Benmann and the company was deleted from the commercial register.

The founder of the company was already deported from Vienna to Opole in the so-called Generalgouvernement on 15 February 1941 together with a total of 2,003 men, women and children. Of the Viennese Jews from the February 1941 trains, 28 survived the Holocaust. Alas, Arthur Wasservogel was not among them. [7]

 

Benjamin Hahn & Christoph Kreutzmüller

[1] Berliner Adressbuch, 1916

[2] Handelsregister, Berliner Börsen Zeitung, 7.11.1908.

[3] Berliner Adressbuch, 1916

[4] “Boykottliste”, Heimatmuseum Falkensee, 15/15.

[5] Berliner Brief, Der Stürmer 32/1937 (August 1937).

[6] Berliner Brief, Der Stürmer 50/1937 (Dezember 1937).

[7] Dokumentationsarchiv Österreichischer Widerstand, Eintrag Arthur Wasservogel

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