Fotofex Kameras – Fritz Kaftanski – HR A 73480

Due to limited resources the research project left the data of many companies unfinished in 2012. Over the years, we managed to fill many gaps. Yet, we still miss lots of information, especially about the companies that were deleted from the register in 1938.

Preparing a chapter on photographs from Berlin for my book on daily life in the Nazi capital, I found that the owner of the camera company, Felix Kaftanski, was Jewish on a fascinating – albeit outdated – website. When I looked the company up in the database, I found we only had the conformation the company was deleted from the register in October 1938 – published in the state gazette (Reichsanzeiger) on November 3rd, 1938.

Berliner Handelsregister (1931), p. 114

According to our standard procedure, the first step is to look up the company in the handbook of Berlin companies: Berliner Handelsregister. Published for the last time in 1931 by the Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce, it lists the basic data of all the registered companies in Berlin. For Fotofex it gives the registration Number, the year of registration (1929), address and the name of the sole owner, Fritz Kaftanski.

As we went through all changes published, but did not register any entries for the company until 1938, we can assume that the structure of the company had not changed between 1931 and 1938. What had changed, however, was the name of the street. After his untimely death, the Königgrätzer was given the name of the liberal German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann in 1930 – and was renamed Saarland-Straße – after the Saar region had opted for Germany in 1935.

Advertisement for the Minifex taken from the Website Fritz-Bedrich-Fréderic Kaftanski. History of a Camera Manufactorer: http://kaftanski.free.fr/

Kaftanskis produced respectively assembled a wide range of cameras – from simple box cameras to a very special camera called Minifex. Introduced in 1932, the Minifex was advertised as the smallest camera in the world. Despite also being one of the most expensive camera in the world, it became a long-lasting commercial success. Among others it was known as a spy camera.

Photo of a Minifex with kind permission by Boris Jamchtchick, Zell am See 2024

Under the pressure of the Nazis, Kaftanski moved first to Prague and after the German invasion to France. As his biographer Wim Luijt states, he survived in France and continued producing cameras such as the Minifex well into the 1970s.

Further reading:

Fritz-Bedrich-Fréderic Kaftanski. History of a Camera Manufactorer: http://kaftanski.free.fr/

Ilia Hepner, the Luna Park Grundstücks-Aktiengesellschaft, HRB 23654 and the Lunaterrassen Betriebsgesellschaft mbH, HRB 25015

As one of the many refugees of the Russian Civil war businessman Ilia Hepner, born in Bialystok, came to Berlin in the summer of 1921. Obviously, Hepner had not arrived in the German capital without means. Soon after having bought several apartment buildings, an even larger investment opportunity presented itself when the “Lunapark” came up for sale in March 1922. This amusement park stretched from the end of Berlin’s fashionable Kurfürstendamm to Halensee and was considered one of the largest in Europe.[1]

Entry „Lunaterrassen Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H“ into the commercial register. Sept. 5, 1926, State Archive Berlin, A Rep 342-0, 59995

Luna Park-Grundstücks AG” was founded to acquire the fairground, followed three months later by Lunaterrassen Betriebsgesellschaft mbH Kommanditgesellschaft, which was fully absorbed into the AG later. From March 1925, Ilia Hepner was the sole director and shareholder of both companies.[2] Under Hepner’s management, the amusement park experienced a second heyday. In addition to new rides and a wave pool that was unique at the time, high-priced raffles, beauty contests and competitions attracted crowds. In 1929, the park celebrated its 25th anniversary with a large programme.[3] By that time, the Lunapark employed some 1,500 staff from spring to autumn.

Photo by an unknown photographer, 1926 Entrance to the Lunapark, State Archive Berlin, F Rep. 290 Nr. II920

In January 1933, Ilia Hepner became seriously ill and was no longer able to run his business. His brother Paul (1872-1937), an authorised signatory for both companies since 1924, was supposed to stand in for him, but was prevented from doing so by members of the Nazi Party. They denied him access to the park, physically attacked and even imprisoned him for some days.[4] When Ilia Hepner died and was buried on the Jewish cemetery in Berlin Weißensee, he had not left a will.[5] Ten relatives scattered across several countries were his heirs. One of them, his brother Joel Hepner (1872-1938), who lived in Berlin, still campaigned for the preservation of the company, but was so threatened that he left Germany in the same month. At the – possibly forced – request of Paul Hepner, the district court appointed a guardian of the estate, which also officially took the business completely out of the hands of the family.[6]

“From Luna- to National Park”, Berliner Morgenpost, December 29, 1933, Beilage, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz Berlin

The National Socialists had been interested in taking over the Luna Park for some time. At a meeting of the NSDAP on 4 July 1933 in the Wilmersdorf town hall, a party comrade presented a project for the “change of ownership and reorganisation of the Luna Park”. As the Berliner Morgenpost reported the Lunapark was to be redesigned as a “national park” by Albert Speer with “Aryan” [i.e. not-Jewish] shareholders. All Jewish employees and members of the Supervisory Board of Luna Park AG were dismissed. In October 1933, the new Management Board initiated bankruptcy proceedings. This was relatively easy to accomplish, as the properties were heavily encumbered with mortgages, interest was due and debts had accumulated. Shortly before the end of the year, the sale to Nationalpark AG was finalised. Although the reopening planned for May 1934 was widely publicised in the local press, the plans had to be completely abandoned – for a projected road leading to the site of the Olympic Stadium.[7] By that time, Albert Speer had already pocketed his fee of 42,000 RM.[8]

By Jutta Fischer

For more information: https://www.jewish-places.de/de, s.v. Ilja, Paul und Daniel Hepner; Familie Jules Hepner


[1] Zum Lunapark: Ingrid Heinrich-Jost, Wer will noch mal ? Wer hat noch nicht? Aus der Geschichte der Berliner Rummelplätze, Berlin 1985, pp. 67-80; Johanna Niedbalski, Die ganze Welt des Vergnügens. Berliner Vergnügungsparks der 1880er bis 1930er Jahre, Berlin 2018, especially pp. 133-147.

[2] Ruling, July 10 1924, HRB 23654, Federal Archive Berlin (BArch), R 8127/7213; Ruling March 7, 1925, State Archive Berlin (LAB), LAB A Rep. 342-02, 49594.

[3] Der Lunapark im Jubiläumsjahr 1929, Berlin 1929.

[4] Sworn statements by various family members, in: LAB B Rep. 025-01,415/51; sworn statement by Alfred Scharff, 1965, in: LAB B Rep. 025-08, 5714/59.

[5] Gravestone in the Jewish Cemetery  Berlin-Weißensee, field F 7, row 21.

[6] Letter from the lawyers Dr. M. Zeller and Dr. H. Lorch, March 24,1933, LAB A Rep. 342, 16673.

[7] Meeting, July 4, 1933, LAB A Pr Br Rep. 057, 417, 3.

[8] Letter by the district mayor of Wilmersdorf, April 14, 1935, LAB A Pr Br Rep. 057, 417,3.


Chemical Plant Albert Mendel – BHR B 24778

Just before World War One pharmacist Albert Mendel, born near Bromberg (now Bydgoszcz) in 1878, moved to Berlin. There he took over the “Luisen Drogerie Eugen Totzeck successor” which supplied pharmacies and hospitals with pharmaceutical products of all kinds. In 1916 he renamed the company into “Albert Mendel Drug Wholesaler”.

Trademark, Berlin 1930

After the First World War, the company began to produce its own pharmaceutical products and market them with the suffix “AMAG”, which stood for “Albert Mendel AG”. Introduced in 1930, the cough syrup Tussamag was particularly successful.

From 1933, the successful pharmaceutical entrepreneur was accused of having expanded his sales by unfair means, including bribing the Association of Berlin Hospitals. Although this was not true, Mendel knew “that as a Jew I would have no opportunity to answer for my actions in a public trial and that they were simply looking for a way to safely expose me to Nazi ‘legal measures’.”[1]

The pressure was intensified by the fact that more and more public organisations were drawing up blacklists ousting Jewish suppliers.  In order to saveguard the company, Albert Mendel and his Jewish partner Hermann Goldberg officially resigned from the board of directors on 6 April 1933. One month later, the company was renamed “Chemische Fabrik Tempelhof”. Shortly afterwards, however, the non-Jewish managing director Paul Preuß informed his two Jewish colleagues that he could “no longer guarantee their safety” and gave them one hour’s notice to leave the company they had built up for good. 

Preuß gave the Westphalian entrepreneur Theodor Temmler a big stake in the company, which was recast in April 1936 under the name ” Chemische Fabrik Tempelhof Preuß & Temmler“.[2] Soon it‘s main product became „Pervetin“ the amphetamin many German soldiers took (and became dependent on) during the Blitz.

While the production of pervetin was discontinued after the war, Albert Mendel’s successful coughing syrup can still be found in German pharmacies.


[1] Sworn statement Albert Mendel. Nov. 7, 1951, Compensation Office Berlin 61434.

[2] Ibid.

For a detailed – albeit German – analysis see our paper “Vor dem Rausch” in Berlin in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2020

Anne and Fritz Degginger, Fine Women’s Underwear (./. BHR)

The merchant Fritz Degginger, born in Regensburg in 1884, travelled all through Europe as a commercial agent for the high-end textile market. He was in Milan when he was taken by surprise at the news that the First World War had broken out. He travelled back to Germany through Switzerland and would receive a serious head injury while he was a soldier in Serbia. After the war, Degginger worked mainly in the women’s clothing branch, and in 1932, working alongside his wife Anne, and became independent through his shop at Kurfürstendamm 220 – a fashionable address directly opposite the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Postcard, Poto of M. Krajewsky, Berlin ca. 1933, Entschädigungsbehörde Berlin, 251682

It was doubtless a coincidence that the photographer Hans Schaller happened to photograph Degginger’s business on the day of the blockade (labelled by the Nazis as a “boycott”) on businesses, doctor surgeries, and law firms regarded as Jewish. His picture shows a woman being turned away by an SA guard with a friendly smile.[1]

More than 20 years later, Fritz Degginger remembered how “3 Nazis in uniform” called on him to close his shop. After consulting the police, Degginger refused, resulting in the men returning to threaten him “with the words, that they would beat me on the head with their clubs until brain splattered the ceiling”.[2] Even though Degginger dated these events vaguely at the time after Hitler seized power, it can be assumed that they refer to the 1st of April 1933. The photo was probably taken after the return of the SA men. It can be seen how the curtains across the door are drawn and the shop within is closed. What is unclear, is whether one of the perpetrators perhaps deliberately posed as a friendly guard for the camera.

As the “situation against the Jews continued to escalate,” Fritz and Anne Degginger decided to specialise exclusively in women’s lingerie and moved a couple of doors down to the corner of Kurfürstendamm/Meineckestraße – an area which at this time would develop into a central location for institutions dealing with the emigration of Jews. The business developed very well. However, on the 10th of November 1938, the business was completely destroyed, and many wares were stolen.[3] Just like the other business owners that had been victims of the attacks, Degginger was forced to pay for the repairs to his shop himself. The Retzlaff glazing company sent him a bill of 485 RM on the 19th of November 1938 for changing the windowpanes. It is common knowledge that Jewish retailers were not allowed to reopen their shops after the pogrom. The remaining stock was sold off without the cooperation of the Deggingers, and the shop was rented out to somebody else.

Bill for the replacement of broken windowpanes, 19th of November 1938, Entschädigungsbehörde Berlin, 251682

In the weeks after the pogrom, Fritz and his son Roy Degginger were forced to go into hiding to avoid being transported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In May 1939, the family succeeded in fleeing across the green border to Belgium. Finally, after months of waiting, they were able to emigrate from Antwerp to the USA at the end of 1939. Why the company was not entered into the commercial register, despite having a yearly turnover amounting to more than 250,000 RM remains unknown.

Mert Akyuez & Christoph Kreutzmüller – with warm thanks to the family of Anne and Fritz Degginger!


[1] Photo by Hans Schaller, 1st of April 1933, bpk 30005414.

[2] Solemn oath by Fritz Degginger, 22nd of December 1954; CV of ritz Degginger, 1st of December 1954, Resititution Office of Berlin, 251682.

[3] Ibid.


Remembering the Pogrom (Kristallnacht)

Yesterday, the database became the basis of a moving memorial act. The Association of Berlin traders printed posters for all the companies that once had been on Kurfürstendamm – and found 119 in a stretch of less then 2 miles!

One of the 119 posters placed in shop windows yesternight

“The database “Jewish businesses in Berlin 1930 – 1945″ was invaluable for the preparation of the memorial route of the Christian churches and the trade association on 9 November 2023 as the basis for our research into the specific locations of Jewish businesses along the route. It is imperative that the database continues to be operated and adapted to new findings.”

Nils Busch-Petersen, CEO of the ‘Handelsverband Berlin Brandenburg’

Albert Rosenhain, Luxury and Leather Goods (BHR B 24987 (B 54916) and A 81633 (A 87112)

Albert Rosenhain was Berlin’s leading luxury and leather goods store. In addition to the flagship store on Leipziger Straße, at the time Berlin’s main shopping street, Rosenhain – like almost all major retailers – opened a branch on Kurfürstendamm in the 1920s. This store was located at Nr. 232 and was vis-a-vis the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Entrance to the shop at Kurfürstendamm 232, photograph from the magazine „Sport im Bild” (Sport in Pictures), 24/1930.

Despite its standing, the house was subject to the brutal blockade of commercial enterprises considered Jewish on 1st of April 1933. Against the background of the economic ostracism at home, the company strengthened its export business. In 1933, the second eldest son of the family, Fritz Fürstenberg, opened the Revéillon. Het huis voor Geschenken (Reiwinkel. The House of Gifts) company in Amsterdam’s busy Kalverstraat. Almost at the same time, Fritz Fürstenberg’s six-year younger brother Helmuth also opened a branch in Alexandria.[1]

Parallel to this, the parent company in Berlin was restructured. In the summer of 1935, the old LLC (limited liability company) was converted into an open trading company and at the same time a new LLC was founded to take over the business of the Kurfürstendamm branch. The restructuring process was completed by the foundation of an independent Albert Rosenhain Export LLC. Quite obviously, the family tried to hold its ground in an increasingly hostile environment by doing business abroad and splitting up the business operations.

In September 1937, “Der Stürmer” reported in an absurd photo report on the allegedly untenable hygienic conditions in the company’s canteen.[1] In March 1938, Egon Fürstenberg and his son Paul, who had “always rejected the idea of selling the company,” decided to withdraw from the business.[2] On 5th of October 1938, Albert Rosenhain’s current business was acquired for far less than its value by the newly founded company Reiwinkel. Haus der Geschenke.[3] What happened next was summarised after the war by an involved accounting firm:

“Before the Aryanisation negotiations were initiated, an official audit of the Fürstenberg family businesses was carried out, which – as was often the case at the time with businesses still in Jewish hands – was carried out under the strictest interpretation of the tax law provisions, resulting in unusually high back taxes.”[4]

The ruins of the Rosenhain shop at Kurfürstendamm, photographed by Fritz Fürstenberg, 1947, Jüdisches Museum Berlin, L-2005/30/6030.

Fritz Fürstenberg, who had only narrowly escaped persecution, had himself naturalised in the Netherlands in 1948 and took the lead on behalf of the family in establishing restitution claims in Germany.[5] Apparently, in connection with this, Fürstenberg also visited his hometown of Berlin and photographed the ruins of the family’s business and private houses there. The restitution proceedings ended in a settlement in 1957.[6]

In Amsterdam, the Revéillon company remained, under Fürstenberg’s management, one of the leading houses until the 1960s. The family business tradition also lived on in Alexandria, Cairo, and Tel Aviv through the Rivolie la Maison de Cadeaux companies.

By Christoph Kreutzmüller; with thanks to Ronnie Goltz who provided information and the photograph from 1930!


[1] “Nachrichten aus der Reichshauptstadt“ [“News from the Reich Capital“], Der Stürmer 15/38, September 1937.

[2] Aktennotiz der Reichskreditgesellschaft [Memorandum of the Reich Credit Society], 18th of March 1938, BArch, R. 8136, 3390.

[3] Kaufvertrag [Purchase contract], 5th of October 1938, BArch B, R 8136, 2807.

[4] Brief der Berliner Revisions-AG an das Landgericht [Letter from the Berlin Revisions-AG to the district court], 10th of October 1953, LAB, B Rep. 025-06, 887/50.

[5] Gesetzesvorlage [Bill], 4th of June1948, Staaten Gerneraal, 4th of June 1948.

[6] Brief Hans-Georg Tovote an das Wiedergutmachungsamt [Letter from Hans-Georg Tovote to the compensation office], 5th of January 1956, LAB, B Rep. 025-06, 887/50.



[1] Exposé Reichskreditgesellschaft [Exposé of the Reich Credit Society], 9th of August 1938, BArch, R. 8136, 3390.

Leo Libowski, Soap Dealer (BHR A 59300/ 98027)

The merchant Leo Libowski, born in Schirwindt in 1893, moved his Cologne-based business to the migration metropolis of Berlin in 1921.[1] The Berlin address book for 1922 noted Libowski to be a tobacconist.[2] At first, the business was located in the Friedrichshain district, in Grüner Weg (Green Lane) – a street that would later be renamed Brauner Weg (Brown Lane, as a nod to the colours of the Nazi party).

Cover Sheet of Leo Libwoskis File in the Commercial Register in Berlin, State Archive Berlin A Rep 342-02

Over the next few years, the East Prussian merchant conducted his business in Berlin with success and even extended the nature of his stock. By the end of the 1920s he was trading not only “tobacco and foodstuffs,” but also soap products.[3] In the middle of the economic crisis, Libowski relocated his business closer to the centre of town, to Elisabethstraße 36 – close to Weberstraße.[4] Whether or not his soap shop was blockaded or attacked by the SA on the 1st of April 1933 is impossible to ascertain from the sparse historical evidence. Libowski was able to maintain his business, however, and then became engaged to his future wife, Jenny Teckel, in October 1937.

It can be assumed that the soap business did not go unscathed during the days of the November Pogrom in 1938. In the wake of the SA followed a shockingly high number of the Berlin population, eager to participate in the looting of their Jewish neighbours.[5] If the soap shop was spared then it would surely only be by chance. However, Libowski succeeded in continuing to run the wholesale part of his company; as wholesalers were not included in the sweeping anti-Semitic prohibitions that were brought in on the 12th of November 1938, on Libowski’s 45th birthday. Despite the situation, the revenue office valued the soap company’s inventory at 10,100 RM in 1940.[6] The business was also still to be found in the city address book of 1941.[7] However, one year later, and for unknown reasons, Leo Libowski would be arrested and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.[8]
His wife was made to carry out forced labour as a seamstress at the Kurt Seidel military equipment company, located at Bülowstraße 66. On the 27th of October 1942, the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Industry informed the district court that the Leo Libowski soap company had ceased operation.[9] Consequently, the bureaucrats working within the commercial register department made the usual enquiries into the place of residence of the business owner.[10] In response to a letter sent to the ascertained address, Libowski’s wife Jenny informed the officials on the 19th of November 1942 that her husband was being held in Sachsenhausen concentration camp and that she had not heard from him in several weeks.[11]

When after two months she had still received no reply to her letter, she engaged the services of her lawyer, Dr Kurt Sachs. A few days later, on the 25th of January 1943, the deletion order which had been sent by the district court for the imprisoned Libowski to fill in and sign was sent back uncompleted by the commandant of Sachsenhausen, along with the explanation that Libowski had been “transferred to  Auschwitz concentration camp, near Kattowitz” on the 22nd of October 1942.[12] If we believe the information by the camp administration to be true, Libowski died just a few days after his arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau, on the 5th of November 1942.[13] However, it was only after Sachs wrote yet again to the commandant of Sachsenhausen to request information on Libowski’s whereabouts that he was told of the transfer to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The fact that Leo Libowski had been dead for some time was not mentioned![14] Instead, they sent an ordinance for the ex officio deletion of the company, unless an objection was posed within three months. Considering the district court was aware that Libowski, even had he still been alive, would hardly have been in a position to object to the decision, this act was in reality a meaningless formality.

What happened to the soap business’s stock is a mystery. Perhaps it was sold off to the W. Strauch soap shop which had been located at Elisabethstraße 66 since 1936 and had shared an address with Libowski’s soap business since 1940.[15] Unlike Libowski, W. Strauch’s business would continue to exist after the war – at least until 1947.[16]
On the 28th of February 1943, Jenny Libowski was forced to fill out a declaration of the property in her forced house (Judenhaus) in Alte Schönhauser shortly before her deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Notably, the unknowing widow explicitly mentioned that her “husband is in Auschwitz camp.”[17] She evidently remained unaware of her husband’s death, and perhaps hoped she would be reunited with him upon her arrival. This hope was tragically never to be realised, and Jenny Libowski, like her husband a few months earlier, was murdered.

The Aktive Museum Faschismus und Widerstand is currently researching the so called Judenhäuser in Berlin. The Alte Schönhauser 4 will be one of the houses featured in the online exhibition, due to be released in Oktober 2023.
 

[1] Commercial register supplement to the Reichs- und Preußischen Staatsanzeiger, 8th of October 1921, p. 11, URL: https://digi.bib.uni-mannheim.de/viewer/reichsanzeiger/film/020-8980/0510.jp2 [Accessed: 15.5.2022].
[2] Berlin address book (BAB), 1922, part I, p. 1889, URL: https://digital.zlb.de/viewer/image/34115495_1922/1945/ [Accessed: 15.5.2022]. On migration metropolis: Anne-Christin Saß, Berliner Luftmenschen. Osteuropäisch-jüdische Migranten in der Weimarer Republik, Göttingen 2012; Stiftung jüdisches Museum Berlin/Gertrud Pickhan (Ed.), Berlin Transit. Jüdische Migranten aus Osteuropa in den 1920er Jahren, Göttingen 2012.
[3] BAB, 1931, p. 655, URL: https://digital.zlb.de/viewer/image/34115495_1931/5512/ [Accessed: 15.5.2022]; Berlin commercial register, 1931, p. 255.
[4] BAB, 1932, part IV, p. 197, part II, p. 531, URL: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:kobv:109-1-4111925 [Accessed: 15.5.2022]; Histomap, http://histomapberlin.de/histomap/de/index.html [Accessed: 7.3.2021].
[5] Christoph Kreutzmüller, Theresa Polley, “Geplündert und gelistet, Eine Fallstudie zum Novemberpogrom in Berlin“, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, 11/2018, pp. 931–946.
[6] Letter from revenue office Rosenthaler Tor to the chief finance president, 17th of September 1943, Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv, Potsdam (BLHA), Rep. 36 A II, 23144.
[7] BAB, 1941, part IV, p. 193, URL: https://digital.zlb.de/viewer/image/34115495_1941/4680/ [Accessed: 15.5.2022].
[8] Letter from Jenny Libowski to the district court of Berlin, 3rd of December 1942, Amtsgericht Charlottenburg (AGC), HR A 91, 98027, 1943 (Leo Libowski).
[9] Letter from the chamber of commerce and industry to the registry court, 23rd of October 1942, AGC, HR A 91, 98027, 1943.
[10] Letter from the registry court to the registry office, 2nd of November 1942, Ibid.
[11] Letter from Jenny Libowski to the Berlin registry court, 19th of November 1942, Ibid.
[12] Letter from Sachsenhausen concentration camp to the district court, 25th of January 1943, AGC, HR A 91, 98027, 1943.
[13] Letter from Auschwitz camp to the district court, 18th of January 1943, AGC, HR A 91, 98027, 1943.
[14] Order on the letter from Dr Kurt Sachs to the Berlin district court, 26th of January 1943, Ibid.
[15]BAB, 1936, part IV, p. 197; BAB, 1931, part IV, p. 195.
[16] BAB 1946/47, p. 831.
[17] Declaration of property of Jenny Libowski, 28th of February 1943, BLHA, Rep. 36 A II, 23144.

Kopp & Joseph Drugstore (BHR A 11673 / A 88293)

The pharmacists Emil Joseph and Emil Kopp founded their drugstore Kopp & Joseph in June of 1893 and entered it into Berlin’s commercial register in 1901. The company’s commercial register number was originally A 11673 but later, following the tidying up of the register and removal of incorrect and redundant entries in 1937, was given the number A 88293. The main office of the company was located in Postdamer Staße 122 and produced and sold perfume, bathing products, bandaging materials, and cosmetics – including the successful nail polish “Stein der Weisen” (“The Philosopher’s Stone” or “Stone of the Wise”). The production department was located in Lützowstraße. The business developed and flourished so that, before the First World War, two shops could be opened in Tauentzienstraße 12a and on the Kurfürstendamm.

Unknown photographer, April 1, 1933, Private

After the deaths of the company founders (Emil Joseph in 1913 and Emil Kopp in 1922) Joseph’s widow, Marie Joseph, initially took over the running of the company. She was supported by her eldest son, Curt Joseph. After Marie died in August 1929 Curt became the sole proprietor and took on his younger brother as his proxy and inactive partner.

Curt Joseph was born in 1899 and had fought with distinction both in the First World War and later in the Freikorps. The call for a “boycott” of Jewish businesses at the end of March 1933 struck him as a personal insult, especially given the fact that the Nazi regime claimed to particularly honour the so-called “front-line fighters.” For this reason, Joseph wore his war medals on the morning 1st of April 1933 and declared to his colleagues that he believed the “so-called Nazi victory to be the beginning of the end for Germany.” He also announced that he would not voluntarily dismiss his Jewish employees.[1]

Joseph then copied the award certificate for his war medals and pasted it on the inside of his shop’s display window, directly underneath the boycott poster that had been stuck on the outside. Soon, however, the certificate had been removed and the window was smeared with the star of David and the word “Jude” (“Jew”) in white paint.

Joseph was threatened with violence by some colleagues (who now openly admitted to being National Socialists) and was forced to fire his Jewish staff. He was quickly able to recover his Jewish employees, however, due to the fact he had full power over employment. The company nevertheless suffered considerably from the informal trading boycott of the Berlin hospitals. The sinking business was forced to reduce its staff to survive, including its long-term authorized signatory. What’s more, Joseph relocated some of his businesses into companies that were not connected with the parent company, now labelled as Jewish. At the end of 1938, the company was named in the index of Jewish businesses for the administrative district of Tiergarten, with an additional comment that there remained 13 employees, 5 of whom were Jewish.[2]

During the November Pogrom that followed the main shop of the parent company was plundered and destroyed. Joseph was deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and, shortly after his release, sold the rest of the business far below its worth. Kopp & Joseph was liquidated in July 1939 by the “tax expert” Hans Rosenberg. Curt had left for Britain before the company’s liquidation and he remained, working as a chemist, until he died in 1963. His plan to bring his family over to the United Kingdom was “made impossible due to the war,” his wife and two children were deported to Auschwitz and murdered.

Christoph Kreutzmüller


[1] Curt Joseph, NS-Betriebszellen in Aktion, in: Margarete Limberg, Hubert Rübsaat (Ed.), Sie durften nicht mehr Deutsche sein: Jüdischer Alltag in Selbstzeugnissen 1933–1938, Frankfurt am Main 1990, p. 95.

[2] Verzeichnis jüdischer Gewerbebetriebe im Verwaltungsbezirk Tiergarten, Nr. 91, o. D. [1938/1939], LAB, A Rep. 005-03-02, 2.

Fur-Confection Loeb & Sutheim (BHR A 44470 / A 94765)

The pelt confection and fur trading business Loeb & Sutheim was entered into the Berlin commercial register in 1916. The company was based in Jerusalemer Straße 63/64, then later in the 1930s, it could be found at Kommandantenstraße 5a, in the immediate vicinity of Dönhoffplatz and the main shopping street of the time, Leipziger Straße

Photo by an unknown Photographer, undated (around 1930), in private ownership of the family.

In 1930, the business partners of this general partnership company were the cousins Josef and Ludwig Loeb from Merxheim. The latter would be badly wounded in the First World War, leading to the amputation of his left arm.

Photo by an unknown photographer, undated (around 1930), in private ownership of the family.

For an almost classic owner portrait, the two bosses pose at a tidy double desk on which two telephones are on display. While Ludwig Loeb looks to the camera, Joseph Loeb studies the industry magazine “Die Pelzkonfektion” (Fur Confection). For another photograph, the two can be seen amongst a workforce of more than 20 employees in a well-stocked warehouse, in which even leopard pelts can be seen.

Photo by an unknown photographer, undated (around 1930), in private ownership of the family.

Like many other companies, Josef and Ludwig Loeb were able to successfully operate their business for a long time in an increasingly hostile environment. Then, in May 1938, the business would be publicly vilified by the vulgar anti-Semitic magazine “Der Stürmer.”[1] Aware that the National Socialist state would eventually heavily engage in a policy of “dispossession” (“Entbesitzung”) which was proceeding at a creeping pace in Berlin, the Loebs decided to sell. Here, as a Dresdner Bank employee noted, they had a plan:

“During today’s visit to the company, Messrs Loeb [the business partners Josef and Ludwig Loeb; annotation by CK] informed us that they intended to aryanise their company. There are 2 longstanding employees available as specialists, one of whom works as a confectioner and the other as a representative, who, in the opinion of Messrs Loeb, certainly possess the skills and knowledge necessary to run such a business. Messrs Loeb then intend to take over the company’s purchases and sales from abroad, so as to guarantee the correct purchase of goods.”[2]

The business was transferred over to the company Kreuzberg & Kreuzberg. While Josef Loeb emigrated to London, Ludwig Loeb and his family fled to the Netherlands, from where many of his family members would be deported and murdered.

For more information visit Berlin Aktuell.

Thanks to the family who helped us with information and photos – and trusted us!

Christoph Kreutzmüller

(translated by Bethan Griffiths)


[1] “Aus der Reichshauptstadt“ [“From the Imperial Capital“], Der Stümer 16/21, May 1938.

[2] Brief der Depositenkasse 35 an die Zentrale der Dresdner Bank [Letter from Depositenkasse 35 to the head office of Dresdner Bank], in: HADB, 29997-2001.BE, Liste A.

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