1914: Das Ende deutsch-britischer Freizügigkeit und die Folgen

by Claudia Sternberg

Based on an article first published in Gemeindebrief of Deutsche Kirche in Nordengland & East Midlands (March-May 2018).

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Water colour drawing of  WWI internment camp Lofthouse Park near Wakefield by internee and Franconian painter Max Schnös, 1915 (Bechtel Family Archive).

Offene Grenzen und Mobilität, Unternehmens- und Geschäftsbeziehungen, Bildungs- und Kulturaustausch, gemischte Familien und Mehrsprachigkeit – all dies sind keine Phänomene der Integration Europas nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg und der Öffnung des Eisernen Vorhangs. Bereits im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert kamen viele Deutsche nach Großbritannien, wobei nicht nur die Metropole London, sondern auch der wirtschaftlich florierende Norden Englands für die Migranten attraktiv war. Professoren und Schweinemetzger, Friseure und Musiker, Ingenieure und Kellner, Hauspersonal und Händler ließen sich mit ihren Familien nieder oder gründeten einen neuen Hausstand; nachfolgende Generationen wuchsen heran.

Es war der Erste Weltkrieg, der diese Normalität beendete. Eingebürgerte Einwanderer und ihre Nachfahren bekamen das deutschfeindliche Klima im Alltag zu spüren. Einige zogen sich zurück oder beteuerten öffentlich ihre Loyalität; andere erlebten Übergriffe auf ihr Hab und Gut. Für nicht Naturalisierte war die Situation noch schwieriger: Männer wehrpflichtigen Alters wurden als sogenannte enemy aliens (Feindstaatenausländer) registriert und unterlagen Mobilitäts­beschrän­kungen. Es folgte schließlich die Internierung und in einigen Fällen die Repatriierung von Familienangehörigen. Von den Kriegsregelungen betroffen waren auch britische Frauen deutscher Internierter, die nach geltendem Recht die Nationalität der Ehemanns angenommen hatten. Zu den Lagern für deutsche, österreichisch-ungarische und türkische Zivilisten gehörten u.a. Knockaloe und Douglas auf der Isle of Man, Stobs in Schottland, Handforth in Cheshire, Stratford und Alexandra Palace in London, aber auch Ahmednagar in Indien oder Fort Napier in Südafrika. Nach Kriegsende wurden die in Großbritannien internierten Deutschen in großer Zahl ausgewiesen, wobei jedoch einige der Männer im Laufe der 1920er Jahre wieder zurückkehrten.Obwohl damals – wie heute – mehr Deutsche in Großbritannien ansässig waren als umgekehrt, hatte auch das deutsche Kaiserreich angesichts des Kriegsgeschehens und zunehmender Ressentiments angeordnet, potentiell kriegstaugliche ‚feindliche Ausländer‘ dauerhaft festzusetzen. Für sich in Deutschland befindliche Männer mit britischer Staatsangehörigkeit – ob ‘deutschgesinnt’, freundschaftlich, familiär oder geschäftlich verbunden oder nur auf der Durchreise – wurde die Trabrennbahn Ruhleben bei Spandau zum zentralen Internierungslager umfunktioniert.

Die Ereignisse verdeutlichen, wie in Kriegs- und Konfliktzeiten ein gesellschaftliches Miteinander durch Wort und Tat in ‘Eigenes’ und ‘Fremdes’ auseinanderdividiert wurde und welche Folgen dies hatte. Öffentlicher, rechtlicher und politischer Wille verhindern im Europa von heute derartige Zuspitzungen. Dennoch geben in der Debatte um Brexit der beiläufige Umgang mit Begriffen wie war und enemy und die Rückkehr von Vokabeln wie registration oder deportation Anlass, sich dieser gemeinsamen Vergangenheit zu erinnern.

In dem von der University of Leeds initiierten deutsch-britischen Gemeinschaftsprojekt Am falschen Ort zur falschen Zeit wurde die Geschichte eines vergessenen Internierungslagers in Yorkshire aufgearbeitet. Hierzu wird am 28. April 2018 um 11 Uhr in der Wakefield Library die Ausstellung Pleasure, Privilege, Privations: Lofthouse Park near Wakefield, 1908-1922 eröffnet (Wakefield One, Burton Street, Wakefield, WF1 2DD). Teil des Programms ist zudem eine Visualisierung von Family Narratives of Being German in Yorkshire, die auf Gesprächen mit Familien von heute und Nachkommen deutscher Einwanderer basiert. Das Engländerlager Ruhleben steht im Mittelpunkt der Ausstellung Nachbarn hinter Stacheldraht, die ab dem 3. Mai 2018 im Stadtgeschichtlichen Museum Spandau in der Spandauer Zitadelle zu sehen sein wird.

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Collage ‘Family Narrative of Being German in Yorkshire’ by Louise Atkinson, 2018.

Searching for Paul Cohen-Portheim’s Grave

A guest post by Beth Arscott and Alix Nicolas

The year: 1932, the place: Paris. A well-known German author dies in a little-known corner of the city, Rue Rémy de Gourmont. 70 years later, and Paul Cohen-Portheim has faded into such obscurity that the circumstances of his death and even his final resting place are shrouded in mystery.

Although little is known about his death, he was well documented in life. Born in Germany to Jewish parents, Cohen-Portheim spent his life travelling for artistic and literary inspiration, and was described as ‘the first citizen of Western Europe’ in the obituary in the Observer of 16 October 1932.

His writings included an autobiographical memoir about his internment in British camps during the First World War and travel books about some of his most loved haunts, London and Paris. Fittingly, the cosmopolitan Cohen-Portheim died in Paris while away from a registered home in England after falling ill during his travels in Spain and Portugal. He died on the 6 October 1932 at the age of 53.

Paul Cohen-Portheim

Paul Heinrich Cohen, who would later go by Paul Cohen-Portheim, was born in Berlin on 22 March 1879 to Jewish parents, Ernst and Jenny Cohen (née Porges von Portheim). Little is known of Ernst Cohen, but Jenny was a descendent of a large German manufacturing family, of minor noble status. Paul had an older sister, Helene Henriette (*1876), and a younger brother, Otto Heinrich (*1883).

The young Cohen-Portheim worked as a painter and travelled through Europe for inspiration, including to England. It was during one of his stays in the country that the First World War broke out, and he was arrested and imprisoned as an “enemy alien” at Knockaloe on the Isle of Man and in Lofthouse Park internment camp.

Following his release in 1918, Cohen-Portheim began his career as a published writer. Among others, he wrote a book about his experiences as an internee during the war, entitled Time Stood Still: My Internment in England 1914-1918 (1931). His years of confinement did not dampen his enthusiasm for the country; he was familiar with England and the English way of life and wrote two books on the subject in German which were subsequently translated: England: The Unknown Isle (1930) and The Spirit of London (1935). Indeed, Cohen-Portheim’s Anglophile interests were reflected in his personal life; at the time of his death, 19 Guilford Street in London was listed as his residence on the death certificate.

Finding Paul

With the help of Corinna Meiß of Woerteragentur we could start our research with basic family information about Paul Cohen-Portheim: the names of his parents and siblings and the date of his birth.

Using the genealogy website Ancestry, we found Cohen-Portheim’s death certificate. As he died in Paris, this was written in French and certified by the local mayor’s office. The death certificate contained the following information:

Name: Paul Cohen
Date of Death: 4th October 1932, 11pm
Place of Death: 18 Rue Rémy de Gourmont, 19th Arrondissement
Address: 19 Guilford Street London, England
Date of Birth: 22nd March 1879
Place of Birth: Berlin, Germany
Parents: Ernest Cohen and Jennie Cohen, both deceased
Marital Status: Single
Written: 6th October 1932

On this death certificate, he was listed as Paul Cohen, but we were confident that it was the correct document due to the matching names of his parents and date of his birth. Oddly, however, the certificate describes him as a voyageur de commerce (travelling salesman), which does not fit with what we know of his professional life as an author and translator. This led us to speculate that Cohen-Portheim might have died surrounded by unfamiliar people who had to make certain assumptions about his life.

Obituaries for Cohen-Portheim were published in several British newspapers. The Observer detailed the circumstances of his death, stating that he

‘fell desperately ill, with fever and complications, in Portugal. For some days he lay in a Portuguese hospital unable to move and surrounded by people who, as he wrote later, either couldn’t or wouldn’t understand a word he said. He was moved to Paris, a journey of two days and two nights, with a peasant to lift him in and out of trains at the five changes. It soon became clear to his doctors that there was no hope of his recovery and death came to him mercifully.’

The extent to which this information was reliable is questionable. And neither this obituary, nor others found in the Yorkshire Post or Evening Telegraph, gave details of his funeral arrangements or burial. This meant that there remained several places where Cohen-Portheim could have been buried.

At the time of his death he had a residence in London, but before his internment in 1914, he had had an apartment in Paris, and it was to that city which he returned as his health failed during his Iberian travels. In the inter-war years he spent time in Berlin, where he had family and where his German publishers were located. Furthermore, members of his family are buried as far afield as Vienna and Prague.

As Cohen-Portheim was unmarried, we thought it possible that he could have been buried with his parents. As a result, we searched civic death registers, city archives and Jewish memorials for traces of both him and his parents. We were unsuccessful at first, but by chance we came across a family history website dedicated to the Porges von Portheim family, through which we discovered the sisters of Paul Cohen-Portheim’s mother. One of her sisters, Clara, married Philip Goldschmidt, and the two are buried together in the Jewish part of the Central Cemetery in Vienna. More family members are buried in Prague. This opens up two further possibilities for Paul Cohen-Portheim’s burial place.

Join us in our search!

We are trying to locate Paul Cohen-Portheim’s grave or records of his burial. The most likely location would be Paris, but London, Berlin and Vienna are further possibilities. Both Jewish and secular cemeteries could be considered.

Cohen-Portheim died in 1932, mere months before Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany. During Nazism and the Holocaust, members of Cohen-Portheim’s family were persecuted and murdered. This may have resulted in the destruction of family records and documents.

Things to remember:
Paul Cohen-Portheim may be listed simply as Paul Cohen on official documents.

Questions that remain unanswered:
Where was Paul Cohen-Portheim buried?
Was he buried under the name Paul Cohen or Paul Cohen-Portheim?
What did he die of and what were the circumstances of his death?
Have any personal documents or family archives survived?

We would like to hear from if you have any further information.

Study visit to Yorkshire: Berlin pupils on Ruhleben (Part I)

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Project partner school in Berlin

For English text scroll down.

Schüler des Carl-Friedrich-von-Siemens-Gymnasiums in Berlin beschäftigen sich in einem Seminarkurs mit dem Thema Erster Weltkrieg und der Internierung von Zivilisten im ehemaligen Engländerlager Ruhleben. Das Lager lag nicht weit von der Schule entfernt und bildet daher einen Schwerpunkt der lokalgeschichtlichen Forschung. Continue reading

Lofthouse Park Case Study 3: Hermann J. Held, Law Student

Hermann J. Held was one of a number of German students and tutors detained as enemy aliens when war broke out in August 1914. He was sent to Lofthouse Camp on 21 October 1914 and transferred to Knockaloe Camp on the Isle of Man in April 1918 when Lofthouse Park was given over to the internment of German POWs.    Continue reading

Heritage Open Day in Lofthouse, 11 September 2016

Ein Blog-Beitrag von Eva Göbel (17 September 2016)

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Vergessene Geschichte(n): Heritage Open Day in Lofthouse (Foto: Eva Göbel)

Vor Ort erinnert nichts mehr an die wechselhafte Geschichte von Lofthouse Park vor einhundert Jahren: weder an den Freizeitpark, der zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts zur Belebung des Straßenbahngeschäftes angelegt wurde, noch an das Internierungslager für feindliche Ausländer im Ersten Weltkrieg. Lediglich einige Straßennamen knüpfen an die Vergangenheit an.

Vielleicht kamen gerade deshalb so viele Menschen am 11. September 2016 in den Lofthouse Gate Working Men’s Club im Norden Wakefields Continue reading

Lofthouse Park Case Study 2: Otto Froitzheim and Oscar Kreuzer, Tennis Champions

Otto Froitzheim and Oscar Kreuzer were two championship tennis players who had represented the German team against the Australians in the Davis Cup just before the war. They had been playing in the United States at the time, having been beaten by Anthony Wilding and Norman Brookes in one of the preliminary stages of the Davis Cup. News of their internment was reported in January 1916, when a letter sent to Miss Clare Cassell from Otto Froitzheim was published in The Pittsburg Press telling readers of the circumstances surrounding Froitzheim and Kreuzer’s detention in 1914. Continue reading

Heritage Open Day 2016: Lofthouse Park’s forgotten history, 1900-1919

HOD1_WB_4WEBCommunity event explores why time stood still for hundreds of Germans and Austrians in a Yorkshire village during the First World War.

Heritage Open Day Sunday, 11 September 2016

Lofthouse Gate Working Men’s Club, 12 Canal Lane, Lofthouse, Wakefield, WF3 3HN

11-16.00 Display, refreshments and children activities
11.00 and 14.30 Guided walk (c. 45-60 mins)
12.00 Mapping workshop (45 mins)
15.00 Performance (c. 20 mins)

Free event and open to all

Continue reading

Lofthouse Park Case Study 1: Paul Cohen-Portheim, painter and writer

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Paul Cohen-Portheim was painting in England at the outbreak of war. An Austrian, Cohen-Portheim had helped design the costumes for a series of operas at the London Opera House in November 1914. He was arrested four months later while at work and first interned at Knockaloe on the Isle of Man. The first part of his book Time Stood Still deals with his internment on the Isle of Man.

Continue reading