Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cousin love, the sequel — a night out with Bob Felenstein

Thanks to Walter for emailing this report on the visit by cousin Marsha Fields to her ailing brother Robert Felenstein, who is recovering from his latest round of cancer treatments. It is shocking to see Bob looking frail, but you can see vitality in his bearing in the photo as he connects with his sister during a dinner out with family members. I wish I had been among them, and I intend to make it to New York for a visit soon.

I'll add further thoughts in the comments, but on to Walter's moving account.

Dear Cousins, spouses, children, grandchldren and assorted other loved ones,
First I owe Marsha and all of you an apology for sending you so belatedly this account of Marsha's wonderful visit to Robert in which Tanya and I participated, which happened last weekend. Last Saturday, Tanya and I joined Marsha in taking Rob, Jane and her mother Ruth (who is 83 and still plays golf and runs marathons) to a favorite restaurant of theirs on Merrick Road a few miles from their home. As you can see from the accompanying photos, Robert is quite frail and without hair from the chemo he has been getting the past 3 months, but the doctor has offered him some hope that the chemo may have greatly shrunk the tumor in his lung--Jane told me tonight that he will have a CAT scan this coming Monday and they will get the results by next Wednesday. I will stop out there on the morning of Thursday Aug 2 on my way out to Sandy and Mel to drive Mel to the WW2 Reunion in Rhode Island...Lets pray there is good news that day... 
In any case, I digress from the wonderful encounter we all had last weekend...It was emotionally uplifting beyond words to see the joy that Robert expressed and manifested to see and embrace his sister and to know that Marsha made the trip from Denver to be with him and give him so much love and compassion...It was clear to all at that dinner that Marsha's visit made a huge difference for him, is a hugely strengthening for him as he struggles with all of the indescribably difficult things he is going through right now.
It was fascinating to me to watch Robert and Marsha interact, to understand how similar is their warmth, sense of humor and wry outlook on the world...so much of it an expression of their wonderful late mother Joan. Marsha and I really connected also--we have spent much too little time getting to know each other; which I hope is something we will now remedy. I might even get Marsha and Shelly involved in my crazy Muslim-Jewish activities, if we manage to an event up and running in Denver this fall...Marsha, will keep you posted on that... 
Anyway, I was left with the sense of what a lovely extended family we have, compact though it is; the Felensteins, Brenners and Rubys, and how good it is that we are reconnecting with each other, better late than never, but we should do much more of it. The wonderful work that Danny has done over the past six years in tabulating our Ruby Family History http://rubyfamily.blogspot.com/ leaves me increasingly with a deeply spiritual sense of how we are all interconnected--the living and the dead--all the Tulbowitzes and Rabinowitzes going back more than 150 years--all of the precious history, mostly forgotten, that we have managed to dig up and bring back to life--life experience going back to forgotten shtetls in Latvia and Russia--all of their struggles, tragedies and joys and triumphs as they moved to America and found their feet and lived such diverse, fascinating lives and produced generation and generation, all of that coursing through history and producing and impacting each of us in ways that we are only dimly aware of. 
Life is a precious web--Charlotte's web--glistening with dew, fragile but radiant in the morning sun, and (to channel the Beatles), its all one and life goes on and on within you and without you. The next song on that album (was it Sgt Pepper?) as I recall was 'When I'm 64', which some of us have already reached and other are fast approaching..But its OK, because its a joy to be alive and taste every moment, be chol zot (in spite of eveything)....Anyway, I just want to say that I love you all, even if I dont know many of you all that well, which is something we should remedy as much as possible, so lets not be strangers, cousins and children and assorted life partners, lets bond to the maximum extent possible, because none of lasts forever. That wish goes out to all of you, to members of my generation and the one after that...So pass this message on  if any you would like, to assorted loved ones to family members whose e-mails I dont have, like Marsha's wonderful daughter Melissa and her kids and to Josh Funt and the rest of Wendy's chldren and grandchildren...and anyone else who feels appropriate... 
Nu, Walter, enough of the New Age sermons, already...Please all of you, keep Robert (and Jane too) in your hearts and prayers and we'll do everything we can on this end to pull him through...
Love, Walter  
P.S. sorry that several of the photos are blurry...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Intrigue at Neuilly as a coup is plotted

Why would Colonel Engelke move from his position as chief of SS adminstration in Paris in June 1944 to an SS prison cell in Dachau in April 1945, if in fact he's the same person? That is the implied question that forum poster Ian Sayer asks on the Axis History Forum mentioned previously.

The answer is speculative, but it leads to a theory about what might have been discussed at those parties with Madame Kleinknecht, the one-time cabaret dancer who is now a premier hostess in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Der Spiegel mentions "German generals" being present at Neuilly, though not by name. Likely one of those would have been Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, a general of infantry from the Eastern Front (where he was responsible for atrocious war crimes) who in March 1942 was made the military commander of occupied France.

Stülpnagel goes down in history as one of the prominent actors in the Hitler July 20 assassination plot. In the plan, Hitler's killing by bomb blast at his Wolf's Lair bunker was to have been followed by mobilization of the Army Reserve, establishment of a new military government, and a negotiated end to the war.

In fact, the bomb injured Hitler but did not kill him, but this was not known for some hours. Meanwhile, aspects of the plan went into effect while other parts began to break down. In Paris, Stülpnagel went ahead with his part and rounded up all the SS and Gestapo officers in Paris. However, expected support from another top general, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, evaporated as it became clear that the assassination had failed.

Stülpnagel was forced to release the prisoners. Recalled to Berlin in the bloody aftermath of the plot's unravelling, he attempted suicide but was well enough to stand trial by the so-called Peoples Court for high treason.  He was found guilty and immediately hung on August 30, 1944.

Kluge was also recalled for possible involvement in the plot. Unlike Stülpnagel's, his August 17 suicide attempt, by cyanide capsule, was successful.

So from this it is not hard to imagine that some of the conspiratorial talk in the weeks leading up to the July 20 plot probably took place in the villa on the rue de la Saussaye.

We know from Der Spiegel that both of the Kleinknechts were much involved with spying and intelligence. "Valuable information came in this way from the capital of occupied France in Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. A large number of Germans and Frenchmen were arrested on Laure's messages out," according to the publication.

We're told that Laure went to Berlin in the hot summer weeks before or after July 20 (it is not clear), and that she had meetings directly with Hitler and Himmler. After the plot was foiled, we are told that Walter Kleinknecht was shot dead (presumably by Gestapo) in Paris and that Laure was imprisoned. Weeks later, Paris was liberated and Laure was able to convince the Allied side that she was a member of the resistance and not a Nazi collaborator.

In the context of the Hitler plot, it makes sense that Col. Engelke could be the same man who is in a military prison at the war's end in April 1945. Or that his brother might also have been investigated and then transferred to a combat post.  If there is a question, it is why Engelke is only in jail and not dead.

Many more people than were actually involved in the July 20 plot were rounded up and executed in its aftermath. However, all the evidence seems to point to key military and SS figures in Paris, including Generals Stülpnagel and Kluge, military administrator Engelke and industrialist Kleinknecht, being prime movers on the Paris end of the operation.

It is chilling to imagine the intrigue alive in those rooms of the Neuilly salon as Madame Kleinknecht, the one-time Anika Moor and future Laure Dissard, acted the perfect hostess.

Corrupt SS operations chief Fritz Engelke

The Der Spiegel article mentions SD chief Colonel Engelke as a regular at the Madame Kleinknect's salon. He doesn't rate a Wikipedia entry, but there is a fascinating discussion thread about him on Axis History Forum, described as an apolitical forum for discussions on the Axis nations, as well as the First and Second World Wars. From information on the thread from three researchers, we can piece together a biography.

Friedrich Engelke, known as Fritz, was born in Hannover in 1900. He prospered as a merchant and textile trader. During the 1930s he joins the administrative division of the SS, or Schutzstaffel, the paramilitary organization run by Heinrich Himmler. In November 1940, Engelke is identified as an SS-Ustof, or second lieutenant, with the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt, SS-WVHA, the organization responsible for managing finances, supply systems and business projects for the SS, according to Wikipedia. In June 1944, he has the higher rank of SS-Stubaf, or brigade leader.

He was stationed in Paris and placed in charge of the Buying and Distributing Office of Stocks and Commodities--sort of like the chief purchasing agent. One commenter notes that "it seems that he was corrupt and managed to loot a considerable amount of French property!"

A person by the same name was held as a prisoner in Dachau by the SS in April 1945. It is uncertain if it is the same one. However, there is also a suggestion that another SS officer who may have been his brother, Johann Engelke, was investigated for an unspecified relationship and was subsequently transferred to a military unit and reported missing in action.

After the war, Friedrich Engelke was convicted and sentenced in absentia for War crimes by the French on June 13, 1951. It was reported by another poster that he was still alive and residing in Hannover as of 1975.

Notorious guests at the Neuilly house

The Der Spiegel article lists several names among the guests of Walter and Laure Kleinknecht at the Neuilly villa. The two French names, Pierre Laval and Marcel Déat, were leading politicians in the Vichy government. From Wikipedia:

Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval (French pronunciation: [pjɛʁ laval]; 28 June 1883 – 15 October 1945) was a French politician. He was four times President of the council of ministers of the Third Republic, twice consecutively.
Following France's surrender and Armistice with Germany in 1940, he served twice in the Vichy Regime as head of government. He signed orders permitting the deportation of foreign Jews from French soil to the Nazi death camps.
After Liberation (1945), Laval was arrested by the French government under General Charles de Gaulle, found guilty of high treason, andexecuted by firing squad. The controversy surrounding his political activities has generated a dozen biographies.
Marcel Deat
Marcel Déat (7 March 1894, Guérigny, France – 5 January 1955, near Turin, Italy) was a French Socialist until 1933, when he initiated a spin-off from the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) along with other right-wing 'Neosocialists'. He then founded the collaborationist National Popular Rally (RNP) during the Vichy regime. In 1944, he became "Minister of Labor and National Solidarity" in Pierre Laval's government, before escaping to Sigmaringen along with Vichy officials after the Allied landings in Normandy. Condemned in absentia for collaborationism, he died while still in hiding in Italy. 
There is no Wikipedia entry for the German name mentioned, Colonel Engelke, but I have found some other interesting information, described in the following post.

We're listed by the Israel Genealogy Research Association

I noticed that we have gotten some Israeli visits and used the Blogger statistics function to track down the source. The Ruby Family History Project is listed of the "Blogs of Interest to Jewish Genealogists" page of the Israel Genealogy Research Association. See it here. It takes a while to load but be patient. There is a translate function in the left sidebar.

Excerpts from 1948 Der Spiegel article about Laure Dissard

The following are excerpts from a Google translation of the article "Zielbewußte Unmoral" from the July 10, 1948 edition of Der Spiegel. The automated translation is far from clean but you can usually figure out the meaning. The original article in the magazine archive is here.
The body was the only capital of the beautiful Laure Dissard. With 15 years ago, the daughter of a Parisian chef to harvest as a dancer at Montparnasse cabaret their first success. In the "environment" and the rich guests, she was known by the name Anika Moor...

From Laure Dissard Anika alias Moor was Laura Kleinknecht. The man who was then aged 23, the German manufacturer Walter Kleinknecht, head of a bank in Amsterdam and agent of the Paris branch of the German intelligence service...

A year after their marriage, war broke out...  Kleinknecht operated now as a political refugee. He remained in Paris...   In 1940, behind the barbed wire of Bassens, near Bordeaux, he waited for the German armored spearheads...

When German soldiers bathed in Arcachon, Kleinknecht resided in officer's uniform as head of the headquarters in Bordeaux.

But it was only a transition. The IG Farben man and personal friend of Goering opened in Paris in a wider field of his activity. He was also reunited with Laure...

In their luxurious apartment in Neuilly, the Paris Dahlem, prominent German and Vichy wrong people. Madame Kleinknecht, long since outgrown the ballet shoes of Montparnasse entertained, as the "grande dame" of the SD chief Colonel Engelke and the German generals as well as Mr. Pierre Laval and Marcel Deat...

Valuable information came in this way from the capital of occupied France in Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. A large number of Germans and Frenchmen were arrested on Laure's messages out...

In 1944, Laure went to Berlin. It was during the hot summer weeks that the plot of 20 Followed in July. Laure had meetings with Hitler and Himmler. It seems that the discovery of the conspiracy in Paris played a decisive role...

The couple was arrested after returning Kleinknecht Laures to Paris by the Germans. Kleinknecht was shot. His wife remained in jail.  Here they found the French after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. As "victims of Himmler" Laure was given the freedom.

The authorities believed their stories they told about their exploits during the occupation and handed her the privilege card...

"Laure Dissard" was now back on the identity card of the widowed Mrs. Kleinknecht.

The shooting of her husband by the Germans seemed to be the best trump card at the Paris authorities. She was given a large twelve-room apartment in the Rue Montaigne in the 8th Arrondissement near the Champs Elysées...

In versatile initiative she founded four companies, is engaged in "Export and Import" and earned a fortune...

Neuilly house was a Nazi salon during Occupation

Reviewing our recent work a couple of days ago, I noticed that our source for the address of the Neuilly villa also included the information that during the years of the Nazi occupation the house was leased a Walter Kleinknecht. I looked him up: Kleinknecht was a German banker with operations in Amsterdam and said to be a German intelligence agent. He was married to a glamorous former chorus girl who hosted many parties there.

A review of the book "Queen of the Occupation: The incredible life and adventures of Laure Dissard" (2005) refers to throngs of Nazi's at her Paris salon. She and her husband were implicated in the July 20 plot against Hitler, in which he was to have been replaced by a general in Paris. He was killed by the Gestapo. She successfully passed herself off as a member of the Resistance, and soon became the escort of a top American spy. 

After the war, she earned a fortune in the import-export business. 

The book is in French only and is hard to find. Could be fun reading. 

Here is an article from 1948 Der Spiegel about her. I'll put up some highlights in the following post. 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Two more from Arnaud's photo collection

There is not as much to say about the other two items since there is no documentation identifying the occasions or persons in the photo. No caption is needed in the first one. That is President Charles de Gaulle shaking hands with Arnaud. The great war hero and political leader was the president of France from 1959-1969. He died in November of 1970, so that could date this photo to sometime in the later 1960s, possibly after Arnaud had inherited his father's estate in 1968.

That is a United States military uniform on the right and there are four stars on each shoulder. I have looked at a list with photos of U.S. Army four-star generals stationed in Europe during the 60s and 70s but have not been able to identify him. Could be another service branch. I have no clues about the man in the middle. I considered maybe American ambassador to France, but that face doesn't fit any office incumbents (Sargent Shriver was one) in the right time frame. 

Two possible theories. It could have something to do with Arnauld's involvement in the veterans organization in Paris. Or it could have something to do with the 1973 peace talks that we know were conducted in Arnaud's house. Notice that there is some kind of electrical controller on the table in front of them, and some kind of an easel display (possibly a map) behind them. 

Arnaud's framed photos on eBay

Two weeks ago, when I was in the midst of my discoveries about Joe Liebman and his descendants, I came a most surprising item up for bid on eBay. It was described as "Moulieur Arnaud Clerc Wristwatches Founder Photo Framed Reprint Store Decoration," and it showed an image of the items, which was clearly a set of three framed photographs of our Arnaud, including one shaking hands with Charles de Gaulle.

I mentioned the find and shared the photo in this item, but was intentionally cryptic about the source of the information because I hoped to buy the lot on eBay and didn't want to alert any competitive bidders. I'm happy to say that I won the auction for the minimum bid of $13 (plus shipping), and that the packaged arrived here yesterday.

They turned out to be pretty much what I expected and they do not provide any significant new information. However, it is a pleasure to hold these items in my hand that once hung in one of the Clerc stores. It is more than remarkable that they should have come up for auction at the very time I was seeking information about the Liebman-Clercs.

Here is the first item with comments. I'll share the other two images in the next post.

The other two images are framed original photos, but this is a photocopy of a collage of items. The collage includes a certificate proclaiming Arnaud Clerc as an honorary member of Monaco's Carabiniere du Prince, the principality's palace guard. The certificate is half covered by the photos at bottom. Here is an English translation of the legible part:
First Colonel Aide de Camp of H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, and Superiour Commander of the Police Force has the honor to inform Monsieur Arnaud Clerc ... offered by the officers, the non-commissioned officers, Campania to the Prince's Guard
At top is the insignia of the military unit. For more information on the Carbiniere du Prince, see the Wikipedia entry here. The other collage images are of the medal he evidently received and two photos of the occasion. The medal has an image of the crown prince of Monaco, with the lettering "Ranier III Prince de Monaco."

On the right, he is having the medal pinned to his chest by the company commandant. At right, he is enjoying a cigarette after the ceremony with Prince Ranier himself. And that is Princess Grace (formerly the actress Grace Kelly) standing in the background. For comparison, here is a photo of the prince and princess at the time of their engagement in 1956.

One point of interest is the military cap Arnaud is wearing. I am no expert on these things, but that looks to me like an American-style cap. We do know that Arnaud served in the U.S. Army (though he probably did not see any action), and also that he was active in an American veteran's organization in Paris. From the Wikipedia article, we learn that "Monaco['s] is one of the only militaries [in the world] that recruits foreigners."

So if I am right, isn't it interesting that Arnaud wears some of his American military regalia on the big day when he goes to receive a high honor from the government of Monaco?

One last point. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what was meant by the word "Moulieur" in the eBay item description. Now that I have the item, I see that the certificate identifies the recipient as Monsieur Arnaud Clerc and that the mystery word must have been introduced in error by the eBay seller.