25 October 2016

The Lindbergh Kidnapping and Its Connection to the Holocaust

(This article has been updated from the original posting in January 2015)

Anyone who knows me well knows that the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case has been a major part of my life since I began working at the NJ State Police Museum in 1992.  It’s to the point now that, no matter where I turn, I am finding some connection to the Case. 
            Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and marked the beginning of end of the Holocaust.  It is in the Holocaust that I recently found one of the saddest and most tragic connections to the Lindbergh Case.

Zalman (Solomon) Fisch was a Polish Jew, who moved from Poland to Leipzig, Germany where he owned a store.  He had three children: Pinkas, Hannah and Isidor.  Isidor, the youngest of the Fisch children, was born in 1905 and immigrated to America in 1925.  He was a con man, selling shares to the Knickerbocker Pie Baking Company after it had gone out of business.  He was also a furrier. He became a close friend and eventual business partner of Richard Hauptmann in 1932.  Richard would later be convicted of the kidnapping and murder of “the Lindbergh Baby”. 
In 1933, Isidor returned to Germany for an extended visit with his family in Leipzig.  Suffering from Tuberculosis, he died during the visit on March 29, 1934.  He is buried in the Neuer Israelischer Friedhof in Leipzig.  Prior to his departure for Germany, Richard Hauptmann threw him a going-away party.  According to Richard, it was at this party that Isidor turned over a small box for Richard to hold in safe keeping until he returned.  In September 1934, Richard was caught spending Lindbergh Ransom Money.  He was arrested and he claimed that the money came from the box contained that Isidor Fisch had given to him to hold.  Whether or not this is true is a topic for another day.
Isidor’s sister Hannah, his brother Pinkas and his sister-in-law Czerna Klausner Fisch were brought to the United States in January 1935 during the trial of Richard Hauptmann.  They were to testify, if needed, as witnesses on behalf of the prosecution regarding Isidor’s financial status.  While here, they stayed in a fancy Manhattan hotel and visited Coney Island.  Only Hannah was called as a witness.  After the trial, they returned home in Germany.  Just seven months later, and only because they were Jewish, they were stripped of their German citizenship in accordance with the newly enacted Nürnberg Laws.
Other than working for the Tobias Braude Company, a furrier located on Katherinestraße in Leipzig, nothing further is currently known of Hannah Fisch.  Her brother Pinkas also was furrier in Leipzig.  He had his own business just around the corner from where his sister worked, on the Brühl.  The Brühl was the center of the World fur trade.  “The Brühl was an emblem of Jewish economic activity in Leipzig.  In1938…the entire Brühl district changed hands, as fur firms – the pinnacle of Jewish commerce in the city, along with the department stores – were stolen from their owners.”[1]
 After losing their citizenship their fur business, Pinkas, his wife Czerna and their son Felix were eventually deported from Leipzig to Bardejov, Czechoslovakia (now in the Republic of Slovakia).  Bardejov was known as a “Jewish town”, because, by the 1920s Jews made up 34% of the population.  Today, though rich in Jewish history, it is known as a “town without Jews”.  The Nazis had established a puppet government and in 1942, they began mass deportations of over 3,000 Jews from Bardejov to area concentration camps. 
            On May 24, 1942, Pinkas was designated as Prisoner #262 and Czarna  was designated as Prisoner #263.  They were deported from Bardejov, Slovakia to Rejowiec in Chelm, Poland.  From there, both Pinkas and Czarna Fisch were then deported to an extermination camp (either Sobibor or Belzec) and murdered by the Nazis.  Their son Felix had been deported a day earlier, on May 23, from Bardejov to Auschwitz where he was designated Prisoner Number 10386.  The Nazis murdered him on June 9, 1942.  He was just 16 years old.

Left to Right: Czerna, Pinkas & Hannah Fisch (1935)

           I learned the fates of the Fisch Family from the Yad Vashem Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names.  Yad Vashem has collected and recorded names and biographical information of millions of victims of the Holocaust.  After dealing with the Lindbergh Case for 23 years, I cannot help but feel a connection to the people involved even without ever having met them.  I looked up their names in the Yad Vashem database on a whim and was not expecting nor prepared for the overwhelming rush of emotion that hit me when I saw their names listed.  Now, whenever I see a photograph or a video of the death camps I am no longer seeing nameless victims. Of the six million, I now know three.

Today, I happened to search the Yad Vashem database again, looking for Hanna Fisch and her father Salomon.  When I did not find them last year, when I wrote this article, I naively hoped that at least Hanna had survived the Holocaust.  I was wrong.  On October 28, 1938, both Salomon and Hanna were deported from Germany to the Lodiz Ghetto in Poland.  There they both died during the war, either murdered or from disease; I do not know which.  Of the six million, I now know five.

My research assistant at work recently discovered that Pinkus and Czerna Fisch had another child, a daughter, that was a year younger than their son Felix.  Berta Fisch was also deported with her parents and was listed as Prisoner #264.  Like her brother and parents, she was "deported to an extermination camp".  Of the six million, I now know six...

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%BChl_%28Leipzig%29 (retrieved January 28, 2015).  The Brühl was also the birthplace of Richard Wagner.

22 September 2016

West Trenton's Connection to India

West Trenton is an unincorporated neighborhood in the township of Ewing, Mercer County, New Jersey.  Called Birmingham at the time of the American Revolution (George Washington divided his troops in the heart of town on his way to the Battle of Trenton), it was later known as Trenton Junction, thanks to the arrival of the trains in the 1870s.  It held this name until the early 1930s when it was renamed West Trenton, the name it carries today.

At the turn of the century, Trenton Junction was a semi-isolated hamlet of farmland, country houses, and a few dirt roads.  You could catch a train to Philadelphia or New York or even into Trenton and, after some wrangling, a trolley service came into the village from downtown Trenton. 

In 1905, Trenton Junction had a most exotic visitor, from far away Nagaland, a province found in the jewel of the British Empire's crown, India.

Located in the northeastern corner of the country, Nagaland borders Burma (Myanmar) and it is one of modern India's smallest states.  Surrounded by Hinduism and Buddhism, it is mostly (88%) Christian (Baptist, specifically).

Around 1887, a boy named Eramo Shanjamo Jungi was born in Nagaland. He was of the Lota tribe and in 1905 he became the first Naga to come to the United States and receive a foreign education.

Mrs. S.A. Parrine was the wife of a Baptist minister and the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. M.T. Lamb of Grand Avenue, Trenton Junction. She and her husband were missionaries to Nagaland. On December 27, 1904 they brought Shanjamo to the United States. He spent 1905 living with her parents, the Lambs, in their farmhouse on Grand Avenue and he spent the school year studying at the Trenton Junction public school, just down the road. On October 27, 1905, the Rev. Judson Conklin, of the Clinton Avenue Baptist Church in Trenton, arranged to have Shanjamo lecture about his home. Mrs. Parrine interpreted for him.

The following year, Sanjamo transferred to a school in Port Norris and finally, in 1907, he transferred to the Mt. Hermon School in Warren County. He returned to Nagaland on November 27, 1908. He was very active in the Baptist Church in India, was ordained, established churches and preached at many churches in throughout Nagaland. He died in 1956.

Today in Nagaland, there is a monument to Eramo Shanjamo Jungi, highlighting the fact that he was the first of his people to receive a foreign education.  On the monument is a plaque with his photograph and a list of all of his accomplishments in life and as a Baptist minister and missionary.  Listed under his education is the little two-room school house 7,802 miles away, on Grand Avenue, in Trenton Junction.

26 July 2016

The Lindbergh–Schwarzkopf Cipher

On March 24, 1932, the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf, dispatched his deputy, Major Charles Schoeffel, to Europe to investigate any possible foreign connection to the Lindbergh kidnapping. The intention was for him to secretly meet with investigators at Scotland Yard and other European investigation agencies and show them Photostatic copies of the various ransom notes received by Colonel Lindbergh and his representatives. He was also to show them photographs of the Lindbergh Estate and other evidence in hopes of receiving any
“advice, suggestions or criticism concerning the facts in hand.” He sailed first for London, England, on March 28th aboard the RMS Mauritania. From London, he continued on to Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Rome.

Although this was supposed to be a secret mission, the press immediately knew Schoeffel was heading abroad. On April 1st, he received a telegram from the editor of the Daily Herald in London saying that “New York messages state you coming England investigate Lindbergh baby” [sic] and further requesting details of his plans. “This was followed by a visit from one of the women passengers who introduced herself as a sister of the editor of the Universal News, Inc. at London. She stated she had a cable which advised her I was on board and requested her to obtain an interview with me as to my plans.”

Major Schoeffel did not intend to grant anyone an interview. He disclosed his secret identity to the ship’s captain and asked him to send “a coded message to Colonel Schwarzkopf explaining the fact that I had received the telegram stated above and requesting what attitude to take towards the press.”

The “code” used by Schwarzkopf and Schoeffel was a simple substitution cipher, similar to the “Crypto-quips” found in many daily newspapers today. In this kind of cipher, replacing it with a different letter encrypts each letter of the alphabet. “The substitution is fixed for each letter of the alphabet. Thus, if "a" is encrypted to "R", then every time we see the letter "a" in the plaintext, we replace it with the letter "R" in the ciphertext.”(1) This kind of cipher traces back to the days of Julius Caesar. In his case, Caesar simply shifted the letters to the right by three. So, A became C; B became D andso on. In this case, “CAESAR” would then be written as “DCHVCU”.

The cipher employed by Colonel Schwarzkopf and Major Schoeffel randomly reassigned letters to replace the standard alphabet. In this case, A became C, B became J, and C became B, and so on. Each had a copy of the “key” that would allow him to encipher and decipher messages. When sending a telegram, Schwarzkopf or Schoeffel would first write out then replace the letters of the original “plaintext” message with the cipher. This would then be sent overseas by telegram. If the press intercepted it, it would take them too long to decipher the message for it to be of any use to them.

Charles Lindbergh also used a simple substitution cipher for his coded messages to and from Schwarzkopf and others working on the investigation. The difference was that Lindbergh used numbers instead of letters. But he also added a bit of a twist.

The simplest form of numeric substitution simply replaces a letter with its numbered position in the alphabet. For example, A is the first letter of the alphabet so A = 1. B is the second letter, so B = 2; C = 3; D = 4; E = 5 and so on. In this version of the numeric cipher, LINDBERGH would be written as 12 9 14 4 2 5 18 7 8. The twist that Lindbergh added was that, rather than using the numerical value of the plaintext letter, he used the numerical value of new letter assigned by Schwarzkopf’s cipher. It
sounds confusing but it is actually quite simple. 

In the plaintext alphabet, A = A = 1; B = B = 2; C = C = 3 (A=1; B=2; C=3) and so on. In Schwarzkopf’s cipher, A = C; B = J; C = B. Lindbergh used the numerical value of the replacement letter to represent the plaintext letter. Therefore, A = C = 3; B = J = 10; C = B = 2 (A=3, B=10; C=2). In other words, he encoded the message twice; first by replacing the original letters with those from the cipher and then by changing the cipher letters into their numerical value.

The following is a sample of a coded message that was written by Lindbergh.  Note: the dashes separate words and the periods separate individual letters(2):––

Whether or not Lindbergh actually used his version is unknown. And there is only one telegram known to still exist that was encoded using the Schwarzkopf–Schoeffel Cipher. Major Schoeffel sent it to Colonel Schwarzkopf while in London. The message simply states:


During the early investigation of the Crime of the Century, the movements of the State Police detectives were under great scrutiny. While not protecting diplomatic or military secrets, the codes employed by Lindbergh and the State Police were needed to keep the voracious appetite of the press for information in check.

1 http://crypto.interactive-maths.com/monoalphabetic-substitution-ciphers.html
2 Lindbergh’s message decodes as “Please communicate Col. Lindbergh”
3 Schoeffel’s message decodes as “At Yard Today Remain Thursday Latest Destination Probably Germany If Reply Send To Me New Scotland Yard.”


11 January 2016

A Rainy Afternoon in Philadelphia

I’m a relatively new-comer to the world of David Bowie fandom.  I became a fan on September 6, 1996.  That was the day I went with a friend to see my first Bowie concert.  She had been a life-long fan and I could never quite understand why someone her age was willing to travel to God-knows-where and stand in line for God-knows-how-long to listen to this person sing.  So when she invited me to tag along to a concert, I thought it would be a good chance to conduct an anthropological/sociological study.  She said that, if I liked it, she would take me to a concert in New York City a week or so later.  Convinced I wouldn’t like the concert, she arranged for my sister to go to the New York concert instead.

We arrived in Philadelphia at the Electric Factory in the afternoon and stood outside in a light rain.  When we got inside, lo and behold, no seats.  I was not happy – I wanted to sit down!  Oh well.  So, I start to look around at the crowd that was smooshed in the smallish room.  I was shocked at both the number of people and the span of ages – young kids to “old people”, senior citizens even!  Just what was going on?

My back was aching.

Finally, Bowie came out on stage.  The crowd erupted.  Then it happened.  He started to sing.  I could not believe what I was hearing.  I swear it was on the first note out of his mouth that I became a “die-hard fan”.  

My sister never got to go to the New York concert.  I attended fourteen more (including his 50th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden) before he stopped touring in 2004.

Like everyone else, I’m very grateful to Bowie for his catalog of incredible music.  But for me it was more than the music.  It was…is…the people.  It was through Bowie, his concerts and fan websites that I’ve met some of my closest friends around the world.  The Earthling Tour in 1997 was one of the most exciting times in my life.  The months leading up to the tour involved scores of his fans gathering on the Teenage Wildlife fanpage chat room.  We all discussed the where we were going to be seeing him and as the concerts happened, we raced home to post the set lists.  We made arrangements to “meet up” with our on-line friends at the shows.  Somehow, I was able to convince my parents to allow a fellow fan from Sweden come and stay with us so he could attend the shows here on the east coast with me.  We would wait in line for hours and hours before the show.  Sometimes I think waiting in line was more fun than the concert!  We all “knew” each other from the chatroom so it became a huge tailgate party of sorts.  I ended up seeing Bowie five times in a two week period during that tour, traveling to Philadelphia, Washington, DC and New York City.  

Since then, I’ve been fortunate to attend several more concerts and to travel abroad to finally meet in person many of my on-line “Bowie friends”.  I’ve been to see them several times and some have been here to visit me.  Interestingly, we rarely discussed Bowie when we got together, instead focusing on each other and our lives (but with Bowie playing in the background!).  I’m happy to say that they have become and remain some of my closest and most important friends.   We’ve become more than just “Bowie friends”, we’ve become real friends, sharing in each other’s “real life” joys and sorrows.
I learned of David Bowie's death at 5:00 in the morning when I woke up as my cell phone exploded with texts, emails and Facebook messages from my friends around the world - “Bowie friends” and others – wanting to make sure I knew the news.  While I am mourning the loss of this incredible musician, I'm also smiling as I think about all of the experiences and friends he has made possible for me.  It's amazing the impact a musician has had on the past twenty-years of my life. 

And it all started with a concert on a rainy afternoon in Philadelphia.