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.