The case of Charlotte Teichgräber from Beuthen, Upper Silesia

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The pre-1945 scene above is of Beuthen town square [ 1 ]

Related post: The Bernheim Petition

You can read this article in German and Polish via Google Translate.

During the backdrop of increasing anti-Jewish persecution throughout Germany in the 1930s, this article relates what happened to two people from German Upper Silesia, who became caught up in the turmoil.

Charlotte Teichgräber and Leonhard Posner

Charlotte Teichgräber (usually referred to as Lotte) was a young woman working as a hairdresser in a hair salon in Beuthen, German Upper Silesia. Her young fiancé was Leonhard Posner.

The fact that Leonhard was Jewish and Lotte was not Jewish, put the couple in direct conflict with ever-growing Nazi anti-Jewish persecution prevalent during the 1930s.

In July 1935, Charlotte Teichgräber and her fiance Leonhard Posner applied for a marriage license. On 22 July an antisemitic mob directed by Josef Littinsky, an SA* member, attacked Charlotte. Her hair was cut and tar smeared over her face. The mob attached a sign around her neck, which read “I am a racial defiler”. [ 2 ]

*The SA (Sturmabteilung) was the Nazi Party’s original paramilitary wing.

The shoring of hair was a standard punishment for women in Germany who were accused of Rassenschande (race defilement). [ 3 ]

In the weeks that followed the attack on Charlotte Teichgräber, a surge of anti-Semitic harassment and attacks occurred in German Upper Silesia. Lotte and Leonhard eventually left Germany, determined to marry outside the country. [ 4 ]

There are multiple variants of what happened during and immediately after the Teichgräber incident, and the case received wide coverage in numerous Polish newspapers. It has to be remembered that any reporting from German or Polish sources would not have been by disinterested persons, which may have resulted in a less than objective or truthful narrative of what took place.

Karch, in his book Nation and Loyalty in a German-Polish Borderland, does not elaborate further than what has been referenced above. No doubt, Karch only referenced his primary sources and may have considered that what was written in the Polish press, was speculative and, therefore, inaccurate.

My analysis of the many articles in the Polish press about the Teichgräber incident is that there seem to be obvious errors in the reporting. Every Polish press article I have read from the time states that Charlotte’s fiancé was called Jerzy, which in German is Georg and in English George. According to Karch, this is incorrect.

Jews in German Upper Silesia had their rights protected by international law

In 1922 Germany and Poland had signed a treaty that gave protection to national minorities living in the plebiscite* areas of German Upper Silesia and Polish Upper Silesia. The validity of the treaty was set to last 15 years.

*Following violence between ethnic Germans and Poles in Upper Silesia, The League of Nations mandated a plebiscite to give citizens of the region the ability to choose if the area they lived in was to be part of Germany or Poland. The majority of Beuthen’s residents voted to be in the German state.

Germany’s international obligation under the minorities protection treaty mentioned above did not, in many instances, transfer to adherence. To outwardly show compliance with the treaty, officials in German Upper Silesia documented infringements of the treaty to show how they dealt with non-compliance.

Submission of an incident report by the Gestapo to the Reich Foreign Office

The local Gestapo submitted a report dated 8 August 1935 to the Reich Foreign Office about the Teichgräber incident. The report was delivered to the Reich Foreign Office in Berlin by motorcycle courier on 9 August 1935.

The Gestapo report about the Teichgräber incident

On 22 July 1935 two irresponsible persons requested the hairdresser Lotte Teichgräber, whose relationship with a Jew had caused the greatest uproar among the population, to come out of her place of work. On the street, after cutting off some of her hair, they smeared her with tar. A sign was hung round her neck, reading ‘I am the race defiler Teichgräber”. The crowd that had assembled in the meantime was planning to march Teichgräber through the town. As a result of the intervention of the local police authorities, this plan was thwarted by arresting Teichgräber a few minutes later, for her own protection and taking her to the hospital in Gleiwitz to clean off the tar. [ 6 ]

Had this event occurred outside German Upper Silesia and, therefore, not in the area covered by the minorities treaty, Leonhard Posner would have surely been seized and deported to a concentration camp.

The Arrest of Joseph Littinsky

Following the attack on Charlotte Teichgräber, SA member Littinsky was arrested and given a two months prison sentence (which he served in full) for his part in the attack on Teichgräber. [ 7 ]

What happened to Charlotte Teichgräber and Leonhard Posner after the attack in Beuthen?

Apart from Karch stating, as mentioned above, that Charlotte and Leonhard eventually left Germany, determined to marry outside the country, he makes no further reference about what happened to the couple after they left Germany. It is understandable that Karch, even if he were aware or further facts, would not have published them in his book. After all, Karch specifically dealt with historical events that affected the Jewish community in German Upper Silesia.

During my research, I did find strong evidence that Charlotte and Leonhard married and eventually arrived in a safe European country, before the outbreak of World War II. I attempted to contact the author of the sources found but regrettably did not receive a reply.

As this is an article based on historical facts, I am unable, at this time, to publish any further information.

Appeal for information

If you have any further information that would enable me to make this article more complete, I will be most grateful to hear from you.

Sources

1. Photograph of Beuthen town square. aququ, CC BY-SA 4.0 creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Brendan Karch. 2018. Nation and Loyalty in a German-Polish Borderland : Cambridge University Press. Page 208

3. Nichols, Bradley Jared, “The Hunt for Lost Blood: Nazi Germanization Policy in Occupied Europe. ” PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2016. trace.tennessee.edu/utk_graddiss/3660 (PDF) Page 179

4. Brendan Karch. 2018. Nation and Loyalty in a German-Polish Borderland : Cambridge University Press. Page 209

5. Source example: Newspaper Polska Zachodnia Page 9 “Szczegóły makabrycznego widowiska na ulicach bytomia“. “Details of a macabre spectacle on the streets of Bytom“. Page 9. Silesian Digital Library.

6. The Persecution and Murder of the European Jews by Nazi Germany, 1933-1495. Volume 1. Page 494. Document 186. ISBN 978-3-11-035359-4. De Gruyter.

7. Brendan Karch. 2018. Nation and Loyalty in a German-Polish Borderland : Cambridge University Press. Page 209.

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