Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Excerpts from 'Nazi Looting' by Gerard Aalders

Excerpts from 'Nazi Looting. the Plunder of Dutch Jewry During the Second World War' by Gerard Aalders, Berg Publishers, 2004 (translated from the Dutch by Arnold & Erica Pomerans).

There were two establishments in Amsterdam by the name of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. To distinguish between them, they were referred to respectively as Nieuwe Spiegelstraat and Sarphatistraat, the Amsterdam streets in which they were located. Oddly enough, the name Sarphatistraat was in use for the duration of the war, although the letterhead bore the address of 'Muiderschans'. Sarphatistraat itself had been named after the Jewish physician Samuel Sarphati (1813-66) (...)

The name of the new bank was chosen deliberately. A Jewish bank by the name of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. had been trading at 6-8 Nieuwe Spiegelstraat in Amsterdam [since 1859]. It had an excellent reputation and seemed well equipped to calm, or better still prevent, Jewish fears and the anticipated panic over registrations and transfers as much as possible. Another reason for using the name was to strengthen confidence abroad. (...). The name Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. not only stood for reliability and integrity but inspired trust, and the Germans made good use of these qualities when they set up the fictitious branch in the Sarphatistraat. Apart from the name, the two banks had nothing in common, and were administered quite separately.

Needless to say, the genuine bank of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. in Nieuwe Spiegelstraat had been placed under German control as part of the 'Aryanization' process. Edgar Fuld and Robert May, the two Jewish proprietors, were forced in May 1941 to hand over control to Alfred Flesche, who in addition to being a director of the Rhodius-Koenigs Handelmaatschappij and president of the german Chamber of Commerce for the netherlands now also became 'commissarial administrator' of the famous bank in the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Flesche had been with Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. as a Verwalter since 8 July 1940 under the enemy property decree of 24 June 1940, following the escape to England of Ellen von Marx-May.
Ellen was the heir of Paul May and his wife Rosa Fuld, both of whom had committed suicide on 15 May 1940 (Paul May and his brother Robert had been board members of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co., Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Ellen von Marx-May had fled to England with her family one day earlier, on 14 May. Paul May's estate, or at least Ellen von Marx-May's share, was treated as 'enemy property' because she had fled the Netherlands. It was on these grounds that the bank had been saddled with an administrator.
Liro was the first large Jewish concern to be placed under an administrator, albeit only in part. Alfred Flesche had a good name as an independent banker and, as he later testified, tried to show his good intentions by running the company entrusted to him to the best of his ability.
The two Jewish partners, Fuld and May, continued to work in the bank until close to the end of the war, which both of them survived. To a large extent, that was undoubtedly due to Flesche's efforts. (...)

Liro Sarphatistraat was opened on 8 August 1941 by virtue of VO 148/1941 'concerning the handling of Jewish capital assets'. This was the first Verordnung [a decree with the value of a law] affecting the private property of Jews, and was to become known as the First Liro Verordnung.

From the middle of 1942 to the summer of 1943 the flow of items into Liro was so huge that the need of additional storage space became urgent. To that end, the buildings of the Handwerkersvriendenkring (now the Criterion cinema in Roeterstraat) and of the Diamond Stock Exchange in Weesperplein were taken over. (...) The building in Roeterstraat had been rented, with an eye to the Second Liro Verordnung, as early as 1 May, for a period of one year at a rental of 6,500 Guilders. When storage space still appeared to be inadequate, two floors of the Diamond Stock Exchange were hired from 1 February 1943 to 31 October 1943 (...). The annual rental for both floors was 14,000 Guilders.

On 22 July 1941, Flesche was instructed to 'make organizational preparations for the seizure of Jewish capital assets'. A building belonging to the Amsterdamsche Bank at 47-55 Sarphatistraat was rented as a storage depot for the booty. The cellars of the premises held two large vaults, one of which contained safe-deposit boxes. The Germans agreed to pay a rental of 35,000 Guilders. In addition, they agreed to pay the removal expenses of the Amsterdamsche bank, which came to 8,700 Guilders. They also paid 70,000 guilders for the inventory as well as 9,000 Guilders for various small structural alterations. All in all, these initial expenses and the capital outlay were a mere trifle compared with the hundreds of millions in the form of money, credits, claims, shares and, at a later stage, objets d'art, diamonds and precious metals that poured into 47-55 Sarphatistraat.

It was the intention of Fischböck, the man who had thought up the whole Liro idea, that the robber's den appear like a normal bank to the outside world. That meant a normal board of directors. It seemed obvious that Alfred Flesche, the Verwalter of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. in Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, would be appointed the new head. (...)
Flesche himself wanted nothing to do personally with 'Sarphatistraat', altough he never said so expressly to his superiors. He obviously neither could nor would assume responsibility for the robber bank. According to him (...), Sarphatistraat and Nieuwe Spiegelstraat were to be kept strictly separate. That met with resistance from Fischböck, who wanted to present Liro as an undivided, normal bank.

The size of Liro [Sarphatistraat] staff is one way of forming some idea of the scale of the looting activities. While Liro could still make do with a staff of 268 at the time of the First Liro Verordnung, 160 of them working in the banking division, the number was nearly doubled in 1942 (510), to drop back again to 299 in 1943.
The original core of the Sarphatistraat staff came from the genuine Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. in Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Towards the end of 1941, the entire staff was summoned and informed by Director Fuld that some of them might be transferred to the new Liro branch in Sarphatistraat. Fuld was unable to give precise details, because he did not know them himself. All that was certain was that banking and trustee matters would be handled in Sarphatistraat.
(...) Fuld advised staff members to agree to the transfer, because Nieuwe Spiegelstraat had already been placed under German administration so that its continued existence was uncertain. Those chosing to transfer to Sarphatistraat would at least be sure of continued employment. On 1 August 1941, seven days before the First Liro Verordnung, some 27 employees made the move from Nieuwe Spiegelstraat to Sarphatistraat.

The partners in the old Liro bank in Nieuwe Spiegelstraat were Robert May, Edgar Fuld and H.P. Rahusen.

Liro's [Sarphatistraat] store records have been lost, but the filing system is intact. All the goods handed in are recorded on about 13,000 index cards.

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