Record of a Nineteenth-Century Journeyman's Travels

From Our Holdings

Although we don't have a photo of Leopold Willstätter (1817–1868), his journeyman's book gives us a decent picture of him. It describes him as short in stature, with an oblong face, high forehead, rounded chin, dark-brown hair and eyebrows, light-brown eyes, medium-sized nose and mouth, and healthy teeth. Traditionally in Germany and surrounding countries, craftsmen such as carpenters and shoemakers spent several years moving from place to place as "journeymen," gaining experience in different workshops. As a journeyman, he was obliged to present his journeyman's book (Wanderbuch) to the local police of every town he visited and have it stamped. In an age before photography, it served as a form of identification, which is why a precise personal description was needed.

On the Road in Southwestern Germany and France

But we can glean much more from the journeyman's book because Leopold Willstätter's local masters also had to record how long and how well he worked for them. Between 1836 and 1843, the Jewish shoemaker's apprentice made stops in Mannheim, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Metz, and Paris.

Encouraging Jewish Craftsmen

Born in 1817 to a leather merchant in Karlsruhe, Willstätter belonged to the first generation of German Jews who were given the opportunity to learn a trade in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Grand Duchy of Baden, where Willstätter was born, was among the German territories that did the most to promote Jewish craftsmen. Of all the Jews working there in 1832, more than a quarter practiced a skilled trade.

From Apprentice to Master Shoemaker

Nevertheless, for various reasons most Jewish craftsmen gave up their professions after just a few years to become merchants. Not Leopold Willstätter. He began working as a shoemaker on Lange Strasse in Karlsruhe in 1845, and in 1865, just three years before his untimely death, he was named Master Shoemaker of the Court.

(9) Selected Objects from the Archive Alle anzeigen

Selected Objects from the Archive

Adoption contract Gloeden and Loevy

Even a Jewish-sounding name could be cause for discrimination. So the siblings Erich and Ursula Loevy chose to be adopted by Bernhard Gloeden, a grammar school teacher and family friend.

A desperate letter to their son in Sweden

"As long as we are still here, we will write to you every third day," wrote Paul and Sophie Berliner to their son, Gert, who was living in Stockholm, on 6 November 1941.

Martin Riesenburger’s Service Card

A provisional document from February 1953 certified that Martin Riesenburger was a rabbi responsible for pastoral care in East Berlin prisons.

Index cards from the British Army

Thousands of German emigrants fought against Germany in the British Army during the Second World War. In case of capture, they had to change their names, as these index cards document.

Frieda Neuber's Leather Pouch

Shortly before being deported to Theresienstadt, Frieder Neuber gave this leather pouch to her niece. The letters inside it document her desperate attempts to leave the country.

Memmelsdorf Genizah

In February 2002, workers renovating a house discovered a burlap sack filled with papers and personal items when they opened up a section of the ceiling. The house had been owned by Jews from 1775 to 1939.

Red Cross Letter to Emmy Warschauer

After the outbreak of the Second World War, the aid organization’s message service gave emigrants a way to contact relatives in Germany. That’s how Emmy Warschauer received confirmation that her daughter was alive.

Letter of Protection for the Jews of Ichenhausen

Until the nineteenth century, the residence and trading rights of Jews in the German territories were defined in letters of protection (Schutzbriefe), which had to be purchased.

Journeyman’s Book Belonging to the Shoemaker Leopold Willstätter

Leopold Willstätter traveled around southwest Germany and France as a journeyman from 1836 to 1843. The journeyman's book with a precise description of him also served as a form of identification.


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