The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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7 October 1933

Robert Goldschmidt‘s police certificate

In addition to a passport, a notice of deregistration as a resident and a tax clearance certificate, which confirmed, among other things, that the Reich exit tax and all other tax liabilities had been paid, one of the most important documents required by prospective emigrants in the Nazi period was a police clearance certificate. This certified that the holder had no criminal record—an important requirement for admission to another country.

The certificate shown here was issued to Robert Goldschmidt (1904–1980) on 7 October 1933 by the Registration and Passport Division of the Hamburg Police Authorities. It does not seem likely that Goldschmidt applied for the certificate in order to emigrate, since he did not leave Germany that year. It is quite possible that he required it for professional reasons. In 1933 he was awarded sole power of attorney by his employer, the Hamburg import firm Eichholz & Loeser, where he had begun working in 1921.

On the other hand, emigration plans cannot be entirely ruled out. After all, it was precisely this step that Robert Goldschmidt took one and a half years later, when he left for Shanghai on 13 March 1935. There he landed a job with the British grain company Bunge & Co. Limited. However, by that time his police certificate could not have been much help to him—it had expired just a few months after being issued.

Anna Mirtschin

Categorie(s): emigration | Hamburg | white-collar employees
Police certificate issued to Robert Goldschmidt, Hamburg, 7 October 1933
Gift of Liliane Ransom

Adoptive father

In 1939 Robert Goldschmidt married Melanie Haenel (1909–1991), a native of Alsace whom he had met in Shanghai. The wedding took place in Saigon, which was under French colonial rule at the time, so as not to jeopardize Melanie‘s French citizenship. Robert Goldschmidt lost his German citizenship at the start of the war. In order to avoid statelessness and obtain Chinese papers, he arranged to have the Chinese citizen Ho Hsien-Li adopt him on 20 May 1940. He took on the name of Ho Robert Goldschmidt and was officially naturalized as a Chinese citizen on 15 January 1941.

Robert Goldschmidt paid Ho Hsien-Li for the adoption but the two signed an agreement ruling out further financial claims by either party. Robert Goldschmidt never lived with his adoptive father, but the two met to have this photograph taken and document the adoption. Ho Hsien-Li was a widower who had lost his biological son. His only relative was his grandchild, who was still a minor. It is very likely that he needed the money from the adoption to survive.

Like almost all German Jews who had sought refuge in Shanghai, Robert and Melanie Goldschmidt left the city after the war. They immigrated to the US in 1949 and took on American citizenship in 1954.

Robert Goldschmidt (right) and his Chinese adoptive father Ho Hsien-Li, probably Schanghai, around 1940
Gift of Liliane Ransom