Gertrude Schildbach

Gertrude Schildbach

Gertrude Schildbach was born in Germany. She joined the German Communist Party and worked as an agent for Ignaz Reiss, the NKVD officer based in Berlin. Reiss's wife, Elsa Poretsky, described her as "particularly unattractive, with a short, squat body, an over-sized head, glasses with very thick lenses and blackened, protruding teeth."

According to Gary Kern, the author of A Death in Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalin Terror (2004): "Devoted to the couple and their son Roman, whom she used to baby-sit and take to the movies, Schildbach was incapable of holding a regular job, invented all sorts of fanciful and romantic stories about herself and turned to Ignace when in trouble."

In 1937 Reiss became disillusioned with events in the Soviet Union. He was especially upset when he heard that NKVD agents recalled to Moscow were being executed. Richard Deacon, the author of A History of the Russian Secret Service (1972) has pointed out: "Ignace Reiss suddenly realised that before long he, too, might well be next on the list for liquidation. He had been loyal to the Soviet Union, he had carried out all tasks assigned to him with efficiency and devotion, but, though not a Trotskyite, he was the friend of Trotskyites and opposed to the anti-Trotsky campaign. One by one he saw his friends compromised on some trumped-up charge, arrested and then either executed or allowed to disappear for ever. When Reiss returned to Europe he must already have known that he had little choice in future: either he must defect to safety, or he must carry on working until he himself was liquidated."

In July 1937 Ignaz Reiss received a letter from Abram Slutsky and was warned that if he did not go back to Moscow at once he would be "treated as a traitor and punished accordingly". It was therefore decided to defect. Elsa rented a house in Finhaut, a picturesque village in southern Switzerland, just over the border from France and Ignaz took a room in a Paris hotel.

Reiss also received a letter from Gertrude Schildbach. At the time she was living in Rome and she asked if she could see Reiss. He agreed and then went to a meeting with Henricus Sneevliet in Amsterdam. Sneevliet later told Victor Serge and his fellow Trotskyists that "Ignace Reiss was warning us that we were all in peril, and asking to see us. Reiss was at present hiding in Switzerland. We arranged to meet him in Rheims on 5 September 1937."

Reiss wrote a series of letters that he gave in to the Soviet Embassy in Paris explaining his decision to break with the Soviet Union because he no longer supported the views of Stalin's counter-revolution and wanted to return to the freedom and teachings of Lenin. "Up to this moment I marched alongside you. Now I will not take another step. Our paths diverge! He who now keeps quiet becomes Stalin's accomplice, betrays the working class, betrays socialism. I have been fighting for socialism since my twentieth year. Now on the threshold of my fortieth I do not want to live off the favours of a Yezhov. I have sixteen years of illegal work behind me. That is not little, but I have enough strength left to begin everything all over again to save socialism. ... No, I cannot stand it any longer. I take my freedom of action. I return to Lenin, to his doctrine, to his acts." These letters were addressed to Joseph Stalin and Abram Slutsky.

Mikhail Shpiegelglass was instructed to organize the assassination of Reiss. According to Edward P. Gazur, the author of Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001): "On learning that Reiss had disobeyed the order to return and intended to defect, an enraged Stalin ordered that an example be made of his case so as to warn other KGB officers against taking steps in the same direction. Stalin reasoned that any betrayal by KGB officers would not only expose the entire operation, but would succeed in placing the most dangerous secrets of the KGB's spy networks in the hands of the enemy's intelligence services. Stalin ordered Yezhov to dispatch a Mobile Group to find and assassinate Reiss and his family in a manner that would be sure to send an unmistakable message to any KGB officer considering Reiss's route."

Reiss now joined Elsa Poretsky in Finhaut. According to Elsa his hair had turned white during the ten days he had been hiding in France. After several days he showed his wife a copy of the letter he had sent to Stalin. She now realized that "our world was gone forever, we had no past, we had no future, there was only the present." They had no income and nowhere to go. They also had no legal status anywhere.

Reiss wrote to Henricus Sneevliet and suggested a meeting in Reims on 5th September. He also contacted Gertrude Schildbach and arranged to see her at a cafe in Lausanne. According to Gary Kern, the author of A Death in Washington: Walter G. Krivitsky and the Stalin Terror (2004): "They found Schildbach unusually well dressed and full of stories about a rich industrialist she was going to marry, stories which they took with a dash of salt. They sat by a window, Elsa beside her and Ignace across, as she chattered nervously about her urgent matter - her desire to defect. Ignace advised her to get in touch with the Trotskyists."

Elsa returned to their home in Finhaut and Reiss planned to take the train to Reims to meet Sneevliet. Victor Serge later wrote: "We arranged to meet him in Reims on 5 September 1937. We waited for him at the station buffet, then at the post office. He did not appear. Puzzled, we wandered through the town, admiring the cathedral... drinking champagne in small cafes, and exchanging the confidences of men who have been saddened through a surfeit of bitter experiences. "Ignaz Reiss and Gertrude Schildbach went for supper outside of town. They left the restaurant and set off on foot. A car pulled up bearing two NKVD agents, Francois Rossi and Etienne Martignat. One was driving, the other - holding a machine-gun. Reiss was shot seven times in the head and five times in the body. The assassins fled, not bothering to check out of the hotel in Lausanne. They abandoned the car in Berne. The police found a box of chocolates, laced with strychnine, in the hotel room. It is believed these were intended for Elsa and her son Roman.

Schildbach was arrested in December, 1938. She received a sentence of eight months' imprisonment for her involvement in the crime. On her release she moved to the Soviet Union. It is believed that she was sent to a prison camp where she died.

The case of Ignaz Reiss, whose real name was Poretsky, was the first to come to Orlov's attention towards the end of July 1937. Reiss was the KGB illegal rezident in Belgium when he was summoned back to Moscow. Reiss had the advantage of having his wife and daughter with him when he decided to defect. In July of that year, he sent a letter to the Soviet Embassy in Paris explaining his decision to break with the Soviet Government because he no longer supported the views of Stalin's counter-revolution and wanted to return to the freedom and teachings of Lenin. Orlov learned the details of Reiss's letter and decision to defect through his close contacts at the Soviet Embassy in Paris. He would later learn the conclusion of the matter through the same source.

On learning that Reiss had disobeyed the order to return and intended to defect, an enraged Stalin ordered that an example be made of his case so as to warn other KGB officers against taking steps in the same direction. Stalin ordered Yezhov to dispatch a Mobile Group to find and assassinate Reiss and his family in a manner that would be sure to send an unmistakable message to any KGB officer considering Reiss's route.

The task was of such a high priority that Yezhov placed his Deputy Chief of the INO, Mikhail Shpiegelglass, in charge of the Mobile Group that was to locate and liquidate Reiss and his family. Shpiegelglass was able to discover that Reiss had fled Belgium and was hiding in a village near Lausanne, Switzerland. Shpiegelglass enlisted the aid of a trusted Reiss family friend by the name of Gertrude Schildback, who was in the employ of the KGB, to lure Reiss to a rendezvous, where the Mobile Group riddled Reiss's body with machine-gun fire on the evening of 4 September 1937. His body was found by Swiss authorities on a road outside Lausanne.

Reiss's wife and daughter were spared, although it became clear that they had been intended to be victims of a box of chocolates that had been laced with strychnine poison. In her great haste to retreat from the scene of the crime, Schildbach had left behind her luggage at the small hotel where she was temporarily staying. During the course of their investigation, the Swiss police found the box of chocolates. Orlov speculated that Schildbach had neither the time nor the opportunity to give the chocolates to the intended victims, or, more probably, that she did not want to carry forth the murder plot. As a family friend, she had often played with the Reiss child and the bond that had developed with the child was more than likely the factor which caused her to renege on this part of the plot.

Meanwhile Reiss, using a Czech passport in the name of Hans Erhardt, had disappeared to Switzerland, leaving his wife and child in Paris. Laboriously the Soviet man-hunt team went into action: Swiss agents were ordered to keep a look-out for Reiss, while others trailed his wife and child. It was not long before Elisabeth Poretsky was discovered travelling to Switzerland where she was tracked down to a hotel in Montreux.

It was at this stage that the Soviet Intelligence brought into action a Swiss teacher named Renata Steiner who had joined the Swiss Communist Party as a student and, following an Intourist visit to Russia in 1934, had been enrolled as a minor agent. Two years later she returned to Moscow and was given full-time work in Soviet Intelligence, being sent to join the French network in a cover job in an antique shop in Paris. The shop was used as a clearing-house for information.

Renata Steiner was employed with discretion; she was often given assignments without being allowed to know their true purpose. Thus, when she had been ordered to shadow a Monsieur and Madame Sedoff, she had no idea that M. Sedoff was the son of Trotsky, and that he had been marked down by Konradyev's organisation for assassination. Having shadowed the Sedoffs to Switzerland, she reported to her superiors that Ignace Reiss had contacted Sedoff. The discovery that Reiss was probably actively conspiring with Trotskyite circles caused the Soviet to redouble their efforts to locate and then liquidate him. Renata Steiner was assigned to Efron's organisation and succeeded in tracing Reiss to a village in the Alps. She was then ordered to trace Ignace's wife.

On 5 September 1937 a saloon car was noticed to be parked in the Boulevard de Chamblandes in Lausanne. Inside it was found the body of a man riddled with machine-gun bullets. In his pocket was the passport of "Hans Erhardt, of Prague". The Swiss police were baffled because they had no record of "Hans Erhardt". It was only when Ignace Reiss's widow called on them and said she was afraid the murdered man was her husband and formally identified the body that they realised a Soviet murder gang was operating in their midst.

It was then that Renata Steiner walked into a trap. She had been told to hire the car in which Reiss's body had been found and had paid the deposit on it. When she failed to trace Madame Poretsky and could not establish contact with her superiors she foolishly went to the garage to find out what had happened to the car she had ordered.

The Swiss police were waiting for her. Renata Steiner, not having read the papers, or learned of the murder of Reiss, could not at first understand why she was being interrogated. Even the Swiss police were quickly convinced that she was just a dupe of the killers and had no knowledge of the plan to murder Reiss. Nevertheless she was arrested, closely questioned, tried as an accomplice, receiving a sentence of only eight months' imprisonment.

Someone in Soviet Intelligence blundered badly in not ordering Renata Steiner to leave Switzerland and to stay out of the country the moment she had ordered the car from the garage. In fact there appeared to be conflicting orders, for Abyatt had instructed her to return to Paris at once, but another Soviet agent in Paris then told her to go back to Berne. When she was not contacted by her network she should have guessed something had gone wrong, but inexperience led her straight into a police trap.

Ignace Reiss had been liquidated, but at serious cost to at least two networks just because a vital witness had been allowed to fall into the hands of the police. Elisabeth Poretsky stated that "they left behind a witness who could identify them all and reveal the well-guarded secret that White Russian organisations were used in the services of the Soviet Union. The killers themselves got away."

None of them was ever caught, though intensive inquiries were made by the French police. But intelligence services of Europe were now alerted to the fact that many Russians calling themselves "White", anti-Bolshevik or pro-Czarist were now actively working for the Soviet Union. Either by blackmail, threats to relatives, or through sheer lack of money they had been ensnared not merely into the ranks of Soviet Intelligence but had been used as an expendable squad of killers of their fellow-countrymen, perhaps the basest form of treachery of all.

We had spent many strenuous weeks with Helen (Elizabeth Zarubina) when toward the end of August we had a chance to go to Martha's Vineyard with some friends. We had been there not more than a few days when Helen called Paul Massing to come to New York. It was disturbing, but there was little else I could do but to let him go.

Two days passed. On the third day he returned and as I saw him standing on the ferry boat I knew that he had brought bad news. His face was tight, set, and he did not wave to me.

"Paul?" and before I could say another word - "Ludwig (Ignaz Reiss) is dead. He has been killed!"

He did not know any of the hideous details of Ludwig's death at the time. He had rushed back to me in fear that I might read about it in the papers. He wanted to be with me when that happened. It was a horrible shock.

We walked along the beach, through the sand dunes for hours and hours. We had lost Ludwig. "How do you know, Paul?" I asked. "Helen told me."

"What did she say? Who did it?"

He did not answer. He just looked at me. There was such a tragic sadness in his eyes that I stopped asking questions. He held me all night in his arms, as if to save me from the onslaught we felt inevitable. I could not get him to tell me of his conversation with Helen. Toward dawn he said, "Do you realize that Ludwig's death means immediate danger for us?"

We went early in the morning to Vineyard Haven, and from there to Edgartown to buy all the papers we could possibly find on the newsstands. But it was some time before the story broke.

The accounts were contradictory in minor details only; whether he had been killed by a submachine gun or an automatic pistol, whether he had five bullets in his head and seven in his body, or vice versa. But that he had fallen into a trap and been shot from behind was confirmed by all the papers in Switzerland and France.

The police investigation established the following facts:

On the night of September fourth, the body of an unknown man of about forty, riddled with machine gun bullets, was found on the road that led from Lausanne to the Chamblandes. There were fifteen bullets in his body. A strand of gray hair was clutched in the hand of the dead man. He was found by Max Davidson, a candy manufacturer. In his 'pocket was a passport in the name of Hans Eberhardt.

Police investigation checked his passport, which had been made out to a man born March 1, 1899, in Komotau, Czechoslovakia. It contained a French visa. He had registered as H. Eberhardt at the Hotel Continental as a businessman on a trip from Paris. The passport was forged.

On the theory that this was a political murder, they began checking their files and found that, in fact, the dead man was Ignace Reiss, thirty-nine, Polish born, former GPU agent, who had been attached to GPU outfits in Holland, Switzerland, Great Britain, and France - and in 1928 had been decorated by Stalin with the order of the Red Flag.
An abandoned American-made automobile in Geneva led to the identification of two mysterious guests, a man and a woman, who had registered on September 4th at the Hotel de la Paix in Lausanne, and had fled without their baggage and without paying their bill. The woman was Gertrude Schildbach, a German Communist, a resident of Rome. She was a GPU agent in Italy. The man was Roland Abbiat, alias Franqois Rossi, alias Py, a native of Monaco, and one of the Paris agents of the GPU.

Among the effects left by Gertrude Schildbach at the hotel was a box of candy containing strychnine. Schildbach had been an intimate friend of the Reiss family, and frequently played with Reiss's child. She had lacked the force necessary to give this poisoned candy to his family, as she had been directed to do by Spiegelglass, the GPU agent in charge of the liquidation of Reiss.

Gertrude Schildbach had been wavering politically since the beginning of the purge, and she could plausibly play the part of one ready to join Reiss in breaking with Moscow. Reiss had known of her waverings and trusted her. He took her to dinner in a restaurant near Chamblandes to discuss the situation.

At this point, the papers differ. Some say that Reiss and Schildbach went for a little walk after dinner. They wandered off into an obscure road. A car appeared, came to a sudden stop. Several men jumped out and attacked Reiss. He fought the attacking band, but with the aid of Schildbach, whose strand of hair was found in his clutch, they forced him into the car. Here Abbiat-Rossi and Etienne Martignat, both Paris GPU agents, fired a submachine gun at Reiss. His body was thrown out of the car.

The other version was that two days after he was murdered, a car containing a blood-soaked overcoat was found in front of the Geneva-Cornavin railroad station. Police learned that the car had been rented by a young girl who was identified as Renate Steiner, twenty-nine, Swiss-born Sorbonne student, who worked for the GPU, shadowing persons under suspicion. She made a full confession.

She had trailed him through Holland, France, and Switzerland, finally locating him in Lausanne. She telephoned phoned Paris and they sent Gertrude Schildbach. While Reiss was dining with Schildbach, Renate Steiner appeared in the restaurant, accompanied by Vladimir Kondratieff, a White Russian and the killer of Reiss. Kondratieff was unemployed and a member of Eurasia, a Czarist society. This is the very same organization that sent out a certain M. Kovalev to catch Alexander Barmine, the Soviet diplomat, after he had fled the Russian service.

Steiner and Kondratieff suggested a drive after dinner in the car that the Steiner girl had hired. Reiss sat beside her, Schildbach and Kondratieff in the rear. Kondratieff killed Reiss during the drive and the trio dumped the body on the roadside where it was found.

Renate Steiner, who had been in the GPU service since 1935, and had previously shadowed Sedov, the son of Trotzky, was apprehended by the police, and confessed to her share of the crime. She helped the authorities to solve it.

That is the story of Ludwig's death, as we learned it from the newspapers.

When Paul and I regained our composure enough to be able to talk about it, we could not stop wondering how so extremely clever and careful a man could have fallen into such a trap. The very man who had taken such pains to introduce me to the principals of conspiracy, of checking and re-checking before any action, any meeting, anything! The man who cautioned Paul time and again to be careful in trusting any of the Nazis who professed sympathies with us; never to go to an appointment with anybody without safety measures, meaning with one or two body guards. How could he have gone alone to this meeting with Schildbach?!

"He probably had no one to go with him," Paul thought.

"But why did he go at all?" I asked.

"He had to go. He thought that this woman needed help to make up her mind one way or the other; and he felt that she was his responsibility. As a security measure he did not take his wife,'Else, along and he probably had no one else to go with."

After a while, Paul said, "Once you leave the fold, you are quite alone. From the one-time Chief of the ! whole Western Intelligence Service in Europe it was but a quick transformation to a lonely man, killed by a 'friend' in a car and thrown out on a road-like a leper! After a life of devoted revolutionary service! A life of danger and sacrifice.

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born on July 14, 1868, in Durham, England. Her grandfather, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, was a member of Parliament who worked alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. She grew up in a wealthy family in Redcar, a Yorkshire town, in a home built by her father, businessman and industrialist Sir Thomas Hugh Bell. Her mother Mary died in 1871 after giving birth to her younger brother Maurice. Bell gained her first exposure to politics and world affairs through her grandfather and his associates. Her father married again when Bell was still a young child and the union added a half-brother and two half-sisters to the family. Bell would go on to attend Oxford University, where she studied history.

In 1892, Bell graduated with honors from Oxford and shortly thereafter traveled to Tehran, Iran, where her uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, was serving as British minister. This trip sparked her interest in the Middle East, the region on which she would focus much of her energy for the remainder of her life.


Early life

Reiss was born Nathan Markovic Poreckij [ 6 ] in 1899 in Podwołoczyska ( Pidvolochysk ), [ 10 ] [ 11 ] then in Galicia, Austria-Hungary, just across the river from Volochysk, then in Podolia, Tsarist Russia (now both in Ukraine). His mother was a "Russian" Jew from "across the river" and his father non-Jewish. [ 12 ] His father had his elder brother and him educated in Lwow (modern Lviv), the provincial capital. There, he formed lifelong friendships with several other boys, all of whom would become committed Communist spies. These boys included Kalyniak, Willy Stahl, Berchtold Umansky ("Brun"), his brother Mikhail Umansky ("Misha," later "Ilk"), Fedia (later "Fedin"), and the young Walter Krivitsky (born Samuel Ginsberg). During World War I, the friends traveled when they could to Vienna, where they gathered around Fedia and his girlfriend Krusia. The name Krusia (also "Kruzia") became a codename between these friends in later years. Reiss also visited Leipzig, Germany, to meet German Socialists: there, he met Gertrude Schildbach , who later aided his assassination. He earned a degree from the Faculty of Law, University of Vienna. [ 6 ] In 1918, he returned to his hometown, where he worked for the railway. His older brother was killed during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920. [ 1 ]

Fourth Department: "Ludwig"

In early 1919, Reiss joined the newly formed Polish Communist Party (the Communist Workers' Party of Poland or KPRP), since his hometown had become part of the Second Polish Republic. The KPRP adhered closely to the policies of Rosa Luxemburg. Julian Marchlewski (AKA "Karski") represented the KPRP at the Third International in March 1919. [ 1 ]

By the summer of 1919, he had received a summons to Vienna, Austria, where he moved quickly from work with agencies of the newly formed Comintern to "Fourth Department of the General Staff"—which became the Soviet GRU . He then conducted party work in Poland. There he met Joseph Krasny-Rotstadt , a friend of both Rosa Luxemburg (already dead) and (more importantly) of fellow Pole Felix Dzerzhinsky. Having fought in the Bolshevik Revolution, Krasny was already directing propaganda for Eastern Europe. During this time, Reiss published a few articles as "Ludwig" in one of Krasny's publications, called The Civil War.

In early 1920, Reiss was in Moscow, where he met and married his wife, Elisabeth (also "Elsa"). During the Russian-Polish War in 1920, Willy Stahl and he received their first assignment, Lwow, where they distributed illegal Bolshevik literature. By 1921, as he took on the alias "Ludwig" (or "Ludwik" in his wife's memoirs), Reiss had become a Soviet spy, originally for the GPU/OGPU, and later the NKVD. In 1922, he was again working in Lwow, this time with another friend of Fedia and Krusnia's from Vienna, Jacob Locker . Elisabeth was in Lwow, too. Reiss was arrested and charged with espionage, which carried a maximum five-year sentence. En route to prison, Reiss escaped his train in Cracow, never to return to Poland. [ 1 ]

From 1921 to 1929, Reiss served in Western Europe, particularly

In 1927, he returned briefly to Moscow, where he received the Order of the Red Banner. From 1929 to 1932, Reiss served in Moscow, where he worked in a nominal post of the Polish section of the Comintern—already sidelined as a "foreign" (non-Russian). Among the people whom Reiss and wife knew at that time were Richard Sorge (AKA "Ika"), Sorge's superior, Alexander Borovich , Felix Gorski , Otto Braun, Max Maximov-Friedman , Franz Fischer, Pavlo Ladan , and Theodore Maly. Valentin Markin reported to Reiss in Moscow, who in turn reported to Abram Slutsky. [ 1 ]

Defection and assassination (1937)

From 1932 to 1937, Reiss was stationed in Paris. There, Reiss and his wife met Egon Erwin Kisch , Alexander Rado , Noel Field, Vasily Zarubin ("Vasia"), Yakov Blumkin, Boris Bazarov, J. K. Berzin (Jānis Bērziņš), and Arthur Stavchevsky . [ 1 ]

By 1936, their friends were returning to Moscow one after the other, most of whom were shot or disappeared during the Great Purge. Reiss himself received a summons back to Moscow, but allowed his wife to travel there in his stead in late 1936, staying into early 1937. In early 1937, Krivitsky was recalled but managed to finagle his way out again on foreign assignment. [ 1 ]

Upon Krivitsky's return, Reiss composed a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, addressed to Stalin and dated July 17, 1937. He returned the Order of the Red Banner with his letter, stating that to wear the medal "simultaneously with the hangmen of the best representatives of the Russian worker" was beneath his dignity. [ 7 ] He went on to condemn the excesses of Stalin's purges and the actions of Soviet state security services. [ 1 ] While criticizing Stalin and Yezhov, Reiss promised not to reveal any state security secrets. [ 14 ]

Reiss then fled with his wife and child to the remote village of Finhaut, Valais canton, Switzerland, to hide. After they had been hiding for a month, Gertrude Schildbach contacted them. Schildbach acted on the instruction of Roland Lyudvigovich Abbiate, alias Francois Rossi, alias Vladimir Pravdin, codename LETCHIK ("Pilot"), a Russian expatriate, citizen of Monaco, and a Soviet NKVD agent. She refused a request by Abbiate to give Reiss a box of chocolates filled with strychnine but agreed to set up a meeting. On September 4, Reiss agreed to meet Schildbach in Lausanne. His wife and son Roman boarded a train for Territet , Vaud canton, Switzerland. Reiss stayed with Schildbach before boarding a train for Rheims to meet Sneevliet (who was to publish Reiss's letter and news of his defection). Then he was to rejoin his family in Territet. He never made his train to Rheims. [ 1 ]

As Reiss's wife relates in her memoirs, she went to Vevey to meet Schildbach again on September 5, but the woman never showed up. On September 6, she saw a small article in a Lausanne newspaper about a dead man with a Czech passport in the name of "Hans Eberhardt" found dead on the night of September 4 on the road from Lausanne to Chamblandes. She later identified the body carrying Eberhardt's passport as that of her husband.

Reiss, then using the alias "Eberhardt," was lured by Schildbach onto a side road near Lausanne, where Roland Abbiate was waiting for him with a Soviet PPD-34 submachine gun. [ 15 ] Realizing what was about to happen, Reiss lunged for Schildbach, grabbing a lock of her hair before Abbiate shot him. Reiss was hit by fifteen bullets from Abbiate's submachine gun, killing him instantly: he was found with five bullets in the head and seven in the body. [ 16 ] The two then dumped Reiss's body on the side of the road. [ 1 ] [ 17 ] Later police investigations revealed that a long strand of grey hair was found clutched in the hand of the dead man. In his pockets were a passport in the name of Hans Eberhardt and a railway ticket for France. An American-brand automobile, abandoned on 6 September at Geneva, was found to contain abandoned clothing, which led to the identification of two men and a woman. One of the men was Roland Abbiate, who had registered on 4 September at the Hotel de la Paix in Lausanne with Schildbach, the two had fled without their baggage and without paying their bill. [ 16 ] The woman was none other than Gertrude Schildbach, of German nationality, a resident of Rome, and in reality a Soviet OGPU agent in Italy. [ 16 ] The other man was Etienne-Charles Martignat, born in 1900 at Culhat in the Puy-de-Dôme, living since 1931 at No 18 Avenue de Anatole France, Clichy, Paris. [ 16 ] [ 18 ] Among the effects left by Schildbach at the hotel was a box of chocolates containing strychnine. [ 16 ] Soon thereafter, a deposit in a Swiss bank was made in Gertrude Schildbach's name in the amount of 100,000 Swiss francs (but it is unknown whether Schildbach ever withdrew this money, as she was never seen again). [ 7 ] However, as France's Popular Front Government of the period did not wish to upset diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and Stalin, no arrests or announcement of the results of the police investigation were made at the time. [ 19 ] In a 1951 French Ministry of Interior study titled A Soviet Counter-espionage Network Abroad: the Reiss Case, the French government analyzed the actions of Soviet state security forces involved in Reiss's abduction and liquidation. Published on 20 September, the study concluded that "the assassination of Ignace Reiss on 4 September 1937 at Chamblandes near Lausanne, Switzerland, is an excellent example of the observation, surveillance and liquidation of a `deserter' from the Soviet secret service."

While DNA testing cannot conclusively tell you if two Schildbach ancestors were related, it can easily prove if they weren't. Be sure you understand what types of research issues each different DNA test can address before you spend any money. If you're not sure how DNA testing could aid your Schildbach research, read "DNA Research and Your Family's History".

For most people, just about every aspect of their life has been influenced in some way by their ancestors. Look beyond the names and dates to understand how and why your Schildbach ancestors lived and strived to make a better life for their descendants. Our team of seasoned experts are here to help you learn about different aspects of genealogy. Reading "Looking at Our Ancestors" may help you think of some different tactics to compiling your Schildbach family history.

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The idea for the newspaper project came about in the times after the political change in the GDR and in the eastern part of Berlin, when a round table in Berlin-Mitte was supposed to mediate between the interests of the squatter scene and the district. Originally, the paper, which first appeared in Steinstrasse in Berlin-Mitte, was supposed to be called Steinschlag , but it was abandoned after the clashes between the squatter scene and the police had become more militant after the mainzer Strasse was cleared . The first issue appeared on November 23, 1990.

The Scheinschlag was sold through display stands in the streets of Berlin-Mitte and the neighboring areas as well as in pubs, cinemas and other facilities.

Initially the newspaper appeared monthly, since 1992 biweekly. At the beginning of 1999 they returned to the monthly publication. After several moves, the newspaper had its editorial offices in Ackerstrasse since August 1994 , and public editorial meetings were held in the Village Voice pub on the same street.

The original aim of the magazine makers was to get funding through advertisements. For this purpose, a circulation of at least 25,000 copies was planned from the outset. However, the advertising business always fell short of expectations, so that the newspaper had financial problems from the start. An important source of income was the redevelopment supplement published by the Mitte district office, which was enclosed with the magazine and since 1996 has been called stadt.plan.mitte . It was written for many years by Ulrike Steglich, who was also responsible for the editing and layout of the Scheinschlag.

After the financial difficulties could no longer be solved, the newspaper was shut down in the summer of 2007. After the newspaper ended, the Club of Polish Failures moved into the editorial offices on Ackerstraße after it had to vacate its previous premises on Torstraße.

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Gertrude Schildbach - History

Often called the “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey was known for her deep-throated voice and mesmerizing stage presence that drew packed audiences and sold hit records in the early twentieth century. Also a songwriter, her lyrics and melodies reflected her experiences as an independent, openly bisexual African-American woman.

Ma Rainey was born Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett in Columbus, Georgia on April 26, 1886. Her parents, Thomas and Ella (Allen) Pridgett, were minstrel performers. Rainey displayed a talent for singing at a young age and began performing as a teenager. She made her debut with the Bunch of Blackberries revue at the Springer Opera House in Columbus. She then began singing with traveling vaudeville acts in tent shows, honky-tonks, and carnivals.

It was on the performance circuit that she met comedian, singer, and dancer Will “Pa” Rainey, and the two married in 1904. They formed a double act (“Ma and Pa Rainey”) and toured with various African-American minstrel troupes and vaudeville groups, most notably the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. After about a dozen years of marriage, Rainey and her husband separated. Rainey then created her own show: “Madame Gertrude Ma Rainey and Her Georgia Smart Set.”

Rainey, the “Mother of the Blues,” was influential for bridging the traditions of vaudeville and authentic Southern blues. The blues descended from the call-and-response storytelling songs of West Africa. Captive Africans passed them down through the generations while enslaved in the Western Hemisphere. Rainey’s strong voice and characteristic “moaning” style of singing also fueled her success. A vibrant stage presence, she was known for her gold teeth, flashy clothing and jewelry, and establishing a personal connection with her audiences.

Life as a traveling entertainer was not easy for African Americans in the early decades of the twentieth century. The Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA) arranged many of their performances. TOBA was well known for its exploitative working conditions and the low wages it paid African-American performers. Many eventually claimed that TOBA stood for “Tough on Black Artists.”

Still, Rainey was a star on the TOBA circuit. She attracted large audiences of adoring fans across the South and Midwest. Her performances drew racially mixed (though still segregated) audiences, demonstrating her wide appeal. Her two-hour show usually began with jazz numbers by the band and a performance by a line of chorus girls. After comedy routines and other acts, Rainey would make her grand entrance and dazzle the audience with songs like “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” and her encore, “See See Rider Blues.”

Rainey signed a recording contract with Paramount Records in 1923, making her one of the earliest recorded blues musicians. Between 1923 and 1928, she recorded almost 100 records, many of them national hits that are now part of the American musical canon. Her 1924 recording of “See See Rider Blues” (for which she was accompanied by a young Louis Armstrong) was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2004.

Rainey’s songwriting was notable for its raw depiction of life from the perspective of a woman struggling with heartbreak, depression, and other maladies. But amidst these difficulties, Rainey’s protagonists did not rely on male partners or submit to the rules society tried to inflict on them. In the song “Oh Papa Blues,” Rainey tells of the wrongs a former lover committed against her, but her lamentation soon turns to scheming for revenge. In “Prove It on Me Blues,” Rainey boasts about her attraction to women and wearing men’s clothing. As scholar and activist Angela Davis wrote, the women in Rainey’s songs “explicitly celebrate their right to conduct themselves as expansively and even as undesirably as men.”

Rainey’s cultural legacy is profound. She was a mentor to the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith, and the two were rumored to have had a romantic relationship. Rainey is credited with inspiring later singers such as Dinah Washington, Big Mama Thornton, and Janis Joplin. Her story inspired famed playwright August Wilson’s 1982 play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which takes its title from Rainey’s 1927 song of the same name (which in turn refers to the black bottom dance trend of the 1920s). It was a Broadway success and was recently adapted as a film.

Rainey made her home in Chicago for much of the 1920s and early 1930s. When she lost her recording contract with Paramount (the company claimed her style of blues had fallen out of fashion) she resumed touring and performed at private parties. Following the deaths of her sister and mother, Rainey returned to Columbus, Georgia to live with her brother. She owned and managed two theaters and was active in the Friendship Baptist Church, where her brother was a deacon. Rainey passed away from heart disease on December 22, 1939 at the age of 53.

“Ma Rainey, 1886-1939.” Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Accessed Jan. 30, 2021.

Paranick, Amber. “Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey in Newspapers.” Library of Congress. July 2, 2020. Accessed Jan. 30, 2021.

Russonello, Giovanni. “Overlooked No More: Ma Rainey, the ‘Mother of the Blues’.” The New York Times. June 12, 2019. Accessed Jan. 30, 2021.

Smith, David. “'All they want is my voice': the real story of 'Mother of the Blues' Ma Rainey.” The Guardian. Dec. 15, 2020. Accessed Jan. 30, 2021.

Tischler, Barbara L. "Rainey, Ma (26 April 1886–22 December 1939), vaudeville, blues, and jazz singer and self-proclaimed "Mother of the Blues"." American National Biography. Feb. 1, 2000 Accessed Jan. 13, 2021. .

MLA – Brandman, Mariana. “Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey.” National Women’s History Museum, 2021. Date accessed.

Lieb, Sandra R. Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1981.

About Saint Gertrude

Saint Gertrude was born in Germany on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1256. Beyond this one fact of her birth, we know nothing of the first five years of her life. But in 1261 Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn, of the Benedictine abbey at Helfta in Saxony, admitted the child as a pupil in their school.

Credit: Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, SD

No family name is recorded for Gertrude, and no reason is given for this omission. Some have speculated that she was a child oblate offered to the Church by devout parents. However, in her writings, Gertrude refers to herself as an orphan. She may have been displaced during the political chaos and civil strife of her time. Or she could have been disowned because of some other event or circumstance hidden in the history of the thirteenth century. For whatever reason, Gertrude was placed in the care of Abbess Gertrude. Mechtilde of Hackeborn, younger sister of the abbess, was the teacher when Gertrude joined a small group of children at the abbey school.

The nuns of Helfta have left us their memories of Gertrude as a loveable, quick-witted child who responded immediately to the gracious disposition of Mechtilde and later chose her as a confidante. Throughout her school years, she proved to have such clarity of perception and depth of understanding that she often surpassed her classmates in her studies. The curriculum at the convent school was strong, and the students were challenged to learn grammar, rhetoric, logic, and Latin. Gertrude also revealed a knowledge of music and practical arts like spinning and weaving.

Although we don’t know the reason why Gertrude was brought to Helfta, we do know that Gertrude entered the community upon completion of her studies at age 15 or 16. As a novice in the Benedictine community, she received instruction in liturgy, scripture, the Rule of Benedict, patristic and other spiritual writers of the monastic tradition. After making her monastic profession, she applied herself to the study of literature and directed much of her energy to writing fluent Latin and German. She was strong in character and personality and, as a teacher in the school, became a life-giving presence in the community which numbered about 100 women during her lifetime.

The Helfta community did not regard Gertrude as an overly pious young woman. And Gertrude confides that she was so engrossed in her studies that she may have neglected her spiritual calling. By the time she was 24, she was beginning to find the routines of the monastery tiresome. During the Advent season of 1280, she endured a severe trial of emotional storm and spiritual distress which left her depressed and withdrawn. Shortly after her 25 birthday, on January 27, 1281, Gertrude experienced a sudden and unexpected encounter with the risen Christ, which she calls her “conversion.” In her deepest heart she heard Christ say to her, “Do not fear. I will save you and set you free.” This was the first in a series of visions which led her into mystical prayer and ultimately transformed her life. She decided to give up her literary studies and devote herself to prayer and the study of scripture. From then on, she spent many hours reading and copying texts of scripture and sometimes writing short reflections on the word of God to share with others.

In 1289, Gertrude heard Christ ask her to write an account of the many graces she had received. At first Gertrude resisted, believing that it would serve no purpose. When she was told that such writing might serve to encourage others, she consented. In Latin, Gertrude wrote a short spiritual autobiography to which the Helfta community later added all the information they had about her. This composite is known today as THE HERALD OF GOD’S LOVING-KINDNESS. Only the 24 chapters of Book Two of THE HERALD are Gertrude’s own writing in which she witnessed to the spiritual transformation she had experienced. Carefully, Gertrude describes her awakening to the depths of her own heart. This awakening made Christ so real for her that she was able to overcome all resistance within herself and gradually move toward unconditional surrender to God’s love. There is little of conscious art in this book as Gertrude pours out the praise and gratitude she feels in beautiful scriptural images that arise spontaneously from within her heart.

Saint Gertrude also wrote her SPIRITUAL EXERCISES in Latin some time after 1289. We presume that she intended this thematic arrangement of prayers, hymns, and reflections for the nuns of her community. Gertrude herself used portions of them for her own yearly spiritual renewal. She also may have adapted them for persons who came to her for counsel. But the importance of the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES extends to the present day because they are grounded in themes and rites of Church liturgy for occasions of Baptism, conversion, commitment, discipleship, union with God, praise of God, and preparation for death. Gertrude’s SPIRITUAL EXERCISES may be used by anyone who seeks to deepen spirituality through prayer and meditation.

Saint Gertrude belongs to the late 13th century monastic culture and may be the leading woman writer and visionary of that culture. She is among those special voices from the past that address all Christians now at the dawn of the third millennium. She recalls us to a new awareness of God’s unconditional love for all creatures in the saving mission of Jesus. For us, she represents a serious and mature Christian spirituality essentially based in the scriptures and nurtured in the liturgy. Gertrude’s understanding of God’s love is anchored in the mystery of the mutual love between the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, which is forever directed toward all creation.

Credit: Sister Jeana Visel of Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, IN

Gertrude’s mystical prayer is Christ-centered and the humanity of Christ is imaged as the Sacred Heart, the divine treasury of grace. Never does she lose sight of Jesus who comes as both divine and human. But for Gertrude, the focus on the mystery of Jesus turns less on his historical life and more on the humanity he shares with all humans. Her emphasis is not so much that we should imitate Jesus, but that we are invited to participate in a human-divine union that already is. In prayer and sacrament, we encounter this blessed union.

In her mystical prayer, Saint Gertrude experiences in the Church an intense love of the Eucharist, a loving embrace of the sinner, friendship for the outcast, and an enduring trust in God’s mercy. As Gertrude matured, her eyes opened to the mystery of Christ’s love in the Church and to its evangelizing mission in the world.

Saint Gertrude was never formally canonized, but a liturgical office of prayer, readings, and hymns in her honor was approved by Rome in 1606. The Feast of St. Gertrude was extended to the universal Church by Clement XII in 1738 and today is celebrated on November 16, the date of her death in 1301 or 1302. Pope Benedict XIV gave her the title “the Great” to distinguish her from Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn and to recognize the depth of her spiritual and theological insight.


Serguei va néixer a Moscou. Fou el sisè de nou fills nascuts de Ielizaveta Petrovna Durnovo (1853–1910) i de Iàkov Konstantínovitx Efron (1854–1909). Tots dos eren revolucionaris russos i membres de Naródnaia Vólia. Iàkov treballava com a agent d'assegurances i va morir de càncer el 1909. L'any següent, Ielizaveta va trobar que un dels seus fills s'havia suïcidat i poc després d'aquest dia es va suïcidar. Iàkov era d'una família jueva, mentre que Ielizaveta provenia d'un llinatge de nobles i comerciants russos Iàkov es va convertir a la fe luterana per casar-se amb Ielizaveta. [2] [3] [4]

Des de l'adolescència, Serguei va patir tuberculosi, la seva salut mental també es va veure minada per la mort de la seva mare. [5] El 1911, mentre estava de vacances a Koktebel ("Terra dels turons blaus"), un conegut refugi de Crimea per a escriptors, poetes i artistes, Efron, de 17 anys, va conèixer Marina Tsvetàieva. Es van enamorar i es van casar el gener de 1912. Tot i que van tenir una intensa relació, Tsvetàieva va tenir aventures extramatrimonials, entre d'altres amb Óssip Mandelxtam i la poetessa Sofia Parnok. [5] [6] [7]

Tsvetàieva i el seu marit van passar els estius a Crimea fins a la Revolució. Van tenir dues filles:: Ariadna, o Àlia, (nascuda el 1912) i Irina (nascuda el 1917), i un fill, Gueorgui. [3] [8]

El 1914, amb l'esclat de la Primera Guerra Mundial, Efron va intentar repetidament ser voluntari per a l'exèrcit, però les comissions mèdiques van rebutjar la seva sol·licitud degut a la seva mala salut. Com a resultat, Efron va ser enviat al front com a infermer. [9] Tot i això, al final aconseguí ingressar a l’escola de cadets, [9] on que es va graduar el 1917 . L'11 de febrer de 1917 va ser enviat a l'escola d'oficials de Peterhof per al servei. Sis mesos després, va ser allistat al 56è Regiment de la Reserva d’Infanteria. [6] L'octubre de 1917 va participar en batalles amb els bolxevics a Moscou. Després es va unir a l'Exèrcit Blanc i va participar en la Marxa del Gel i la defensa de Crimea. [10] Amb el començament de la Guerra Civil, la connexió entre Tsvetàieva i Efron es va veure interrompuda, i no tenien informació l'un de l'altre. Efron ni tan sols sabia que la seva filla Irina havia mort de fam a Moscou. [7] Tsvetàieva va escoltar rumors sobre la mort d'Efron. En una de les seves cartes de 1917, va escriure: "Si Déu fa aquest miracle, si et deixa viu, et seguiré com un gos". [11] Vint anys després, el 1939, anant cap a l'URSS després del seu marit, va afegir una antiga carta de 1917: “Així doncs aniré. Com un gos”. [11]

Després del final de la Guerra Civil, a la tardor de 1920, Efron, com a part de la seva unitat, va ser evacuat a Gallipoli i després es va traslladar a Constantinoble i a Praga. Tsvetàieva només es va assabentar que el seu marit vivia el juny de 1921 i va rebre la primera carta d'ell el juliol. [12] I només a la primavera del 1922 ella, juntament amb la seva filla Ariadna, va emigrar de Rússia i es va traslladar a Berlín, on es va retrobar amb el seu marit. [13] [14] [12] [15]

L'agost de 1922, la família es va traslladar a Praga. Amb Efron estudiant política i sociologia a la Universitat Carolina i vivint en hostals, Tsvetàieva i Ariadna van trobar habitacions en un poble fora de la ciutat, i vivien en una pobresa incessant, sense poder-se permetre allotjar-se a Praga . Ella escriu: "Ens devora el carbó, el gas, el lleter, el forner . l'única carn que mengem és carn de cavall". [8]

L'estiu de 1924, Efron i Tsvetaeva van deixar Praga cap als suburbis, i visqueren durant un temps a Jíloviště, abans de traslladar-se a Všenory, on Tsvetàieva va concebre el seu fill, Gueorgui, a qui més endavant anomenaria "Mur". [8] Era un nen difícil, però Tsetàieva l'estimava obsessivament. Amb Efron ara poques vegades lliure de tuberculosi, la seva filla Ariadna va quedar relegada al paper d’ajudant i confident de la mare i, en conseqüència, va sentir que li havien arrabassat bona part de la seva infància. [8]

El 1925, la família es va establir a París, on viuria els propers 14 anys. Durant aquest temps Tsvetàieva va contraure la tuberculosi. [14]

Després de diversos anys a l’exili, Efron va començar a sentir nostàlgia per Rússia. El desig de tornar a la seva terra natal es va fer cada cop més fort. [14] Tenia por pel seu passat com a soldat blanc. Finalment, per idealisme o per obtenir l'acceptació dels comunistes, va començar a espiar per a l'NKVD, el precursor del KGB, i en fer-ho es va establir en una datxa, una cabana al camp. Àlia compartia les seves opinions i es va enfrontar cada vegada més a la seva mare. El 1937 va tornar a la Unió Soviètica. Més tard aquell mateix any, Efron també va haver de tornar a la URSS. El setembre de 1937, la policia francesa el va implicar en l'assassinat de l'exagent i desertor soviètic Ignace Reiss (també conegut com a Ignaty Reyss i Ignatz Reiss), en un camí rural a prop de Lausana, Suïssa. [13] [14] [16]

Després de desertar i criticar Stalin i Iejov, l’espia soviètic Reiss va prometre no revelar cap secret de seguretat de l’Estat [17] i va fugir amb la seva dona i el seu fill cap al remot poble de Finhaut, cantó del Valais, Suïssa, per amagar-se. Després d'haver estat amagats durant un mes, l’agent de l'NKVD Gertrud Schildbach, que era amiga seva , li va parar una trampa. El va contactar segons les instruccions de Roland Liudvigóvitx Abbiate, àlies Francois Rossi, àlies Vladímir Pravdin, nom en clau LETCHIK ("pilot"), un expatriat rus, ciutadà de Mònaco i agent soviètic de l'NKVD. Schildbach era un refugiat comunista alemany que fou persuadit d'escriure a Reiss per demanar una reunió i demanar-li consell. El 4 de setembre de 1937, Reiss va acordar trobar-se amb Schildbach a Lausana. [18] [19] Reiss, amb l'àlies Eberhardt, va ser atret per Gertrude Schildbach a una carretera lateral a prop de Lausana, on Roland Abbiate l'esperava amb una metralladora soviètica PPD-34. [20] Reiss va rebre quinze impactes de bala de la metralladora d'Abiate, que el van matar a l'instant. [21] Ambdós van llançar el cos de Reiss al costat de la carretera. [18] [22] Schildbach no es va tornar a veure mai més.

Es va dir que Efron era al cotxe dels assassins. [14] També fou esmentat com a cap de l'NKVD i va es va afirmar que tenia una oficina de la "Unió per a la Repatriació" per reclutar agents de l'NKVD. Una recerca a l'oficina i al pis d'Efron no va aportar proves. [16]

Després que Efron fugís de París, la policia va interrogar Tsvetàieva [14] a la seu de París de la Sureté Nationale el 22 d'octubre de 1937. [23] Aparentment, semblava confosa per les seves preguntes, va respondre de manera incoherent, però es diu que al setembre havia estat lluitant a Espanya i que "es podria haver abusat de la seva confiança -- la meva confiança en ell roman sense canvis". La policia va concloure que estava desconcertada i no en sabia res de l'assassinat. [14] [23]

Alguns creuen que Tsvetàieva no semblava haver sabut que el seu marit era un espia, ni fins a quin punt estava compromès. [14]

L'octubre de 1937, Serguei Efron va marxar precipitadament cap a Le Havre, des d'on va anar amb un vapor a Leningrad. El 1939, Marina Tsvetàieva, que sempre s'havia oposat al retorn a la Unió Soviètica, va marxar a l'URSS amb el seu fill, sense saber la recepció que rebria. [14] A l'URSS de Stalin, tothom que havia viscut a l'estranger era sospitós, així com qualsevol persona que havia estat entre la intel·liguèntsia abans de la Revolució.

En tornar a la Unió Soviètica, Efron i la seva família van rebre una residència estatal per part del NKVD a Bólxevo, prop de Moscou. Al principi, res no presagiava problemes. No obstant això, poc després del retorn de Marina Tsvetàieva, la seva filla Ariadna va ser arrestada.

Efron va ser arrestat per l'NKVD el 10 d'octubre de 1939. [23] En el transcurs de la investigació, van intentar persuadir-lo de diverses maneres (inclosa la tortura) perquè declarés contra persones properes a ell, inclosos els companys de la Unió del Retorn, així com Tsvetàieva, però es va negar a declarar contra ells o contra qualsevol altra persona. [24] La seva filla, però, va confessar sota pallisses que el seu pare era un espia trotskista, cosa que va conduir a la seva execució. [5] Efron va ser afusellat el 1941 Ariadna va passar 8 anys en camps de treballs forçats i 6 anys a l’exili a la regió de Turukhansk. [14] Ella i Efron van ser rehabilitats el 1955, després de la mort de Stalin.

El 1941, Tsvetàieva i el seu fill van ser evacuats a Ielàbuga. El 31 d'agost de 1941, mentre vivia a Ielàbuga, Tsvetàieva es va penjar. [25] Segons el diari del seu fill Gueorgui, va visitar l'oficina local de l'NKVD, on probablement van intentar reclutar-la. [26]

Gertrude Remembers Changing Her Name

Gertrude (Gudrun) Hildebrandt Moller recalls her experience in school, when her teacher encouraged her to change her name so it was easier for other students to address her.

Gertrude Remembers Changing Her Name (Transcript)

Interviewee: Gertrude (Gudrun) Hildebrandt Moller
Date of Birth: June 15, 1920
Date of Interview: October 5, 1992
Interviewer: Janet Levine, Ph.D
Immigrated from Germany in 1929 at Age 9
Ellis Island Collection: EI-222

Moller (Name Change in School):

I was born Gudrun Hildebrandt and married Moller, Mr. Moller, who was from Denmark. He immigrated here many years later and we met in New York. However when I started school in Chicago, where I grew up, needless to say, first of all, I couldn't speak a word of English, and I was the only child in the school that couldn't speak English. And (she laughs) it wasn't too happy the first couple of years but my mama said "Take heart because some day you're going to be able to speak two languages and all the ones that were teasing you will speak only one". And it was true. She was always right. So, my teacher suggested, since none of the children could pronounce Gudrun, which is an old Germanic-Scandinavian name, and a very beautiful name (I hear), she gave me a list of girls' names to choose from. So that all the kids could converse, you know, know what to call me. So I picked the name starting with a g, as with my name, and it was Gertrude. I'm not very happy with it, but it has stuck with me all of these years.

Watch the video: Gertrude Baniszewski - Crime Scene (January 2022).