Patrice Flesch

„I felt I was Jewish“

by Till Lieberz-Groß

Patrice Flesch, participant of the visiting programme of the City of Frankfurt in 2016 was born in 1951 in New York/ USA. She is a member of a well-known family of entrepreneurs in Frankfurt. In their honour an area in Frankfurt-Gallus will be named “An den Fleschwerken”. For Patrice the journey to Frankfurt was a journey into her own family history which had been a secret for her for a long time.
Patrice was accompanied by her husband, Pete Rogers.

Search for identity

Patrice is the daughter of Peter Karl Jochen Flesch, born in 1918 in Frankfurt and the
granddaughter of Herbert Bertram Flesch, born in 1890 in Frankfurt, the last proprietor and CEO of the “Fleschwerke” before the company was aryanized.

Patrice is about twenty when her assumption being of Jewish offspring is proved. For years her father has refused to give her any information about his family.

Her father, Peter Flesch, emigrates to the USA as a teenager in 1938 via Amsterdam/Rotterdam. But he leaves Germany even two years before in 1936 living in France, Spain and Belgium while waiting for his chance to emigrate to the USA. He is forced to leave Germany without a proper education. He has to break off his education at Wöhler-Gymnasium (High School); only later in the USA he will have the chance to become an engineer.

Peter Flesch breaks completely with his past and invents himself a new life. He consciously looks for a non-Jewish start: He marries a protestant lady from New York, Ethel Sulkins, born in 1915, and speaks only rarely about his youth in Germany. He never mentions his Jewish roots.
When Patrice’s mother passes away in 2003 he does not even allow his German family to attend the funeral. And he tries to hinder any contact between Patrice and her Jewish family by all means. This is the ultimate impetus for Patrice to get to know her Jewish family after her mother had passed away. Peter Flesch dies in 2012 in the USA.

Emigration

Peter’s mother, Hilde Fränkel, née Dreyfuss, divorced Flesch, was born in 1890 in Frankfurt. Like her son Peter she emigrates to the USA. There she becomes friends with Hannah Arendt and Paul Tillich.

Hilde’s daughter Inge emigrates to Colombia in 1938, one year after her father Herbert Flesch, Patrice’s grandfather, had been able to flee to South America.
At first Inge had lived with her mother after the divorce. But because of the increasing danger caused by the Nazis her mother decides to send her to her father in Colombia. Inge has been living there for some years with her father and his third wife as well as with her brother Gerhard. When her mother falls seriously ill she eventually meets her in New York and stays there for good.
She marries a holocaust survivor and becomes mother of two children.

Patrice meets Inge for the first time at the age of about 50, Inge is about 80 years old then.
“She became my best friend. It was almost as if we were one person. I was devastated when she died about 1 ½ years ago. I also met her sons (my cousins) at that time. I remain in touch with them.”

Gerhard, born in 1920 in Frankfurt, dies in 2016 in Barranquilla, Colombia. He had been married with an Ecuadorean, Dona Rosita Santoro.
The couple have three sons, all of them successful entrepreneurs.

The “Flesch-Werke”

The chemist Herbert Bertram Flesch, born in 1890 in Frankfurt, takes over the company from his father Carl Flesch jr., born in 1850 in Frankfurt.
The original company in Frankfurt was called “Carl Flesch jr. Gerbstoffwerke”; since 1923 the “Flesch-Werke AG” had had two locations: Frankfurt am Main and Oberlahnstein.

Herbert Flesch is imprisoned by the Gestapo from 1934-1935 because he was reported of having acted against “exchange control regulations”. But the intention behind the imprisonment is to put his father, chairman of the supervisory board, under pressure to sack his son as CEO. The goal is to give way for the Aryanization of the company which finally happens in 1937 – accomplished by Carl Goetz (Dresdner Bank) and Otto Erhardt (a Nazi-official).
Since 1939 the company in Oberlahnstein has been owned and run by “Zschimmer und Schwarz”

FR Arisierung nach Drehbuch 7.6.2016PDF 1,5 MB

Carl Flesch jr. passes away in 1935 in Frankfurt.

In a decision of the regional council in Wiesbaden in 1967 the political and economic importance of the Flesch-Werke is emphasized: “There is evidence that … [Herbert Flesch] … was subject of persecution as early as 1933 when the Nazis came into power… because as the CEO of “Fa. Farb- und Gerbstoffwerke Carl Flesch jr. oHG” he had a strong economic position which the Nazis did not want to allow people with a Jewish background whose influence on the whole economy they wanted
to eliminate gradually…”
And they wanted to achieve that goal by any means.

Herbert Flesch, CEO of the Flesch-Werke AG will be held imprisoned with only short interruptions from September 10th, 1933 till July 27th, 1934: He is accused of having acted against the law according to exchange control regulations. He is accused of having used accounts of his wife and his children in Brussels, of having prepared the establishment of a French company and above that of having transferred machinery from Oberlahnstein across the border.

Although there is no evidence, those accusations are used well-directed by interested parties to expropriate the Flesch-Werke (and the Fleschs) by means of the termination of loans via a bank group led by the Dresdner Bank and Bankhaus Hardy.

Herbert Flesch loses his mandate as the CEO of the company, all of his property and his German citizenship.

After being released from prison Herbert Flesch lives at first with his parents-in-law in Frankfurt, afterwards – until his divorce – he lives with his second wife in Paris (who has been living there since 1933, supported by relatives), and finally with his nephew and further relatives among them his sister and brother- in- law, Minni and Max Rothschild. Later Max and Minnie will be murdered in Auschwitz.

Emigration to Colombia

In 1937 Herbert Flesch gets the chance to escape via France-Spain-Belgium to Colombia. His son Gerhard and his daughter Inge follow him to Colombia in 1938.
Herbert Flesch passed his A-levels in 1909, followed by Chemistry courses at the Senckenberg-Institute in Frankfurt. After having been a combatant in World War I (the Great War), he joins the company of his father and passes an apprenticeship. Then he takes over the company in Oberlahnstein and in 1923 he becomes the CEO of the new founded Flesch-Werke AG.
In Colombia he establishes a company for oil and paint (Öl- und Lackfabrik) – together with other German owners. But because of the fact that Colombia cuts its diplomatic relations with Germany in 1941 and moreover declares war on Germany in 1943 the company does not succeed.
Because of their German owners the company is under governmental supervision.

Herbert Flesch, grandfather of Patrice Flesch, marries three times:
Hildegard Flesch, née Dreyfuss (after her second marriage: Hilde Fränkel), the mother of his three children, Peter, Gerhard and Inge, and Patrice’s grandmother.

In his second marriage Herbert Flesch is married to Margot Flesch, née Ansbacher.
With his third wife, Hildegard Flesch, née Paul, he lives in Barcelona until his death in 1979. The couple had moved to Spain in the 1950s.

Late compensation

It was only in 1974 when Herbert was granted a pension and a retrospective compensation after a decision of the highest court in Germany (Bundesgerichtshof).

The second generation

Patrice Flesch, Herbert’s granddaughter, gets to know about her family only much later.
She is educated as a Christian; an “all American girl”, completely cut off her Jewish-German roots.
Patrice studies Art at a college; she becomes a professional photographer.
Today she lives in Boston.

Patrice marries an American Jew, Peter (Pete) Rogers, born December 21st, 1956.
She spends a lot of time on Jewish history and her own (Jewish) family history.
She even played the role of a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp in a film by Martin Scorsese.
She works as a guide in the “New England Holocaust Memorial” on an honorary base.

Patrice is not sure if her mother ever knew about the Jewish roots of her husband, Patrice’s father.
He mentioned his German roots only rarely.
Up to now Patrice has reserved feelings towards her German roots: “It’s a fact. I have no choice.” And – it means “nothing positive” for her.

In the meantime the responsible local committee of the district Frankfurt-Gallus (Ortsbeirat 1) followed the suggestion of Armin H. Flesch, a journalist and remote relative of Herbert and Patrice Flesch*: They agreed that an area in Frankfurt Gallus will be named after them “An den Fleschwerken”- as an appreciation of the achievement of the entrepreneurial family.
That’s really positive – and this gesture might change Patrice’s attitude towards Frankfurt …
And being invited as a guest of honour Patrice Flesch could find another chance to get closer to her ancestors’ home town and even might start feeling a bit at home herself in Frankfurt….
A “second chance on the second glance….“
Patrice, you are welcome!

Second generation – participant of the visiting programme of the City of Frankfurt 2016

Patrice Flesch, born on June 23rd , 1951 in New York, USA
professional photographer
married to Peter (Pete) Rogers, born on December 21st, 1956
now living in Boston, USA
Peter died Dec. 2016

Father:
Peter Karl Jochen Flesch,
born on November 11th, 1918 in Frankfurt
left Germany in 1936 and emigrated to the USA in 1938
via France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands
Peter Flesch died on May 13th, 2012 in the USA

Mother
Ethel Sulkins
born 1915
died 2003

Grandparents Flesch
Herbert Bertram Flesch,
born August 31st, 1890 in Frankfurt
died on October 11th , 1979 in Barcelona
shareholder and CEO of the Flesch-Werke AG

Hildegard Flesch, geb. Dreyfuss,
in second marriage: Hilde Fränkel,
born in 1897 in Frankfurt
died 1950 in New York, USA

Great-grandfather
Carl Flesch jr.
born June 26th ,1850 in Frankfurt
died December 12th, 1935 in Frankfurt

Siblings of Peter Flesch:
Inge, born on October 5th, 1922 in Frankfurt
died 2015 in the USA
Gerhard Paul, born on February 6th, 1920 in Frankfurt,
died on October 16th, 2016 in Barranquilla, Colombia

Emigration
grandmother Hilde Fränkel (divorced Flesch) and
father Peter emigrate to the USA;
grandfather Herbert und Peter’s siblings,
Inge and Gerhard, emigrate to Colombia;

grandfather Herbert moves to Spain in the 1950s,
Inge emigrates later to the USA; Gerhard stays in Colombia until his death 2016

The Flesch companies
Carl Flesch jr. Gerbstoffwerke, Frankfurt am Main
Flesch-Werke AG (since 1923) in Frankfurt und Oberlahnstein
aryanized in 1937; company in Oberlahnstein owned and run by
„Zschimmer und Schwarz“, Lahnstein since 1939

Last address in Frankfurt
Beethovenstr. 36 (Herbert, January 1935);
before that according to Patrice: Kettenhofweg und Mendelssohnstraße


Sources:

  • Hessisches Staatsarchiv Wiesbaden/ Main State Archive of Hesse
  • Patrice Flesch
  • Photos: Patrice Flesch; Till Lieberz-Groß

Research und text: Till Lieberz-Groß