Charlotte MENTZEL, née ROTHSCHILD

1909-1944 | Naissance: , | Arrestation: | Résidence: , ,

 

Biography of Charlotte MENTZEL, née Rothschild

Adjacent is a photo of Charlotte, with her children — Ruth, deported with her. Catherine (who gave us the picture) and Henri, in 1940.
Carried out by the 9th-grade class at the Schillerschule in Frankfurt-am-Main in 2015-16. 
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After the end of the work done by the German students, we have appended, with the kind authorization of Ruth’s sister Catherine, an additional, untranslated text:
Written, for the association convoi 77, by her daughter Catherine, from the memoirs, Points de fuite, by her father, Albert Flocon, published by Ides et Calendes in 1994.
Charlotte (familiarly called Lo) was the second of Henry and Bertha Rothschild’s four daughters. Born Nov 10, 1909 in Francfurt.
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Charlotte Josephine Mentzel, née Rothschild, was born on November 10, 1909 in Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany. Her parents were Heinrich Gotthelf (Henry) Rothschild and Bertha Merzbach. She was familiarly called “Lotte”. She was the youngest of three daughters.
Practically nothing is known about her early childhood or her first residences. She studied at the Viktoria High School in Frankfurt-am-Main, which is known as the Bettina School today.
After graduation in 1929 Charlotte began to study applied arts at the Bauhaus in Dessau, a highly reputed art academy of the Weimar Republic, before going on to the School of Applied Arts in Frankfurt. She was a liberated young woman, wore trousers and short hair, was brilliant and full of enthusiasm for the Bauhaus’s revolutionary artistic movement. In the summer of 1929 she learned basic theory, like the other students, but at the beginning of the following winter she might have been put in charge of the metalwork shop. She designed industrial objects and metal furniture. After her studies she worked as a designer, craftswoman and technical translator.
At the Bauhaus she met her future husband, Albert Mentzel. Born on May 24, 1909 in Berlin-Köpenick, he studied painting and advertising design from 1928 to 1931 with Albers, Klee and Kandinsky. He belonged to the theater troop of the painter, choreographer and theoretician, Oscar Schlemmer. Charlotte shared in the artistic adventure. The young couple was photographed in 1930 by the photographer, Etel Fodor-Mittag. They got married shortly after meeting. On February 10, 1932 their eldest daughter Ruth was born. The second girl, Catherine Anne, was born on January 5, 1937, and their son Henry on May 31, 1939. On March 3, 1933 they lived in a housing unit (Heimatsiedlung) in Frankfurt, whose exact address is 15 Unter den Platanen, ground floor on the left. The building was not destroyed during the war and is still standing.
After the National Socialists came to power, the situation for the Mentzel family became uncertain. The marriage of Charlotte and Albert was declared a so-called “intermarriage” by the new anti-Jewish race laws promulgated by the National Socialists. He was German; she was Jewish. Forbidden by law from 1935 on, such mixed marriages contracted before that date were not dissolved. But the Jewish partners were subjected to many oppressive measures, such as having their diplomas rescinded and being stripped of their dignity [1].
Charlotte and Albert had, however, not waited. Due to the events and political developments in Germany the family fled to Paris in 1933. Although Albert worked as a commercial artist for Victor Vasarely, the exiled family still had to rely on close relatives for financial support. Lotte’s father died in Frankfurt in 1936 [2].
At the beginning of the war Albert, who officially still held German citizenship, was interned in the Chambaran military camp before enlisting in the French Foreign Legion. Demobilized in 1941 at Pibrac (in the Haute-Garonne department), he was joined by his family fleeing before the German offensive, in Toulouse.
In Toulouse Charlotte worked as a technical translator and earned most of the family income. On December 2, 1941 they were officially stripped of their citizenship. Albert got actively involved with the Resistance. Since the personal danger for Jews was also steadily increasing in the occupied territories, in the summer of 1944 the parents left their two youngest children, Catherine Anne and Henry, in the care of an orphanage in Loure-Barousse, where they both stayed until 1946. They kept twelve-year-old Ruth with them. Their last residence was on the rue Sainte-Hélène, in Toulouse.
On June 20, 1944 Charlotte and Ruth Mentzel were arrested by the Secret Field Police of the German armies (Geheime Feldpolizei). Both of them received the prisoner I.D. number 21481 and were brought to the detention camp at Drancy on June 25, 1944. On July 31 Charlotte and Ruth were deported to the concentration and extermination camp at Auschwitz [3] where their tracks are lost. The official date of their death is August 2, 1944 [4].
Albert was being held at the Saint-Michel prison in Toulouse, run by the Gestapo, when he was liberated by partisans on August 20th. After the Second World War, Albert pursued his artistic career from 1954 under the name Flocon (that of his maternal grandmother, who was of French origin), teaching design at the l’École Estienne in Paris. He wrote several books, remarried and was again a father. He obtained a full professorship in the subject of perspective at the Paris École des Beaux-Arts in 1964. He died in Paris in 1994 [5] . Catherine-Anne and Henry survived the war but came home only in 1946.
In the old Jewish cemetery in Frankfurt-am-Main near the Jewish Museum a wall has been put up in memory of the city’s Shoah victims. A small stone plaque bearing the names of Charlotte and Ruth recalls their fate.
[1] They were nevertheless not considered “deportable” when the Nazis organized the deportation of the German Jews, but became so shortly before the end of the Reich. Thus, the Jewish partners in these mixed couples had a special status, which did not, however, protect them from their planned extermination. (Note by the students who drafted the biography.)
[2] Lotte’s mother survived, dying in London in 1951. One of her daughters also lived in the British capital. Two sisters died at an advanced age.
[3] Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the biggest and most complex of the extermination camps. In 1940 the first massive waves of Jews were sent to Auschwitz. As the prisoners had to live in crowded and destitute conditions, they soon developed infections and serious illnesses. Prisoners died even before that from their grueling work. Near the end of the war, the Red Army approached and liberated the camp on January 27, 1945. In the English documentary, Night Will Fall, which was started in 1945 and finally came out in 2014, certain scenes of this “liberation” are shown. Among other film-makers, Alfred Hitchcock contributed to making this documentary, while Billy Wilder worked on another one. (Note by the students who drafted the biography.)
[4] While the official documents bear this date, it appears that convoy 77 only arrived at Auschwitz on August 3rd.
[5] His engraver’s archives were given to the IMEC. Cf. the text by Yves Chevrefils Desbiolles, “La douceur du graveur Albert Mentzel-Flocon”, in Les Carnets de l’Imec, n° 4, automne 2015.

Contributeur(s)

ULRIKE BÄR, Des documents nouvellement découverts et mis en forme par Laurence KLEJMAN sont venus compléter l’excellent travail accompli par les élèves et leur professeure., Catherine Ballestero, fille de Charlotte

Reproduction of text and images

Any reproduction, even partial, of a biography must require prior written agreement from the association. To request authorization, please complete the form below : Form

For any use of an image from the Defense Historical Service (SHD), please go to their online service “Request a duplication”.

References

  • Photographie 4 (Charlotte Mentzel - acte de naissance): Mairie de Francfort sur le Main
  • Photographie 6 (maison natale de Charlotte Mentzel photo récente prise par un des élèves
  • Photographie 8 extraite de la 2 (Ruth Mentzel): Klarsfeld, Beate et Serge: Endstation Auschwitz. Die Deportation deutscher und österreichischer jüdischer Kinder aus Frankreich. Ein Erinnerungsbuch. Köln 2008, S. 98.
  • Photographies 5 et 7 (plaque commémorative gravée en mémoire de Charlotte et Ruth Mentzel, vieux cimetière juif de Francfort sur le Main): photographies prises par un des élèves
  • Reproduction 3 Portrait de Charlotte peint par son mari, Albert Flocon

Liens

9 Comments
  1. Catherine Ballestero 7 years ago

    Je suis la fille de Lotte Rothschild et J’ai été très touchée de lire le travail des les élèves de la Schillerschule de Francfort.
    Quelques petites erreurs sans importance: je ne pense pas que Lotte ait jamais été responsable de l’atelier de métal au Bauhaus; mon père, Albert Mentzel s’est engagé dans la légion étrangère pour lutter contre l’Allemagne; enfin, mes parents et ma sœur Ruth habitaient rue Sainte-Hélène à Toulouse lors de leur arrestation et non à Sainte-Hélène en Gironde. Pouvez-vous transmettre ce mot aux élèves de la Scillershule ? Merci, Catherine Ballestero née Mentzel

    • Author
      Serge Jacubert 7 years ago

      Chère madame,
      tous nos remerciements pour ce que vous avez écrit, le message a été transmis au professeur allemand qui a travaillé avec sa classe. Pour illustrer chaque biographie, nous souhaitons mettre en exergue une photo de la personne concernée et nous n’avons pu le faire que pour Ruth, la seule photo que nous ayons trouvée pour votre mère étant soumise à des droits, nous n’avons pas pu la publier.
      Si vous avez une photo libre de droits, nous vous serions reconnaissants de nous la fournir.
      Bien à vous
      Serge Jacubert
      PS : si vous vous sentez concernée par nos efforts et nos résultats, nous serions heureux de vous compter parmi nos adhérents (adhésion à prix très modique).

  2. Author
    Serge Jacubert 6 years ago

    Madame Ballestero,
    nous vous remercions à nouveau pour votre commentaire et avons fait notre possible pour modifier la biographie.

  3. Author
    Serge Jacubert 6 years ago
  4. sylvie BERTON 5 years ago

    Très touchée par ce récit de vie si peu ordinaire…

  5. David Walter Rothschild 4 years ago

    Merci d’avoir accompli ce travail important dédié à mes cousines.
    C’est très gratifiant de réaliser qu’elles ne sont pas oubliées et que grâce à vos efforts leurs mémoires et leurs vies seront préservées.
    David W. Rothschild

  6. Author
    Serge Jacubert 4 years ago

    Cher Monsieur Rothschild,
    nous vous remercions de votre mot commentant cette biographie. Si notre action et les buts que nous poursuivons vous sont chers, n’hésitez pas à adhérer à notre association.
    Bien cordialement
    Serge JACUBERT

  7. Podetti 3 years ago

    Bonjour madame
    Laurence Bedoin m’a donné votre mail car j’aimerais l’an prochain reprendre la biographie de votre mère et de votre soeur avec ma classe de 3ème. Mais le mail que je vous ai envoyé m’est revenu, j’essaie donc par cette voie.
    Je suis professeure d’histoire au collège Charles Péguy de Palaiseau. Nous aimerions compléter la biographie réalisée par la collègue allemande grâce à votre témoignage et aux archives personnelles que vous possédez. De mon côté je vais également rechercher des archives. Nous envisageons de faire un projet sur 2 ans : la rédaction d’une biographie qui complètera celle que Mme Bar a réalisée avec ses élèves, l’année suivante une classe de l’école Estienne poursuivra le projet sous une autre forme plus artistique.
    Si vous êtes d’accord, nous pourrions nous rencontrer à votre convenance en septembre, ou même avant.
    Bien cordialement
    Claire Podetti

  8. […] du collège Charles Péguy de Palaiseau, qui ont travaillé sur les biographies des déportées Charlotte et Ruth Mentzel, ont été choisis pour l’accompagner dans ce […]

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