Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

The Great Spy Peril: Enemy Aliens in Great Britain

The Catholic parish church of St. Johann in Donaueschingen, Germany. The building with a double tower facade in the Bohemian Baroque style was built from 1724 to 1747 to a design by the Prague architect František Maxmilián Kaňka. Photo H. Helmlechner, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Sarah Sophia Tompson - eldest daughter of my 2x great-grandfather, Dan Tompson and his second wife, Sarah Jane Baker, and therefore half-sister to my great-grandmother, Eliza Louisa Sweeney - married Joseph Kritzer in 1905. He was born in Donaueschingen, Germany and was one of a family of brothers and a sister who came to England to work in service in some very distinguished households. At least three of the siblings were in England at the outbreak of the First World War and found themselves at the epicentre of the anti-German hysteria and Spy Fever, incited by the press of the time

The parallels with the present day are many.

Source of the Donaubach in Donaueschingen (historically considered the source of the Danube)
Donaueschingen, in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) near the confluence of the two sources of the river Danube, close to the borders with Switzerland and France, is postcard perfectThis video gives us a look around the town today and the pronunciation of Doe-now-ess-shingen. 

The German surname Kritzer, it is said, is derived from the Old German word "Kretscham," meaning "inn." The name was most likely first borne by an innkeeper. [We wouldn't have any of those in the family. LOL!] Although, there is an alternative suggestion that it's South German: probably an occupational name for a coiner, from krüzer Kreutzer. 

The earliest members of the family I can trace records for are Sebastian Kritzer and Rosina Drescher, who married on 4 Jul 1803. Their son, Michael Kritzer, married Agatha Hall on 26 Apr 1841. And in turn, Michael and Agatha's son, Wilhelm Kritzer (b. 10 Jan 1844) married Flora Gleichauf (b. 26 Jan 1851) on 26 Jun 1873. All of these marriages took place at the Katholisch (The Catholic parish church of St. Johann, consecrated to John the Baptist) in Donaueschingen, Villingen, Baden. Wilhelm and Flora Kritzer then went on to have five children, all baptised inside that same church:
  1. Amalia Kritzer, born 7 Oct 1873, baptised 19 Oct 1873
  2. Julius Kritzer, born 18 Aug 1874, baptised 23 Aug 1874. 
  3. Karl Kritzer, born 3 Nov 1875, baptised 14 Nov 1875
  4. Josef Kritzer, born 30 Oct 1877 and baptised 11 Nov 1877 
  5. Wilhelm Kritzer, born 10 Mar 1879, baptised 23 Mar 1879,
    but who sadly died on 14 Sep of the same year.
Pelham Place, Kensington.
Photo: Jonathan Cardy, CC BY-SA 3.0,
via Wikimedia Commons
Amalia Kritzer (27) in 1901, was employed as a Lady's Maid in the household of spinster sisters, Mary and Adela Rain at 20, Alexander Square, Kensington, a garden square in London's Chelsea, SW3. (The sort of posh private communal gardens that featured in the film Notting Hill.) In 1911, she's again working as Lady's Maid for a 3rd sister, Elizabeth Rain at 19 Pelham Place, Kensington. (The two older Rain sisters were born in France and the latter in Ireland, so the family don't appear on any census in England until we find them, living with their father, Stephen Rain, in the similarly upmarket Egerton Gardens, in 1891, where he was 'Living on own Means', but - I'm just curious - haven't discovered from what source that wealth emanated.) Amalie Kritzer, spinster, of 125 Beaufort St, Chelsea, London died, aged 60, on 4 Oct 1934. She left £1267 5s 8d (worth £91,275 in 2020). Probate was granted to Mortimer Rooke and Alexander Herbert Macdonald, solicitors.

Postcard of Karlstraße, Donaueschingen
Julius Kritzer of 26 Karlstrasse, Donaueschingen, Germany died on 12 Feb 1925. (Karlstraße, appears to be the main street. Could he have been in retail or even an innkeeper?) Probate was granted, however, in 1929, in England, to Mortimer Rooke, solicitor, attorney of Justina Kritzer, widow. It seems strange to have probate granted in England, unless they also spent time in the UK, but I can find no record of either of them having done so and no other record of Julius, nor Justina. Julius left a more modest £468 17s 2d (£28,639 in 2020).

Cathedral Road, Cardiff
Karl Kritzer (25) in 1901, was butler to John P Ingledew, Solicitor, residing at 9 Cathederal Road, St John, Cardiff. There, in 1905, an Anglicized, Charles Kritzer married Lilian Emily Jones, daughter of Samuel Jones, a Foreman at a Timber Merchant, and his wife Fanny Theresa. Flora Theresa Lillian Kritzer was born at the end of 1905 and, in 1911, this child was living with her grandparents in Gloucester, while her father, residing at 2 Seymour Street, St Marylebone, London, was employed as butler to Henry Webb (Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Webb, 1st Baronet), Liberal MP for the Forest of Dean, while her mother, employed as a Lady's Maid to Lady Webb, was at the Webb's country house at Llwynarthan, Castleton, Monmouthshire.

When I saw who Karl was working for in the run up to WWI, I knew there was going to be a story. By accident of his birth and the position of his employer, Karl found himself under scrutiny. Hardly surprising, but quite shocking. 

For context, it's important also to understand that Sunday newspaper, John Bull, was at that time a platform for Horatio Bottomley's "trenchant populist views" (read gammon: clearly reactionary and given to melodrama by the style of his writing), but it had estimated sales by August 1914 in excess of three quarters of a million copies a week. Bottomley was described as an English financier, journalist, editor, newspaper proprietor, swindler, and Member of Parliament. (When exposed, he was convicted, imprisoned and expelled from parliament.) Evidently, he judged others based on his own standards. 

Secondly, as to the actual level of threat from Espionage in 1914, it was shown to be predominantly paranoia and put down to Journalistic fantasy, as "An unprecedented 'spy mania' gripped Britain. Although 21 real German spies were arrested on 4 August, thousands of imaginary acts of espionage were reported to credulous police and military authorities." 

In an article published in John Bull on October 24th, 1914, Bottomley starts off by referring to German people as "Teutons", a word that has been used - and this is phrased - as a derogatory term. Mentioning Karl Kritzer by name, Bottomley tries to make something out of the observations - of him merely going about his duties - and imaginings of a cook, the so-called Mrs Stacey (having researched, I find she is single and strongly suspect that 'elevating' her status to that of a married woman was an attempt to make her seem a more reliable witness), who opines that "Kritzer was always an objectionable person." (Probably nowhere near as objectionable to someone less bigoted.) Bottomley calls her "loyal and patriotic", while referring to Karl Kritzer as "a traitor to her King and country" and "one of the Kaiser's blood". Hey, it's not every day one's relatives are mentioned in the same breath as then Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith; Home Secretary, Reginald McKennaPrince Louis of BattenbergWilhelm II, German Emperor and the House of Hohenzollern, though for all the wrong reasons. 


They have no evidence, of course, but also attempt to make an issue of Karl returning to Germany shortly before the war. The records show that Karl's father was born in 1844, which would make him 70 in 1914. An entirely plausible age then to be ill or dying. It's a particularly low blow.

Another article in the The Strathearn Herald, published on the same date, October 24, 1914 - which frankly reads like Bottomley wrote it himself - praises the John Bull and Bottomley for doing "a national service in calling attention to the spy peril in our midst" and goes further, saying "Karl Kritzer, in the employment of Mr Webb, a member of His Majesty's Government, may not be a spy; neither may the humblest German barber: but there is just this - they are both alien enemies, and as such a danger to the country ..."

We learn quite a bit about Karl Kritzer from a follow-up article in the Western Mail, on Friday October 30, 1914, where Harry Webb, MP, is given the opportunity of responding. Apparently, Karl had been in his employ since 1908 and it confirms many of the details that I have also been able to research, such as Karl's naturalisation, Certificate A21115 issued 18 October 1911, which was signed by then Home Secretary, W. S. Churchill. Webb's manner of defending Karl Kritizer, does indeed seem to be the behaviour that a "decent, honourable man ought to pursue towards his servant."

Despite all this, we know Karl kept his job long after the end of the hostilities, because the following appeared in the Western Mail of 8 January 1921:
LLWYNARTHAN STAFF DANCE
After a lapse of six years, occasioned by the war, the annual staff dance at Llwynarthan, Castleton, Cardiff, the residence of Col. Sir Henry and Lady Webb, was revived on Thursday evening. The ball-room and smoke-rooms, originally a part of the old farmhouse, were converted into hospital wards during the war, and since being vacated by the patients, several alterations have been carried out. A happy party, numbering between 60 and 70, were entertained. Sir Henry and Lady Webb, and the members of the house party, did everything in their power to ensure the success of the function. Supper was laid in the dining-room, and after mutual expressions of esteem and goodwill, Sir Henry and Lady Webb left the staff and their friends at about midnight to their own devices. Thanks to the very admirable arrangements made by Mrs. Wynn and Mr. Charles Kritzer, a thoroughly happy and enjoyable time was spent.

Now who's the loyal servant, eh?  

Flora T L Kritzer married a William B Connors, in Cardiff, in 1929. It appears they had one child, in 1939. Karl Kritzer had died in 1933, in Faversham, Kent, aged 57 and on 6 Feb 1935, Lillian Emily Kritzer departed Southampton for New York, aboard the RMS Berengaria (formerly SS Imperator) The first Cunard "Queen". The trip appears just to have been a holiday / visit. Lillian, then employed as a barmaid, was living at 20 Effingham Street, Belgravia in 1939. Retired, Lilian Emily Kritzer of 2 Cross Roads, Holywell, Wales, died, aged 75, and was buried on 13 Mar 1962 in Bagillt, Flintshire, Wales.

Joseph Kritzer married Sarah Sophia Tompson on 24 May 1905 in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire. Their daughter, Mary Amalie Kritzer was born on 21 Feb 1906, but she may not have been the couple's first child. On the census return for the household of Sarah's parents, Dan and Sarah Jane Tompson, in 1911, in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire there appears a 'mystery' grandchild listed as William Charles Roizen (7), who it says, was born in 1904 'At Sea'.

On 18 Oct 1912, listed as Willie Thompson (8), he sailed to Montreal from Liverpool aboard the SS Corsican with his grandmother, Sarah Jane, and his aunt Ivy. On the 1921 Census of Canada, Willie Christie (18) is living at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto with his grandparents. This is clearly the same grandchild who had been listed as Roizen in 1911 and Thompson in 1912. There is a note of correction on the 1921 entry suggesting he should be Critzer. I've found no further record for him [yet] under any name. 

However, as I don't know who made the note on the 1921 record, what they know and from what source (it could be merely 'family tradition'), there also exists the possibility that this child was a product of a previous relationship that Sarah Sophia had (presumably with someone named Roizen), which might explain why the grandparents raised the child and not Kritzer.

St Wilfrid's, Chelsea

In 1911, Joseph Kritzer (33), was employed as a butler in the household of architect, Henry Louis Florence at 9 Prince's Gate, Knightsbridge, London. At the same time, daughter, Mary Amalia Kritzer (5) is listed as an 'Inmate' at St Wilfrid's Convent School in Cale Street, Chelsea. However, I cannot [yet] find her mother in 1911, under any name combination, anywhere in the world.

Interestingly, when Joseph is working for Henry Florence, there's also a Rosina Christie employed as a housemaid. Given that servants would most likely be referred to by their surnames, I wonder if Kritzer was misheard as Christie (or vice-versa), which led to its adoption an Anglicized version.

St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Photo Robert Cutts, CC BY 2.0,
via Wikimedia Commons
In the 3rd quarter of 1933, Mary A Kritzer or Christie (what the record says) married Edward W B Todd at St Martin, London

In 1939, Mary A Todd, a hairdresser, and her husband, Edward, were living at 2 Ashford Cottages, The Tilt, Cobham, Surrey. We can only hope there was a divorce in the interim, because Mary A Todd or Christie (again what the record says) then married Frederick Croydon Melhuish in Surrey North Eastern in 1942. Edward W B Todd died, aged 48, in 1949 in Surrey. While Frederick C Melhuish died, aged 53, also in 1949, in Birmingham (where he'd lived previously and undoubtedly still had family).

In 1939 'Daisy' S S Kritzer, Housekeeper, listed as married, was living at 1 Pemry Villas, Elm Grove Road, Cobham, Surrey. It looks like a house-share (lodging) situation as there are three other, seemingly unrelated, adults in the household and no sign of husband Joseph. Sarah Sophia Kritzer, then of 2 Ashford Cottages, Tilt Road, Cobham, Surrey, listed as wife of Joseph Kritzer, died, aged 68, on 20 Feb 1945. She left £595 13s (worth £25,849 in 2020) to her daughter, Mary Amelia Melhuish, married woman.

On 6 Jan 1992, Mary Amelia Melhuish (formerly Todd, née Kritzer and sometimes Christie), died, aged 85, in Ganges, British Columbia, Canada. The record of her death confirms her husband as Frederick Croydon Melhuish and her parents as Joseph Kritzer and Sarah Tompson. Two things spring to mind: clearly someone was around who knew and could give these details and what was she doing at what appears to be the 'wrong end' of Canada for family?

Other than those last couple of records in 1939 and 1945 relating to Sarah alluding to Joseph Kritzer still being alive - where she's described as married and as his wife - there's no further sign of him in Britain and no trace of a record even of his death. Unlike his brother Karl, Joseph does not become naturalised British. Sister, Amalia, will have escaped detention, being a woman. However, initial enquiries suggest that Joseph Kritzer (37) - which he would have been in 1914 - was interned at the Knockaloe Internment Camp Isle of Man during WWI. Did he perhaps return to Germany after the war? There are many questions that still need to be answered.

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