The Cannon King's Daughter

An unrecorded banishment from Germany's Krupp steel family

Archive for March 2014

March 27, 1883- the arrival of Engelbertha Krupp to America

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It was on this day, 131 years ago in 1883, that Engelbertha Krupp Stroebele immigrated to the United States from Germany. Below is an excerpt from my book, The Cannon King’s Daughter-

It is early March 1883. A woman hurries aboard a Holland-America German passenger ship, the SS Westphalia, at the Port of Hamburg with three bags and her three young children. She’s traveled almost four hundred miles—probably by train and has prepared herself for the second leg of her long journey. She is weary, yet determined to make it to America, and her husband who awaits her arrival three thousand miles across the Atlantic. Careful not to draw attention to herself or children, she offers four second-class tickets to the ship’s personnel who then scribble her name onto the passenger list. She is Passenger number 974, and she is about to leave the only home she’s known for the past 32 years. “Vorname?” asks the Stewart (first name). “Engelbertha,” she replies. He probes her for her last name. “Nachname?” “Stroebele” she replies. “Ursprungsland?” continues the Stewart, asking for her country of origin. “Prussia,” she replies. “Bestimmungsort?” (destination). “New York City.” He glances into the eyes of the thirty-two-year-old wife and mother. He goes about his business and Engelbertha moves along. She scurries with her children reminding herself not to intermingle with the other passengers through fear of being robbed of her belongings, which according to some estimates are worth around $200,000—believed to be mostly diamonds which are lighter to carry than gold and silver coins given to her by her father Alfred Krupp. These by the way are 1883 dollars.

They are most-likely sewn into hers and her children’s clothing—including in my 11-month-old grandfather’s clothing. The journey from Hamburg to New York takes approximately 14 days, during which time Engelbertha remains in her cabin, apart from letting her children go to the bathroom reserved for first and second-class cabins. She allows no one to enter their cabin, nor does she befriend anyone on the ship. She is careful to leave no evidence of her presence onboard. The massive frame of the Westphalia quietly slips into New York Harbor. For Engelbertha, it was a fresh start and relief that she was beyond the reach of her tormented past in Essen. On March 27, 1883, the Westphalia delivered her secret cargo to Castle Garden Immigration Center in Lower Manhattan, New York City, making it an unwitting accomplice in one of the most intriguing getaways in German history. For nearly two weeks in March 1883 the Westphalia quietly carried Engelbertha and her three children across the dark, frigid waters to their new home in America. Nobody knew her, if they had, she might have been everybody’s friend. Engelbertha’s husband, John Joseph Stroebele had left the small apartment they’d shared with their children in the picturesque town of Sigmaringen, nestled in the farmland of southeast Germany in Hohenzollern, Prussia, known today as the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Revelations of her past life in Essen and the unjustice perpetrated upon her by her own father will slowly emerge and ultimately be revealed almost 100 years after her death.


Aug 2013 translation of der Spiegel story on Engelbertha Krupp

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Alleged Daughter of Krupp Dynasty: The mysterious Engelbertha
Marc Pritzke, from Ocean Township, New Jersey

While doing research on his genealogy, U.S. citizen David Stroebel made an astounding discovery: Supposedly, his great-grandmother Engelbertha was the daughter of industrial magnate Alfred Krupp. The New Jersey historian fights for the heritage worth billions – in vain.

Berthold Beitz’ death has been recognized even in the state of New Jersey, in the sleepy little town named Ocean Township. “Germany has lost an icon”, David Stroebel says about the ThyssenKrupp-patriarch. “I wish to express my deepest condolences to the family.”

One week earlier: Stroebel, age 50, sits at the dining table of his bright house. All around him photographs, books and documents, Facsimiles of old genealogical and death certificates, yellowed family pictures, the ticket for a transatlantic passage on a ship, dating from 1883.

To Stroebel, who works as a historian for the local Veterans Service Office, these documents symbolize a very personal relationship to Berthold Beitz. Or rather: A very personal relationship to the long and often dramatic history of the Krupp dynasty whose heritage Beitz administrated for 50 years.

“My great-grandmother was a Krupp”, Stroebel says pointing at the portrait of an elderly lady with a lace collar who looks sternly at the camera. “Engelbertha Krupp.”

Engelbertha Krupp? Even experts in Krupp history will never have heard that name. For a reason: Said great-grandmother, Stroebel says, was a sister of former head of the firm Friedrich Alfred Krupp who was repudiated, disinherited and erased from all registers. Thus, we know Friedrich Alfred Krupp as the only child and heir of Alfred Krupp. “When I learnt this”, Stroebel remembers, “I first of all had to sit down.”

A Krupp daughter would question the testate succession

Others will have to sit down as well: The existence of a Krupp daughter would question the testate succession as defended by the Krupp-Stiftung [foundation] in Essen – and it would open a ‘new’, surely unwanted branch of the family.

There are no documents known to him, Ralf Stremmel says to SPIEGEL ONLINE – he is the director of the historical archives of the Krupp foundation – , that would indicate the existence of a daughter. “Also contemporary church books, city registers or newspapers do not indicate the existence of such a person whatsoever.”

Stroebel, however, clings to his thesis which he did not come up with after Beitz’ death but already traces for six years now – the timing [of this article] is a mere coincidence. He bases his thesis on family revelations, hobby genealogy and digital photo analysis. “I do not want the money”, he says. “I only want to restore my great-grandmother’s honour.”

Stroebel admits that his idea is not yet “100% verifiable.” It would still need DNA analyses. But it is not pure invention, either: “This”, he believes, “is one of the greatest stories of all times.”

Stroebel’s story began in 2007 when his aunt Gloria died. After her funeral he started working on a genealogy. The only thing he knew was that his great-grandparents John and Engelbertha (Bertha) Ströbele came to America from Germany in 1883, and that they originated from Essen. The umlaut mark and the last “e” in the family name were omitted as time passed – as happened quite often back then.

By asking relatives and users of the genealogy website he revealed ever more fascinating details. According to Stroebel, John and Engelbertha even worked at the Berlin Palace for Wilhelm I. – John as a bootblack and Bertha as a cook, her speciality supposedly was the omelette.

The most dramatic ‘revelation’, however, came from his distant relative, the then 86 years old Caroline Marchuck: According to her, Bertha’s real name was Engelbertha Krupp. Krupp? “Yes, from the famous steel- and munition manufacturer in Essen.

“Never darken my door again.“

This is how Marchuck told the story: Engelbertha’s father – the merciless Alfred Krupp – disapproved her marriage with the bootblack and therefore disinherited her in 1874 before he repudiated her: “Never darken my door again.” He also had all her entries from all books and registers erased. After that, the young couple first flew to Berlin, later to the United States where Bertha’s origin had been kept secret by her and her husband from now on.

It this made up? Why would any family invent such a wild story and then keep it secret for so many years? It fits well into this theory that the ‘poor’ Ströbeles arrived in the U.S. with some 10,000 Reichsmark – an inexplicable circumstance. Stroebel reasons that the money was the last compensation from the old Krupp.

He finds a photography, a family picture from 1868, to be found in the Krupp foundation’s archives. It shows Alfred Krupp, his wife Bertha, son Friedrich Alfred “and friends.” On the left there is a woman identified as Clara Bruch – spouse to composer Max Bruch, a friend of the family.

But British Bruch-biographer Christopher Fifield questions this: „This woman on the left does not look like Clara Bruch“, Fifield, a renowned music historian, confirms to SPIEGEL ONLINE. Also, the Bruch’s only married in 1880.

So who is this mysterious lady? “Engelbertha”, Stroebel says without hesitation.

He asked Maureen Taylor (the most renowned photo-investigator of the nation, according to Wall Street Journal) to compare the picture with the portrait of his great-grandmother. The photo analyst let a software compare bone structure, eyes, nose, mouth and other factors electronically.

“Many features are very similar”, Taylor summarizes her findings for SPIEGEL ONLINE: Nose, chin, form of the face. “But this does not necessarily mean that both persons are identical. Perhaps they are ‘only’ relatives. Nonetheless she thinks that Stroebel’s theory is a “fascinating case.”

To Stroebel, this is enough evidence. He is also not irritated by the unanswered question of how a person could be erased so perfectly from all registers and photo documentaries: “It is known that there are noticeable gaps in the Krupp family photo books.”

Engelbertha’s heritage would now be worth seven Billion dollars.

Engelbertha’s heritage, Stroebel calculated, would now be worth about seven Billion dollars – not that he would be interested in the money. According to Stroebel it would have changed history immensely if Engelbertha were heir to the company rather than son Friedrich Alfred: “Engelbertha would never have got involved with the Nazis”, he claims.

Last year Stroebel asked the district court of Essen to deal with the issue. Their negative answer: All claims are time-barred anyway. Even if Krupp had a daughter – his last will would have legally disinherited his daughter and made his son sole heir to the company.

Two month ago the Federal Constitutional Court also answered; Stroebel had asked them to decide on the matter: There was “no reason to see things differently from the district court of Essen.”

This is a sentence the Krupp foundation likes to hear since they were sued already in 1997 by Krupp descendants.

Stroebel does not give up. He wrote a book about his great-grandmother: “The Cannon King’s Daughter”. He has founded a charitable endowment in order to finance his further research. He wrote a Wikipedia article about Engelbertha. He gives talks, like the other day, at the Rotary Club.

And he has written to late Berthold Beitz himself, sometime before his death. The letter was returned: “Unknown addressee.”

Krupp works firefighting department- Essen, c.1890

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ZDF removes Krupp documentary showing second Engelbertha photo

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Three weeks ago when visitors to this blog clicked on a link that took them to a ZDF documentary on, “Die-Krupps,” (the Krupps) they saw a second photo of Engelbertha Krupp, who’s unrecorded banishment from Germany’s Krupp steel dynasty of Essen was disclosed in the pages of der Spiegel news magazine in August 2013. As of this past week however, readers were no longer able to view the documentary that reveals a second photograph of her. Why the documentary was taken down is unknown. I can tell you it is because the Krupp Foundation–faced with now two unexplainable, mysterious photographs of this banished Krupp heiress–told ZDF officials to remove it for fear of any support she may garner from the public to investigate further her unrecorded banishment at the hands of her father, Alfred Felix Alwyn Krupp (1812-1887). ZDF did not respond when I asked why they removed this important, revealing documentary.

Now, when viewers clicked the link that once took them to this documentary, they are greeted with the message-“dieser beitrag ist aus rechtlichen grunden leider nicht mehr verfugbar,” (This contribution is for legal reasons no longer translated). Is ZDF together with the Alfried Krupp Foundation supressing this story? What do they have to gain by doing so?

A check on the venerable site, Youtube, found the documentary there where viewers could watch the film and see 33 seconds into it the photograph of Engelbertha Krupp.

David Stroebel
Twitter- @davidstroebel