Friedrich Wilhelm Lübbert (1899-1966), called Fritz, was the son of Hans Julius Oppenheim-Lübbert (1870-1951) and his wife Eleonore Valentine del Banco (1859-1934). He came from an influential and wealthy family of merchants who had lived in Hamburg since the mid-18th century. The Oppenheim family had been influenced by the Jewish Enlightenment movement since 1800. Beginning in 1820, all family members were baptized, and after 1890 the family name was first hyphenated to Oppenheim-Lübbert and eventually changed to Lübbert—a significant step in the process of assimilation. Neither the name Oppenheim nor the family’s Jewish history was mentioned again.
Inspired by his step-grandfather, the strongly patriotic militarist Major General Eduard Lübbert (1854-1933), Fritz Lübbert, then a 16 year old student, decided to enlist in late summer of 1914 in order to become an officer in the military. In May 1915, he began his military career as an ensign in Wandsbek, and a year later he fought at the Eastern front as a cadet. In late July of 1917, now 19-year-old Fritz decided to become an airman just months after his brother Eddy, a fighter pilot, had lost his life on the Western front. In late 1917, Fritz Lübbert began his short, yet “vital (for survival)” service with fighter squadron 11, led by famous fighter pilot and squadron commander cavalry captain Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen. His adjutant was captain Karl Bodenschatz, who signed the document discussed here. Lübbert was severely wounded while piloting a fighter plane in February 1918, which ended his active wartime duty. Von Richthofen, already a legend in his own lifetime, personally took care of him and gave him his own Iron Cross First Class medal. A few weeks later, Richthofen was killed in an air battle. The last commander of Richthofen’s squadron was Hermann Göring.
After the end of the war, Fritz Lübbert started his own company, “Friedrich Wilhelm Lübbert,” in Cuxhaven (which still belonged to Hamburg at the time) and became quite successful in fishery and the fishing industry. Although he did not pursue his military career any further, he stayed in touch with the veteran fighter pilots and with Richthofen’s family, and he also joined the Association of Veteran Fighter Pilots of the Squadron Frhr. V. Richthofen No. 1 Verein ehem. Jagdflieger des Jagdgeschwaders Frhr. v. Richthofen Nr. 1. The association’s mission was to maintain the camaraderie and sense of community among all of Richthofen’s former pilots. Its first secretary was officer Karl Bodenschatz.
After 1933, the paths of former squadron mates Lübbert, Bodenschatz, and Göring crossed again. In the small town of Cuxhaven, Lübbert became the target of hostility because of his Jewish origin, which ultimately prompted him to move to the bigger city of Hamburg and conduct his business there. Meanwhile Göring and Bodenschatz made their careers in National Socialist Germany. Karl Bodenschatz, Luftwaffe General and Chief of Reich Marshall Hermann Göring’s Ministerial Bureau and thus one of his closest staff members, and Fritz Lübbert were demonstrably in regular contact since 1933. Their letters and meetings touched upon both professional and private matters, and Bodenschatz quite obviously assisted his former squadron mate in many ways.
According to the Reich Citizenship Law The “Reich Citizenship Law,” passed by the National Socialists on 15 September 1935, stripped the Jews of all their political rights. of 1935 (“Nuremberg Laws”), Fritz Lübbert was a “half-Jew” and thus faced an existential threat. Nevertheless he continued to receive invitations to official events, including the state funeral of Colonel General Ernst Udet in November 1941. A photo taken at the fighter squadron’s 1936 reunion in Berlin shows Bodenschatz, Göring, and Lübbert standing next to each other and smiling. In March of 1941, Bodenschatz signed a portrait picture of himself “to my dear squadron mate Friedrich Wilhelm Lübbert in loyal friendship;” the gift is documented in Lübbert’s estate.
In 1944, his situation became increasingly precarious, so that Lübbert repeatedly asked for assistance from Bodenschatz and his adjutant. In February, Lübbert was arrested in Hamburg by the Gestapo and taken to Fuhlsbüttel prison, apparently on a charge of “racial defilement” Rassenschande. A letter from Bodenschatz stating that Lübbert was under the protection of Reich Marshall Göring until his “German blood” lineage had been proven beyond doubt resulted in his release after a few days. He received this exception issued by the highest authority thanks to his past service as a fighter pilot.
On July 6, 1944, Fritz Lübbert had to subject himself to sterilization at his own cost. His forced sterilization was a compromise to prevent further persecution reached only through Bodenschatz’ intervention and established in an “agreement” on the highest level, between Hermann Göring and SS-Reich Leader Heinrich Himmler. On June 18, 1944, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service Sicherheitsdienst; SD, informed Bodenschatz that the Gestapo had orders “not to take measures of a personal or professional nature against Lübbert on the condition of his good conduct.” Despite his sterilization proving his “good conduct” a few weeks later, Lübbert was threatened with further persecution, however, so that he again saw the need to ask Bodenschatz for help in August of 1944 in order to ensure that “my case is brought to a close.” Bodenschatz helped him again by issuing the letter presented here, in which he certifies that Lübbert’s case was considered closed after his medically attested sterilization and that Lübbert was to be exempted from “any further measures by the state police.” This document protected him from greater danger and from deportation in particular.
Karl Bodenschatz, who as a witness during the trial against the main war criminals in Nuremberg exonerated Göring, spent the years from 1945 until 1947 as a prisoner of war of the United States. Beginning in May 1946, Bodenschatz and Lübbert again took up a correspondence: only this time the roles were reversed. Lübbert helped Bodenschatz and his wife Maria whenever he could, knowing that “I owe my freedom and probably also my life to your constant comradeship and readiness to help me” (letter of June 1, 1946).
Fritz Lübbert supported his former fellow airman with food as well as reading material, but also by affidavits during his lengthy denazification trial. It took several years until Karl Bodenschatz was able to claim his officer’s pension. Fritz Lübbert received compensation as a victim of National Socialism. They continued to meet at the Richthofen squadron reunions.
This document is not just meaningful in a personal sense, but it is also exemplary for German-Jewish history during the National Socialist period. For it shows to what extent the “half-Jew” Friedrich Lübbert was at the mercy of National Socialist arbitrariness. The treatment of the so-called “Mixed-bloods” [Mischlinge], among whom the members of the Lübbert family were counted, was controversial. The Nazi regime had repeatedly discussed mass sterilization or resettlement, yet the question eventually remained unsolved. Thus decisions were entirely arbitrary and made on a case by case basis. For the considerable number of those affected this meant a life of uncertainty and constant fear of expulsion or murder. In the end, Friedrich Wilhelm Lübbert was lucky only because of the “loyalty and comradeship” of his former fellow airmen.
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Beate-Christine Fiedler, Dr. phil., born 1958, is freelance historian and works as research assistant at the State Archives of Lower Saxony, being based in Stade. Her focus of research: early modern history, regional and state history of Lower Saxony, especially of the Elbe-Weser area and the Swedish period in the duchies Bremen and Verden.
Beate-Christine Fiedler, Persecution and Marginalization of So-Called “Mixed-bloods”. The Case of Friedrich Wilhelm Lübbert (translated by Insa Kummer), in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, September 22, 2016. <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:article-90.en.v1> [May 28, 2020].