A couple weeks ago I received an email out of the blue with a link to an envelope from May 1941. The person who sent the e-mail had seen my earlier blog posts and believed the envelope was addressed to my relative, Julius Kohlhagen.
I’ve written about Julius, my grandfather’s second cousin who fled Nazi Germany for Shanghai in 1939 and stayed there for eight years until he was able to obtain passage on a US Naval carrier to San Francisco.
But the Julius on this envelope wasn’t the Shanghai Julius. No, this Julius was my grandfather’s uncle who left Germany in 1938 and settled in Dayton, Ohio.
What stood out to me and to the man who sent me the information about this letter was that it was addressed by a Max Sostberg from Shanghai.
To me, this is huge news. It means my family had more than just one connection to Shanghai during the war. This other Julius knew a man named Max Sostberg, who had also made it to Shanghai when it was the only place in the world to accept Jews without papers.
So who was Max Sostberg? Did he know the Dayton Julius from Germany, and meet the other Julius in Shanghai? Was that what the letter was about? Or was it simply a coincidence that the two Julius Kohlhagens (who were distant cousins) had a Shanghai connection? Max’s age was 50 in 1944. So he was more the Dayton Julius’ age (about 50 then) than the Shanghai Julius’s age (about 36 at that time).
After I learned of this envelope, I wrote to a professor I had met last fall at a Jewish Shanghai event in Chicago. He quickly replied with an address for Max Sostberg that was different from the one on this envelope (the latter of which was in the French Concession before Jewish refugees were send to the Shanghai Ghetto in the Hongkou district).
A genealogist cousin doesn’t know the name Max Sostberg, so it’s unlikely he was a relative. She did learn that he left Shanghai for England and died in the UK in 1964. It’s fairly likely that he was a rare coin dealer in Posen, Germany before the war.
I would love to know more about Max Sostberg and how he knew my great-great-uncle. If only that envelope still contained the letter.