Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pilzen, Plzn, Pilsener Urquell - The Brew. Who Got Pilsner Urquell After Nazi Confiscation

Two Families, the Reich, and a Brewery

A History and a Confiscation

Pilsner Urquell
Plzensky Prazdroj
The Historic Pilsen Brewery
Property Confiscation, Unjust Enrichment - Economic Symbols of the Shoah

Brewery History and Ownership. Issue summary:

1.  1900 until the Reich: Wilhelm Guggenheim; (with partner Heinrich Abeles until Abeles' pre-Reich death)
2.  Enter the Reich. Company (Brewery and Distribution interests) confiscated and annexed to the Strelow Company (Arische), we think.  Guggenheim, wife and one child  finally migrated to Brazil, says one source;  Chile says another, with documentation apparently; two other children then in Britain as part of humanitarian transport
3.  After WWII:  Brewery and distributorship nationalized.
4. Then Communism.
5. Then private again.
6. And South African Breweries now.
10% shares of Pilsner Urquell is said to be held by the "original" owners before nationalization
That is different from original owners before Nazi confiscation
Should confiscated property revert in interest to those who owned it at confiscation. This is not a matter of proof of ownership. Who got it?

I.  Town histories. Successful breweries are traced with pride.

Many brewery cities have museums and tours and take great pride in their product:  so does Plzen, Pilzen, Pilsen, Plzn.  See all that fine history at ://

Slavs in what was known as Bohemia at the time, were brewing and serving Byzantine envoys as early as 448 AD. They grew their own hops by 859 and seriously brewed by 1088. Wenceslas II himself founded Plzen. O, Good King (The St. Stephen's Day walker really just a prince?). Or was this one a King? See ://

Fast forward (or rather, stagger and weave) to medieval times, and when they found a recipe for success in "bottom-brewing" that produced the lovely light color and taste, that devotees of Pilsner welcome. This became a sot's tragedy for the separate brewers in 1838 when the separate licensed brewers had to dump the brew in the streets because the fermenting went bad, and - yes! The solution in the form of a uniform methodology, and a fine new big building in which to (br-a-a-ap) do it. Read at that site about the history of the huge synagogue there, now a museum; the Jewish monuments. People disagree about whether even later "improvements" in brewing, to stainless instead of wood casks, worked. Go vote.

A friend had recalled that family members in Europe had interests in the Pilsen Urquell Brewery at some time, and we checked to see if any interest remained by the time of WWII.  We find no connection with their surnames yet. We remain interested in any Jewish ownership or other interest or involvement in the Brewery prior to 1900, however. Who were the brewmasters? 

II.  But Town and Brewery Histories leave out important parts. 
WWII confiscation from Jewish ownership 
and whether the Jewish families got their compensation.

Purchasers of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in 1900 - Heinrich Abeles and Wilhelm Guggenheim.

What we have so far. Rosa Abeles.

Rosa Abeles was the wife of Heinrich Abeles, and mother of Hertha Abeles.  Hertha married Wilhelm Guggenheim. The families had known each other for years, and became business partners with the purchase of the Brewery - Heinrich Abeles had been in the distributing business. See the account of Rosa's life by Margo Lohr in Hamburg, Germany: "For the pause and rememberance (sic) -- against denial and oblivion" reads the closing thought. Read the original at :// Or go to and search for Rosa Abeles.

The story of this Pilsner Urquell ownership family - the combined Abeles-Guggenheim story (especially with other Guggenheims at the time in South America and America) is compelling.  This should be in the museum at Pilsen.  Is it? After the years of the Reich, and the confiscation and concentration camps, who got the Brewery interests? Should they have?  Wilhelm Guggenheim does not appear to be related to Solomon Guggenheim and the Guggenheim Foundation, Guggenheim Museum, NY and other interests.

A. 1900-1945
A summary from the work of Margo Lohr, Stolpersteine in Hamburg
In 1900, the Pilsner Urquell Brewery was bought by Wilhelm Guggenheim and the beer distributor, Heinrich Abeles, see Rosa Abeles' memorial (mother of Wilhelm's wife, Hertha) through Stolper Steine in Hamburg at ://

Guggenheim married Abeles' daughter, Hertha, and they had three children: Daniel Fritz Walter Yechiel; Heinrich Zwi; and Marianne Bluemel Berta. When Abeles died, Guggenheim took over the distributing business.  The Guggenheim family was in Hamburg, Germany, at the time. The business grew- including a restaurant at Pilsen.

1933:  National  Socialists in power.
 The Reich governor issued a Sicherungsanordnung - a confiscation order as to all the Abeles passports and assets. By another Nazi order, all Jews had to pay to the Nazis 1/6 of their assets, in return for which they got a small living expense stipend.

1937:  The Abeles Company was now gone. Did not exist.  Jewish companies were transferred to Aryan companies. "Arische".

Wilhelm Guggenheim was allowed to go to Pilzen to wrap up matters. The Abeles and Guggenheim rights in the brewery and distribution were being given to the Strelow Company: arische, or Aryan.  Apparently all was confiscated, including some real estate and a restaurant.  By agreement, Hertha's mother, Rosa Abeles, was to get a stipend for her life, but that was reneged in many ways.  And, as part of overall Jewish disenfranchisement, the Guggenheim-Abeles business in Hamburg was seized, and the Guggenheim family home had to be sold at a pittance. They moved into a small apartment, where a neighbor denounced them. This led to a detective coming about to see if they intended to emigrate. They moved into another apartment.

The Guggenheims sent two of their children, Heinrich age 16 and Marianne age 12,  to England as part of a humanitarian transport. Rosa's daughter Erika (sister to Hertha) (married to Karl Wolff) emigrated to America. Rosa had had to sell her house, and was in an apartment.

Then Wilhelm Guggenheim was arrested, and the Gestapo released him because of his fine service in WWI.  Rosa moved into a little Inn owned by two sisters, but they eventually killed themselves because of the Nazi persecution. Wilhelm and Hertha hid. And stayed hidden. Fritz, another son I think, hid on his own elsewhere.

Friends provided food. Wilhelm had been prominent - kept trying to get out with his family - most anywhere. See the site for the list of places he tried to arrange. The site says he finally got visas for Brazil for all 3. Remember that Marianne and Heinrich were in Britain.

Crates of valuables, treasures, museum quality artifacts, never got to them; those they traced had accrued fees too high. The Stolpersteine site has people's recollections of what was in the crates. Treasures.

Did any of the children eventually get to claim the property? [Did elder brother Siegfried Guggenheim obtain it? See the container lists of the museum at the findingaids site]

Rosa Abeles, mother of Hertha (who was the wife of Wilhelm) was still in Hamburg, then was shunted first to a Jews' House, then to the railroad station for "resettlement" in 1942. She was sent to Theresienstadt .She had to pay for her own passage.  Jews had been forced to turn in their woollens and furs. She died in Theresienstadt in the "infirmary", pulmonary disease so says the Solper Steine.

[She perished there in 1942, see the Yad Vashem Central Data Base, Shoah victims listing, at ://!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_FL?last_name=Abeles&first_name=Rosa&location=Hamburg&next_form=results]


This verbal recollection, and collection of remembrances, is in Hamburg, and is part of the project  Solpersteine, places and biographies from the Holocaust. For a description of the deportation process for Jews in Hamburg, see ://


One Strelow was an architect in 1935 in Hamburg, Chr. H. I. Strelow, see  A Leopold Strelow had been an architect there in 1907 or so. See :// No beer interests seen yet.

Later information: Wilhelm Guggenheim is the younger brother of Siegfried Guggenheim, who resettled in New York, see :// , that other family members were already well settled in South America. At first we believed that Wilhelm, Hertha and Fritz went to Chile, see ://  That site tracks the Siegfried Guggenheim family estate (museum pieces, correspondence, etc). As to the two children earlier sent to England for safety, this required money for the children's support, and that many families could not afford. They were fortunate. See / Heinrich may now use the name Henry Griffith, see  But this site says Brazil again - see   Recent contact with a family member confirms the Brazil.destination and the name.

There is now a film, a documentary, by Jens Huckereide about the Guggenheim home in Hamburg, "Ab Nach Rio", Die Guggenheim Atke, see :// and the photograph there. Is that the Guggenheims? Gone to Rio. It commemorates the 60th year since the Shoah, or Holocaust. The film focuses on the history of the owners of the home: the Jewish Guggenheims, then acquired from them in 1938 (forced sale), by the Fritsche family, Michael and Claus Fritsche (we are trying to figure out the German -- let the cursor hover over the German word and Google will translate it), and only in 2007 sold to the State and to be a kindergarten, we understand.  Stadtvilla Rothenbaumchaussee 121, Hamburg. There have been showings of the film this year.

There remain proofs of the business interests. See photos and reproductions of phone book listings for the Guggenheim-Abeles business before the War, at :// There are many, in different cities, Berlin, Baden-Wurttemberg, Hamburg, etc.

There is a photo of Wilhelm Guggenheim with a baby as well, that we understand is the son Heinrich.  There are records of a Wilhelm Guggenheim out of Hamburg during the war years, then a Wilhelm Guggenheim going to Switzerland. That is a different branch. The Wilhelm Guggenheim in issues here is the Hamburg family. It is a large and distinguished family, with roots going back centuries, especially in Worms, Germany. For researching any family, look up We understand that Guggenheims stem from the same root, perhaps in Worms, Germany, with prominence as early as the 18th Century.

1938.  Confiscation.  Curtain down, for some.  The Nazi confiscation process: See Robbing the Jews at ://; and ://  Who is this other Guggenheim who was a drugstore goods wholesaler, and who, as Guggenheim & Co in 1938 also lost it? See page 265, Google book, Aryanization in Hamburg
by Frank Bajohr. Examples of confiscations: pages 290, 160, 246, 214, 245. It is reviewed at :// Pilsner Urquell Brewery was in Czech land, however, so would not be in the Hamburg accountings. Process again:  first, you have to report. See ://
B.  1945 - 2010

1945.  The Guggenheim-Abeles account in the Stolpersteine ends with the death of Rosa Abeles. The brewery was nationalized in 1945.  Did the same Strelow Company own it at the time, so that they are the ones who own the portion of it now.

There were Strelows who died in the War, one a pilot, Hans; another a U-Boat captain, Siegfried; see Buchenwald Inmate. Tale of Two Families.

1945.  Nationalization.  Would the arische or aryan Strelows have received any compensation when the company was nationalized after the war? See :// Same family?

1989.  Communism fell (the "Velvet Revolution"), and the brewery has been publicly owned ever since. Who got what at that time?  See the ownership known so far. As a publicly owned company, Pilsner Urquell or Pilzen Urquell, has done well, and has bought other breweries.  Here is who owns what, as of the time of the Brewing Techniques dot com site:
  • 51% held by a Czech bank.
  • 10%  held by the "Licensed Brewer's Association, a group comprising the descendants of the original shareholders before nationalization" -- that from the Brewing Techniques site. *
 * "Original shareholders before nationalization" got 10%.  Licensed Brewer's Association.

We cannot find who makes up that group. Is this, or does it stem from the Strelows in Hamburg. The wording appears to exclude the people who owned the business when it was confiscated, the Guggenheim and Abeles families. Did the Strelows retain it and now own the 10%?

We understand that the Guggenheims got nothing. Start with Guide to the Siegfried Guggenheim Collection 1791-1961 at ://

Tracking Interests

If the Strelows got Pilsner Urquell in 1989, then for their six or seven years of enjoying confiscated property ownership, they are much and unjustly enriched. The Guggenheims, for 38 years of ownership and then the confiscation, lost out on it completely. There are reparations procedures, and the proofs seem clear enough, but each family makes its own decisions for its own reasons. See FN 1 for information so far about the Strelows.

Ownership changes at the Brewery:
  • In 1999, SAB bought a controlling interest (44% market share - is that controlling here? - here we go. Pilsner buys Radegast and after puts and calls and calls and puts and options run wild, SAB has the whole wad 100% by 2001 ) in Pilsner Urquell - South Africa Breweries. See agreement to acquire at ://  Suds on Six Continents. See :// and the moving timeline of acquisitions and mergers at :// the restaurant (was it in Pilsen?) became a chain - see ://  Pilsner Urquell Original Restaurants.  A new one just opened in 2009 in Prague.  Pilsner Urquell Kulatak in Vitezne Square.
  • Shares in SAB Miller pay dividends at $.68 per, "group revenue" at $26,350,000.00. See ://
  • Is there a cloud on a title where property was stolen, acquired by confiscation? Experts, please stand up. Curious. Is there a statute of limitations on reparations? More curious. Why not just do something really nice for the owners from whom the brewery was confiscated. No fuss, no lawsuits, just a quiet really nice thing for them. A conscience-clearer, fog-benevolence. Let's ask the Chairman. What's the bank that owns so much of it? Ask their Chairman.
See also ://    (why drink American if the other is better in taste and purity of ingredients?)(is it?)

Modern Annual Report and History.  SABMiller in its 2005 Annual Report gives a modern history of Pilsner Urquell, known in the document by its Czech name, Plzensky Prajdroj. The history does not go back far enough for this cultural icon, and symbol of the Shoah. See ://   See Michael John Short smile.  Ask if he knows of the Guggenheims?

Ownership:  This site confirms the Guggenheim earlier ownership, and lists Wilhelm Guggenheim as "former owner of beer company". See

 * Something like po cele generace inspiruje Pilsner Urquell svou nezamenitelnou chuti nejen emelce, vedce, vynalezce, ci spisovatele, ale de zdrojem inspirace prop kazdeho, kdo ho jen ochutna.

Ms. Google says that means "inspiration for generations of Pilsner Urquell beer its unique taste not only emelce, scientists, inventors, or writers, but the prop de inspire everyone he had a taste." So the company done good!  Attention, Henry Griffith and Marianne! Not interested? Fine. Just so you know.  See ://

C.  Wilhelm, younger brother of Siegfried Guggenheim-

The family. The Guggenheims go  back to 1794 in terms of official tallies. A branch may be the Solomon Guggenheims NY, as in Guggenheim Museum and other good works. For an idea of the reach, contacts, interests of this family and its far-flung family members, see the information from the Siegfried Guggenheim site, Guide to the Siegfried Guggenheim Collection 1791-1969, at ://
What happened with Wilhelm, who received the Abeles portion of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery before the Reich, upon the death of Heinrich Abeles. Did the Abeles family have any interest left after the death of Heinrich, and what was given to them by Wilhelm for Heinrich's interest.  Wilhelm's children: two went to England during the War.A Brazil component thereafter is beyond this look.

See Germany Road Ways: Buchenwald Inmate  Siegfried Guggenheim also was in Buchenwald briefly. See, estate of Siegfried Guggenheim, correspondence; and
FN 1

Strelow family.   
Annexed the Brewery at Confiscation from the Guggenheims

Interest moves back to the Strelows, the company that annexed the Brewery at confiscation.  Tracking, tracking. It is not an unusual name. How to tell which is which.

There is an Albert Strelow in the index to a history of the Ford Motor Company, and the moguls in industry over decades, see; and Albert Strelow was one of the first investors, see

There is a Gallerie Heike Strelow, see ://; and Heike Strelow is also an author, see ://; lots of people named Strelow over here, see :// -see also the name Roger.

As confirmation of the ownership, there is a Strelow & Co. notation for a Pilsner Urquell beer coaster at ://; and also at ://

Hans Strelow, Siegfried Strelow. Other source:  An "elite of the Third Reich" is Siegfried Strelow, and also Hans Strelow, see pages 335-336, :// .

Both received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Read about Hans the pilot - A "German Luftwaffe figher ace", see ://  See also :// (do a find for Strelow).  He was shot down behind Soviet lines, and killed himself to avoid capture. Someone vet Wikipedia on that. Siegfried, the U-Boat commander, is not listed as a relative of Hans, and no indication of death during wartime, see  ://  Common name, no relation probably.

For a time, we thought another family, Czech, might have an interest in the brewery at the time of WWII, but apparently not. We had posted more on the Strelows at the site concerning the only survivor of the European branch of that family, but have no confirmation that the information there is the confiscated brewery family same family.

The brewery, and war, and compare the families with various connections with it.  A Czech family, now decimated, who identified with it in the past;  a German Jewish family who built it up for 38 years, and it was taken from them, and many of them got out and resettled elsewhere; and a German Aryan family who got it by confiscation. Did they win? Does it matter. To whom. Skycams looking back.  See Germany Road Ways: Buchenwald Inmate  

2010.  There are 30 Strelows in the phone book in Hamburg (not necessarily the same family, of course, but a continuing name presence).  There are two "Hans" and a hyphenation as the first name. The pilot's line? GAnd the company still deals in -- go look at the bubbles at  - adult beverages.  The tall glass of bubbly there has a nice head. Also wines?  There is a nice picture of "the team" and we see no Strelows, so maybe this is no connection at all. Did they sell and sell the name with it? Or never have it.

Ms. Google Translator says, in pertinent part, that the Strelow company has ties to the deep past -- translating the Strelow business website at:// 

"Already in 1891 (the Strelows or the Guggenheim-Abeles?) the foundation stone for the traditional Hamburg company has been laid. In addition to the tradition, it is to be a joy for us, always a valued partner for the hospitality and retail.

"We offer our customers a high quality and market-oriented Topsortiment with a variety of domestic and international beverage specialties."

Henry Griffiths Update, much later than received.  This is 2012. 

A comment that I cannot publish because it gives a real name and an email, but here is the neutral part: "The Picture of Wilhelm Guggenheim with a baby was posted by me. The baby was my father, Henry Griffiths, nee Heinrich Zwi Guggenheim. My name is______________________(deleted identifying information)"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This blog seems fairly accurate and is an exercise in logic.

It's quite impressive to how someone completely unrelated to the families involved have taken such interest in the subject.

I believe the subject deserves attention and further research.