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Martin Lövinson Recalls Jewish Emancipation and Enthusiasm for the German Wars of Unification (early 1870s)
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The story of the Charlottenburg years so far has shown that our household had assumed the character of a quite well-to-do, even if not luxurious, middle-class home. Our father acquired the means for that from his visibly thriving business. The abolition of compulsory guild membership in its final ramifications had made it possible to adapt oneself freely in business matters to the desires of the public; thus, for example, besides furniture the factory also produced clocks and musical instruments, ivory carvings, and similar things. Our keen interest was aroused for a long time by an example of such small works of art, a little wooden egg in which a tiny chess set was enclosed, and by similar devices that gentlemen carried around with them as containers for the popular Bullrich digestant salts. With such novelties the firm made its first appearance at the Leipzig fair, and later at the world and national industrial exhibitions that were coming into being in that decade. Thus, the name of the firm can be found among the exhibitors in London in 1863, and especially, moreover, at the great World Fair of 1867 in Paris. On such occasions my father spent weeks, if not months, abroad and made valuable contacts in foreign countries. There was even a branch established in London, which was managed by Julius Jacobi, a Danzig compatriot of my paternal family. At the Paris fair the firm was represented by young Siechen, the future head of the brewery of this same name, which was very famous in his day and probably still is. Many a friendly relationship resulted from the exhibitors working together during the preparations for such an undertaking and during its implementation. At such times, the men were together a lot, in foreign places and on the road, and their association often continued when they were back home.

Of course, even at that time my father was not spared serious difficulties. I will mention only the three wars, with the unavoidable interruptions of credit and sales, as well as a devastating fire, which, if I am not mistaken, in the night of the New Year (1868–1869) reduced the factory to ashes. Also, after the war, in 1870, there was a big strike by the workers in that whole line of business, which despite the owners’ principles, known to be favorable to the workers and democratic, also spread to our factory. With his unusual flexibility, father was able to surmount all these grave misfortunes. When the sale of furniture faltered during the wars in 1866 and 1870, and at the same time cholera, with all its threat, came to Berlin and spread horror in the city, which was still without sewers, he invented a disinfectant, which, as I recall, consisted of peat litter and ferrous sulfate and was to be poured into the commodes that were in use in almost all living quarters. The components arrived by waterway, since the rear of the factory, where they were blended, bordered on the Spree. The disinfectant was sold in big paper bags, which bore the label “Antimiasmaticum.” A large advertising company saw to the recommendation of this very timely remedy, which must have been quite practical, and delivery to the consumers was carried out by the factory workers, who were not sufficiently occupied with their actual tasks, by means of a few charabancs that father had gotten hold of for this purpose in Charlottenburg and whose owners, in such bad times for business, were glad to have found profitable earnings, during the week, too.

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