III. Professional opportunities

Königsberg 1864 to 1910

During the late Nineteenth Century, Königsberg and the Province Prussia attracts a variety of nationals as professionally skilled immigrants from West and East, many of whom do not want to or cannot go oversea. The region has been depopulated by the plague, the Napoleonic wars and cholera epidemics. At all times a primary producing area, commercial and industrial developments have stagnated as a matter of official policy until the middle of the Century when railroads establish efficient links to West and East. Soon Königsberg becomes one of the most important outlets for Russian products and points of import into that country. These developments, in which foreigners including especially Jews play most important roles as traders and professionals, form the background to the role undertaken by Elias Radok.

Daniel Itzig TheUnion-Foundry, 1891

In 1764, Protected-Jew Daniel Itzig receives from Prussia's King Frederik the Great the commission to build a silver foundry on a property which eventually is to become the site of one of German 's larger and well-based industrial undertakings: The Union Foundry. In 1826, Charles Hughes from Birmingham marries into one of Königsberg's leading families, the family Schnell, and resumes the foundry's activities which rapidly expand after 1845 when Gottfried Ostendorff from Thuringia brings experience, gained in Germany and England. In 1853, Königsberg is first linked by rail to Berlin, although the bridges over the River Vistula, which were started in 1845, are only completed in 1857. Ostendorff delivers the first steam locomotive to the Royal Prussian East Railways in 1855. The hundredth is completed in 1878, the five hundredth in 1890, the thousandth in 1899. By then the activities of the Foundry embrace all types of machinery as well as bridges and ships.

Locomotives, built by the Union-Foundry Königsberg's Union-Gießerei built folding

Elias Radok joins the Union Foundry in 1869 from the Borsig Company in Berlin. He leads the firm after 1875 and devotes his remaining life to its further development and the advancement of his new homeland. He is not only active professionally as an engineer, but also leads in public life where he earns the respect of all who have contact with him. He assists in the development of home industries and becomes cofounder of a new bank. After 1896, he is a member of the City Council of Königsberg, and in 1899 he is made a King's Councillor. When he dies in 1910, his funeral is attended by all workers and employees of the Foundry as well as many other inhabitants of Königsberg.

Elias' Radok's entry into the Chamber of Commerce, Königsberg 1895,
and his appointment as Privy Councillor, Berlin 1899
 

Elias and Jenny Radok have three daughters and two sons whose lives become interlinked with their place of birth and their homeland. Else marries the known painter Arwed Seitz, Margarete the architect Max Hartung, who takes part in the direction of the Union Foundry after Elias' death and later becomes its director, Lisbeth marries the music critic Erwin Kroll, author of a well-know book about Köngsberg's musical life. Except for Reinhold, all remain in Königsberg until the events of the early Thirties disperse them.

The Union-Foundry and the residence of the Radoks in the Oberlaak.

Fritz Radok is born on l6th January, 1883. He grows up on the grounds of the factory in his father's official residence. The factory becomes his life which is interrupted by the necessary evil of schooling. His mother plays the piano; music becomes an important feature of their everyday existence. Fritz learns to play the violin. As for many others in Königsberg, Brahm's music develops into an obsession which is to last a lifetime.

Emil Radok 1905



Fritz tells us later on that the hot water for the weekly bath in the household comes from the Foundry's boiler house.After the King's Councillor has immersed himself, in turn, his wife and children indulge in the luxury of ablution. It is a time when the bath tub is carried once a week from the Kaiser's palace to the Crown Prince's residence across Berlin's "Unter Den Linden".

Here worked once upon a time Königsberg's horse tram

With deep interest, Fritz watches, whenever he has an opportunity, the pair of horses which are hooked into the front of the horse tram when it has to climb the hill near the town's six hundred years old castle. This is the job he wants to aspire to, perhaps because it is at the centre of attention and important. He takes from his father the desire to work hard without interruption and to serve a cause.

The summer residence of the Radoks in Neuhaeuser

Along the railroad to Pillau, the only almost ice free port in the Northern part of the Baltic Sea, the village of Neuhaeuser has become a centre of Summer residences for many citizens of Königsberg, including the Radoks. Once a year, the workers and staff of the Union Foundry come here for a day's rejoicing. Many a time Fritz trudges besides his father through the woods to learn from him their secrets. Soon he can identify many kinds of good and evil mushrooms. Earlier in the year, they pick wild strawberries, raspberries, blueberries. For his father, these excursions represent a return to the days of his youth in the forests of Bohemia. It is his principal method of relaxation.

Raw amber necklace

Along the beach, they gather bits of amber loosened from the sediment of the sea floor by storms. They watch the fishermen with their ring nets walking into the waves to catch the floating gold. They visit on foot Pillau where they buy freshly smoked sprats and consume them sitting on the end of the sea wall, watching ships entering and leaving the busy port on their way from and to Königsberg.

During Winter, ice and snow dominate Königsberg's life. When Fritz tries out the town's first pair of skis, imported from Norway, on the highest hill outside the city walls, the Veilchenberg, this event is discussed in great detail in the local newspaper. Skating and tobaggoning keep grownups and children out of doors for many hours in spite of freezing temperatures and short periods of daylight. Often, when the wind comes straight across the plains of Russia, temperatures drop far below the freezing point.

Festive pamphlet of the Union-Foundry's 1000th locomotive 1899

During the festivities connected with the completion of the l000th locomotive on l3th March, 1899, one of the Radok boys reads an entertaining pöm about the past and future of steam locomotives to the assembled staff of the Foundry. The celebrations are held at Luisenhöh outside the city walls; they are attended by important personalities of the province. Afterwards Elias summarizes the development of the factory, recalling the work of George Stephenson and Gottfried Ostendorff. A full scale replica of Stephenson's first locomotive is the surprise at this occasion. He also stresses the importance of good relations between management and staff which have permitted the Founry's survival of the difficult founder years of years after the German-French war of 1870/71. He receives at this occasion from King Wilhelm II of Prussia, who is also Germany's Kaiser, the title of King's Councillor.

Elias Radok with his brothers Bernhard and Max
and his sons Reinhold and Fritz

On his 50th birthday, in November 1890, Jenny has prepared a surprise for Elias. As he is sitting at breakfast, a Father Christmas walks into the room; he recognizes him soon as his younger brother Bernhard. A few minutes later, a second Father Christmas walks in who turns out to be his half-brother Max. Since all of them wear full beards, the conversion dös not involve a great effort. Both of them will die in the Concentration Camp Theresienstadt in 1943 at the age of 95 and 77 together with all but two of their closest relatives and offsprings.

Naturalisation certificate of the Radoks 1895

In 1902, when the entire Radok family in Königsberg is christened, Elias changes his forename to Emil. During these years, some Jewish families take this step which is recorded in the local police register. However, it is not going to protect their families from prejudice and persecution.

After finishing school, Fritz works in the workshops of different factories of Germany, studies for several terms at the Polytechnicum in Danzig and eventually enters the Foundry as administrative apprentice under his father. At the end of his apprenticeship, he spends longer periods in France, Russia and England, working and learning to speak the languages. He is looking for a new sphere of activity to develop his own lifestyle away from familiar surroundings. He sets his sight on the developing German colonies of Africa, which have already been visited by his roving brother Reinhold. In March, 1913, he marries Gertrud Vageler, whose eldest brother Paul lives in Africa. They travel together to East Africa to eventually settle there and trade. When they return after a year's survey to organize their final emigration, war breaks out.