By Dietmar Gaida and Simone Sassin, translated from German by Martina R. Jones, November 2021
- Stop 1: Alexander-Coppel-Straße
- Stop 2: The stumbling stone of Dr Alexander Coppel
- Stop 3: The Alcoso company
- Stop 4: The Solingen synagogue
- Stop 5: Gustav Coppel Park
- Stop 6: The Coppelstift foundation
- Stop 7: Alexander Coppel Comprehensive School
- Stop 8: The Jewish cemetery
Stops 1-7 can be walked to without an escort. The Jewish cemetery (stop 8) is not open to the public and can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Individual guided tours can be arranged via firstname.lastname@example.org. The length of the route is just under 4 km.
You can listen to the audio guide at each stop. It was spoken and recorded by Nadine Sadler, November 2021.
Stop 1: Alexander-Coppel-Straße
Alexander-Coppel-Straße – go to map
We start our tour of the history of the Coppel family in the street called Alexander-Coppel-Straße. The Coppel family played an important role in Solingen’s economy and city society until the mid-1930s. However, the family completely disappeared from the address books of the city of Solingen after the National Socialist reign of terror. Any memory of them was also forgotten for a very long time. It was not until 1994 that a large biography on the family was published and since September 2000, there has been a small exhibition on the history of the company and family in the Coppelstift foundation in Wupperstraße.
All attempts to name a street or a school after the family or after a family member failed until 1 September 2005. On that day, the district council of Mitte, at the request of the Greens, the SPD, the Free Citizens Union and the Citizens’ Association for Solingen, all decided not to name a new street “Südpark” – as suggested by the administration – but “Alexander-Coppel-Straße”.
Who was Dr Alexander Coppel?
Alexander Coppel was born in Solingen on 18 September 1865. He was the youngest son of Gustav Coppel, an honorary citizen of Solingen. After he got his doctorate in law in Erlangen, he joined his (grand)father’s company “Alexander Coppel”. Like his parents, Alexander Coppel made exemplary efforts to improve the social well-being of the company’s staff and the general public. In particular, he saw himself as a trustee of the Coppelstift foundation, which his parents had founded in 1912. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the company in 1921, the Alexander Coppel company donated two million marks to various social causes. Alexander Coppel never married.
Like his father, Alexander Coppel played a prominent role in the public life of the city. When the newly established Volkshochschule (an adult education college) was founded in 1912, he became its first treasurer. From 1914 to 1929, he was a city councillor for the left-liberal German Democratic Party (DDP). Until 1933, he was a member of the supervisory board of the Solinger Spar- und Bauverein, a savings club and building society. From 1915 to 1942, he was a member of the board of the Solingen synagogue community. He was its deputy chairman for 25 years and its chairman from 1940 onwards.
Despite their services to Solingen, the Coppel family was also persecuted by the National Socialists. Sophie Coppel (1875-1951), widow of the brother Hermann Coppel, who died in 1931, emigrated to Switzerland as early as 1934, together with her son Heinz (1898-1947) and his family.
Within a six-week period in 1936, during the course of the National Socialist “Aryanization”, Alexander and his brother, Carl Gustav Coppel, lost the Hilden branch of their company to Kronprinz AG. The main Solingen plant went to a corporation under non-Jewish management, which included Carl Gustav Coppel’s son-in-law Karl Anton Reiche. However, he was only able to remain in the company as one of two shareholders until 1939.
Alexander’s eldest brother, Carl Gustav Coppel, who had lived in Düsseldorf since 1920, took his own life in 1941 after his wife died. His daughter, Anna Reiche, was murdered in Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp in 1942. His second daughter, Martha Coppel, who needed care, also fell victim to the Nazi killing machine in Sobibor in 1942.
Alexander Coppel had to endure all these humiliations. As of November 1938, he was forced to use the additional first name of “Gideon”. In the November pogrom of 1938, the valuable furnishings in his flat were destroyed and he himself was temporarily detained in the police prison. Since 1941, he had been the “authorised representative” of the synagogue community, which had been demoted to a mere “Solingen office”. The “office” received its instructions from the district office of the “Reich Association of Jews” in Cologne, which was under Gestapo supervision.
We learn of Alexander Coppel’s further fate at the next stop: his former residence at Werwolf 3.