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Fritz Frederic Paul Eriksen

Fritz Frederic Paul Eriksen

Male 1889 - 1974  (85 years)

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  • Name Fritz Frederic Paul Eriksen 
    Born 21 Jan 1889  Hamburg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Biography MEMORIES OF MY GRANDFATHER, "FRITZ" (EICHENBERG) ERIKSEN When I think of "Grandpa Fritz" a smile comes to my face. He was that sort of character that left a lasting impression on all those who met him or knew him not necessarily an endearing impression, being very impatient and hot tempered at times, as well as a little arrogant and egotistical and he wasn't the easiest person to live or work with but for those who knew him well, these less attractive characteristics (which, on reflection, were the cause of some amusing events) were overridden by his more endearing qualities and accepted as part of the whole package that made him a real character. Fritz was fiercely independent, direct, resolute, dogmatic, but, on occasions, conceded defeat. He was generous and had a sense of humour, but I think the most memorable characteristic about Fritz was his many idiosyncrasies (and sheer audacity, at times) that, whilst not always regarded with humour by those on the receiving end of these traits, or by those who had to suffer the embarrassment of his ways at the time, embellish his whole character and bring on a smile when he comes to mind.

    Born in Hamburg, Germany on 21 Jan.1889 (though he celebrated his birthday on the 27 January the same day as Kaiser William's birthday), Frederic Paul ("Fritz") was the second son of Paul and Gertrude Eichenberg. His brothers and sisters were Hans (oldest), Ernst, Elizabeth, Anna and Kurt. He married Maria Teresa Cresta ("Sita"), also born in Hamburg, though of Italian nationality before her marriage, having an Italian father and Jewish mother and they had two children, Gisela (my mother) and Rolf. Several unfortunate events, beginning with his father's death in 1927, followed by the liquidation and subsequent loss of his father's company, "Eichenberg & Co." to which he was the main successor, then his divorce in 1930 and the rise to power of Hitler with his racist policies, led to his emigration to S.Rhodesia in 1935.

    Like so many other German families having to leave their homeland because of their nonAryan heritage, the family was split up and scattered all over the world. Rolf and "Granny Sita" went to Italy, whilst my mother went to S. Rhodesia, a few years after her father, in 1938. Grandpa told us that he worked for his father's company in Shanghai, China, before WW1. The company, being an extensive merchant firm, importing grain and fodders, also coffee from Brazil and soya beans and oils from the far east, was founded by his father in Hamburg and eventually opened branches in several other port cities around the world. WW1 proved a setback for the business, in that they had to reestablish trading contacts and many of the ships that transported their goods were lost in the war, which, no doubt, contributed towards the company's final liquidation.

    Being a keen sportsman especially in tennis, Fritz won a number of tennis championships whilst in the Far East, one of these being the Macau championship. (I think also one in Singapore) His highest honour in tennis was being selected for the German Davis Cup team. However, the ship on which he was travelling back to Germany (from the Far East ) arrived back late and he missed this opportunity. He was also an avid tabletennis player and would challenge anyone to a game. He once challenged the world champion, Victor Barna, putting up ú100 stakes which he lost! In hockey he played for the 1st side representing Germany against England, as goalkeeper. Although they lost 10 0, he said it was because England had a far more experienced and superior team and that they would've scored a lot more goals, had it not been for his good goalkeeping skills! (Of course) !

    When Fritz first arrived in S.Rhodesia he worked as a representative for an export firm in Hamburg, which had branches all over Rhodesia. (My mother's last job in Hamburg was also with this firm). Sometime after this he was interned at Gwelo, under suspicion of being a Nazi spy. I'm not too clear on the details why, but he had met my father, Harold High, who also worked for this firm (having arrived in Rhodesia from England in the late 30's) and Dad helped Fritz in his release. (Mom arrived there a few years after her father and met my Dad through Fritz). This incident was largely responsible for Fritz changing his name to Eriksen some years later (after 1942). At one time Grandpa was very ill with thyrotoxicosis (overactive thyroid) and became extremely thin, but he recovered, over a long period of time, to full health and was very fit for the rest of his life, up until a few months before he died from kidney failure. Fritz was always part of our lives, living in Salisbury, mostly, whilst we lived in Bulawayo, except for the last few years of his life when he moved to Bulawayo and took over Mom's flat after her death in 1971.

    His nephew, Gunther Haas, lived in Salisbury with his first wife, Phyllis and daughters, Ingrid and Judy, when we were little girls and we used to visit them occasionally. Gunther was also a good tennis player and there was some rivalry between them, but perhaps some other incident caused their distant' relationship "Uncle Gunther" left S. Rhodesia when we were still very young (having been there, I believe, since before Grandpa arrived), but always kept in touch with Mom and after her death in 1971, with Denise, my sister, until 1985. He died sometime after that.

    I am not sure of all Grandpa's business ventures in Rhodesia, but I remember "Empire and General Agencies", which culminated in a dispute with some "scandalous fellow" in 1966 and he immediately established "F. P. Eriksen" and eventually, "Rhodesia Enterprises", both of which he ran, singlehandedly, except for an African driver, right up until his death in 1974, aged 85. Being a selfemployed agent, he travelled a lot, securing orders for an array of products from various suppliers, visiting regular clients and trying to establish new ones. He supplied a few big companies, but much of his business came from African stores around Rhodesia, Botswana, Malawi and Zambia. I don't know exactly what products he carried in the former businesses, but in his last business, "Rhodesia Enterprises", he dealt only in salt, of various grades, ordering by the truckload from suppliers in Kimberly, S Africa and the salt pans in Namibia, or from whatever other source could fulfil his orders when main suppliers ran short.

    He made a fairly good living and despite some rough patches in business, managed to travel to Europe fairly regularly to see Rolf and other family members, such as Kurt in Stockholm. (In 1958 he made it possible for Mom with Rosemary to go back to Europe to see her mother and brother in Italy and to visit family and friends in Hamburg, Denmark and Sweden her first visit back to Europe in 20 yr.) Fritz's last trip back to Europe was in 1973, several months before he died (and before his 2nd marriage to Ann). With all his travels around Africa and Europe he had many stories to tell. One I remember was when he met up with "King Freddie" of Buganda on a train journey in Europe and became so engrossed in conversation that he didn't notice the train had stopped and his carriage was being shunted off and hooked up to another engine bound for his destination. He discovered this on arriving at the wrong destination and when he went in search of his compartment and luggage! Retrieving his luggage created chapter two! We always said that he should've written a book of all the things that happened to him and I now wish / had kept notes of these tales, as one forgets, unfortunately.

    As kids, he would visit us frequently, usually on return from a business trip, if en route' and stay overnight; sometimes longer, to do business in Byo. He would phone from whichever town he was at, a few hours before arriving and start hooting his car horn a block away from the house, which would usually bring some of the neighbour's kids out, waving and shouting, "Here comes Uncle Fritz" and they would sometimes gather around his car on arrival, knowing he always brought us some little treats (usually chocolates or sweets). He loved this fanfare and being the centre of attention. All our neighbours were amused by his characteristics. He drove "Ford Zephyrs" as long as I can remember (up until his last car, a "BMW Cheetah.) and took great pride in keeping them all in tiptop condition, always giving us the rundown of how well they had performed, due to the fact that he used "Redex" in the engine and knew how to drive to best advantage! I accompanied him on several business trips, during the school holidays (My idea of adventure in those early years) and remember how he would instruct his driver with a circular handwaving motion palm up to speed up and palm down to slow down. When he took over the driving, whoever was in the passenger seat in front had to be alert and shout, "cattle", if anything, other than a car, appeared on the road!

    We used to have some fun with this, shouting "cattle" when we saw a snake or tortoise crossing the road, or an African on a bicycle. (Occasionally. it actually was cattle)! If we came to a traffic light, we had to shout, "Robot red or green or amber" and when on the open road he would drive along the centreline to prevent the road camber causing uneven wear on the tyres. It was no wonder that he had so many car accidents, but, fortunately, he was like a cat with nine lives', and survived them all, though suffered some severe injuries in some cases. All the accidents happened when he was at the wheel (not his driver) and were usually his fault.

    I remember visiting Grandpa in hospital after one of these accidents and seeing him bandaged from head to toe (almost) and unable to talk due to a wired up, broken jaw. He had gone off a bridge into a dry river bed (lucky for him) on a remote country road, after falling asleep at the wheel and had laid there, unconscious, for considerable time before he was spotted. Another time, he accidentally knocked an African off his bicycle, but insisted that it was a pitch black night with no street lights, the African was wearing black clothes, riding a black bicycle with no light or reflectors and, of course, had a black skin, so how on earth' was he supposed to see him, he argued!

    One hair-raising experience we shared with him in his car, was on our wedding day, when he drove Rod and 1, just married, from the church to the reception in his Zephyr Zodiac and went straight through a stop sign, narrowly missing an oncoming car. Fritz's favourite pastime was swimming should I say, floating on his back. He became well known for this habit at pools he regularly visited. He was photographed floating on his back by a newspaper reporter from the Rhodesia Herald, at Mermaid's Pool, a natural rockpool resort, outside Salisbury, in the 50's/60's. The reporter couldn't understand how, one minute he was floating on his back with hands behind his head and the next, he was reading a newspaper and smoking a cigarette (he gave it up since then) whilst still in the same position in the middle of the pool! But, whilst the reporter had turned his back, Grandpa had got out of the pool to get the newspaper and light a cigarette and returned to the middle of the pool, resuming his position, unaware of the reporter's presence and very surprised and elated when he saw his photo in the paper that week!

    I never knew anyone else who could float on their back like he did for hours, with toes above water level all the time! He was obviously very buoyant! Another idiosyncrasy was the way he made his bed so that he could lie on his back without his feet restricted. Woe betides anyone who tucked in his bed linen! In 1958, Denise and I travelled with him to Beira in Mozambique to fetch Mom and Rosemary off the "Europa" on their return from Europe and we stayed in a hotel. Our room was 7 rooms away from Grandpa's and we could hear him bellowing at the room attendant, as if she was expected to know how to make his bed. He had her strip the bed, fold each piece of bed linen in half and lay them separately on top of the bed, so that nothing hung over the edges! The poor girl was quite bewildered by his loud voice and eccentricity.

    On my seventeenth birthday Grandpa took us all to the Chinese restaurant where he ordered a steak and couldn't accept that they didn't serve steaks! Halfway through the meal he stood up and shouted at someone to turn off the Chinese music, saying, "Ist ya terrible"! (sp) All eyes were turned towards our table! On another occasion he and Mom went to see a film and decided to have a quick, light snack beforehand, in the restaurant nearby. They ordered mushrooms on toast and waited a couple of minutes, before Grandpa hooked his walking stick around the leg of the nearest person, pulling him towards him, demanding to know where their mushrooms on toast were. This happened to be another customer, who complained to management and they were both ordered to leave. Poor Mom, she was so embarrassed! She used to say, "Pappi is impossible"!

    Once, when Rod and I were in Salisbury (Harare), Grandpa joined us for lunch at the Civil Service Club, where he ordered a glass of milk to start with. Before too long he stood up and beckoned another waiter to the table, to order another glass of milk, complaining that the first waiter was taking far too long and ignoring our protests. Hardly a minute had passed, when he got up again, muttering, "Ach where" and went over to the counter to get the milk himself, since he thought the waiters were incompetent. On arriving back at the table with his glass of milk, there were the two waiters with both of his orders, looking confused. Needless to say, they were scolded for taking too long and asked, " Do you think I'm stupid who would want three glasses of milk' to which we all chimed together, You would"!

    Another classic was to demand minestone soup with "no tomato"! If Fritz wanted to cross the street, rather than wait his turn, he would usually wave his stick in the air at the oncoming traffic and calmly walk across, whilst angry drivers hooted their horns, shook their fingers or shouted at him! He hated TV never owned one and said it was the ruin of everyone's lives. (I suspect it was more the ruin of his life and had something to do with not being the centre of attention)! Yet often, when visiting us, we'd find him with chair pulled up right in front of the TV, hand cupped behind his ear, listening and watching intently and he'd always say he was just watching the news! (Just as well he's not around in the computer age)! His favourite song was "Che Sara Sara" by Doris Day, which he'd often sing to the words of, "Nie, nie nie, nie...' or "Die, die, die, die...": he always dressed smartly, but rolled his ankle socks down to below his ankles and his pet expressions were, " Ach so" (understood), "Ach where" (disagreed), "Ist ya terrible" or "Ist ya Vunderful" and "Finger, finger, finger", when anyone at the table put there hands near there mouths, or their elbows on the table.

    He always said, in any political discussions, "Africa is for the Africans', which summed up his political beliefs. I must give him his due in that he was totally colourblind to race and treated his drivers with great respect and generosity, though they too had to put up with countless episodes no doubt, many more than we know about! Fritz lived simply, had few possessions and treasured his handful of longstanding friends, who had weathered the storms' of his ways and stuck fast'til the end. He would celebrate each decade of his life with a large dinner party at a venue, with his friends and family, even having his friends from South Africa come up for the occasions. One of his birthday celebrations occurred on board ship during an overseas trip. I have a photo of him surrounded by all the ladies at the party. He was in his element, being the charmer' that he was always trying to attract the ladies! He had a few female friends over the years they all came and went, except for the last one who unfortunately, hooked' him instead.

    But this is a story on it's own except to say, that he met Ann on the gangplank when she was disembarking at Cape Town, at the beginning of his last trip back to Germany in 1973. They had both sailed from Durban to Cape Town, but had not met on board ship as she had been down in "Jack's bar" and he had been upstairs with the GoGo girls for most of the trip! As usual, he gave her his business card and continued on to Europe, forgetting all about her couldn't even remember what she looked like! He was taken ill whilst in Germany, but made a full recovery.

    A month after his return he received a poetical letter from Ann saying, "Fritzy, we were meant to be, etc. They were married in April 1974 and he died a month later on 3 May 1974, aged 85 yrs. He lived to see his six great grandchildren, the older ones of whom remember him well, despite their young ages at the time. This was Fritz. He gave us some hilarious moments, some hair ralsing moments and many embarrassing moments but, in spite of his ways, he earned the respect of all who got beyond the surface to know him. He left us with the legacy of having known a real character' who is affectionately remembered by us all. His granddaughter, Yvonne.  [1
    Holocaust Not a practising Jew. Was interned in Gwelo, Southern Rhodesia on suspicion of being a German spy. 
    Immigration 1938  Zimbabwe Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Occupation Manufacturer's Representative 
    Residence Hamburg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence Harare, Zimbabwe Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 3 May 1974  Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I3577  Blank Family
    Last Modified 23 May 2010 

    Father Paul Eichenberg,   b. 15 Oct 1859, Adelebsen, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 Mar 1927, Hamburg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years) 
    Mother Henriette Gertrude Hesse,   b. 17 Mar 1867, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 28 Apr 1951, Stockholm, Sweden Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years) 
    Married 2 Feb 1886  Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F803  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Maria Teresa "Sita" Cresta,   b. 8 Sep 1889, Hamburg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 19 Apr 1963, Trieste, Italy Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 73 years) 
    Married 19 Jun 1915  Hamburg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Divorced Abt 1930 
    • Divorced
    Divorced 1937 
     1. Gisela Sophie Gertrud Eichenberg,   b. 18 Jun 1916, Hamburg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 May 1971, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 54 years)
     2. Rolf Eichenberg,   b. 11 Jul 1918, Hamburg, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 10 Jan 1985, Trieste, Italy Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 66 years)
    Last Modified 18 Jul 2008 
    Family ID F399  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Ann Everest,   b. Yes - date unknown 1905,   d. Yes - date unknown 
    Married Apr 1974  Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F400  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 21 Jan 1889 - Hamburg, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 19 Jun 1915 - Hamburg, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1938 - Zimbabwe Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Hamburg, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Harare, Zimbabwe Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - Apr 1974 - Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 3 May 1974 - Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Grandpa Fritz Paul Eriksen (ex Eichenberg)1967
    Grandpa Fritz Paul Eriksen (ex Eichenberg)1967

    Fritz Eriksen's Rare Car
    Fritz Eriksen's Rare Car
    Memories of my Grandfather Fritz (Eicchenberg) Eriksen
    Memories of my Grandfather Fritz (Eicchenberg) Eriksen
    Paul & Gertrude House at Hoelderstein 8
    Paul & Gertrude House at Hoelderstein 8

  • Sources 
    1. [S60] E-mail message, from Yvonne Budd.

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