Berlin Business Records #germany

Joachim Mugdan

Josef Hannum wrote:

The Berlin researcher should also check indexes at the ... courts handling bankruptcy, civil lawsuit, and even liability (tort) lawsuits. 
This could be very time-consuming and costly since German court records are not online.
In Berlin, there was and is a local court (Amtsgericht) in each city district. You can find the court for a particular address in a 1930 list of streets, "Amtliches Straßenverzeichnis der Stadt Berlin". (Under "Cite and reuse", there is a link to the PDF version so that you can download the entire volume.)
The commercial register (Handelsregister) I mentioned earlier should give you basic information about what happened to the business, and it may contain a reference to a court case if there was one, making it easier to find the relevant file. Many of the old court records are now at the state archives (Landesarchiv); when I searched the holdings for "Amtsgericht" just now, I saw that the commercial register has been transferred to the state archives, too.


Joachim Mugdan, Basel, Switzerland, JGFF Researcher 5749


Lori Barnett


Thank you for the advice.  Do you have any suggestion of locating a researcher in Berlin?

Thank you,

James Hannum

Unless you speak German, I agree you should hire a researcher in Berlin, and ask him to research your relative's name and the business name, both of which should be in the Adressbücher​ (city directories, yearly).  Check from 5 years before the postcard until 1941 (since WW II ended the depression.) 

You can do this ​
Adressbücher​ research yourself, per the directions the other person gave you here.  This will give you the relative's and his business's address(es).  The researcher in Berlin should ​research to find the owner & change in owner of these addresses.  That may show your relative's loss of the property by bankruptcy or civil lawsuit for debt, during the depression.
He may have been embarrassed to say that he lost his business for debts, and decided to say the government seized his business.

The Berlin researcher should also check indexes at the courts for the above years, the courts handling bankruptcy, civil lawsuit, and even liability (tort) lawsuits.  The latter would be, for example, if someone was injured on your relative's premises and the court found him negligent, and he hadn't the money to pay the judgement so the court ordered the building and/or business sold to pay the judgement. 

Also he should check the tax court index, in case your relative lost his building &/or business due to unpaid taxes seizure.  In this last instance it's easy to see how an aggrieved and impoverished man could refer to the proceeding as "the government took my business."  Indeed, the government would, in that case, have been taking his business!
Tell the researcher to check these and any other courts which he thinks may have some bearing.  Good luck!
--Josef Hannum

James Hannum

Bankrupt may be too vague a term here.  I say "may."  If in a depression a business, like many other businesses, cannot make enough profit (from sales of cigarettes for example), and so cannot pay its debts, the debtors may sue the company and obtain a judgement giving them the right to sell the building, supplies, etc to satisfy the debts.  It is not the government taking the business, but the creditors doing so.  Of course this requires the participation of a government judge who signs the order(s).  

You say that the government confiscation is "based on postcards and the family story."  Did he say it in the postcards?  Because family stories (legends) are notoriously inaccurate.  The most common theme is that an ancestor had property, money, oil wells, etc wrongfully taken from him.  You would be surprised how many families have such legends.  My own family, on both sides, is an example.

Your 1922 event is not to be confused with Hitler's reign.  After Kristalnacht, the Gestapo siezed businesses, houses, artwork, etc. of Jews, without any bankruptcy or debts involved.  But I don't know of this happening in 1922.  In that year Hitler was a little known artist and pennyless beerhall personality.  There were no Nazis or Gestapo then.
--Josef Hannum

Lewis, Megan

You may to also check the Deutscher Reichsanzeiger und Preußischer Staatsanzeiger, which published legal announcements.  Copies are online at , organized by year.

Megan Lewis,
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Joachim Mugdan

Hello Lori,

The commercial register (Handelsregister) may have a file on the factory with documents concerning its creation and dissolution. (BTW, I don't think the government could simply confiscate a business. It seems more likely that it went bankcrupt during the economic crisis of the early 1920s.) You can consult the file in person at Amtsgericht Charlottenburg, Hardenbergstr. 31, 10623 Berlin, Room 121. To make an appointment, fill in the contact form (link on the web page, giving the name of the business and the time period when it existed. 

Good luck with your research,


Joachim Mugdan

Basel, Switzerland

JGFF Researcher 5749



Hi Lori

You can search the digitized old Berlin city directories here:

You can search old newspapers from Berlin here. They contain imformation about businesses from the Handelsregister.

I can't find the surname Volinsky there, but the surname Golinsky.


Corinne Iten

Sherri Bobish


You can try searching old Berlin city directories that are digitized at:
You can search by his surname (you may need to do a soundex search), or you can search by occupation, i.e. Zigaretten (cigarettes.)

If you have an address than you can search by that (the building number is put after the street name, i.e. we would say 123 Main St., but they would write "Main St. 123."

You can limit the search to Berlin, or search all of Germany.  Many other countries are also searchable at the site.

Good luck in your search,
Sherri Bobish
Searching:  RATOWSKY / CHAIMSON (Ariogala, Lith.)
WALTZMAN (Ustrzyki Dolne, Pol.)
LEVY (Tyrawa Woloska, Pol.)
LEFFENFELD (Daliowa & Jasliska, Pol.)
BOJDA / BLEIWIESS (Tarnow & Tarnobrzeg, Pol.) 
SOKOLSKY / SOLON / SOLAN (Grodek, Bialystok, Pol.)
BOBISH (your guess is as good as mine!  LOL)

Lori Barnett

In 1910, my great uncle Charles Wolinsky (Chaskel Volnsky) immigrated to Berlin from Skvira, Ukraine.  He started a cigarette factory and became very wealthy.  Around 1922, he lost his business.  Based on postcards sent to America and the family story the German government confiscated his business.  He writes of them removing 300 workers from his factory.  I do not have the name of his business. I am seeking advice on how to best obtain records about his business.  In mid-March, I will be in Berlin.

Thank you,
Lori Eisen Barnett