Charlotte Hartwich, known as Lotte, was born Charlotte Mislowitzer on 3 January 1894 in Schneidemühl (now Piła, Poland) in what was then the Prussian province of Posen. She had a wealthy Jewish upbringing, raised by her parents Recha (née Ansbach) and Dr. Emil Mislowitzer, a general practitioner. From the age of 6 to 16 she attended the Schneidemühl school for girls, taking teacher training classes in the last year. Her parents then sent her to learn languages at Lake Geneva for almost two years. During this period, in 1911, her mother died. A few years later she lost her father; he was the first German doctor to be killed in the First World War. In September 1914, just a few weeks after the war started, he was shot in the head while serving as a medical officer for the 49th infantry regiment.
Lotte, then aged 20, went to live with her uncle in Berlin. In the winter she started a one-year course of training to become a medical laboratory assistant in Dr. Piorkowsky’s private laboratory. For the next three years, she worked as a laboratory technician at the university gynaecological clinic in Erlangen, Bavaria. Here, she took part in theory classes for student midwives, regularly assisting in the lecture hall, where her responsibilities included anaesthetic duties. She assisted at many gynaecological operations and births, including difficult forceps deliveries.
In October 1919 she left Erlangen and became engaged to Dr Hans Hartwich, a dentist, in Berlin. Hans Hartwich was born on 30 December 1890 in Berlin. He studied dentistry in Berlin and Kiel, took his state examination in Kiel and gained his doctorate from the University of Würzburg. They were married on 31 January 1920 and then moved to Leipzig, where Hans Hartwich opened a dental practice, financed by most of Charlotte’s inheritance. For a time, Charlotte also worked here – one of the largest non-private practices in Leipzig – as a receptionist. On 26 November 1920, their daughter Rita Recha was born; on 20 December 1923, their son Erwin Edgar Emil was born. They lived in an apartment over the dental practice in the Plagwitz neighbourhood of Leipzig and had a country cottage, too.
After the Nazis assumed power, the health insurance company revoked Hans Hartwich’s licence to practise, severely reducing his clientele. In the application for compensation that Charlotte Hartwich submitted in the 1950s, she described the effects of Nazi rule on her husband’s work: “Many patients who continued to come to our practice out of loyalty were attacked by Nazi Party members living in the building who threatened to report them – so they naturally stayed away afterwards, and as the practice largely relied on statutory health insurance patients, its complete ruin became inevitable. We were searched several times, for many hours and not just in the surgery but also in our country cottage. My husband and I were close to nervous breakdowns by the time the SS men left.” Hans Hartwich was also remanded in custody for a time.
In December 1933 Charlotte Hartwich took her children to Prague, where an opportunity had arisen for her husband to become a partner in a Czech practice. Charlotte herself gained a commission for a series of bacteriological tests from the director of the Pasteur Institute in Prague. Her children were able to attend school in Prague for the two years she worked there. Meanwhile, despite the adversity and until a better opportunity arose, Hans Hartwich tried to keep his practice in Leipzig running. But all Charlotte’s efforts to gain a work permit for him failed, and she and the children returned to Leipzig in late 1935. Charlotte continued her attempts to find her husband employment abroad, going to see the Dental Board in London and travelling as far as Casablanca to pursue another potential practice partnership. But all these costly efforts were in vain.
Her husband’s health then suddenly and severely deteriorated. In her application for compensation, Charlotte Hartwich wrote: “All the commotion and worries about the future had a serious impact on his health, his blood pressure increased until it led to his premature death – at the age of 46.” Hans Hartwich died of kidney failure on 11 June 1937.
Following the death of her husband, Charlotte Hartwich tried in vain to find work as a laboratory assistant or receptionist in Leipzig. Exposed to constant harassment and threats by her neighbours, she decided to move back to Berlin where her parents-in-law Selma (née Levy) and Waldemar Hartwich, a judicial counsellor, lived. Initially, she lived with her children as subtenants in an apartment at Duisburger Straße 5 in Wilmersdorf. In early January 1938, they moved to Solinger Straße, first to number 3 and a few weeks later to live as subtenants of the Schwerin family at number 10.
Not long afterwards, in spring 1938, Charlotte’s 17-year-old daughter Rita emigrated to England. One year later, her 15-year-old son Erwin also managed to join a “kindertransport” to England, one of the thousands of Jewish children saved in this way between November 1938 and the start of the Second World War. In summer 1939, Charlotte Hartwich joined her children in England. They had planned to travel on to the United States, where Charlotte’s younger brother Ernst had lived since 1938. But although they soon obtained the necessary visas, their crossing was cancelled shortly before they were due to leave – probably because of the outbreak of war. Consequently, Charlotte Hartwich stayed in England for almost seven years.
Having only obtained a transit visa, she was not eligible for a work permit during her first years in England. Eventually she was able to get a job in a factory but had to wait another three years to work in a qualified position. From 1943 to March 1945, she worked in an industrial laboratory for Thomas Hulbert & Sons’ grain mill in Manchester, where she was responsible for humidity control. In 1946, her employers wrote her a leaving reference that expressed their deep regret at her departure from the company as they had never had such a diligent employee and ended with the words: “We only hope that she finds the happiness in the United States that she so richly deserves after her sad life in Europe.”
On 20 March 1946, Charlotte Hartwich boarded a plane to Chicago with her daughter Rita. She settled in New Haven, Connecticut, where her brother Ernst, who had changed his surname to Mylon, worked as a research assistant (becoming an associate professor in 1953) in the medical faculty of Yale University. Soon after her arrival in the United States, Charlotte Hartwich took employment as a medical technician at St. Raphael hospital in New Haven, where she was responsible for the bacteriological department. She retained this position for many years. In December 1946 her daughter married Samuel Krevit, an American who worked in the chemical industry. Her son, who changed his name to Edgar Hartley, also moved to the United States after performing military service in Britain. Charlotte Hartwich stayed in New Haven for the rest of her life, as did her brother and children and their families. She became a grandmother of four and obtained US citizenship in June 1952. Charlotte Hartwich died on 22 March 1981 in her new home. She was 87 years old.