The connection between Bruno Hauptmann, the convicted and executed kidnapper of the Charles Lindbergh baby, and the Aldinger family!

Bruno Hauptmann first set foot on American soil on his twenty- fourth birthday-November 26, 1923. A stowaway on the "SS George Washington", he spent the ocean crossing hiding in a coal bunker, emerging every night to scavenge from the garbage pails that were brought up on deck for disposal by the morning watch.

It was his third attempt in five months to enter the United States. On his first try, in July, Hauptmann had stowed away in a bilge compartment of the German liner "Hannover", only to be seized by customs officials when he tried to sneak off the ship. He gave the alias Karl Pellmeir and was departed to Germany after a brief hearing. On his second stowaway attempt, he was caught during a general search and locked in a bathroom for the return voyage. He escaped from the locked cubicle twice and eventually managed to leap overboard and swim to shore just before the ship docked in Bremerhaven.

The next time around Hauptmann got lucky. An engine stoker who stumbled on his hiding place in the coal bunker was planning to jump ship in New York and offered to help Hauptmann sneak ashore. The stoker had the address of a German family named Uhland on West Eighty-second Street, and he and Hauptmann walked there from the waterfront. Jacob Uhland was willing to put the merchant seamen up for a few days but wanted nothing to do with the dishelved, tough- looking stowaway. Hauptmann was sitting in the Uhlands' living room wondering where to go next, when eighteen-year-old Fred Aldinger showed up, hoping to trade some stamps with Uhland, a fellow collec- tor. Aldinger's father, a war veteran with a wooden leg and a heavy drinking habit, had recently lost his job, and his mother, Lena, was looking for a boarder to supplement her earnings as a laundress. Aldinger told Hauptmann that he could stay with his family for free until he earned his first paycheck.

At first Hauptmann was the ideal boarder. He landed a job washing dishes at a restaurant near South Ferry just two days after he moved in, and he spent his evenings studying an English grammar book. Although he never would learn to speak or write English fluently, Hauptmann was an intelligent man who prided himself on reading the "New York Times" every day, unlike so many other immigrants who relied on the German language press or the tabloids for their news. He also played the mandolin and displayed impeccable manners, never failing to help Lena Aldinger with the heavy baskets of laundry she collected from her customers on Riverside Drive.

Lena was just forty, a decade younger than her alcoholic husband, and she soon was enamored of this athletic, well-spoken roomer with, as she put it, "such happy go lucky ways". She began calling him Richard or Rick, names he came to prefer to Bruno because they sounded more American. Before three weeks had passed it occured to Rudolph Aldinger that his wife and his new boarder were getting along a bit too well. One night in mid-December, Aldinger came home blind drunk and accused the two of them of sleeping together. When Richard seemed reluctant to defend him- self with his fists, Lena resolved the dispute by breaking a chair over her husband's head. Hauptmann departed to a nearby rooming- house, and two days later, while Rudolph was at work, Lena and her teenage sons moved to a new apartment on 117th Street. As soon as they were settled, Lena sent word to Richard inviting him for Christmas dinner. He showed up carrying his meager belongings and moved in.

By now Fred Aldinger rued the day that he ever invited Hauptmann into his home. Richard had made contact with Albert Deibisch, a fellow German whom he had met on the docks in Bremer- haven before his second stowaway attempt. Deibisch, who came from a middle-class background and had brought some savings with him to the States, was now running a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop on Lexington Avenue known as the A.D. Coffee Pot. Almost every night Deibisch and Hauptmann lounged around the kitchen table in the Aldinger apartment hatching get-rich-quick schemes. One that Fred Aldinger particularly remembered involved a formula for laundry soap, apparently obtained from an old-country acquaintance of Hauptmann's who worked for Proctor & Gamble. Hauptmann and Deibisch were convinced that they could make a formula by manufacturing soap from the stolen formula and selling it them- selves, door to door. Like most of their ideas, this one never got beyond the talking stage.

Lena, meanwhile, had begun playing mother hen to another greenhorn who worked as a maid for one of her laundry customers on Riverside Drive. Anna Schoeffler was new in New York and didn't yet know her way around, so Lena invited her out once evening for a movie, then brought her back to 117th Street for coffee. By the time Anna left that evening, Hauptmann had asked her out on a date, and they were soon meeting secretly almost every weekend......( Anna became the wife of Richard Bruno Hauptmann).

Source: Joyce C. Milton "Loss of Eden", pages 307 and 308

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