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
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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