Adventurous life of a chambermaid in Japan

Adventurous life chambermaid Japan

Marta Richter on the balcony of the German embassy in Tokyo.

Marta Richter was a chambermaid to German diplomat Wilhelm Solf and his wife Hanna, who went down in history as the Nazi resistance. Together with Hanna Solf, Marta Richter was even put into Gestapo custody.

All her life, Marta Richter had kept Wilhelm Solf’s coat, which had been punctured and later moth-eaten, for herself. “His Excellency wore it during the great earthquake in Japan in 1926,” she used to say in her old age about the almost reliquary revered garment. It is probably better than the former chambermaid of the ambassador’s wife and later Nazi resistance fighter Hanna Solf, with whom she was even in prison during the Third Reich, did not notice how the Enz flood in 1978 wholly ruined the shreds of coat that had been stored in Bietigheim in the meantime. The shown passport and photographs were donated to the museum of the city of Bietigheim, Germany. Adventurous life chambermaid Japan



Marta Richter (center) with Otto Isao Solf in Japan around the year 1926
” Chambermaid of the wife of the German business representative for Japan, Excellency Solf”: Marta Richter’s ministerial passport from 1920.
Christmas with the Solf’s in the German embassy
„Good for the journey to Japan“: Marta Richters almost 100 years old travel document
Adventurous life chambermaid Japan
Marta Richter (right) remained closely associated with the Solfs throughout her life.

In 2012 I visited the Political Archive of the German Foreign Office in Berlin. Besides, other outstanding passports historical relevant binders, I could also inspect the binders of Solf, which gave me a vivid insight look at his diplomatic and private life. Adventurous life chambermaid Japan

Wilhelm Solf was a German scholar, diplomat, jurist, and statesman. He joined the German Foreign Office (Consular Service) on 12 December 1888 and was assigned to the Imperial German Consulate General in Calcutta on 1 January 1889. He joined the Colonial Department of the Foreign Office (Kolonialabteilung des Auswärtigen Amtes) and, in 1898, was assigned as a district judge in Dar es Salaam in German East Africa for a short period. Wilhelm Solf, at age 38, became the first Governor of German Samoa on 1 March 1900.

After his return from Samoa, Solf became Secretary (Staatssekretär) of the German Colonial Office (Reichskolonialamt) to 1918, traveling extensively to the German protectorates in West and East Africa in 1912 and 1913. The outbreak of World War I caused Germany’s colonial possessions to be invaded by Britain (including Dominions), Belgium, France, and Japan. With the defeat of Germany imminent and the likelihood of revolution growing, he was appointed what turned out to be the last of the Imperial Foreign Ministers in October 1918. He resigned his post as Foreign Minister on 13 December 1918 with the onset of the German revolution. Adventurous life chambermaid Japan

Between then and 1920, he was Vice President of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft. From 1920 to 1928, he served as the German chargé d’affaires and later ambassador to Japan; his tenure proved to be fruitful, as he was instrumental in restoring good relations between the two wartime enemies, culminating in the signing of the German-Japanese treaty of 1927. On Solf’s return to Germany and retirement from government service, he became the Chairman of the Board of the Deutsches Ausland-Institut based in Stuttgart.

He supported the election of retired Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg as German President. Wilhelm Solf was married to former Johanna Dotti, who later formed the anti-Nazi Tea Party. Solf was the author of Weltpolitik und Kolonialpolitik (Foreign policy and colonial policy, 1918) and Kolonialpolitik.

Mein politisches Vermächtniss (Colonial policy, my political legacy, 1919).Adventurous life chambermaid Japa

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  1. Hello Tom,
    my attention was drawn to this piece about Marta Richter which of course interested me since the little boy with Marta-san in about 1926 was my father. Since Marta-san never had children my father was a “surrogate son” for her. I remember my father took us in the early 60’s to visit her.
    A similar article appeared some months ago in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
    Kind regards, Eugen Solf

    1. Dear Eugen, thank you very much for your insightful comment. I will contact you in a PM and maybe you can tell me more details. Best regards, Tom

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