March 1, 1932 – Tuesday. I was at home with my husband, Richard Hauptmann, after spending a full day at the bakery I worked at. My husband helped me close up that night of March 1st. I remember it was a cold night..snowing in Hopewell, New Jersey. Coming from Germany I was just getting used to all this snow.
The next day, the headlines in the paper read that a baby had been kidnapped from a second story window at the Lindbergh estate close to town. Lindbergh…yes – that must be Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator that flew over the Atlantic. I proceeded to read that a kidnap note was found written by someone who probably knew little English, possibly a German. The child, Charles Lindbergh Jr, a 20 month old boy was nowhere to be found.
Over the next couple of weeks I read several things about this kidnapping. Everyone in America was reading about it! The kidnappers had built a homemade ladder to get to the 2nd story window, so they apparently knew the child had a room on the 2nd floor. What was odd about this was this was a house that was still in the process of being built and the Lindbergh’s usually didn’t stay there on the week days. They only stayed on the weekends and then went back to their other home. The baby had been suffering from a cold and his parents felt it was best not to go back to the city until he was over the cold. The police believed that whoever the kidnapper or kidnappers were, knew that the Lindbergh’s were at their estate, even though it was a Tuesday and out of the ordinary. Someone very close to the Lindbergh’s must have informed the kidnappers. Don’t you think?
I often talked to my husband about the kidnapping, especially after the child was found dead 2 weeks later in the forest close to the Lindbergh estate. This was after Mr. Lindbergh paid $50,000 in gold certificates to the kidnappers. Can you imagine, I told my husband, that anyone would want to kill a baby…even after receiving this ransom money?
1934, 2 years have passed since the kidnapping. Richard has made several friends over the years. One of those friends is a man named Isidor Fisch. Actually he met Mr. Fisch before the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. I don’t like this man, Isidor Fisch much, he has such a strange presence…he never seems to look anybody straight in the eyes and he has this annoying cough that he can’t seem to shake.
One day I’m at the bakery working and police officers walk in to tell me my husband has been arrested for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh child! The day before Richard bough some petrol for our car with some of his $10.00 gold certificates. Apparently the certificate had been traced back to being one of those that Charles Lindbergh had given to the kidnappers! I could not believe it. Richard was not capable of killing a child, of that I was sure.
I began cursing Isidor Fisch…he had left America but before he left he had asked Richard to keep some gold certificates for him until he came back from Germany. He explained he did not want to take them to a country where they did him no good and where he might misplace them. He had told Richard to put them in a safe place so Richard did, in our garage in a tin can. I had asked Richard why he took some of the money out of that tin can and he had reminded me that Mr. Fisch had owed us several thousand dollars and he had taken it upon himself to pay us back. Especially now that we had heard Mr. Fisch had died shortly after arriving in Germany…from tuberculosis! What a mistake this had been on Richard’s part. He now was arrested for murdering the Lindbergh child. Yes he was German, but there were hundreds of German immigrants around Hopewell, NJ at that time and Isidor Fisch one of them. America obviously needed a scapegoat…and Richard was it.
Investigators had found that the homemade ladder had been made of some wood from our garage! Investigators had torn up the garage and said that even some of the nails in the ladder matched nails found in our garage. It was also found according to records, that Richard purchased some of the wood that made up the ladder. Richard, a carpenter, possibly made this ladder…but it was not for himself, it had to have been for Mr. Fisch.
It is now 1981, and I am as sure of my husbands innocence now as I was then. I have been able to get the court to open up the more than 90,000 documents surrounding this case. I have found that so much was not told during Richard’s trial. For instance Mr. Fisch knew the Lindbergh’s maid. They were noticed eating at a cafeteria in downtown Hopewell the day before the kidnapping. The waitress noticed the man had a strange hacking cough. I also found that the maid had committed suicide a month or so after the kidnapping, as the police investigators were walking in her home to ask her questions for a second time. There was also the case of the man who picked up the ransom money…it definitely was not Richard (our friend Hans Kloeppenburg testified that he was at our house with Richard, the night the ransom money was paid over). Not one person that was at the drop off point could identify Richard as being the individual who picked up the money. I found out and learned so much as I set out to clear my dear Richard’s name. Richard was electrocuted in 1936 for this crime…but they had the wrong man. As my dear Richards’ last words eloquently stated, “When they kill me they kill an innocent man, but I know they think when I die the case will die, they think it will be like a book I closed, but the book – it will never close.”