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Mannheim headquarters

History of the Lenel family

The estate of Richard Lenel was constructed at Maximilianstraße 10 in 1910. The son of industrialist Viktor Lenel, Richard was born in Mannheim in 1869. After completing his studies and several foreign trips, he took over the management of his family's privately held company "Lenel, Bensinger & Co." in 1897. "Rheinische Gummi- und Celluloidfabrik" [Rhenish rubber and celluloid factory] was founded by Viktor Lenel, his brother Alfred, businessman Friedrich Bensinger and the Hohenemser & Söhne bank. The company, which employed 6,000 persons, had by the first world war become one of the most important of its kind in the world, using celluloid to produce, among other things, the famous Schildkröt [tortoise] brand dolls and table tennis balls.
In 1920, Richard Lenel was elected president of the Mannheim Chamber of Commerce, an office previously held by his father and grandfather. Thirteen years later, the National Socialist party forced him to resign from the office even though Lenel and his family had already withdrawn from the Jewish community in 1902. Together with his wife and two eldest sons, he tried to retain the family business and associated assets. It was not until his sons were rounded up and hauled to the Dachau concentration camp after the pogrom during the night of November 9, 1938 (Reichspogromnacht 1938) that the family decided to leave for England and later move to the United States. Richard Lenel had to leave behind all his possessions - including the estate, the company and liquid assets. Villa Lenel was used by the American occupying forces after the war. However as a result of damage caused during and after the war, it eventually became uninhabitable. After Meckel GmbH sold the property to Südzucker AG, it was demolished.
In 1947, Lenel and his wife accepted an invitation from Josef Braun, the first Lord Mayor of Mannheim after the second world war, to return to Germany. In October 1949, Richard Lenel was awarded honorary citizenship of Mannheim and became the first honorary president of the chamber of industry and commerce. After his death in August 1950, his remains were buried in the family plot in the Jewish cemetery in Mannheim.
The sandstone pillar was part of the estate's former garden fence and is the only original part of the Lenel family manor remaining to the present day. It now stands close to its original location on the premises of Südzucker AG.