General Friedrich Wilhelm
Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, German Democratic Republik


The following piece originally appeared in the book entitled ‘Tennis in Deutschland. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart. Zum 100-jährigen Bestehen des Deutschen Tennis Bundes.’/‘Tennis in Germany. From Its Beginnings to the Present Day. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the German Tennis Federation’. The book in question was first published in 2002.

Friedrich Wilhelm Rahe – A Globetrotter

By Heiner Gillmeister

[Translated from the German by Mark Ryan]

In mid-July 1913, a stately ‘Benz’, followed by a ‘taximeter’, was driving the German Davis Cup team from the Victoria Hotel through the streets of the English city of Nottingham. Their destination was a local one – Tattersall Drive, the venue for the Davis Cup matches between Germany and the USA. At the wheel of the ‘Benz’ sat the Rostock native ‘Fieten’ Rahe. Fieten knew his way around England and was very familiar with the art of driving on the left, which was quite a harmless activity in those days.

Two years earlier the young man had completed a three-year stay in Great Britain, which had been followed by a long expedition to South Africa and German East Africa. During the latter trip, he undertook some very important tasks such as playing lawn tennis and big game hunting. The ‘Benz’ was Rahe’s most well-known status symbol in the world of German lawn tennis.

Fieten’s prosperity, which allowed him to spend all of his young life as ‘an upper-class gentleman driver’, and to devote it to sport, was not acquired by chance. Friedrich Wilhelm Rahe, known to his friends as Fieten, was born on 16 April 1888 as the grandson of the Rostock-based businessman Friedrich Rehmann. Rehmann, to whom, according to the traditions of the time, Fieten also owed his first name, had built up a wholesale food business years earlier in the Hanseatic city.

In 1873, Friedrich Rehmann built the stately commercial building located at the corner of Kropeliner Strasse 37 and Kleiner Katthagen which, thanks to the care taken by his descendants, still graces the boulevard in Rostock’s centre. The building in question not only served the family as a residence, the clever businessman also ran a colonial goods store from it. The company’s offices were located in Kleiner Katthagen and housed a coffee roasting shop as well as a shop selling salt goods.

Rehmann was the father of three daughters, of whom the eldest, Emma, married the Rostock-based businessman Eduard Rahe. Two daughters and two sons were born of this marriage, one of whom was our Fieten. He was an exceptionally versatile athlete, who dedicated himself to ball sports above all. For example, Rahe was a joint founder of the Rostock Lawn Tennis and Hockey Club, which was located in a sports complex in Barnstorf.

The lawn tennis player Rahe made his first big appearance in 1903 when, as a fifteen-year-old, he took part in the German National Championships in the nearby fashionable spa resort of Heiligendamm, where he lost in the first round. However, three years later, in 1906, he sailed into the final of the International German Championships at the Uhlenhorst Club in Hamburg – admittedly with the wind of a good draw behind him – before predictably losing in three sets to the iron-willed English player Major Ritchie.

In 1908, Rahe travelled to England, where he immediately had the opportunity to consort with the best English lawn tennis players of the time at the famous Queen’s Club in London. There he won the mixed doubles title at the Covered Court Championships with Miss E.L. Bosworth. This might seem to be a modest victory from today’s perspective, but Rahe and his partner had defeated no less than both of the Doherty brothers and Tony Wilding and their partners on the way to winning this title.

The now London-based Rahe took part in a strange ‘home game’ in 1908, when the Olympic Games were held in the English capital. After a brief appearance in the men’s doubles event – he and Oscar Kreuzer lost to their compatriots Otto Froitzheim and Heinrich Schomburgk in the first round – Fieten scored Germany’s only goal in their field hockey match against France! In 1908, Rahe also became German national lawn tennis champion in Braunschweig, a feat he repeated in the same city in 1911.

However, Rahe never won the men’s singles title at the International German Championships. Otto Froitzheim was too dominant in that event at that tournament, and defeated Rahe in the final in 1909, when Rahe was taking part for the second time. However, Rahe did win the men’s doubles title in Hamburg, with Curt Bergmann. This victory was a clear indication that the doubles event was really Rahe’s strength. This particular discipline was considered very prestigious in those days, but today is only really seen as important when it is played as part of the Davis Cup or the Olympic Games.

In 1908, the same year that he drove his ‘Benz’ to the Davis Cup tie in Nottingham, Rahe and his favourite doubles partner, Heinrich Kleinschroth, put up a great fight in Nottingham against the Americans Maurice McLoughlin and
Harold Hackett before losing 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 8-6.

McLoughlin, whom Rahe and Kleinschroth gave such trouble, was known as the ‘Californian Comet’. In 1912 and 1913, the years in which the Californian won the men’s singles title at the U.S. Championships, he introduced a new era in lawn tennis with his volleying and overhead game. Although he had appeared on the scene like a comet and, in 1914, in one of the most remarkable Davis Cup finals of all time, beaten Tony Wilding and Norman Brookes, who had humiliated the Germans, Maurice McLoughlin burnt out as quickly as he had appeared. After World War One his name was virtually forgotten.

Before meeting McLoughlin and Hackett, Rahe and Kleinschroth had diligently collected a large number of trophies in the early part of 1913, at the famous French Riviera tournaments held in Beaulieu, Cannes, Menton, Monte Carlo and Nice. In other words, in the places where at that time the noble and the wealthy spoilt themselves in the sun, and the phrase ‘white (summer) sport’ – in contrast to the term ‘white winter sport’ – was born.

After the Davis Cup tie in Nottingham, Rahe and Kleinschroth enjoyed even greater success in 1913. Having won the men’s doubles title at the Queen’s Club, they took the pair made up of James Parke and Alfred Beamish by surprise in the all-comers’ final at Wimbledon, beating them without the loss of a set. By doing so, the Germans had added their names to a list that included William and Ernest Renshaw, Wilfred and Herbert Baddeley, Lawrence and Reginald Doherty, Sidney Smith and Frank Riseley, and Norman Brookes and Tony Wilding. The Germans lost in the challenge round to the titleholders, Charles Dixon and Herbert Roper Barrett. Nevertheless, Rahe and his partner had broken through the Anglo-Saxon phalanx for the first time.

After his success at Wimbledon, Rahe left England on his aforementioned trip to Africa. After a four-week journey on a steamboat – during which the Rostock native complained that one was not allowed to play sport on German steamboats and one therefore became ‘lazy’ – the slightly-indisposed travellers came face to face with the best sort of locals. During what the German magazine ‘Lawn-Tennis und Golf’ described as ‘trial matches’, Rahe played against Dr Andrew Rowan of Cape Town, in Rondebosch, and against Harold Kitson, Frank Cochran and Victor Gauntlett in Johannesburg.

Rahe’s successful reputation had preceded him to South Africa, and ‘The Cape Times’ and the Johannesburg-based ‘Sporting Star’ had both sent reporters to take a look at the perfect example of the ‘new school of Continental players’. According to one report, “Neck or nothing is the motto of these players, and in accordance with this motto the best contemporary English representatives of the game would be beaten by them”.

In the judgment of the reporter from ‘The Cape Times’, Rahe was “a slightly built, youthful-looking athlete, almost boyish in appearance; […] the strongest and most flawless backhand stroke ever seen in this country is added to the well-maintained length of his strokes”. One must also reckon with “a very powerful serve and his ability to cover the court with the movement of a cat”.

The reporter for the ‘Sporting Star’ found Rahe’s few visits to the net most instructive due to “the combination of speed and placement of his volleys”. He took on Cochran’s deep cannon shots “just over one metre from the net” and sent them back into the corners “with the ease and art of a jester”. After the exhausting weeks spent on the dark continent Rahe as usual sought and found rest and relaxation at the French Riviera tournaments before collecting his new ‘Benz’ in Mannheim and driving to Paris to take part in the tournament in Auteuil.

The First World War put a temporary end to Rahe’s battle with the Anglo-Saxons, while at the same time providing him with the opportunity to continue it on a different field. In this respect the ‘Benz’ driver Rahe was assigned a task ideally suited to his abilities. He was gazetted to the crown prince’s headquarters as a member of the Imperial Volunteer Automobile Corps. This appointment was hardly made by chance because the crown prince, as well as the whole imperial family, were considered friends of the ‘white sport’, and postcards available for purchase during the German Empire showed the crown prince gallantly taking part in a mixed doubles match.

At the beginning of the war year of 1915, Lieutenant Rahe was awarded the Iron Cross – whether for his driving skills or not, is unfortunately not known. On 11 August 1915, the newly-decorated Rahe married the blond [sic] lawn tennis player Erna Kribben, who was from Berlin. In fact, a double wedding took place during which the bride’s brother, Otto Curt Kribben, who owned a factory in Berlin and was also a lawn tennis player, tied the knot for life. In this case the bride was also a lawn tennis player, namely the Austrian champion Mita Klima who, in 1907, at the age of 14, had taken part in the Wimbledon tournament and was considered the youngest participant of all time at this tournament until Jennifer Capriati took part in it in 1990.

At the beginning of the 1930s, Mita Kribben became a sports manager at the present-day Golf and Land Club in the district of Wannsee in Berlin. She was killed during the last days of the Second World War when Russian grenades almost wholly destroyed the clubhouse in Wannsee. Like Rahe, Klima’s husband, also Austrian in origin, was a member of the Imperial Volunteer Automobile Corps, and a high-ranking one to boot. Rahe’s brother-in-law was the head of automotive engineering in Lüttich in Belgium. In 1916, he was appointed to a lesser position at the German Embassy in Sofia, and in this way survived the war uninjured. He later moved to Berlin, where he ran an art shop.

Rahe also survived the war uninjured. Like the great Otto Froitzheim, who was also now in his thirties, Rahe saw himself robbed of any chance of achieving sporting success internationally as a result of the war and the consequent barring of German athletes.

In 1926, the skills of the veteran Rahe were rekindled when he took the American Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Richards to five sets in a match. Richards was ranked six in the world in that year and had played an exceptional role at the Olympic Games in 1924. Shortly before this success Rahe had married, as his second wife, Liesel Witte, daughter of a Rostock-based chemicals manufacturer. The wedding was given in the press as the reason for his close loss to Vincent Richards because, it was said, the recent bridegroom had not had enough time to prepare for the match.

With his new-found happiness Rahe lived in a nice house, which his mother Emma had bought in Schillerplatz in Rostock. The lawn tennis chapter of Rahe’s life came to an end in the final of the Senior War Championships in 1941, when he lost to the much younger Max Hopfenheit, from Breslau, albeit in three sets. The tournament was held in Braunschweig, the scene of his triumphs at the German National Championships in 1908 and 1911. One year later, in 1942, Hopfenheit won the War Championships of Berlin, but Friedrich Wilhelm Rahe was no longer one of the entrants.

In 1917, a daughter called Gisela had been born of Rahe’s first marriage. She inherited her father’s talent for sport and, after studying at the University of Rostock, became a sports teacher. Gisela Rahe married the Austrian aeroplane manufacturer Hans Gaber, who worked in the Heinkel plant in Oranienburg. In 1948, she became the owner of the Rehmann food emporium, which Fieten’s mother Emma had kept going through and after the Second World War.

Friedrich Wilhelm Rahe died in Rostock on 16 February 1949. His final resting place is the graveyard in his native city. The Rehmanns’ food emporium ultimately fell prey to the communists.


Archive statistics 1904 - 1934

Tournament wins 1933 - Travemünde International (Amateur)
1929 - Championships of Dresden (Amateur)
1926 - Saint-Etienne (Amateur)
1926 - German International Covered Court Championships ()
1926 - Championships of Warnemünde (Amateur)
1925 - Championships of Warnemünde (Amateur)
1925 - Championships of Saxony (Amateur)
1925 - Prussian Championships (Amateur)
1925 - Heiligendammer Cup (Amateur)
1924 - Championships of Warnemünde (Amateur)
1924 - Rhine Cup (Amateur)
1924 - Championships of Saxony (Amateur)
1924 - Sopot (Amateur)
1924 - City of Danzig Championships (Amateur)
1924 - Heiligendammer Cup (Amateur)
1923 - German International Covered Court Championships ()
1923 - Championships of Saxony (Amateur)
1922 - German International Covered Court Championships ()
1922 - Bad Nauheim (Amateur)
1922 - Championships of Dresden (Amateur)
1921 - Wiesbaden Championships (Amateur)
1921 - German International Covered Court Championships ()
1921 - Sopot (Amateur)
1920 - Championships of Hamburg (Amateur)
1914 - Sopot (Amateur)
1914 - Championships of Leipzig (Amateur)
1914 - Danish Covered Courts (Amateur)
1914 - City of Danzig Championships (Amateur)
1913 - Heringsdorf Cup (Amateur)
1913 - Beaulieu (Open)
1913 - Cannes Championships (Open)
1913 - Côte d'Azur Championships (Amateur)
1913 - Travemünde International (Amateur)
1913 - Heiligendammer Cup (Amateur)
1912 - Heringsdorf Cup (Amateur)
1912 - Travemünde International (Amateur)
1912 - Heiligendammer Cup (Amateur)
1912 - Championships of Heringsdorf (Amateur)
1912 - Bilbao International (Open)
1911 - Championships of Warnemünde (Amateur)
1911 - Championships of Braunschweig (Amateur)
1911 - Côte d'Azur Championships (Amateur)
1911 - German National Championships (Amateur)
1911 - Championships of Berlin (Amateur)
1911 - Wiesbaden Cup (Amateur)
1911 - Championships of Heringsdorf (Amateur)
1911 - Prussian Championships (Amateur)
1911 - Travemünde International (Amateur)
1911 - Heiligendammer Cup (Amateur)
1910 - Championships of Saxony (Amateur)
1909 - Heiligendammer Cup (Amateur)
1909 - Wiesbaden Cup (Amateur)
1909 - Prussian Championships (Amateur)
1909 - Championships of Berlin (Amateur)
1909 - Championships of Warnemünde (Amateur)
1909 - Cannes Métropole (Amateur)
1908 - German National Championships (Amateur)
1907 - Championships of Warnemünde (Amateur)

Tournaments Wiesbaden Championships - 1934 German International Championships - 1933 Travemünde International - 1933 Championships of Warnemünde - 1933 German International Covered Court Championships - 1932 German International Championships - 1932 Championships of Berlin - 1932 German International Championships - 1931 Championships of Berlin - 1931 Baden-Baden - 1931 Heiligendammer Cup - 1931 Gelb-Weiss T.C. International Championships - 1931 Chamionships of Chemnitz - 1931 Championships of Warnemünde - 1931 German International Championships - 1930 Championships of Berlin - 1930 Heiligendammer Cup - 1930 German International Championships - 1929 Championships of Dresden - 1929 Wimbledon - 1928 German International Championships - 1928 Championships of Berlin - 1928 Merano - 1928 German International Covered Court Championships - 1927 German International Championships - 1927 Championships of Berlin - 1927 German International Covered Court Championships - 1926 German International Championships - 1926 Championships of Berlin - 1926 Heiligendammer Cup - 1926 Swiss International Covered Courts - 1926 Saint-Etienne - 1926 Championships of Warnemünde - 1926 German International Championships - 1925 Prussian Championships - 1925 Championships of Berlin - 1925 Heiligendammer Cup - 1925 Championships of Saxony - 1925 Championships of Warnemünde - 1925 Berliner Schlittschuh-Club - 1925 B93 Covered Court Championships,Copenhagen - 1925 German International Covered Court Championships - 1924 German International Championships - 1924 Prussian Championships - 1924 Championships of Berlin - 1924 Merano - 1924 Homburg Cup - 1924 Championships of Hamburg - 1924 Heiligendammer Cup - 1924 Championships of Saxony - 1924 Gelb-Weiss T.C. International Championships - 1924 Championships of Heringsdorf - 1924 Sopot - 1924 Championships of Breslau - 1924 Championships of Warnemünde - 1924 Berliner Schlittschuh-Club - 1924 City of Danzig Championships - 1924 Championships of Weimar - 1924 Rhine Cup - 1924 Berlin Autumn Tournament - 1924 German International Covered Court Championships - 1923 German International Championships - 1923 Prussian Championships - 1923 Championships of Berlin - 1923 Championships of Saxony - 1923 Budapest Championships - 1923 City of Danzig Championships - 1923 German International Covered Court Championships - 1922 German International Championships - 1922 Prussian Championships - 1922 Championships of Berlin - 1922 Homburg Cup - 1922 German National Championships - 1922 Heiligendammer Cup - 1922 Championships of Dresden - 1922 Bad Nauheim - 1922 Berliner Schlittschuh-Club - 1922 German International Covered Court Championships - 1921 Prussian Championships - 1921 Championships of Berlin - 1921 Wiesbaden Cup - 1921 Wiesbaden Championships - 1921 Sopot - 1921 German International Covered Court Championships - 1920 Netherlands International Championships - 1920 Championships of Berlin - 1920 Netherlands International Championships - 1919 Championships of Berlin - 1919 Prussian Championships - 1914 Championships of Dresden - 1914 Sopot - 1914 City of Danzig Championships - 1914 Championships of Leipzig - 1914 Davis Cup - Quarter-Finals - 1913-a Wimbledon - 1913 Monte Carlo - 1913 Beaulieu - 1913 Cannes Championships - 1913 Côte d'Azur Championships - 1913 Riviera Championships - 1913 Queens Club Tournament - 1913 South of France Championships - 1913 Cannes Métropole - 1913 World Hardcourt Championships - 1913 Barcelona International - 1913 Deauville - 1913 Menton - 1913 Wiesbaden Championships - 1913 Heiligendammer Cup - 1913 Travemünde International - 1913 Championships of Frankfurt am Main - 1913 Championships of Heringsdorf - 1913 Lac Léman Championships (Grand Hôtel) - 1913 Heringsdorf Cup - 1913 Wimbledon - 1912 Queens Club Tournament - 1912 Prussian Championships - 1912 Championships of Berlin - 1912 Lille - 1912 World Hardcourt Championships - 1912 Wiesbaden Cup - 1912 Kent Championships - 1912 Deauville - 1912 Wiesbaden Championships - 1912 Heiligendammer Cup - 1912 Travemünde International - 1912 Bilbao International - 1912 Wimbledon - 1911 Monte Carlo - 1911 Cannes Championships - 1911 Côte d'Azur Championships - 1911 Riviera Championships - 1911 Queens Club Tournament - 1911 South of France Championships - 1911 German International Championships - 1911 Prussian Championships - 1911 Championships of Berlin - 1911 French Switzerland Championships - 1911 Wien (Vienna) - 1911 Wiesbaden Cup - 1911 San Remo - 1911 Championships of Hamburg - 1911 Wiesbaden Championships - 1911 German National Championships - 1911 Heiligendammer Cup - 1911 Parioli - 1911 Travemünde International - 1911 Championships of Heringsdorf - 1911 Championships of Warnemünde - 1911 Championships of Braunschweig - 1911 Championships of Berlin - 1910 London Covered Court Championships - 1910 Welsh Covered Court Championships - 1910 Championships of Saxony - 1910 Championships of Halle an der Saale - 1910 Championships of the Province of Saxony - 1910 Wimbledon - 1909 Monte Carlo - 1909 Cannes Championships - 1909 Riviera Championships - 1909 Queens Club Tournament - 1909 South of France Championships - 1909 German International Championships - 1909 Prussian Championships - 1909 Championships of Berlin - 1909 Cannes Métropole - 1909 Wiesbaden Cup - 1909 Kent Championships - 1909 Surrey Championships - 1909 Nottingham - 1909 Homburg Cup - 1909 Baden-Baden - 1909 Championships of Hamburg - 1909 Luzern - 1909 South of England Championships - 1909 Wiesbaden Championships - 1909 British Covered Court Championships - 1909 Heiligendammer Cup - 1909 Sheffield - 1909 Warwickshire Championships - 1909 Redhill - 1909 East Surrey Championships - 1909 Berkshire Championships - 1909 Dulwich Farm - 1909 Championships of Warnemünde - 1909 Wimbledon - 1908 Olympics, Olympic Games - 1908 Queens Club Tournament - 1908 German International Championships - 1908 Wiesbaden Cup - 1908 European Championship - 1908 Mid-Kent Championships - 1908 Homburg Cup - 1908 Baden-Baden - 1908 Championships of Hamburg - 1908 Wiesbaden Championships - 1908 British Covered Court Championships - 1908 London Covered Court Championships - 1908 German National Championships - 1908 Heiligendammer Cup - 1908 German International Championships - 1907 Championships of Hamburg - 1907 Pöseldorf Prize - 1907 Championships of Warnemünde - 1907 German International Championships - 1906 Championships of Hamburg - 1905 Pöseldorf Prize - 1905 Championships of Warnemünde - 1905 Olympics, Olympic Games - 1904

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