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Laura und Alfred Mosbach, ca. 1930
© Sammlung Matthias Heyl

Laura Mosbach (née Horwitz) * 1876

Am Centrumshaus 1 (Harburg, Harburg)

1941 Riga

Laura Mosbach, née Horwitz, born on 1 Feb. 1876, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga

Laura Horwitz was born as the daughter of Caroline Horwitz, née Meier, and Meier Horwitz in Bünde/Westphalia.

Laura Mosbach and her husband Alfred Mosbach (born on 16 June 1872 in Lüdenscheid) moved to Hamburg only later in life. Their children Harry Herman (born on 6 Mar. 1902) and daughter Hildegard (married name Katz, born on 24 June 1904) were born in Werl.

The family lived in Hamburg-Harburg at Wilstorfer Strasse 7 in a five-bedroom apartment. Until his sixty-second birthday, when he was forced to give up his business on 24 Mar. 1934, Alfred Mosbach worked as a self-employed greengrocer. Laura Mosbach was a housewife.

Subsequently, the couple lived on welfare assistance. Apparently, they supplemented these benefits by subletting rooms. In the course of a physical exam for the welfare office on 24 Mar. 1939, the medical officer confirmed that Alfred Mosbach was "permanently unfit for work.”

On 6 June 1939, Alfred Mosbach applied for an exit visa for himself and his wife to Palestine. At the same time, they had to give up and dissolve their apartment. The emigration files of the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) contain a handwritten letter by Alfred Mosbach dated 23 June 1939, in which he asks to be granted the passport permit until 30 June since he had been ordered to vacate his apartment on 1 July. The inspection of the moving goods for emigration took place without any complaints and on time, and the authority approved the departure. However, the Mosbachs were unable to set out on the journey: The beginning of the Second World War thwarted it. A note in the emigration files dated 30 Nov. 1939 clarifies, "Upon being summoned, Mr. Mosbach appears and explains that he intended to get a British visa to Palestine but that the consulate was no longer in existence by that time. In the near future – in about four to six weeks – he wants to sail illegally aboard a Greek steamer via Vienna and Constanta to Palestine. The baggage will be forwarded by train to Trieste and ordered for delivery from there by Mosbach’s son, who lives in Palestine.”

Even before the start of the war, entry into Palestine had already been subject to restrictive regulations that Great Britain issued as a mandatory power. In addition, Zionists had organized "illegal” immigration (Aliyah Beth): Rented or purchased ships, re-equipped for passenger travel in a makeshift manner, crossed the Mediterranean Sea and put passengers ashore on the coast of Palestine.

After the beginning of the war, this journey became extremely expensive and even more dangerous. Actually, the organizers intended to allow only young, strong, Zionist-oriented men and women to board the ships. The fact that the Mosbachs, over 60 years old, were nevertheless prepared to endure the strains and risks of the journey points to just how desperate they must have been. However, this plan failed as well, we do not know whether for health reasons or because the Mosbachs had no chance to get a spot in light of the thousands of candidates for the few ships still putting out to sea with destination Palestine.

After the eviction from the apartment, the couple was relocated to the so-called "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) at Grindelallee 6. There they lived as subtenants with Edith Horwitz in one room. Alfred Mosbach died one year later, on 21 May 1940.

From Sept. 1941, Laura Mosbach was forced to wear the "Jews’ star” ("Judenstern”) and bear the additional first name of Sara. On 6 Dec. 1941, 65-year-old Laura Mosbach was deported to Riga on the orders of the Secret State Police (Gestapo), Hamburg headquarters.

According to the daughter’s own information, after the deportation she received two or three letters from her mother via the Red Cross. She did not learn when and how she died.

The children Harry and Hildegard managed to emigrate to Palestine on time (Harry in early 1939/Hildegard in 1935). The parents had funded the journey partly through selling their household belongings. Harry died on 11 Nov. 1945. His marriage to Martha Mosbach, née Runzler, remained childless.

Hildegard Katz, née Mosbach, died on 8 July 1961. She left behind her husband Siegfried Katz and their underage son Samuel.

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Christine Zinn-Lührig

Quellen: StaHH, 314-15 Oberfinanzpräsident, FVg3161 (Ausreiseanträge) und Oberfinanzpräsident, FVg 7689.; StaH 351-11, Amt für Wiedergutmachung, Ablage 2008/1, 240604; StaHH 522-1, Jüdische Gemeinden, 992b, Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburgs; Buch der Erinnerung. Die ins Baltikum deportierten deutschen, österreichischen u. tschechoslowakischen Juden, Bd. II, München 2003; Beate Meyer (Hg.): Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden. Hamburg 2007, 2.Aufl., S. 30ff. ; Sybille Baumbach: Emigration, in: Kirsten Heinsohn (Red.) unter der Herausgabe des Institut für Geschichte der deutschen Juden: Das jüdische Hamburg. Ein historisches Nachschlagewerk. Göttingen 2006, S. 69 ff.; Frank Bajohr:" ...dann bitte keine Gefühlsdusseleien." Die Hamburger und die Deportationen, in, Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg und dem Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden (Hg.): Die Deportation der Hamburger Juden 1941–1945. Hamburg 2002, S. 17.

Laura Mosbach, née Horwitz, born on 1 Feb. 1876 in Bünde, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga, date of death unknown

District of Harburg-Altstadt, Am Centrumshaus 1

Laura Mosbach and her husband Alfred, born in Lüdenscheid and four years her senior, had initially lived in Werl/Westphalia for several years and started a family there, before becoming members of the Harburg Synagogue Community (Synagogengemeinde). Their son Harry was born on 6 Mar. 1902 and daughter Hildegard on 24 June 1905. After their move, the family resided at Wilstorfer Strasse 45 (intersection to Moorstrasse), where Alfred Mosbach ran a greengrocery, which he later relocated to the lower section of Bergstrasse (today Am Centrumshaus). This Jewish store, too, became a target of the Harburg National Socialists, when they took up their posts in front of the entrance with placards on 1 Apr. 1933 to point out to customers that the owner was of "non-Aryan” descent.

Although the boycott was ended after one day, the worries about the future of the business remained. On 10 Jan. 1934, Alfred Mosbach had to close his store on Bergstrasse for good. Aged 62, he did not find any new employment, especially since he was declared unfit for work after a medical exam. He had to try to make ends meet somehow with his modest welfare benefits.

The parents were also very much worried about their two children’s future. Daughter Hildegard emigrated with her husband to Palestine in 1935, at the age of 30, in order to escape from further persecution and make a fresh start abroad.

Her brother attempted to adjust to the new circumstances on location in Harburg, after he had married, on 7 July 1933, Martha Runzler (born on 4 Nov. 1910), a non-Jewish woman from Mecklenburg eight years his junior. She managed a pleats and needlework store at Bergstrasse 5, which belonged to a block of houses that the city’s own German Housing Society (Deutsche Wohnungsbau-Gesellschaft – D.W.G.) had built next to Harburg City Hall at the end of the 1920s, managing and renting it out since then.

Even before the promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws on race ("Nürnberger Rassengesetze”) on 22 Aug. 1935, Martha Mosbach received written notification from the D.W.G. on the orders of the Harburg mayor Dyes that the lease for the store on Bergstrasse would expire on 30 Sept. 1935 because her husband was a Jew. Martha Mosbach filed an appeal against this termination. As a result, the Harburg city council even dealt with her appeal in its session on 5 Sept. 1935. However, her complaint was unsuccessful "because the marriage of the tenant … is deemed a deliberate racial defilement and thus a grievous offence against the National Socialist viewpoint and the city council cannot be expected to promote this type of crime by acquiescence.”

Before Mayor Dyes responded to the appeal officially on 7 Sept. 1935, he examined the question whether in the "Mosbach case,” a public "special operation” – such as the erection of a large banner with corresponding text – was called for. In his final reply, however, he turned down Martha Mosbach’s complaint primarily with formal legal arguments: "Since you married the non-Aryan Mosbach and since the city, based on the recently applicable regulations of the standardized Reich lease contract (Reichseinheitsmietvertrag) for married spouses, has to demand the signatures of both spouses, the contract for the store would now also have to be signed by your husband as well and thus, a new contractual relationship between the city and your husband would have to be entered. However, the city rightfully refuses a contractual relationship with a non-Aryan, especially since you entered the marital union with the non-Aryan long after the [Nazi] seizure of power, thus positioning yourself outside the German national community [Volksgemeinschaft].”

Martha Mosbach was not the only leaseholder receiving notice from the German Housing Society in the fall of 1935. Eleven other tenants fared just the same. There was nothing Ludwig Fliess, the head of the Harburg Synagogue Community, could do about that, not even with a letter to Mayor Dyes.

Martha Mosbach did find another store she could rent, because the landlord attached importance to the rent payment and not to religion or "race.” A child she gave birth to in 1936 died shortly after birth. In this oppressive situation, Harry Mosbach was arrested on 23 June 1938 in connection with the so-called "June operation” (Juni-Aktion) and committed to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The detention lasted for two months and would certainly have extended for much longer if his wife had not repeatedly gone to the Gestapo and assured them credibly that she intended to emigrate to Palestine with her husband immediately, as soon as he was released. Relatives in Amsterdam would pay for the ship’s passage. On 19 Nov. 1938, Harry Mosbach took a plane from Hamburg Airport to Amsterdam. From there, he went to Genoa, where he met up with his wife and departed for Palestine.

His parents were not granted this stroke of good fortune, even though they also pursued emigration to Palestine after the dramatic escalation of anti-Jewish persecution in 1938. The formalities required to this end dragged on for several months. At the end of June 1939, Alfred and Laura Mosbach cleared their Harburg apartment and auctioned off the greater part of their household effects that they had to leave behind for reasons of space. The last days before their planned departure were spent with relatives at Grindelallee 6. On 5 Sept. 1939, when Alfred Mosbach wanted to pick up the entry visa for Palestine from the British Consulate in Hamburg, he encountered locked doors because Great Britain and Germany were in a state of war by then. The subsequent attempt to reach Palestine via Vienna and Constanta in Romania failed as well. Alfred Mosbach died of a heart attack in Hamburg on 21 May 1940 at the age of 68, without having seen his children in Palestine even once more.

One and a half years later, his wife Laura was among the 747 Hamburg Jews deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941. A fellow sufferer, Thekla Bernau (born on 29 May 1900), with whom she spent the last hours before the deportation, described to her children on the eve of the departure how those affected felt: "Now we know: We will be off on 5 or 6 December. No one asks where to. Everyone knows it, and no one admits to it. We are now eleven persons in the two rooms … When I think everything over, my lips dry up, and I cannot think any longer. … Laura Mosbach [is one of us. She] comes from Bünde in Westphalia and knows how to roll cigars from old leaves and newspapers. However, neither the Wenkels nor the Grothkopps want to smoke them. She is sad. Who wants to smoke today anyway! … Is Saint Nicholas’ Day today or tomorrow? One forgets that which is. It would be better if one were able to forget even more. … In the evening, I have a crying fit. Mrs. Wenkel says it will be the same as with the previous transports. That the cattle cars stand in the Sternschanze neighborhood. Open. Women and men separate ... "

For Laura Mosbach, this transport from Hamburg was a journey to death.

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2017
© Klaus Möller

Quellen: 1; 2 (FVg 7689 Alfred Mosbach, FVg 3161 Harry Hermann Mosbach); 4; 5; 6; 8; Heyl (Hrsg.), Harburger Opfer; Heyl, Mosbach; Heyl, Synagoge, S. 119f.; StaH, 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 140672 Mosbach Alfred, 010276 Mosbach, Laura, 041110 Mosbach, Martha; StaH, 430-5 Dienststelle Harburg, Ausschaltung jüdischer Geschäfte und Konsumvereine, 1810-08, Bl. 89ff.; Adressbuch Harburg 1935.
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